How far can Bolsonaro go?

Image_Marcio Costa


The support of the Bolsonaro government has as its main supporters the rentier fraction of the bourgeoisie and the military officers of the Army

The most adequate answer seems to be that the Bolsonaro government will go, or stay, as far as two specific social sectors can take it with the objective of guaranteeing their gains. The leading fraction of the rentier bourgeoisie and the activist core of the military.

Amidst a diffuse tangle of interests and policies, these seem to be the ones that have established an objective with a certain rationality, therefore, more specific in the maintenance and survival of the Bolsonaro government.

The rentier fraction of the bourgeoisie, absolutely internationalized, is the real leading core of the power bloc that emerged from the impeachment coup of Dilma Rousseff. He directed the process of overthrowing the previous government and laid the foundations for the brief but decisive Michel Temer government. It was in this government that one of the pillars of the current moment of market hegemony in Brazil, the labor reform, took place. In other words, changes in the entire system of worker protection and the value of work, which is the main strategy for maintaining the high rates of capital accumulation of the world's large financial companies, in an economy in crisis.

The Bolsonaro government ensured the continuity of this strategy of accelerated transfer of economic resources and financial resources from the working class towards the coffers of local and global rent. Consolidated information on the budget execution of the Bolsonaro government in 2019, it is very clear who benefits from its maintenance.

Union spending on interest and debt amortization consumed 38,27% of everything that was spent or invested in 2019 by the Bolsonaro government. While expenditures, together with health, education, social assistance and work, reached 13,78% in the same year. (

We follow, weekly, the Bolsonaro government to serve the interests of big capital. There are new administrative ordinances, provisional measures, bills, constitutional amendments, presidential vetoes issued by the Bolsonaro government and approved by the National Congress, with the same purpose of transferring income and capital from the working class to the rentier fraction of the bourgeoisie. Be it hosting this wealth in Brazil or hosting it in foreign tax havens.

Recent examples of this are the presidential veto of financial aid to States and Municipalities, in the amount of R$ 8,6 billion that would be destined to face Covid-19 arising from the extinction of the Monetary Reserve Fund, and the approval of the constitutional amendment 10/ 2020, which gives autonomy to the Central Bank to buy from friendly banks, old debt that is difficult to collect, accumulated over 15 years in an amount exceeding R$ 1 trillion. The banks will hand over rotten papers to the government and will receive Brazilian public debt securities, which pay the highest interest rates in the world.

This austerity policy, put into practice since Temer, was deepened in the Bolsonaro government, which guarantees a kind of “functionality” to the rentier fraction of the bourgeoisie, leader of this bloc in power.

Maintaining this policy has a high political cost, however. The association between neoliberalism and authoritarianism is on the rise across the world. It is the neo-fascist political groups that have shown the greatest willingness to guarantee, based on the open dispute of ideological and moral values, this authoritarian regression, key to the application of these radical austerity measures and expropriation of workers.

But it is not the neo-fascist groups that give authoritarian guarantees to this power bloc in Brazil. It has been the military activist core that has fulfilled this role of “stronger brother” for these extreme right groups.

In the same way, but in proportion, the military has objective reasons to fulfill this role of supporting the government. It seems little, but this Bonapartist sector obtained a set of expressive gains in the Bolsonaro government. Its social and corporate base, identified as the military, which in the generic sense of the term involves professionals of medium ranks of the armed forces and police-military corporations, were left out of the pension reform, guaranteeing the maintenance of all the historical benefits. They are not included in the prohibition of salary adjustments and have gained greater social legitimacy, including to disguise possible involvement with illegal paramilitary militias, such as those foreseen in the concept of exclusion of illegality of the neo-fascist security project proposed by former minister Sergio Moro, on behalf of from Bolsonaro.

For these objective gains, high-ranking military personnel, especially from the Army – a weapon that among the three singular forces, army, navy and air force, has been least modernized in recent decades – occupied prominent positions in the government, being inseparable from it. It is the general officers of the ruling core who establish, through explicit and veiled threats against democracy, a kind of wall of protection for the Bolsonaro government, based on the fear of a “coup d’état” sufficient for, until now, the conservative liberal sectors do not invest in Bolsonaro's impeachment, despite abundant constitutional and material reasons.

The other sectors of the bloc in power contribute to the support of the Bolsonaro government, but in a secondary way and, in some cases, already in a limping way.

The local agribusiness bourgeoisie, however, absolutely dependent on exports and the international market, which defines the prices of its products, did not see its economic and profit expectations satisfied. Exports declined sharply. China, the main consumer market for local products, became the target of a rhetorical campaign of attacks and the government itself made investments in the sector secondary, with agriculture benefiting with an incredible 0,54% of the budget carried out in 2019. Governor of the State of Goiás, Ronaldo Caiado, a right-wing conservative and leader of the ruralists, is not just about differences in dealing with the pandemic. It is also about discontent that is beginning to take shape in this sector.

The local bourgeoisie, dependent on international relations but politically subordinate, began to establish an ambiguous relationship with Bolsonaro. Some of its leaders, from extreme right politics such as this highly evading sector and debtor of taxes linked to commerce, maintain support and even finance Bolsonarist groups of neo-fascist inclination. There are a number of sectors of the dependent local bourgeoisie that do not take a front position in defense of Bolsonaro. His interest in “breaking the blockade” against COVID-19, breaking the rules of social isolation allowing the opening of commerce and factories, is his point of contact with Bolsonaro. However, the distancing of the PSDB and the DEM, the criticisms of Fernando Henrique Cardoso, the conflict with the governor of São Paulo, João Doria, the tensions with the president of the Chamber of Deputies Rodrigo Maia and with the ministers of the Federal Supreme Court of inclination conservative liberal, are solidly strong signs of a crisis in the power bloc.

The national leaders of the neo-Pentecostal evangelical churches, which organize a proletarian and semi-proletarian base around a religious and moral explanation for a world of precarious labor relations and impoverishment, seem to be the most faithful in this subordinate sphere in the power bloc. They articulate through the “Centrão”, a parliamentary bloc of various party-legends, a bench in the National Congress to support the austerity measures and to block the impeachment, at least for the time being.

The support of the Bolsonaro government, therefore, has as its main supporters the rentier fraction of the bourgeoisie and the military officers of the Army. From them political initiatives are generated, both in the parliamentary field but mainly in the field of business forces. No wonder, unlike most areas where the Bolsonarist core effectively determines government actions, the decision on economic measures is “outsourced” to mercadist agents, who operate directly under the Ministry of Economy, with the minister as a political agent your.

Bolsonaro will maintain the blockade of impeachment initiatives as long as he is able to maintain this strategy of two combined governments within his government: the Bolsonarista-military government and the Guedes-rentista government. The government will go as far as the alliance between rentiers and the military is effective and resists the wear and tear promoted by the political struggle, promoted by the workers and by the democratic sectors.

*Jorge Branco is a doctoral student in Political Science at UFRGS.


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