Brazilian Revolt: An Interview with Giuseppe Cocco



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.