A Critical Moment: April 7, 2020

Flavia Ocaranza

At Rosa’s online launch,1 Ruy Fausto is the first to speak. “I speak on the magazine’s behalf in part and in part I speak on my own”, he says to the other twenty-four squares in the Zoom meeting, as well as those viewing the stream on Youtube, whether in real time or, like me, over three years later. “Rosa is the result of a major effort”, he says, the product of over two years work to develop something he claims to be rare in Brazil: a critical leftist magazine. And what does this mean? he asks. It is a democratic magazine, a magazine that is neither monolithic nor dogmatic, that is open to discussion but is also organized, that has a project, its own consistency, a certain cohesiveness. It will have many contributors, “the largest possible number of people important to the struggle of resistance [who are] writing” against an ascending national and international far right. Given this public — comprising sociologists, philosophers, artists, and economists — and the very possibility of publication, of creating an open platform for collaboration and “fearless” debate, “a gap opens for a magazine”, he says, “a serious possibility for intervention that we must seriously take advantage of.”

The majority of other editors who speak say they agree. Lena speaks of a shared sense of needing “an open, critical, democratic space where we can face our divergences… in search of an understanding, a comprehension of the reality of the moment Brazil is living.” Marcelo agrees with Ruy’s evaluation, but claims that “the left is already involved in this debate.” Arthur, also in agreement with what Ruy said, specifically echoes a sentiment “about this editorial dynamic we have today, which has quality publications that aren’t necessarily political publications on the left”, since they don’t “mark an exact position”, and which “has leftist publications but don’t necessarily do quality critical work.” Publications such as Piauí, Nexo, and The Intercept are mentioned as important critical vehicles, but, looking back at Ruy’s writings and previous editorial work, there are various French and, to a lesser extent, English publications that partake in what might be called Rosa’s political genealogy: Socialisme ou Barbarie and the New Left Review in an earlier moment, Liberation in a later one. I am interested in studying this genealogy to better understand the conditions of possibility for Rosa as a critical leftist publication, one whose aspirations are shaped by mediatic engagements with antecendent and ongoing events in national and international politics.

Of course, this is only one aspect to consider. Ruy says he speaks in two voices, or, more precisely, two names: his own and Rosa’s [“eu falo em nome da revista… eu falo em meu nome”]. To speak in the name of, on behalf of, as founder of or more generally part of: these are all partial articulations of a collective body, individual collaborators under a single title. The title is the same, but the collaborators aren’t: Ruy spoke in two names and died a month later (he is still on the masthead in memoriam). Lena is no longer an editor, and many current editors were not editors in April 2020. To speak in a publication’s name is to speak not as or necessarily for those sharing the masthead, but in relation to them. I write a lot about Ruy not because only he can speak on Rosa’s behalf, but because, in addition to his role as “idealizador”, his writings constitute a substantial archive that, in reflecting on various sociopolitical climates and the editorial projects to which they respond, articulates a longstanding belief in the necessity of critical leftist media in Brazil.

A major motivating factor for creating Rosa, according to Ruy, is the need to “mobilize and enlighten (to help enlighten) the most advanced sector of the middle class […] to offer these men and women of the left who are without a party more rational, lucid, and honestly informative discourse about the Brazilian situation and the left’s possibilities and perspectives.”2 This “advanced” sector, in part, includes the intelligentsia, about which Ruy has written (and I have translated) elsewhere. But, beyond the intellectual, as both a figure and as that which loosely describes a certain category of thought, the question of intelligibility also arises in Rosa’s launch. Roberto, a collaborator whose work is in the inaugural issue, says that to create “a magazine in this moment is above all [about] the idea of the production of intelligibility, of the production of meaning.” If a magazine is tasked to produce meaning, it does so through its publication, which involves making something — perhaps itself; the conversations in which it partakes; the material, social, and political conditions in which it circulates and seeks to intervene — meaningful for a public. Rosa’s intended public, at least in April 2020, seems to involve the cultivation of extant critical capacity, the production of a mobilized intelligentsia through the production of a renewed intelligibility.

“The intellectual’s function”, Marcelo says towards the end of the launch, “generally sees a problem where there’s a solution, and the politician’s function sees a solution where there’s a problem.” However, the critic, he continues, asks, “what can I do without having a solution for anything?” The question seems to ask for a solution, though, a solution to the problem of not having one. Perhaps this is also about intelligibility, or about figuring the contours of something unintelligible or maybe still unfolding. Perhaps this is the terrain on which Rosa, and all the names among that name, seeks to intervene.