A light and aggressive criticism

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Reply to Julian Rodrigues' article

I greatly respect the trajectory of Julian Rodrigues, a militant who helped build the Workers' Party, which generates so much discussion in our society and who, yes, has and has played a central role in Brazilian history from the 1980s to today. Julian has been doing important work at the Perseu Abramo Foundation, in which I participated in a project that resulted in the book Fascism yesterday and today, so necessary in the current situation of Brazil and the world.

He posted on the website the earth is round a comment on an article of mine. However, given the degree of the attack carried out through a slight, aggressive, baseless criticism, full of platitudes, I will not back down!

Julian Rodrigues feels personally disappointed by the criticism I make of the Workers' Party (PT). It's not something I hide from anyone. In several texts and debates I point out the criticism of the PT, not forgetting to mention the importance of the party, but without blinding the fact that its leadership has long been more concerned with winning the election and managing the class conflict in Brazil than moving forward in mobilization, in raising awareness of his own bases, of those who follow him. They prefer to sit at the table with Geraldos than organize their bases to pressure Congress against the secret budget, for example, or Petrobras' pricing policy.

As a “free radical”, outside the party, I have greater freedom of criticism, and at the same time little commitment, since I do not help build the organization on a daily basis. However, being frightened by the criticism that the PT chose the side of order, seems to be an unconditional defense of the anti-terrorism law approved during the party's governments or the second Dilma government, for example, which placed Joaquim Levy and Kátia Abreu in the executive . The fiscal adjustment began with the PT government. Even in times of Bolsonarism, it is important to remember this so as not to repeat it.

The PT chose the side of order after an absolutely ideological election in 2014. The population had chosen the Keynesian program, but the liberal one was applied. Of course, a lot happened before and after, but I consider this a fundamental moment for us to understand the rise of fascism in Brazil. It is also interesting to think that the PT chose order, at a time when there was no order to be re-established, only to be revolutionized. The melting pot of fascism was forming, there was no middle path to choose from, and this influenced the reaction of the middle and popular classes in Brazil in 2015. Of course, there is the media, the conspiracy in Congress, Michel Temer, etc., but we cannot exempt the mistakes made by the greatest force of the left in Brazil. That's what we're talking about.

And yes, keeping due proportions, the PT is very similar to the SPD in its transformation as a party of order. Julian Rodrigues forgot to mention that I am not the first person to compare the PT to European social democracy. Internationally Eric Hobsbawm and, in Brazil, Lincoln Secco did this before me and are quoted in the article. Of course, the perspectives are different, but it is not possible to declare surprise on the subject.

As in the criticized article,[I] I will not expand on issues related to the PT. As an answer to this question, I can only choose Rosa Luxemburgo, considering myself very well accompanied: “We will not be lost, and we will win, if we have not unlearned how to learn”.[ii]

Regarding Rosa Luxemburg's theory, two points need to be clarified.

The first is that Luxemburg and Lenin are not exactly in debate on this issue when we deal with the book. The accumulation of capital and the brochure Imperialism, the highest stage of capitalism. Luxemburg wrote before Lenin discussing with the Germans that they believed a peace agreement was possible, arguing that economic relations in the period would be very intertwined between the countries. Luxemburg demonstrated, then, how, despite this, competition speaks louder, because the engine of the system is profit, which ultimately leads to war.

Lenin, on the other hand, does not even quote Rosa's work, despite knowing him. There is therefore no debate here. There are two different expositions on the subject, at different times and contexts, which can be compared and digested by us today in a new interpretation.

Even more so considering that their exhibitions are not exactly opposites, they are different, but I understand that they complement each other in several points. The point is that Lenin centers his analysis on the conjunctural relations of his time and Luxemburg seeks to understand imperialism inscribed within the internal contradictions of capitalism in its historical and logical development.

I believe that the second point is urgently discussed with the seriousness it deserves. It is not common ground that Rosa Luxemburgo is a circulationist, subconsumerist or anything that counts in that sense. These labels have been attributed to the militant for decades, sometimes without critical reflection and in-depth study of her work. It is simply dismissed without taking the time to read her book and discussions in full.[iii]

In my research,[iv] I focused on the theme, pointing out that Rosa Luxemburgo's study is about expanded reproduction in capitalism and not about circulation. If her problem is presented in the sphere of circulation, it is because, according to her, this was the weak point of the work left unfinished by Marx. In her book, she presupposes the entire Marxian explanation of production and her central problem about realizing surplus value is based on the assumption that capitalist production is geared towards profit, as Marx points out.

Saying that “it's kind of established to recognize that Rosa Luxemburgo was wrong in attributing the problems of capitalism to the lack of consumers” demonstrates a total lack of knowledge of the author's work, a “hasty, superficial, even rough” criticism. Luxemburgo does not attribute the problems of capitalism to the lack of consumers, she starts from the issue of solvent demand to understand the movement of expanded reproduction. And the problem of capital reproduction is the limit given to its expansion over non-capitalist areas.

These areas not only serve to realize surplus value, from which Luxemburgo sets out to build his reasoning, but are also spaces for the export of capital, as capitalist production also expands to these areas, in addition to acquiring part of raw materials and workforce in these locations. The objective limits of capitalism are found in the tendential limits of this expansion that operates in the sphere of circulation and production.

Capitalism's problems are linked to production aimed at profit on an ever-expanding scale and not at satisfying social needs. It is on the basis of this fact that all questions of a tendency for the rate of profit to fall, overaccumulation, market saturation, etc., develop.

This is more than clear in Rosa Luxemburgo's work, right in its first chapter. She does not dwell on the subject because this was already very well explained by none other than Karl Marx, however, despite his genius, the man died before completing his work. Luxemburg's mistake to this day seems to have been to criticize the man! And, for this reason, few dedicate themselves to understanding her work and giving her the place of respect it deserves among the great interpreters of political economy.

*Rosa Rosa Gomes Master in Economic History from USP. Author of Rosa Luxemburg: Crisis and Revolution (Editorial Studio).



[I] Julian refers to an article published in the book Rosa Luxemburg, band 1 – Leben und Wirken, organized by Frank Jacob, Albert Scharenberg and Jörn Schütrumpf in 2021. The title of the article is “Rosa Luxemburg's Accumulation Theory and the SPD: a peripheral perspective”. It can be read on the GMARX-USP website: https://gmarx.fflch.usp.br/publicacoes.

[ii] LUXEMBOURG, Rose. “The Crisis of Social Democracy”. In: LOUREIRO, Isabel (org.) Rosa Luxemburg: selected texts, volume II. São Paulo: Editora Unesp, 2011, pp. 30.

[iii] Even though the Marxist debate about the centrality of production or circulation in the reproduction process has yielded many reflections of great benefit for understanding the world and the development of economic theory. This label is attached to Rosa Luxemburgo from the very beginning as a way of rejecting her economic thinking and relegating it to the gnawing critique of rats.

[iv] GOMES, Rose Rose. Rosa Luxemburg: crisis and revolution. Cotia: Ateliê Editorial, 2018.

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