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.