Reading this manifesto makes our «statist» prejudices surface. Is it the beginning of a therapy or is it a new addiction? My conspiracy theory (strategy is the conspiracy of life within the mind): Ayn Rand, albeit all her merits in fighting a tiranny which was being sold as the quintessence of freedom, she was fighting a windmill. That has its merits too, but they are D. Quijote's. Rand defended a pure capitalism, which never grew up to be an angel, and, which got blended with many other things, because mankind is plural and historical. But her gesturing, which resorted to brilliant rhetorical blows, never amounted to build a philosophy, as she claimed. It was a new style of being intellectual. The fight within the fight, Rose Luxemburg alluded to, on the theme of «Class struggle», was no major finding, it was only the verification of an european genetic code, where many tribes and cultures, had to accomodate a territory side by side, before the wild, wild Atlantic. The libertarian merits of early capitalism, where given a very bad reputation by a much more pragmatic and ruthless state capitalism, desguised in new clothes and labeled «communism», as a romantic evocation of a pristine past and of a mystical future. But Moscow inspired national-socialism: the once deputy of the italian communist party, Niccolò Bombacci, was gunned down, shoulder to shoulder, with the super-fascists, lake Como behind, his fist in the air, shouting «Long live Socialism! Long live Mussolini!». National-socialists and Bolsheviks partioned the geno and ethnocide of 22.000 officers and foot-soldiers of the Polish Army, in Katyn. These are facts, not episodes. No, Ayn Rand didn't amount to be a philosopher. She was a very good publicist, a master in counter-propaganda, a superb caricaturist of western philosophy. This said, she has no consistency to give a nicer view of the ruins perpetrated by the neo-conservatives, who, at least, didn't have the hipocrisy of hiding behind a novelist. In conclusion: it is true that we live between the Witch Doctor and Attila, in their different blendings, I concede to Ayn Rand. But then, we do not live, we've just been caught. Is the return to pure capitalism, the guarantee to live again, instead of just muddling through? There, we have to resort to the historical analysis and Ayn Rand is too indulgent with the genocides perpetrated by «free-enterprise» (I omit «capitalism») and I'm stupified by her ignorance of the boxer wars and how they did begin (among other wars on «savages»). We have to avoid to be in a «statist state of mind», I agree, but the State's state of fact is much more complex than Ayn Rand depicts it, and surviving is not a choice between oppression and relief, as the dentist-torturer in «The Marathon Man», starring Dustin Hoffman, would have put it.
This novel, possibly translated as «The sad end of Mr. Policarpo Quaresma», is generally described as a novel written by a libertarian writer. Yes, it is from that epoch, whem libertarians didn't have to be rubber-stamped by Ayn Rand to become respectable, but who, nonetheless, stretched from a pacifist Lev Tolstoin, to a genocidal Henri Michel. The writer was a «mulato», with the african and european traits, quite conspicuous in his physiognomy. It is amazing how these characteristics were important, that time. A writer, with such traits, wouldn't be taken seriously, or, alternatively, he had to fight an up-will battle just to be published, not to mention to be respected or live decently. Not everybody had the witchy crafts of Machado de Assis, in the creative streets of old Rio. Lima Barreto died young, as an alcoholic. In this book, he demonstrates, by means of a model civil servant named Policarpo Quaresma, who devoted all his life to Brazil, how a generous ideal may turn into the hallmark of human tragedy. Policarpo didn't marry, he was a diligent civil servant, who even managed to learn tupi-guarani and who dared to propose it as the official language of Brazil. But he had no relevant studies, he was mostly an auto-didact and the boss who received the proposal, felt himself humilliated, by a subordinate, who knew better than him. Then it comes the consulate of Floriano Peixoto, the military who had congeminated the fall of the monarchy, who became the first vice-president of the new brazilian republic, and the second President, reputed as an authoritarian. Marshall Peixoto belonged to that middle-class in Rio, which flirted jacobinism, which abhorred the portuguese still remnant in the Empire's system, and who was able to shoot around to get a centralized Brazil rather than a regional, fragmentable federation. That is why Policarpo, who saluted the advent of the Republic as the realm of merit, and who even managed to get close to the Marshall and pass him a memorandum he spent years on, for the rehabilitation of Brazil's agriculture, misunderstands eveything. When former rivals take arms against Floriano Peixoto -- and they end up defeated (this, at the beginning of a long series of putsches in Brazil) -- the diligent Quaresma dares to ask mercy for some of them, before the death squad lines up. The novel ends with the reader never really knowing whether Mr. Policarpo Quaresma, finishes himself before the death squad, too. Is this the anguished chronicle of a libertarian on the Republic, or a nostalgic evocation of the Empire? Lima Barreto didn't live to tell us. One thing was certain: he longed for a Justice which could never come at gun point. If the scent of the Republic was the one of powder, he, a «mulato», would always be one of the sand bags, or a genetic target, moving in the crossfire.
CXVI – Contos Novos, Mário de Andrade, comments by André Bandeira
These «New Tales», by Mário de Andrade, who died at 52, in 1945, were projected to be titled «Worse Tales» if they ever had to be accomplished, before death came on the way. Generally, they protest what the week of 1922, strived for: that one could interject modernity in Brasil, without changing deeply social conditions. From the point of view of a bipolar mind, what Mário de Andrade was contending for, was that technological and mental progress would only pierce through, if there were a kind of socialism, to be implemented in Brazil. However, while reading these tales, one gets the notion that Mário de Andrade was very much critic of what socialists and communists were looking for. In the tale «First of May», he describes the generosity of a warlike young worker, ready to punch a policeman, anytime that day, as naif, narcisistic and brute energy, mostly arising from a burgeoning nature than any reasonable consistency. It is the same burgeoning nature which gives a place for homossexuality in « Frederico Paciência», this said, in the early forties, of the XXth Century. But that doesn’t work for the other tales. Social inequality becomes human disgrace, only when the people responsible for the others (not only the boss, but also the collection of «others») make no effort, or simplily are nescient about an individual drama. That is why, in the last tale «A camisolinha» («The little night-gown»), a child of somebody, we would say today was rising from Class D, to middle-Class C, offers a starfish, to a portuguese worker, «skinny and barbaric» he was, finally unloading to the sympathetic child, why he is standing there, infinitely sad about his moribund wife and seven children («bad luck!», he sighs). The child ends up injuncting the disgraced immigrant to accept that sign of good luck, which is everything that he has, a child who doesn’t even have underwear, besides his ridiculous «little night-gown» he’s been dressed in. No wonder Mário de Andrade died young, with a heartattack. How to reconcile collective compulsions with individual drama? «Nelson» stands for his most mysterious tale: a former rich landlord, happily married to a parguayan, abbandoned by the wife in the sequence of the brazilian-paraguayan war, and who, after surviving the wounds of some civil war in Brazil, lives the rest of his life, gossiped around and misantropic. It is time to say that the enormous heart of brazilian middle-class, descends from a latin-american ancestry, whose very heavy luggage, was the final thing, the worker of «First of May», found to exert his burgeoning muscles. An old man had tried to put his heavy suitcases on the tram, but he stopped, scratching his head, till the young worker came along.
When one sees the movie «Michael Collins», from 1996, and when one reads this 800 pages long History of the Irish Republican Army, of which edition has been revised on 1986, one tries to sum up a turbulent sequence of events: first, there is the Easter rising, in Dublin, on 1916, and the declaration of independence of the Irish Republic; then there is the establishment of the Dail Eireánn ( a parliament freely elected by the Irish, scorning the British rule), on 1919, and the proclamation of the Republic of Ireland, followed by the anglo-irish war; then there is the negotiation of a Treaty, by Michael Collins, with the British, which leads to the Irish Free State, in 1922; then there is the Irish civil war, between 1922 and 1923; then there is the proclamation of the Republic of Eire, led by de Valera, on 1937, and the exit from the British Commonwealth, as well as the neutrality during the Second World War; and finally there is the proclamation of the Republic of Ireland, on 1948, which leads Ireland to the United Nations, on 1955, and keeps it out of NATO, on the same year. I see here, nothing less than four proclamations of the Republic. In the meantime, there is an Irish Republican Army which fights against the British, then there is an IRA which fights against Irish of the Free State, then there is a contemporary IRA which fights against the protestant majority of Northern provinces which stood only one month under ther Free State, and which accepted the Good Friday agrement, for catholic-protestant power share, only on 1998. The IRA is historically an army of volunteers who fought for the independence and unity of Ireland. But it acts much more as an huge guerrilla network, than as a regular army. Nevertheless, and according with the book, it is not an irregular army. It also seems to be hand in glove with vast segments of the southern irish population, as well as with the irish diaspora, and very much in accordance to rites of initiation as well as some code of honour in the irish catholic tradition, which has very much of mediterranean, and terror. It is nevertheless disturbing, how easily the last consequences of violence, are drawn from the turbulent institution of the contemporary Ireland. According to the communists of the Comintern, Irish were «too mexican» so that Stalin decided to arm and equip them. According to Herman Goercz, the nazi spy living in Dublin during WWII, they were individually very brave but they were nothing, militarly speaking, as a body. Sean Russell, who commanded a bomb campaign in England, on the eve of WWII, died from stomach ulcer in a Nazi german submarine, in the arms of Francis Ryan, a international brigade volunteer, who had been imprisoned by Franco and, committed to the Nazis, after narrowingly escaping the death squad. Both of them were IRA officers, and they were trying to reach Ireland, supported by the nazis and on their free will, to sabotage the British. After this readings, one has the impression, that, when a Nation wants to get rid of an Empire, it is better to let it happen, the way it is, and not postpone the collapsing of an ideal umbrella, which has no longer any weather to protect us against. The irish nobility had already been uprooted from Ireland, during the «flight of the earls», three centuries before. The Irish had no king and their choice wouldn't certainly be between a scotish catholic Tudor and a german Orange. Any good monarchy is based on a solid Republic, which is unthinkable without a nation, although it may found it. A national monarchy adds a lot to any Republic as both this book and the movie «Michael Collins» enlighten us. Collins was heroical and ruthless. Notwithstanding, he was intelectually prudent and altruistic. He knew he should play the moderation card, when everybody around him was drunk with blood. But, as a leader, he had not the notion of a degree of sovereignty above him, to suspend the political and belligerent speculation he was deeply drown in, way above his neck. It was Eamonn De Valera who managed to do that, despite his squalid personality. Shall I say that a conservative is better than a revolutionary when the commonwealth has been beheaded, and the radar of our life, lies on a mat, seeing and lessoning in the void? No. What I say is that the squalor of conservantism, which is so often tempted by greed and cruelty, is just a sign that the commonwealth has been beheaded. Furthermore, looking for recovering a head with eyes, ears, and a all-weather of expressions we call sensibility, should be the first priority of any revolution. Else, those who have the fortune, of prolonguing the existence of a headless body, thanks to a strict conservantism, the only thing they are condemned to do for the rest of their lives, it is to refrain from cruelty and comfort in desolation. That is not enough for any commonwealth and, at a certain point, it is even oppressive, unbearably oppressive.
This is a selection of texts, signed by the escaped-from-USSR Ayn Rand, with names such as Alan Greenspan, Nathaniel Branden, and othet objectivists. It dates back to the mid-sixties, during the demonstrations against the Vietnam War, during Lyndon Johnson's term. When someone navigates in the world of books, one steps in a special universe, which anticipates, in a reversible spacetime, new techniques of communication. But the verbal language has its own devices, because -- at least in its contemporay layout -- it is both sufficiently old and hopelessly young, as not to surface depurated of survivalism. Rand is schocking when she says that altruism is morally wrong, and she is not kidding. She says that it would be better live in a desert island, than in the USSR or nazi Germany -- she had never lived in a desert island, of course, and, in this archipel of desert islands she is still string-attached to the utopias and abstractions such as Daniel Defoe's. That's why she stops in the first generation «Rights of Man» and, at a certain point -- in her very political/ideological way -- she is one of the best templates for the minimal state enthusiasts. Her experience as a soviet citizen, justifies the mood she has chosen for life. But it doesn't justify her attacks in evreything which stands for western History. She attacks the «Popolorum Progression», of Paul the VI, considering it a kind of fascist encyclic, or at least, a statist one, where communism, fascism and statism are blended. She argues superbly, using contrasting pieces of the political discourse and reaching to very obvious maxims, which have their wake-up value in the general stream of words. But her capitalism, the perfect one, probably worked once in a while in perfect conditions, which rapidly tend to vanish. It is a libertarian utopia, probably better to figure out, even to keep us alive and dignified, than other baroque, nightmarish, neurotic utopias. But, in what boils down to reality, it is a vast, mixed, consensus society, where consensus, often gets duped by intrinsic and never-ending power games. Besides, her evidence (where, episodically, Alan Greenspan and Nathaniel Branden officiate), especially about the Middle-Age in Europe, is dubious and very partial -- as a matter of fact it focus on some History philosophers and not on Historians. In this universe of superb language, Ayn Rand -- so prone and keen, as she is, in keeping us awake against totalitarian hypnotizers, who make tricks look like magic -- she has a sudden crush for a type of non-verbal language: it is what she calls, the light-bulb look that sometimes rushes even to a child's face. That is the sign of Reason. I think Ayn Rand was too naif, to count on accolytes such as Alan Greenspan, she was overstretched in her insistence in Morality, instead of Morals, and she cannot hide a strange hint of Pride, which makes out of its apparently lucid Objectivism, a very wide room for satanism. This said, all her criticism of the blend fascism/comunism/statism is very valid, as well as her caricature of Analytic Philosophy, Pragmatism, and Marxism. Notwithstanding, it seems that she manages to wipe away that dust, only to uncover some old stubborness, where «freedom» leaves us with the bitter question of «freedom for what?».