The Death of Walter Benjamin

Image: Stela Grespan


Homage to the secret poetry of freedom in the revival of neo-fascism in Brazil

For Juremir Machado da Silva, survivor
“A creaking of boots in the cherry tree” (Paul Celan, opium and memory, 1952)
“The indestructibility of life supreme in all things” (Walter Benjamin, Parisian tickets, 1929-1930)


Time, in a hallucinatory and truthful volley, always finds similar stops, on renewed bases – for good and/or for bad. Eighty years later – it could be three hundred or more –, the just memory, which does not know cowardice and silence , engages with the moral, intellectual and personal grandeur of Walter Benedix Schönflies Benjamin (1892-1940). How many times will you do it? honors in memoriam anti-fascists is a perpetual obligation in the democratic world – a priority intellectual agenda in Brazil’s political scene, especially after the 2018 elections.

The controversy over the conditions of Walter Benjamin's death may never have a credible and definitive verdict. This notation, even today, does not dispense with the respective briefing, even with basic and widely known information.

On the night of September 25, 1940, Benjamin found himself, on the night of September XNUMX, XNUMX, in the small Spanish town of Portbou, on the southern border of France. For that province of Girona, in Catalonia, after Way of the Cross traveling illegally through the Pyrenees mountain range along with some companions, also refugees, protecting himself, on the long flight, from the armed minions of “German fascism” (as he preferred to designate the rise of the extreme right in his native country). The Third Reich had just invaded French territory and was rushing over the capital.

This cornered and belated pilgrimage in Europe, from Paris – where the author of The storyteller had been in exile since March 1933, the year of the sinister fire of the Reichstag [German parliament], alibi of the Leader for his coup d'état – had political and intellectual motives. Benjamin voluntarily postponed his chances of immigration to the United States. Letters from Theodor Adorno, a close friend, of Jewish descent like him and already integrated, with Max Horkheimer, at Columbia University, in New York, had hinted at him, from 1938, on the possibility of transferring. The chemist Margarete [Gretel] Adorno, wife of Theodor, whom Benjamin had known since before their marriage, emphasizes this desire. Benjamin, however, preferred to remain on German soil to contribute closely to the anti-fascist struggle. When he finally got an immigration visa for American lands, the refusal to leave France forced him to go underground through the Pyrenees, for almost ten kilometers, beyond what was necessary to reach the Catalan coast.

The state machine then equipped by Francoism, guillotine at the Spanish customs, refused the then little famous fugitive entry through the city's International Railway Station, interrupting his route to Lisbon, from where he would set sail towards New York. His documentation, the dictatorship claimed, was incomplete. Four boots escorted him to a nearby inn. [The company, Francia Hotel (pension France, in Catalan), ended activities for unclear reasons.]Benjamin was quite broken, certainly because of the steep trip and because of his heart difficulties. The next morning, September 26, he would be deported back to France and handed over to Nazi-aligned authorities in Vichy.

Benjamin's strategic reason and politically austere ethics intercepted, however, the world's authoritarian desire. Like any engaged intellectual, Benjamin sipped prana direct freedom of opinion. (He appreciated hermetic and cabalistic conceptions.) Embittering the military checkmate that would prevent him from breathing from that Wednesday night onwards – between an unwelcome return to Germany, a barred sequence for Portugal and a dream of escape cut off for the United States –, concluded, at the age of 48, that his life had come to an end. In addition to the heavy baggage – with the final version of Flights or new work, around the Theses on the Philosophy of History, in a large suitcase [briefcase] black, reports attest –, carried a overdose of morphine in tablets, with sad efficiency to avoid, after dramatic and lasting gasping, the rehabilitation of the senses.

Political and bureaucratic rusticity, universally gray and desolate where it occurs, has sequestered the valuable writings forever.

The group of refugees who accompanied Benjamin in the Pyrenees managed to survive the Spanish mishap.

The general lines of this version are found in renowned biographies – for example, of two fellow countrymen: Walter Benjamin: a biography, by Momme Brodersen (1996), and Walter Benjamin: an intellectual biography, by Bernd Witte(1985), in the English translation of the German original; and the British Esther Leslie, Walter Benjamin (2007)

The challenge to the official deductions from the mortuary scene of the hotel in Portbou was made by Stephen Schwartz, in June 2001, in a long article in Washington Examiner, conservative weekly magazine: Joseph Stalin reportedly asked for the elimination of Benjamin, his direct critic. Although agents of Geheime staatspolizei, the well-known Gestapo, secret police of the Third Reich, were in the city, perhaps in the inn itself, says Schwartz, spies from the KGB, the secret police arm of the Soviet bureaucracy, were also close to Benjamin at some point, either during the transfer mountainous, whether in the Catalan plain; and they would have carried out the order.

A third interpretation suggests that the Francoist military who controlled Benjamin's overnight stay are directly involved in the homicide. A fourth blames the Gestapo. In all versions, the hotel would have served as an ambush. Finally, there was no lack of the autopoietic hypothesis that depoliticizes the occurrences by making them available to the imponderability of nature: Benjamin was a victim of exhaustion, due to the difficult hours on the run.

The documentary Who Killed Walter Benjamin… [“Who killed Walter Benjamin…”], by David Mauas, released in 2005, explores the controversial circumstances of those two threatening days, representative of terror in Europe and which, in the sequence, would make it tremble between rationalized warlike hatred, profound impoverishment of the middle and salaried classes, and precarious hope in the military triumph of the democratic world.


It matters little if all the versions – one internationally accepted, others eventually conspiratorial or silent – ​​are suspect, either as narratives or because of the dissuasion around the crucial aspect: they exonerate the Nazi threat by shifting the funeral responsibility to someone else.

Regardless of these discursive disputes, Benjamin was murdered. His eternal funeral must contemplate this historical, political and personal fact. In this regard, Bertolt Brecht, another close friend, was lapidary: the Leader he had begun the Aryan purification of the country's literature. Likewise, Adorno, in a long homage published ten years later, was clear in predicting, between the initial lines, that the Hitlerite gendarmes forced Benjamin to death. the author of Charakteristik Walter Benjamins [“Characterization of Walter Benjamin”] knew that the companion of the first generation of the Frankfurt School (as the select group of Jewish and Freudo-Marxist intellectuals articulated together with Horkheimer would come to be known from the 1950s onwards) would not have attacked its own life – if it really is a question of suicide – if terror had not driven him to the despair of deciding, with poignant clarity, between fatal freedom against the body and possible execution in a concentration camp in Germany. (This argument is valid even though the idea of ​​suicide haunted Benjamin's imagination a year before the attack on the Reichstag.) Mutatis mutandis, Benjamin's folly was similar to that of Paul Celan, about two decades after the holocaust. In completely different conditions, but under the intensity of the same traumatic (in this case, familiar) ghost, the Romanian poet, who had also adopted Paris, opted, at the age of 49, for a lethal jump into the Seine River, on April 20, 1970 (as per reports available).

If, in a parallel route, the spy-Stalinist ax that hit Trotsky's head, in Coyoacán, Mexico, on August 21, 1940, 36 days before Benjamin's death, was sublimated in his direction, the conjectures about the homicide remain, resolved from the outset: suspicion sees the possible operation of the Gestapo or the Franco dictatorship in the same bag.


If the official version is true, accepted by the prudent phlegm of Brechtian “theater of detachment” and Adorno's tensional philosophy, the ultimate political courage of morphine was a peremptory response to self-surrendering cowardice. Albert Camus accorded exclusivity to suicide in the seriousness of philosophical problems. On the other hand, any homicide decorates infamy, disgracing both the principal and the executor. In one way or another, Benjamin, faithful to the legion of anonymous millions, Jews or not, who fell as a result of modernizing progress and to whom he dedicated his 18 succinct Theses on the Philosophy of History and most of his intellectual life, he absolutized, in the “illegal” body – persecuted, as well as clandestine –, the unconditional refusal in the face of the magnitude of the emerging horror. There is no negotiation with Nazi-fascists that is not, from the premises, a political embarrassment. Accepting any table of agreements or conditions amounts to pusillanimous capitulation. “Never allow yourself into the hands of the enemy, whatever the cost”, echoes eternally, from the bottomless cold of his surrogate tombstone in Portbou. As is known, Benjamin had no permanent burial. After spending five years in a tomb rented by the photographer Henny Gurland, a controversial companion on the run in the Pyrenees, his bones were destined for a common corner of nature. Catalan sensibility dedicated a symbolic tomb to the philosopher in the city's cemetery.

Dani Karavan, an Israeli sculptor specializing in monuments in harmony with local landscapes, erected, in plateau of this last destination, the Walter Benjamin Memorial. Funded by the Government of Catalonia and the Federal Republic of Germany, the monument was inaugurated on May 15, 1994, on the 50th anniversary of the death of the author of Das Passagen-Werk [“The work of the passages”, title conferred by Suhrkamp Verlag, in 1982; just Flights, for Benjamin] – monumental philosophical-literary work, developed over almost fifteen years, which the unfinished form contributed to make it fuller. Title of Karavan's sculpture: Flights [Passages, in Catalan], vivid in imposing silence, in the sober and enchanting bay of Portbou.

No one has failed to imagine that, in addition to all those who fell, the gigantic legion of prisoners of conscience and oppressed by totalitarianism in politics not only welcomed, in the utopian threshold on which Benjamin was betting, one of his convinced combatants, but also shouted in the depths of unspeakable passage of its final hours. This clamor can be heard in Karavan's sculpture.

The suggested thesis – here only recast, with different colors – of Benjamin's suicide as murder, pairing the literality of the homicide itself, both with a clear political bias, is subordinated, in all articulated contingencies, to the gravity of the allegorical interpretation of the world , dear to the German philosopher, mobilized here in a contribution to the preservation of his memory.


It should be recalled that, for different reasons, Benjamin had already experienced the unpleasantness of symbolic death, this condition of nullification in life. In 1925, professors of Germanistics, aesthetics and philosophy at the University of Frankfurt, to which Benjamin had sent a provocative proposal for a professorship – published four years later as As oOrigins of XNUMXth-century German Baroque drama –, they considered it, from the point of view of argumentative clarity, unqualified. The episode, which disappointed Benjamin, appeasing his interest in academic life, forced him, for personal and family maintenance (he had a son, Stephan), to invest exclusive energy in the intense work as an intellectual outsider e freelancer, in cultural and journalistic publications, in radio participation and as a translator (of French writers and poets), in a European situation marked by progressive economic decay and political danger for heterodox intellectuals and/or linked to leftist parties. on the sidelines of establishment As a university student, Benjamin cultivated political and cultural theses indigestible to the aesthetic-classicist premises of the fragile Weimar Republic (the official name of the German democratic state between 1919 and the emergence of the Third Reich, from 1933 onwards): in a brilliant encyclopedic entry from 1926-1928 , the now famous author of The work of art in the age of its technical reproducibility solemnly criticized the professional career and political position of Goethe – then considered the great poet of the Republic and exponent of the aristocratic and wealthy classes – without ever failing to recognize his incomparable literary qualities.

In fact, the fatal sentence on the Catalan coast is not disconnected from the Parisian need to escape in such precarious material conditions: Benjamin's early death dates back, 15 years earlier, to Frankfurt, the original ground of the social theory he approached without surrendering his autonomy. , after contacts with Adorno, from 1923. His fourth and last decade of life, in particular, was economically difficult for him, with a shortage of work as time progressed. The peaks of this drama were, for example, the first half of 1934 and the beginning of 1939, when Benjamin, already divorced (in 1930), found himself in French exile. Anti-Semitic hatred as a state ideology cuts his chances of working in German vehicles. The situation was, in part, compensated, from April 1934, by the small financial support of the Institutfür Socialforschung [Institute for Social Research], directed by Horkheimer at the University of Frankfurt until 1933, then moved to Geneva, Switzerland, before transferring to Columbia University in the United States in July of the following year. The grant from this Institute took place months after Gretel Adorno's recurring assistance. She and Theodor, admirers of Benjamin, spared no effort in mobilizing relatives and friends in Europe to intercede on her behalf on decisive occasions.

Another death threat episode occurred in 1940. The Franco-German diplomatic split surprised Benjamin in Paris. Health problems do not exempt him from hospitalization Camp des Travailleurs Volontaires du Clos Saint Joseph, in Nevers, 260 km southeast of the capital. Had it not been for the diligent action of French intellectuals, who managed to obtain his manumission, he could have died right there, after three months in inhospitable conditions.

It would not be untrue to claim that Benjamin “died” to the University and survived the concentration camp only to immortalize himself internationally. Texts from him are spread across countless countries and languages. The fact that the most implacable judgment is always that of history amounts to something more than a glamorous cliché: banal sayings rarely fail to harbor truth when violence carves them from within.


The violence suffered, in the form of academic exclusion and anti-Semitic segregation, did not fail to pretext, whether between the lines or explicitly, known reasons. From an early age, Benjamin advocated for the side, in various dimensions and segments of action. Marked by German idealism in his early writings and, without ever discarding them in essence, by the revolutionary tone of Marxism after the age of 30, Benjamin, despite his Jewish family ancestry, cultivated an intellectual soul free of undisputed dogmas. His thought movement, from youth to maturity, staged in records of self-awareness and justification, in abundant correspondence with friends, such as Gershom Scholeme Brecht, as well as Adorno and his wife, among others. In addition to the conventional anti-capitalist and working-class opposition policy, Benjamin aligned himself with the left in terms of culture (in the socio-anthropological sense) – a more radical position than that of the traditional left, orthodox or not, disputing state powers. The confrontation with capitalism, status quo whose historical nature the author of Paris, capital of the XNUMXth century equated to a religion, constituted constant tension with Western culture itself. Under the unappealable scourge of the First World War, in which the resources of technological rationality that the XNUMXth century Enlightenment had foreseen to emancipate humanity in general were mobilized, Western culture had already derailed towards the seduction of the irrational: an anticipated “dialectic of Enlightenment”, Benjamin's Frankfurtian shadow, ballast and pommel. His allegorical interpretation of New angel, a painting by Paul Klee, to apprehend the essence of history as destruction, is a very faithful portrait of this. It is paradoxically significant that this philosophy of history argument, of reactive pessimism against the ideology of progress, is, in the strong metaphor, an essayistic prose poem open to dialogue with pictorial art, in compassion for all the vanquished.


Benjamin's kaleidoscopic work allows, in the spinning of the skein, several investigation entries. Techniques, aesthetics and translation, aura, allegory and the angel, the metropolis and experience, leisure and games, revolution and death, as well as history, memory and dialectics, among others, are current. .

It is worth considering one more password, of a fundamental nature. A peculiar language goldsmith, Benjamin had, essentially, the soul of a poet. Over more than a decade, he opened theoretical sensitivity to Charles Baudelaire and to surrealism, political poetry in painting. As in many of Adorno's texts, Benjamin's phrases are far from simple linked registers: they resemble, in everything, sculptures and, in this category, a poetic construction, which renews the texture of the concept. The time-consuming linguistic work, assuming a qualified symbolic game with the reader, based on brief sentences, is taken to its last consequences in the manuscripts after 40 years, in exile between France, Italy and Denmark, where the author of What is epic theater? He had three episodic stays at Brecht's house, in Svendborg, between 1934 and 1938. The inventiveness of countless of these passages, far from being available for mere sequential reading, opens up to individualized enjoyment, as if Benjamin were with them. , setting up a purposeful symbolic fabric to favor the recovery of the experience at the most specific and profound level of the spirit.

Without a doubt, Benjamin's secret poetry was freedom. He never failed to enunciate it, from choosing his favorite cultural and political themes to the theoretical theses in each written piece – always against all forms of asphyxiation. The list, quick here (with each utterance below referring to a theme, in order free), is significant.

Each document of culture, being a testimonial scar of barbarism – according to a bilingual epitaph (Basque-Germanic) engraved on a marble plaque in the Portbou cemetery – self-denounces the freedom it has ruined, intentionally or not. The eighteenth-century baroque drama, ahead of the curtain of conflicts between the sacred and the profane, illuminates, in the spotlight, the radical and renewing potential of death: centered on the history of concrete human beings as exclusive raw material – this is the materialist interest of this artistic genre – , the dramaturgical agenda of the German Baroque celebrates decay (of bodies, forms, processes) as an irreversible force for affirming one's own transcendence, in an endless spiral of regenerating degradation between the ephemeral nature of the contingent and the stability of random mutations. The exuberance of allegory meanings, shaped in this anti-romantic literary spirit, is converted by Benjamin into a politically oriented dialectical method of understanding, in favor of redemption. The wings of Klee's angel attempt an impossible free flight after a centuries-old trail of rubble and blood. Flights it was an integral liberation exercise in the history of the book as a reinvention of culture, from an unspecified day in 1927 to September 26, 1940. flâneur embodies the passion for dispersion, attentive to the landscape and available for novelties, in the metropolitan heart of mass civilization. A stroll, random urban pilgrimage, is, in a broad sense, the ideal cognitive condition for poetic elaboration, free per se. The aura of the work of art is the guarantee of immunity or manumission of the original in the realm of reproduction and merchandise.

Photography, while aestheticizing the instant on a surface, frees it forever from the swift drag that, outside the lens, would prevent it from being caught. The child only recognizes the subversive desire to give new meaning to objects and to follow, deep down, ambivalent impulses (between daring and repression) that confront the rationalization of social life, before the one-way trip into the universe of adult neurotization. The toy, even the compulsory one, imposed in the oedipal context, is subject, in this scope of resignification, to the language of a dream without strings attached. pictographic.Goethe, cultural frustration of the democratic dream of Weimar due to the lifelong flirtation with the old economic structures of the imperial hierarchy, was compensated by the libertarian theater of Brecht, self-immunized regarding the seduction of the co-options of industrialized culture.This theatrical paradigm, inspired by materialism historical, structurally modified the link between director and cast, stage and audience, script and performances, actor and audience: the method of frequent interruption of scenic sequences in a dramaturgical play, shaking the spectator's perception by perforating the stability of the illusory investment, contributed to distance the audience of the spectacle itself, making it oscillate between artistic artifice and concrete conditions of life –a pedagogical dramaturgy at the service of the critical organization of consciousness (which, despite Benjamin’s sympathy, Adorno linked to the Marxist vulgate, petrified in the absence of dialectics) .In the field of the novel, the narrator, faithful to himself, had, as a historical role, sufficient sovereignty to transmit, with presence and passion, knowledge to future generations, unlike the industrial coldness of informative journalism, on a monopolistic slope in the first half the twentieth century. values ​​that support the status quo, his politicized vision should lead him to collaborate in breaking the restrictions that prevent economic equality between individuals and overcoming the capitalist model of social life. If the Third Reich had imprisoned aesthetics in its mass events, it was necessary to act at the source : to radicalize democratic politics – the politics of recognizing the other –, strengthening it to the maximum, from the heart of art. which would also be that of Emil Cioran, of Adorno, in minimum morality, and by Jean Baudrillard, in Cool Memories, among others, the practice of philosophy through the varied production of autonomous excerpts certainly gave Benjamin, in one way street, Central Park e Flights, a profound heretical joy in terms of knowledge creation, in the millennial beard of the post-Aristotelian logical-dissertation canon, hegemonic until today in Western culture.

With regard to reflection by excerpts –, those who criticize Benjamin for this prolific, discontinuous, even shattered, explanatory exercise, in addition to incurring rational prejudice, show little to fully understand either social criticism or cultural depression in terms of thought. Logic of a full fragment requires an apex of strategic maturity: the socially oriented symbolic guerrilla is qualified in the smallest possible counter-rational vacillation. Those who know Benjamin's writings testify to how much this translator of Honoré de Balzac, Baudelaire, Marcel Proust, Saint-John Perse and Tristan Tzara into German flaunted with the iris of a microscope, invisible tweezers at his disposal. His Marxist theory of culture, migrating from theme to theme, was nourished by details that escaped his own specialized sense. Someone, safeguarded in the metaphor and not without pertinent ludism, could say that Benjamin, himself a wanderer of a stroll imaginary in great spurt of insights, did not need, so to speak, a technical artifact.

The poetry of freedom – this guiding thread that Marxism converted, in the work of the German philosopher, into the teleology of revolutionary emancipation, under false contradiction in relation to history as ruin – was entirely in the shadow of fear in the Pyrenees, on the dreamed trip to the continent American. For no other reason, writing about Benjamin without having his soul in his hands is an insult to delicacy. The poetry of freedom, by attracting the gunpowder of monstrosity, is always poetry of risk to survival. Benjamin, like thousands of expatriates and disinherited people – the Third Reich confiscated his citizenship in May 1939 – waged a life and death struggle for his overcoming. Idiosyncrasies of Western culture, in effect, wanted, for hard honors, his work to survive in another way. Its crossing gave up a new foreign ground only to fulfill itself in the future as a definitive home.

That the progressive vision, removing contingency, has led irony to deliberately confuse times and things certainly embodies such idiosyncrasies, but above all it swings in favor of honors. The very institutionalized kingdom of merchandise, bitterly criticized by Benjamin, today also decorates his memory, forbidding, in a well-signposted and well-informed tourist route on the Franco-Spanish border, that oblivion hijacks his stateless experience: from Portbou to Banyuls de la Merenda, the just politicization of the escape route via the Pirineus, covering 15,5 km, foresees passage through the main landmarks of his panting anguish (the railway station, the former site of pension France, the municipal cemetery, etc.) – despair metricified in copious consultations with the clock, according to Lisa Fittko, the Ukrainian Jewish heroine, anti-fascist militant and escape guide, in a testimony given in The story of BenjaminOf 1980.


For reasons that the continuous warmongering of the industrialized economy has made evident, no visceral appreciation for freedom, ethically, makes a point of hiding its political dimension. Provoking uneasiness is its essential vocation: such an expression is as important as it is genuinely involuntary. The systematic audacity of reporting the story against the grain – another image dear to Benjamin – in the face of the growing xenophobic and racist hostility of the chief of police, self-appointed as responsible for censoring the records for posterity, constitutes, in the intellectual lineage of ascetic courage, a disrespect unbearable to anyone who is viscerally uncomfortable with the philosophy of the inalienable right to boldness as a universal value.

Under conscious risks, Benjamin knew that, sooner or later, he could be a direct hostage to this persecutory hallucination. What certainly surpassed him was that the political architecture that would be erected worldwide years later, combined with the aforementioned posthumous anti-fascist recognition, would collaborate to transform the conditions of his death into a hemorrhage of what had already been happening since the mid-1920s in Germany and Germany. Italy, and would spread to other countries, including distant decades, ensnaring the present.

The social-historical significance of his political silencing is easily deduced. A retroactive look in the light of the holocaust verifies, without exorbitant, how much the death of Benjamin, in the Jewish and ethnic affliction of millions, is, in fact, a scandalous emblematic event, especially for the portion devoted to the maximum enjoyment of political and civil liberties . In the wake of Franz Kafka's visionary work, which did not escape Benjamin's honoring pen, this murder – of a key witness to the narrator's decline in the West – lies, like an open wound, in the emerging mouth of XNUMXth century totalitarianism and dictatorships. In the insane pursuit of “unauthorized differences”, loomed organized and passi passu– in that terrible dozen of European years (from 1933 to 1945) – the boastful necropolitical system of the extreme right, eager to eliminate any contradicto or resistance.

Years before, the precarious conditions of Benjamin's exile were already set up as such eves, namely, how much national states would become, in a strong European wave, to be a toy ball for the voluntary rusticity of criminals and executioners, as well as how much the imaginary of the democratic tradition would face its most abominable ruins. The cowardly conditions of Benjamin's police confinement were, in turn, just the apex of an escalation that popular support for horror made irreversible, in the name of obscure hopes.

In its emblematic trait, the murder scene is, at the same time, an inherited thermometer and a rescheduling symptom of the tense relations between reactionary institutions and left-wing intellectuals, State and press, police and artistic activity – a historical state of exception non-stop, attacking heterodoxy in terms of thought. the scene closes in total the perennial political drama of democracy as a cultural invention and as an anthropological legacy.

Fascist necropolitics represents, among other vital accidents (material and symbolic), the intellectual ruin of the world. Beset by the paranoia of death insecurity, its spectrum of power is obsessive-persecutory, with the intention of making itself felt everywhere and nowhere. The treatment he accords to alterity is always carried out with a knife, gunpowder or gallows. This policy targets dissident speech – every intellectual, every teacher, every journalist, as much as every black person, every indigenous person, every member of the LGBTQI+ community, every politicized student –, eager to silence everyone, imprison them and/or exterminate them. .

The obsessive-persecutory appetite assumes various social features, isolated or intertwined. It can organize itself in the systemic-militarized form of the “primitive pack” en masse, as originally occurred in Germany and Italy in the first half of the XNUMXth century. (Apparently, the actions of this group were transferred to social networks.) The persecutory eagerness can also crystallize in the “mass grave” of the scapegoat: someone serves as a vortex for the spreading of the “pedagogical threat”. Equally, the persecution can be veiled, in the blackmailing invisibility of the days, combining, in tutelary arbitration, imposed silence and permission of life; and one day the facts come out. Still, it can happen, paradoxically, via the democratic rule of law, through relentless mobilization of legislation, under selective and/or casuistic legal hermeneutics and with broad ideological bargaining by the conservative media: lawfare – that is, systematic destruction of the public reputation capital of a person, company, government, etc., in the shadow of institutional guarantees. Trampling all democratic precepts, this pragmatic warmongering contributes to the implosion of the Rule of Law itself. Finally, the persecutory neurosis can be executed by progressive and accelerated dismantling of public policies to repair or reduce inequality without neoliberal economic conditions. Such devastation, on the basis of which pockets of misery and poverty expand, implements and, at the same time, favors generalized trends of privatization of state-owned companies.


Fascism always tries to reinvent itself with supposedly unrecognizable necropolitical adornments. Through them, the 1930s and 1940s insist on spreading makeup specters.

Behold, in the wake of post-Holocaust dictatorships in Latin America, the historical emergence of the European social and political structure that forced the death of Benjamin is a petulant weapon in Brazil, under neon lights proto democratic of media mass and digital. the author of Theories of German Fascism was silenced by the same militarized necropolitical strain that, in the first decades of the XNUMXst century, inspired and guided the rustic Bolsonarist imaginary. The emblematic nature of the event that installed Karavan's sculpture in Portbou now resounds a strident red light in the country, with a global alert for journalistic enterprises and Universities, bodies defending human rights and civil liberties, class representation entities, and so on. .

Recombining forms of manifestation listed in the previous topic, neo-fascist necropolitics in Brazil is camouflaged in the maximum technocratic fraying of the constitutional letter: with the strictest costume of a frayed legitimacy, cynicism lawfare The national level has operated, equally, from within the “spirit of the laws”, as a safe alibi for the reverberation of landslides. This barbarism, which one day said, with pride and without regret: “I killed almost 10 million” – and its proceres and minions slept well – why would big flatterers now care about 4,5 million infected and more than 130 thousand lives taken by indifference to the COVID-19 pandemic? Recent news reported that, under the spread of the virus, the guest at the Palácio do Planalto vetoed the permanent supply, by the public authorities, of drinking water to indigenous peoples, quilombolas and traditional peoples. In the sanctioned law, the necropolitical vexation also refused to deliver hygiene goods and essential hospital items, such as beds, intensive care units and oxygenation devices. In the shadow of cruelty, this State policy of ethnic cleansing turns out to be the biggest defilement of human rights in Brazil since the enactment of the Federal Constitution of 1988. dispute, in the country, the worst corner of insolent horrors. A boldly more inflexible mouth could claim that, if such an absurdity occurs without an uprising in the streets, it only accedes to the obliterated swastika, graceful on the faceless and nameless mainstay of millions of fundamentalist militants and sympathizers who lean on each other to act as a totality without nobody. The metaphor, certainly exaggerated, at least does not fail in the educated observation of the swamp's tectonic plates: it is rooted in historical prudence. As is known, genocides are also voluntarily carried out due to willful negligence or willful misconduct – for example, with regard to inadequately combating the spread of a disease.

Some four years before the first signs of the Second World War, Benjamin recorded that the German extreme right had instilled artistic mimicry into the political propaganda machine to exploit historical opportunisms in the field of mass seduction. Democratic politics, in the space of universities, public opinion and cultural creation in general – in academic and press texts, films and documentaries, sculptures, etc. – they eradicated Benjamin in history. They will not cease to do so. Tributes to this thinker of the sublime fencing, on an indispensable platform, all forms of neo-fascism.

* Eugene Trivinho is professor of the Graduate Studies Program in Communication and Semiotics at the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo (PUC-SP). Author, among other books, of The cybercultural dromocracy (Paulus).

Full version of the article published in Saturday Notebook, from Correio do Povo, on 26/09/2020.

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  • The strike at federal Universities and Institutescorridor glazing 01/06/2024 By ROBERTO LEHER: The government disconnects from its effective social base by removing those who fought against Jair Bolsonaro from the political table