Military tutelage and its limits

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Onexuses, throughout Brazilian capitalist development, between military tutelage and relations with the popular classes in restricted liberal democracies

Two aspects acquire enormous importance in the current Brazilian political crisis: a strong expansion of neo-fascism that even makes us miss when, some five years ago, we discussed the existence of a conservative wave in Brazil; the debate on military guardianship almost falls into the mouths of the people.

It is not inevitable, but, from what we have seen and experienced, it is very likely that, especially in the case of an intensification of internal contradictions in the Brazilian social formation and a deepening of the world economic crisis in a very complicated geostrategic game, this country constitutes a very favorable to the growing interweaving – and even the fusion – of the strong political presence of the military with the advance of neo-fascism.

This article, far from approaching the issue in all its complexity, which would imply taking into account, for example, specific corporate dimensions of the Armed Forces, centers the focus, still quite generically, on the relations, throughout the Brazilian capitalist development , between military tutelage and the popular classes in restricted liberal democracies.

Past and present of military tutelage

According to several scholars, military tutelage was constituted with the formation of the independent State from 1822-24 and has never gone away. Also because, despite the debate, we do not have a sufficiently clear concept of military tutelage, I will not, at this moment, discuss it within pre-capitalist social formations and only register a theoretical doubt that, in Brazil today, has immediate political implications : shouldn't the qualitative distinction between the modern slave state and the bourgeois state be further considered when we speak of a bicentennial military tutelage?

I believe that, if we draw this very direct line of continuity, we run the risk of legitimizing positions that, in one way or another, justify military prominence in contemporary politics with reference to a mythical past of an apathetic people, including because of racial determinations, and therefore unable to conduct himself. The focus is on the period marked by the presence of a Brazilian national state whose existence coincided with that of the republican form of government over 121 years of history.

Even so, I point out a problem: the question of military tutelage in Brazil is wide open when it comes to mass liberal democracies, because, when dealing with military dictatorships, there is a serious risk (not the inevitability) of becoming halfway between truism and redundancy. Which, ironically, does not prevent the fact that, in Brazilian dictatorial constitutions, articles more directly related to the role of the Armed Forces assign them a more subordinate role to the Executive. The Magna Cartas of the two mass liberal democracies in this country, 1945-1964 and since 1989, bring the record of military tutelage: articles no. 177 and 142 of the Constitutions of 1946 and 1988, respectively.

Strange country in which the simple acceptance of democracy is accompanied by the constitutional warning that the Armed Forces are watching and ready to act. In this text, I focus on some aspects of the relationship between the military branch of the Brazilian State bureaucracy and the Presidency in the face of popular class struggles.

Transition from capitalism and political-ideological struggles

In the period 1945-1964, the military acted on all fronts of dispute regarding state policy. The main axis of discord revolved around the implementation of policies necessary for Brazilian national development, which, being so generic, bordered on consensus. In objective terms, the continuity of the (dependent) industrial capitalist development policy implemented during the Vargas Era (1930-45) was in dispute. It was around this that contradictory interests and ideological variants manifested themselves within the dominant class, between layers of the middle class and segments of the state apparatus in a period marked, from beginning to end, by the political rise of the popular classes.

Compared to the current 38 years of the current regime, the 19 of that democracy were breathtaking.

The disputes were not limited to oral and written debates inside and outside the political parties, in parliament, in the press and, throughout the 1950s, in the highly intellectualized Military Club Magazine. They were on the brink of falling apart when, at the eleventh hour, General Lott led the famous “legality coup” (11/11/1955) which ensured the inauguration of the duo Kubitschek and Goulart, legitimately elected but contested by civil opponents (udenistas) and supporters of the defeated candidate, General Távora.

The questioning of electoral victory, far from being a tucana invention, was very strong in relation to two very important Brazilian presidents: Vargas, in 1950, and Kubitschek in 1955, when General Lott delivered the “coup of legality”, not to mention the risk of armed confrontation produced by the veto of the three military ministers to the inauguration of the vice-president João Goulart in the wake of the resignation of Jânio Quadros. Finally, in all the presidential elections of the period, there was always a military man (in 1945, two) among the most voted candidates.

In these brief 19 years of life, there was a formidable rise in workers' struggles and also, from 1955 onwards, the promising entry of peasant leagues into the political struggle. And, in the aftermath, this sociopolitical ebullition led to the establishment of a dependent industrial capitalism that left behind the debate on the agrarian vocation of the Brazilian economy. In this process, conflicts within the military branch of the state bureaucracy were decisive. This justifies resorting to the notion of military guardianship.

Workers' struggles and fucked up transition

The crisis of the military dictatorship was marked by an extraordinary presence of workers and popular struggles that until today leave records in the names of parties, movements and entities of corporative representation of workers and segments of the middle class, cultural production, not to mention the activities that, lost in memory, require searching. There were times when middle-class people, when filling their carts with groceries at the supermarket, reserved some of them to donate to the strike fund.

However, these struggles that enchanted a large part of the world were unable to direct the transition process. One of the results of the transacted transition – expression of the late Florestan Fernandes – is the Citizen Constitution with this famous article 142. It barely completed 35 days and there was a strong intervention by the Army in the city of Volta Redonda to repress the strike of the workers of the Companhia Siderúrgica Nacional (National Steel Company) ( the so-called Volta Redonda Massacre). Five years later, the company was privatized. Army troops also acted against the oil workers' strike in May 1995 (FHC government), with very important impacts on workers' struggles in this country. And, expressing the turn of social relations, GLO's operations, strictly according to the famous article 147, were transmitted from government to government. In other words, the current (restricted) Brazilian democracy was born with the seal of military tutelage.

Guardianship and its limits

During the Temer interregnum, in the wake of the reaffirmation of the hegemony of big finance, pari passu with the defeats of the popular classes, what was left of the “Varguista heritage” was liquidated and, amidst the crisis of the party system, the political scene was inflated of reactionary and conservative associations linked to sectors of the rural and urban internal bourgeoisie. And a group of generals began to intervene ostensibly and simplistically in the implementation of state policies, such as economic, foreign, cultural, customs and electoral.

In the latter case, it blocked Lula's candidacy and became directly involved in that of Jair Bolsonaro. These policies were presented as rational, aimed at defending law and order and national regeneration, which would imply a profound fight against corruption. And, in general, they received enthusiastic support from the Brazilian ruling class as a whole, broad sectors of the middle class and all major media outlets.

With the same support, then much more emotional and with greater penetration in the popular classes, the victorious candidacy of Jair Bolsonaro emerged and a relationship between the military and politics was configured that, save for a better judgment, has no precedent in the history of this country.

A fascist government was established that deeply attacked liberal democracy, linked to financism, focused on the export of primary goods and refractory to policies of industrial development and support to small rural and urban production. The exercise of financial capital's hegemony led to the objective defense, under the name of fiscal responsibility, of an economic policy with genocidal aspects, constant attacks on liberal democracy, disastrous international policy and catastrophic health policy, always with the involvement of the aforementioned group. predominant within the Armed Forces.

What would have been a simple electoral dispute gave way to, in the absence of any real or potential enemy, an outbreak of lack of coordination in (and among) the various segments of the repressive branch of the State (Armed Forces, Military Police, Federal Police and Highway Police). Federal). And the center of the stage was occupied by characters driven by blind violence and simplistic formulations almost always expressed through a scarce repertoire of idiotic insults. We await research on the social insertion of those who vandalized Praça dos Três Poderes.

If, even in classic cases, the rise of fascism went through the impregnation (and subsequent command) of the repressive state apparatus, the rise of Bolsonarism, whose leader has already been declared not fond of military careers, but is admired by the troop base, signals the risk of worrying mutation of military tutelage in Brazil.

*Lucio Flavio Rodrigues de Almeida is a professor at the Department of Social Sciences at PUC-SP.

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