I think that in trying to overcome the present crisis (if that is possible) two factors must be seriously considered. Otherwise we risk losing everything that we hope for: these are, the collapse of the capitalist order and the limits of the Earth that cannot be exceeded. Naturally this relies on hypotheses, but I believe they are well founded.
The first fact: the capitalist system has begun to collapse, which means it has reached its end in two ways: its end in the sense that it has achieved its fundamental purpose: to accumulate private wealth up to extreme limits. As Thomas Piketty wrote in Capital in the XXI Century: «the few who are on top tend to appropriate a great portion of the national wealth». Today that tendency is not only national, but global.
The data varies from year to year, but in short, they are: that an ever smaller group has and controls the better part of the world’s wealth. According to data from the well respected Zurich Federal Polytechnic School, ETH, there are now 737 actors that control nearly 80% of the world’s financial cash flow. Soon there will be even fewer of these actors.
But here, end also means end, as in collapse and final outcome. The agony may be prolonged, because it uses thousands of stratagems to perpetuate itself, but the crisis is inevitably terminal. Capitalism has reached its apex, and cannot go any further; worse yet, capitalism has nothing more to offer, except perhaps more of the same, namely, that which provoked the current crisis: its limitless voracity.
As it happens, capitalism has surpassed the physical limitations of the Earth; the depletion of the natural goods is such that nature no longer has the required conditions for self reproduction. When pursuing its internal logic capitalism can become biocide, ecocide and in the end, geocide. Since it can no longer reproduce itself, capitalism turns on itself, accumulating with ever more fury, via financial speculation: money making money. Their motto continues the same, the perverse, “greed is good”. So what if humanity, nature and the future of the next generations are damaged.
If we want to overcome the crisis in Brazil by following that logic, we are choosing the path to the abyss. Soon we all will experience in our own flesh the meaning of Sören Kirkegaard’s metaphor: the clown asked the spectators to help him put out the fire consuming the curtains behind the theater. Everyone laughed and applauded because they thought it was part of the show. No one listened to the clown until the fire had burned down the whole theater and all who were inside, and even the surrounding area.
The second estimate, almost always absent from conventional economic analysts, is the gravely ill state of planet Earth. The acceleration of productivity is rapidly destroying the physical-chemical bases that sustain life, besides causing a terrifying erosion of the biodiversity (nearly one hundred thousand species, according to E. Wilson, disappear every year), and the unstoppable global warming, whose greenhouse gases have reached the highest levels in 800,000 years. With 2 degrees centigrade rise in the temperature we can still manage the biosphere. However, if we do nothing, starting now, as the Northamerican Society of Scientists affirmed in 2002, even in this century we could experience “abrupt warming”. This could reach 4-6 degrees centigrade more. At that temperature, the scientific community warns, many known forms of life could not subsists and a great part of humanity would be gravely affected, with millions of victims.
How to get out of this impasse? Perhaps no one has the ability to offer a really viable alternative, since there is a dimension that goes beyond Brazil, because is global. But it behooves us, the intellectuals, to reflect, to warn and to urge concrete measures. It is our ethical imperative.
My crystal ball suggests three paths:
The first, facing the gravity of the crisis, would be to create a minimum consensus, supra-partisan, that may include progressive members of the parliament, labor unions, enterprises, intellectuals, NGOs, churches and street people around a minimum Brazil project founded on principles and values assumed by all (surely a political, tributary reform and a strong investment in agro-ecology will be demanded). I estimate that the leadership of Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva would still be strong enough to head this proposal. The Government of President Itamar Franco, that followed the crisis of President Fernando Collor de Mello, could serve as an inspiring reference point.
The second would be to build a broad and vigorous front of progressive parties, labor unions and other groups and progressive intellectuals to confront the strong advances of the political right with its neoliberal politics associated with the world-project under the leadership of the main countries. The right has no consistent social concern, because is interested only in growth, via the GNP, that favors the owner classes and the banks, leaving the poor where the poor always have been, on the periphery.
Once again I estimate that the most adequate figure to bring together this progressive front would be former President Lula. But its direction would be pluralist and not personalized. The convergence in diversity would not annul the singularity of the political parties and of the groups that have their own identities and histories. But facing a general danger, they must see the particular in function of the universal.
The third path would be that the Labor Party, PT, engaged in a rigorous self-criticism (it has not done that until now), to re-work itself internally, strengthening the bonds of its power with the social movements, as rapidly as possible politicizing the bases and offering a new agenda complementary of the first, whose basic themes would be the infrastructure of health, education, transportation, urbanization of the favelas, political, tributary and agrarian reforms, among other pieces.
But I see that the wearing down of the PT, caused by a handful of traitors and thieves who have shamed more than a million members and demoralized the country in its own eyes and those of the world, makes this path fragile, perhaps even ineffective.
Through these means we should be able to overcome the perplexity, the feelings of impotence, and build some hope that there still are solutions. In any event, what really matters in overcoming any crisis are these three things, the true Trinity of a healthy economy that goes beyond a large or small GNP: employment, salaries and the social promotion of the bases. That is what will guarantee the survival of the majority and create a bearable order.
In any case, we must confront the political right that proposes preposterous and undemocratic solutions, with that which is truly right. We must not accept that democratic rights be destroyed, because history has shown that the political right does not have a serious commitment to democracy; the political right is not afraid to break the rules in order to protect its interests.
As far as we are concerned, we cannot desist in the search for what is best for our country, above and beyond any differences and disagreements that may exist. The common good must prevail over any individual good.
Free translation from the Spanish by
Servicios Koinonia, http://www.servicioskoinonia.org.
Done at REFUGIO DEL RIO GRANDE, Texas, EE.UU..