PHOTO: Diego DEAA - Wikimedia Commons

By Lincoln Secco and Fernando Sarti Ferreira*

This text is part of the special 2017 x 24 – visions, predictions, fears and hopes of issue number 113 of Revista Brasileiros, where writers and collaborators were invited to think about what and how much we could expect – if we could – for our country in 2017.

After the media-parliamentary coup, time seems to have accelerated. Not as in periods of radical transformation, but as in a kind of macabre mirror, inaugurating a period of restoration.

On the Night of Nightmares of October 10, 2016, a demonic version of the Night of Miracles of August 4, 1789, when the French Constituent Assembly abolished feudal privileges, the hegemonic sector of the Brazilian bourgeoisie – and especially the most petty and redneck of all, the São Paulo financial bourgeoisie – preferred to save their rings, thinking they had the money to keep their fingers. But it actually opened up the possibility of having his arm severed in an outburst of fury that, perhaps, will only be comparable to the Haitian Revolution. It is the only horizon that can be glimpsed with the freezing of the federal budget added to the attack on the already precarious labor rights.

Between the qualitative leap of bourgeois domination that would represent a progressive tax reform that managed to expand the project of expansion of rights initiated in 1988 and timidly deepened by the PT, the São Paulo financial bourgeoisie and their colleagues – janitors of warehouses, administrators of the cemetery of the second revolution industrial in Brazil, land grabbers from Jardins – and the recession, were left with the second option. They cannot get rid of the most brutal mechanisms of exploitation that gave birth to them so long ago, and they set out on a new round of spoliation of people who were not even subjects of law. No wonder its monuments and names of streets and squares are celebrations of the primitive accumulation of capital through the conquest of indigenous land, slavery and dictatorships.

municipal elections

The coup press soon began to celebrate Temer's infernal program with a possible approval of the coup by the polls. The 2016 municipal elections were not even over and a series of epitaphs were written about the party left, especially the country's number 1 enemy: the moderate PT. Before the elections, about 1/5 of PT mayors had already left the party. He lost half of his mayors won in 2012 and became only tenth in number of mayors elected.

One would have to wonder if the other nine that are in front of him are in fact broken. After all, PRB, PP, PSB and other rental legends grew up without any political identity. There is also little comment on the fact that, despite the low coalition rate (22,7% of PT candidates left without support from any party), the PT allied with the PMDB in 648 municipalities. And this after impeachment!

After all, what are the results of municipal elections for? The number of variables that enter into the explanation of the results is so large that it is difficult to understand them.

In the country's main city, where a lumpen-bourgeois playboy was elected, the servile press was quick to say that the periphery had abandoned the left. It is curious that, in addition to the Pinheiros neighborhood, the PT obtained votes above its electoral average in the far east and south of the city.1. If we were to follow the electoral map, we could say the opposite of the mainstream press: the PT lost even in the consolidated periphery, and soon became a party with an even more impoverished social base.

And what about null and blank votes and abstentions? In addition to its increase in São Paulo, the refusal to vote moved from the expanded center (2012 election) to the periphery (2016).

Even leftist intellectuals forget Milton Santos' warning in his book The Urban Poverty: when measuring anything, it is necessary to set aside some qualities of the phenomenon. Therefore, what matters is the theory that produces and interprets the data. The poor, he continues, cannot be blamed for poverty and consumerism cannot be blamed on consumers. One can criticize the PT stance of not having changed the structure of production and, therefore, of consumption in the country.


Many analysts believe that PT governments granted consumption to the poor, but not class consciousness. Evidently, the working class, for such analysts, could only be enlightened from the outside by themselves. After “climbing up the ladder”, the ungrateful would behave like middle class. Once the economic growth that allowed social mobility had stopped, they would turn against the left. But whoever compares the standard of living of 2016 with that of 2003 has to take into account that poverty is a relational phenomenon accompanied by historical social and cultural values. Only if you are poor in relation to something.

Likewise, the thesis of the conservatism of poor voters, desirous of state protection, but against political radicalism, treats them as natural and not historical beings. It is not taken into account that the political alternative offered to them did not challenge them as a class or ask for their mobilization. In common parlance: why does someone defend those who don't want to be defended? This does not mean that the coup attack against the social conquests that the poor have obtained will be passively accepted.

This time, the bourgeoisie embarks on an adventure that could lead to its own ruin. It embarks, like the German bourgeoisie in 1933, on a suicide mission. What will be the result of the destruction of the PT and the dismantling of the few rights contained in the 1988 Constitution?

The structuralist left, which understands the behavior of classes as something rational and functional, should be summarily ignored. There is no theoretical or conceptual somersault that can explain or relativize such violence. There are no preconceived designs; no agenda is being followed. The coup was not taken to align Brazilian economic development with a certain hegemonic project – as in the case of the 1964 coup. symptom of the systemic crisis that the US world hegemony is going through – put water in the coup d'état, as can be attested by looking at the repercussions of Trump's victory among the groups that sponsored the coup in Brazil.

Instability will continue for a long time. Will there be a blow within a blow? Will there be elections in 2018? After opening the cages and freeing all the animals in the zoo, will the main political forces of the coup manage to control their radical philofascist base? Instability and social explosion are the only certainties for our immediate future.

Better an end with terror than an endless terror

In the medium term, in view of the radicalization of the process of criminalization of the left and the problems that instability produces for the big business, a stabilization similar to Mexico is likely to occur: an alliance of large business groups with international capital, backed by paramilitary armed groups. The need to support the regime in the name of the rule of law and democracy will likely lead to the rise of a outsider of the political system, be it in its harshest version, a candorous and implacable judge or military man, or the sweeter, but no less perverse, of a good-looking TV presenter, with a slightly more liberal profile.

The figure of the supposedly efficient entrepreneur seems to have success restricted to some regions of the country. Just as we had our demonic Night of Miracles, it is very likely, following the script of total regression that we are experiencing, that a sub-Napoleon will emerge.

For the left, there is not much perspective on what to do, but what not to do. It is necessary to resume some practices and abandon some illusions. Her preoccupation with the institutional struggle either pushes her towards a useless republican good-guy or towards the unprofessional wheels of corporate campaign financing.

In recognizing the meager progress made in recent years, we are in no way defending social democracy or “a more humanized capitalism”, but merely remembering that the sentence “socialism or barbarism” is not a mere watchword, but a warning, mainly because the regression to barbarism ceases to be a trend and becomes a drive under neoliberalism.

* Lincoln Secco is professor of Contemporary History at the University of São Paulo. Fernando Sarti Ferreira is a master and doctoral student in Economic History at USP

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