The Ferris Wheel of Violence

Image: David Peinado


How to face violence when almost half of the population, according to polls, mirrors the ultra-right

Broadly speaking, aggression is divided into two fields: (i) by the State, which holds the monopoly of police-military repression, it is called “an act of force” and; (ii) by the citizen, who attacks private property, freedom or life is called “violence”. Both definitions refer to the moral and legal legitimacy of an action.

Violence is constitutive (primitive accumulation) of capitalism. “The miserable situation of the working class was not to be sought in isolated evils, but in the capitalist system itself”, wrote the young Friedrich Engels, in the book Situation of the working class in England, in 1845. It was the tyranny of capital that began its adventure, aboard the let-do: derisory wages, strenuous 16-hour working days, exploitation of women and children.

In Nazi-fascism, violence links identity politics to the feeling of belonging to a group, whether the Sturmabteilung nazis, the black shirts of fascist Italy, the blue shirts of the Spanish Falange, the green shirts of Brazilian Integralism or the yellow shirts of bloody Bolsonarism. Hostilities towards artists, journalists and teachers became commonplace from the impeachment (2016) that installed hard neoliberalism in the country. See the social security and labor reforms, the public spending ceiling, the outsourcing law, the internationalization of fuel prices, the slicing of Petrobras, the Central Bank's autonomy in controlling monetary policy, the recrudescence of the deindustrialization process.

At the time, if someone inadvertently passed near an extreme right-wing demonstration, they ran the risk of being lynched. The university student who on a sunny Sunday piloted the bike wearing a red shirt, in the style of the great hero of two hemispheres, Giuseppe Garibaldi, she was attacked when she came across the crowd of zombies numb with prejudice. Passport for the tour found he had acquired the color of the canary, and not the one he wore. The Ferris wheel of violence was turning at breakneck speed, with the energy of centuries of domination.


The Anti-Intellectualism

Anti-intellectualism is the product of the reduction of politics to an alienating militancy. By discarding intelligence to exalt emotions, what remains is the base activity of unreason as a performance criterion in the class struggle. A fact that explains the bellicose name (“combat”) given by Benito Mussolini to the movement Fasci Italiani di Combattimento (1919), converted into National Fascist Party (PNF, 1921). Something that – due to incompetence – the Barra da Tijuca militia disciple was unable to accomplish, although he had the powerful pen in his hands. Bic.

“When I hear about culture, I pull out my gun”, “This man is dangerous, he believes what he says”, “A lie told a thousand times becomes the truth” are phrases by Joseph Goebbels, Minister of Information and Propaganda of Nazi Germany , Adolf Hitler's right-hand man. The assertions adapted to the recent tragedy in Brazil. The operational practice of the new fascism reverberates the fascination for violence by refuting the idea of ​​politics, from Ancient Greece, that persuasion and convincing should seek the truth with the word, and not with falsehood.

The terrorist invasion encouraged by Donald Trump to the Capitol, in Washington, on January 6, 2021, and the depredation by vandals of the seats of republican power, fueled throughout the term of the ineligible, in Brasilia, on January 8, 2023, have in common the frustration with the expectation of triggering an irresistible denialist movement of the democratic regime, in the United States and in Brazil. By metonymy, they imagined embodying the nation. Subjective availability to respond to a summons for an announced conflict separates the sympathizer from the combatant. Ignoring nuance compromises illusory mobilization strategies.

Those who participated in the coup d'état had an enjoyment not shared by all voters of extremist populism. In the urgency, the strategists confused the dynamics of the radical base with the Rousseauian “general will”. They are different things. Had the prognosis been right, history would have given birth to totalitarianism and globalized sociopathic clowns.


Cult of action for action

For Umberto Eco, the rejection of modernism, the mystification of tradition and the cult of action are unavoidable traits of fascism, both old and new. Antimodernism results from disappointment with the technology empire that does not guarantee jobs and lower wages; the love of tradition is a reaction to feminism, to black lives matter and homoaffectivity; and, activism, is a response to the failure of Enlightenment theories to revolutionize the world.

In the 1930s, communist cells met to discuss the situation and the course of action, in addition to distributing tasks set by the central committee. Fascist enclaves, yesterday as today, instead of meeting for discussion, get together to attack properties, curtail public freedoms and beat up enemies of the authoritarian cause. Marcelo Arruda, director of the Union of Municipal Employees of Foz do Iguaçu (Sismufi), murdered on his birthday due to the hatred of an armed rightist, was yet another victim of the irrationality of false patriots.

The aggressions of power go beyond legitimate mechanisms for repression. They also occur through identification with a charismatic leader or else through an emotional attachment to the emblematic symbology of the political community (the flag, the national anthem). Without which, the regimentation for demonstrations of power, in marches and concentrations, is not feasible.

War is not the continuation of politics by other means, as Carl von Clausewitz thought. By abdicating discourse as an instrument for consensus building, the authority of the argument gives way to the argument of authority imposed by an act of force by the State. Now, it is a matter of changing a civilizational paradigm, not just a method.


Alexandre de Moraes/TSE

The violence against Alexandre de Moraes at the airport combined verbal aggression (against the minister and his family) and physical aggression (against his son). Legally, it implied coercion directed at the person responsible for decisions relevant to the future of the Republic, in the Supreme Court and, in particular, in the presidency of the Superior Electoral Court (TSE).

With obvious provocative intent, the attitude of the businessman from Santa Bárbara d'Oeste/SP forced the head of the Ministry of Justice and Public Security, Flávio Dino, to judge the nature of the scene as “a threat to constitutional functions and the democratic rule of law” . The consequence exposes the authors to the rigors of the legislation. Incivility is unforgivable.

Fashion did not start with the rise of Bozo. Before, with the blessing of Lava Jato and Globo, progressives were subjected to a social lynching on charges of being corrupt. Ricardo Lewandowski was called (sic) guarantor. Justice had regressed to the Middle Ages, where suspicion already meant half guilt, through the presumption of guilt. The Modern Age founds the presumption of innocence, until proof to the contrary and a final sentence.

Michel Foucault, in watch and punish, in the chapter “Resources for good training”, addressed the theme in the context of modernity. “Disciplinary punishment has the function of reducing deviations. It must therefore be essentially corrective. Disciplinary punishment is, in part, isomorphic to the obligation itself; it is less the vengeance of the outraged law than its redoubled insistence. The corrective effect that is expected in an accessory way passes through atonement and repentance”. Welcome to those who arrive late to democratic sociability.


For a positive agenda

The question is: how to face violence when almost half of the population, according to polls, mirrors the ultra-right whose perverse leader won a presidential election waving the gun to deal with the anti-fascist opposition? Pandora's Box opened, innocent people died in approaches by the Federal Highway Police (PRF) asphyxiated in tear gas, in the trunk of a police vehicle – with impunity. To prevent the spread of habitus of savagery in society, it is urgent to build a positive agenda.

First, defend a governance that is not limited to “procedural norms” (Alain Touraine) or the “rules of the game” (Norberto Bobbio), and does not turn its back on the “social question” as the classic liberals did and the neoliberals do . Namely, healthy governance that promotes (re)distributive policies. Second, to defend free and quality public education at all levels, and the improvement of the Unified Health System (SUS), to revalue knowledge and science in areas sensitive to the perception of working people.

Third, to defend the natural environment and to overcome the climate crisis, measures that challenge the ecological sensitivity of youth. Fourth, defend equality of gender, race and LGBTQIA+ groups to give concreteness to the concept of democracy “as a cumulative process of civilizing values” and, together, ensure “the right to have rights” (Claude Lefort). Fifth, defending the presence of individuals in public life via the Participatory Pluriannual Plan (PPA), in the liberating transition “from consumer to citizen” (Albert Hirschman).

This is the program capable of stopping the Ferris wheel of violence. Severe punishments for direct actions, without institutional mediation, by the extreme right are necessary. The Lula government's initiative to increase penalties is timely, it dialogues with the notion that "the law is for everyone". It shows the state panopticon (all-seeing, like the eye of God) active. It's worth it to unveil who ordered the cowardly execution of Marielle Franco and Anderson Gomes, on the sad March 14, 2018, in Rio de Janeiro. However, it is insufficient. At the same time, it is necessary to cut at the root the social conditions that lead the ideology of neo-fascism to rely on violence. Capisci?

* Luiz Marques is a professor of political science at UFRGS. He was Rio Grande do Sul's state secretary of culture in the Olívio Dutra government.


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