Ruy Fausto: The difficult relationship between dialectics and politics

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Ruy Fausto contributed decisively to the reconstruction of a leftist political project by recovering the centrality of the anti-capitalist struggle

Author of an unavoidable work on Marx's thought and the meaning of dialectics in general, philosopher and professor Ruy Fausto died on the 85st of May, aged XNUMX. In full intellectual and political activity, he was involved with an intense re-reading of Adorno's works about who planned to publish a new book. On a practical level, he had just launched, together with some colleagues, the magazine Pink, which followed the magazine February – he was good with those titles – both dedicated to intervention in left-wing theoretical and political debate. Always young in spirit and enthusiastic about new projects, he was, however, caught by surprise by a cardiac arrest when he was in his apartment, in the city of Paris, where he had lived since the early 70s.

Ruy Fausto left Brazil at the end of the 60s, in order to avoid his arrest due to his proximity to members of leftist groups in the country who were persecuted by the military dictatorship. He first went to Chile, where he taught for 2 and a half years at the Catholic University, before leaving for France to complete his doctoral thesis. Harvested by the news of the military coup that overthrew Salvador Allende in 1973, he found himself unable to return to Santiago and ended up settling permanently in the French capital. There he built his personal life and academic career, having reached the post of Master of Conferences at the Université de Paris 8. He never lost, however, his relationship with Brazil, mainly with the Department of Philosophy at USP, which would still welcome him as a professor visitor and would later grant him the title of professor emeritus. Every year, in the post-dictatorship period, Professor Ruy unfailingly spent time at the department offering courses on Marx, Hegel and Adorno, contributing to the training of several generations of researchers, before retiring from the classroom for good.

The same tension between philosophy and politics seen throughout an individual's life would also mark the philosophical work, never completed and always under construction, by the philosopher Ruy Fausto. From his first books to the most recent articles, the same question crossed the author's thinking: how would it be possible to base the action of transforming society? In the case of Marx, in the name of what exactly is the critique of capitalism and the demand for its overcoming done? Is it an ethical demand for equality and justice or a broader demand for the realization of the human essence? Would the foundation of critique and transforming action then be ethics or anthropology? The investigation of this questioning would lead to a dialectical problem, because in Marx, according to Ruy, this foundation is absent and present at the same time, or, in Hegelian language, it is presupposed but not posited. And here we are, then, at the heart of dialectical logic.

The explanation of the movement of position and presupposition, or, the understanding of why Marx is prevented from making explicit the foundation of his critique of political economy, would lead to Ruy Fausto's most important philosophical finding, as he himself declared on several occasions: the notion dialectic of interversion, that is, the idea that a thing, when constituting itself, experiences a process of self-denial that causes it to pass into its opposite. It is not an annulment of the thing, but its own becoming that is only possible through the mediation of its negation. Thus, under the conditions of the capitalist mode of production, man is denied by the countless mechanisms of alienation, reification and exploitation to which he is subjected. In this sense, man never completes his formation process. We will never know what man really is within capitalism, because what we have here is just the figure of his negation. Therefore, any conception of man could not serve as the foundation of criticism. To speak on behalf of man would be to be silent about his condition of being denied. To recall a formula of our philosopher, humanism becomes anti-humanism. That is, criticism becomes mere phraseology or ideology. It is not by chance, therefore, that Marx never offered a finished conception of what human nature is, even though he addressed this issue in his youth texts, nor did he take time to define the traits of what would be a society of free men, that is, the society communist. What mattered to him was to expose – understand and criticize – the processes of denial of man under capitalism.

From this reading key, and from the publication of his first book, Marx, logic and politics: investigations for the reconstruction of the meaning of dialectics, in 1983, Ruy would spend the next twenty years busy with the project of reinterpreting the Marxian corpus and reconstituting a rigorous meaning for dialectics. Reading him took from the first writings of youth until The capital, passing through intermediate texts, such as the German Ideology, in addition to historical-political writings on class struggles in the European scene at the end of the XNUMXth century. The result was one of the broadest and most rigorous attempts to understand the intricacies of the materialist dialectic of the German thinker, not only in Brazil, but also abroad. The three volumes of Marx, Logic and Politics (1983, 1987 and 2002) have become recognized throughout the academic world, despite the differences, as a mandatory bibliography for anyone who ventures to understand Marx's work in depth.

Although he never lost sight of the unity between philosophy and politics, it was evident, as the author himself recognized, that in this project the problems of dialectical logic had gained predominance over political questions, even if both were treated simultaneously. Politics was present, but much more in the background than as the main object of analysis. That is why, at the end of the series on logic and politics, Ruy begins a new cycle of studies, with a completely different style, in which political and historical problems gain due prominence. It is now a question of making a critical assessment of the revolutionary experiences of the 2007th century, learning from historical mistakes and formulating the program of an anti-capitalist and democratic left. Again an ambitious undertaking, which began to produce a wave of new titles from XNUMX onwards, with the publication of The Difficult Left: Around the Paradigm and Fate of Twentieth Century Revolutions and Some Other Topics. Then they would come Another day, from 2009, Left paths: elements for a reconstruction, from 2017 and, finally, The cycle of totalitarianismIn 2019.

The new phase would also mark his departure from Marx, already latent in some chapters of his first book, which never simply meant an abandonment of Marxism, as he still considered, above all, Marx's economic criticism still quite current. Ruy came to the conclusion that the failure, or more properly, the tragedy of the attempt to implement socialist societies in the XNUMXth century revealed the limits of the dialectical solution given by Marx to the problem of criticism. The fact that he did not clearly explain what he wanted to put in place of capitalism made him hostage to the mistakes committed in the name of his theory. He knew perfectly well that the two were not confused, but how to immunize Marxism against its totalitarian appropriation if there was no clear definition of the type of society we want to build, its relationship with the freedom of individuals, the role of democracy, the State, etc. ? After the totalitarian experience of the left in the last century, the way to prevent the content of the critique of capitalism from turning into its opposite is precisely to explicitly thematize it, to establish its foundations, in order to prevent its ideological manipulation.

Em the hard left, Ruy would begin to outline what he considered the program of a non-totalitarian left. To put it succinctly here, an authentic left must have an “intransigently” democratic, anti-capitalist policy that is averse to all practices of corruption in public administration, in addition to a consistent ecological agenda. Although this is a minimal program, it is not at all obvious. To take just one example, we know that democracy and anti-capitalism have never coexisted peacefully. It assumes a conventional concept of democracy, fundamentally representative parliamentary democracy: parliamentary elections, division of powers and institutional checks and balances. It would be incorrect to call this political arrangement simply bourgeois democracy, since its most fundamental principle is equality, whereas capitalism's is inequality. Conducted to the radical nature it entails, democracy would be capable of undermining any system based on inequality. Anti-capitalism, on the other hand, does not mean being against all forms of the State or against all types of private property, but aims above all at the “neutralization” of big capital. In this sense, the existence of the market and the production of goods are not seen as contrary to socialism, as in the classic version, including that of Marx. For small properties, he defends an economic organization based on production cooperatives. But that would be a long-term goal. Immediately, the task that imposes itself is the defense of a welfare state that guarantees the universalization of social rights, financed by taxation of high incomes.

Ruy Fausto contributed decisively to the reconstruction of a leftist political project by recovering the centrality of the anti-capitalist struggle. Without neglecting new themes, such as minorities and ecology, he unhesitatingly asserts that the left represents the interests of those who do not own capital, as opposed to the interests of those who do. He knows how to strategically combine long-term and short-term objectives, such as transforming the capitalist mode of production and reforming the tax system, defending public education, democratizing the means of communication, etc. What it suggests to put in place, a solidary and cooperative economy of small proprietors, in addition to the control over the big capital, can be questionable, due to the complexity and the level of specialization of the productive activity nowadays, but it is not possible to doubt the radicality of his proposal. In my view – to leave a final critical note, which celebrates his memory and intelligence much more than the unrestrained and indifferent reception of his ideas, given the Brazilian good that irritated him so much – his program collides with the unconditional defense of representative democracy. It can be admitted that this has an emancipatory potential, but, dominated by the power of money, it has served before as an instrument of maintenance of the dominant economic interests. The difficulty of recent movements, in Brazil and Europe, which minimally affront the normality of the capitalist system, to ascend and remain in power seem to be clear manifestations in this regard. It would have to be admitted that the implementation of an authentic socialist project requires a level of confrontation with the dominant powers that hurts the current “democratic” order. A reformulated notion of democracy should, therefore, assume as legitimate other means of political deliberation and a certain degree of the use of force (as the system does when it protects its interests). Only from this perspective would a break with order be possible without passing necessarily, that is, dialectically, into its opposite, into a totalitarian pathology.

*Rodnei Nascimento He is a professor at the Department of Philosophy at the Federal University of São Paulo (Unifesp).

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