Pack of crazy people

Image: Jan van der Wolf


Marta Suplicy is a well-established bridge with the old bourgeoisie of São Paulo, a guarantor with the elites that it is ok to elect Boulos, that he will not change the established order

Recently, one of the most seemingly unlikely political movements occurred: Guilherme Boulos and Marta Suplicy sealed an agreement to form a ticket composed of the Workers' Party and the Socialism and Freedom Party aiming at municipal elections in the capital of São Paulo, in this year 2024. This movement has several meanings, and in this short piece we will focus on one of them which, in our view, is the most obscure, but most revealing of the national political logic and which we can define as the rehabilitation of the 2016 coup plotters.

In recent years, one of the greatest political lessons we Brazilians have had was given by the then planning minister Romero Jucá when he uttered the expression “with the Supreme Court and everything”. Jucá's succinct and cynical phrase revealed the machinery that involves a coup d'état, of which we highlight one point in particular: the necessary collusion of a large part of the so-called circles of power, mainly the military, business and legal leadership.

The term “circle of power” was defined and presented by the American sociologist Wright Mills, in the book the power elite, from 1956, and describes how the dominant elite is formed by circles of relationships that are made up of key sectors of society, such as the military, government leaders and opinion makers, among others. Among the circles of power, we must give due emphasis to large print and electronic media companies and religious leaders, as they are fundamental to forming popular conviction. Finally, and above all, we need to highlight the necessary consent of the United States, since any political disturbance in a nation within the sphere of influence of imperialism cannot harm the fulfillment of its interests.

That said, we can now look at two alleged coups that took place in Brazil in recent years, the one in 2016 that deposed then-president Dilma Rousseff, and the invasion of the headquarters of the federal executive and judiciary powers, on January 8, 2023. The first of them involved the main sectors of the big national bourgeoisie and its most important political representatives, such as Jucá himself. Remembering the historical lack of political charisma of the Brazilian big bourgeoisie that forces it, from time to time, to recruit figures from other classes to be its “public face”.

This condition led her to look for an unlikely “face” on that occasion, former Brazilian Army captain Jair Messias Bolsonaro, a legitimate representative of the ultra-conservative petite bourgeoisie. This unorthodox union set in motion a very successful fascist movement, whose developments are still ongoing in national politics and culture.

In short, in 2016 something more than an “alleged” coup occurred, it was a coup in fact. And not just because he was successful in his attempts; could have failed: Lula could not have been arrested, Dilma Rousseff could not have been deposed and Jair Bolsonaro could not have been elected. Still, it would have been a legitimate and well-articulated coup attempt.

The other alleged coup, that of January 8, 2023, involved a small mass of a few thousand unemployed people, people from different classes, such as lumpen-proletarians, workers (mostly unskilled) and lower strata of the petty bourgeoisie; For the most part, they were all middle-aged or elderly people. Except for the individual support of some middle and high-ranking military personnel, one or another businessman (mainly landowners) and some religious leaders, the events of January 8 did not involve the direct or indirect participation of any of Brazil's power circles. Above all, there was, at no time, support from the United States and other imperialist nations, which, on the contrary, were quick to condemn the invasion of the seats of power in Brasília.

The mass of people on January 8th was noisy, bestial, moved solely by the instinctive fury of hallucinated individuals, without any political organization or clear tactical objectives integrated into a strategy for taking power. Ultimately, the 8th of January was nothing more than a messianic procession, one of many that mark Brazilian popular history, a social phenomenon already well explained by Maria Isaura Pereira de Queiroz, in her classic book Messianism in Brazil and the world. Very dangerous procession for the physical integrity of glass doors and art artifacts located in the corridors of the republic's headquarters, but not for the Brazilian State. Those involved must be judged according to the rigors of the law, but they should not be awarded a political distinction that they do not deserve. They are not revolutionaries or coup plotters, they are just poor people in a basket of crazy people.

That invasion, less orderly than Brancaleone's armada, can be called anything other than a coup. No matter what its participants and supporters allege or confess, there was no way they could take the Brazilian State by storm, even partially or for a short time. Treating January 8th as a coup only ends up overvaluing its participants, attributing to them the organizational capacity that they never came close to having. And, furthermore, it elevates Bolsonaro to a level of leadership that he would never be able to reach on his own legs or, much less, with his synaptic capacity.

The best thing would be for any and all remnants of that event to be relegated to political ostracism, being remembered only by academics and comedians. But, contrary to this, what is happening is the immense effort on the part of the current government, business sectors (especially the mainstream media), the judiciary and other sectors to transform the January 8 attempt into a major coup. It is well articulated that it did not happen just because Brazilian democratic forces, reflected in the courageous actions of its institutions, prevented it at the last moment. This heroic narrative has been effective, as the poor elderly clinging to their images of the Virgin Mary and the unemployed who unleashed their fury on pieces of art and windowpanes are today labeled as the worst enemies of Brazilian democracy.

Coup and rehabilitation

Even today, the attempted Communist Revolution of 1935 is treated merely as an attempt. In it, there was a broad articulation of rebellious groups across the country, and its failure occurred due to several mistaken readings regarding the desired popular participation, but it was in no way an attempt. But January 8, a laughable attempt in all its aspects, has been treated as an extraordinarily organized coup. Why?

From what it seems to us, the attempt on January 8, 2023 is playing a significant role in rebalancing the main political forces of the New Republic. The end of the military regime in 1985 and the proclamation of the 1988 Constitution began the fifth Brazilian Republic, known as the New Republic. It is based on three main political forces that expressed themselves, at least in its first decades, in the PMDB (today MBD), as the main party of the conservative center; the PSDB, a party that tried to characterize itself as a modern social democracy, but ended up fulfilling a neoliberal agenda and the Workers' Party, which emerged as a defender of a “strong reformism” agenda for Brazil, but ended up being characterized by operating a “weak reformism”, according to the description given by André Singer in his book The senses of lulism.

As can be seen, none of these forces intended or intend to provoke any profound transformation in the Brazilian State, being only operators of the peripheral capitalist logic, distanced from each other only by the different ways in which they do this, but maintaining, on the other hand, a tense balance that is, after all, the very reason for being of the New Republic. However, this balance was broken when part of the political elites decided to take the path of a palace coup, in 2016, with Bolsonarism being the artillery used in this adventure. What the forces behind the coup did not expect was that Bolsonarism would be so out of control in the madness of its values ​​and customs, above all, that it would be so irresponsible in the context of the pandemic that emerged in 2020. Therefore, it was necessary to reverse the entire process that began in 2016 and reestablish the balance of political forces that constitute the New Republic.

This explains the resurgence of Lula, the only figure capable of, in a short time, bringing together bourgeois and popular forces with the capacity to defeat Jair Bolsonaro electorally. And the worker-president took advantage of the occasion by holding a white flag on which he wrote in gold letters: “national reconstruction”. However, there was a setback in this equation: the participation of sectors of the bourgeoisie in the coup that overthrew Dilma Rousseff, after all, how can we march for national reconstruction alongside those who put the country on the rocks and practically created the figure of Jair Bolsonaro?

To overcome this setback, the Workers' Party stopped assigning the epithet “coup leader” to politicians and businesspeople who were willing to walk alongside Lula, going so far as to censure their militants who did so. Furthermore, he sought a legitimate representative of the bourgeoisie for the vice-presidency, Geraldo Alckmin, himself one of the main leaders of the 2016 coup.

But it was not enough, because despite the “scolding” given by Lula and other PT leaders, popular movements and left-wing activists did not fail to recognize in the 2016 coup plotters what they really are, coup plotters. Therefore, it was necessary to find a way to politically rehabilitate them in a total and profound way, placing them in the trenches of the “fighters for democracy”. And the attempt on January 8, 2023 was the ideal event for this.

It gave the 2016 coup plotters the opportunity to present themselves as champions of Brazilian democracy: politicians, ministers of the Supreme Court, businesspeople and all sorts of opportunists who fit the expression “with the Supreme Court and everything” now had the opportunity to come before the figure of Bolsonaro, to lean on Lula and, mainly, to guarantee broad participation in the political decisions of the Brazilian State. And this was done, and it worked: Lulism 2.0 won the 2022 elections announcing a “government of national reconstruction”, with the now “comrade, hero of the Brazilian people” Alckmin as vice president and the blessing of the Supreme Court. But the truth is that it was just more of the same, a little more turbocharged: Instagrammable diversity climbed the Planalto ramp and even took over some social ministries, but the strong portfolios linked to planning and the economy remain under the control of the big bourgeoisie.

Boulos and Marta, opportunism and rehabilitation

The most recent and most acute movement in this rehabilitation process is the political rapprochement of Guilherme Boulos and Marta Suplicy forming a ticket to run for mayor of São Paulo. Marta, long ago, left the Workers' Party and moved to the right. She joined the MDB, under the auspices of coup leader Michel Temer, and remained, until recently, in the government of the capital of São Paulo. Still as a senator, she voted in favor of Dilma Rousseff's deposition, and, in an interview with the newspaper El País, on June 30, 2016, made an effort to condemn the Workers' Party as an incorrigibly corrupt association while the MDB was undergoing investigations, but only punctual and which did not have a role in corruption modus operandi.

Despite this, aiming to tie together several interests, the PT got closer to Marta Suplicy, reintegrated her into its ranks and nominated her as a candidate for vice-mayor of São Paulo. The old song whose verses say that Marta is the certainty of dialogue with the peripheries is also back. But a concrete fact is that Marta Suplicy is a well-established bridge with the old bourgeoisie of São Paulo, a guarantor with the traditional elites that it is ok to elect Boulos, he is one of ours now, he will make many popular restaurants and maybe even some more bike lanes , but it will not change the established order.

However, and this is a decisive point, the opposition of PT and its rehabilitated people to the political figure of Jair Bolsonaro does not reach Bolsonaroism. Several agendas of Bolsonarism remain addressed by the new Lula government, including the participation of Bolsonarists in various government posts, as reported by the portal Last Second IG, on November 11, 2023. Participation that is intended to expand through waves, jokes and some scolding of PT members who try to remain on the left, as occurred at a political event in Recife, capital of Pernambuco, in March 2023, when Lula defended the tucana governor, Rachel Lyra, and the city's mayor, João Campos, of PT's boos, as reported by the portal Power 360, in an article signed by Caio Spechoto, dated March 23, 2023.

Or more recently, in the city of Santos, on the coast of São Paulo, at the beginning of February this year, when Lula interrupted the PT's booing of the governor of São Paulo, Tarcisio de Freitas, once Jair Bolsonaro's right-hand man, and also wooed him with his traditional rhetoric of political seduction, as reported by the Economic value, in an article signed by Rachel Vazquez, on February 2, 2024.

If, in some way, these are efforts to rebalance the New Republic, this rebalancing is not proof of its success, but rather that until the new comes, the old will continue to be a corpse walking among us. The rise of Bolsonarism was proof that the New Republic failed resoundingly in its contradictions, and its rebalancing proves that the dominant classes and political castes still remain strong enough to prevent the working class from fully organizing itself beyond the limits of State.

The New Republic is rebalanced, the interests of the bourgeoisie remain in the order of the Brazilian State, the coup plotters of 2016 are politically rehabilitated. And the simple price paid for this is the weakening of the left and the maximum criminalization of the crazy bunch and their messianic intent.

* Luiz Carlos Checchia He has a PhD in Humanities, Rights and Other Legitimacies from FFLCH-USP.

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