A proposal: Socialist centers



Letter to federal deputy Glauber Braga

For some years now I have been propagating the need to intensify the work of ideological struggle at the base of the Brazilian progressive and socialist sectors. With the current political-economic and social crisis triggered, to which were added the harmful evils of the pandemic, I advanced in urgent public speaking regarding the need to found what I called “Socialist Centers” by communities across the country.

In the joy of the fruitful dialogue maintained with Federal Deputy Glauber Braga during an interview at the end of 2020, broadcast live on internet networks, which resulted in the prompt enthusiasm of this outstanding political leader from Rio de Janeiro and Brazil to be the pioneer in the implementation of such an idea, I offer this letter to serve as a benchmark and contribution to the companions who come to join such a project.

The Struggle and Its Possibility in Our Time

Socialist struggles have faced, in recent decades, an even greater dominance of capital at the world level. The march of merchandise and accumulation expands. Even if the crises spread and the social fabric frays, even so, the capitalist ideology increasingly challenges, constitutes and guides subjectivities. States, politics and law make clear what they lend themselves to; its forms are those of bourgeois rule. Coups, far-right movements and social regressions pervade many societies.

The specter of insurmountable contradictions in current capitalism echoes that of the early XNUMXth century: two distinct crises of accumulation, but both structural. In one, the extreme right descended into fascism; in the current one, it is still in the process of consolidating its last contours. At that moment, socialist revolutionary experiences were emerging; in the current one, socialism is presented as taboo and capitalism and its institutions as inexorable corollaries.

In Brazil, the present moment adds, to the context of the crisis of world capitalism, its own ills. Lives under blow. Social conditions regress. The struggle is blocked by capital, by the mass media, by the State, by law, by the armed forces, by the devices that make up everyday sociability – family, religion, customs, intellectuals, opinion makers. The fight against socialism, the left and class struggles, groups and social movements increases. Such a Brazilian march of right-wing extremism and repression of struggles is in the process of ascension and will grow even more. This entire picture presents itself, at first, as a mold of impossibilities. In the face of it, even so, it is necessary to establish the struggle and the possibility.

Knowing about capitalist sociability to act for socialism: science and revolution. What to do, in the context of impossibilities, is to glimpse the weakest link in the chain and invest in it, so that the correlation of forces changes and the dynamics allow for new situations and actions. When everything seems to be blocked, it is necessary to act on the ultimate basis, stressing reproduction. The Socialist Centers are the allocation of energies not only for the institutional dispute – whose limits are given by the very nature of the forms of institutions, derived from capital –, but for the process of preparing the masses for social transformation. It may result in little, almost nothing; but, being training for socialism and for the seizure of power by the masses, it may also be exactly what is needed for the dawn of the structural struggle.

Ideological struggle in current capitalism

The framework of ideological action in contemporary capitalist society is this:

(1) structural ideology arising from the subject's relations in production (merchandise, accumulation, private property, contract, law, State).

(2) ideology supported by ideological apparatuses:

2.1. Ideological communication devices (mass media).

2.2. Ideological devices of repeated practices:

2.2.1. reiterated ideological practices of the workplace (trade unions).

2.2.2. reiterated ideological practices of everyday life (family, school, church, community).

It is necessary to know how this framework of capitalist social reproduction works to establish the forms of struggle for its overcoming.

Capitalist society reproduces itself through social forms that determine everyone and everything: merchandise, value, money, private property, contract, State, law, etc. All individuals and all classes materially submit to this coercion of bourgeois social forms. The poor and the rich know that their life is measured by money; the difference is that one has it – and exploits it for the money – while the other does not have it – and is exploited for the money. The conditions of capitalism do not depend on the will of each individual; they are, rather, structural. One is not a capitalist or wage earner because one wants to, but because society thus produces its social relations.

This material base through which relations are maintained makes everyone, in capitalism, have to live subject to the determinations of the mode of production. But, in general, individuals do not oppose this: this whole process is carried out by the will of the subjects. Everyone hires, buys and sells, negotiates their workforce, wants more profits, better wages, business opportunities, security for their assets, etc. The capitalist ideology is what forms, in the constituent practice, the subjects that live in capitalist societies.

Capitalist ideology, however, in addition to being based on these economic and social relations, is reinforced with a series of ideological apparatuses. In order not to rise up against the exploitation of work, the worker is bombarded by liberal ideology, praised by employers and even by some union leaders. Televisions, radios, newspapers, magazines, social networks, news and interpretations operate according to the bourgeois interest.

Schools and colleges have as their teaching content what is functional to capital. Religion, as a rule, legitimizes inequality by saying it is the result of a divine will. The family, organized as a unit for the economic support of its members, materially protects itself and orients itself towards survival under capitalist terms, reproducing its ideology in practice. The circles of kinship, friendship, neighborhood and fun also support the same values ​​and give prestige to their ideological premises: orderly, non-criminal, successful, happily married, sexually and affectively orthodox, workers, right-wing – the so-called good citizens .

I therefore highlight that there are two complementary ideological orders that organize capitalism: (1) a structural one, arising from the very social relationship of the subjects in production; (2) another supported by apparatuses, which is reinforced and manipulated by their controllers. Thus, structurally, everyone buys and sells work as a commodity under capitalism. As far as appliances are concerned, churches that uphold the values ​​of such a system may be more or less advocates of prosperity theology; the schools, more progressive or conservative; the media, more or less coup-mongering or reactionary. Ideological apparatuses are materially supported by economic determination, in such a way that capitalist ideology tends to dominate social relations from end to end.

The material determination by capital is only overthrown with the taking over of the means of production by the working classes and the achievement of socialist modes of production. This material determination of capital is intimately connected with the repressive State apparatuses – armed forces, police, law. Ideological apparatuses, in turn, can be partially disputed within capitalist conditions.

It is possible – although it is difficult and its achievement is always intermittent – ​​to have ideological institutions opposed to capital, such as schools or the press. The capitalist ideology dominates everything, but the control of some ideological apparatuses can seek to strain such dominance. The ideology of capital in the materiality of production is more structural (and more difficult to transform) than each ideological action supported by the apparatuses. That being so, then the weak link in the chain of class struggle in present-day capitalism lies in the ideological apparatuses.

With regard to ideological apparatuses, they can be understood in two large blocks: (2.1) the mass media; (2.2) apparatuses of ideological formation by reiterating everyday relational practices. The first guard, mainly, the ideological function of attack and immediate combat. Agendas, political changes and even coups are instrumentalized by such means. They are dynamic, seek quick mobilization and often operate with focus.

The latter have the ideological function of resistance and support. The foundations of the horizon of the world are reproduced there. They are stable, they seek to sustain general patterns of sociability. Since they are two relatively interchangeable sets of relational apparatus, communication apparatuses also have, incidentally, functions of resistance and support; everyday reiteration devices also incidentally have attack and immediate combat functions.

The fight against the media can be done economically and legally – having channels and disputing the information market – and technically – using technologies in an avant-garde way. The clash with the devices of everyday reiteration takes place on a simple, convivial level, in which practices are constantly reproduced. Having media channels demands a strategic effort dependent on large combat organizations – governments on the left, parties, unions, funding.

Given the historical lack of action by the left at this level of ideological struggle, and also given the full and immediate reaction of capitalists and traditional means of mass communication to such undertakings, what remains, in the field of media, is the avant-garde use of technologies. The extreme right proceeded like this, taking the field of the right by storm and fighting the left via social networks and internet tools. Also in this sector, the institutional lefts suffer. Faced with this whole picture of unrealized and hampered combats, therefore, the only feasible space of possibilities – and, therefore, the link in which the struggle must be invested – is that of the formation of ideology in the reiteration of everyday practices.

Regarding the field of social interaction, and regarding its possibilities of dispute in favor of socialism, two possible spaces open up: (2.2.1) that of dispute in the workplace – and due to its immediate professional interests; (2.2.2) that other of the most basic and immediate everyday life. Since the Industrial Revolution, the struggles of the working masses have been concentrated in factories, industries and large spaces of production, of which, in the XNUMXth century, Fordism is its most exemplary model.

With the arrival of the post-Fordist accumulation regime, at the end of the XNUMXth century and the beginning of the XNUMXst century, production is relatively decentralized in terms of its spatiality. With greater increases in exploitation via technology, outsourcing and remote work, then capitalist production manages to disconnect the working mass from face-to-face meetings in large industrial plants or even services.

Political learning at the factory floor or in the physical space where services are provided is lost. As every capitalist society is a society of labor exploitation under wages, submission at work continues, in different ways – outsourcing, individual entrepreneurship, service provision, army of unemployed people waiting for temporary jobs –, but the forging of social bonds by the workplace is relatively smaller than it was in the time of Fordism.

From this vacuum or from this lower incidence of sociability through the workplace, a greater incidence of the two other phenomena of sociability through ideological apparatuses follows: the first, that carried out by the mass media themselves, questioning individuals in a more direct and personalized, with increasingly sophisticated technologies and algorithms; the second, that of basic relational nucleation, which is structured in the family, community and religion.

According to the references in the table proposed here, the formula of post-Fordist capitalism proceeds with the following dynamics: 2.2.1 < 2.1 + 2.2.2. Socialization through work is subject to socialization through the control of individuality through communication devices and basic devices for family/community education and care.

It is exactly these two spheres of sociability that sustain, in the decades of post-Fordist capitalism, the march of regression, conservatism and reactionaryism in countries like Brazil – but also in the USA and other societies. And they are also, precisely, the two spheres not worked on by the world's lefts that took power in the States via elections and that, to varying degrees, gave up fighting capitalism head-on and forging the socialist struggle.

None of these ideological spheres of sociability is new. They all exist as soon as world societies know capitalist sociability, in a mode of production organized through the real subsumption of labor to capital. In all the societies in which it arises, capitalism is organized by mononuclear families, city life and in their respective urbanistically segregated neighborhoods, religions of prosperity, unions and non-revolutionary parties and mass media.

The novelty of the present time is just their articulation and their respective relative weights, which generate some modulations of their own within capitalist social reproduction – what the Marxist theory of regulation calls middle terms. Thus, both the workplace and the organic-union bonding of the worker's training continue to subsist, alongside and close to the means of communication and other institutions of basic subjectivation. The change – and what it is about pointing out so that we can advance in the fights in the opposite direction – is in the arrangement of conservative relations, which change and remain under the same forms of capitalism. Hence, therefore, if the framework is updated, there is also the imperative of updating the transforming struggles in the face of such a context.

Under the conditions of the emergence of a Fordist capitalism, proletarian masses were exchanging lives under traditional modes of production for salaried and commodified lives. At that time, organic resistance to standardization through the commodity form was greater, which allowed some societies to fight for socialism. But now, in the conditions of the decline of Fordist capitalism and the organization of a post-Fordist regulatory regime, the proletarian masses are constituted by a fully commodified sociability.

Their lives operate, then, with a markedly individualized subjectivity rooted, whose bonds are always mercantile – in politics, the citizen is the consumer; in the family, the education of the child is to be inherited from the parents or qualified to be sold professionally; in religion, the believer is the one favored by the economic advantages sustained by God. Work and its spheres of action are despised – being a worker is less desired than being a celebrity (the ideological devices of mass communication gain prominence in the desire for excellence in the workplace); unions, parties and leftist movements are objects of hatred.

Everyday life becomes fully structured by the capitalist ideological apparatus. As capitalist sociability has flaws, but there is no ideological apparatus for denouncing and disputing such crises, until now it has been the capitalist ideological apparatuses themselves that explain their flaws, narrating them through rationalities that are not causal: lack of morals, of ethics, of religion, of full liberalism, the fault of the State, of new customs, of the left, of communism. If there is no dispute in the devices, the circle of reproduction of capitalist exploitation is completely closed even when explaining its crises and structural failures, preventing suffering from generating the explosion of antagonism and contradiction.

If the newspaper, radio and television are the mass communication form of Fordism, electronic platforms are the communication form of post-Fordism. The union and institutionalized politics are Fordism's form of political regimentation; but the Socialist Centers are the basic organizational form in post-Fordist capitalism. As the left, when they gain power through elections, as a rule, do not ideologically tension society and do not constitute new apparatuses of mass communication, only the masses and their base daily life remain open to dispute.

It is the only possible form of effective struggle today, preparing the ground to later reach the other spheres of struggle. The everyday is not a negligible sphere of current sociability: rather, it is even one of its central poles. So the struggle in this field, if organized, will reveal the great support for future revolutionary action. The Socialist Center is the form of grassroots ideological struggle in post-Fordist capitalism.

The Socialist Center appoints and organizes the ideological struggle

By naming itself that way, the Socialist Center expresses the main axis of the entire ideological struggle. Appointment is the only possibility of establishing, materially and consistently, the true and scientific meaning of the struggle to overcome capitalism. Socialism and communism have been words that have been virulently opposed by the ideological apparatuses of today (as they have been, to varying degrees, throughout the history of capitalism).

Seeking to avoid such a stigma, the strategy of renouncing the clarity of the struggle only made the lefts be captured by the discourse and by the practical political entanglements of the dominant classes. Naming the activity of political formation as socialist will make it possible to immediately tighten the social fabric and open space for the clear formation of the masses, without paying tribute to bourgeois ideology, whose price is later charged incurably on the reformist lefts who, when founded in nominations for struggle submissive to the bourgeois order (defence of republicanism, legality, electoral democracy, inclusion), do not have ideological resources to mobilize the masses for resistance and contestation.

In Latin America in the first decades of the XNUMXst century, all left-wing governments that named socialism fell later and/or resisted more coups; all the leftist governments that were appointed by the bourgeois ideological horizon fell.

Thus, the first and central struggle of the Socialist Center is for the nomination. If it is called Citizenship Center, Popular Center, Workers' Center, it will be under the bourgeois horizon and will represent nothing of contradiction to the present sociability. It will be charitable, providing services, docile to capitalist reproduction. Only by naming itself by the only name that is intolerable to capitalism can it begin to forge new ideological foundations. It is true that communism, the highest stage of socialism, is also a ghost to capitalist ideology. “Communist” is the only partner name that can be interchanged with “socialist” to identify a center of radical ideological struggle at the grassroots level. Since the first stage in search of communism is socialist, then by that name the base centers will be identified while society has to face this first stage.

The Socialist Center, by naming itself, gives meaning to the ideological struggle. But, when it was founded and began its activities, it organized the ideological struggle. By taking root in everyday and ordinary life, it will allow the ideological taboos of the masses to be broken, explaining science to them about history, society and the capitalist mode of production. It will be developed through practical activities, taking root in immediate community struggles for education, housing, urbanism, water, sewage, electricity, health, social assistance, transportation, environment, inclusion of minorities and vulnerable groups, arts and communication. It will allow the creation of effective spaces for action by trade union movements and the working class. It will also allow for varied progressive social movements to articulate around larger ideological purposes.

By establishing itself spatially in the community, the Socialist Center will face the most immediate community demands. It will do, in a better way, what religions, charitable institutions and associative clubs already do with limits. Religion tends to convert social service into proselytism and to explain social action based on metaphysical dynamics. Charitable institutions and associative clubs, as a rule, are created and managed by sectors of the middle class for whom the counterpart of providing services is the reinforcement of the ideology of their class fractions.

Both religions and associative clubs block the fight when it reaches greater contradictions that rise up against the powers that be and the powerful, because their basic ideology is not for the alteration of order and sociability. Only centers that call themselves socialist – and move towards such a horizon – will be able to put pressure on society without running into immediate mishaps (class, prejudice, profit, funding), or background ideological expectations (theology, repression, conservatism ).

The Socialist Center both founds the field of the highest ideological struggle and dynamized and articulated the already existing social struggles. Its nature greater than that of a specific social movement struggle makes its purpose welcoming of all immediate or focused struggles, not only insofar as it adds them to itself, but rather insofar as it gives them perspective. Therefore, it dynamizes and articulates them. As far as articulation is concerned, it allows various struggles to converge and regroup forces, which religious centers and service clubs do not fully do – as an example, some, even being favorable to the struggles of the homeless, cannot, due to their theological limits , support feminist struggles.

With regard to dynamization, all struggles against domination and oppression and struggles for inclusion and survival gain more momentum when viewed against the exploitation of the mode of production, reaching structural problems. The Socialist Center will then make it possible to articulate and streamline the struggles of an entire generation around the socialist horizon.

Humility of design, grandeur of purpose

They will be called, by Socialist Centers, those that they want to denominate themselves. They will not have prior ties to federative entities that authorize and direct them. They will settle wherever they want and can. They will have different formats, dimensions and varied models of action, and will be identified only by the grassroots work and the nomination of a socialist – which, being costly and rare today, will not make them be multiplied according to impulses that quickly lead them to common sense.

However voluntary and openly enthusiastic their organization and self-management may be, and however much they may be spaces of future social power, the Socialist Centers are political-ideological work units that, in the beginning, will face great resistance. Its emergence is contrary to the inertia or organizational dynamics of today. Hence, the first unit of identification among the Socialist Centers will only be guaranteed by the rarity of the effort of the people who undertake them.

They will be formed by the most varied parties, mandates, unions, institutions and social movements and, in particular, by any unions of people around specific or broad ideals. Where two or more are united in community socialist action, there will be the flame of social transformation.

Given their multiplicity of constituent sources and people, the Socialist Centers will be as distinct as the various grassroots social organizations are, and some centers may be more prominent for studies or assistance actions or political movements, closer to homogeneous interest groups or forged to from broad fronts of purposes. They will have their own statutes and legal figures adapted to their characteristics and needs, with self-management. They will finance themselves on their own, sustaining themselves as they can and within the limit of what they manage to forge and maintain.

They will bring together different subjects who will avoid the idiosyncrasies of class, language, intellectual background, status, hermeticism, personalism. They cannot have an exclusively middle-class profile, they must engage with the popular bases, valuing their experience and amplifying their voice, meeting the wishes of the working class and the homeless, but without agreeing with the conservative-regressive ideological bloc already culturally amalgamated among our people. They must engage and be forged in feminist, anti-racist struggles and for the liberation of various social oppressions. The Socialist Centers will be the vanguard not of the people, but of the people.

Socialist Centers will be based on study and action. With regard to studies, they will draw directly from Marx's texts and from all the broad Marxist readings produced since then. They will seek to provide basic scientific knowledge of Marxism and will also deepen contemporary and more advanced readings on the subject. They will learn from the history of struggles and revolutions in order to be able to create a new history, according to the conditions and demands of our time and society. There will be divergences in studies, emphases and even understandings of what Marxism and socialism are. As it develops, more successful popular education experiences will emerge and even more capable bibliographies will consolidate and serve as a reference.

Each Socialist Center will educate itself in the way it considers most appropriate. Solidarity exchange between centers, learning from their various practices, will give some decantation to the very form of studies – what to read, how to read, how to unite theory and practice. However, the Socialist Centers will not be mere academic study units. Its purpose is not to replicate the university environment. Both it will avoid academicism and, on the other hand, it will avoid praxism that is pleased with decisions, voluntarism and mere actions, hostages of common sense. The Socialist Centers will be founded on the scientific study of capitalism and socialism, and also on the science of gestation of revolutionary horizons, contributing to the enterprise of overcoming capitalism.

In order to achieve success and ideological action with great practical results, the Socialist Centers will be spaces that will undergo implantation and consolidation errors. They tend to be eventually captured by still bourgeois ideological specters, by insufficient or falsely scientific readings, by immediate party and electoral interests, and even by idiosyncrasies of individuals, groups, spaces.

The importance and fighting value of these multiple and free experiences, however, greatly exceeds the erroneous biases that sprout within them. In addition, Socialist Centers may suffer persecution. Whether those are local, immediate, or those arising from State agents, or those from the mass media, or even those from the bourgeoisie. This opposition always takes place in the face of any progressive and transformative movement. Therefore, the centers must forge a network of support and solidarity in resistance. The union will allow support and help. But, in addition to focusing on precautions, it takes courage to fight in order to initiate great movements and historical processes.

Socialist centers are free and multiple as are the wills of fighters for overcoming capitalism. As these figures are rare, and the energy available to them individually is low, they tend to group together through organic party, academic, concrete social interests or even affective groupings. From such varied and valuable complexes, they will make it possible for more people to discover them, to approach them and to become fond of them. Eventually, the basic ideological training work, due to its concrete and immediate demands, will even allow for strategies to bring together multiple currents that claim to be leftist and socialist today, and that do not dialogue or even compete with each other. It is possible that, in the future, there will be movements to unify efforts at the community base, thus allowing greater units in the general struggle. The horizon of the Socialist Centers is, inexorably, that of unity in diversity.

It is a project of a necessary constitutive humility. It was born at the most critically fragile moment for the left, progressives and socialists in Brazil in recent decades. It does not seek electoral victories or sudden successful changes in the Brazilian social formation. Rather, it seeks to intervene precisely in the community bases in which the immediate management of life takes place and in which the cultural, evaluative and practical horizon of the lives of the masses is formed.

It arises from the elements that have their will to act for an agglutination of activities, tasks and horizons. It will assemble the maximum number of different subjects and their varied interests and readings of the world. It does not aim for unity by deduction. It will serve as a contribution to unity by induction, in the future, when the great axes of the progressive and revolutionary struggle open up and, then, the Socialist Centers reveal themselves as their most decisive base element.

There are conservative institutions of organization, mobilization and constitution of social subjectivities whose history is ancient and whose functionality and reproducibility has been decanted for years, decades and centuries: family, neighborhood, religion, school. For all these institutions, their practices, powers and relational modes are already known and are imposed on the subjects: the father, the mother, the friend, the religious leader, the teacher.

As the Socialist Center seeks to establish socialist camaraderie within the space and scope of capitalism, it will operate against the grain of history. But if its implantation model forges actions, expectations and relational modes of easy replication (identifiable models of practices, highlighted and copyable profiles of leaderships), it will finally reach a prosperous form of revolutionary sociability, as it was in the XNUMXth century the Soviet.

An idea and an action can symbolize a new influx of history. Just as neoliberalism ends the illusions of capitalist social welfare and the 2016 coup closes the cycles of Brazilian democratic-reformist-constitutional illusion, in the opposite direction the Socialist Centers symbolize and mark the new stage of the transforming struggle, no longer deluded with the bourgeois liberal quadrants and then, now yes, at the forefront of their definitive struggle, to overcome the mode of production. Humility of purpose, grandeur of project. This is the only way the great material history will be made: passing over the political illusions that expect the people to rise up on their own, over the economicist illusions, which expect capitalism to collapse by itself, and over the paralysis of those who, in knowing all this, do not face time.

Ingenuity and art, today be science and revolution.

*Alysson Leandro Mascaro He is a professor at the Faculty of Law at USP. Author, among other books, of State and political form (Boitempo).


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