There is a tradition among left-wing forces, whether moderate or radical, of believing in education to “raise awareness” and initiate an individual politically. There is a consensus that quality educational processes would be enough to “disalienate” the oppressed. Within a historical context of widespread suppression of the right to education, high rates of illiteracy and precariousness of public schools, it makes sense that this position has support. But education, in this process, has limits.
Just as important for this “awakening” is what we could call the “cultural ecosystem” in which the individual is inserted. It is the set of places and affective and subjective references in which we grow up immersed and carry out symbolic exchanges. They can explain the political awareness of illiterate figures, or those with little education, such as the leaders of the Peasant League, the members of the Revolta da Chibata, or even the formation of the worker Luís Inácio, in São Paulo’s ABC. In other words, as well as the content shared in these places, the form, the emotional ties, the symbolic networks of support and trust that an individual establishes are equally important.
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The construction of this ecosystem varies in each historical location, in each class, or in each group crossed by other identity markers. It can be formed by the family, by the cultural environment of the school, but also by a diverse layer of ideological emitters who coexist with this individual, on the streets or on digital networks. The importance of reflecting on them is understanding how to consciously occupy them, compete for these places, combat some, and even create others. And mainly: knowing how to see them ideologically and not neglecting their political-cultural importance.
When we talk about these sending places, we are not just talking about organizations or cultural centers, so to speak, “educational”, but any and all meeting places, such as bars, churches, associations, clubs, sports groups, etc. Aware that capitalist hegemony operates in the invisibility of its domination, the left needs to understand that all possible encounters in the life of the working class can and must be operated ideologically. But what kind of encounters are we talking about?
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We usually understand that ideological meetings would be those that are formally educational: such as meetings, training, enjoyment of works of art, readings, etc. However, any type of meeting is subject to ideological formation, and, therefore, subject to intervention: meeting to drink, to eat, to play sports, to pray, to move around, to be “distracted” or to have fun. It is in the sum of all these ideological emissions, caused in each encounter, that critical, contesting or passive and conservative personalities are formed in ordinary people. All of them are basically long-term meetings that provide coexistence that creates affective and emotional networks. Of relationships of trust and credibility between people. Fundamental basis for ideological formation.
When the organized left designs actions in the cultural sphere, it focuses its forces on the construction of, so to speak, “traditional” actions (exhibitions, festivals, etc.). However, while energy and money are deposited in a middle-class cultural center, located in rich neighborhoods, with architecture and symbols that alienate the poorest, large sections of the working population are ideologically formed by frequenters of corner bars and false pastors in churches. with plastic chairs.
It is therefore necessary to evaluate at each historical moment, which would be the most suitable places for the cultural formation of the people, beyond formal prejudices. In other times, this place was the union, or within Catholic Pastorals. In financial capitalism, which makes work “precarious”, this coexistence is spread across various cultural places, spread across the territory.
Thus, we can guarantee that, currently, meetings in suburban bars and weekend evangelical services are fundamental to the political-cultural formation of the working class. Today, they are worth much more than cultural centers or unions for ideological construction. They are two basic and self-sustained ideological devices, as the believer pays his tithe, and the alcoholic pays for the beer he buys in preaching places. Both build, in their own way, support networks and subjective bonds.
However, the majority of them reproduce reactionary and fascist content, received via WhatsApp, evangelical media outlets or TV on Jovem Pan. They all have a simple structure and act not in an occasional way, but in a procedural way, creating emotional bonds and bonds. . Over time, they disseminate political and cultural opinions that are deeply rooted in their participants.
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The question that remains is: why does the organized left remain distant from these places to this day? It is necessary to occupy bars, temples and any space that builds bonds and networks and that makes sense within leftist ideals. Although there are some limits, not every place is subject to resignification, as are the “Shooting Clubs” today, spaces with strong fascist ideologization that must simply be combated.
Furthermore, progressive cultural action needs to analyze and investigate each case and understand that they will also have historical cycles. In the recent past, the creation of pre-university courses was one of the strongest initiatives of organized movements. Currently, MTST’s Popular Kitchens are successful examples of places invented to create networks of support and affection. They have the potential to become true peripheral cultural centers, hosting meetings, sports, parties: spread across the territory, they have simple structures and organicity in the community. As were the literacy centers, created by Paulo Freire, still in Pernambuco.
It is important that the Brazilian left studies and understands these cultural actions. In Latin America, there are other important examples, such as the groups created by the Bolivian Movimento Al Socialismo (MAS) and the “Bolivarian Circles” in Venezuela. It is necessary to observe how, through these initiatives, they managed to build identity, support networks, subjective relationships and, of course, ideological formation, regardless of their political positions. It is necessary to go beyond prejudices (often class) and understand the dynamics of formation and development of these meetings and places, of any type, knowing how to act in them, and even create others, and thus, expanding the sphere of political and cultural action of the society. organized working class.
* Guilherme Leite Cunha is a producer and cultural critic. Creator of the art criticism magazine DAZIBAO, he has a master’s degree in Aesthetics and art history from the University of São Paulo, and researches the relationship between culture and politics.
** This is an opinion text. The author’s view does not necessarily express the editorial line of the newspaper Brasil de Fato.
Editing: Rodrigo Chagas