Renato_Janine_Ribeiro_em_2015 - photo by Valter Campanato/Agência Brasil
PHOTO: Valter Campanato/Agência Brasil

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.

The best that can happen for Brazil and the left today is to deepen the fight against corruption. It was the manipulation of this issue that overthrew the PT's constitutional government: investigations focused on their governments, a relentless media campaign, the actions of legal operators. Hence the aversion of many PT members to anti-corruption campaigns. Everything indicates that the first act is over, but the play continues. Leaders of the party that inherited the government, the PMDB, are the new target of investigations and protests. The watershed will be the moment when the party promoting the impeachment, the PSDB, also enters the line of fire. Then we can separate the wheat from the chaff. In all parties, it is more than likely that there have been or are corrupt – as well as honest people.

Corruption is not the biggest issue in the country. Misery was, in the 1888th century, the national scourge, as in the XNUMXth century was slavery. Abolition in XNUMX was a superficial solution. Slaves did not gain land or compensation. When compensation was discussed, one thought of the masters, because they had lost property, not the captives, who had been deprived of their right to freedom. The large-scale social inclusion initiatives, which reached their apogee in the Lula and Dilma governments, were more comprehensive because they lifted multitudes out of poverty and sought to do so in a consolidated manner. They didn't complete each other, because the problem is huge. Five centuries of exclusion cannot be resolved overnight. And that's the point.

But the main topic was corruption. And no PT should complain. After all, the party spent at least 20 years, from foundation to presidency, accusing the governments we had of being corrupt. It linked two ethical themes, the fight against corruption and poverty. In power, he did a lot for both of them. It gave autonomy to the police, to the prosecutor's office, to the control systems. Created award-winning social inclusion programs. But he stopped talking about ethics. Instead of preaching, he did. Merit yours, from words to deeds, but words are needed to create new awareness. By silencing them, he left the space of ethics free for the preaching of the right, which never put misery as a scourge of the country: it put corruption in its place – adding that never before, in the history of Brazil, had it been so great. Lie? Yes, but it took.

And corruption is indeed a problem. Less than misery, but also terrible. The two make a farce of morality. Corruption accounts for much of the failure of public power. When public office is privatized to its advantage, the republic fails. Our republic is weak because instead of the common good it provides private goods. We have numerous forms of privatization in society. I often talk about privatization of the diploma: student at a good public university, who uses the education paid for by society just to make money. Few on the traditional left perceive or denounce this perverse privatization. And then there are the obvious forms of corruption. They do not only objective harm to the public coffers, but subjective harm, because they remove faith in life in common, demoralize politics and keep talented and decent people away from it. What to do, then, especially for the left, should be evident. Demand that the fight against corruption is not a mere instrument to demoralize and delegitimize the party – whatever it may be. Demand that all corruption be exposed and condemned. Demand that the parties least covered by the investigations are also accountable. This will not solve the problems. If we manage to clean up the dishonesty of State agents, elected or appointed, it will be necessary to adopt public policies that promote economic growth, in order to complete social inclusion (and not reverse it) with respect to nature and humans. It will be an important step and it is time to take it. Let's fight for an investigation to the end, with respect to human rights and with the goal of making Brazil a republic, a country where the greatest value is the public thing, the common good.

*Renato Janine Ribeiro is a professor at USP, in the discipline of Ethics and Political Philosophy, and honorary professor at the Institute of Advanced Studies, at USP. He received the Jabuti Award in 2001 for A Sociedade contra o Social (Cia das Letras). He was Minister of Education between April and September 2015

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