The September 12 Frustration

Image: Kaique Rocha


The first attempt by the non-Bolsonarist right to take to the streets and express a mass force failed

The unpredictability of the demonstrations called for the 12th of September by a fringe of the non-Bolsonarist right was such that few risked making any guesses about the potential of the mobilization.

The acts were convened by MBL and Vem Pra Rua two months in advance and received some adhesions over time. Political figures trying to position themselves on the board between Bolsonaro and the popular forces that make up the Brasil Popular and Povo Sem Medo fronts expressed support and were present.

Segments of the center-left and the left began to support the journey in the context of Bolsonaro's September 7th. Both the president's threats to democracy and Bolsonarism's ability to mobilize on Independence Day justified membership.

Many doubts discouraged previous projections about the acts. Do MBL and Vem Pra Rua have a “bullet in the needle”? Will acting on social networks mobilize? Is this “neither nor” sector that appears in the polls willing to participate in these protests? Will the accession of São Paulo governor João Dória make a difference? Will Ciro Gomes' participation take the presidential candidate's voters to the streets? Will the fringes of the progressive camp that joined convince their bases to participate? Will these acts catalyze society's reaction to Bolsonaro's coup demonstrations on September 7?

The streets proved otherwise. The acts were scheduled for 17 capitals, according to a post the day before. On the MBL profile on Instagram, there are only images of the protests in Belo Horizonte and Rio de Janeiro, where they were very small, and in São Paulo, a flagship with several participations, which was small.

The act on Paulista, which brought together 5 people according to the organizers, demonstrated that the mobilization was nothing more than its first ring of influence. Research by USP professors points out that 69% of the protesters were up to 44 years old, 79% are studying or finished higher education and 56% had a family income above 5 minimum wages. (

The first attempt by this segment of the non-Bolsonarist right to take to the streets and express a mass force failed. Raising the possible reasons for this result is quite illustrative to understand the general scenario of the political struggle.

One reason we can speculate is that the split with Bolsonaro and the subsequent displacement of the far-right MBL and Vem Pra Rua created a distance and confusion among their supporters. A part of those who identified with these groups did not abandon Bolsonaro and possibly went to Paulista on September 7.

A second reason is that the shadow of the young expression of the “new right” has fallen to the ground with the speech in defense of the “new policy”. Born in the wake of the June 2013 demonstrations, it took shape in the protests for the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff and acted in the election of Jair Bolsonaro. By electing its parliamentarians, acting in the party environment and articulating with references from traditional politics, it lost its original momentum on the right. The new became old before it blossomed.

A third element is that the mass line, which began as “neither Bolsonaro nor Lula” and was transmuted at the last minute by the defense of democracy – in an attempt to capitalize on the reaction against Bolsonaro – did not stick with the target public of the mobilizations. It did not mobilize those who defend a “third way” nor did it instill confidence in those who are more in the center and defend the impeachment of the president, but do not admit smuggling ideological flags.

A study by social media data analyst Pedro Barciela reinforces this point, by highlighting that there is a rejection of MBL and Vem pra Rua by the anti-Bolsonarist clusters on Twitter. A segment of 35% is “repulsed” by the groups that called for the acts. Groupings on Twitter around lavajatismo, MBL and Ciro Gomes were isolated and were unable to radiate the mobilization for the acts on the networks. (

The fourth reason is the cold attitude of the major media, especially Globo, which defends the “third way”, but preserved a safe distance from the acts, which signals that there was distrust. There was no “enthusiasm” from Globo to strengthen the mobilization nor coverage to amplify the size. The coverage on the program “Fantástico” for the banners that attacked Bolsonaro and Lula is enigmatic, because at the same time that it puts the PT in the target it also serves to justify the low mobilization.

A fifth factor is that the parties in this non-Bolsonarist right-wing field, with councillors, deputies, senators, mayors and governors, did not move their machines and bureaucracies to mass events. They did not go beyond speeches on social networks in support of the protests. Either they don't want to move their pieces or they haven't been able to get their co-religionists moving.

The sixth reason, derived from the previous one, stems from the following question: is the non-Bolsonarist right really committed to the fight for Bolsonaro Out? So far, PSDB, PMDB, PSD and DEM have not institutionally manifested themselves in favor of impeachment. Although there is no lack of declarations from their leaders, there is no institutional position from these parties for the removal of the president. Many of its deputies even voted in favor of the printed vote, which is at the heart of the institutional crisis and the coup plan.

The failure of the demonstrations, which had the support and participation of at least five presidential candidates, reproduces in the streets the difficulty that the third way has demonstrated in electoral polls. There is a public that manifests a position for an alternative candidacy, but that has not found a leadership, a party and a direction to constitute a competitive ticket. In the short term, it is very difficult for this field to call for new exclusive acts, which opens up the opportunity for sectors with a greater disposition for a unitary construction to join forces on the left.

Bolsonaro seeks with his defensive maneuver to maintain positions with apparently contradictory movements. He strengthens the cohesion of his supporters by around 25% with the successful demonstrations of September 7, imposing himself on the “third way”. He signals to the centrão parties and neutralizes the displacement of non-Bolsonarist right-wing parties with the letter written by Michel Temer. It seeks to build an agreement with the STF to resolve the Court's reactions and protect the family from ongoing investigations.

The progressive forces maintain their mobilization agenda, setting a new act for October 2nd. There were five days of demonstrations in four very expressive months, organized throughout the country. Now, they have the challenge of once again putting in motion sectors of the progressive middle sectors, of student youth, dragging sectors of the working class that still haven't moved. These segments showed fatigue in the last acts, but they can regain enthusiasm to respond to Bolsonarist protests.

There is also a growing willingness to hold a large demonstration later this year, bringing together the left, center and right around a single agenda, Fora Bolsonaro. Based on a joint construction process, with the consolidation of a political agreement between different sectors at the center, it will be possible to put on the streets more than the base of the organized sectors, but a middle segment of society, alien to party differences, but anxious for the union of all those who defend democracy and want to defeat Bolsonaro.

*Igor Felipe Santos is a journalist and social movement activist. He is the presenter of the podcast Três por Quatro, from the Brazil in fact.


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