dangerous days

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Bolsonarism can, if cornered, try to precipitate a self-coup. But there is also no guarantee that a Bonapartist adventure will succeed.

The unified impeachment request was a smart move. Presented jointly by all leftist parties with roots among workers and a reference in socialism, therefore, the same class field, it was a firm, mature, yet symbolic gesture. Because it is a parliamentary tactic that cannot yet succeed. But it reassures, and helps a little to raise the morale of the leftist militancy that is restless, tormented, and anxious. We all know that Bolsonaro will not fall from maturity, and there is danger “around the corner”. What are the possible consequences of the disclosure of the video of the ministerial meeting for the future of Bolsonaro? It confirms the denunciation of a presidential intention of personal control of the Federal Police, but it was neither the first, nor will it be the last crime of Bolsonaro's responsibility, therefore, it is insufficient, for the time being, for the “cold” opening of a process of impeachment by Congress. At the same time, the impact of Bolsonaro's speech-agitation on the radicalization and cohesion of the neo-fascist current, which takes the form of a combat party under construction, should not be diminished. The decisive factor in the evolution of the conjuncture will continue to be the catastrophic impact of the pandemic. A devastating scenario is looming over the coming months. Bolsonaro's weakening dynamic favors the struggle to overthrow the government. But this outcome is still uncertain, despite the humanitarian tragedy, because it is not possible without a qualitative change in the social relationship of forces that remains defensive. The alignment of the active military with the generals of the Palace indicates that the fight against Bolsonaro will be the most dangerous moment of the last thirty-five years.

The left-wing opposition to Bolsonaro had the agility to make the turn to Fora Bolsonaro, and the lucidity to present a common request for impeachment, but remains divided on the tactic. Many mistakes, however, were made, the main one, because it is recurrent, is the underestimation of Bolsonaro. The government lost strength in the last two months, but maintains positions. Attributing responsibility for the division of the opposition to leftist parties is not honest. Those who rejected signing the unified request for impeachment together with the left should explain themselves. It is not personal ambitions, or sectarian excesses, or party rivalries that explain the division. In any case, who divides the opposition is not the key question at the juncture. How are we going to defeat Bolsonaro is the question that matters. We can let ourselves be led by events. But we can try to take the initiative over events. Positions of strength are, of course, decisive. And we are in a reactionary, unfavorable, defensive situation. But power relations are not static. They float. They can evolve for better or worse. The orientation, the action, the will counts for a lot. They make a difference. Our policy is aimed at accumulating more forces. The question is how. This requires discussing which is the best tactic, the most effective, the most intelligent. There are three under discussion. A portion of the combative left defends the permanent offensive. A majority of the leaders of the largest parties defend the Frente Ampla tactics, including electoral ones, after the ruling class split and a fraction went over to the opposition. Lastly, the left-wing United Front. Which is the most correct?

The path goes through the unfolding of two initiatives. But one of them is strategic: it is the United Left Front, because it allows the defense of a common program, and a way out of the question of power. The other is tactical: the broad, broad, “until it hurts” unit of action, in fact, as in 1984, when Diretas Já was launched, on networks, windows, institutions and, above all, when possible, on the streets. The unity of action in institutions between the left opposition and the right opposition is useful for strengthening the opposition, hence the accumulation of forces. The unit of action obeys a central objective: to divide the enemy's camp. Attract to the opposition to Bolsonaro the greatest possible number of forces that were associated with the reactionary plan that went through the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff; supported the Temer government; ended up associating with Bolsonaro in the election campaign; and supported it until the impact of the pandemic. Those who moved when Bolsonaro embraced denialism, and accelerated Bonapartist plans by moving towards personal control of the Federal Police. Dividing the enemy camp is important. But it is insufficient. Because you have to understand that the right-wing opposition does not want to overthrow Bolsonaro. At least for a while.

There are those on the left who oppose the unity of action tactic. They defend a permanent offensive, because they disagree with the assessment that the situation is reactionary. It is a wrong position. We must strike together with the bourgeois opposition demanding the investigation of the crimes for which Bolsonaro is responsible, and supporting decisions of the STF that try to limit the coup escalation of the neo-fascists. However, striking together is not the same as marching together, because these agreements are specific. It is not possible to march together because the strategy of the left must be to overthrow Bolsonaro, and to defeat neo-fascism. Nothing less. The left cannot, therefore, renounce the fight for leadership of the opposition.

But there are also leaders on the left, among the most important ones, who think the opposite. There are those who argue that the best strategy is a patient Frente Ampla electoral, now in the municipalities and, also, for 2022, betting on a slow, gradual and continuous wear and tear of the Bolsonaro government, to avoid the risk of confrontations ahead of time. His watchword is “don't provoke”. Those who bet on this strategy defend that the left should signal, to the bourgeois forces that moved to the opposition, that it accepts their leadership against the common enemy. They accept the role of “auxiliary force”. They are wrong about the enemy and also about the allies. It seems prudent, but it reveals a misunderstanding of what Bolsonarism is. Bolsonarism is not an electoral current, it is neo-fascism. They are prepared and will not hesitate to precipitate a frontal attack on democratic freedoms, when they feel cornered, before 2022. And neither Maia nor anyone in the bourgeois opposition is willing to confront. This is the controversy.

The defeat of the Bolsonaro government is only possible if the neo-fascist current that supports it is contained, isolated, repressed and demoralized. There is a militant neo-fascist party under construction as a shock force at the service of a self-coup project. They are inflexible, sectarian, angry, infuriated, therefore, uncontainable. His exaltation obeys a plan to spread hatred and impose fear. Prepare for the power struggle. They rely on a reactionary mass current. They respect nothing but strength. And their strategy is to destroy the left. All left. Activists from environmental, feminist, black, LGBT's, student, popular and union movements. The most moderate and the most radical parties. They will not let themselves be intimidated by decisions by Congress or the STF. They can only be defeated by a motivated, combative, resolute, and unwavering left-wing militant force. Those who calculate that we can choose the terrain on which we will measure forces with Bolsonarism are dramatically mistaken, and we should prioritize the electoral. The dispute in the streets is not possible under the conditions of quarantine, but it will be, at some point, inevitable. The political struggle against neo-fascists will take place in all spaces: in institutions, in elections, but it will be decided by the social shock force that is most powerful at the time of mass mobilizations. This mobilization against the fascists will only be able to galvanize the popular masses if, in addition to the defense of democratic freedoms, it includes proposals that respond to the most felt anxieties. “In defense of Congress and the STF” it will be difficult to convince workers to take to the streets.

There are three political camps in dispute for the leadership of the opposition to Bolsonaro. What has strengthened the most, so far, is the liberal right led by Maia and Dória, essentially, due to the institutional positions of power they occupy, which guarantee them visibility, and compete for support in the conservative middle strata with the extreme right. They don't want to overthrow Bolsonaro, at least for now. The second is the block articulated by Ciro Gomes and PDT, with the PSB of Paulo Câmara and Siqueira, the PV (Green Party) and the Network of Marina Silva, around a center-left platform, and a bet on the middle classes progressives. They may support an impeachment against Bolsonaro, before 2022, but they are not willing to mobilize in the streets against neo-fascists, because they fear being dragged as an auxiliary force of the left, in general, and the PT, in particular. The third is on the left, led by the actions of the Brasil Popular and Povo Sem Medo Fronts, which agreed on a common program, where the PT is the largest party, but without the hegemony of past decades, due to the leading role of social movements for housing, women , blacks, students, LGBT's, and environmentalists, in addition to the relative strengthening of the PSol's authority, and which find an audience in the organized working class. Within this third camp of his are advocates of the three tactics. The PCdB is a historical and important component of the left, but it has tried to fulfill the role of facilitator of a relationship between the three camps, maintaining a relative equidistance.

We are facing a dilemma: what will be the decisive social contradiction in the fight to defeat Bolsonaro? The internal contradictions in the ruling class, or the contradiction between the forces of capital and labor? United Left Front or Broad Front? (a) The strongest argument in defense of the Frente Ampla tactic is that, if it were very broad, therefore, including parties that supported the 2016 coup, and that did not oppose the Temer government, there would be more electoral chances. Is not true. It might get more votes, but it might not. There is no guarantee whatsoever. It depends on what the post-pandemic situation is. And anyone who thinks they know what it's going to be like is bluffing. Municipal elections will not be “normal”. No one can now predict what the political scenario will be in the coming months. It will essentially be defined by the devastating impact of the pandemic in the form of a health calamity. It will be terrible, but the scale makes a difference. Tens or even hundreds of thousands dead before the elections? The naturalization of the tragedy will be very difficult. Therefore, the politicization of the balance of public policies will be inexorable. The center of the left's agitation should be the nationalization of the electoral dispute to put the responsibility in Bolsonaro's lap; (b) Any first-round electoral agreement for the main capitals this year is conditioned by the perspective of 2022. The discussion appeared in its clear form with the insistence that the PT should not have a candidate in 2018, and support Ciro Gomes. The PCdB was, on the left, the one who made it, coherently, but then backed down. Manuela d'Ávila's pre-candidacy obeyed this tactic: pressing for a broader alliance that would only be possible if the PT admitted, earlier, that Lula could not be a candidate, and accepted to support Ciro Gomes, instead of launching Haddad . The Frente Ampla debate in this year's municipalities anticipates the controversy of 2022 and, therefore, the discussion on whether or not Lula is legitimate to fight for his political rights in order to be a candidate. Because a Frente Ampla is only possible if the PT has no candidate. Lula has already admitted, hypothetically, the possibility of resigning, depending on his age. But the fundamental issue is that a victory in the STF will be very difficult, after Moro broke with the government to protect LavaJato; (c) the issue of electoral tactics must obey a calculation of political strategy, and not the other way around. The central question of the political struggle is always how to open the way for the struggle for power. A government that respects the architecture of the division of powers between the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary, and in which the Armed Forces return to the barracks, would be progressive, but it is not enough. The left has the right to want to fight for a leftist government. The idea that a submission from the left to the center would be transitory, in a long march of accumulation of forces, is a wrong bet. For several reasons. The main one is that the uncertainty of the situation does not reduce the possibility that Bolsonaro will not complete his term. There is no reason, either, to disregard the possibility that Bolsonarism could, if cornered, try to precipitate a self-coup.

*Valerio Arcary is a retired professor at IFSP. Author, among other books, of The Dangerous Corners of History (Shaman)

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