The far right offensive

Image: Francesco Ungaro
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By IGOR FELIPPE SANTOS*

The thousands of people who participated in the protest on Avenida Paulista last Sunday did not just move to support their leader in the face of “persecution”

No one imagined a decade ago that the then low-clergy federal deputy Jair Bolsonaro could become president of the Republic and take thousands of people to the streets. In those times, the right had the PSDB as a political reference, competing at the polls and respecting the “alternation of power”. His neoliberal project defended banners such as “modernization of the State”, fiscal responsibility and focused social policies. 

Ten years later, with the intensification of the contradictions of the global crisis of capitalism, the tucana coalition foundered. A political force has emerged that rejects the principles of the 1988 Constitution and the institutional arrangement of the New Republic. The bases of democratic coexistence of neoliberal forces and the moderate left were eroded, above all, with the political and media manipulation of corruption cases.

The hypocritical discourse of “everything that is there has to change” gained strength, with the hatred of part of the elite and the conservative middle class engulfing formal democracy. The reason: advances in workers’ rights, especially the poorest.

The management of the conservative agenda against the achievements of the agendas of women, blackness and LGBTs brought together the interests of the extreme right and the ideology of fundamentalist churches, placing a popular base at the service of this political force.

One cannot underestimate the political process that is underway, which has international connections and conquers governments around the world. The thousands of people who participated in the event on Avenida Paulista last Sunday, responding to Jair Bolsonaro's call, did not just move to support their leader in the face of the “persecution” he suffers from his supposed tormentors. They were, above all, to defend their worldview, their idea of ​​Brazil, their understanding of democracy and their project for society – even if it is for a few.

Anyone seeking to analyze the effects of this demonstration on the national situation, especially in the cases against Jair Bolsonaro, may conclude that the impacts are small. To a certain extent, the act may even harm him, with the inclusion in the process of an excerpt from the speech in which the former president admits that he knew about the draft that provided for the declaration of a state of siege.

The judicial siege is closing and Jair Bolsonaro is going through a tactical defensive with the advancement of investigations, the arrest of close allies and the increasing possibility of going to jail. Contradictorily, the capacity for political leadership and the ideological cohesion of its camp, which expressed itself this Sunday in mobilization strength, demonstrate that the extreme right is making a strategic offensive.

It supplanted the traditional right and won the loyalty of a conservative social base. It impacted popular sectors with its alliance with fundamentalist churches and the ideology of fear, which is ravaging from the capitals to the interior of the country. He won positions in the institutional dispute, with a thoroughbred group of parliamentarians, governors and mayors. He built an ideological dispute machine with the defense of his values.

President Lula won the 2022 election, in the closest dispute in recent history. Brazil is deeply divided: almost half of the electorate voted for Jair Bolsonaro, even after the contradictions of four years of government. This far-right force maintains a level of cohesion; and thousands took to the streets with their mass mobilization engineering.

On the one hand, the hatred of the Brazilian elite and the conservative middle class against the left, mobilized through social networks, in defense of their class interests. On the other hand, the articulation of fundamentalist churches, with a heavy investment of resources, made caravans of a more popular profile possible, from cities in the interior and from closer states.

The demonstration in defense of Jair Bolsonaro, leader of a coup movement, was called in defense of the rule of law. However, the backdrop was the defense of a society project, represented by Jair Bolsonaro, who is part of an ultra-conservative international network.

The attempt to naturalize January 8, 2023, relativizing the meaning of democracy, the attacks on President Lula and the MST, the exaltation of fundamentalist religious speeches and the parade of Israeli flags put the extreme right ideology on the streets.

When democracy becomes a relative social value, with different meanings depending on the side of polarization, defending it is insufficient to face those who want to destroy it. More than ever, it is necessary to compete for ideas, values ​​and social projects.

*Igor Felipe Santos is a journalist and social movement activist.


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