top of page

The co-optation of the Brazilian left by capitalist private hegemony apparatus

Image from the movie Lion, by Garth Davis (2016): for the bourgeoisie, philanthropy is the cure for all ills. Photo: disclosure.

This text aims to debate the presence of left-wing leaders on the payroll of business foundations, such as the Institute for Reform of Relations between State and Business (IREE). As its name implies, its mission seems to sweeten the horror.

Therefore, one way is to understand the IREE from the definition of the Private Hegemony Apparatus (PHA), formulated by the Italian Marxist philosopher Antonio Gramsci (1891-1937).

In contemporary Brazil, this concept has been used as the basis for periodizing analyzes of the national situation by historians such as Virgínia Fontes, from the Fluminense Federal University (UFF).

In a presentation in São Paulo, at the end of 2019, the professor used Gramsci's term to show how the Brazilian bourgeoisie has acted to keep the State and popular movements under control according to their interests.

In a general sense, PHAs are civil society organizations, such as schools, churches, unions, parties, the press, and others.

These entities can either represent the interests of the working class, or the interests of the ruling class, such as employers' unions, for example.

"These associations are always social classes issues," warns Fontes. "Although this does not always appear clearly."

“In Brazil, throughout the 20th century, the State was open to the expansion of bourgeois associative apparatus and was truculent and violent with popular organizations," she says.

After the promulgation of the 1988 constitution, the bourgeoisie began to organize itself a little differently. That was when the business foundations with a philanthropic and non-profit base and the multi-sector liberal institutes emerged.

This associative group works on “convincing and training workers and workers' leaders."

"These business apparatuses try to create popular leaders in three areas: education, racism, and feminism," explains Fontes.

For her, these agendas are sensitive because the bourgeoisie recognizes that “the struggle against capital is in them, so it is necessary to disarm them," she explains.

The researcher offers numerous examples and focuses on a specific one, the Todos pela Educação Movement. “Business in Brazil organized civil society entities to educate the Brazilian State and to define what the education policy, provided for in the constitution, should be, and how this policy should be formulated, evaluated, and implemented," she reveals.

“To face the capital it is necessary to understand where the capital is," she says. “When you go to the websites of these institutes," she continues, “and there are thousands of websites of these capitalist civil societies, they claim that they are transforming the world." “If it's working out so well, something should have changed already, right?,” she asks, to confirm: “This is class struggle."

In the Brazilian political scenario, the appropriation of popular agendas by capitalist institutes led to a disastrous result. “It meant to completely erode the party structure. The political parties bent down, on the one hand, to corporate financing and, on the other, to their business agenda. The democratic devastation they have wrought is terrible.”

The existence of the IREE follows the primer of the bourgeois-based philanthropic society. The institute is part of an American network, with partners such as the Global Americans. It is not by chance that it aims to train leaders who claim to be on the left, such as Guilherme Boulos, with the consent of PSOL.

Another well-known example is that of Congresswoman Tabata Amaral and the Lehman Foundation. The deputy was elected precisely because of her guidelines in the field of education.

What is even more serious is the naturalization of the debate, as if spurious co-optation represented the only possible path for the working class, since it is camouflaged with expressions such as “democratic and plural debate”. It's just propaganda and manipulation.

These examples are the result of a concrete strategy of co-optation based on these hegemonic “non-profit” and “philanthropic” apparatuses that aim to influence the outcome of elections and the political party system in Brazil.

It is necessary to know and expose this system of capitalist PHAs in its entirety.

Professor Virgínia Fontes' full lecture is in this YouTube link (Portuguese only):


bottom of page