Turbulences and challenges

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By RICARDO MUSSE*

Preface to the recently released book by Jorge Almeida & Eliziário Andrade

1.

Books written by four hands are not uncommon in the European socialist tradition. The most prominent examples are the works written jointly by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels during the 1840s: The Holy Family, the german ideology e Communist Party Manifesto. In these cases, the form of collaboration was not always the same.

Everything indicates that the procedure used in The Holy Family was the following: Marx wrote certain parts of the book that were revised (and redone) by Engels and vice versa.

The manuscript of the german ideology it was written in the winter of 1845-1846, in exile in Brussels, at a time when Engels lived a few blocks from Marx's house. At the end of each meeting, they placed the convergent results of the discussions in their notebooks. The development of the work – planned as a critique of the philosophical ideas of Ludwig Feuerbach, Bruno Bauer and Max Stirner – often required elimination, amendments and retouching of previous excerpts.

No Communist Party Manifesto The participation of each of them was very different. Pressed by circumstances, without time or opportunity to consult his partner, Marx wrote it alone in the period between December 1847 and January 1848. Engels had already moved from Brussels to Paris, and Marx had not yet obtained authorization to return to France or the Germany. The double authorship is due to a simple fact: the commission to Marx made by the “League of Communists” came with the express recommendation to give form to a series of points presented by Engels at the founding congress of this party. Engels' hand, from the 1883 edition onwards, became more present with the writing of a series of explanatory notes that have since been incorporated into almost all editions of the book.

In the 2002st century, the most prominent co-authorship in the socialist tradition was that of Toni Negri and Michael Hardt, beginning with the publication in XNUMX of Empire: the new order of globalization, continued, among others, with common welfare. It is not just the very usual collaboration between master and disciple, but a convergence and communion of ideas, a distinctive mark of belonging to the same group and political line.

Despite these well-known and illustrious predecessors, the double authorship of this volume may surprise the reader, as in Brazil, books by four hands are few and even rarer in the socialist tradition.

2.

The partnership of Jorge Almeida and Eliziário Andrade followed an unusual path. Isolated during the coronavirus pandemic, both faced the quarantine by dedicating themselves to intellectual work, deepening ongoing research and, above all, writing articles posted on websites. Against the forced isolation, they sought broad communication with a virtual community that the effects of Covid consolidated. A reaction close to that of the characters in decameron, work by Giovanni Boccaccio written during the Black Death, between the years 1348 and 1553.

In this book, the articles have been grouped chronologically. This formal ordering means that, only after going through the entire work, the reader notices the implicit dialogue, the common orientation, the convergences of worldview and political line that justify bringing these articles together in the same volume.

In Brazil, the tragedy of the pandemic was even more acute, as it occurred during the presidency of Jair Bolsonaro. With actions and omissions, the former captain intensified the health situation, placing the country at the top of the list of nations with the highest death rates from Covid. The indication of proven ineffective medicines and a systematic campaign against mass vaccination would not, however, have caused so much damage if they had not had the approval of a considerable portion of the elites (economic, financial, military, judiciary, media, medical, etc.). ) and the population.

The two authors were aware that this was a situation in which the effectiveness of resistance demanded an understanding of the factors that enabled the rise to power of the extreme right. In addition to a recap of the episodes that led to the 2016 coup – within the framework of a historical, political and social analysis –, the need to explain the strange link that cemented the masses' adherence to a leader whose program explicitly contradicted the interests materials of most Brazilians.

Good readers of the work of Karl Marx, Jorge Almeida and Eliziário Andrade avoided getting caught up in the situation of the moment, in the petrified vision of a present eternalized in second nature. Attention to the dynamics in incessant transformation, typical of the capitalist mode of production, to historical development, in short and long terms, served as a counterpoint to the predominant reified images of society. Even when examining the situation in detail, they always kept one eye on the present and the other on the future.

The most prominent features of the period, concentrated in the emergence of an extreme right-wing current with sufficient strength to reorder Brazilian economic, political, institutional and social life, did not appear to them as a local specificity. They sought to reconstitute the relationships, similarities (and even divergences) between Bolsonarism and the ultra-right organized in national sections as a global movement. They thus kept one eye on Brazil and another on the world.

3.

Jorge Almeida's articles, written in the heat of the moment, constitute a precise exposition of recent historical events, which in itself justifies their collection in a book. Mobilizing knowledge in the areas of political science, economics, international relations, history, etc. provide in-depth explanations about Jair Bolsonaro's government, the election of Gabriel Boric, the rise and new role of China in global geopolitics.

Analyzes of the Brazilian situation combine a detailed account of the most relevant recent events with structural economic and social determinations, which shape the scenario in which the political game unfolds. The guiding thread is already stated in the title of the first article, in the non-obvious question about “who governs Brazil?”.

The answer is more complex than the enumeration of the forces that supported Jair Bolsonaro within the State – military officialdom, state bureaucracy, coercive legal apparatus –; from the business community – large capital, medium and small entrepreneurs, commercial media –; and civil society – fundamentalist churches, far-right groups (neo-fascist, ultra-conservative and ultra-neoliberal). It is not just about considering that these groups and sectors of classes have divergent and even conflicting interests, generating a situation of permanent instability, but about delimiting the space of power of each one, narrating how provisional hegemonies were built and undone. This points to developments that indicate the political nature of the government.

Jorge Almeida is incisive. Jair Bolsonaro is a neofascist, but his government doesn't go that far. This is an administration hegemonized by the extreme right that has failed to change the tenor of the political regime: a representative liberal democracy, with tinges of authoritarianism and sparks of arbitrariness.

In following the last three years of the former president's mandate, the author never loses sight of the struggle between the former captain (insistent on the project of an authoritarian inflection) and the bourgeois civil-military tutelage, exercised by the hegemonic fractions of capital. , the Armed Forces and the political elite. Recurrent events during this period are part of this broader picture, such as announcements and attempted coups d'état, institutional defeats of the former president, co-optation of parliamentarians grouped in the Centrão. The emotions (fear or hope) present at each moment are counterbalanced by the objective view of the analyst. By resizing the situation, the exaggerations that circulated in the media and social networks are removed.

An interview carried out shortly before the first round of the presidential election and a final article posted on November 21, 2022 take stock of Lula and Jair Bolsonaro's campaigns, and the electoral results in the states and in parliament. It is unnecessary to highlight the precision of the observations, as Jorge Almeida is a recognized electoral analyst, author of relevant works in this area, such as the book How Brazilians vote (Shaman). However, it is worth highlighting the exposure of the obstacles that Lula would have to face following the transition and the inauguration of the new government, in a scenario of difficulties arising from the mobilization capacity and civil and military support for Bolsonarism, increased through an extensive network in fake news, in the media and on social networks.

The diplomatic relations between Brazil and China, mapped out in a series of articles, can be read as proof of the relevance (and at the same time as a derivation) of the aforementioned struggle between the former captain and the bourgeois civil military tutelage.

In the 2018 election campaign, Jair Bolsonaro did not hide his aversion to the Chinese political model, having even visited Taiwan. After the inauguration, instead of the expected moderation, we had repeated statements, sometimes voiced by Eduardo and Carlos Bolsonaro, who, repeating Donald Trump's mantras, accused China of unproven crimes such as large-scale espionage, generation and deliberate dissemination of coronavirus, etc.

The opposing force, fueled by pressure and interests from big capital linked to the primary-export sector, prevailed, however, both in the Itamaraty and in parliament as well as among the military. Threats to veto Huawei's participation in the deployment of 5G became words in the wind, and commercial traffic between the two countries intensified. Jair Bolsonaro visited China and said he was in a “capitalist” country, reversing a topic from his election campaign.

In the midst of this debate Jorge Almeida published, in partnership with Renildo Souza (his colleague at UFBA, specialist in Chinese economics and history) two articles that seek to clarify the peculiarities of the Chinese path. In them, they examine its genesis in the 1949 Revolution, the programmatic oscillations under the command of Mao Zedong, the reforms consolidated under Hu Jintao's government, recently redesigned by Xi Jinping.

The article on the 2021 Chilean election is one of the highlights of the book. This is partly because it was written with the emotion of someone who lived part of his adolescence in Santiago and with the knowledge of someone who has always closely followed the politics of the neighboring country, but, above all, because of the precise diagnosis, evident, for example, in this excerpt that deserves a quote: “Gabriel Boric's political moderation since the constituent process highlights a risk of transforming this 'new left' into yet another frustrating experience, like what happened with Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain”.

4.

Eliziário Andrade's articles address the economic, social, political and cultural consequences of the structural crisis of capitalism. Attention to its different effects converges on a common diagnosis: the perception of recurring manifestations of widespread barbarism.

Walter Benjamin, in one of the theses of the manuscript On the Concept of History, had already warned that, whether in the short or long term, “the tradition of the oppressed teaches us that the state of exception in which we live is the rule”. This lesson was taken up by the participants of the Frankfurt School – especially by Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno in Dialectic of Enlightenment – to understand both the world after the Second World War and the contradictions of human history since the Neolithic.

Most of the authors of the so-called first generation of Critical Theory died between 1969 (Adorno) and 1979 (Marcuse). His successors, Jürgen Habermas at the head, abandoned this line of investigation, favoring supposed consensuses in the Welfare State of Europe and the USA. Ironically, it was during this decade that the latent crisis of capitalism emerged with the unusual combination of stagnation and inflation.

Eliziário Andrade demonstrates here and there that he closely followed the developments of the crisis of the 1970s and that he dominates the bibliography relating to this topic. His object, however, is the structural crisis of capitalism in the XNUMXst century: a crisis that, according to him, “differs in some aspects from past historical circumstances due to its scope and explosive degrees of contradictions in the economic, social, political and environmental totality ”.

Eliziário Andrade highlights the emergence of this crisis in 2007-2008 in the USA with the collapse of the subprime and fictitious capital markets. This is not, therefore, a mere repetition of yet another cyclical crisis, resulting from the deregulation of speculative capital. The identification of this genesis guides the investigation of its effects – not only in the economic field, but also in political, social and geopolitical terms.

From 2020 onwards, the crisis took on a different shape with the worldwide spread of the Covid pandemic. Mainstream economists, mainstream media journalism and government officials stuck to the conjunctural explanation. Eliziário Andrade, contrary to this univocal discourse, sees the coronavirus as the detonator “that explodes what was already underway, matured to manifest itself in the form of a financial crisis, although its main cause lies in the social contradictions of capitalist production”.

Its symptoms had already manifested themselves before, especially in the political sphere, with the resurgence of far-right tendencies in all corners of the planet and with the adoption of ultra-neoliberal prescriptions to try to contain the effects of financialized capitalism. In characterizing neofascist movements, the radicalization of neoliberal economic policies or the treatment granted to the population during the pandemic, Eliziário Andrade highlights new and old aspects of our permanent state of exception, updating the determinations of barbarism studied by Frankfurtians.

The threats to political democracy arise from the obstacles encountered by the bourgeoisie – already highlighted by Marxists since the XNUMXth century – in maintaining political domination using only the ideals of the French Revolution and the Enlightenment. The use of violence and political coercion paves the way for the “rise of neo-fascist extreme right-wing social forces, expressing the growing difficulties of the dominant classes in building consensus and unity around their hegemonic social, cultural and political universality”.

Since 1848, there has been an alternation between authoritarian forms of government and institutional models that preserve the democratic façade. This oscillation, Eliziário Andrade pertinently points out, “results from needs intrinsic to the logic of reproduction of capital, in specific circumstances”. He also warns that “none of this is static, it is permeated by a dialectical movement between the need for monopolies that advance in an overwhelming process of concentration and centralization, on the one hand, and on the other, the diverse interests of competing capitals that require economic and favorable and 'normal' policies”.

The spiral of the capitalist crisis is evident today in imperialist wars, fierce disputes over geopolitical hegemony, offensives by the neo-fascist extreme right, non-compliance with agreed environmental goals, etc. The structural crisis of capital has been dragging on (and intensifying) since the 1980s, unfolding “two interrelated phenomena: the discrepancy between global financial assets in relation to the slowdown in global GDP and low profitability, producing economic, social and devastating policies.”

The book ends with a sentence that could have been written by either Jorge Almeida or Eliziário Andrade. Referring to Antonio Gramsci's criticism of the liberal-bourgeois ideology and the ideological political transformism of the left, it is stated “the conviction of the need and socio-historical possibility of building a new societal project, with an effectively socialist policy, in addition to the collaboration of class and capital”.

*Ricardo Musse He is a professor at the Department of Sociology at USP. Author, among other books, of Trajectories of European Marxism (Unicamp Publisher). [https://amzn.to/40ZkKMz]

Reference


Jorge Almeida and Eliziário Andrade. Turbulences and challenges: Brazil and the world in the crisis of capitalism. São Paulo, Dialética, 2023, 260 pages. [https://amzn.to/3T5qlPo]

Launch in Salvador – November 30th, Thursday, from 19pm at the Bahia Art Museum (Corredor da Vitória, 2340).


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