By Fabio Reis Vianna for The Saker Blog
In 1914, Countess Kleinmichel, a typical representative of the Russian aristocracy, offered her nieces what for her would be a “modest” fantasy ball: 300 guests divided into small and full tables, as was customary in the high-wheels of that society as divided as it was unequal.
While the extravagant elites of Moscow and St. Petersburg lived in exuberant mansions filled with works of art and furniture, the rest of the population survived in misery and long working hours, and the inhabitants of the countryside and the most distant villages of the great centers were practically challenged during the long and hard winter to resist the threatening presence of hunger.
In a dystopian Brazil of 2019, amidst the unprecedented fires in the Amazon Forest, we see a country in a post-traumatic state, stunned by the destabilization it has been suffering since the Color Revolution of June 2013 – the same one that triggered the total submission of the High Command of the Armed Forces to American interests – and culminated in raising Bolsonaro to power, a dangerous element whose sole purpose is to deliver the assets of the country to those who command it: Steve Bannon and Donald Trump.
At other times in Brazilian history,
winds from outside precipitated abrupt changes
It is becoming increasingly clear that the world system is going through a reordering of its geopolitical framework, and that the escalation of interstate conflicts and the progressive systemic chaos in important nations of the system is a direct consequence of the absence of global leadership.
The end of yet another long cycle of international politics, astonishing as it may be, has proven to be imminent and plausible since President Putin, in a 2007 speech, made clear his dissatisfaction with NATO’s enlargement to the western edges of the Russian border.
It was the end of illusions: the utopian cosmopolitan world, liberal and without conflict, ceases to exist from the evidence of the Russian resurgence as a military power in 2015, in Syria, and from the consolidation of the Chinese economic leap.
The New National Security Strategy of the United States was thus designed, in light of the new multipolar reality that presented itself at the dawn of the 21st century, leaving behind any reminiscence of the liberal order forged and led by the Americans themselves at the end of the last hegemonic war in 1945.
As became clear and documented on December 18, 2017, the new american strategy thus names its new enemies: the “dangerous revisionist powers”, Russia and China.
Thus, by giving up the leadership of the system, the Americans leave the way clear for the reboot mode Mad Max: an insane and dangerous dispute, without rules, for global technological, military and commercial hegemony. From then on, in the savage logic imposed by the old hegemon, cornered by new emerging powers, those who were not blindly aligned with their interests would be treated as enemies.
During the last six months of 2019, the news about the global economic outlook was not at all encouraging. No matter how much the world press reduces the issue to the aggravation of the trade war between the United States and China, what is actually happening is the breaking up of the interstate conflict. It involves not only trade issues, but also disputes typical of moments of inflection of systemic cycles of international politics.
The dispute over the dominance of 5G technology and the increasingly fierce race for natural resources and rare earths are clear examples that the world is moving towards inflexible configurations of antagonistic alliances between countries.
Historically, waves of important technological innovations, coupled with increased tensions between hegemonic powers, and challenging emerging powers have predicted the outbreak of an impending global conflict.
Germany, Europe’s leading country and driving force, is for the first time seen, after years of strong growth, almost entering recession (German GDP grew by only 0.1% in the third quarter of the year, according to the Federal Bureau of Statistics), which is likely to drag with it an entire continent still fractured and not recovered from the 2008 crisis.
The rise of ultra-rightists in major countries such as Italy and the United Kingdom triggers the red alert and leads us to a deja vu nuisance, due to lamentable and dangerous events that occurred in the years preceding the last two world wars.
When he still aspired to become a premier, Matteo Salvini, invoking Mussolini, at the top of his popularity and without the slightest ceremony, issued the dangerous phrase: “I ask the Italians to give me full powers”.
At the same time, the British Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, in an unprecedented act, almost conquered full powers with the Queen’s acceptance to suspend the Parliament in the final stretch of the Brexit.
These are strange times that reveal the state of anarchy of the international system. Anarchy that tends to worsen with the imminence of a devastating global recession already heralded by the world media.
As if the long German recession that is approaching were not enough, the signs of a Chinese and American debt crisis are visible. Since the 2008 crash, China has had to deal with an excessive debt that both local industry and consumers have contracted over the last few years.
The United States, since the beginning of the permissive monetary policy initiated in 2009, has reached 2019 with a fiscal deficit of US$ 1 trillion; at the same time, it is carrying out a colossal increase of US$ 700 billion in the Pentagon budget, putting firewood on the fire of the arms race that is drawing for the coming years.
The centrifugal forces of popular dissatisfaction that are gradually forming in the heart of the old main stage of the hegemonic wars of the world system, Europe, are a thermometer of what may be to come.
The harsh reality imposed on the European Union, when it sees itself practically jettisoned by the Americans of the historical military protection guaranteed as a fundamental condition for the pacification of the continent, and against the supposed Russian threat, imposes France and Germany, the two major continental powers, to carry out the project of common European defense, at the risk of, otherwise, the growing tensions between the United States and the Eurasian integration project led by Russia and China swallow Europe up, disintegrating it and throwing it back into the chaos that historically always leads to protests, popular rebellions and, ultimately, revolutionary insurgencies.
The internal war, within the middle classes and elites of the main nations of the world system, is also clear in Brazilian society, which at this exact moment in its history is extremely divided and polarized, after witnessing the destruction and weakening of its economy and republican institutions.
With the historical aggravating factor of a tradition of direct interference in the Brazilian political process that dates back to 1889, the military, urged by the messianic idea that they would be a kind of Moderator Power of the Republic in times of systemic crisis, intervene again in the process to impose order, restoring the old strategic alliance with the Americans.
More than eleven months after the arrival to power of the former captain of the extreme right, Jair Bolsonaro, duly protected by a board of generals inside the Planalto Palace, Brazil is in the midst of the open dispute for the hegemony of an international order in an anarchic state, and where ethical parameters of coexistence, apparently, are temporarily suspended until a new leadership and a new cycle of peace and stability begins, with new rules and institutions.
In this scenario, it is increasingly clear that Brazil is one of the stages where the hegemonic dispute has been more intense and sophisticated, to the point that Brazilian society itself has not yet realized it.
Since Brazil was framed by the United States to oppose the Eurasian axis and prevent those countries from having unrestricted access to the Brazilian agricultural frontier and natural resources, the recession and discouragement have been deepening as something unprecedented in our history.
According to a study by economist Marcelo Neri, director of the Getúlio Vargas Foundation, “the concentration of income in Brazil is experiencing the longest cycle of increasing inequality in its history, and the concentration of income has been growing in the country for over five years. In the last 17 consecutive quarters, the Gini Index, given that it measures the level of social inequality, has been growing continuously”.
“Not even in 1989, which was our historical peak of Brazilian inequality, was there a movement of concentration of income for so many consecutive periods,” says the study.
Almost 12 million workers are unemployed and surviving in the informal economy at the moment. Extreme poverty increased by 47% between 2014 and 2018, in Rio de Janeiro alone – where people live on less than 40 dollars a month – and the increase in people sleeping on the streets of big cities is visible.
This situation leads us to intuit that the hypothesis of an international financial crisis combined with the internal economic and institutional crisis in which Brazil is already living could unleash a spiral of popular dissatisfaction that would end up exploding in protests, rebellions, even chaos and, ultimately, revolutionary insurgency itself.
The rise in meat prices this week due to the devaluation of the Brazilian real against the dollar is one more element in this already burning cauldron.
The protests that have spread throughout South America in recent months are a clear sign of this trend and Brazil is not an island.
Serious analysts such as the philosopher Vladimir Safatle already speak openly that we live in a pre-insurgent political climate in the country. At other times in Brazilian history, winds from outside ended up precipitating abrupt internal changes, as was the case of the crisis of 1929, which buried the Old Republic and brought Getúlio Vargas to power.
History preaches a lot of tricks to incautious analysts who seek precedents within the very object of analysis, but at the same time that in decadent Czarist Russia there were not sufficiently rooted institutions, it experienced an explosion of economic progress, combined with extreme inequality and increasingly frayed internal divisions. A giant and vast country; at the same time modern and avant-garde, autocratic and conservative. Uncontrollable.
The end of this story could not even the most imaginative analysts predict…
Fabio Reis Vianna, lives in Rio de Janeiro, is a bachelor of laws( LL.B), writer and geopolitical analyst. He is currently a columnist in international politics for the printed version of the centennial Brazilian newspaper Monitor Mercantil.