[Marxism] Brazil's MST: 'Our challenge is to fight for structural reforms'

Ralph Johansen mdriscollrj at charter.net
Mon Nov 10 13:14:56 MST 2014

Richard Levins wrote

The contradiction that faces the 'moderate left' in Latin America is a 
conflict between law and justice because the laws were written to 
protect landed property. The new governments are obliged to enforce the 
law (or replace it with a with new constitutions). It took a thousand 
years since the Magna Carta to construct bourgeois law so that it works 
fairly well to keep power in the hands of the owning classes. Now 
traditional indigenous decision making, Zapatista consensus building, 
the Cuban constitution, the new constitutions in the ALBA countries are 
all part of the process of creating the new rule of law for the new 
system of justice. So do not criticize the ways in which the new 
governments deviate from bourgeois law but rather their difficulties in 
creating a new legal system based on justice.

On 11/9/14, 6:45 PM, "Stuart Munckton via Marxism" 
<marxism at lists.csbs.utah.edu> wrote:




I read this as I happened also to be reading Meszaros's The Power of 
Ideology (1989, revised with a new introduction in 2005), where the 
following appears on pp. 430-431 - approaching these problems, including 
the juridical problem, from a related perspective:

    Moreover, since the 'invisible hand' at work in the capitalist
    market is also the 'invisible totalizer' of the fragmentarily
    constituted overall productive and distributive complex, a new and
    equally powerful totalizer must be found to take over the vital
    coordinating and integrative functions of its abolished
    predecessor.. Also, 'socialist accumulation' remains for a long time
    as pressing an imperative in post-capitalist societies as capital
    accumulation used to be in the inherited system, if not more so.
    Consequently, on both counts - i.e. both as regards the necessity to
    find an alternative to the 'invisible totalizer' and the need for an
    authority capable of imposing on the producers a forced rate of
    'socialist accumulation' on the ground of the existing 'state of
    emergency' - the post-capitalist state, under the prevailing
    historical circumstances - has to assume the role of a centralized
    political controlling authority. As a result, new resistances are
    created through the structural mismatch between the post-capitalist
    state's objective constitution and the task of economically managing
    the everyday functions of production and distribution. To add insult
    to injury, for the new material and human resistances (and for the
    failures caused primarily by the state's inadequacies to deal
    successfully, as promised, with the task of improving socioeconomic
    reproduction) the blame is put on a mythical 'internal enemy.' At
    the same time, the vicious circle of instituting more centralized
    political control in order to compensate for the economic failures
    of centralized control is further strengthened. setting into motion
    a process of state-bureaucratic development which has its
    self-sustaining logic and inertia.

    Clearly, then, bureaucratization is quite prominent in
    post-capitalist societies. But just as clearly, it is not simply the
    consequence of 'political degeneration'. Nor could it be rectified
    by the adoption of even the most radical set of political measures.
    For its causes arise in the first place from the inherited material
    structures, and from the corresponding social division of labor  to
    which the unavoidable juridical intervention against capitalist
    private property adds its further complications.There is no way of
    avoiding the severe practical dilemma which, one the one hand, calls
    for a most powerful centralized intervention (both for abolishing
    the the exploitative socioeconomic relations wedded to the old
    property system and for protecting the new juridical form against
    internal and external subversion) while, on the other hand, also
    anticipates the much more difficult task of genuinely decentralizing
    and profoundly restructuring the instrumental and institutional
    complexes of societal reproduction in their entirety.

    It is fairly obvious that capitalist private property cannot be
    abolished without the power of a centralized political authority.
    For even its partial (and completely reversible) curtailment, in the
    form of the well-known post-war 'nationalizations', needed the
    intervention of the centralized capitalist state. What is less
    obvious though, because of the impersonal character of the
    spontaneously imposed capitalistic decision making processes and
    structures, is that the system of generalized commodity production
    is authoritarian to the core; and that it could not function at all
    without remaining authoritarian at the level of 'civil society',
    i.e. where the hierarchically ordered material reproductive
    structures of society are complemented by an equally hierarchical
    authority of decision making from which the producers are
    categorically excluded.

    This is the material reproductive framework which the
    post-capitalistic society of necessity inherits. Changing the
    juridical form of entitlement to control does not ipso facto change
    the materially embedded hierarchical structure of metabolic control
    itself to which the system, as it stands, is successfully amenable.
    For in the form in which it is taken over from the capitalist order,
    it is in tune only with authoritarian modes of decision making.
    Thus, also under this latter aspect, the post-capitalist state
    cannot help being authoritarian (and correspondingly bureaucratic)
    for as long as the inherited reproductive framework itself is not
    effectively restructured and profoundly democratized, in a way
    totally unimaginable under the conditions of capitalist market
    society. No amount of political goodwill can be a substitute for

And what follows in that text and in Meszaros's subsequent writings 
seems equally apposite (in addition to the declared project for 
democratising the media), and addresses the seemingly inevitable 
authoritarian imperatives in the "restructuring of political power in 
Brazil and its rules of functioning" in ways that go well beyond the 
posing of the problem here.

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