The Night of the Fake Knives


Life circumstances, resentment, professional failure, friendship circles, profession and other spheres of existence predispose a person to adhere or not. However, there is no doubt: a fascist militant no longer intends to act like a human being.

By Lincoln Secco*

“There is no other way to end communism than to end liberal democracy once and for all, a fertile soil for the development of all virulent microbes” (Miguel Reale, August 1935)[1].

Between October 11 and 12, 2019, the city of São Paulo hosted the Conservative Political Action Conference[2]. I have the newspaper by my side Newspaper printed. The date is October 14, 2019. In one of the photographs in the article is federal deputy Eduardo Bolsonaro hugging a pole with a Brazilian flag. He smiles, hunched over, apparently simulating a pole dancing.

Let's leave aside any association of fascism with the sexual question according to Reich; with military marches in their erotic movement as thought by a character of Sartre in the novel With death in the soul (Nova Fronteira) when seeing the German conquerors in Paris; and more specifically the connection with sadomasochism remembered by Susan Sontag.[3]

the sources

Matter is terrifying. The deputy is presented as his father's successor. A thousand people shout to him: “Mitinho”. In two days of the meeting, the deputy put on a show, after all “fascism is theatre” said Genet. In an instant, the deputy attacked women with “hairy armpits” and then, nobody knows why, he revealed that his childhood nickname was Buba, in allusion to a hermaphrodite character in a soap opera.

In addition to him, Bolsonarist ministers made their presentations.

The conference, financed with resources from the party's public fund, was restricted more to action (as stated in the name) than to reflection. Among the speakers there were complaints against “climatism”, although the articles did not make reference to the presence of Lorenzo Carrasco, Mexican author of green mafia, farmers bedside book. Held on behalf of the middle class, according to the “History class” of the Minister of Education, the meeting served to denounce the totalitarian left.

Among many reports, that of Rafael Carello for the magazine Piaui (Oct 13, 2019) is equally frightening, such are the number of details that seem to come straight out of the sewer of the Brazilian fascist subculture. However, after opening the lid of the cesspool, the journalist is quick to say that “political intolerance in Brazil was not even remotely invented by Bolsonarists”. The “evidence” would be a video by Marilena Chauí in which she claims that the middle class is an “aberration” and Dilma Roussef’s campaign against Marina Silva in 2014.

In other words, the journalist, unknowingly, perhaps unintentionally, corroborated the assertion of the conservative meeting: the left (yes, the one represented by the PT that never dreamed of any Revolution) would in fact be “totalitarian”.

conferences and evenings

As the conference went on, the night of the (fake) stabbings took place. Inside the party fascio lumpen evangelical supporter of the president, the fight was for control of the acronym and its financial background. The exponents' phrases would not deserve historical record if chance or the conjuncture had not raised them to power. For Delegado Valdir “I am the most loyal guy to that bum”. For Felipe Francischini: “he started doing whoring”. Son Carlos Bolsonaro, the head of the myth's digital SS, posted images of a pig, a mouse, a snake, a chicken and a squid to attack former ally Joyce Hasselmann who responded with three deer and three mice.

To spice up the night of the fake knives, the myth said that the president of his party, Luciano Bivar, was “burned”. By incredible coincidence, the deputy was the target of an operation by the Federal Police that investigated the launch of orange candidacies by the party in the state of Pernambuco. At the behest of the Minister acting as Director of the Reich Main Security Office, SS-Obergruppenführer Reinhard Heydrich.

The Night of the Long Knives was a purge carried out on the night of June 30, 1934, when Adolf Hitler's faction of the Nazi Party eliminated such opponents as Gregor Strasser and Captain Ernst Röhm, leader of the SA (Sturmabteilung). After that the Nazi stormtroopers took a backseat to the SS (Schutzstaffel).

Kristallnacht was the attack on the Jews (pogrom) of November 9/10, 1938, promoted by the Nazi government. The Wannsee Conference took place in Berlin on January 20, 1942 to decree the final solution of the “Jewish question”.

None of these nights has a parallel with what happened in Brazil. A knife can be fake and here “race” is not just “biological”, but partisan: the PT, synecdoche of a vast political and cultural field of which this initials would form part.

How to explain the unexplainable?

In 1930 August Thalheimer wrote an article in which he recognized the absence of a “definitive” theorization of the fascist phenomenon. Naturally, Marx and Engels saw nothing like this. However, Marx's analysis of The 18th Brumaire could serve as a starting point. Bonapartism is different from fascism, but it expresses the same process by which the bourgeoisie abandons its political survival in the hands of a dictator in order to save its economic existence.

Its mass base is mainly provided by a (middle) class without a decisive role in production. This class sees itself as the mediator of the fundamental classes, says Thalheimer. And precisely because of this, it adopts nationalism and considers itself the only representative of the national interest and disinterested values ​​against the bad worker (“PT” in our case), the bad capitalist (billionaires, financiers, those who receive state credit). and today we could add bad women, bad environmentalists, etc. There are certainly good housewives, good productive capitalists and workers without rights who do not complain.

Thalheimer says that “the fascist petty bourgeois wants a strong government. Strong government means expansion of civil service. But it demands at the same time an economy of public expenses, that is, a limitation of civil service (...). We must put an end to the abuse of the eight-hour day and the nonsense about workers' rights in the factory. Factory order! Let it end with the gift of the State to the workers at the expense of the petty bourgeois, like bread and cheap rents, etc.”[4].

Thalheimer starts from the definition of the Fourth Congress of the Communist International: the specific difference of fascism lies in the fact that the fascists “try, through a social demagoguery, to create a base among the masses, in the peasant class and in the petty bourgeoisie and even in certain sectors of the proletariat, skilfully utilizing for their counter-revolutionary goals deceptions provoked by so-called democracy”.

He realized what Gramsci had already stated in an article called “The Italian Crisis”[5]: there is no essence of fascism in fascism itself. If we try to define one, we will not reach a rational understanding.

There is no coherent fascist doctrine. Fascists act on common sense without ever reaching the sphere of Philosophy. That is why there cannot be a debate with a fascist to the same extent that there can be one between socialists and liberals. Great thinkers could adhere to Nazism, but they did not contribute to transforming it into a philosophy; on the contrary, they only managed to reveal themselves as degenerate and imbeciles during the fascist regime.

Carl Schmitt was an important intellectual. He criticized liberals for seeing competitors in trade and mere opponents in an argument, rather than enemies[6]. But it is not this theoretical view that explains his adherence to Nazism. Not every anti-liberal agreed with that. Schmitt did so because, before being an intellectual, he was a human being like any other and at the root of his decision were petty feelings and unconfessable desires, evidently adorned by nationalism and nonconformity with the failure of Germany, with the incompetence of the Weimar politicians and the what more if you want to find.

When Martin Heidegger was invited by the Nazi students of Heildeberg to deliver a speech, conservative professors turned out decked out in their official dress while, to everyone's astonishment, Germany's great philosopher appeared in short shorts and a Schiller collar, the uniform of National Socialist youth.[7].

It seemed so inexplicable that one of his biographers spent many pages trying to show how in his philosophy there were elements for Heidegger to see Hitler's victory in 1933 as the moment when the Germans emerged from the Platonic cave. It would be the prime invitation of the To be there and the sign of the unfinished metaphysical revolution, among other nonsense.

Benedetto Croce simply summed up Heidegger's speech as "silly and servile"[8]. The fact is that there is nothing in any philosophy that can be Fascist and at the same time everything, taken from anywhere, can serve Fascism, depending on the circumstances.

Como is fascism?

Evidently some features will always be there. But they will also be in many other non-fascist right-wing regimes or movements. Fascism is corporatist, but corporatism has been in non-fascist ideologies. He is essentially a mobilizer, like Karl Radek and the early theorists of Comintern noticed it, but once in power many fascisms tried to control the excesses of mobilization. This is what led to the elimination of highly radicalized factions of the movement in Germany, Portugal and Romania. he was antisemitic[9], but not in all countries; he was sexist, but he always thrived in societies that already were.

Was fascism totalitarian? Undoubtedly. Mussolini himself claimed this. But between the totalitarian claim and the realization there were survivals from the past that forced him to live with the Monarchy, the Church and the Armed Forces of the State; was it nationalist? Yes, but in most fascist countries, which were peripheral or semi-peripheral, that was rhetoric and never meant a real defense of national sovereignty; cultivated violence? Yes, but he inherited that same cult from Sorel and from some anarchist currents; advocated a Directed Economy? Socialism too. And, indeed, in the 1930s practically all countries because it was the possible response to the 1929 crisis[10].

Did Mussolini use militias alongside the state? Yes. But this was more salient in the period before the seizure of power than afterwards. And it became important again in the crises of the regime. Did fascism destroy democratic institutions? Yes, but I also lived with them like in Italy in the 1920s. Was it anti-liberal? Yes, but the liberals accepted his rise within the state itself, as happened with Mussolini, Salazar and Hitler, although not with Franco.

Dimitrov already knew that fascism did not always ban revolutionary parties, or even competing bourgeois parties. This depended on “historical, social and economic conditions”. Mussolini coexisted in the early years with the Communist Party and debated with Gramsci in parliament.

We could go on for an endless list. As Umberto Eco said: “The term “fascism” fits everything because it is possible to eliminate one or more aspects of a fascist regime, and it will always continue to be recognized as fascist”. On the other hand, we cannot refuse the concept today. Communism, social democracy and anarchism are movements that surpassed the Second World War and acquired new characteristics. Why couldn't fascism do the same?

Nor can we turn it into an eternal reality. It was only possible in the interwar crisis and in the era of imperialism and monopoly capitalism, even though we find fascist anticipations in reactionary authors since the French Revolution, such as De Maistre.

It is obvious that countries that only had pretensions to develop state monopoly capitalism were fascists; and the United States did not need to adopt such a regime because it had a unique position of economic and military leadership, protected by two oceans. But what explains this is the concrete history and not an adaptation of reality with a pre-established concept. There were fascist countries that could be more or less imperialist, more or less nationalist. Likewise fascism can be more or less statist.

The debates on the incipient characterization of Stalin at the XIII Plenary Assembly of the Communist International continue to be essential; Dimitrov's defense of the front against fascism at the VII Congress of 1935; Trotsky's or Simone Weill's warnings about Germany[11]; the excellent lessons of Togliatti[12] about the fascist institutions that controlled leisure, sport and other activities outside of work and many others. We will find in all of them elements to understand our time as well.

a technique

Faced with the difficulty of finding a precise and consensual definition, some authors preferred to choose another method in the last twenty or thirty years, even though they did not stop looking for a comprehensive definition. They looked for the imprecise borders of the regimes, the contours of the movements, the phases that it may or may not go through and “complete” itself as a proposal, as a movement or regime. Paxton sought to show the stages of fascism[13]; the Portuguese João Bernardo found the internal and external axes[14] around which the different fascist experiences were organized; and Umberto Eco showed through a “family resemblance” a fascism fuzzy[15].

The characteristics that fascism can mobilize are many, but not infinite. Fascism cannot replace capitalism with a socialist economy, for example, even though Mussolini was the son of an anarchist with a socialist background and Gregor Strasser declared himself an enemy of capitalism.

In Brazil

After Bolsonaro's electoral victory, many journalists played the role of normalizing the moment. Enthusiastic endorsements existed marginally from the intellectual elites. However, knowledge was never immune to fascism. If he handles the irrational, no one is immune. Hence its strength.

Life circumstances, resentment, professional failure, friendship circles, profession and other spheres of existence more or less predispose a person to adhere or not. However, there is no doubt that a fascist militant no longer intends to act like a human being.

A fascism can be religious or atheistic, but there cannot be a fascist religion with any theological depth. For all that, the debate about what characteristics this or that fascist regime mobilized will continue. It is true that Hitler was a mediocre and frustrated painter and that several Nazis had artistic pretensions. If in Eric Hobsbawm's expression the French Revolution was the “career open to talent”, fascism opens the career to the resentful.

Bolsonaro has no intellectual pretensions and the “philosopher” of his movement will not deserve any analysis in the future except as a document of barbarism. A Gramscian might try to understand it from a rubric of Prison Notebooks: Lorianism. Bolsonarism is the product of social media and not street rallies. Hitler spoke, Bolsonaro does lives. Hitler had some military knowledge, Bolsonaro none, despite his profession; Mussolini was a skilled debater, Bolsonaro ran away from debates; Salazar deeply knew economics, Bolsonaro confessed to knowing nothing; Bolsonaro barely knows how to speak, the fascists of the 1930s were orators.

In the past, Brazilian integralism could not have a Heidegger, but Plinio Salgado was a recognized journalist and among his first novels there were one or another accepted by literary critics. His movement recruited Vinicius de Morais, Miguel Reale, Gustavo Barroso, Helder Câmara, Abdias do Nascimento and Ernani Silva Bruno, author of the beautiful History and traditions of the city of São Paulo[16]. Each fascism has the intellectuals befitting its historical soil.


In excellent article on the site the earth is round ( Thelma Lessa da Fonseca quotes Adorno for whom “fascist agitators are taken seriously because they risk being made fools”. They resort to bad language, sadistic images, histrionic acts, the cult of violence, speeches without logical coherence precisely because, in this way, they can break taboos of their shy and restrained (middle) class. The crisis of values ​​allows them to defend the Bible with profanity and sex, lies and meanness; that promote privileges and censorship in the name of equality and Democracy; and who defend the Order and Brazil in the name of the Revolution and the United States.

The Nazi Wilhelm Stapel, quoted by Wilhelm Reich, warned that, his movement being of an elementary nature, it should not be approached with arguments. And Hitler himself insisted that one must address the masses not with arguments, evidence and knowledge, but with feelings and professions of faith. For Mussolini, who had a superior political background than Hitler, doctrines were nothing more than tactical expedients.[17].

Thus, propaganda could be contradictory and different according to the layer of the population it was aimed at. According to Reich, who turned to the affective and irrational content of adherence to fascism, there would be coherence in the manipulation of the adherents' sensibilities. That is why it would be advisable to listen carefully to what the fascist leaders were saying[18].

It was a discourse in which the words maintained an arbitrary relationship with the supposed realities to which they referred. Therefore, there was no coherence in the meanings or in the sequence of what was stated, only in its opportunistic manipulation. The purpose of manipulation is only to perpetuate the manipulation itself. Form doesn't matter, style is rude.

Em Behemoth Franz Neumann said that National Socialist ideology was fused with terror and that every Nazi statement lacked consistency. It was an absolute opportunism where every statement proceeded from the immediate situation and was abandoned when the situation changed.[19].

Always tentative definition

Fascism is a revolution within the Order as João Bernardo said. But order is a foundation to be preserved by a radical form. Which means that he is a political technique and rhetoric before anything else. Its form, even rough, is more important than its content. After all, Bolsonaro does not have an economic program that is very different from the Democrats or even the toucans; he pursued and radicalized earlier liberal measures; but everyone knows that his government is something else. It is not fascist, but it is occupied by neo-fascists.

At a time when the dominant classes, in the crisis of their traditional mode of domination, sacrifice their political existence in favor of the economic one, Fascism may (or may not) emerge as the “rational” manipulation of what is irrational in the middle classes, the which translate their fear of social declassification into an ideological trance. A class in transit is a class in trance. And this spreads to other social sectors as the Communist International had already detected, even involving fringes of the proletariat.

The forms trance takes are many. The contents too. Just as the German bourgeoisie mobilized fascism to try to defeat the United States and England and lead the world economy, the Brazilian bourgeoisie mobilized Bolsonarism to maintain itself as an exporter of commodities peripheral and subordinate; but above all as an exploiter of the excessive surplus value of a labor force without rights.

In the Brazilian case, this happened because the country's regional rise could only continue with the resumption of industrialization and competition with the United States, which would imply internally going beyond Lula's policy of class conciliation and the risk that the working class radicalize their conquests. Transforming Brazil into a sovereign power would imply raising the working class to an ethical and political level unacceptable for the dominant culture in Brazil and assuming conflicts in the external arena that would require popular mobilization.

Lula and the PT had an “original sin” (a party that was born a worker and socialist before becoming politically moderate). It was not a reliable body to rein in the working classes, though it tried. The elites prefer to ally themselves with the militia rabble than with organized workers, especially when full employment increases their bargaining power and State intervention seems to subordinate private investment initiatives.

In 1930, for example, the bourgeoisie and the Armed Forces defended industrial development in agreement with the agrarian oligarchy. The situation of conflict between the powers and Vargas' authoritarianism offered the opportunity for a multiple sum game in which everyone seemed to win. Integralism remained in opposition because its anticommunism was not industrialist and did not offer an outlet for the social question.

The agrarian character of integralism did not mean that it was not fascist, just as the industrial nature of Nazism did not mean that it was.[20]. In Brazil, the bourgeoisie did not need the fascists in the 1930s[21] because Getúlio Vargas led a great class agreement offering violence and consensus, anti-communism and labor rights.


At the Brazilian Conservative Conference, the Minister of Education dedicated himself to combating Nazism, attributed to the philosopher Marilena Chauí. He started his lecture by talking about the middle class oppressed by the oligarchs in ancient Greece (sic). Then he presented an unusual stratification of social classes in Brazil where the key role would be communist businessmen. Suddenly he changed course and showed images of the supply and demand curve, basic concepts such as monopoly and monopsony and ended up associating businessmen with Nazism. The most impressive was the comparison of former presidents Fernando Henrique Cardoso and Lula with deadly diseases, typical of the biological metaphors of the Nazis, something that is repeated in the program of the Alliance for Brazil, the new Brazilian fascist party, which attacks a new wound: “gender ideology”.

Formal inconsistency is no exception. In the speech given at the Ceremony of Receiving the Presidential Sash at the Planalto Palace, on January 01, 2018, Jair Bolsonaro said: “the people have begun to free themselves from socialism”. The speech ended with a nonsense: “this is our flag, which will never be red. It will only be red if it takes our blood to keep it green and yellow” (sic).

There is an example of a more elaborate formulation and alludes to the aforementioned program of the Alliance for Brazil. It has a linear, seemingly logical narrative: the people began to protect themselves against the socialists by defending their gun ownership through a plebiscite in 2005; in 2013 he took to the streets, still not “very clear” and this was his second awakening. Finally, in the 2018 elections, the opportunity arose to get rid of socialist legal guarantees, the eroticization of childhood, socialism and abortion through popular control against the bureaucratic establishment and judicial activism.

All previous expressions are in the document. As the original fascists did, their authors incorporated some of the language of the left, attributed bizarre things to socialists and expanded the range of opponents to include “guaranteeist” jurists, “abortionist” women, professors, etc.

Popular control is an expression soon emptied in the text. On the next line it redefines itself into a foreign word: accountability.

There are other elements worth noting, such as: legal security so that soldiers can kill on duty; the defense of Christianity; of the Portuguese language; and, albeit surreptitiously, of a History that teaches the value of “great men and women of the past”. Rejecting the class struggle and planning, the program ends with the exaltation of economic liberalism and the greatness of the nation.

Does it matter what was said in the paragraphs above? It certainly matters how false arguments are articulated. They dialogued with the fragmented consciousness of their adherents. Is your falsehood true to them? Did Bolsonaristas of 2018 believe in the “cock bottle”? Does the laughter we dedicate to these silly things make them ridiculous or, on the contrary, does it reinforce our status as snobs, petistas, environmentalists, artists, workers, civil servants, businessmen, parasites, etc.?

This fragmented consciousness is a constitutive feature of life under capital. Why would it only now find a false unity in disjointed proselytism? Is the answer, as Gramsci thought in the 1930s, in the new relations of production that we are subjected to? Is that where we should start from?

Is the theology of prosperity, “uberized” work, the declassification of liberal professions (medicine, engineering), deindustrialization and the daily life of social networks related to the triumph of the neo-fascists?

The reality in which Bolsonarism flourished is not a movement free of contradictions. It survives in a low-growth economy with no industrial dynamism. However, the most flagrant of them is in changes that occurred in the foundations of social life. Bolsonarism did not adhere to the experience of most people. Women did not return to the home modestly, nor did young people renounce their culture, except temporarily because of terror. And it is to terror that Bolsonarism appeals on a daily basis. While staging the night of the fake knives or the conference for the final solution to the “PT issue”, he grew stronger with each crisis that made him the victim of a conspiracy.

I believe that our understanding, and therefore strategy making, must begin with these questions. Questions that only collective movements linked to practice can answer.

Make no mistake: since his ascension Bolsonaro has not lost power, he has strengthened and even attempted his night of fake knives. Your modus operandi it does not consist in defending some specific agenda, but in producing a permanent crisis. In leading the left to play its game, to dialogue with the myth that would represent the people and not with the people themselves.

Fascism is a permanent bluff. In “normal” situations, no one takes you seriously. In crises everyone pretends they don't take you seriously. If he is in power, everyone pretends that he is not fascism. The march on Rome was a bluff from a military point of view. A single order and the army would have decimated the fascists. But who would dare to give it? Would it be obeyed? Collective fear leads us to normalize every bravado, every threat. When we stand up in indignation, they back off. Then they come back bolder.

When Luiz Bonaparte was confronted with the Revolution, according to Marx's account, what did he do? He begged forgiveness in a pusillanimous manner and paid tribute to the party of order.

*Lincoln Secco He is a professor in the Department of History at USP.

Modified version of blog post marxism21


[1]    Reale, M. ABC of Integralism. Rio de Janeiro: José Olympio, 1935, p. 105.

[2]    The official name is in English: Cpac – (Conservative Political Action Conference). Thanks for the readings by Fernando Sarti, Carlos Quadros and Luiz Franco.

[3]    Sontag, S. Under the sign of Saturn. Porto Alegre, LPM, 1980, p.81.

[4]    Thalheimer, August. about fascism. Salvador: CVM, 2009, p. 35.

[5]    Gramsci, A. Political Writings. V. II. Rio de Janeiro: Brazilian Civilization, p. 269.

[6]    Schmitt, C. The Concept of the Political. Lisbon: Editions 70, 2018, p.54.

[7]    Safranski, R. Heidegger: A Master of Germany Between Good and Evil. São Paulo: Geração Editorial, 2013, p. 299.

[8]    ID Ibid., p. 298.

[9]    Incidentally, Bolsonarism claims to be pro-Israel and evangelical.

[10]  Latin American fascism can be liberal today because it corresponds to the need of the peripheral bourgeoisie to resume (illusory?) economic growth without breaking with external dependence. It does not direct the advance of the productive forces, but provisionally resolves obstacles to growth via the end of indirect wages and the destruction of social rights. That this is irrational in the medium term would not be new. Nazism reached the limit of irrationality by repressing allies in the invasion of the Soviet Union (see the report on the campaign in Russia made by Colonel Hellmuth Gunther Dahms) and by placing the “racial revolution” above economic needs (João Bernardo, Labyrinths of Fascism, op. quote, pp. 266 and ss). This was repeated in the very administration of the war economy of the occupied areas as the British historian Arnold Toynbee reported. In the 1930s there was room for a relative industrialization of Latin America, although the internalization of Department I reproduction was never achieved; under the globalized financialization regime, a project of national autonomy seems more difficult and conflicting.

[11]  Weill, S. The Working Condition and Other Studies on Oppression. Rio de Janeiro: Paz e Terra, 1979.

[12]  Togliatti, P. Lessons on Fascism. São Paulo: Lech, 1978.

[13]  Paxton, R. Anatomy of Fascism. São Paulo: Paz & Terra, 2008.

[14]  Bernardo, J. Labyrinths of Fascism. Porto: Afrontamento, 2003, p. 51. The originality and extent of the research do not eliminate numerous errors of evaluation made in this work.

[15]  Currently used in logic to designate “smoky” sets of imprecise contours. In: Eco, Umberto. Eternal Fascism, in: Five Moral Writings, Translation: Eliana Aguiar, Editora Record, Rio de Janeiro, 2002.

[16]  Although in his Almanac de Memórias he conveniently does not remember his Integralist involvement.

[17]  Chabod, F. History of Italian Fascism. Lisbon: Arcadia, s/d.

[18]  Reich, Wilhelm. Mass Psychology of Fascism. Lisbon: Escorpião, 1974, pp. 35, 79, 93 and 95.

[19]  Neuman, F. Behemoth. Mexico: FCE, 2005, P. 57.

[20]  As Fernando Sarti said at a GMarx – USP meeting when we were reading the manuscript entitled “1937” by Caio Prado Junior (IEB-USP).

[21]  As Valerio Arcary argued, “neo-fascism in a peripheral country like Brazil cannot be equal to the fascism of European societies in the thirties”. For him Bolsonaro responded not to the threat of a Revolution, but to moderately reformist governments. (

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