Is there still a “liberal-conservative” right in Brazil?

Image: Emir Bozkurt
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By JULIAN RODRIGUES*

Without a good material-historical analysis of reality, it is impossible to get the program, tactics, politics, agitation right.

The debate about the character and historical role of the bourgeoisie, the dominant classes, and the Brazilian right is thorny, has a long tradition, and different interpretations. However, it is one of the central themes for us progressives. Without a good material-historical analysis of reality, it is impossible to get the program, tactics, politics, and agitation right.

Understanding the nuances of capitalist, imperialist, neoliberal domination and the correlation of forces, the accelerated transformations of the mode of production are presuppositions for us, those at the bottom.

Has liberal “democracy” (something almost exclusive to the white north) gone bankrupt for good? Are we in a historical stage with characteristics similar to those of the 1920s-1940s – when fascism and Nazism rose?

Everything indicates yes. Capitalist crisis, crisis of hegemony, imperialist aggressiveness, failure of developmentalism and welfare state. We now live in a time more like the 1920s-1950s than the trein glories (1950-1980). 

Of course, “good” capitalism in Europe, the era rooseveltian in the USA and the developmental-progressive governments in Brazil and Argentina, for example, are all the result of this same historical gap (1929 crisis, second war, cold war, etc.). Without the capitalist crisis, the devastation of war and the USSR, it would not have been possible to establish social democracy in the north nor “populism” in our Latin America. 

Getulism, here, was the Brazilian version of the tendency to expand the rights of those below and the construction of a provider state. It is interesting to note that even the developmental-conservative project of the civil military dictatorship (1964-1985) expanded, in a contradictory, non-linear way, etc., many social rights. For those interested in this topic, I recommend the works of one of the greatest (if not the greatest) scholar on the issue – the professor at Unicamp, dear master Eduardo Fagnani.

Blushing, I ask for poetic permission from my friends and masters who study the issue. In a very precarious summary, it is the following: our upper floor (apart from any precise characterization of the dominant classes and their strata) has never made any concessions to those below, even considering Latin American standards. Taking the Gini index as a parameter, we live in the fourteenth most unequal country in the world – sharing this “honorable” position with Congo.

Liberalism in Brazil has always been something very peculiar, so to speak. In the 19th century, most liberals here lived sweetly and/or defended slavery with gusto. Master Alfredo Bosi gave the entire line in the canonical “Slavery between two liberalisms”. In the text he went to the heart and nailed it: the antinomy of slavery x liberalism in Brazil was just a “verbal paradox”. 

This little digression seems unnecessary, but believe me, it is not.

The characterization of the Brazilian bourgeoisie and the ruling classes as a whole were at the heart of the differences between the various progressive sectors, whether in the university, in the social movement and mainly in the PCB, the main party of our class between the 1920s and 1980s of the last century. The controversy over the existence or not of “progressive” sectors in the bourgeoisie was linked to practical issues mainly with the definition of the correct alliance policy that communists should implement. 

Simplifying the issue is the following: were there before and are there today fractions of the Brazilian dominant classes with which workers can establish tactical and programmatic alliances?

The bullshit strongly demarcated fields. It has always been at the basis of countless ruptures between communist, socialist, labor, social democratic parties and organizations, etc. The PT's alliance policy between 1980-2002 expressed this “classist” conception in opposition to the policies of the PCB, PCdoB and PDT. O updating PT member over the last 25 years is the topic for another article.

And what about the right, after all?

The conviction of the PCB back then and the majority of the PT today are similar. There is a belief that the Brazilian ruling classes are divided between archaic, authoritarian, oligarchic, imperialist sectors and other “modern”, democratic, nationalist sectors. 

This belief is idealistic, almost childish. It was never confirmed. See, for example, how the bourgeoisie has been treating us since 2003 – even with all the concessions. They overthrew Dilma in 2016, arrested Lula and then elected a fascist without even blushing. Their liberalism only serves to ease consciences and inspire embarrassed editorials (the Sheet is the greatest example of cynicism- in fact, I prefer the sincerity of the Estadão, Globo and Veja).

Lula was elected in 2002, re-elected in 2006, elected Dilma in 2010, who, in turn, was reappointed in 2014. It was too much for them. They threw the masks away and expelled Dilma. The plan, of course, was to elect an Alckmin. They arrested Lula later. They cleared the way. The plan failed. Pragmatic, they did not hesitate to embark on the neo-fascist canoe when the crude Bolsonaro proved to be the only one capable of defeating the PT.

Money has no country, no conviction, no ideology - it adapts to circumstances. Of course, it wasn't that pleasant for the four hundred people at Estadão, the yuppies at Folha, the businesspeople at Fiesp, the progressive neoliberals at Globo, the urban middle classes, and the liberal-conservative academy to endorse Bolsonaro. But they covered their noses and went.

In other words, between a liberal-progressive, democrat, friendly USP professor like Haddad and the fascist ex-military, “patrimonialist”, anti-media, anti-intellectual at the right time, the rich joined the regression. Bolsonaro committed to them. Paulo Guedes was the guarantor and symbol of this alliance.

It seems to me that 2016 demonstrated that there is no less shitty bourgeoisie. Do you prefer FHC to Bolsonaro? Certainly, especially because it helps with the “perfuming the shit” operation – apologies (kisses to Sérgio) for the rudeness.

Entonces, QED (CQD) there is no liberal-democratic bourgeoisie in Brazil. Luciano Huck is just an idealistic specter of the belief that there is a “civilized” and rational portion of the ruling class. 

That said, I understand the limitations and nuances of a journalistic article written on the spur of the moment, without academic rigor. By the way, I highly recommend the book by Renato Rovai and Sergio Amadeu: How to defeat fascism.

However, disagreeing with Renato Rovai, the distinction between an “orthodox right” (or “traditional”) x “fascist right” does not seem to me to be relevant or help us understand the current scenario. 

I know this is not what Renato Rovai thinks, but perhaps a quick reading of his article could lead us to the conclusion that the limits between both right-wings are clear Or worse, induce the idea that the “orthodox” right-wing is less bad than the fascist one.

He calls the liberal-conservative right “orthodox”, let’s say the “normal” right. This distinction is important – not even Malufism was so regressive and reactionary. Maluf represented an authoritarian capitalist development project, but one that stimulated the economy, created jobs, and was backed by the role of the State in “dark transactions” with large companies, such as construction companies, of course.

Today's fascists are disruptive, ultra-liberal, a bit silly and at the same time enemies (rhetorical or practical) of such "Establishment". Let us think, for example, of the apparent contradiction of watching the physiological mega-bourgeois Trump lead a kind of ultra-neoliberal anti-State crusade.

Well, well... there is no longer a significant distinction between neo-fascist sealers and modern liberals from Faria Lima or Globo. The neoliberal project is happily shared by both. Of course there are numerous differences: the position on democratic freedoms, for example. But, when things get tough, they all unite against the PT and Lula, against social policies, national sovereignty, developmentalism, government intervention in the economy, Latin American integration, reindustrialization and so on.

In this sense, Renato Rovai is right to note the differences between the sectors of the dominant classes, as well as the growing loss of space of the “old right” to these neo-fascist trash. However, I disagree with the Rovaian thesis (Rovaista, Rovaisian?) that the rise of this group is more damaging to the “orthodox right” than to the progressive camp.

It seems to me that the “orthodox” guys have already thrown in the towel, have fully embraced neo-fascism and are adapting more and more, to the point where there are no visible differences. Besides, who needs the “orthodox right” today? In terms of concrete social subjects, who does this “orthodox right” represent? Even the “liberals” who proclaim themselves and think they are clean are already, since the coup, with “les main sales”. 

This is not something to celebrate. However, the reality is brutal: today the right is the same thing in everything that really matters. For example, go with Bolsonaro again if possible (or with Tarciso, Michele, whoever myth indicate). They want to defeat Lula (that is, us) as quickly as possible. Now or in 2026. No illusions. There are no allies, not even circumstantial or specific, among the “upstairs” group.

Perhaps the biggest divergence between us is that Rovai concludes his excellent article with the following sentence: “The fascist rage in Congress is bad for the country, bad for the progressive camp, but even worse for the orthodox right.”

This issue is not sideways. It summarizes the core of the reading of the historical period and the relationship between classes. Fortunately or unfortunately, there is no longer an “orthodox right” crying over its weakening in the face of the fascists.

With more or less enthusiasm, with more or less pleasure, the fact is that since the coup, through the Bolsonaro government, the supposed two sectors of the elites have transformed, for any practical purpose, into one thing.

Life is getting harder and harder, and capitalism is becoming more and more similar to what it was in the 19th century. It is up to us, then, the good old revolutionary, anti-imperialist, radical reformist resistance. Our time calls for people like Lenin, Stalin, Rosa, Mao, Ho Chi Minh, Fidel, Trindade, Chávez, Anita, Pagu, Apolônio, Prestes, Bezerra, Osvaldão, Marighela, Brizola, Florestan, Erundina, Zé Dirceu, Genoino Stedile, Olívio, Valério Arcary, Ivan Valente, Gleisi and, of course, Lula. More than strategy, program or tactics, what really counts is a straight spine and class commitment.

All this to send the following “hail”: the so-called liberal right is dead. Too late. So here's the thing: fire at the fascists, no illusions, stay cool and Lula in them.

* Julian Rodrigues He is a journalist and teacher, and an LGBTI and Human Rights activist. Political training coordinator at the Perseu Abramo Foundation.


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