A little over two years ago, sociologist Francisco de Oliveira left us, but his work, which interprets what structurally characterizes us as a society, remains and gives us keys to understanding the drama we live in the present. Drama, where market and state violence asserts itself as the dominant code of sociability. In a text written in 19981 about the perspectives of the new millennium, he analyzes, in a dense way, the long and medium term that allows us to unveil the current moment.
Oliveira exposes us to the marks of colonization and the slavery regime (1535-1888) and its traces that remain in the period when Brazil enters into properly capitalist relations. In this long period, until 1990, he underlines that Brazilian society, although in a caricatured and “out of place” way, was guided by the Enlightenment ideal. It postulates the possibility of integrating everyone, albeit unequally, with political, social and individual rights.
In this long time, the Brazilian bourgeoisie until the 1990s did not manage to have hegemony in its societal project. The proof of this, for Oliveira, are two periods of dictatorship (1937-1945 Getúlio Vargas and 1964-1985, military) and that, to prevent deeper changes, they used their discretion to impose the interests of the ruling class. Oliveira sets the signal for the beginning of the rupture of the Enlightenment ideals of sociability and the adoption of the mercantile reaction of neoliberalism and conservatism in the Fernando Collor de Melo government.
Who, however, had the leadership for this effective change was Fernando Henrique Cardoso, who, as Oliveira points out, is an intellectual who changed sides. He gave the password of what would be the new time in Brazil in the context of the globalization of capital, within which there would no longer be a place for everyone, and the exclusion of a quarter of the Brazilian population was inevitable. And he proclaimed it, at an international conference, when he stated that 40 million Brazilians were condemned to exclusion in the new Brazil.
Thus, for Oliveira, the Enlightenment principle of “hope” that carries the horizon of reaching civil, political and social rights gave way to the conservative reaction of mercantile realism.
The realism of neoliberalism that effects the revocation of conquered rights, the sale of public assets and the contestation of indigenous lands coveted by agribusiness and by the expropriation of subsoil wealth.
The perspective that Oliveira perceived twenty years ago was that, in order to maintain itself, conservative mercantile realism would tend to reach the economic regression of the Nazi-fascist project that uses violence as the currency of exchange as a code of sociability. And this is all the more so because for him the process of formation of the Brazilian bourgeoisie may have given the appearance of hegemony, but what identifies it best is that of totalitarianism, which is expressed through a process whose epilogue is a project of social apartheid.
The first decade and a half of the 21st century indicated that Francisco de Oliveira was, at least partially, mistaken. Partly because the forces of capital, internal and external, not only conditioned the governments led by the Workers’ Party (PT) not to carry out structural changes, but they also did not tolerate the inclusion policies of precisely the 40 million people considered to be necessarily excluded. Nor did they tolerate the new geopolitics in Latin America and the world, not subordinate to North American imperialism.
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It is not by chance that the political forces that governed the country under the command of Fernando Henrique Cardoso were the ones that led a new coup, this time with the weapons of lies and parliamentary, legal and media slander against President Dilma Rousseff. Unfortunately, Francisco de Oliveira’s analysis had just been confirmed. Once the coup was completed, the ultra-conservative reaction set in voraciously and swiftly in the decimation of rights, sales of the country and ultra-conservative counter-reforms that unemployment, mutilate rights and freeze the future and “hope”.
In fact, in the fourth month of Michel Temer’s coup government, constitutional amendment 95/2016 was approved, which freezes the ceiling on public spending for twenty years. That is to say, the sphere of universal rights freezes. Six months after the coup, the future was frozen for the vast majority of young Brazilians, through the counter-reform of secondary education (Law 13,415 of 02/16/2017).
This liquidates the meaning and the right of basic education, through training itineraries where, in practice, the majority will be cornered into uncharacterized technical and professional education. Generations will be mutilated in their formation and unprepared for conscious citizenship and for the productive process under the current technical scientific base. And this denial condemns us to remain a giant country with feet of clay.
Eleven months after the coup, the labor counter-reform was approved (Law No. 13.467/2017). This liquidates the rights hard won over the 20th century by the working class. Of the great counter-reforms, the coupists only failed to complete the Social Security one and carry out the Administrative Reform. Their calculation of returning to power with the dirty job done, however, failed.
What Francisco de Oliveira pointed out to us as the possibility of nullifying hope for mercantile realism and, its partner, the sign of violence as the code of sociability, in a perverse and cruel way, materialized under the totalitarian project of social and political forces of the Bolsonaro government. For mercantile ultraliberalism, what was built in the past, both in terms of public assets and rights, has to be erased. Likewise, there is no prospect of the future. What counts is the present tense of the mercantile impulse to which everything can be privatized.
The Administrative Reform, PEC 32, represents the final blow and typifies the economic policy carried out by the Nazi-fascist regimes as underlined by Oliveira. It even privatizes what is listed. The symbol of this is that Minister Guedes’ list of privatizations includes the Capanema Palace, headquarters of the Ministry of Education until the transfer of capital from Rio de Janeiro to Brasília and a world icon of modern architecture.
The economic totalitarianism of the Guedes administration has its counterpart in the conservatism of the social forces that support the Bolsonaro government project and that adopt, as a sign of sociability, violence. Violence that materializes through the cult of weapons, hatred of adversaries and divergent thinking, using the pedagogy of threat and fear.
In addition to the sale of public assets, which nullifies the future, there are: the militarization of schools, intervention in university autonomy and in the Federal Institutes of Education, Science and Technology, censorship of the cultural and educational field and the policy of the official textbook guided by moralism and political and religious fundamentalism,
The combination of market fundamentalism with political and religious fundamentalism does not give us a perspective for the future. Let us not forget that what we are seeing happening in Afghanistan was the product of US imperialism to destabilize the democratic regime that was not aligned with its interests.
For this he trained and armed militias that united politics and religion. One of these groups formed the Taliban, which, in the name of “god,” tortures, mutilates and kills those who oppose its fundamentalist doctrine. History has to teach us something and urgent, before it’s too late.
Edition: Anelize Moreira