O plano de Peter Thiel para se tornar o CEO da América

por Samuel Hammond

O infame investidor fez uma aposta de longo prazo em Trump para tornar os Estados Unidos mais parecido com uma monarquia, perturbar sua burocracia decadente e reviver o status do mito e da hierarquia na sociedade

O capitalista de risco bilionário Peter Thiel fez um monte de cabeças virarem quando se descobriu que ele seria delegado de Donald Trump. Alguns até pensaram que deveria ser um Peter Thiel diferente. A intriga apenas aumentou quando foi confirmado que ele daria um discurso endossando vigorosamente  Trump na Convenção Nacional Republicana. Então o Vale do Silício se sintonizou, buscando uma resposta. Em vez disso, ele ficaram “atordoados e confusos” pelo que ouviram, de acordo com um relato.

Aos meus olhos, o discurso de Thiel pode ter sido surreal, mas nada sobre ele foi confuso. Como alguns já notaram, Thiel claramente quer modernizar a perspectiva do GOP sobre a comunidade LGBT e mover o partido para além do Reaganismo de pequeno governo, em apoio a coisas como grandes programas de infraestrutura e P&D.

Mas esses são ambos feijõezinhos se comparados ao que eu vejo como o principal propósito (e aposta) de Thiel ao endossar Trump: Peter Thiel vê uma presidência de Trump como seu caminho para se tornar o CEO sombra dos Estados Unidos da América.

 

Perseguição e a Arte de Investir

Thiel parecia fora do personagem. Claramente nervoso, ele falava apressadamente, em vez do seu ritmo normal mais considerado, e com uma retórica bem mais grandiosa e incauta do que aquela pela qual ele é conhecido. Com olhos arregalados e ligeiramente aterrorizados, ele recapitulou sua bem conhecida visão de que o progresso tecnológico estagnou (embora sem muita indicação de como uma presidência de Trump ajudaria) e se declarou orgulhoso de ser gay e Republicano, antes de sair correndo do palco, como se tivesse algum outro lugar para estar.

Aparências de lado, por quê, de todas as pessoas, o cofundador do PayPal e notório libertário estaria lançando seu peso por trás de alguém tão controverso e volátil quanto Trump? As duas questões centrais de Trump, comércio e imigração, não são conhecidas por serem grandes preocupações de Thiel. Se qualquer coisa, Thiel, como muitos no Vale do Silício, quer dramaticamente mais imigração especializada. Thiel é, ele mesmo, de uma família imigrante. Ele já até mesmo prometeu um financiamento para um esquema que propunha dar uma volta nas cotas de imigração, hospedando criadores de tecnologia nascidos no exterior em um navio ancorado nas águas internacionais de São Francisco. Lá se vai a lei e a ordem.

Mas, antes de atribuí-la a seu contrarianismo cru, mais uma dos infames traços de caráter de Thiel, um olhar mais atento sobre suas fixações filosóficas e teoria de empreendedorismo revela um método em sua loucura. Eu admito que isso é especulativo. Mas, na tradição de Leo Strauss, Thiel vê valor em criar camadas de significado para diferentes públicos – o que lhe deixa aberto a uma interpretação mais especulativa.

Para começo de conversa, Thiel é um acólito do falecido cientista social e filósofo francês René Girard. Girard é mais famoso por sua teoria do “desejo mimético”, que afirma que os humanos invariavelmente tomam suas ideias emprestadas das outras pessoas, tanto para imitar quanto para impressionar. Longe de ser um contrariano reflexivo, a filosofia de investimento de Thiel, explicada em seu livro Zero to One, é sobre deliberadamente tentar transcender o desejo de imitação, ser o proverbial “escolhido” que pode, então, colher lucros monopolistas.

O desejo mimético se revela no “viés de desejabilidade social“, a tendência bem-fundamentada dos respondedores de pesquisas de dizer as coisas e marcar as caixas que lhes farão parece mais favoráveis ao seus pares, em vez de sua crença verdadeira e autônoma. Mas, se pessoas o suficiente se esquivam de uma ideia por causa do medo de serem julgadas ou para seguir a multidão, isso naturalmente cria uma oportunidade de lucro. O inverso também é verdade. Se conseguir um MBA ou um diploma de direito vem com bastante status social, é melhor evitar estas coisas, Thiel argumentou, porque você sacrifica uma oportunidade de verdadeira grandeza ao entrar em campo abarrotado.

Apoiar Hillary Clinton é, portanto, muito parecido com abrir um restaurante. É socialmente desejável – não é necessário olhar além das dúzias de celebridades, comediantes e músicos que participaram da Convenção Nacional Democrata. Mas endossar algo popular vem com uma escassa margem além da aprovação de seus pares e de estar no centro de um nexo social positivo. Se voz é o que você quer, Clinton já tem muitas mãos para lavar, favores para retribuir e quiproquós.

Trump, por outro lado, está faminto por apoio da elite. De fato, ele mal consegue guiar as elites dentro de seu próprio partido. Então, porque Thiel não aproveitaria uma chance única na vida de ir de zero a um, de ganhar uma influência significante sobre o potencial próximo Presidente dos EUA, ao custo de um leve constrangimento?

 

Reservas de Qualificação

Quando o New York Times relatou que Trump tentou convencer John Kasich a ser seu companheiro de chapa oferecendo-lhe controle total sobre a “política tanto interna quanto externa”, isso revelou algo sobre o estilo administrativo de Trump: Ele delega. Igualmente, não é nenhum segredo que seus filhos têm operado muito de sua campanha.

Isto ajuda a explicar o paradoxo de qualificação notado por Timothy B. Lee, que escreve que “o argumento de Peter Thiel a favor de Donald Trump não faz nenhum sentido. …É difícil ver como eleger Donald Trump – um homem pouco conhecido por sua competência gerencial ou por seu domínio dos detalhes políticos – poderia tornar o governo competente novamente”. A única explicação, de acordo com Lee, é que Thiel quer que Trump “exploda o sistema e comece de novo”.

Ainda assim, não está claro em que explodir o sistema implica, ou como isso ajuda Thiel. Mais provavelmente, Thiel mirando não apenas em ter o ouvido do Presidente, mas também em ter delegado um poder de decisão significante. Desta forma, Thiel não está votando pela competência de Trump. Ele está votando pela sua própria.

Competência sobre o que? O discurso de Thiel contém uma pista. Nele, ele argumentou que a América dos anos 50 e 60 era fundamentalmente high tech. Ela empurrava as fronteiras da ciência e integrava seu serviço público com as últimas tecnologias. O Projeto Apolo é um caso em questão. Decidimos ir à lua e, sete anos mais tarde, o fizemos. Hoje, demora sete anos só para construir uma ponte; às vezes só para lhe dar um nome.

Felizmente, sobre esses pontos Thiel parece ter algumas respostas. Através do Founders Fund, Thiel investiu dezenas de milhões de dólares na Space-X, a companhia de foguetes de Elon Musk, que está planejando uma viagem tripulada à Marte. E a Palantir, a companhia de análise de US$20 bilhões de Thiel, tem centenas de milhões de dólares em contratos do governo dos EUA para ajudar agência federais como o DHS e a CIA a integrar e estruturar dados. Como Thiel conclui, “seria generoso dizer que os softwares do governo funciona mal, porque na maior parte do tempo eles sequer funcionam”.

O fraseado é importante, já que pode ser uma referência direta ao DCGS-A, ou Distributed Common Ground System-Army (Sistema Distribuído de Terreno Comum-Exército, em tradução livre), o sistema do Exército dos EUA para integrar e disseminar inteligência, vigilância e reconhecimento por todos os níveis do Exército. O sistema é notoriamente ruim, com os comandantes de solo o descrevendo como “imanuseável e inconfiável, difícil de aprender e difícil de usar”.

Thiel quer que a Palantir substitua o DCGS-A, e por boas razões. Quando o Exército lançou mão da tecnologia da Palantir no Afeganistão como parte de uma “Avaliação Operacional Avançada” em 2012, 96% do pessoal pesquisado a descreveu como “eficaz em apoiar sua missão”. Algumas unidades continuam a usá-la numa base ad hoc. Como relatou-se um oficial dizer, “a Palantir de fato funciona. Quando o DCGS de fato funcionar, estaremos prontos para usá-lo”.

Ainda assim, o Exército gastou mais de US$6 bilhões desenvolvendo o DCGS-A e treinando os usuários em “longas e supercomplicadas instruções em sala de aula” e não quer simplesmente deixar para lá. Então, no mês passado, enquanto o Exército dos EUA solicita ofertas para uma segunda fase em seu desenvolvimento, a Palantir revelou sua intenção de processar. A Palantir alega que a solicitação do Exército é “ilegal, irracional, arbitrária e caprichosa” por não adotar seu software evidentemente superior. Como a Bloomberg reportou, em jogo “está um potencial contrato de US$206 milhões, que é a primeira porção do que provavelmente será um sistema multi-anual e multi-bilionário de coleta e visualização de dados que serviria de eixo de inteligência do Exército”.

Foi um ano duro para a Palantir, tendo perdido alguns grandes clientes como a Coca-Cola, a American Express e a Nasdaq, então é um contrato que Thiel quer desesperadamente. E um contrato que um Comandante-em-Chefe Trump poderia lhe ajudar a conseguir. Por quê? Porque Trump só se cerca dos melhores.

Feudalismo Corporativo

Encontre, em qualquer país, o Homem Mais Capaz que ali existe; eleve-o ao lugar supremo e lealmente o reverencie: você tem um governo perfeito para esse país; nenhuma urna, eloquência parlamentar, votação, construção de constituições ou outro maquinário que seja pode melhorá-lo em uma partícula que seja. Ele está no estado perfeito; um país ideal.

Estas são as palavras do ensaísta escocês do século XIX Thomas Carlyle, um outro vigoroso defensor do governo pelos melhores.

É também a passagem que o infame blogger neorreacionário, Mencius Moldbug, nome real Curtis Yarvin, publicou na ocasião da morte de Steve Jobs.

A conexão? Na visão de Yarvin, o governo é apenas uma corporação com algumas camadas adicionais de pompa e circunstância democrática. Um governo efetivo, como uma corporação efetiva, precisa de um grande CEO; um monarca esclarecido; alguém com visão, força e, de maneira importante, a capacidade de delegar. “Eu posso lhe dizer exatamente como as decisões são feitas na Apple”, escreveu Yarvin em um post de 2009. “Primeiro, a Apple encontra um homem. Contrata-o, na verdade. E tendo encontrado este homem, ela lhe diz: senhor, esta decisão é sua“.

Similarmente, quando perguntado sobre como ele consertaria o decadente governo dos EUA, Yarvin respondeu “Encontre o melhor jogador de xadrez que você puder encontrar e lhe dê o emprego”. Esse emprego sendo um CEO não eleito da América, a nação enquanto corporação de acionistas, que poderia exercer uma autoridade soberana completa para fazer com o Departamento de Educação e o DCGS-A o que Steve Jobs fez com o decadente e improdutivo Advanced Technology Group da Apple em 1997 – aposentar todos os empregados e fechá-lo.

Thiel é esse homem para Trump? Thiel certamente parece simpático às visões de Yarvin. Das aulas sobre statups de Thiel:

Uma startup é basicamente estruturada como uma monarquia. Não chamamos assim, claro. Isso pareceria estranhamente antiquado, e nada que não seja democracia deixa as pessoas desconfortáveis. Estamos enviesados em direção ao lado democrático-republicano do espectro. É a isso que estamos acostumados pelas aulas de educação cívica. Mas a verdade é que startups e fundadores se inclinam em direção ao lado ditatorial, porque essa estrutura funciona melhor para statups.

E do ensaio de Thiel no Cato Undbound:

Eu não acredito mais que a liberdade e a democracia sejam compatíveis. …Uma metáfora melhor é a de que estamos em uma corrida mortal entre a política e a tecnologia. O futuro será muito melhor ou muito pior, mas a questão do futuro continua muito aberta, de fato. Não sabemos exatamente o quão acirrada está essa corrida, mas eu suspeito que ela poder estar muito acirrada, até mesmo por um fio. Ao contrário do mundo da política, no mundo da tecnologia as escolhas de indivíduos ainda podem ser vitais. O destino de nosso mundo pode depender do esforço de uma única pessoa que construa e propague o maquinário da liberdade que torne o mundo seguro para o capitalismo.

Como suas notas de aula indicam, monarquia é o outro significado de Zero to One. Ou, como Trump colocou, a ideia é que “Só eu consigo consertá-la”.

Os especialistas têm, até agora, identificado erroneamente a subcorrente do Grande Homem em Trump e nos seus apoiadores como fascismo latente. O termo mais preciso pode ser feudalismo corporativo ou absolutismo esclarecido (Make America Frederick the Great Again), uma ideia que também anima o interesse de Thiel no Seasteading.

O feudalismo classicamente envolvia uma classe nobre de proprietários de terras conhecida como Senhores, que mantém domínio completo sobre suas faixas de terra, ou feudos. Trump, como um magnata do setor imobiliário, já tem a maioria dos adesivos da nobreza, indo tão longe quanto a dar o nome de seu filho mais moço de Barron, um sinônimo de Senhor.

Feudos são a casa de vassalos, camponeses que recebem proteções e bens básicos em troca de serviços prestados ao Senhor. Isso não é exatamente a mesma coisa de direitos humanos básicos ou direitos de propriedade, já que são contingentes e acidentais, não morais ou meritórios. Daí o conforto de Trump com um uso liberal das expropriações de terra.

Seasteading é a mesma ideia do feudalismo clássico, mas sobre plataformas no oceano. Em teoria, Senhores e CEOs tem um incentivo para produzir um governo relativamente bom, a fim de atrair acionistas e vassalos. E, uma vez que o que conta como bom governo pode variar, vassalos votam com seus pés, a fim de optar pelo feudo ou seastead que mais se alinha com seus valores.

Economistas chamam isto de classificação de Tiebout, um modelo que inspirou uma geração de libertários a um tipo de fetichismo municipal que exagerava vastamente a disposição de uma pessoa média de se mudar e subestimava vastamente o potencial para formas localizadas de tirania. E, na teoria legal, é chamada de lei policêntrica, ou devolução da lei estatutária monopolista para jurisdições concorrentes e mesmo sobrepostas.

Embora cidades-estado modernas, como Cingapura, forneçam alguma evidência de que um ditador benevolente e tecnocrático possa de fato produzir uma sociedade próspera ao longo de um modelo corporativo, e o sucesso de Hong Kong e de zonas econômicas especiais como Shenzhen e Xiamen mostrem que experimentos de devolução legal tenham muito mérito, isso arrisca um tipo de falácia do atirador de elite. A saber, enfatiza os sucessos ao passo em que ignora os muitos estados falidos e outros experimentos de ditadores menos do que benevolentes, assim como o centralismo oculto que sustenta implementações bem-sucedidas e não anárquicas de devolução legal. Abordagens mais quantitativas, em contraste, continuam a descobrir que a democracia tem um efeito pró-crescimento “robusto e considerável”.

Não obstante, o fascínio de Thiel com o feudalismo se estende da terra e do mar para o ciberespaço, com seu investimento no Urbit, um projeto de Curtis Yarvin de incorporar as teorias sociais neorreacionárias em uma camada da internet. O Urbit faz muitas coisas, mas sua função principal é criar uma cadeia descentralizada digital de títulos a endereços de rede, como endereços IP peer-to-peer comercializáveis. Uma vez que seu espaço de nomes é um recurso escasso, não muito diferente da terra, não é surpresa que ele seja modelado sobre princípios feudais, com a soberania distribuída policentricamente por entre uma constelação de comunidades rigidamente hierárquicas.

 

Reequilíbrio Global

Quer Thiel seja mesmo um neorreacionário ou não, estritamente falando, é irrelevante. O que é importante é que ele tem constantemente identificado a “liberdade” com uma versão do feudalismo corporativo em pequena escala e tem indicado ser hora de uma versão se sedimentar em nível nacional, se não internacional.

O plano de Trump para desmantelar a OTAN e reverter a política histórica dos EUA de internacionalismo faria exatamente isso e também é consistente com o apoio anterior de Thiel a céticos da OTAN, tais como Ron Paul. A política externa declarada de Trump reequilibraria o globo, saindo da hegemonia dos EUA enquanto bastião do cosmopolitismo liberal e exportador de valores democráticos, em favor dos valores autoritários da China e da Rússia.

China e Rússia já operam em versões cruas do feudalismo corporativo, com Xi Jinping e Vladmir Putin como seus respectivos CEOs. E, apesar de ambos serem antigos países comunistas, cada um exporta sistemas de valores que são bem menos igualitários do que o dos Estados Unidos – e bem menos “politicamente corretos”.

De acordo com Thiel, “Se apropriadamente entendido, o politicamente correto é nosso grande problema político”, pelo que ele quer dizer o comprometimento semi-teológico da sociedade ocidental com o igualitarismo liberal. Isto, por sua vez, levou a elite da América ao “[Diversity Myth” de que o multiculturalismo funciona, à negação de diferenças inatas de gênero ou raça nos talentos individuais, a escrúpulos em torno de qualquer coisa semelhante à eugenia e à marginalização da tradição religiosa.

Em contraste, a China, liderada por uma “Nobreza Vermelha” de pincipelhos privilegiados, tem ganhado vantagem tecnológica na engenharia genômica ao deixar de lado medos de descobertas desconfortáveis. Enquanto isso, Putin tem pressionado o renascimento de um mythos pré-soviético baseado na ideia da Rússia enquanto uma civilização oriental ortodoxa distinta que se ajoelha ao ritual, à hierarquia e aos papéis tradicionais de gênero.

Assim, quando Donald Trump alega que ele quer “Make America Great Again”, não é meramente uma nostalgia pela Era Reagan ou o último viva de uma classe trabalhadora branca que se encolhe. Antes, é que a narrativa da decadência, como ecoada nos sentimentos de Thiel sobre a modernidade e a incompetência do governo, necessariamente cria corolário narrativo de retorno e renascimento.

Como quando Putin retornou para reviver uma Rússia doente em 2000.

Ou quando Steve Jobs retornou à Apple em 1996.

Cada um deles suplantou a narrativa do declínio com um novo mito, seja ele o Cristianismo Ortodoxo ou a reputação da Apple em design. Assim, enquanto Trump assume o augusto papel de uma figura cerimonial, isso deixa Thiel e companhia preencherem o resto das chefias e perseguirem a ambiciosa tarefa de restruturar as instituições decadentes da América a partir de dentro, incluindo, talvez, a criação de um novo mito americano também.

Mas se isso não é para você, como um Seastead mal gerido, você sempre tem a opção de ir embora.

O Canadá lhe recebe de braços abertos.

Samuel Hammond é analista da Pobreza e de políticas de Bem-Estar no Niskanen Center, um think tank libertário com base em Washington, D. C. As visões expressas neste ensaio são suas. Siga-o no Twitter @hamandcheese

A Small Treatise on Political Corruption

A Small Treatise on Political Corruption

by Augusto de Franco

It is possible to distinguish the traditional corruption of politics (practiced by political actors in order to get elected, reelected, elect a relative or a comrade from their group or enrich themselves) from corruption with political purposes (which has as object financing a power project, even though its agents might as well use its spoils to do the same thing as traditional political actors). In other words, it is possible to distinguish the endemic corruption in politics (even in democratic politics) from the corruption known as systemic, centralized, coordinated by an organization to reach government (even by democratic means), take power and keep it indefinitely. Here is a small treatise that gathers articles published on the subject in the last two years.

On corruption with political purposes

The subject is a little arduous, but its treatment is necessary to get past the smokescreen that is being cast to hide the nature of the Worker’s Party’s corruption.

Corruption with political purposes is not the sum of petty individual corruptions, as now wish – as a defense strategy – to make believe those who practice corruption as a method to remain in government long enough to take power or conquer a long-term hegemony over society, from the State rigged by the party.

Petty individual corruptions will always exist in societies dominated by States and, however endemic and however frequent and voluminous they are in a certain society, they do not arrange systemically, without deliberate political action, to assemble power schemes. When there is systemic corruption, it is a sign there is State banditry.

The culture of corruption can be endemic, in inverse ratio to civic culture (or to what has been called social capital). In Somalia, it is much more endemic than in Denmark. This, of course, depends fundamentally on the structure and dynamic of society, but also on the pattern of relations between State and society (which can destroy social capital to a greater or lesser extent). Among the Yanomami, there cannot be corruption (such as we conceptualize in our times), because there is not a stem generating programs that verticalize the social network, capable of massively destroying social capital (and none of these concepts applies, in this case, without great epistemological landslides).

Corruptions in the State are inevitable as well, to the extent that the action of state agents without effective constraints enable transgressions to any rule, frauds and offenses of all kinds. Internal control, intra-governmental or even intra-state, for example, of the legislative or judiciary powers over the executive power and vice versa, as well as the so-called social control, never constitute fully effective protection against it (as long as there is State, of course). Despite the pious speeches about ethics in politics and the Nominalist speeches about the balance of powers and blah-blah-blah, it is in the nature of politics practiced by the State – or rather, under States – error, diversion, appropriation and, inevitably, corruption. In the court of Darius, in Pericles’s Ecclesia or in England after the execution of Charles I, there was corruption.

Petty corruption disseminated in societies that are domains of States (the bribery of the traffic officer or the illegal electricity connection in a slum) and the grand corruption traditionally practiced by state agents, in autocracies or democracies (the commission charged for contracts, or the artificial creation of difficulties to sell facilities: for example, for untangling bureaucratic procedures), are different from the corruption with political purposes. The former have, in general, purposes of individual or group enrichment and maintenance of local or regional leadership, and are self-regulated by some kind of “black market” of politics. Whereas the corruption with political purposes is hetero-regulated by an organized force whose rationality is different from the one that presides over the endemic culture of corruption in the State and in society, frequently translated by the expressions: ensure my (or our) gain, take advantage, make a nest egg, play the game everyone plays (although it is not imune to these side effects).

The corruption practiced in the Cuban dictatorship, for example, controlled directly by the centralized power of the Castro brothers, is none of this (even though there is endemic corruption at the base of Cuban society). There is drug trafficking in all Latin American societies and there are criminal links of such traffic with state functionaries (even with the judiciary power), but this is different from the traffic organized by the very central committee of a party merged with the State. Fidel, trying to hide the criminal scheme of State banditry in the Cuban dictatorship, has murdered the hero of the revolution, Arnaldo Ochoa Sanchez, designated by him to operate the drug traffic articulated by the very regime.

As one cannot tie the mouth of the threshing ox, even when corruption is practiced by State banditry, it feeds the traditional corruption of state politics and the common bandits who make business with the State (and here goes a good deal of businessmen) and feeds back the endemic corruption that exists in society. But this does not mean that the systemic corruption practiced by political forces that crave taking or keeping power is the result of the traditional corruption of state agents or (added to) the endemic corruption disseminated in society.

The corruption of Venezuela’s bolivarian chiefs takes advantage of the traditional corruption of that country’s governmental leaders, and reinforces the endemic corruption of Venezuelan society, but it is not caused by the latter. There was a “phase transition” so that corruption could be used as a government method, and not only as a deviation from governmental function or a use, with private objectives, of conditions favorable to corruption afforded by positions of power. Diosdado Cabello (following the trail of Fidel Castro and the Cuban Communist Party) is not a drug dealer who infiltrated power, but rather the holder of a power that uses the drug trade in favor of the implementation of a political force’s project to perpetuate itself in power. This is unprecedented. It is another kind of corruption. It is corruption with political purposes. It is corruption practiced not by bandits who overtook the State to do the same as their antecessors traditionally did, but rather the corruption of State banditry itself.

Mutatis mutandis, the same can be said of the unprecedented corruption introduced by lulopetismo[1] in Brazil. Not that there wasn’t all kinds of corruption of state agents in Brazil, ever since Cabral[2] and the hereditary captaincies[3]. Not that there hasn’t been, for centuries, endemic corruption in Brazilian society. But now corruption is practiced with political purposes by a private organization that took office through elections as a transitional step to seizing power (and keeping power in its hands indefinitely).

Revolution through corruption

Some think the bandits who governed us during the last decade committed so many crimes because that would be the only way to favor the people. Some think even that revolution through corruption is a new way of social transformation (since the game established by the elites, “500 years ago”, is really this one, then there is no way not to play the game, getting one’s hands dirty for the sake of a higher, generous goal).

Yes, there are people who actually believe this. Of course, the argument allows for any debacle. To reach so noble an objective (a new, more egalitarian society) why not – if it is really necessary – repress, arrest, torture and kill? Wasn’t it what Cuba did (a beacon in the struggle against imperialism, capitalism, neoliberalism)? Isn’t this what the bolivarian republic of Venezuela (avant-garde of 21st century socialism) is doing?

When charged that this is not an ethical behavior, the advocates of State banditry as a revolutionary way have two answers:

  1. it wasn’t the Worker’s Party who invented corruption, it was the elites, since Cabral; and
  2. the ethics of the people cannot be equal to the hypocritical ethics of the elites (because what is right and wrong depends on class interests).

This explains the – even electoral – free-for-all to fight the elites (but only those on the other, evil side, because the elites on the good side cease being elites and become allies of the people at the moment that counteract the evil side’s elites). This was true for Sarney[4], Collor[5], Jader[6], Renan[7], Cunha[8] and a great deal of the ‘coronéis’ and ‘neo-coronéis'[9], allies of lulopetismo in the last decade: all of them have supposedly been tactical allies in the way of revolution through corruption. Further ahead, when it’s possible, from then government, to really take power, they will be abandoned and sacrificed. For now, nonetheless, the money from crime is absolutely necessary to take power and make revolution “from inside”, and therefore such corrupted practices of allied elites are necessary to fill the revolutionary cash register: this is the definition of revolution through corruption!

However, the revolutionary leaders who became elites will be preserved: because they are only disguising (impersonating elites to better infiltrate the ruling classes and clone their methods) and, in the future – so think these fools – they will abandon all privileges and will wear olive green jumpsuits with the red star on their chest (yes, all dictatorships are military: see that the Castros up until today, more than half a century later, still dress this way).

Way before the so-called left, the fascists had already adopted the electoral way as a path to seizing power. The strategy was simple. Conquer governments electorally and then, from there, finance parallel structures to seize power (since the prevailing law did not allow it to be done “on the inside” of existing institutions). It was to finance such parallel structures that corruption became necessary, not the retail corruption practiced in all times and places by the greed of political actors, but rather the systemic corruption, the corruption as a method of government (not to govern, but rather autocratically alter the prevailing order, replacing it with parallel structures or overlaying such structures on the old ones as new state entities). That was how the left adopted corruption. It didn’t invent it, but was compelled, for strategic reasons (cloned from fascism), to adopt it, generalize it, systematize it, turn it into a methodology. This new path of the left to power can be called “revolution through corruption”.

Why is the systemic corruption necessary?

Just as some don’t understand the difference of the traditional corruption of state agents and the existing endemic corruption in societies under State dominion from the systemic corruption practiced as a method with political purposes by private groups who want to conquer or keep power, people also don’t easily understand the difference between getting to power electorally and seizing power.

All autocrats know the difference, and that’s why they aren’t interested only in getting elected to head governments (and stay there for a period, leaving at the end of their terms), but rather in seizing power. The autocrats of the 21st century (of the new wave which has been installing dictatorships, proto-dictatorships and manipulatorships since the late 90’s, using elections against democracy) know perfectly that getting to government by vote is only the opening step of the process of power seizure. Even having reached the government, they know they cannot seize power:

  1. While they don’t subordinate all other powers (legislative, judiciary and the public ministry) to the executive power.
  2. While they don’t install the party-governmental control of the means of communication and of the Internet (even if disguised under the names of “social” or “civil”).
  3. While they don’t make up the majority in all the institutions of the State (degenerating these institutions in such way as to subordinate them to the logic of the State rigged by the party) and in part of society’s institutions (turning social movements, NGOs and other entities into transmission belts of the government’s party, and schools and universities in collective farms of reproduction of militants and dens of subservient intellectuals, advocates or active agents of the government’s party).
  4. While they do not have control over the trade union and associative-corporative movement in general (above all by establishing the absence of state control over its resources)
  5. While they haven’t conquered a good deal of businessmen, protecting them from the market and attracting them with cheap credit (faking market interest) and with all kinds of concessional loans.
  6. While they don’t pervert the representative system to a partitocracy (which in practice dispenses with the democratic parliamentary game: for example, instituting closed and pre-ordered list vote, party fidelity and the exclusively state-funded campaign).
  7. While they cannot call imperative plebiscites and referenda from the executive (bypassing the prevailing institutionality, depressing the immune system of democracy and neutralizing its checks and balances with a short circuit between the leader and the masses).
  8. While they don’t create militarized forces (national guards of praetorian character) subordinated to the central government (not as State members) and, in some cases, paramilitary militia.

In sum: while they don’t establish a long-term hegemony over society from the party-controlled State.

Now, it is not possible to do all this respecting the legal political process. That’s why autocrats, when they get to government, are compelled to establish State banditry (source of systemic corruption). The objective is not enrich its agents (although this is inevitable), but rather seize power (or conquer hegemony).

Thus far, it all makes sense. But the way the Worker’s Party did it, parasitizing endemic corruption to install systemic corruption, left it vulnerable to inspection by the institutions of the democratic State and to the criticism of society. There was a brutal error of assessment on the part of the Worker’s Party leaders.

It is not difficult to understand the strategy of power devised by a set of party leaders who constituted the de facto or real direction of the Worker’s Party ever since the 1980’s. This strategy had as starting point the (erroneous) realization that the elites that dominated the country for several centuries (“for 500 years”, as Lula keeps repeating) have always resorted to extortion, subornation, bribery, commission, slush funds and similar arrangements to conquer power and keep it, and that therefore all this was a kind of imperative of realpolitik. The error was not the realization that the elites have practiced corruption (which they have always really done) but rather that they did this voluntarily and systematically, on behalf of an explicit cause or purpose, and centrally coordinated. Now, this is false, simply because such a thing was not necessary, to the extent that the system was the very institutionalized corruption, and the corruption of political leaders – each one seeking their own egoist interests – was part of such political “black market” that perversely self-regulated. The erroneous assessment begot a new adaptive behavior, and that’s why “mensalão”[10], “petrolão”[11] and the like, which have or still will be uncovered, are unprecedented as an organizing form (which is to say: “never before in this country“[12] has it happened).

The attempts to hide systemic corruption within the most common endemic corruption in politics

Mensalão, petrolão and other schemes that have been uncovered have nothing to do with slush funds (pt: Caixa 2) for campaigns. They are, in fact, slushier funds (pt: Caixa 3), that is, resources to finance a parallel scheme – criminal and antidemocratic – of power. Caixa 3 exists not only, nor mainly, to win elections, but rather to falsify democracy. Let’s see, by way of example (and hypothesis), what can be done with the money from Caixa 3:

  1. One can build ilegal power structures, political, social and even private business organizations, which will in turn fund criminal activities (which can have as scope anything from espionage, manufacturing dossiers against adversaries, sponsorship for media outlets to spread and replicate spoof versions, hiring people to write in favor of the government and detract the opposition, conducting clandestine meetings, assembling political apparatus – with movable and immovable property, vehicles and equipment – registered to straw-people, paying canvassers, bribing enablers and paying agents to win or recruit and train militants for the circles of the Inner Party, threatening or neutralizing people (state functionaries included) who become hurdles to the attainment of criminal or antidemocratic plots, to the promotion of research to violate systems of collection, inspection, information, election, etc., assembling militia and who knows what else). Money from Caixa 3 can be hidden indefinitely in overseas bank accounts.
  2. One can buy elected representatives, falsifying the correlation of forces emanating from the ballot box. This violation of representative democracy is the most serious, for it commits a fraud against popular will. With it the democratic game of forming alliances is perverted. The replacement of allied base with rented base makes it unnecessary the legitimate political effort of convincing and persuasion (which is the core of democratic regime). The Athenians of Pericles’s century would say it is an assault on the gods of the Polis, in this case the goddess Peitho (persuasion deified, and for less than that Socrates was condemned).
  3. A small part of Caixa 3 can become Caixa 2, when it is strategic to elect people of one’s own party or of allied parties.

Caixa 3 exists, fundamentally, to finance the strategy of conquering hegemony over society. It doesn’t exist to elect people (which would be Caixa 2) or to maintain a party in government (for one or two terms), but rather to seize power (and remain in government indefinitely). Of course a party that aims at seizing power using democracy (in homeopathic doses) needs to stay a long time in government: the time required to destroy the system of checks and balances of democracy, degenerating institutions (depressing its immune system).

That’s why so much effort has been done to reduce everything to Caixa 2. That’s why a formidable orchestration of efforts has been machinated to defend the prohibition of electoral donations from companies. It’s a trick to confound mensalão, petrolão and other strategic schemes of Caixa 3 with campaign Caixa 2. It was meant to hide the existence of Caixa 3.

It was a smokescreen to try and hide the real destination of the systemic corruption promoted by the Worker’s Party. Turning the subject of corruption into illegal campaign funding (Caixa 2) it just a maneuver to divert attention from what is really happening. The destination of the resources stolen by the corruption scheme which has been assembled everywhere by the party which remained in government from 2003 to mid-2016 was not (or is not), except occasionally or in one case or another, funding electoral campaigns. The objective is financing a parallel scheme of power (which means, of power seizure from government) to conquer a long-term hegemony over Brazilian society, from the State rigged by the party. This is not Caixa 2 but rather Caixa 3.

The central problem isn’t corruption but autocratization

It is hard to understand all this due to our authoritarian, moralistic culture. From the point of view of democracy, the central problem isn’t corruption. The central problem is autocratization.

The problem of Stalinism – which in its most acute phase of state terror (1921-1953) in Soviet Union has claimed the life of over 10 million people (most of which innocent) – wasn’t corruption, although there were corruption (as there always is, to a greater or lesser extent) in political circles of the party and the State. Stalin wasn’t corrupt, a thieve. He didn’t want to get rich, to live as a Nababo, to retire in an island paradise. He wanted absolute power.

The problem of Maoism, which in times of peace has been responsible for 70 million deaths, wasn’t corruption, although there were some corruption in the party and in the State. Mao wasn’t corrupt, a thieve. Just as Stalin, he wanted to reform society and produce a new man.

The problem of Italian fascism wan’t corruption, although there also were a lot of corruption in the National Fascist Party and in the fascist State erected by Mussolini. But he wan’t properly a thieve, a robber. He also wanted, as Stalin or Mao after him, to conduct a great project of reform of humanity.

The problem of German fascism – Hitler’s Nazism – wasn’t corruption. Hitler was a personally honest guy, there are no reports of him mugging anyone or robbing the public treasury to enrich himself.

The problem of the regime led by Khmer Rouge’s communist leader Pol Pot in Cambodia, which has exterminated more than 3 million people – in a cruelty, taking into consideration the scale and proportion of the population violated by him, never seen in history – wasn’t corruption.

The problem of North Korean and Cuban autocratic socialism isn’t corruption. Kim Il-sung and his son Kim Jong-il and his grandson Kim Jong-un, as well as the brothers Castro (Fidel and Raul) are not thieves. They are – as the others already cited in this post – only dictators.

Corruption exists in politics ever since there is politics. Pericles, one of the main protagonists of Athenian democracy, was several times accused (and probably not without some reason) of corruption, as was his lover Aspasia. But he was a democrat, not an autocrat.

Honest autocrats are an incalculably greater danger than dishonest democrats. The only ones who don’t think so are people with authoritarian mentalities, who want perfect and pure regimes. As a rule, the arguments for authoritarian coups are based on the necessity of ending rampant corruption and put the house in order, punishing the corrupt. But people who have little intimacy with democracy don’t understand that an honest Leonidas (Spartan commander) – a true man of Plutarch – is a threat incomparably more serious to democracy than a corrupt Pericles (main protagonist of Athenian democracy). Just as they don’t understand that if the Worker’s Party wasn’t corrupt (not only in the sense of practicing systemic corruption, but rather in the current sense of the word, of being comprised of individually corrupt politicians), it would be a risk a thousand times worse than it was (and has been).

For there is no pure democracy and, if there were, we should flee it like the plague. There is no perfect political regime and, if there were, we should distance ourselves as much as we can from it (it would be worth even taking this one-way trip to Mars). Those who love purity and perfection are those who want to impose a top-down order on the world, those who want to fix human nature, reform society, produce a new man.

That’s why a part of the indignation with corruption (that part inflated by authoritarian ideas and behaviors) is more nefarious to humanity than corruption itself.

Of course, corruption is not something good or laudable. But it is necessary to distinguish endemic corruption (extant in all times and in every part, in society and in politics) from the corruption whose objetive is to finance processes of autocratization to correct the outrages and restore some previous order that was allegedly tainted by bad elements that must be punished, by the rotten apples that must be discarded, by the black sheep that must be separated from the flock of the good.

There is no flock of the good. If you’re already in a flock, nothing can be good. Good, for democracy, is all that increases degrees of freedom (therefore incompatible with being in flocks).

When society can tell the State (and the political system) how it must behave, (political) corruption diminishes. Open societies, where there is more freedom, can curb, bring forth and legally punish corruption crimes (not only in political circles, but also in companies and civil organizations). In closed societies, where there are order surpluses and intense dynamics of command-and-control (from the State), one can’t even perceive corruption (which becomes normal in governing strata, then considered a kind of “right” of the nomenklatura). But this systemic corruption (that is, the one that happens as part of the metabolism of dictatorships) is not in the same nature of the old and not totally avoidable endemic corruption which happens when political actors try to take personal or group advantage in some shady transaction, not rarely associating to offend and thus obtain (for themselves or for theirs) some kind of undue advantage.

The subject doesn’t leave the agenda in Brazil due to the successive scandals Mensalão-Petrolão. As those who are in prison know, the objective was never to finance electoral campaigns. The kleptocracy installed in Brazil is not the continuity of the endemic corruption particular to politics, that is practiced almost everywhere and at all times. No, it doesn’t have as an object organizing Caixa 2, but rather Caixa 3. The objective was to finance a parallel State, a structure absolutely necessary to the implementation of the new strategy of the contemporary autocratic left – and of the Worker’s Party – to take power after the electoral conquest of governments. It is necessary, as we have seen, a lot money to finance all this.

But the major problem of the corruption used for all this is not corruption itself, but rather its autocratic purpose. If the purpose was only to enrich its agents, it would be something even banal to a certain extent, and older than the Cathedral of Braga. However, if the purpose is to curb the democratization process, reducing the degrees of freedom of the people, then, then yes: it is very serious!

Some people will read this small treatise and won’t refrain from retorting with platitudes such as: “true, but all corruption is bad, both things (both the endemic corruption and the systemic corruption) must be condemned or must not be tolerated by democracy, they must be both rigorously punished et coetera“. This kind of reaction is almost inevitable: after all, for millennia our heads have been littered with autocratic garbage. We want to see where evil is to pursue it, we want to capture the wicked to punish them. We think evil grows from the bad inclinations of individuals (who either have a really bad nature or didn’t have adequate education).

But here is the problem. Even if we identified, persecuted and eliminated all current corrupts, corruption would continue. Just as sentences of prison and death don’t avoid the occurrence of crimes punished with prison and death, new corrupts will appear right after we put down the old ones. This doesn’t mean we should relax vigilance or not apply laws to curb and punish corruption, but rather that there is something more profoundly wrong with a system that have continually produced corrupts for millennia. However, when we face the threat of the erection of regimes that are able to metabolize the egotistic corruption of individuals and groups in functional dynamics of the system itself, then it’s better to sound red alert. Now, dictatorships, proto-dictatorships and formal-democratic regimes parasitized by neopopulist, manipulative governments are these regimes. That’s why the central problem isn’t corruption but autocratization.

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Translation Notes

[1] “lulopetismo” is a neologism created by political commentators to designate the ideology and strategy behind the Worker’s Party rule in Brazil since 2002, with a special emphasis in the cult of personality centered on Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva, the political leader, main public figure of the party and president between 2002-2010. It is slightly derogatory, and usually used by the opposition.
[2] Pedro Álvares Cabral was a Portuguese nobleman, military commander, navigator and explorer regarded as the discoverer of Brazil. See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedro_%C3%81lvares_Cabral
[3] Administrative divisions and hereditary fiefs of Portugal in the colony of Terra de Santa Cruz, later called Brazil. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Captaincies_of_Brazil
[4] José Sarney de Araújo Costa is a Brazilian politician, lawyer, and writer who was President of Brazil from 15 March 1985 to 15 March 1990. Sarney ascended in the politics of his home state of Maranhão as part of the “Bossa Nova Generation” of UDN politicians in the 1950’s, young idealists seeking to reorganize public administration and rid the government of corruption and old deleterious practices. During the Brazilian military dictatorship, which imposed a two-party system, Sarney affiliated himself with the government party, ARENA, becoming the president of the party in 1979. As the regime fell, however, ARENA split over the appointment of Paulo Maluf as Presidential candidate. Sarney joined the dissenters, being instrumental in the creation of the Liberal Front Party. He agreed to run for Vice-President on the ticket of Tancredo Neves, of PMDB, formerly the opposition party to the military government. Neves won the Presidential elections, but fell ill and died before taking office, and Sarney became President. He started out his term with great popularity, but public opinion shifted with the Brazilian debt crisis and the failure of Plano Cruzado to abate chronic inflation. Over time, Sarney and his family acquired enormous clout over Maranhão’s public life, and he is today regarded as the foremost of Brazil’s oligarchs. Sarney owns the most important newspapers and TV stations in Maranhão, and remains influential there. Sarney has also faced multiple allegations of nepotism and corruption in his career. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jos%C3%A9_Sarney
[5] Fernando Affonso Collor de Mello was the 32nd President of Brazil from 1990 to 1992, when he resigned in a failed attempt to stop his trial of impeachment by the Brazilian Senate. Collor was the first President directly elected by the people after the end of the Brazilian military government. After his resignation from the presidency, the impeachment trial on charges of corruption continued, and Collor was found guilty by the Senate and sentenced to disqualification from holding elected office for eight years (1992–2000). Collor was later acquitted of ordinary criminal charges in his judicial trial before Brazil’s Supreme Federal Court, for lack of valid evidence. After the end of his period of disqualification, Collor was elected as a Senator in the 2006 general elections and began his term in February 2007. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fernando_Collor_de_Mello
[6] Jader Fontenelle Barbalho is a Brazilian politician, businessman and landowner from the state of Pará. He is currently a member of the PMDB party and a Senator for Pará. He is the father of Hélder Barbalho, mayor of Ananindeua, Pará, and the former husband of Federal Deputy Elcione Barbalho. Barbalho is a national figure, known throughout Brazil, albeit a controversial one. There have been raised numerous allegations of corruption and mismanagement of public funds against Barbalho, who owns newspaper Diário do Pará and is part owner of a local TV station (TV Tapajós) of the leading Globo Television network. Starting a political career in Belém with humble possessions, Barbalho became a millionaire after decades in public office. He has held the offices of Federal Deputy over four terms, State Governor twice, Senator thrice and Minister twice. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jader_Barbalho
[7] José Renan Vasconcelos Calheiros is a Brazilian politician and current President of the Senate of Brazil, for the fourth time. He has represented the state of Alagoas in the senate for the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party since 1 February 1995. On February 1, 2013, he was again elected president of the Brazilian Senate, even after facing multiple accusations of corruption and tax evasion. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Renan_Calheiros
[8] Eduardo Cosentino da Cunha is a Brazilian politician and radio host, born in Rio de Janeiro. He has been indicted in the scandal known as ‘Lava Jato’ Operation involving the state-owned oil company Petrobras. Cunha was suspended as speaker of the lower house by Brazil’s Supreme Court on 5 May 2016 due to allegations that he attempted to intimidate members of Congress, and obstructed investigations into his alleged receipt of bribes. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eduardo_Cunha
[9] ‘Coronelismo’ was the Brazilian political machine during the Old Republic (1889-1930) responsible for the centralization of the political power in the hands of a locally dominant oligarch, known as a ‘coronel’, who would dispense favors in return for loyalty.
The patron-client political machines of the countryside enabled agrarian oligarchs, especially coffee planters in the dominant state of São Paulo to dominate state structures to their advantage, particularly the weak central state structures that effectively devolved power to local agrarian oligarchies. In time, growing trade, commerce, and industry in São Paulo would serve to undermine the domination of the republic’s politics by the São Paulo landed gentry (dominated by the coffee industry) and Minas Gerais (dominated by dairy interests) — known then by observers as the politics of ‘café com leite’ (“coffee and milk”).  Under Getúlio Vargas, in the 1930s and 1940s, Brazil moved toward a more centralized state structure that has served to regularize and modernize state governments, moving toward universal suffrage and secret ballots, gradually freeing Brazilian politics from the grips of coronelism. However, the legacy of the oligarchies is still strongly visible in what is described as ‘Neo-Coronelismo’ or electronic coronelism. Brazilian politics is still known for being highly patrimonial, oligarchic, and personalistic as well. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Coronelism
[10] The Mensalão scandal was a vote-buying case of corruption that threatened to bring down the government of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2005. Mensalão is a neologism and variant of the word for “big monthly payment” (salário mensal or mensalidade).
The scandal broke on June 6, 2005 when Brazilian Congressional Deputy Roberto Jefferson told the Brazilian newspaper Folha de S.Paulo that the ruling Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT) had paid a number of Congressional deputies 30,000 reais (around US$12,000 at the time) every month in order to vote for legislation favored by the ruling party. The funds were said to originate from state-owned companies’ advertising budgets, funneled through an advertising agency owned by Marcos Valério. However, the result of the investigation has shown that members of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party, DEM, Brazilian Democratic Movement Party and 7 other political parties were also involved in the scandal. During the investigation, many key advisers to President Lula resigned, while several deputies were faced with the choice of resignation or expulsion from congress, though the president himself went on to be re-elected in 2006, and in 2010 Brazil elected his Chief of Staff, Dilma Rousseff, as president. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mensal%C3%A3o_scandal
[11] Operation Car Wash (Portuguese: Operação Lava Jato) is an investigation being carried out by the Federal Police of Brazil, Curitiba Branch, and judicially commanded by Judge Sérgio Moro since March 17, 2014. Initially a money laundering investigation, it has expanded to cover allegations of corruption at the state-controlled oil company Petrobras, where it is alleged that executives accepted bribes in return for awarding contracts to construction firms at inflated prices. This criminal “system” is known as “Petrolão – Operation Car Wash”. The operation has included the enforcement of more than a hundred warrants for search and seizure, temporary and preventive detention and coercive measures, with the aim of ascertaining a money laundering scheme suspected of moving more than 10 billion Brazilian reals. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Car_Wash
[12] “Nunca antes nesse país” in Portuguese, it is a sentence commonly used by Lula in his speeches during the Worker’s Party government.