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THE PRISON OF TEMER AND THE HESITATION ON THE LEFT

Source: Movimento Magazine

The recent arrests of Michel Temer, his former minister Moreira Franco and the “financial operator”, Colonel Lima, have shocked the Brazilian political scene. Even after the granting of habeas corpus that freed the accused, this movement deepened the crisis of governability experienced in the first months of the Bolsonaro government and once again exposed the hesitant attitude of various sectors of the left in the fight against corruption.

Notoriously corrupt, Temer was a president with a terrible approval rating and was about to be overthrown after the revelation of his unnecessary relations with Joesley Batista and Eduardo Cunha (marked by the famous phrase “you have to keep that, did you see it?”). The end of their privileged forum was a risky reason discussed since last year precisely because the amount of evidence of their involvement in corruption schemes is enormous. His recent arrest was due to accusations of misappropriation of public works resources from the Angra 3 nuclear power plant, considered much less serious than the suspicions that weigh on his interference in the Port of Santos.

The arrest was the result of another political action by Lava Jato, which came shortly after the defeats of the Curitiba prosecutors in the STF and a serious friction between Sérgio Moro and Rodrigo Maia. The Pension Reform suffered an immediate setback: the escalation of the war between Maia and the Executive directly affects the processing of the project and hinders the plan to withdraw rights, further disorganizing the parliamentary articulation of Bolsonaro. The government tried to protect itself from the case by declaring its support for the investigations, opposing its current “ideological” management to Temer’s previous pragmatism and hiding the obvious cases of corruption that also involved the PSL and the Bolsonaro family.

But something that attracted attention in this complex scenario was the great vacillation of various sectors of the left in the face of Temer’s arrest. Important political organizations adopted an ostrich stance, presenting journalistic articles and describing only the two parties (Temer’s crimes and Lava Jato’s interests) to abstain in practice from a concrete position. The defense of Temer’s freedom, the logical consequence of the criticism of the prison, was not carried out with the exception of the PT, but neutrality demonstrated the difficulty of many sectors to position themselves in the face of the contradictions of the national political situation.

These vacillating positions are examples of the confusion and propagandism that so hinder us in the dispute for public opinion. The extreme right tends to prevail in the social debate simply because it presents concrete positions (even if they are strange) while the left falls into an incomprehensible argumentative labyrinth. Thinking about this hesitation, which today leads us to the incredible defense of Temer, is important for us to think about the future paths of resistance and the construction of an alternative.

 

The context of the incarceration

The evidence of corruption against the former president is startling, many of which have already been revealed during Fora Temer’s campaign that marked his term as president. Similarly, there is no doubt that his arrest was an instrument of reactivation of Lava Jato and retaliation by its operators against Rodrigo Maia and a sector of the traditional right. The dispute over the “anti-crime package”, the defeat in the STF ruling on box 2, the refusal to name Ilona Szabó, the defeat in the decree on the possession of firearms, as well as the demoralization of the “Lava Jato foundation” by Raquel Dodge, are facts that are in the context of Temer prison. This is undeniable.

The recent weakening of this sector of the judiciary has given rise to a legally controversial response that has already been repeated several times. Lava Jato’s media tactics, such as leaks and spectacular arrests, have been recognised as part of his policy by the operation’s own members, who have often acted illegally, as in the audio leak between Dilma and Lula. The same procedure happens again, and Lava Jato’s game with Temer prison brings back the spotlight for the operation. The fact that Moreira Franco is Rodrigo Maia’s father-in-law does not seem like a mere detail, even though both come from different political groups.

Temer’s arrest was bad for the government, which needs stability to pass the Social Welfare Reform. The reform is the main policy of the year for the unified set of the bourgeoisie and will be directly affected by this dispute between the government and Congress, with the reported intention of the parliamentary “center” to retake Temer’s own previous project (withdrawing capitalization) being an important change in Paulo Guedes’ proposal. It is a fact that the 15% drop in Bolsonaro’s approval polls, the growing disclosure of changes in social security among the population, the crises faced by the government and the lack of negotiation with the union bureaucracies affect the country’s economy.

The possibility that Bolsonaro will be strengthened by Temer prison is weak. Despite the fact that his son Carlos has a direct relationship with the conflict and that the issue could momentarily eliminate the focus of the current government’s corruption scandals, Bolsonaro tried to protect the government and not further shake up the relationship with the BMD and DEM. Issues like the “PSL orange” and the fall in popularity are losing their place in the news, helping the government in the very short term, but the open conflict is a big obstacle when considering the rest of his administration.

The opposing or relativist positions towards Temer’s imprisonment have different motivations that end up being linked to the same argument, from the elevation of Lava Jato’s interests to the debate on the penal guarantee. These elements are an important part of the analysis, but they are not the only ones, and reporting on what lies behind Lava Jato or exposing the structural problem of punitivism in the bourgeois state does not nullify any of the public facts that make the former president corrupt in the eyes of society. On the contrary, it demonstrates the need for an active policy in an increasingly turbulent scenario, debating the contradictions of reality rather than ignoring them.

 

Lava-Jato and the politicization of the judiciary

One argument widely used by critics of Temer prison is the instrumentalization of due process promoted by Lava Jato in favor of his own political program. This argument is true and the facts cited above do not seem to be a simple coincidence with the procedural deadlines, and Lava Jato operates in an increasingly coordinated manner with the political interests of its main operators, headed by Sérgio Moro.

Although true, the argument is incomplete. The problem of the exclusive denunciation of the “politicization of the judiciary” lies in the generalization (as if there were political unity in this power) and in the annulment of the rest of the situation. It is evident that Lava Jato has a political position, as well as Gilmar Mendes and the “guaranteed” sector of the STF, as well as Raquel Dodge in the PGR and all the other legal operators in Brazil and the world. Observing the politicization of Lava Jato and at the same time ignoring the politicization of Gilmar Mendes demonstrates the bias with which the problem is dealt with, ignoring that hegemonic legal positions also previously represent a form of politicization.

Throughout previous governments, one could also denounce the politicization of the STF and the STJ, which allowed indefinite freedom not only for corrupt politicians, but for anyone who could pay for the legal maneuvers of the big law firms. One example was the Gulliver case, in which the then governor of Paraíba, Ronaldo Cunha Lima, fired three shots in a political disaffection in broad daylight at a restaurant in João Pessoa and used the “procedural elevator” tactic to never have been arrested. Another example of politics was that of journalist Pimenta Neves, editorial director of the newspaper Estado de São Paulo, who in 2000 killed his ex-girlfriend in public and served ridiculous sentences.

All legal action is political. The judiciary is the instrument for the normalization of the bourgeois state, and through these norms it organizes the exploitation of capitalist society. The “penal guarantee” applied to the powerful has always been the rule in Brazil, which today faces the “punitivism” of Lava Jato.

To denounce the politicization of one or another legal field makes little sense and recalls the weak denunciations of the extreme right about the previous politicization of the Itamaraty or the MEC. A critic would say that Itamaraty and the MEC are “politicizable” because they are within the scope of the executive power, showing a position of belief in the impartial judicial power that exemplifies the penetration of the rationality of the bourgeois state among the militancy of the left. Since this argument of the politicization of the judiciary is not supported outside of its own set of legal norms, its defenders begin a journey of defense of the legal principles that end up reaffirming the role of the judiciary and the bourgeois state.

Principles such as the presumption of innocence or due process of law are important democratic achievements that must be based fundamentally on class cuts, as well as on all other legal guarantees. Habeas corpus was an important instrument in the defense of political prisoners during the dictatorship, although it is also widely used by white collar criminals. The position of the socialists must always be in defense of the working class, regardless of legal formalisms, denouncing the inequalities of capitalism and criticizing the hypocrisy of bourgeois justice.

The illusion that the defense of the criminal guarantee for the constitutionalist Temer reinforces this same principle for the popular classes only makes sense if we accept the maxim that we are all equal before the law, which is not true. Fear’s freedom in no way changes the policy of imprisonment of black youth, and the general defense of the legal principle without analysis of its concrete application is a formalism that only demonstrates fidelity to the legal form of the State.

 

The problem of punitivism

Legal principles should not be viewed dogmatically, on the one hand they are essential against the criminalisation of the poorest and on the other they are tools for powerful corrupt people. They are a double-edged sword that needs a class cut that points to its role in each specific situation. This position scandalizes many law enforcement officials, but it is the only one possible for Marxists.

Punitivism is the other side of the coin of bourgeois justice, complementing the cynical discourse that arrests and kills the poor in the name of peace and justice. The situation of the prisons and the fallacy of social reintegration show the reproduction in new milestones of the same exploitation of centuries against the black working class, and the state violence against the prisoners and their families is one of the most degrading.

Within the framework of bourgeois justice, there is no doubt that restorative justice presents much better proposals for the treatment of violence than classical punitivism. The process of speaking and listening, deepened by the field of psychoanalysis, reverses the static position of the silenced victims and questions the norm of state vengeance. The contemporary punitivist logic follows the same contractual logic of the circulation of goods, in which an external entity regulates the relations of violence through a system of equivalences, making the violent violated and declaring a formal equality between the poles of the conflict while the victim does not receive attention or protagonism.

Going against punitivism is the task of socialists, but always from a class perspective. We do not defend an abstract anti-punitivism that ignores the differences between humble and powerful, between penitentiaries and federal police jails. There is no possibility of restorative justice with corrupt politicians who continue to dispute power even when they are arrested, their sentences or sanctions are of a different nature, even if they use the same articles of the law. Nor can the pain and power present in the dialogue between rapists and victims (that’s what restorative justice is all about) be equated with the cynical testimonies of corrupt disputes concerned about maintaining part of their fortune.

The socialist organizations that vacillate before Temer prison fall into this legal trap that levels the classes, evidencing the schematism of honest sectors and the opportunism of the old left. Our criterion for any judicial action must be the interest of the working class, whose perception of real life is often ahead of that of those who seek to lead it.

 

Our position before the people

Since legal principles are not part of our premises, our positions on their phenomena must be based on the immediate needs of the workers in each situation. We have as an example the fight against the privileged forum, which is very important against impunity in previous governments and which today can change its character in the face of the risks of closure of the political regime.

The alliance between Bolsonaro and Lava Jato is disastrous, but doubting the punishment of the corrupt makes us fall into the trap of these same sectors, giving the extreme right a leadership (and hypocritical) role against corruption while we sink into abstract debates and prevarications.

Lula’s prison must be criticized because it has a different nature than fear. In this case, it is a question of defending his freedom because prison is directly related to the impediment of participating in elections. The maneuver that took Lula out of the dispute, which allowed Bolsonaro’s election, must be criticized for what it represents politically and not for denouncing procedural deviations or defending his supposed innocence.

Lava Jato’s political maneuvers (such as Lula’s arrest), the increase in the repression of social struggles and the reduction of the democratic space operated through the Bolsonaro-Moro alliance are dangers against which we must seek great unity, even with Gilmar Mendes. However, this cannot mean the acceptance of the narrative of the old politics or the contradictions of the collapsed regime, an independent position is very necessary in this difficult situation.

The current task of the socialists to build an alternative power that responds concretely to both the current crisis of capitalism and the crisis of the left itself, will only be fulfilled if our positions before the people are clear and coherent. Unfortunately, left-wing organizations often reproduce a set of mirrors in which they mutually reflect on their own dynamics captured by state milestones and separated from the workers. The positions on Temer’s imprisonment were an example of this, with confusing and hesitant statements, while the government’s problems increased and the whole population approved the punishment of the corrupt coup plotter.

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