Rio Grande do Sul — construction planning during the catastrophe

Interior of the Porto Alegre Public Market/ Photo: Rafa Neddermeyer/ Agência Brasil
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By TARSUS GENUS*

The term “reconstruct” a devastated region is a terminological falsehood, because the city and the region will never be the same again.

1.

Two analogies, among the most important ones that were mentioned as comparable to the reconstruction effort in Rio Grande do Sul after the Flood, point to international experiences that can help us compose the idea of ​​where we want to get to. The mention that received the most publicity, given the institutional importance of those who mentioned it, was the “Marshall Plan”, remembered by governor Eduardo Leite, and the second mention — no less important — was the experience of “New Deal“, by Franklin Delano Roosevelt, remembered by several prominent academics and politicians.

The "New Deal”, a set of programs implemented in the USA – between 1933 and 1937 – followed the Great Depression and its objective was to recover the economy combined with overcoming the social crisis. Its conception included the construction of large public works, with the extensive use of labor and was not shy about generating apparently superfluous jobs, to combat absolute misery and poverty, which followed the Crisis of 1929. It was a policy of the country to build its future as a dominant nation on the world stage.

The Marshall Plan, determined to overcome the effects of war devastation, had two central objectives: one, of a political and moral nature; another of a structural economic nature. The destitution, hunger and moral dilution of European society as a whole – especially its workforce – needed to be overcome, to face the prestige of the “Soviet danger” that haunted the continent, since the USSR had borne the human and harder materials, imposed by Nazism on the entire region.

The European barrier to the advance of the USSR could only be founded on solid material bases, with a process of capitalist modernization that would allow, in the future – capitalists around the world thought – military pacts to contain communist expansion and, at the same time, , organize capitalist societies that were less unequal and less sensitive to the revolutionary calls that came from the Communist International.

The Marshal Plan accomplished this brilliantly and its result was the return of European hegemony to Germany, defeated by the War, a country through which the specter of Nazism, not communism, began to haunt the old Enlightenment Europe. The consequences of the Marshall Plan and the “New DealHowever, they were universal and have already exhausted themselves, just as the Soviet model of socialism has also exhausted itself.

The European “Welfare State”, therefore, had a positive structural result – in the political and social economy of Europe – originating from the “New Deal” American and European recovery, financed by 100 billion dollars in today's money, by the Marshall Plan. The idea developed by American general George C. Marshall would allow – in perspective – the USA and the USSR to guarantee agreed areas of influence, to ensure their extensive and dominant sovereignty in their allied countries or over previously occupied enemy countries.

2.

Brazil is not coming out of a War, it is not looking for allies in the world to extend its influence or its economic domination, the Stock Exchange has not crashed, its State is not bankrupt, nor is it being threatened by a Military power immediately, which would compromise its internal sovereignty. Nor is it experiencing a catastrophic situation similar to any country after the Second World War, nor does it have multitudes – across the nation – helpless, following an economic crisis of its productive fabric, which is predominantly based on the foundations of the Second Industrial Revolution.

And what's more: here we are dealing with a climate catastrophe that literally spilled over a part of a country, Rio Grande do Sul, that was not prepared for the elementary thing: making an old flood containment system work minimally, in a region whose economic, social and environmental development has not surpassed the protocols of the Second Industrial Revolution and whose environmental sustainability receives brutal disdain from its agrarian and urban ruling classes.

The question that arises, therefore, is not how much the government will spend and to whom it will allocate resources, in the three stages that we will have to face, as we have not yet overcome the first, that of humanitarian aid to the poorest populations and the middle sectors , who were shaken in their small possessions, in their simplest ways of life, in their most elementary needs – of their elderly, children, young people, men and women – all now bordering on marginalization and besieged by the lethality of endemic diseases, which supervene to catastrophes of this nature.

This question and the concerns that arise from it lead to another question: is it reconstruction that we need, or is it the construction of a new region and a new city, a new way of producing and living, that serves as an emblematic example for change the direction of the region and the country? Simply giving money to large subsidized businesspeople, without imposing quality on their spending and its integration into a new model of eco-environmental, sustainable and modern development, is setting up a dynamic for the repetition of what has already occurred. Help for small companies and small businesses, however, is essential and urgent for the recovery to be quick and effective, in all instances of local economies.

In a process of climate transition, which must also be a stimulus for the transition to a new way of living, producing, and above all building clean energy alternatives, reconstruction is not the correct watchword. Even because the Marshall Plan and the New Deal can only serve as examples of dignified responses to a certain type of catastrophe and the suffering that results from them, in which the only way out was really reconstruction, in the face of the wars imposed on all large States.

In the climate transition we are experiencing, the first phase of the response is correct humanitarian assistance to families affected by the catastrophe, with food, water, shelter, clothing and resources to resume common life; a second phase, which must start strongly from within the first – with other teams and senior and intermediate managers – is the reconstruction of structures damaged by the floods, with concrete examples of protection of devastated cities, repairs to services and machines necessary to prevent the worst ; and a third phase, the most complex and essential, which is the construction of a new city and a new region.

Especially because the term “reconstruct” a devastated region is a terminological falsehood, because the city and the region will never be the same again. The memories, the places, the public spaces, those left over from the tragedies will no longer be the same; the hills will not return, the gardens will be devastated and will be different; the houses will be different, the places of past meetings and affections will only be in memory: the city that rose on its rubble must be different, because the previous one must be surpassed by the new choices that its men and women make about their destiny.

It should also be remembered that the production standards developed here are mostly surpassed by the new infodigital technologies experimented at the very forefront of capitalist development, in the main places in the world. If it is true that they have something to teach us, they also have something to learn, in the sense of making productive economic development compatible with eco-environmental attention, for a life reconciled with naturalness, respect for human rights and the suppression of social differences and lace, almost barbaric that characterize us.

3.

From Porto Alegre to Rio Grande do Sul and from our state to Brazil, a new idea of ​​solidarity between people and nature may emerge. This starts with politics, goes through science and technology, runs through civil society organizations, public and private Universities and encompasses all people and institutions.

The dialogue between the powers of the Republic, the majority conscience of the political parties and the solidarity between the entities of the Union, building here, can begin the reconstruction of the country in a bold way never imagined in current times - in a desolate world besieged by War.

*Tarsus in law he was governor of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, mayor of Porto Alegre, Minister of Justice, Minister of Education and Minister of Institutional Relations in Brazil. Author, among other books, of possible utopia (arts & crafts). [https://amzn.to/3ReRb6I]


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