Relative dictatorship and denialism: Brazil, 1964 (2016, 2018…)

Hans Hofmann, Laburnum, 1954


Commentary on the recently published book by Marcos Silva

Interpretations about the Brazilian military dictatorship remain open. It is not just a question of judging the responsibilities of operators and commissioners of crimes committed by the regime that ended in 1985 – a task not faced by any government since then –, but of verifying that the cycle started by the 2016 coup represents the repetition of History as a chanchada . The so-called “myth”, elected two years later, strives to create a heroic mythology of the 21 years of lead through the shattering of collective memory.

Reinterpreting and redefining what those times were means touching intertwined layers of historical time. Despite respectable works, the almost four decades that separate us from the last general to usurp the head of the Executive were also fertile in the creation of biased narratives, which jump from the “dictabranda” to the hagiography of characters in search of washing their own biography with dyes civilized.

Faced with such actors, Marcos Silva is relentless in this Relative dictatorship and denialism: Brazil, 1964 (2016, 2018…). His intellectual club begins with the title, a clear paraphrase of the unforgettable concept of relative dictatorship that General Ernesto Geisel offered us, weeks after Congress closed, in April 1977.

Relative, for Marcos, is a good part of the historiography about the uniformed regime, considered as canonical by the media and the academy.

Based on a solid intellectual and cultural background, the historian examines the works of Elio Gaspari and Marcos Napolitano and points out that, although guided by interpretative distance, making history cannot be ambiguous in extreme situations. Trampling democracy, tearing up the Constitution and staining political life with blood are gestures in which all pretense is an accomplice.

Marcos Silva honors the craft of historian in a book written with meter and passion.

*Gilberto Maringoni is a professor at the Federal University of ABC.


Mark Silva. Relative dictatorship and denialism: Brazil, 1964 (2016, 2018…). São Paulo, Maria Antonia Editions, 2021.


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