Two years of misrule – the destructive gear



Bolsonarism has managed to guide discussions and even the country's intellectual production.

Several texts published, with the objective of taking stock of what happened in the two years of the Bolsonaro government, have already brought many elements capable of demonstrating the errors of the government's initiatives (or omissions) with regard to economic, social, socio-environmental, political issues. and human.

Once this important task has already been duly and efficiently accomplished, I believe that the opportunity opens up – and this is what I propose in this text – to advance towards an investigation into the effects of maintaining this vigilantly defensive attitude.

The fatal attraction and its effects

Going straight to the point I intend to reach, I think it is highly relevant to visualize how much the verbal aggressions, the excesses, the nonsense, the contempt for reason as an element for the improvement of humanity and the stimuli to hatred promoted by the President of the Republic and his followers have guided the mainstream press, driven reactions and dominated, in a way, everyone's thoughts - which also serves to disguise the various setbacks imposed since the beginning of 2019.

Let's see this through a few examples. The day after the announcement of the record number of 1.910 deaths, in 24 hours, caused by COVID-19 in Brazil,[1] Bolsonaro said that the time had come to stop being “cool” and “mi mi mi”.[2] On the same day, to the public demand for vaccine purchases by the government, Bolsonaro reacted by saying: "only if it's at your mother's house".[3] From then on, what was seen, within the scope of the government’s opponents, was an avalanche of demonstrations in the form of “memes” and “cards”, without concrete confrontation with Bolsonaro’s speeches and very little in concrete terms with regard to the Responsibility of the ruler and other occupants of public institutions for the number of deaths and the concrete effects of this accountability. And even less, almost nothing, in fact, about what needs to be done – and urgently – for us to get out of this destructive gear of everything and everyone in which we find ourselves.

When the “International Women’s Day of Struggle” was celebrated, the news spread that Bolsonaro would join the Women’s Party, to run for the 2022 elections.[4]

At a time when the chaos was completely evident, with Brazil registering a record average of deaths for the 20th consecutive day, and, finally, the States and Municipalities began to announce more drastic and necessary restriction measures to contain the contagion – already with a long delay and even insufficiently, for not reaching the necessary "lockdown” (with rare exceptions – Araraquara-SP, for example), with encouragement from the media, it is worth noting – the President returned to the charge to say that these measures by the governors would generate chaos and added: “The people do not even have chicken feet to eat more. Now, what I've been talking about, chaos is coming. Hunger will drive people out of the house. We are going to have problems that we never expected to have very serious social problems”.[5]

This time, he not only presented his usual bravado, he also acted, filing, in his own name, before the Federal Supreme Court, a Direct Action of Unconstitutionality, to question the legal validity of the state Decrees that determined the restrictions on circulation and operation of commerce.[6]

These are just a few examples among countless others that demonstrate how, since the pre-election period of 2018, Bolsonarism has managed to guide discussions and even the country's intellectual production and, with that, in the period of the pandemic, preventing efforts to of all people, entities and institutions - as would be necessary - were directed towards the scientifically recommended fight (prevention and preparation for vaccination), including directing collective and solidarity actions at the national level, against the new coronavirus, which presupposed, above all, the removal of impediments, including political ones, that would pose an obstacle to this endeavor.

With everyone following the path strategically diverted by the President, and therefore without reacting in an effective and timely manner, the number of deaths only increased, until reaching a situation that was completely out of control and without expectations of improvement, if the same situation was maintained. dynamic deviated from concrete reality.

Initially, one could see in the various presidential initiatives mere coincidences resulting from an unconscious, irresponsible and limitless spontaneity, but, considering all the events added together, it remains evident that Bolsonarist demonstrations constitute a well-articulated strategy to, generating astonishment and indignation in some, and state of ecstasy and hysteria in others, diverting the focus from reality and, with that, attracting everyone into a bubble where everything moves by the absence of reason, stupidity and hatred.

Within this bubble, those who oppose it also deal with the same subject and, to a certain extent, give even more visibility to attacks on knowledge, allowing them to be placed on the same level as responsible reason. And, led by the rules of the pre-established game, he ends up acting moved by the same logic, either making fun of statements that should cause disgust, or leading the debate to the field of personal aggressions, through the use of adjectives that do not account for what represents, politically, Bolsonarist conduct.

The biggest problem is that, not infrequently, when formulating opposing arguments, one ends up reproducing the same logic as the aggressor and trying to face hatred with hatred; ignorance, with convenient escapes from total reality; historical revisionism, with the poorly told history of the dominant; authoritarianism, with other forms of authoritarianism; denialism, with the denial of one's own share of guilt, etc.

This type of reaction, to a large extent, feeds back and gives a touch of “reasonability” to the formulations that advocate setbacks to the humanitarian evolution of knowledge, because if the person who is accused of promoting hatred is attacked with the same hateful offensive intensity, he ceases to be the aggressor to assume the position of victim and vice versa.

The fact is that, playing with the same rules imposed by Bolsonarism, the positions are easily reversed, even if only rhetorically. And what the contempt for knowledge most needs to stay alive and even predominant is exactly good rhetoric. It cannot be forgotten that Bolsonarism grew through the rhetorical resource of “moralizing” the country and anti-PTism, which is based on the prejudiced feeling that anything is better than the PT and that every method or alliance is valid as long as it or to remove PT from the government.

But there is an enormous difficulty in formulating an effective and solid confrontation with Bolsonarism. It is that the institutions and values ​​attacked by Bolsonarism (even if it is recognized that they are just vociferous attacks, devoid of rationality) are not easily defendable. To make contempt for knowledge and appreciation for hatred prevail, Bolsonarism even goes so far as to make a kind of slave to democratic values ​​and institutions, but it does so by taking advantage of its own fragility, in the face of constitutional and democratic commitments, in which such values and institutions were historically layered.

Not realizing this or not wanting to assume the historical mistakes committed, under the argument (which greatly contributed to us getting where we are) that it is not the opportune moment for this confession, they end up formulating argumentative confrontations that, even if recognized the difference in their degree of intensity, they reproduce the same defects, being insincerity with the other and with oneself at their base, which erodes the necessary foundation for the collective construction of thought.

It is extremely important, therefore, before any confrontation with Bolsonarism, to recognize that the formulation of detached understandings of reality, following, indeed, the mathematical calculation of political expediency, had already been inhabiting our daily lives for years and that, in a progressively accumulated way, distanced us more and more from the knowledge and ethical commitment of thought.

In several texts published since the June 2013 demonstrations,[7] I have been denouncing the existence of an escalation of empirical disengagement and how much this ethical weakening corrupted “our capacity to be human”[8] and it made room for the fear and fanaticism on which authoritarianism feeds.[9]

It must be recognized, therefore, that it is not a simple task to face Bolsonarism, especially since it is, to a large extent, the result of our own mistakes and omissions. To face Bolsonarism, therefore, we need to face our ghosts together. This is the only way to establish a narrative that can be effectively purposeful, interrupting the illusionist game that was established and which Bolsonarism, as a by-product, uses to deepen the destruction of everything and everyone.

the confrontation

(a) Science and knowledge

Thus, when formulating an opposition to government acts that are presented as a complete disregard for science and, consequently, it is necessary to talk about the importance of scientific knowledge, one must not forget that science, among us, has been marked by domain of market logic.

How much of our “knowledge” has not been, over decades, forged to meet the interests of large corporations, which even, not infrequently, finance “research”? From this system committed to determined interests in the production of “knowledge”, comes its privatization, for commercial exploitation. The knowledge produced by the joint effort of humanity, historically conceived, becomes the property of some, as a way, including, of establishing and maintaining relations of domination.

Those who dominate and own the new technologies exercise a power relationship over those who depend on them to survive or want or need to rely on them to integrate into the world. It was like this, even during the human tragedy of a pandemic, the survival of all remains dependent on a few companies in the world that can produce vaccines.

Therefore, at the same time that science is defended, it is necessary to emphasize how much science, detached from the improvement of the human condition and committed to the logic of profits and the private appropriation of knowledge and technology, ends up contributing to the death of , the deprivation, dependence and suffering of millions of people.

The greatest contribution that “science” – or, more properly, those who dominate it – could make at this moment would be to renounce its patents. But this, too, certainly could (and should) be promoted by the state. Finally, still on this aspect, it is extremely important to remember the difficulty that is imposed, especially in the reality of peripheral countries like Brazil, to the generalization of access to knowledge. The questions that emerge from this involvement are necessarily: What science do we want? What knowledge do we produce?

(b) Democracy

When, in the face of authoritarian outbursts, for which the return of the military dictatorship is openly advocated, it is necessary to take a stand in defense of democracy, one must question what democracy one is talking about. If it's the democracy we've had so far, which is, in any case, undeniably better than any kind of dictatorship, it needs to be made with a lot of reservations.

First, this democracy – a concept, which, ideally, is not conceived only as a possibility of expression and the right to vote, but rather as a practical experience and which presupposes the effective enjoyment of fundamental, civil, political and social rights – has not reached the largest portion of the Brazilian population, a population that, even for that very reason, does not feel the least bit excited to defend democracy and is easily convinced that a dictatorship could give them better luck.

Second, representative democracy is seriously flawed when economically prevailing groups command – with the support and even submission of the press – the scene of the formation of a public opinion that reflects not the needs of the population as a whole, but the interests of their businesses. and, with that, they dominate the government itself, which, therefore, is either elected because of the commitments assumed with these sectors or, in order to remain in power, in the face of media pressure, it signs and acts in accordance with that same commitment. Which democracy do we defend?

(c) Freedom of the press

When denouncing attacks on press freedom, it should be remembered that the defense of press freedom is linked to the fundamental right to information. Thus, without joining hands with those who want to make the press unfeasible and attack the messengers of the news (journalists and reporters), it is necessary to question whether the Brazilian press, dominated by private companies, has effectively fulfilled the role of democratizing the country through accurate information of the facts or if, on the contrary, he uses his position to defend, in a veiled way, some interests.

Undeniably, the traditional Brazilian press misinforms more than it informs, especially when it comes to labor issues, acting in correspondence with its admittedly liberal or even neoliberal ideology. In order to defend the press and confront authoritarianism, it is also not possible to make a blind association with the companies of the traditional Brazilian press. They must be held accountable for the evils committed, at the same time that the urgency of resuming the project of an effective and comprehensive public network – independent of governments – of communication must be advocated. Which press should inform us?

(d) Freedom of expression

When it is necessary to defend freedom of expression, it is necessary to be willing to hear or read what one does not want or does not like to hear or read. The notion that one has the unrestricted freedom to defend one's own idea, while admitting the repression of expressions of ideas with which one does not agree or which one considers repugnant, is incompatible with the full meaning of freedom of expression. It is one thing to repair the concrete effect of a speech from the perspective of the rights that it may harm. Another, quite different, is to use an authoritarian mechanism, such as the National Security Law, with an open type of criminal characterization, to repress the author of the speech and discipline the thought. What freedom of expression do we defend?

(e) The Judiciary

When it is necessary to come out in defense of the Judiciary, considering it, as in fact it is, a relevant institution of the democratic regime, it must be remembered that the Judiciary in our country has served, throughout its history, as a manager of the interests of the bourgeoisie, so much so that it is quite rigid when referring to the defense of property rights and, at the same time, extremely flexible with regard to non-compliance with social rights, which is not even seen as the commission of an illegality.

The Federal Supreme Court, since 2014, in a more intense and systematic way, has been dedicated to disregarding the constitutional pact to empty the legal and mandatory content of labor standards. So, at the moment when the STF is maliciously attacked and its Ministers are cowardly attacked and it becomes necessary to express a defense of the institution and the physical and mental integrity of its members, one must also put on the table all the cards that, for performance of the STF and contrary to the rules imposed by the Constitution, were used against workers in the political and economic game of the conflict between capital and work.

The Labor Court itself, moreover, in several decisions, has bypassed the formal unconstitutionality of Law n. 13.467/17, which was the result of and reason for the coup d'état in 2016, and thus legitimized the various precarious forms of hiring brought about by the labor “reform” law, which considerably worsened the living conditions of workers (as) and further deteriorate the social and economic conditions of the country and, later, exacerbate the evils of the pandemic. During the pandemic, in fact, the Labor Court, supported by the same “reform” law and detaching itself from the Constitution and international treaties, guaranteed large companies the “right” to lead thousands of workers to unemployment. It should not be forgotten, moreover, that it was the very structure of the Judiciary, in particular the CNJ, following the commands of the World Bank, which disseminated, within the judiciary, the logic of a judge-manager, eager for numerical production and reproducer, in its decisions, of the logic of the market and that, oblivious to this, promoted persecution and threats to judges who dared to exercise the guarantee – inserted in practically all International Treaties of Human Rights – of judicial independence. Which Judiciary dictates our rules?

(f) The Legislative Power

In the same way, when the National Congress is confronted and the parliamentarians are subjected to abusive and criminal coercion and, in order to ward off the ghost of fascism, we then have to stand, obligatorily, in its defense, this cannot be done by playing for under the carpet all the recent (and not so recent) history of the legislative action that compacted with coups d'état and with a legislative production commissioned by the economic power, supported by neoliberal precepts, such as the “PEC of the end of the world”, the labor “reform”, the social security “reform”, Law n. 14.020/20 and EC 109/21 – just to name a few more recent examples – which resulted in a greater concentration of wealth in the hands of an even smaller number of people, tax evasion, suffering and more intense impoverishment of the class workers and the population in general and total detachment from the commitment of solidarity. Which legislature do we want?

(g) The story

Finally, when formulating opposition to historical revisionism, whereby, in order to justify retreats, publicly known past facts are denied or perverted, it is necessary not to envisage this contestation as an opportunity to highlight, for the satisfaction of a personal interest of merely theoretical or political in nature, a historical version equally disengaged from the facts. In our specific case, if it is a fact that the country's economic, political and social situation is in a deep stage of deterioration, bordering on chaos, this does not mean that all our problems are the work of the current government and that, therefore, everything will resolve, as if by magic, with the alternation of power in 2022.

Some even say that Brazil has reached the point where it is because the national elite could not support the social evolution that was being promoted in the country by the PT governments, implying that until that moment, before the 2016 coup, everything was going wonderfully. right in our reality. This argument, it should be noted, resembles, to a great extent, the argument that, in 2016, dominated the rhetoric of the political coup, which was the need to put Brazil back on track, or give Brazil back to the Brazilians, since President Dilma ( and only it) would have led Brazil to ruin.

When arguing that the Bolsonaro government (and only him) was responsible for all of Brazil's misfortunes, having even broken our social ties, one omits the real historical fact, publicly known, that previous governments also left to outside the possibilities of a decent life a significant portion of the Brazilian population, for which the State continued to be more concretely present through the use of repression. This ends up reinforcing, in the minds of many, the Bolsonarist world view, which would be justified to face PT denialism.

What chance, after all, can you have of convincing a person sympathetic to Bolsonarism if the argument used against historical revisionism is another revisionism, in the sense that Brazil worked wonders in PT governments? Incidentally, what is the difference, from the point of view of respect for historical facts, between the discourse that exalts the dictatorship as a virtuous period for the Brazilian nation and the one that states that in the years 2003 to 2015 a full stage of social justice?

What is concrete is that, as I denounced in numerous texts (always under the attack that it was not the right time to make explicit criticisms), the 14 years that preceded the coup were marked by a kind of “decipher me if you can”, with the advancement of social policies on the one hand, but always with great nods to the market and economic power, so much so that the then President was proud to say that banks had never made as much money as they did at that time.

Many of the social advances were made in partnership with contractors, the corporate media and private educational institutions. Meanwhile, under the argument of electoral convenience, the organizational structures of the working class were kept under control, bureaucratizing it and repressing it, with violence, through the use of legal forms created during the military dictatorship and others that disregarded the pact of solidarity established in the Federal Constitution of 1988, such as the Strike Law of 1989, social movements that sought to advance their agendas beyond the limits calculated by the government.

It is always good to remember that, although with broad popular approval and experiencing a moment of economic advancement, including at the international level, such governments, in addition to maintaining flexible initiatives in labor relations promoted by the neoliberal government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso, also ignored historical agendas such as agrarian reform, the legalization of indigenous lands or the taxation of large fortunes and allowed predatory actions such as those that occurred in Jirau and Belo Monte.

All of this, watered down with a lot of rhetoric and a strong attack on opponents (regardless of their ideological bias), made room for the false arguments of moralization and the fight against corruption to seem to express a movement of reason against disguise. The fact is that, as already warned at the time, insincerity and the absence of elaboration and clear explanation of a project of nation weakened the government in the face of reactionary forces and promoted its distance from popular and labor mobilizations.

This obstruction in the face of the historical path is so serious that many, reading these lines, even if they recognize – which is already a big step, because so many others would not even reach this recognition – will say, in any case, that it is not the time for this explicitness and for the formulation of criticisms, and efforts should be concentrated on unity to face the fascism represented by the current government.

It so happens that considering the confrontation in question only as an opportunity to regain power in the 2022 elections, so that the same previous policy can continue – so much so that Lula, whose political imprisonment was finally and belatedly recognized, in his first speech after resuming the eligibility has already made several nods to the market –, perpetuating the version that everything was going well in Brazil until the 2016 coup, which was the harbinger of the rise of Bolsonarism, with the definitive break, in 2018, of social ties, represents a reinforcement of denialism which, to a large extent, brought us here, perpetuating a political vision that does not change the structures that allow the practice of institutional violence of the intensity that the Brazilian population is suffering today.

In addition to constituting a disservice to the formation of knowledge, which requires ethics and appreciation of reality, thus contributing to reinforce barbarities of all kinds, the big problem with this posture is that Brazil is experiencing a moment of tragedy, with thousands of deaths every day, as a result of a denialist government policy, and these lost lives cannot be integrated into the convenience of electoral political calculation, since this makes everyone who sees, in some way, some benefit from it equally responsible for the situation. We need to act and the time is now.

Moreover, advocating that the solution to the tragedy in which we find ourselves is to return to the past – which was, as seen, what, to a large extent, led us here – represents, from the outset, denying us hope for a future. What commitment to history do we want to have and what do we intend to learn from it?


In short, for this very peculiar way of seeing the world, which denies what exists and does little for other people's lives, called Bolsonarism, to be effectively and seriously faced and to have a real chance of winning it, first it is necessary to recognize its strength and, second, it must be admitted that it is not an exogenous element to our historical path. Rather, it should be viewed as aggravating and attracting several of our unhealed illnesses. In a grotesquely simplified way, Bolsonarism is more an effect than a cause, although, once established, it reproduces itself as the cause of new and even more serious deeds.

What needs to be understood is that we are not going to get out of the tragic situation we are in – and this also needs to be recognized (optimistic denialism or mere conformism also militates against the necessary reaction) – without a deep reflection of what we are as a nation and as human beings and this must be done, necessarily, without taking the fanciful Bolsonarist guidelines, strategically massified, as a starting point, even because of the little concrete effect of this confrontation, since, in a way, especially among those who are already convinced, it is very easy (although risky, given the increasingly intense and articulated repressive structure) being an anti-fascist. The difficult and most important thing is to say in favor of what, after all, is at stake, without omitting about the problems and challenges to be faced, topic by topic...

Thinking specifically from the worldview that inspires me, it is essential that Bolsonarism is defeated by a solid and consistent left-wing project, because, otherwise, the risk is that it can be overcome, with the support and commitment of social forces (political parties, social movements and labor organizations), for the development, without any contestation, of an ultraneoliberal project, no matter who occupies the throne. And it is not a question of posing the dilemma: dictatorial fascism or democratic ultraneoliberalism, because, although in different ways, both oppress and kill.

In addition, as mentioned above, this dilemma, which is a reproduction of the “lesser evil” that has dominated us for years and which, to a large extent, has brought us to where we are, has the effect of attracting us into the magnetic field. the disregard of human rationality, it is worth remembering that reason was encompassed as the essence of worldly existence, precisely because it plays the role of enabling human beings to believe that, through knowledge, they could dominate nature and rationalize social relations and thus project the future of humanity in a perspective of constant improvement.

Accommodation in the face of inexorability or as a result of attachment to the possibilities given by the lesser of evils has been, over the years, the perfect formula for the mutilation of reason and the destruction of utopias, at the same time that it certainly serves some few and their selfish purposes.

It is extremely important at this historic moment that we are capable of presenting ourselves as better beings than we once were and that we do not fall into the traps imposed by violence, vociferation and fear, which make us discredit human beings and lead us to believe that we can only win hate with more hate, authoritarianism with other authoritarian forms of coexistence and so on.

We can and must be better than that. Let us remember the many who fought for us to arrive at a reality different from the one we once experienced, echoing the motto, “tomorrow will be another day”. We effectively need other and renewed days, in which humanity is marked by the empire of utopias, equality, inclusion, respect, tolerance, overcoming racist and patriarchal structures, reason, knowledge committed to the whole social, from the public domain to the process and effects of scientific production, clarity, sincerity, love, solidarity and humility.

In other words, the reified and fetishized social interaction, which are the hallmarks of capitalist society, has already shown its limitations or, as one might say, its incompatibility with the human condition.

And for us to be effectively better than we have been so far and to get out of the shackles of Bolsonarism's proven fatal attraction, it is essential to take on the challenge of overcoming the inhuman system that imprisons us, and the starting point for this change, whose steps can and must be given, for example, in each of the aspects discussed above, is already evidenced, on an emergency basis, in the Brazilian case, in the more than 300 deaths (victims of COVID-19 and neglect), in the institutional collapse and in the absence from any perspective of the future. What world do we want? What society are we going to build and for which human beings?

*Jorge Luiz Souto Maior is a professor of labor law at the Faculty of Law at USP. Author, among other books, of Moral damage in employment relationships (Studio editors).








[7]. See, for example:






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