The pitfalls for Lula – part 3

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By JEAN MARC VON DER WEID*

It is not possible to cover the sun with a sieve and applaud the Armed Forces for not having carried out the coup

as forArmed Forces

According to some more optimistic analysts, in the episodes that sowed the energy's government and in the days that followed his electoral defeat, the Armed Forces (FFAA) proved to be faithfully respectful of republican and democratic canons. In my opinion, this interpretation can be compared to the truck that runs out of control in the direction of a precipice being considered reliable, because it braked at the last moment before crashing into the abyss.

The Brazilian Armed Forces have not shown themselves to be republican or democratic since they staged the coup that established the Republic itself. When they did not act directly intervening in politics through coups and directly supporting or taking over dictatorships, they were always a threatening shadow, hovering over the regime and institutions.

So as not to lengthen the course of threats, pressures, coups and coup attempts, I only recall the role of the military after withdrawing from the power they controlled through the most barbaric violence, including arrests, torture and murder. In the Constituent Assembly, this shadow weighed on the deputies and senators, intervening, notably, in the writing of the famous article 142. According to the version of the military themselves, controversial by the analysis of the great majority of jurists, this article gives the Armed Forces a “moderating power” that would legally justify an intervention if the other powers do not agree.

In another key moment in our recent history, General Villas Bôas's ultimatum (via twitter!) constrained the STF to vote against Lula's habeas corpus, the first step towards taking him to prison and making him ineligible. Finally, the top brass of the Armed Forces were accomplices in the anti-electronic ballot box campaign, and protected the demonstrators who called for a military coup at the door of the barracks, defending “freedom of expression”.

You can't cover the sun with a sieve and applaud the Armed Forces for not giving the coup that was sung stone after Jair Bolsonaro's defeat. Yes, the blow was not given. But this cannot be explained by respectful behavior towards democracy. After all, the army commander himself confronted the Minister of Justice and the DF police, who were trying to arrest the participants in the riot in Praça dos Três Poderes and who had retreated to the doors of the force's headquarters. “I have more troops and firepower”, the general would have threatened, turning to the PM commander. Yes, the truck was stopped at the right time, but not out of respect for democracy. The motivations would be the position of the American Armed Forces against the coup or, more basely, the generals' fear of getting involved in an ungovernable regime that could hinder their dolce far nientewith high wages.

The Lula government and, above all, the judiciary, are doing their best to bring the coup leaders to court and the STF took an important decision by declaring that the investigations and judgment of the military involved in the coup attempt and in the protection of the coup leaders be the responsibility of civil justice and not military justice. It is an essential principle to recognize that military justice judges military crimes, but civil crimes committed by military personnel are tried by civil justice. We will see how far this arm wrestling will go and the moment of truth will be the condemnation of the generals involved in this case. Will the STF have the courage to frame and condemn them? Will the generalada accept the result? The future role of the Armed Forces in Brazil depends on this.

It is necessary to look at the broader picture and the behavior of the Armed Forces since redemocratization. Out of power, but armored against the prosecution of all their crimes during the dictatorship, the military retreated to the barracks and their professional activities, but cultivated resentment against the civil power. They continued to defend their role as “liberators” and “defenders of the country against communist threats”. They continued shamelessly commemorating the 1964 coup in orders of the day read in all barracks, year after year. The civil authorities swallowed these provocations and looked to the side, closing their ears, even in the governments of Lula and Dilma.

The timid position, not to say intimidated, of the successive presidents of the Republic since the end of the dictatorship, led them to make concession after concession to “calm down the troops”. The number of soldiers in the three arms rose from 280 to 370, in round numbers. The budget has also grown, with spending on active and retired military reaching more than $80 billion. When other expenses and toys of war (atomic submarine, Swedish fighter jets, modern tanks) are included in the account, the budget of the Armed Forces is greater than that of the ministries of education and health combined.

This account does not include all the salaries of the 8 to 12 officers hired for civilian positions during the government of Jair Bolsonaro, salaries that were added to those they received as military personnel. According to some sources, close to 1,6 officers currently receive wages in excess of 100 reais per month. Eduardo Pazzuelo, the “logistics specialist” who sent oxygen to Macapá instead of meeting the urgent demand from Manaus, pocketed 300 thousand sticks when he moved to the reserve. A farewell toast?

And all this for what, exactly? What are the Armed Forces for? Theoretically, the function of these people is the defense of the territory, but they were used more to repress republican movements, during the empire or social movements like Canudos, Caldeirão, Contestado and other smaller ones in the first decades of the Republic. Or the Prestes Column. The only war in which we fought in the Republic, the Second World War, took thousands of uniformed civilians, called squares, to fight in Italy, after we had flirted with Nazi-fascism during a good part of the dictatorship of Getúlio Vargas.

Since then, the Armed Forces have adopted a different definition for their mission: in the framework of the cold war after the end of the second world war, the object of action of our military became the “defense of democracy against communist threats” . This doctrine continues to be in force in the official documents of the Armed Forces and was used to justify coup attempts and the 1964 coup itself. Anachronistically, it continues to be the object of official formation and planning for the three weapons.

The messianic character of the official posture leads them to believe that they are the only force in the country capable of leading the nation into the future. And what future is this? Recently, the think thanks of the Armed Forces elaborated a project for a country with goals until 2035. They counted on the continuity of the government of Jair Bolsonaro to carry out their proposal, a mixture of neoliberalism mixed with conservatism in customs, destruction of environmental legislation, already badly shaken, elimination of reserves indigenous peoples and quilombolas, militarization of education and other jokes out of time and place.

Without Jair Bolsonaro in power, where will what has been called, with propriety, the Military Party end up?

The politicization of the Armed Forces never ceased to happen, but this period of Bolsonarism in power took this process to a paroxysm. Hundreds of officers began to publicly position themselves on political issues, through social networks and in direct contradiction with military statutes. Many went to attend the classes of the supposed philosopher Olavo de Carvalho, consolidating a set of positions that were reactionary in content and anti-democratic in their pretensions. Colonels and other officers embraced without restraint, the movements at the door of the barracks, ignoring the security rules of these establishments.

It was not by chance that the Bolsonarist civil movements began to directly pressure the officers, calling for the coup, when they realized that the generals, admirals and brigadiers were hesitating to take the initiative. I have already written about this process in other articles to indicate that the only thing lacking was unity of action among the middle officers, so that they managed to frame their superiors or to run them over to carry out the coup. Bolsonaro's cowardice left this middle layer of the officers without leadership and there was a lack of a general who would do what the other Mourão did in 1964: put the troops on the roads and force the hand of the commanding generals. At the present time, the latter have become aware of the resistance of a large part of society and the threat of international isolation and have stemmed the coup tide.

And now? With a large majority of right-wingers, many of them still Bolsonarists despite the growing demoralization of the “myth”, officialdom is at the tip of its hooves, waiting for the return of the vine, whether legally or by force. The cleaning up of the officers, with the removal of those most committed to the January 8 attempt, may put the category on the defensive for a while, but the fact that each change of command will place at the top of the career officers who are more committed to the line of intervention “saving the nation” leads us to believe that we will have crisis after crisis in relations with the military. And the tactic adopted by the FHC, Lula and Dilma governments, giving in to pressure to defuse crises, will not help.

Lula has already swallowed a huge frog by giving in to pressure from the Navy to sink the aircraft carrier poisoned, confessedly by asbestos and, secretly, by radioactive material. IBAMA took a stand against Marina, discreetly, too. But Lula, in crisis with the army, did not want to open another point of conflict. In aeronautics, there are also problems piling up, with accusations of buying planes without competition. It's all under wraps so far, but cases will come to light sooner or later. Giving in to the military will not make Lula palatable to officials. It will only intensify the impetus for provocations and blackmail.

The discussion on the role of the Armed Forces in today's global and national contexts has to be opened in society and in Congress, but the composition of the latter does not allow us to assume that a transition can be started by reducing the size of our Armed Forces and directing its role towards the guarantee of legality.

There will be a test of nine, most likely when the Armed Forces are activated to control criminal activities in the Amazon. As I have pointed out before, eliminating illegal mining controlled by criminal factions (CV, PCC, AdA, others) will require an operation including all three weapons, possibly with armed clashes in the rivers and forests of the northern border. How will the three forces behave?

Eliminating the political behavior of the Armed Forces is a task for more than one government, but steps must be taken now. The new command of the army adopted a republican and professional discourse and, apparently, is trying to discipline the officers, eliminating public political manifestations. It is very important, but it does not control the inter pares conspiracy, carried out inside the barracks. It's dammed water, but the pressure can keep building up quietly. Any weakening of civil power in these four years could cause the dam of disciplinary containment to come crashing down. It is one more threat, and a big one, for the Lula government.

The fractured society

As of 2013, the perception of all analysts about Brazilian society began to change. We got used, since the end of the military dictatorship, to look at Brazilians as a people in clear political and ideological progress. Until then, in opinion polls, those questioned who classified themselves as being from the right or centre-right were a minority. And small minority. The identity with the center left and the left prevailed and even the extreme left had significance.

The majority vote for Fernando Collor was minimized as a point outside the curve and, for 20 years, the electorate suffocated presidential candidates seen as center-left and left-wing. It can be argued whether this political classification was consistent from the point of view of a more careful analysis, but the reading of the electorate pointed to an opposition between a social-democratic identity (PSDB) and a leftist or socialist one (PT and allies). The right had no qualms about classifying everyone as a communist, but the electorate did not align with this reading.

We did not realize that the opposition between these two blocs was pushing the former towards the right and the PSDB's social-democratic overtones were being abandoned in exchange for a neoliberal discourse on the economy and ever-increasing concessions on the customs agenda. The PT left and its allies also slipped towards the center, abandoning the more advanced discourse on the economy and customs for a more electorally palatable posture. The clash was concentrated between the defense of liberal economic reform on the one hand, and the defense of the rights of the poor, blacks, women, indigenous peoples, LGBTQIA+, and the environment on the other.

The backdrop of social awareness appeared in opinion polls, when questions were asked about gay marriage, abortion, the death penalty, gender equality, sex education, among others. Most of those consulted were against the most advanced agendas, showing a persistent conservatism. But, despite the resistance, the changes in customs made some progress in these decades, while democratic values ​​were definitely supported by the majority.

The turnaround in public opinion from 2013 came like a bolt from the blue for many people. For the first time since the end of the dictatorship, a rabidly anti-democratic, anti-communist and ultra-conservative layer assumed a public identity and started the polarization that marks society today. In the 2014 elections, Dilma Roussef had to face a candidacy, that of Aécio Neves, who turned to the right, seeking this emerging conservative vote. He won Dilma by a very narrow margin and had to govern under the sign of contesting the electoral process itself. The rejection of politics and the belief that politics “is all the same thing” grew in public opinion. It is in this broth of culture that Jair Bolsonaro's candidacy flourishes.

The components that explain this process are debated by analysts. Some say that everything is a consequence of the massive media campaign against left-wing governments, in particular the political exploitation of corruption scandals, called monthly payments and petrolão. There is no doubt that the alliance between judges and prosecutors abusing the law to make political opposition, solidly supported by the mainstream media, played an important role in isolating Dilma Rousseff, but we have to remember that Lula was subjected to a similar process in 2006 and was re-elected with surpluses, leaving the government in 2011 with popularity at “Soviet levels”, more than 80% approval.

That is, the anti-corruption discourse did not stick with the electorate in this first offensive. Why did you stick with Dilma? The car wash operation had more material to feed the media and, on the other hand, the management of the economy, especially at the beginning of the second government, proved to be problematic. This administration was even more attacked for having adopted the economic program of its opponent in the election, with a series of austerity measures, whose impact on the population was notable. In my opinion, it was the combination of the economic and the ethical that took the support indexes for the president to less than 10% and favored the movement that led to the 2016 coup.

After the coup, another factor entered the political arena: the intense participation of the right in social networks, assuming a hegemony that is still in force, although relatively weakened. Bolsonaro took on an increasingly prominent role in this alternative media and, little by little, created a web of allegiances and militancy with the characteristics of a religious sect. Highly professional in exploiting facebooks, whatsapps, instagrams and others, the right formed a powerful bubble of supporters who interrelate permanently, follow the guidelines and blindly believe in the information circulating in it.

This phenomenon allowed an ultra-right, simplistic, homophobic, racist, misogynistic, “anti-political”, anti-democratic, anti-scientific and anti-poverty ideology to crystallize. This identity, which lay underground in the mentality of a large part of the nationality without the courage to assume itself, came to light and showed itself in an aggressive and militant way.

This movement was being assumed and stimulated by the Pentecostal churches, especially in the so-called “market” churches, but not only. Yes, the UCKG has a party to call its own, the Republican, and other denominations have elected their bishops in various parties. The bible workbench is today a powerhouse. But one cannot accuse these churches of having generated this right-wing movement. During Lula's government and part of Dilma's, these political pastors made agreements with the left at various times, showing a very characteristic opportunism. But it was just the tide to change for them to adopt the right-wing extremist discourse and swell the rising tide of Bolsonarism. This evangelical current was even more empowered when the 2018 election numbers showed that Jair Bolsonaro had a 10 million vote lead over Fernando Haddad among these voters. This was exactly the total difference between Jair Bolsonaro and Fernando Haddad and the pastors saw themselves as the big voters of the energúmen.

How big is Bolsonarism these days? I do not think that the vote for Jair Bolsonaro is composed, in its entirety, of people from the ultra-right “bubble”. Just as Lula had a decisive margin of votes that opted for him in opposition to Jair Bolsonaro, the same happened in the composition of the latter's vote, with many people closing their noses to prevent the return of Lula and the PT.

Fanatical supporters can be identified in opinion polls among those who support all the proposals and postures of the “myth”. This number was, during the pandemic, for example, between 15 and 20% of those consulted in the polls. After the polarization of the electoral campaign (and with the trauma of the pandemic behind us) this support rose to 25 to 30%. The hate speech kept on permanent boil for four years had its perverse effects, not only to consolidate an ultra-reactionary opinion, but to make its defenders express it in a violent way.

Even taking the lower number of these estimates, we have to verify that the ultra-right has an active militant base in the networks and capable of mobilizing in the streets in large numbers, with a support of around 25% of the electorate.

This militancy, when one looks at its most hardened participants, is able to act with a dedication that was previously only seen on the left. Thousands camped outside the barracks for almost two months, hundreds of activists capable of disrupting more than a thousand points on federal roads and close to three thousand fanatics capable of attacking and destroying the executive, legislative and judicial palaces are a good demonstration of the firepower of Bolsonarism.

The cowardly and defensive attitude adopted by Bolsonaro since his electoral defeat has made him lose prestige among his most hardened supporters, but in the bubbles of the ultra-right, the “myth” remains the reference. The succession of scandals, in particular the case of the Arabian jewels, could mean further loss of support. However, I remember the enormous amount of barbarities perpetrated by Bolsonaro throughout his life and throughout his government and how limited the effect on his popularity was. The internet bubbles are so powerful to shield you with unbelievable narratives, but swallowed by Bolsonaristas as divine truths, that I must think that the energúmeno is Teflon itself, nothing sticks to it.

If Jair Bolsonaro becomes ineligible, in one of his numerous processes in the Electoral Justice and if he is arrested, for many other processes in the common Justice, he will continue to be a “great voter”, but it will be difficult to find someone to replace him in the “myth” role. This will be a positive point in Lula's succession.

The mass of activist and militant maneuvers, aggressive and violent, also has a dangerous component: the more than 700 alleged CACs (hunters, shooters and collectors). This base, which is armed to the teeth and with ammunition for a long war, was absent from the demonstrations outside the barracks and in the riot of January 8th. Despite being urged to participate by dramatic calls on the networks, Bolsonaro's armed militia did not show their face. This does not mean that it does not exist or that it does not want to expose itself. It all depends on the political context.

I believe that this group has an important limitation, which is its organizational decentralization and the lack of a unified command. Making even a fraction of no more than 1% of this base, that is, 7 militiamen, mobilize to attack targets across the country simultaneously is complicated. Each one will always have the flea behind their ear, afraid to expose themselves with their small local group, organized in some shooting club, and not be accompanied by the rest of the base in other places. But punctual actions are more viable, especially those of the type attacking energy transmission towers or any other target. We cannot rule out this type of harassment of the Lula government in the future.

The political and ideological division of Brazilian society was not alleviated by the traditional period of post-election truce, the “hundred days of peace”. Not only did the tension reach a paroxysm until the January 8 riot, but polls show that opposition and support for the former president are practically identical to the election results, almost XNUMX/XNUMX. What to expect in the coming months?

The Bolsonarist right and the “military party” are on the defensive after the repressive operation against the participants and responsible for the attacks in Praça dos Três Poderes. The absence and lukewarmness of the “myth” are also paralyzing the block. "Will return? Will not return?". The bubble is confused and still having to defend its leader in the Arab and other scandals. But this doesn't last forever. The privileged arena of Bolsonarism or, in the case of the eclipse of the “myth”, of some emerging leadership (the children? the wife?), tends to be Congress. The bible and ox benches, both root Bolsonarists, have a series of agendas, some of customs and others (anti)environmental, in their agendas. They are still waiting for the right moment, and busy with a short-lived initiative, the CPI do riot. And hampered by the eternal negotiation of positions in the government, which can limit alliances with other right-wing forces.

With CPI or with the dispute of several agendas dear to Bolsonarism, what we are going to see is a congressional clash accompanied by a media battle and on social networks, which could evolve into mass mobilizations. Regression in abortion legislation, for example, must be a subject of strong tension inside and outside the legislative space. And others will follow, with no rest for the government. Bolsonarism is crazy to provoke the left and identity movements and dispute the streets, in numbers or violence. The left has not had a monopoly on mass actions for some time and now it will have to show that it is alive and willing to support the government and its agenda.

Tax reform is a dry topic and, in order for it to provoke mobilizations, it will have to be pedagogically disseminated to the people or they will not mobilize to support the government. But everything will depend on Fernando Haddad's proposal. A reform that attacks the concentration of wealth, reducing the burdens for the common people and the middle class and increasing it for the A class can win a beautiful mobilization under the sign of redistributive justice. However, the government will have much more arguments to sensitize the people to express their support if it justifies the project by the need for resources for very concrete programs that address the needs of the people's day-to-day lives.

Half of the Brazilian electorate did not adopt this execrable ideology that has been manifesting itself raw and brutally in recent years all of a sudden. There was already a layer, wider than we imagined, of racists, misogynists, homophobes, etc. These people who horrify us already lived with us, but closeted or, at least, less open and aggressive. After all, structural racism is not a rhetorical figure, but a reality inherited from centuries of slavery and the marginalization of freedmen.

What is new is that all these attitudes started to be adopted with faith and pride by a large part of the population and everything that was previously repressed and hidden came to light, uncovering the manhole where this moral mud lay. It was an eruption of behaviors that were not only discriminatory, but also filled with hate, spurred on by Bolsonarist militancy on social media and by the very behavior of the madman. Violence took on the most extreme form of these attitudes and greatly increased the risk of blacks, women, indigenous peoples, LGBTQUIA+ in their daily lives, including by police violence.

Disarming the politics of hate and the ideology of the extreme right will be very difficult, even if Lula manages to get the economy off the ground and carry out his social programs. The weight of retrograde ideology is very great and will continue to be driven by social networks and Pentecostal churches. In the last elections, she was able to drag more than a third of the vote of the poorest. If the economy moves forward, improving employment and income and accompanied by consistent social programs, prejudices among the poorest, including in churches, can be partially broken. But the trap lies precisely in this “if”…

*Jean Marc von der Weid is a former president of the UNE (1969-71). Founder of the non-governmental organization Family Agriculture and Agroecology (ASTA).

To read the first article in this series click on https://aterraeredonda.com.br/a-armadilha/

To read the second article in this series click on https://aterraeredonda.com.br/as-armadilhas-para-lula/

See this link for all articles

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