Right Turn

Frei Betto, Orinoco Tribune, June 22, 2024 — 

Liberal democracy has a limit: whenever the accumulation of capital is threatened, democrats retire ballot boxes, tear up constitutions and put troops on the streets.

Is history a pendulum? A race to the top and then a downwards turn? The fact is that in the first half of the 21st century, the world is moving back to the right.

What do I mean by right-wing? All the deniers are right-wingers, those who prefer lies to the certainties of science. Right-wingers are racists, homophobes, misogynists, those who think they are superior to everyone who doesn’t have the same color as their skin.

Right-wingers are those who deny women the right to decide about their own bodies, who don’t allow abortion in certain circumstances, but who support the death penalty and applaud police officers who kill criminals and suspected criminals, and who stand by while Netanyahu’s government massacres the civilian population of Gaza.

Right-wing politicians want the Central Bank to be autonomous from the government of their country, but dependent on the international financial system. It abhors refugees, shouts against Russia for occupying Crimea and is silent in the face of the US occupation of Guantánamo and Puerto Rico.

What do we see at the end of this tunnel?

From what history teaches, wars. The global expansion of regional conflicts, as happened in the first half of the last century.

Liberal democracy has a limit: the supremacy of capital accumulation in private hands. Every time this privilege is threatened, the democrats retire the ballot box, tear up the constitutions and put the troops on the streets. Through coups d’état or elections, they install dictatorial governments in the name of order, good morals and the defense of God, family and property.

In the first half of the 20th century, this was the case with Hitler in Germany; Mussolini in Italy; Franco in Spain; Salazar in Portugal; Duvalier in Haiti; Somoza in Nicaragua; Trujillo in the Dominican Republic; Stroessner in Paraguay; and Vargas in Brazil. The period saw two major wars that took place in Europe: the first, between 1914 and 1918, and the second between 1939 and 1945. Both left at least 70 million dead!

Antonio Candido said that the greatest achievement of socialism was not in the countries that adopted this system, but in Western Europe.

Afraid of communism, the European bourgeoisie preferred to give up their rings rather than lose their fingers. It implemented social democracy and extended the rights of the working class.

Once the Berlin Wall came down, the bourgeoisie tore off its mask and now shows its true face, the one that defends the militarization of diplomatic relations and the supremacy of private capital accumulation over the exercise of human rights.

Thus, it implements authoritarian governments that are openly right-wing, tolerant of the rise of neo-Nazis and intolerant of the social policies of progressive governments. It demands fiscal adjustment and evades taxes. The recent elections to the European Parliament have strengthened the center-right parties. The European Union is now submitting to the dictates of the White House.

Political schizophrenia is on the rise. Despite so many international events in favor of environmental preservation, the fight against hunger and peace, the agreements signed are not put into practice. There is no political force to stop the use of fossil fuels, the increase in arms spending (in 2023, it amounted to 2.4 trillion dollars worldwide) and conflicts in various parts of the planet.

Today, almost 1 billion people are hungry in the world.

Only ten companies control the food market: Nestlé, PepsiCo, Unilever, Mondelez, Coca-Cola, Mars, Danone, Associated British Foods (ABF), General Mills and Kellogg’s. All of them European or American, and all of them focused on the production and sale of ultra-processed foods, which are harmful to human health.

According to Oxfam, they make 1.1 billion dollars a day. Consumers who go to the supermarket and find a variety of products are unaware that many belong to the same company.

How can this situation be changed? In the case of Brazil, strengthen the Lula government, because the alternative is the return of the coup barracks; work intensively in the October municipal elections in favor of progressive candidates; and resume grassroots work. Digital networks are not streets. Networks make noise, but the streets speak louder. Social, trade union and pastoral movements need to return to public protests and demands.

At the global level, support the creation of a new global governance system that is more democratic in character, acts more effectively and overcomes the inoperability of the UN. Establish the regulation of digital networks, so that they are subject to the constitutional laws of the countries and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

But will there be time to implement measures before a new world conflict erupts? Time will tell.


Frei Betto,  is a writer, author of the novel “Village of Silence” (Rocco), among other books. Online bookshop: freibetto.org

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