Brazilian Revolt: An Interview with Giuseppe Cocco

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Patrí­cia Fach­in: There were mas­sive social demon­stra­tions of dis­con­tent with pol­i­tics and eco­nom­ics in the East, in Spain, Wall Street. Now they have reached Brazil. Why?  What do the­se protests rep­re­sent? 

Giuseppe Coc­co: We can start by say­ing that what char­ac­ter­izes the­se protests is that they rep­re­sent exact­ly noth­ing, while, for a longer or short­er time, they express and con­sti­tute every­thing. They have an untime­ly dynam­ic, flee­ing from any mod­el of polit­i­cal orga­ni­za­tion (not only the old polit­i­cal par­ties and unions, but also from the third sec­tor, NGOs) and affirm­ing a rad­i­cal democ­ra­cy artic­u­lat­ed between net­works and the streets: self-con­vok­ing and debat­ing in social net­works, mas­sive par­tic­i­pa­tion in street protests, capac­i­ty and deter­mi­na­tion to con­front repres­sion, and even the capac­i­ty to con­struct and self-man­age urban spaces, such as what hap­pened in Tahrir Square, the Span­ish encamp­ments, the Occu­py Wall Street attempts, and, final­ly, Tak­sim Square in Istan­bul. For each one of the­se waves and for each one of what we are call­ing “springs,”1 there was a speci­fic trig­ger, but they all have the same social base (how­ev­er they are dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed by dif­fer­ent coun­tries’ socio-eco­nom­ic tra­jec­to­ries) and the same process­es of sub­jec­ti­va­tion. In the case of Brazil, every­one knows that the trig­ger was the protest again­st the increase in pub­lic trans­porta­tion fares. Like in the case of oth­er march­es, the protest in São Paulo was vio­lent­ly repressed by the mil­i­tary police. Only this time the spark did not go out with a “march for free­dom” and it ignit­ed São Paulo and all of the coun­try. But know­ing that this was the trig­ger does not allow us to advance in the analy­sis.

Why now? It is dif­fi­cult to answer and may­be it is char­ac­ter­is­tic of this type of move­ment that nobody knows how to pro­pose indis­putable “objec­tive” expla­na­tions. How­ev­er, we can advance three expla­na­tions: the first takes the form of a sec­ond “trig­ger,” and it is the near coin­ci­dence between the repres­sion of the march for the free fare in São Paulo and the renewal of the Arab Springs and the Span­ish 15M in the Turk­ish multitude’s harsh strug­gles in Istanbul’s Tak­sim Square (not for noth­ing, in the sec­ond protest in Rio, which gath­ered ten thou­sand peo­ple, one of the chants was: “acabou a mor­do­mia, o Rio vai virar uma Turquia” [The com­fort­able life is over, Rio is going to be anoth­er Turkey]); a sec­ond expla­na­tion resides in the fact that this cycle of “rev­o­lu­tions 2.0” starts hav­ing a con­sis­tent length (of more than three years) and has entered the imag­i­nary, the lan­guage of gen­er­a­tions of young peo­ple that no longer form their opin­ions through the media but direct­ly in social net­works; the third expla­na­tion is more con­sis­tent, and the most impor­tant, and it relates to the “new gen­er­a­tions” of today’s Brazil, those gen­er­a­tions of youth that have only known the Brazil of Lula. What is incred­i­ble and even iron­ic is that the PT itself did not pre­dict it and until now has been inca­pable of real­iz­ing this very impor­tant fact.

What are the sim­i­lar­i­ties and dif­fer­ences between the Brazil­ians protests and those tak­ing place in oth­er coun­tries? 

The com­mon points are more impor­tant than the dif­fer­ences, which only under­score the speci­fic qual­i­ty of each event.

On a first lev­el, they share an artic­u­la­tion between net­works and the streets as a process of self-con­ven­ing march­es that nobody man­ages to rep­re­sent, not even the orga­ni­za­tions that found them­selves in the epi­cen­ter of the first call: the attempt to “empow­er” the kids of the Move­ment pelo Passe Livre [Free Fare Move­ment] in São Paulo (“offi­cial­ized” by their pres­ence in the Roda Vida [tele­vi­sion pro­gram] and in nego­ti­a­tions with the Munic­i­pal­i­ty and State of São Paulo) demon­strat­ed that they do not con­trol nor direct a move­ment that repro­duces itself rhi­zomat­i­cal­ly (protests occurred at the same time with­out respect­ing any type of “truce”).

On a sec­ond lev­el, they share the exhaus­tion of polit­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion. In Brazil, this phe­nom­e­non was total­ly under­es­ti­mat­ed by the “left” and, above all, by the PT, because they didn’t (and don’t) under­stand it. Ini­tial­ly they thought that it was a prob­lem of the North African autoc­ra­cies (Tunisia and Egypt); lat­er, that it was the Span­ish social­ists (the PSOE)‘s inca­pac­i­ty to respond in a sov­er­eign way to the inter­fer­ence of the inter­na­tion­al rat­ing agen­cies and the Euro­pean Cen­tral Bank. Lat­er they believed that the Span­ish 15M would not be able to find a new elec­toral dynam­ic, while Beppe Grillo’s par­ty showed a com­plete­ly new and ungovern­able elec­toral phe­nom­e­non in Italy. Then, they thought that Egypt and Tunisia had been elec­toral­ly nor­mal­ized by con­ser­v­a­tive Islamism, when the Turk­ish upris­ing again­st a mod­er­ate Islam­ic gov­ern­ment appeared. In Brazil, the PT and its gov­ern­ment (and its coali­tion) thought that they were shield­ed by their recent elec­toral vic­to­ries (Haddad’s elec­tion in the munic­i­pal­i­ty of São Paulo, the almost plebisc­i­tary reelec­tion of Paes in the munic­i­pal­i­ty of Rio), for being in the mid­st of a pos­i­tive eco­nom­ic cycle, and for hav­ing believed, in short, that the new Holy Grail of the eco­nom­ic “new mod­el” would real­ly con­sist of reis­su­ing the old nation­al devel­op­men­tal­ism, rebap­tized as neo-devel­op­men­tal­ism. What the left as a whole and the PT in Brazil did not under­stand was that the cri­sis of rep­re­sen­ta­tion is gen­er­al (even if it has dif­fer­ent symp­toms and man­i­fes­ta­tions) and that the upris­ings of the mul­ti­tude in Egypt, Tunisia, Spain, Turkey and now Brazil, are the expres­sion, among oth­er things, of a rad­i­cal refusal of the self-ref­er­en­tial way of think­ing of gov­ern­ments and polit­i­cal par­ties.

At a third lev­el, there is a cen­tral com­mon point between all the­se move­ments: the social base of this pro­duc­tion of sub­jec­tiv­i­ty is the new type of work that char­ac­ter­izes cog­ni­tive cap­i­tal­ism. The net­works protest­ing and con­sti­tut­ing them­selves in the streets of Madrid, Lis­bon, Rome, Athens, Istan­bul, New York and now all the Brazil­ian cities are formed by imma­te­ri­al labor: stu­dents, uni­ver­si­ty stu­dents, pre­car­i­ous youth, immi­grants, the poor, the indige­nous… in oth­er words, the het­ero­ge­neous com­po­si­tion of met­ro­pol­i­tan labor. Not coin­ci­den­tal­ly, on the one hand, one of its prin­ci­pal forms of strug­gle was the “acam­pada” or “occu­py” and, on the oth­er, the Turk­ish and Brazil­ian upris­ings were trig­gered by the defense of the forms of life of the mul­ti­tude and met­ro­pol­i­tan labor: the defense of the park again­st real estate spec­u­la­tion (the con­struc­tion of a shop­ping mall) in Istan­bul and the strug­gle again­st ris­ing trans­porta­tion costs in the case of Brazil.

In com­par­ison with the­se com­mon points, the dif­fer­ences are minor, although they exist (and are even obvi­ous). We can com­pre­hend the­se dif­fer­ences from the per­spec­tive of each country’s objec­tive con­di­tions and from the point of view of how each move­ment trans­formed (or didn’t) the des­tituent phase into a con­stituent moment. Thus, the Span­ish 15M comes as the expe­ri­ence that man­aged to last the longest, despite hav­ing not reversed eco­nom­ic poli­cies. The Arab rev­o­lu­tions were nor­mal­ized by con­ser­v­a­tive elec­toral vic­to­ries but the upris­ings become endemic. In Turkey and even in Brazil, we – lit­er­al­ly – do not know what will hap­pen. In the plane of objec­tive con­di­tions we find the great­est dif­fer­ence: in Spain and the Mediter­ranean in gen­er­al, the rev­o­lu­tions are marked by process­es of the “declas­si­fi­ca­tion” of the mid­dle class­es. In Brazil it is exact­ly the oppo­site: all of this takes place in the envi­ron­ment and in the moment of the emer­gence of the “new mid­dle class.” Only that this new com­po­si­tion of class is, in real­i­ty, the new com­po­si­tion of met­ro­pol­i­tan labor, which strug­gles for parks or for pub­lic trans­porta­tion: social­ly ascend­ing, the Brazil­ian poor turn into that which the Euro­pean mid­dle class­es become by descend­ing: the new tech­ni­cal com­po­si­tion of imma­te­ri­al labor in the metrop­o­lis.

Besides the increase in tick­et prices, what oth­er motives set off the protests? 

We can put forth two respons­es.

The first is that, if you think about it, the ques­tion finds its answer in a sim­ple refor­mu­la­tion: “why are there not more strug­gles and upris­ings in the Brazil­ian cities and metrop­o­lis­es given the innu­mer­able amount of motives to jus­ti­fy them?” There is no short­age of rea­sons in Brazil! Once it “stuck,” you could sim­ply choose: the list is infinite. I’m just going to give one exam­ple, with an anec­dote: one day I went to a Forum of the Social UPP [Police Paci­fi­ca­tion Unit] (that no longer exists) in two small, very pre­car­i­ous, fave­las in the north of Rio. All of the para­pher­na­lia of the state and munic­i­pal gov­ern­ments were there to make sense of the paci­fi­ca­tion. The few fave­la res­i­dents that spoke referred to two essen­tial prob­lems: first, they said, we live in the mid­dle of the sew­ers; sec­ond, the police act vio­lent­ly and arbi­trar­i­ly. The dozens of sec­re­taries and oth­er pub­lic ser­vants present were not able to say any­thing about how they were going to resolve that basic prob­lem of san­i­ta­tion. Leav­ing the fave­la, I walked by a hun­dred ado­les­cents in the entrance not doing any­thing, and on the way back to the cen­ter of Rio, five min­utes away by car, I passed by a gigan­tic, pharaon­ic con­struc­tion work: the Mara­canã! The ques­tion above finds the same answer as Key­nes in 1919: “peo­ple will not always die qui­et­ly.” There were (and still are) in Rio de Janeiro and Brazil an innu­mer­able amount of protest and resis­tance move­ments, par­tic­u­lar­ly because of the effects of the mega-events, and today the­se move­ments came togeth­er, con­verg­ing with the mul­ti­tude of the new new com­po­si­tion of met­ro­pol­i­tan labor: in Rio, the pro­test­ers always join to direct heavy tirades at the gov­er­nor Ser­gio Cabral and the may­or Eduardo Paes.

Thus we arrive at the sec­ond answer: Yes, the move­ment came togeth­er to pre­vent the 20 cent increase!  Only that this “lit­tle” is real­ly “a lot.” Why? Because the ques­tion of trans­porta­tion and more gen­er­al­ly ser­vices is strate­gic for met­ro­pol­i­tan labor. Fordist work­ers fought over wages and hours. Imma­te­ri­al work­ers have the metrop­o­lis as their fac­to­ry and strug­gle for a qual­i­ty of life that will depend on their inser­tion in work that is not longer employ­ment but rather “employ­a­bil­i­ty.” Fordist work­ers strug­gled to reduce the part of the work­ing day that was embed­ded as prof­it in the cars they pro­duced; imma­te­ri­al work­ers in the city divert an automaker’s adver­tis­ing slo­gans (“Vem Pra Rua” [Come to the street]) to resig­ni­fy the pro­duc­tive assem­blages that are designed in cir­cu­la­tion. Fordist work­ers strug­gled again­st work. Imma­te­ri­al work­ers strug­gle in the ter­rain of the pro­duc­tion of sub­jec­tiv­i­ty. It is in cir­cu­la­tion that sub­jec­tiv­i­ty is pro­duced and pro­duces val­ue.

The pro­test­ers made it clear that they are non-par­ti­san, they don’t want vio­lence and they don’t have lead­ers. How can we inter­pret this dis­course? How can we think of a new polit­i­cal mod­el based on the­se char­ac­ter­is­tics? 

Cer­tain­ly, one of the con­sti­tu­tive dimen­sions of the Rev­o­lu­tion 2.0 is the cri­sis of rep­re­sen­ta­tion and this is a cen­tral ques­tion. We must remem­ber that the rev­o­lu­tion 2.0 was antic­i­pat­ed by the rad­i­cal cri­tique of rep­re­sen­ta­tion in South Amer­i­ca. The Argen­tine “they all must go” pre-dat­ed the Span­ish “they don’t rep­re­sent us” by ten years. Only that the dimen­sions of this cri­sis are processed by the offi­cial – that is, par­ti­san – dis­course in an invert­ed form. And this inver­sion is not for­tu­itous. Cer­tain­ly, the movement’s last artic­u­la­tions (the aggres­sion again­st the left­ist par­ties in the protests on June 20) demon­strate very well how this inver­sion works. The par­ties (above all those in the gov­ern­ment) say that the move­ments are lim­it­ed because they reject polit­i­cal par­ties, they are not “organ­ic,” because they have an “ide­ol­o­gy” of refusal and there­fore are poten­tial­ly anti-demo­c­ra­t­ic. Obvi­ous­ly, that is cor­rect, but it hides two pret­ty fal­si­fi­ca­tions. The first is also obvi­ous: the “groups” pray­ing for a fun­da­men­tal­ist cri­tique of rep­re­sen­ta­tion have lit­tle social con­sis­ten­cy and no capac­i­ty to deter­mine, or even to influ­ence, move­ments of this size. The sec­ond fal­si­fi­ca­tion is a con­se­quence of the first: the par­ties attrib­ute the cri­sis of rep­re­sen­ta­tion to a process and a cri­tique that comes from out­side, when in fact they are the only ones respon­si­ble for the cri­sis! The respon­si­bil­i­ty lies in not dif­fer­en­ti­at­ing the right/left dis­tinc­tion, that is, in the fact that gov­ern­ments change and con­tin­ue doing the same things, even recy­cling the same polit­i­cal fig­ures. Thus, the Span­ish PSOE attrib­ut­ed its elec­toral defeat to the 15M, when in real­i­ty the 15M was mere­ly a con­se­quence of the fact that the Span­ish social­ists had the same eco­nom­ic poli­cies as the right. It is exact­ly what end­ed up hap­pen­ing in Lula’s Brazil, and, above all, with Dil­ma. The move­ment that began with the strug­gle again­st fare increas­es rejects the author­i­tar­i­an and arro­gant dimen­sions of the coali­tions and con­sen­sus­es that unite left with right in the repro­duc­tion of the same inter­ests as always. It was Had­dad who had to rep­re­sent the new and who went along with Alk­min say­ing the same thing: the fare reduc­tion will have a cost (sic!) It is the con­ser­v­a­tive coali­tion that gov­erns the state and munic­i­pal­i­ty of Rio and where the PT plans and exe­cutes removals of the poor not respect­ing its own LOM. It is a left­ist minister’s spu­ri­ous alliances with the rural­ists. It is the author­i­ta­tive con­duc­tion of the mega-projects and mega-events. It is hand­ing over the House’s Human Rights Com­mis­sion to a fun­da­men­tal­ist, who, exact­ly one day after a large march on Mon­day, put to vote a law that would define homo­sex­u­al­i­ty as a dis­ease.

The extreme left and the rad­i­cal left err when they think they are “safe” in this sit­u­a­tion. The left­ist par­ties are inca­pable of under­stand­ing that this move­ment is based on the refusal – the con­fused, float­ing, ambigu­ous and even dan­ger­ous refusal – of the par­ty, of sep­a­rat­ed orga­ni­za­tion, of flags. It is because the rejec­tion is gen­er­al, it does not dif­fer­en­ti­ate and func­tions as the rejec­tion of any ide­o­log­i­cal plat­form pre­pared and deter­mined by the log­ic of sep­a­rat­ed appa­ra­tus­es: that in this there is a per­cep­tion that one of the prob­lems of pol­i­tics is build­ing appa­ra­tus that tend, above all else, to repro­duce them­selves.

The aggres­sion of an orga­nized group again­st the blocks of PSTU [Uni­fied Social­ist Work­ers Par­ty], PSOL [Social­ism and Free­dom Par­ty] and PCB [Brazil­ian Com­mu­nist Par­ty] flags in the march on Thurs­day, June 20, broke the illu­sion that the cri­sis would only belong to the PT and scared every­one. How­ev­er, in that unfor­tu­nate episode we once again find the per­verse work­ing of the log­ic of rep­re­sen­ta­tion. The groups of aggres­sors were clear­ly orga­nized and had those objec­tives so clear that the orga­ni­za­tion process indi­cates the most rot­ten manip­u­la­tions. All the analy­sis and com­plaints that were made imme­di­ate­ly iden­ti­fied those groups (which were clear­ly act­ing with the intent to pro­voke the sit­u­a­tion) with the protest in gen­er­al. In real­i­ty, the youth’s gen­er­al sup­port of the slo­gan “no par­ties!” does not have a lin­eal, and much less a fas­cist, mean­ing. Para­dox­i­cal­ly, the rejec­tion of par­ties, includ­ing the “rad­i­cal” ones and their flags, is the rejec­tion – clear­ly con­fused and con­tra­dic­to­ry – of the sim­i­lar­i­ty between right and left and a demand for a “real left.” This demand is not ide­al­is­tic and it can­not be blocked by obso­lete lan­guages and sym­bols (for exam­ple, red flags). To raise the red flags again, it is nec­es­sary to leave them at home for a good while! The red flag has to aban­don its ide­al and tran­scen­dent (that is, emp­ty) aspect and go back to being inter­nal (imma­nent) to the lan­guages of the strug­gles just as they are. In that ter­rain it is pos­si­ble and nec­es­sary to con­struct anoth­er rep­re­sen­ta­tion, and, above all, to strength­en democ­ra­cy.

You recent­ly tweet­ed “the strug­gles of the mul­ti­tude in São Paulo and Rio are the best result of Lula’s gov­ern­ments. So good that nobody in the PT was able to pre­dict them.” Can you explain this idea to us? Is it about pol­i­tics enter­ing into col­lapse? 

Let’s start at the end: we are not faced with the “col­lapse of pol­i­tics.” On the con­trary, it is about the per­sis­tence of pol­i­tics! Faced with every­thing the left­ist par­ties do to provide ammu­ni­tion to the old anti-demo­c­ra­t­ic and moral­ist dis­course of the elites, the­se move­ments demon­strate that pol­i­tics are alive, despite the Feli­cianos, the Aldos, the neo-devel­op­men­tal­ist tech­noc­ra­cy and cor­rup­tion! Being again­st the right’s moral­ism does not mean that the immoral behav­iors of the left in pow­er are “fun­ny.” It is only about not falling into the right’s traps, but rather mak­ing an effort at the eth­i­cal con­junc­tion of the ends and means.

This move­ment, what­ev­er its out­come, is the move­ment of the mul­ti­tude of met­ro­pol­i­tan labor, the purest pro­duct of ten years of PT gov­ern­ment. We are going to deep­en and clar­i­fy this affir­ma­tion in two moments. In the first moment, this affir­ma­tion is a pos­i­tive val­oriza­tion of the Lula-Dil­ma gov­ern­ment. A pos­i­tive eval­u­a­tion not because they have been “left­ist” or social­ist, but rather because they let them­selves – with­out mean­ing to – be crossed by a num­ber of lines of changes: poli­cies of access, affir­ma­tive action, social poli­cies, cre­at­ing jobs, rais­ing the min­i­mum wage, expan­sion of cred­it. The rad­i­cal left judges the­se poli­cies exact­ly like they now judge the ques­tion of “flags”: ide­al­ly. “Is Lula imple­ment­ing anoth­er mod­el, anoth­er social­ist soci­ety?” they asked and they crit­i­cized. Now, nobody imple­ments an alter­na­tive mod­el, even when they are in gov­ern­ment. They can only have the sen­si­bil­i­ty to com­pre­hend the real dynam­ics in soci­ety that could broad­en and pro­duce some­thing new.  The Lula-Dil­ma gov­ern­ments asso­ci­at­ed gov­ern­ment of the glob­al­iza­tion of inter­de­pen­dence with the, timid and real, pro­duc­tion of a new gen­er­a­tion of rights and pro­duc­tive inclu­sion. Sta­tis­ti­cal­ly, this result­ed in the upward mobil­i­ty of income lev­els of more than 50 mil­lion Brazil­ians and by a new gen­er­a­tions’ entry into tech­ni­cal schools and uni­ver­si­ties. Lula did not want to hear any­thing about flags and even declared that he “had nev­er been social­ist.” He remained with­in soci­ety going behind lan­guages, sym­bols and pol­i­tics that he under­stood. Going into the decade of 2010, that process con­sol­i­dat­ed into two major phe­nom­e­nons: the first is elec­toral and has the name of “Lulism,” that is the capac­i­ty that Lula has to win and, above all, to make the par­ty win major­i­ty elec­tions: start­ing with Pres­i­dent Dil­ma and reach­ing May­or Had­dad; the sec­ond is the dis­cur­sive regime of the emer­gence of a “new mid­dle class,” based on the work of econ­o­mist Marcelo Neri. With the cri­sis of glob­al cap­i­tal­ism (2007/8) and Dilma’s arrival to pow­er, the dis­course of the “New Mid­dle Class” went beyond elec­toral mar­ket­ing con­cerns, to become the social base of a turn that sees in the role of the state along with the Great Com­pa­nies the alpha and omega of a new devel­op­men­tal­ist (neo-devel­op­men­tal­ist) mod­el. Soci­o­log­i­cal­ly, the objec­tive of neo-devel­op­men­tal­ism is to trans­form the poor into the “mid­dle class,” and for this it needs a Big­ger Brazil, capa­ble of rein­dus­tri­al­iz­ing 2. Dilma’s gov­ern­ment end­ed up low­er­ing inter­est rates and mul­ti­plied sub­si­dies to indus­tries pro­duc­ing durable con­sumer goods, in par­tic­u­lar cars and con­struc­tion. The move­ment affirmed and cer­ti­fied the illu­so­ry dimen­sion of this sup­posed mod­el (which does not mean that the mod­el will not be imple­ment­ed, but sim­ply that it lost the pati­na of con­sen­sus that legit­i­mat­ed it and now must reveal itself as increas­ing­ly author­i­tar­i­an). At the macro-eco­nom­ic lev­el, the tech­no­crat­ic turn did not work, the ten­ta­tive attempt to inter­vene in inter­est lev­els result­ed in the return of price infla­tion (which is the basis of the revolt). Inter­est and price infla­tion came back to present them­selves as two sides of a renewed impasse that only a pro­duc­tive mobi­liza­tion (of which there are no signs) can resolve.3 In the soci­o­log­i­cal plane, the “new mid­dle class” does not exist, because what is con­sti­tut­ed is a new social com­po­si­tion whose tech­ni­cal char­ac­ter­is­tics are those of work­ing direct­ly in the metropolis’s net­works of cir­cu­la­tion and ser­vices. The eco­nom­ic fig­ure (the “aver­age” income lev­el) hides the soci­o­log­i­cal con­tent of a pro­duc­tive inclu­sion that no longer goes through its pre­vi­ous imple­men­ta­tion in the wage rela­tion. This labor of the includ­ed as exclud­ed is a dif­fer­ent type of work: it is pre­car­i­ous (from the per­spec­tive of the employ­ment rela­tion); imma­te­ri­al (from the per­spec­tive that it depends on the sub­jec­tive and com­mu­nica­tive recom­po­si­tion of man­u­al and intel­lec­tu­al labor); and ter­tiary (from the point of view of the pro­duc­tion chain: that of ser­vices). The qual­i­ty of pro­duc­tive inser­tion of this work depends direct­ly on the pre­vi­ous rights to which they have access and at the same time pro­duces: for exam­ple, the abil­i­ty to cir­cu­late in the metrop­o­lis. It is exact­ly this tech­ni­cal and social com­po­si­tion of met­ro­pol­i­tan labor that con­sti­tutes the oth­er face of the “new mid­dle class” native to the peri­od of Lula. As it was the elec­toral base of the suc­ces­sive defeats of neolib­er­al­ism, it oppos­es today, in its polit­i­cal recom­po­si­tion, neo-devel­op­men­tal­ism: for it, the ques­tion of urban mobil­i­ty has the same aspect as the wage for Fordist work­ers, while the strate­gic seg­ment is that of ser­vices. The Brazil­ian cities and metrop­o­lis­es, and not rein­dus­tri­al­iza­tion, con­sti­tute the biggest, simul­ta­ne­ous­ly social, polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic, bot­tle­neck. The ide­ol­o­gy and coali­tion of inter­ests that are with Dil­ma so far have not demon­strat­ed the slight­est capac­i­ty to per­ceive this fact. Fur­ther­more, this new com­po­si­tion of imma­te­ri­al and met­ro­pol­i­tan labor pro­duces, based on forms of life, oth­er forms of life. There­fore, the free fare move­ment, like the move­ment defend­ing a park in Istan­bul, has gath­ered all the pock­ets of resis­tance that exist in the metrop­o­lis, to spread – like it is doing now, dra­mat­i­cal­ly and aston­ish­ing­ly – to the periph­eries where there had nev­er been mass demon­stra­tions. What this “upris­ing” of the mul­ti­tude of imma­te­ri­al labor shows us is that the “lega­cy” of Lula’s ten years of gov­ern­ment is in dis­pute and that the most inter­est­ing option is to stay with­in those alter­na­tives, instead of want­i­ng to raise one flag or anoth­er. Pol­i­tics and the move­ments are with­in and again­st. Let’s think about, for exam­ple, the ques­tion of the mega-events, the Con­fed­er­a­tion Cup, the World Cup, and the Olympics. Many of the focal points of resis­tance in the metrop­o­lis­es are move­ments that cri­tique spend­ing in con­struc­tion, in sta­di­ums, fave­las resist­ing removal, etc. In turn, the pos­si­bil­i­ty that move­ment has tak­en place with­out bru­tal repres­sion, for now, is also owed to the Con­fed­er­a­tion Cup. Once again, the con­flict is with­in and again­st.

What can we dis­cern of the polit­i­cal sce­nar­io from the­se demon­stra­tions? 

I think that the event is so pow­er­ful and unex­pect­ed that no one knows how to respond. Above all in this moment: every day, and some­times from hour to hour, some fun­da­men­tal facts change. What we can say is that the 2014-2018 elec­toral scene had been designed and the vis­i­ble vari­ables were those macro-eco­nom­ic ones. The move­ment invit­ed itself to that dis­cus­sion. Only there is nobody that can sit down at an even­tu­al table say­ing that it rep­re­sents the move­ment. The earth shook and con­tin­ues shak­ing, only that the smoke that lift­ed still does not allow us to see which build­ings fell and which ones are still stand­ing. In this sce­nar­io, we can make two con­jec­tures. In the first, Pres­i­dent Dil­ma can open to the left, for exam­ple, with a min­is­te­ri­al reform that would put qual­i­fied and high­ly pro­gres­sive peo­ple in key min­istries like Jus­tice, City and Trans­porta­tion, Cul­ture and Edu­ca­tion and call on soci­ety to con­sti­tute itself – in all pos­si­ble lev­els – in par­tic­i­pa­to­ry assem­blies to dis­cuss met­ro­pol­i­tan emer­gen­cies. In the sec­ond (which, seems to me, is what was announced in the speech on June 21), she lim­its her­self to rec­og­niz­ing the exis­tence of anoth­er social com­po­si­tion in the move­ment and con­struct­ing a deal regard­ing pub­lic ser­vices, but did not announce any­thing new, except for some long-term flags (like allo­cat­ing 100% of oil roy­alties to edu­ca­tion) and empha­siz­ing the ques­tion of order: repres­sion of the “vio­lent ones” and respect for the mega-events (that is, more repres­sion). And that after Thursday’s rather bleak events (the appear­ance of groups paid to assault polit­i­cal par­ties and, in Rio, gen­er­al­ized repres­sion of the protests, with the per­se­cu­tion of hun­dreds of thou­sands of par­tic­i­pants through­out the dis­per­sion). I envi­sion a pes­simistic sce­nar­io: it seems to me that a good num­ber of left­ist mil­i­tants are falling into the “flags” trap, that this real­ly will end up hand­ing the move­ment over to the right and, on top of that, there will be repres­sion, even­tu­al­ly also of opin­ions. In this very like­ly sce­nar­io, in order to save them­selves and avoid a gen­er­al ren­o­va­tion, the bureau­cra­cies and oth­er patron­ages entrenched in the dif­fer­ent gov­ern­ments and coali­tions, will be destroy­ing the pos­si­bil­i­ties of a major ren­o­va­tion of the left and pulling every­one into the black hole that will be the 2014 elec­toral result. But I would like very much to be wrong. If it turns out that I am wrong, the strug­gles of the mul­ti­tude will make it known. But the sce­nar­io they have to face is very, very com­plex.

Trans­lat­ed by Liz Mason-Deese


1. See Giuseppe Coc­co y Sar­i­ta Albagli (orgs.), Rev­olução 2.0, Gara­mond, Rio de Janeiro, 2013.

2. See Giuseppe Coc­co, “Não exis­te amor no Brasil Maior,” Le Mon­de Diplomatique/Brasil, mayo de 2013.

3. And that which Anto­nio Negri and I talk about in GlobAL:biopoder e luta em uma Améri­ca Lati­na glob­al­izada, Record, Rio de Janeiro, 2005.

Author of the article

is Professor of Sociology at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, and a part of the Multitudes collective.

5 Responses

  1. Headless Movements Rising in Egypt, Turkey, and Brazil - Hit & Run : Reason.com

    […] move­ments are notably resis­tant to con­trol. They are, in the Brazil­ian soci­ol­o­gist Giuseppe Cocco’s phrase, “self-con­ven­ing march­es that nobody man­ages to rep­re­sent, not even the orga­ni­za­tions that found […]

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    […] are notably resis­tant to con­trol. They are, in the Brazil­ian soci­ol­o­gist Giuseppe Cocco’s phrase8, “self-con­ven­ing march­es that nobody man­ages to rep­re­sent, not even the orga­ni­za­tions that […]

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  4. Viviane
    Viviane at |

    I am sor­ry, but as bad as Feliciano’s project was, it did not define homo­sex­u­al­i­ty as a dis­ease. It would allow psi­col­o­gists who want­ed to do so, to treate it as a dis­ease, which is allowed in oth­er coun­tries, but not in Brazil and oth­ers.

    1. anonymous
      anonymous at |

      Sor­ry but that project was clear­ly enti­tled by feli­ciano to “cure homo­sex­u­al­i­ty”. In good por­tugue­se, one can only cure (curar) some­thing that is diag­nosed as a dis­ease. It is just like that, black and white. And that is the key point to dis­man­tle this absur­di­ty in a min­ute - just present any WHO state­ment cat­e­go­riz­ing homo­sex­u­al­i­ty as a sex­u­al iden­ti­ty or ori­en­ta­tion.

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