the long battle

Image: Anselmo Pessoa


Guedes' ultraliberalism and Bolsonarist neo-fascism operate a radical change in the pace of destruction

Although the genocide of indigenous and Africans has left us with long-lasting oppressive structures, we will hardly find such a short historical period in which a single government is responsible for so many deaths. According to official data, the pandemic killed around 150 people by October 2020.

Many government actions reproduce well-known practices of the traditional right and neoliberals. But it is necessary to note that the fusion between Guedes' ultraliberalism and Bolsonarist neo-fascism operates a radical change in the pace of destruction. It's like turning back the clock of history 100 years.

Deforestation, destruction of the Amazon and the Pantanal released; total deindustrialization (the participation of industry in the GDP regressed to the first decades of the 20th century); elimination of labor rights, with the end (in fact) of labor justice and unions; deconstitution of health and education policies, promotion of hate speech against social movements, women, black people, indigenous people, LGBTI population; war on science, education, culture and the arts; dismantling of universities; uninterrupted propaganda of moral conservatism, which encourages machismo, racism, homophobia, transphobia; dissemination of hatred, obscurantism; and denial of rationality, dialogue, otherness and diversity.

The persistent exercise of lies, authoritarianism and the “religious” manipulation of false moral values ​​are the basis of Bolsonarist action, whose central objective lies in the dismantling of the State itself, human rights and democratic freedoms.

Even within this framework, there are two problems for the progressive sectors. The first: despite this whole list of horrors, Bolsonaro recently expanded his support – he went from the 30 to the 40% approval range, even though the polls can be affected by the methodology (adapted to the quarantine period). is that the construction of a popular-democratic alternative, articulated to a socialist strategy, will be impossible if we continue to operate in the same mental landmarks of the previous period. We are in a new historical and political cycle.

the first problem

Bolsonaro leads a neo-fascist government and it is up to us to extract its consequences from this definition. Fascism, historically, has never been characterized by a precise political and ideological project. In crisis situations, he may or may not move to a party, government or regime. Bolsonarism is a form of neo-fascism. In Brazil, we are already in an advanced phase of this authoritarian escalation.

The time for broad parliamentary coalitions, for political fronts full of good intentions, for defending current degraded institutions (since 2016, we are in a state of exception) has passed.

There is a temptation: facing Bolsonarism and recovering popular support would involve some kind of concession to conservatism, to neo-Pentecostal fundamentalism. That is: to hide all feminist, anti-racist flags, the defense of human rights, democratic freedoms, diversity. Placing workers' material rights, social policies, employment, income, food, health at the center of the debate is not incompatible, on the contrary with keeping the flags flying. They are not “identity guidelines”. These are fights for rights: against the genocide of black and poor youth, feminicide and violence against LGBTI people. It is about democratic freedoms, the defense of life and equality. Declaring a kind of surrender and adapting to the extreme right’s “culture wars” would be a historic mistake.

Bolsonaro himself found a way to broaden his popular support in the field of material interests without renouncing his ideological battles and his neoliberal program. As a perfect fascist, he urges all Democrats to celebrate any apparent tactical retreat in "respect for institutions." In the meantime, he will continue to advance in his project of destroying freedoms and the State.

However, there is uncertainty. We do not know the degree of Bolsonaro's autonomy to expand public spending permanently. Would it be possible to constitute a new menu of economic policy, which, without abandoning the neoliberal framework, distances itself from market fundamentalism? That is, to gain support for a neo-fascist regime, but based on some kind of mass social policy?

The contradictions between Guedes' fiscalist radicalism and that of the “market” vis a vis Bolsonaro's desire to maintain the expansion of social spending has delayed and hindered the implementation of the “Citizen's Income”, for example. The iron arm between the interests of the financial elites and the pragmatic instinct for survival of the president is not decided – and will define the government’s ability to maintain (or not) the high bias of its approval ratings and its electoral favoritism for 2022.

the second problem

The PT governments carried out a strong program of social policies and expansion of rights. However, they did not destabilize neoliberalism (nor did they affect the structure of the State). Still, the modest social ascension of the poor and black generated growing indignation and gnashing of teeth from upstairs. And the increasing annoyance of the US (which never admitted Brazil as a regional leader, much less with world influence).

When a new economic crisis struck, already in 2014/2105, the PT government's reaction was totally different from that of 2008 ("it's a little wave"): instead of turning on the public spending taps, it decided to appoint a sub-executive minister of the economy Bradesco.

The class struggle exploded along with the pact of the previous period. The bourgeois opposition became radicalized – as well as the coup operations generated in the collusion of the Lava Jato operation with the US. And the PT government, victorious in 2014, adopted the opponents' program. And even that didn't stop the coup. On the contrary, the progressive government lost the support that had ensured its victory – it made the lives of the people much worse, mass unemployment was lost, the agreement enshrined in the polls was broken.

There are sectors of the left who believe that the country's reconstruction will involve a reissue of the tactics of 2002 – a letter to Brazilians, programmatic moderation, top-down agreements, a certain keynesianism moderate.

Other sectors veered even further to the right. They want to implement an allegedly progressive program without – and against the PT -, along with the liberal right. They believe that it is enough to order a plan from some economists and we will have the agenda of resuming industrialization, development, social rights, culture, etc. Inscribe old and new labor rights in the law (adapted to new forms of exploitation); adopting policies to stimulate industry and create a macroeconomic environment favorable to development will cause greater social conflict.

It is a mistake to think that all (or most) of society is interested in the development of the country. Large portions of the population itself oppose, by interest or ideology, the change in income tax rates, the taxation of profits, dividends and large fortunes – and even buy the idea that the resumption of industry depends on the flattening of wages and rights labor. Changing the way public debt is financed and adopting a countercyclical fiscal policy is not an item on a sheet of paper and requires a violent confrontation with the corporate media, big capital, the rentier middle strata, etc.

With the fascist victory in 2016-2018, politics changed its address and is on the streets and in the networks. Digital media, appealing, irrational discourse and permanent mobilization changed the ground of institutional politics. It will not be with closed meetings of venerable old leaders, heads of discredited powers and traditional caciques without Indians that the left will face Bolsonarism.

The solution?

Lula has strongly repositioned himself in the game since his September 7 speech: emphasis on sovereignty, anti-privatism, antagonism to Bolsonaro’s policies in the midst of the pandemic, strong concern for cultural issues, the environment – ​​and having anti-racism as an axis. He volunteered to lead a national project. It's not about debating personalities. Lula embodies thirty years of social struggles and the construction of a party, a trade union central and a myriad of social movements. Another PT leadership will only have a chance if they count on your support. Lula represents the possibility of maximum polarization with Bolsonarism.

But he did not indicate a rupture and pointed to a "new social contract". At the same time, he ended the speech with classist demarcation and buried the broad fronts once and for all. As a consequence, he weakened moderate alternatives for 2022 inside and outside the PT. But his electoral future is unknown and depends on the STF, which has already given successive evidence of civic cowardice (Celso Mello's early retirement is the most recent of them). Lava Jato reacts and struggles. The left still does not seem to absorb the centrality of the fight for Lula's political rights.


Will Bolsonaro sustain the crisis and be the favorite in 2022? Nothing indicates that the “liberal right” will actually generate an alternative. On the contrary, there was an accommodation. Both from the “centrão” in Congress (which improved governance), and from neoliberals in the media. Folha de S. Paulo, for example, makes editorials increasingly to the right and even defends the return to school; but contrary to what one imagines, she (as well as the Veja and the like) are not a sure indicator of the reaction of the majority upstairs.

A Sheet he never had a defined ideology and always acted according to short-term business. On the contrary The Globe and People, who supported the 1964 coup wholesale, the Sheet did it at retail and ensured “logistical” support for torture sessions. While The Globe made a hypocritical self-criticism, Sheet defended the “dictabranda”. A Globe keeps the nudges at Bolsonaro on the environmental agenda, but has greatly reduced the general tone of “opposition” to the government.

Among the political leaders of this “democratic” neoliberal current, who would appear in 2022? Will Doria trade re-election for the uncertain presidential race? Is Huck viable? Would Ciro Gomes have support from sectors like the DEM? Ciro tries to be something like center anti-PTism between toucans and the left. Before him, Heloisa Helena and Marina Silva captivated this electorate. However, it is not enough to break the left-right polarization.

Would the PCdoB and the PSB, closer to Ciro than to the PT, support their own candidacy (Flavio Dino) or would they embark on the canoe of center liberalism? There remains the alternative on the left (the PSOL), but which may still need some elections to make a candidacy viable.

Whatever the answers to short-term policy moves, one bet seems right: we must sustain a medium- and long-term political-cultural-ideological battle against neo-fascism.

*Lincoln Secco He is a professor in the Department of History at USP. Author, among other books, of Gramsci and the Revolution (Avenue).

* Julian Rodrigues is a PT-SP militant; professor, journalist, human rights and LGBTI activist.


See this link for all articles