Brazil is experiencing a moment of historical rupture that can only be compared to two periods of Brazilian history that also offered conditions for transformation. In the 1880s, the moment of the so-called ‘abolition’ of slavery in the 1930s, when the country migrated from a mostly agrarian phase to a period of industrialization.
The assessment is made by economist Marcio Pochmann, a professor at the Institute of Economics at the State University of Campinas (Unicamp). He participated in the plenary ‘Siderlei de Oliveira’ held by the Brazilian Democratic Confederation of Workers in the Food Industries (Contac-CUT) this Thursday (16) to talk about alternatives to changes in capitalism and the advance of neoliberalism.
The event took place until this Friday (17) with the participation of union entities from all over the country. Despite the scenario subject to transformations, the progressive, left-wing field has been making wrong and outdated diagnoses, he points out. According to him, the vision of segments such as the union movement is old and addicted to models that no longer exist.
With the diagnosis that there is an external impact, an idea is created that Brazil is going through so many changes coming from outside its borders that the country would only have to accommodate itself, thus leaving no alternatives.
These are narratives permeated with misunderstandings, Pochmann maintains, when exemplifying discourses related to the technological revolution or financial globalization that bet on the absorption of information and ideas and that, in general, are conducted by businessmen and capitalists.
“Although we are able to perceive these changes and, in general, looking at the negative side, we are not able to join the dispute over the direction of the change that is underway in Brazil,” he said.
According to the economist, the ruling class or, as he called it, “the rich, the wealthy”, understands what periods of historical change mean and, therefore, move their pieces.
“If we want to understand Brazil, because we have racism, a deep inequality between the countryside and the city, for example, we need to understand what happened there in that period change of 1880, which is a period that rewrites Brazil , as well as from the 1930s onwards. In other words, I want to draw attention to the fact that we have in our hands a historic opportunity to rewrite Brazil as in other periods”, he argues.
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The issue, for Pochmann, is to realize that the privileged know how to read the vulnerabilities at each historical time, so that there is no advance for the working class or certain social segments.
“They generally offer a scenario of pessimism, a scenario of depression, in which you only see the most difficult things because they know that saddened people are a people who don’t fight, workers in disorganized unions, depressed, don’t fight to win , but to survive”, he warned.
For the economist, it is necessary to understand that the urban, industrial society of Brazil in the 1970s or 1980s no longer exists.
“Brazil’s entry into globalization, the permanence of neoliberal policies, were dismantling some structures. Today we no longer have an industrial bourgeoisie. We might not like it, but we had illustrious figures as personalities that were in the scope of the industry. This industrial bourgeoisie, therefore, had a reference. Today what we have is a bourgeoisie of commerce, of service”, he said.
At the same time, Pochmann explains that this bourgeoisie was converting. The owners were selling their industries to foreign capital, others closed. But with the money earned from some of these companies, the former owners then surrendered to rent.
“They put money in the bank and started living on interest, defending high interest rates.
On the other hand, that industrial bourgeoisie that managed to keep at least the name of industry, became a trader. Actually buying components, inputs abroad to assemble and sell in Brazil. And like every trader, anywhere in the world, the objective is to buy cheap and sell dear”, he describes.
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According to the economist, this businessman, who was previously an industrialist and became a trader, begins to support any measure that means cost reduction.
“The change in labor legislation, everything that can reduce costs, is excellent for him. He is a lover of high interest and exchange rates. The more valued our currency, the easier it is to import products and sell expensive products in Brazil.”.
aim for the future
Faced with the transformations in Brazilian society, Pochmann points to the fact that Brazil today has a new working class, which is mostly services. A class that, according to him, at least before the pandemic, accounted for a majority of the occupied in the country.
It is in this scenario that the analysis needs to be done, defends the professor.
“We can even have good diagnoses, understand that the current government is destroying the country, that unemployment is increasing, that there is precariousness. We have a diagnosis that, in most cases, is even correct about the national reality. The problem is that this diagnosis does not point to a future”, he assesses.
“In general, we say that ‘the situation is bad, but previously it was better’, that ‘previously there was a formal contract’, that there was a job, that is, we played for the past and not for the future. This seems to us to be a question that poses us as conservatives, wanting to preserve a reality that no longer exists”, he adds.
Pochmann understands that the question is how to build a new horizon of expectations about a better future. He understands that this implies recognizing that the country is facing something new about which it is still unknown, a new working class that needs to be studied.
Thus, it criticizes the vision of union entities in the country for a long time, exemplifying from the outsourcing agenda.
“In fact, outsourcing has precarious characteristics. It so happens, however, that this top-down vision, this Enlightenment vision, in the way this fight was carried out, made us lose contact precisely with the mass of outsourced workers”, he observed.
In a study carried out by Dieese, Pochmann suggested, in the 1990s there were approximately 14 million outsourced workers in middle activities, as was possible in that period.
“Of this total, 80% had never had a paid job with a formal contract, that is, they had absolutely nothing before having a formal job. Therefore, for these workers, outsourcing was not precarious, on the contrary, for them it was an ascent, they started to have a formal job, with social rights”, he added.
For Pochmann, these workers, by having something they didn’t have before, better, therefore, given the argument of union entities and political parties, they understood that these progressive organizations, when they were against outsourcing, were against them.
Challenges in the present
The economist believes that the union movement needs to reinvent itself. He points out as a possible way for unions to rethink the current scenario in which there is evidence of a proliferation of activities linked to digital platforms.
“Our speech is critical: we are against this job. But workers tell us: if we don’t have this job, what will we have? I’m not defending precariousness, relegation. I want to point out that this is the country’s reality. And there is an incapacity that institutions have today to deal with these changes”, he says.
According to Pochmann, workers will look for institutions that represent them, that allow them to build identity and belonging, but this is currently configured in a different way given the changes in the working class’s performance.
Thus, he assesses what part of the place that would belong to the union or other institutions is now occupied by churches, organized crime or militias – the so-called, according to him, a new system of jagunço that controls the country.
“While the church’s motto is ‘Say what you want, I want to listen.’ Our motto is ‘silence I want to talk’. That is, we are in the opposite direction. We want to say what has to be done, we don’t have space to listen, to identify the reality, the situation of each one”, commenting, suggesting that this should be rethought by political entities and parties.
For Pochmann, unions need to know better who they want to represent in the face of changes in the world of work, so that, in his perception, a profound reorganization is needed in the way of carrying out political action, of carrying out union action.
“The working class that we have today in Brazil is going through an insurrectionary moment, it hates the situation we are living in because it is oppressive, because wages are low. The problem is that we do not feed this insurrection from an individual point of view to transform it into a collective one. Because often the role of our institutions is to resist change because we want to return to a past that no longer exists”, he concludes.
Edition: Anelize Moreira