Sleepless Nights and Starry Skies
THE World Cup is not about football. If a country becomes a candidate for organizing this event, it is because football absolves the same function today as the spectacle of the gladiators did in ancient Rome, and because it is a golden opportunity for the managerial State to extend its economic development and political influence by leaps and bounds. The Cup incurs a monstrous cost, however the returns on investment will almost certainly be juicy. Brazil, considered one of the world’s major economic powers, is counting on moving up the echelons by organizing the Cup and the Olympic Games. The World Cup is also a project of power to bridle social tensions and worship the spectacle. For State bodies and economic interests, it is an opportunity to create the conditions to open up new markets, put an end to certain kinds of resistance and achieve a qualitative leap in the occupation of the territory and capitalist exploitation. This is the modern High Mass of the State and Capital, where the arrogance of power is exhibited in the spectacle of the stadiums, the howling masses, screens, live broadcasts and national pride. The granting of the organization of the 2014 World Cup to the Brazilian State has meant an immediate systematic intensification of the management of “social peace.” New police units, the Unidades de Polícia Pacificadora (UPP), have emerged, created along the model of the infamous “pacification operations” implanted since 2008 in dozens of tough neighbourhoods and favelas of Rio de Janeiro. The State has regained military control of the neighbourhoods in the name of the war on drug trafficking. According to official figures more than 5,500 people have been killed by police in Rio de Janeiro alone in the space of four years. In neighbourhoods where gangs of traffickers have been hunted down, the paramilitaries are now calling the shots.
But the World Cup obviously does not only have the uniformed side to it. For a sum exceeding 3500 million dollars, stadiums have been built in strategic points of the cities. Favelas have been evicted and razed to the ground to build new middle class neighbourhoods, shopping centres, luxury hotels and beach facilities. The transport axis and motorways have been redeveloped and secured; airports, ports and electricity networks have been built or rebuilt. In Rio de Janeiro 250,000 people have been evicted from their homes to make way for construction projects related to the World Cup 2014 and the 2016 Olympic Games. Brazilian Justice has not concealed its intentions about its plans for the future of all these stadiums most of which will only accommodate a few games: studies are underway to examine how the new stadiums in Manaus, Brasilia, Cuiabá and Natal could be turned into prisons. The World Cup is therefore an operation of social cleansing. The State and Capital are getting rid of the undesirables, the segments of the population that have become superfluous in commodity circulation and can only become sources of unrest. All the same it would be a mistake to consider this operation an “exception” that democracies legitimize through the World Cup: it is well and truly a restructuring and intensification of social control and exploitation. World Cup or crisis, war or reconstruction, natural disasters or emergencies… power has us dangling from “emergency situations” that are in fact the very core of capitalist and State progress. The World Cup ceremony opens up every conceivable market. And this does not only concern real estate speculation or the security industry. For months farmers have been reporting that trucks full of cocaine have been coming and going from Colombia to meet the “needs” of the three million tourists expected. Just as happened during the World Cup in South Africa in 2010, prostitution will grow vertiginously. On the construction sites of the stadiums numerous immigrant workers work under particularly hard conditions, the companies flogging them in order to meet deadlines. Not to mention the different power factions in Brazil that are negotiating and entering into agreements with the government: the drug gangs are taking care of the dirty work of expelling people who resist the urbanization programs too much, whereas the paramilitaries are employed by companies to ensure security on construction sites and to crush strikes and protests through blackmail and murder. But the new order of things is not just this horror. The new order of things is how in June 2013 Brazil was in flames for almost a month. What began as a movement against an increase in the price of bus tickets turned into uncontrolled widespread revolt against power. Since that month of revolt there have been more and more conflicts around the evictions, resistance against austerity plans, protests against police killings, or even antipatriotic disorders such as on the national holiday of 7 September etc., which have degenerated and escaped the control of classical political mediation. Over the past few months a social imagination has been created in Brazil that could set the streets alight again.
The World Cup in Brazil will not go ahead smoothly, just as all the social cleansing projects in the countries of the Amazon have come up against unexpected resistance that will not let itself be disarmed easily. The Brazilian government has allowed itself to announce that it will mobilize 160,000 police and military to maintain order during the high mass, reinforced by tens of thousands of private security guards in training all over the world at this very moment. Each State is accentuating its propaganda for its national team and preparing for the massive influx of tourists and foreign exchange, the other side of the capitalist war. They are preparing us for a global tribute to power and the crushing of revolt.
The World Cup is materializing in a number of fields which are all possible avenues of attack. In the neighbourhoods of the Brazilian cities, it is taking the form of the militarised urban cleansing carried out by international construction companies, architects offices from all over and the mastodons of technology. National emblems will flood the streets, commercial sponsors will bombard the whole planet with advertisements, the media will ensure live programmes of the spectacle of alienation. Security companies and consultancies are hammering on the gates of the authorities with modern models of anti-insurgency combat in the necropoli, while a tight mesh of communication technologies permits diversified control. The machinery of the World Cup is made up of countless cogs that are closely connected and interdependent: it’s for everyone, all over the world, to consider what wheels are likely to disrupt and paralyse the machinery.
“Não vai ter Copa.” Many rebels in Brazil are preparing to transform the World Cup into a nightmare for the State and a torch of insurrection for lovers of freedom. This torch should not only burn in Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paolo or Porto Alegre, let’s seize the opportunity to illuminate the darkness of dominion everywhere.