Live without utopias?

Image: Anna Shvets
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By TARSUS GENUS*

There is no “end of utopias”, but their cancellation due to the victory of commodification of life

The ambiguity of this dystopian era, naturalized by the cynicism of the political and journalistic right around the world, is perhaps already synthesized in a passage from a book by Chomsky (Who runs the world?), when he recalls two reports on the front page of the The New York Times – side by side – one of them informing that the Republicans are opposed to any agreement that involves “increasing revenues” (euphemism for taxing the rich) when the other article has the headline: “Even with higher prices, luxury goods disappear from the shelves.” (pg.86, Ed, Planet, SP-2017).

In this text I do not discuss the humanistic effectiveness of the “Soviet” social systems, nor the superiority (or inferiority) of the social-democratic system of production and distribution of resources in industrial capitalist society. I try to seek, however, an analytical path on the “end of utopias”, in the idea of ​​socialism and liberal democracy, as a stronghold of the experiment of modern democracy, by the reality of world social democracy. This, visibly, eliminated social equality policies from its strategic ambitions to replace them with the fight against poverty, in the abstract, based on compensatory policies and social assistance, while the Soviet model – stricto sensu – ended up as a model of national-imperial affirmation, not alien to the mercenarism of the most classic western imperialisms.

There is no “end of utopias”, but their cancellation by the victory of commodification of life and by the obstruction of solidary models of social coexistence. The collective solitude of the networks, due to the possibilities of anonymity, often irresponsible and criminal, the individualization produced in the distance without human integration, without understanding the pain of the other, the impossibilities of knowing their greatness and the search to live in the shadows. Utopias will be rebuilt after a long period of dispersion and death of the subjects, but the problem is that “evil” and “good” will be redefined by hard periods of struggle, since nobody knows their true faces.

The blockage of a new utopian representation for the western left, whose progressive imaginary is still anchored in the struggles of the last century or subjected to an identity that transits anarchically to the political sphere – due to its own radicality and fragmented nature – will not be overcome as long as the War between NATO-USA-Ukraine and Russia lasts. As an “intra-corporis” War, within the global-imperial system itself, it is a War between interconnected creditors and debtors, between producer-buyers of weapons and commodities, also interconnected, which feed on disaster and chaos.

This chaos is the basis of the cynical dystopia that involves the great powers that dispute the pragmatism of humanity's geopolitical power, natural resources, water, territorial spaces and the power to control the climate. There is no democratic utopia, nor the recreation of conditions for peace in progress, but a process of redistribution of forces among equals at the top of the pyramid and when they dispute what is left after wars and darkness, those below increase their suffering.

Let's look at some striking examples, which may be insignificant for a complete analysis of a historical cycle, but which can help to think about the torments of the present, based on very concrete questions: does any country that has the capacity to exert a certain domination over the global game put political democracy as the real compass of its foreign policy? Does any social-democratic country have the conditions to exercise a foreign policy based on a social-democratic ethic, built from the Enlightenment values ​​that you illustrated?

Nikolai Bukharin - said by Lenin as the most "beloved of the entire Party" - was assassinated by Stalin's Political Police, on March 15, 1938, after a "fake" trial in one of the most important Moscow Trials - almost ten years after he was expelled from the Political Bureau of the USSR CP, in 1929, for differences with Stalin. It was rehabilitated in March 1988, by Gorbachev, just over three years before the date of dissolution of the USSR, which took place – formally – in December 1991. The USSR was preparing, economically and militarily, to face the 2nd. World War against the most bellicose capitalist country in the world, Nazi Germany, which was organizing itself for War and Genocide. His ashes visit us today.

Between the assassination of Bukharin and the end of the 2nd. War, the Soviet Utopia goes through two moments of extreme historical significance: the dystopian “Stalinization” of the socialist idea and the return of the Soviet Utopia, in the West, with the defeat of Germany, which would turn the world into an immense concentration camp of terror and death, if it were victorious, subjecting the USSR. The death of Bukharin, a particular historical fact of world politics within the first experience of socialist utopia, would undoubtedly signal to the world of the non-communist (social-democratic) “left” the end of illusions about the idea that a project of democracy more advanced than the French Revolution was under way in the experience of the USSR, although an exception regime would be “tolerable”, due to the war that was approaching. The premature death of the critical consciousness of Bolshevism at that moment would be projected throughout later history.

Between the 2nd World War and the dissolution of the USSR, two more particular events, full of typicality – which later became universal through the militarization of the export of “socialist” or “democratic” models to Asia and Eastern Europe – assaulted the utopias on the two hot sides of the “cold war”: the first was the Vietnam War, in which that country – with iron and fire – created its new national identity, defeating the largest and most trained Army in the world; and the second, the invasion of Hungary by the Soviet Army which, by crushing a rebellion for more democracy, against the leadership of the Hungarian Communist Party, would end up hanging the liberal “communist” Imre Nagy, sympathetic to the political reforms that came from the popular bases of the regime.

The victory of the allies, in front of the USA and mainly the USSR and England – the latter because it had suffered the first impacts of the War – created as an apparent universal conscience the hope of reconciliation between liberal democracy and the idea of ​​a society of social equals: the USSR had started to ardently defend the world peace negotiated in the “Pact of Yalta”, although a significant part of the socialists – with electoral force in Europe – pointed the “dictatorship of the proletariat”, under Stalinism, as a farce directed by a relentless bureaucracy that would guarantee its power based on the police-military, party and state structure, which held power in Hungary.

The Soviet experience was based on the creation of a new class system, quickly overcome by the evolution of the USA, with its financial accumulation, technological and economic development – ​​of a Keynesian-militarist character – whose model is destined to sustain internal employment and external occupation wars. What revolves in the world today, therefore, is a game of the unforeseen: the former USSR developing far from the predicates of Leninism and “Soviet democracy” as a capitalist country, and European social democracy developing outside the predicates of Bernstein and Kautsky. These argued that socialism should be the successor to the abundance of capitalist production for the formation of a society among equals, within liberal democracy.

It is in the small space within this tweezers that countries like Brazil, Argentina, Chile and Colombia – mainly – seek to turn the wheel of History, perhaps belatedly, to build a Social State within liberal democracy. I tried to understand Isaiah Berlin when he said that “utopias” were dangerous, but I became more and more convinced that the most dangerous and most indecent thing, historically, is to live without them. And aimlessly. From his ashes are born the hydras of fascism and the hydrophobic dogs of genocidal Nazism.

*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).


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