Bolsonaro, Lula and the military



Neo-fascism will not be defeated automatically, even less if the opposition is limited to the institutional-electoral field.

Lula's return to the political-electoral game qualitatively changed the scenario and perspectives of resistance to neo-fascism. Lula's candidacy encourages millions and creates a new dynamic, a political pole that unites all anti-bolsonarist forces.

Voluntary, optimistic and simplistic opinions and analyzes still circulate in the popular-democratic field. They underestimate neo-fascism – they make a reading that equals 2022 to 2002. Since 2016, we have lived under a State of exception. The Bolsonaro government has the “military party” as the backbone of its government.

The alliance that operated Bolsonaro's election, even cracked, remains very strong. Radical neoliberalism, religious fundamentalism, organized crime, financial market, imperialism, militias, agribusiness, physiological “hub”, Armed Forces, police, moralistic and resentful middle classes, right-wing extremists of all stripes.

Bolsonarism needs to be understood as a larger and more lasting phenomenon than the Bolsonaro government itself. The 2022 elections have already started a long time ago. They will constitute themselves as a political-cultural-ideological battle. Neo-fascism will not be defeated automatically, even less if the opposition is limited to the institutional-electoral field.

Despite Globo's growing bad mood and the “enlightened” sectors of the bourgeoisie, there is no objective movement for a real break between the ruling classes and the captain's government. And that third way, called the “center” (but we are talking about the progressive neoliberals) is not getting stronger. On the contrary. They lost Huck and Moro. There are doubts about Doria. Ciro continues to try to maintain a progressive base, seduce repentant Bolsonarists and wink at clean neoliberals: mission impossible.

Which Lula there?

The popular-democratic field, its parties and main movements/organizations are-will be with Lula-2022 (PT, PCdoB, PSol, PSB). But what is the meaning, character, program, discourse, tactics of this campaign? Lula-89 or Lula-2002?

Open debates in the PT and on the left about what Lula's campaign will be. Recently, the theme of the military has gained much prominence. The abrupt change that Bolsonaro operated in the commanders of the FFAA and the non-punishment of Pazuello for having participated in a government rally brought this issue to the center of the debate.

The military were protagonists of the 2016 coup, Lula’s arrest and Bolsonaro’s election. Never have so many soldiers held commissioned positions as they are now. There are close to 10 – a key core of Bolsonarism – they are confused with the government itself.

Military tutelage is not unprecedented in Brazil. We left the dictatorship (1964-1985) without punishing the torturers. Our citizen constitution did not break military tutelage or restructure public security. We maintained amnesty for coup leaders – who purged any nationalist or democratic sector of the Armed Forces after the 1964 coup. There was no transitional justice in Brazil. We do not investigate and punish torturers. And there was never a change in the formation of the military. Even the selection mechanisms for members of the Armed Forces – traditionally corporate and oligarchic – have not changed.

The Lula and Dilma governments related to the Armed Forces as if they were dealing with “neutral” professionals and, at the limit, even patriots. In the Lula and Dilma governments, structures and funding for the FFAA were reinforced. Without having any real influence on its operation...

The military summit sponsored Bolsonaro's rise and literally occupies the federal government. Narratives of internal fissures in the Armed Forces are designed to feed illusions. As if there was an internal struggle between moderate loyalists versus authoritarian Bolsonarists.

How should an eventual third Lula government handle this issue? There are thousands of military personnel occupying key positions in the high federal administration – including in state and regulatory agencies. The debate is ongoing. Historical cadres like Dilma, Zé Dirceu and Genoíno have faced a certain common sense and defended changes, without any illusion or concession to the Bolsonarist coup militiamen.

On the other hand, leaders like Jaques Wagner and Celso Amorim insist on valuing the Armed Forces and dialoguing – as if we were flying in blue skies and in the greatest democratic tranquility.

Genoíno, Dilma and Zé Dirceu propagate the need to review article 142 of the 1988 Constitution, which maintained the military prerogative of “defending law and order”. It is the legal basis of such GLO (Guarantee of Law and Order), when the Army is authorized to occupy cities to replace the police.

Naive dream or strategy: PT and the State

The historical singularity of the formation of the PT, with its multiple strands, cultures, currents, sectors is something extraordinary. The PT emerged here, in this giant peripheral Latin American country, with a significant level of industrialization, strong economy, terrible income distribution; organized from the legacy of slavery, at the end of a military dictatorship that almost decimated all groups and organized militants of the left, at a time when the capitalist world was turning towards neoliberalism – and the socialist world began to show signs of crisis and exhaustion of your model.

From the gigantic mobilizations of ABC workers and Lula's leadership, people and organizations from the most different conceptions, territories, social origins and experiences came together under the same legend. Rural workers, bank workers, metallurgists, teachers, oil workers, students, intellectuals, artists, Trotskyist currents from different IV Internationals; communists from many, many backgrounds and organizations, the new feminist movements, black, indigenous, LGBT, quite a lot of Democrats and progressives.

The PT's identity was constituted from the idea of ​​a classist party fighting against the dictatorship and for redemocratization – committed to internal pluralism, with the intransigent defense of workers' claims and with the (hyper-generic) flag of democratic socialism.

the potent political-theoretical-social mix that spurred the PT's growth has also dug deep gaps. That leave their marks and are related to historical defeats (post-coup) and permanent structural limits. The anti-dictatorship culture that originally structured the PT ended up generating an anti-State and, above all, anti-Getulist sentiment (in the 1980s and until the mid-1990s, at least).

Then, in the 1990s – due to the victories in important city halls and the design of the “PT way of governing”, the idea that it is possible to “radicalize democracy” became the majority. In other words: with popular participation in the definition of the public budget, progress towards another society germinated.

Lula invested a lot in the Federal Police, valuing and prestige the institution. He also created the practice of appointing the Attorney General of the Republic from a triple list originating from corporate voting among prosecutors. He filled the Armed Forces with resources, treated the military leadership not only with respect, but with priority. To the Supreme Court were raised figures without robust biography, devoid of history and party-ideological commitment.

Lula – and Dilma even more so – governed by valuing and strengthening the structures of the Armed Forces, the police, the justice system. As if this “republicanism” were going to provoke a kind of recognition, gratitude, neutrality, impartiality, professionalism, etc. and such in the military, prosecutors, judges, police.

On the eve of the 2016 coup, illusions were nurtured about the “lava-jato” or the exemption of the PF. Not to mention the praise from the left field and the super-positive expectations of General Villas Boas, commander of the Army at the time. He who masterminded the coup, threatened the STF, questioned the candidates for the presidency in 2018 – and received sweet words of thanks from Bolsonaro: “General Villas Boas, what we have already talked about will die between us; you are one of those responsible for my being here”.

The attitude of the PT governments in the face of the ongoing coup sounds unlikely. Lula bowed to the criminalization of José Dirceu and Genoíno, among other historical leaders, in the AP 470 episode (“mensalão”, coup rehearsal).

Dilma boasted of her personal honesty, believing that Lava-Jato would not “go up the ramp”. While Federal Police delegates practiced shooting with the president's photo as their target (and campaigned for the PSDB, in the face), the dilmist justice minister boasted, gallantly, in interviews with the coup press - he considered himself an illustrious and magnanimous democrat for not “interfering with the PF”.

Structural reforms

The PT's lack of Marxism, theory, strategic formulation, dense debates certainly contributed to the limitations, mistakes and illusions that prevailed in the Lula-Dilma governments. A combination of pragmatism, immediacy, lack of a disruptive strategy. Beliefs in the good will of the people who run state apparatuses.

Before any and all subsequent criticism and deepening, it was already stated there – in the 1848 Manifesto: “the State is the administrative committee of the dominant classes”.

Bolsonaro governs and operates without any “republican” boundaries. I'm in charge, he always says. Strictly speaking, if he were a legitimately elected president, he would be correct. It is wrong who, on the left, is filled with supposedly liberal-democratic modesty, and abdicates from exercising the power that the polls give to majority governments.

Returning to PT and Lula. Everything that has happened since 2016 encourages strategic reflection. Thinking about the limits of a liberal democracy in Latin America. In Brazil dominated by financial capital.

A critical and in-depth assessment of the PT experience in the federal government is a precondition for the reorganization of the left, the reconstruction of the popular-democratic program and, mainly, the re-elaboration of the tactics and strategy for the reconquest of the federal government (leverage of the process of carrying out the reforms structural and socialist transition).

Lula, Gleisi Hofman, most PT leaders are debating the military issue. The Lula-2022 program is under construction – and disputed. A propitious moment for a break with a certain idealistic and ahistorical conception, which assumes that institutions are technical and neutral. This broad debate, in the popular field, is the order of the day. The PT majority and Lula are challenged to break with the belief that the Brazilian ruling classes have some democratic commitment. Military, police, prosecutors do not have to have autonomy or independence. Those who rule over them are those who won the election, in the popular vote.

2022 will not be a revival of 2002. The country is much more devastated – Bolsonarist neo-fascism is not the same as FHC's neoliberalism. There will be no room for a “social developmentalist” government (that tries to stabilize the situation and improve people's lives without going against the interests of the bourgeoisie). A third Lula government, even to carry out the social policies of before, must necessarily seek to break with financial capital – to promote structural and democratic reforms. Social mobilization added to the ideological-cultural war must become hallmarks of the Lula 2022 campaign – ruptures on the horizon.

The historical formation, configuration, political-ideological nature of the Brazilian bourgeois State. The reactionary coup, neoliberal, oligarchic, authoritarian military. The anti-popular elitism of prosecutors and judges. The philo-fascism of the white, racist police.

The eventual return of the left to the federal government will have been the result of a very hard battle. And no one can claim innocence. Or naivety. Or having silly good faith with those who tore up the Constitution and made neo-fascism possible. The left is challenged to debate the really existing Brazilian State – and, now, full of soldiers in command posts – thinking about how to radically reform its structures.

A popular project that not only removes Bolsonaro from the government, but buries neoliberalism and puts another societal model on its feet. It's no small thing. Lula 2022 will be what we collectively build and fight for right now.

* Julian Rodrigues is a professor and journalist, LGBTI and human rights activist.


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