Two years of misgovernment – ​​cave politics



Bolsonaro is the expression of a variant of semi-Bonapartism, a lowly gendarme of the ruling class, a kind of Trump of the backwoods.

“Finally, the rabble of bourgeois society constituted the sacred phalanx of order and the hero Crapulinski is established in the Tuileries as the “savior of society”. (Marx, The 18th Brumaire).


Bolsonaro presented himself, during the October 2018 election campaign, as a “radical” critic of the “system”, although it is his authentic creation, where he was born and proliferated. The same “system”, that is to say, that was responsible for the parliamentary coup in 2016.

Taking advantage of a favorable international situation, as well as internal contingencies that greatly benefited him in the period immediately preceding the presidential elections, the unexpected ended up happening. The “preventive counterrevolution”, to remember Florestan Fernandes,[1] which had been ongoing since the coup that brought Temer to power, ended up paving the way for the tragic outcome in the 2018 elections.

How to try to characterize, at least preliminarily, the Bolsonaro government?

I think that the ex-captain is an expression of a variant of semi-Bonapartism, that is, he is a political figure who, not coming directly from the bourgeois classes, faithfully represents them, even if, for that, he tries to assume the appearance of independence and autonomy, even if, in fact, it is a paltry gendarme of the ruling class.

The personal traits of the “leader” are, as many have indicated, clearly neo-fascist, oscillating his political action between the preservation of a rickety “democratic” formality, but always carrying the unshakable dream of carrying out the coup and implanting a dictatorship. While the boat cannot be given, he acts as an autocrat of order, supported by the enormous militarization that has been carried out daily and systematically in his government.

The formula found to structure it – given that his candidacy proved to be the only one capable of beating the PT in the 2018 elections – was to combine militarized autocracy with the implementation of an ultraneoliberal, predatory economic policy, which was the demand made by the great capital for his candidacy to be effectively supported. The business community, aware of the imbalance that typifies the candidate, feared some nationalist (right-wing) outburst, which had been widely defended by the former captain in his parliamentary past.

In a direct summary: Bolsonaro is a kind of Grotto Trump.[2]


Its first two years constituted, as it was possible to predict, the greatest economic, social and political tragedy in the country in the entire republican period. There is, at no other time in our Republic's more than secular history, anything that comes close to the devastation so profound and so acutely destructive that we are witnessing today.

The scenario already signaled a very hard period, since, since the beginning of the 1970s, we have entered a long period of structural crisis of the system of antisocial capital metabolism, to remind István Mészáros,[3] which generated neoliberal ideas and pragmatics, under strong financial hegemony. A tendency that deepened significantly from the biennium 2008/9, creating the conditions for the forging of a bourgeois counterrevolution of global scope, especially since the election of Trump in the USA.

It was in this context that our ruling class, completely abandoning any trace of formal support for “democratic” institutionality (which in fact was never on its horizon, neither political nor ideological) openly assumed its colonial, slave-owning and almost Prussian impudence, which allowed him to quickly join the band (or gang) of the former captain, thus helping to forge a politically autocratic, militarized and ideologically primitive and denialist monster, as long as it is economically anchored in the most rudimentary variant of neoliberalism, that is, the one that wants to reduce everything to dust. Not by chance, one of the many inspirations of Paulo Guedes and Bolsonaro, we find in the economic policy of the dreadful government of Pinochet, as corrosively neoliberal as it is indigently dictatorial.

What we experienced, then, in this first half of the Bolsonaro Government can be summarized as follows: overwhelming dismantling of the social legislation protecting work; destruction of social security policy, with the approval of the Public Pension Reform – in fact its destruction – approved on October 22, 2019, in which the poorest wage earners were excluded from an effective public pension, leaving them, at most, , a shameful and acrimonious assistentialism.

In the trade union universe, the government's repressive measures were expanded with a view to weakening class organizations, in addition to hampering even more the scope of action of the Labor Court, pushing it more and more towards "market values" and towards the acceptance of impositions coming from the “corporate world”, of which the legalization of illegal intermittent work is the most evident and aberrant scourge.

It is worth mentioning that this proposition was already stamped on the electoral program of the former captain and his faithful squire. The so-called “Green and Yellow” Employment Card, as we know it, is intended to leitmotiv implement the dream of the predatory bourgeoisies, in which “the individual contract will prevail over the CLT”, derogating once and for all what is left of the labor legislation in Brazil.

In terms of the destruction of nature, there is also no parallel in the entire recent history of the country. We had a record release of pesticides and agricultural defensives that adulterate food, making it even more harmful to public health. The fires and devastation of the Amazon and Pantanal (among many other green areas) heightened the destructive streak of this government, for the benefit of the bourgeoisies linked to agribusiness, the extraction of minerals, wood, etc.

Economically, even though its devastatingly neoliberal measures have generated catharsis in the ruling class, the outbreak of the pandemic has wrecked the project present in its cave politics.[4] The cult of ignorance, in the worst Trumpian lineage, the contempt and fight against science, public health, all of this ended up taking the country to the bottom of the well, both in terms of health and economics.

It was this catastrophic scenario that forced the government to create an emergency income, without which the economy would enter into an even deeper depression, not to mention the fear that such a situation could trigger a wave of revolts and social rebellions.

Tax and administrative reforms, new privatizations (including Petrobrás, public banks, etc.), are also on the negotiating board of this government. If this is the impetus that comes from Guedes' primitive neoliberalism, then it is worth asking how Centrão will act in the face of this reality? This is because, as we all know, the swamp finds and secures its share not only through parliamentary bargaining, but also through the looting of public companies.

And more: if the economic recession is not stopped and does not show signs of a resumption of growth, how will the different fractions of big capital act, fearful of repeating, in 2021, the retraction of the gains and profits that they imagined obtaining, when they supported and elected this government? In 2020, the profits they intended to make, saw them slip through the fingers of their hands, a consequence not only of the pandemic, but of the tragic government conduct in the face of this brutal health crisis.

Politically, we have already indicated that Bolsonaro, at times moves towards the rupture of legal-parliamentary institutionality, at times conforms to it, as he realizes that the siege of his government can lead to its end (also dragging down his entire family). That's the only reason why the ex-captain walks between these two bridges. He dreams of institutional rupture and a dictatorial coup, but he fears being phagocytosed if the shot doesn't work out. Here, it is worth mentioning, the posture and action of the Armed Forces play a decisive role, a difficult subject that is proving to be increasingly serious, deserving, therefore, to be treated in depth and by specialists.

Foreseeing the political risks he was running, the defender of the “new policy” and the “end of corruption”, in blatant evidence of electoral embezzlement, resorted to the lap of Centrão. He gave him everything that was required and thus managed to drag an unstable majority of deputies – the well-known swamp – in order to try to escape the impeachment process. Risk, it should be said, that is increasing more and more, given the disastrous results of the government's genocidal policy in relation to the pandemic, whose lethality does not stop growing alarmingly. And, once again, the majority of the Brazilian Parliament bowed to the royal coins, annihilating once and for all the meager remnant of respect that it might still find among the population, to recall Marx's cutting criticism.

For all these reasons, once again the outcome of this sharply critical picture seems to take us back to the anatomy of civil society, as the crisis tends to exacerbate in the second half of Bolsonaro’s term. But pay attention, because here we are not talking only about economics and not only about politics, but about something a little deeper: political economy.


For all these reasons, the scenario unfolding for the biennium 2021/2 is even more unpredictable. Unemployment levels have exploded and continue to grow, to the point that informality is no longer able to absorb pockets of the unemployed. An example of this we saw in the IBGE data, from May 2020, which indicated a reduction in informality levels, since unemployment was also increasing in this universe. This is how, among the many “conquests” of this lumpen-type government (a figuration that, I believe, does not need to be explained) yet another new character of the Brazilian social tragedy was created: the informal-unemployed person, adding even more brutality to the situation. monumental contingent of unemployed people that expand pockets of misery in Brazil. In 2014, after visiting India, I wrote that our country was on the way to becoming a Latin American India. The tease seems like it made some sense...

Thus, the economic, social and political decomposition of the Bolsonaro government is evident. As a consequence, in the popular classes, the support obtained in 2018 has significantly retracted. A similar process has also been taking place in the middle classes, which supported it mostly until recently and which seems to be collapsing, as a result of the lethal policy to combat the pandemic, with hundreds of thousands of deaths and which repeats, in a much worse version, as we have seen in Manaus, the death by suffocation of thousands of patients who did not find care in public hospitals.

For sure, the hard core of Bolsonarism, that is, those who scream like weaklings trotting in a herd, it seems that it will follow with its “Myth” until the end, even when it practices the most indigent actions.

For all that we indicated earlier, then, the struggle to overthrow the Bolsonaro government will not result from a parliamentary initiative, but can only come about as a result of broad popular demonstrations, capable of pushing deputies to abandon the Bolsonarist boat.

In this scenario, it is possible that we witness a twofold movement, which could develop both “from above”, under the command of the bourgeois classes, and “from below”, that is, in the universe of the popular classes.

It is possible to imagine, on the one hand, that the bourgeois opposition could trigger a process of detachment from the autocratic and semi-Bonapartist government it elected, which could happen if the economic crisis intensifies and further deepens the recessive framework throughout this second part of the mandate.

On the other hand, with the cooling of the pandemic, once a significant stage of vaccination is completed, everything indicates that we will see a growing popular movement of revulsion and confrontation flourish in the streets and public squares, demanding the impeachment of this (mis)government. But it must be emphasized that this second movement, of social and popular opposition, must have no illusions, not even with the opposition at the top and much less with Parliament. Both the first, bourgeois and parliamentary action, will be tempted to push the “resolution” of the crisis to the 2022 elections, hoping to carry out the succession in their own way, under their command and control.

The social and popular opposition will have to reinvent itself, especially avoiding what has been (recurrently) its main social and political mistake, which is to act as the tail of the bourgeoisie, to once again remind Florestan Fernandes. It is time to definitively understand that the class reconciliation policy is, at the same time, a serious political mistake and, even more, a real impossibility, since the economic forces of capital and the social forces of labor are social entifications. irreconcilable. The PT governments, over almost four governments, were the last and greatest evidence of this impossibility.

In other words, only with a strong social and political confrontation, extra-parliamentary in its centrality, capable of bringing together a range of popular forces from cities and countryside, will it be able to give impetus to the impeachment of the Bolsonaro government and its troop. And this social and political movement is anchored in the struggles and resistance of the working class, with its unions and class parties, which must decisively abandon the priority of institutional action. Likewise, it finds density in the vast and expanded set of social movements in the periphery and in the black anti-racist movement. It must also decisively incorporate the feminist and LGBT rebellions that fight against the multiple and persistent forms of exploitation/oppression, dimensions that are deeply interrelated. Last but not least, finds support in the vital struggles of indigenous communities, in the anti-capitalist environmentalist movement, in youth revolts, etc., without having any illusions with the bourgeois forces, whose doors, when they open, it is to give them the role of subalternity. As soon as your goals are achieved, the doors quickly close. See Dilma's deposition.

It is only through this social and popular impulse that the struggle for impeachment of the Bolsonaro government will be able to effectively move forward. If the public squares grow, through the multitudinous presence of broad social and political contingents, only then will Parliament be forced to guide what comes from the popular outcry and thus, finally, guide the impeachment of the Bolsonaro government.

And if this deposition movement, for some reason, does not materialize, at least we will be starting to create a social and political opposition that will be able to effectively think about what to do in relation to the 2022 elections.

*Ricardo Antunes is professor of sociology of work at IFCH-UNICAMP. Author, among other books, of The privilege of servitude (Boitempo).


[1] FERNANDES, F. (1975).  The bourgeois revolution in Brazil. Sao Paulo, Zahar, 1975.

[2] I used this expression in the book cave policy: The controrivoluzione di Bolsonaro, Rome, Castelvecchi, 2019.

[3] MESZÁROS, I. (2002) Beyond Capital. Sao Paulo, Boitempo.

[4] See cave policy and also The Privilege of Servitude, P. 293/302.

See this link for all articles


  • Franz Kafka, libertarian spiritFranz Kafka, libertarian spirit 13/06/2024 By MICHAEL LÖWY: Notes on the occasion of the centenary of the death of the Czech writer
  • The society of dead historyclassroom similar to the one in usp history 16/06/2024 By ANTONIO SIMPLICIO DE ALMEIDA NETO: The subject of history was inserted into a generic area called Applied Human and Social Sciences and, finally, disappeared into the curricular drain
  • About artificial ignoranceEugenio Bucci 15/06/2024 By EUGÊNIO BUCCI: Today, ignorance is not an uninhabited house, devoid of ideas, but a building full of disjointed nonsense, a goo of heavy density that occupies every space
  • A look at the 2024 federal strikelula haddad 20/06/2024 By IAEL DE SOUZA: A few months into government, Lula's electoral fraud was proven, accompanied by his “faithful henchman”, the Minister of Finance, Fernando Haddad
  • Letter to the presidentSquid 59mk,g 18/06/2024 By FRANCISCO ALVES, JOÃO DOS REIS SILVA JÚNIOR & VALDEMAR SGUISSARDI: “We completely agree with Your Excellency. when he states and reaffirms that 'Education is an investment, not an expense'”
  • Return to the path of hopelate afternoon 21/06/2024 By JUAREZ GUIMARÃES & MARILANE TEIXEIRA: Five initiatives that can allow the Brazilian left and center-left to resume dialogue with the majority hope of Brazilians
  • Chico Buarque, 80 years oldchico 19/06/2024 By ROGÉRIO RUFINO DE OLIVEIRA: The class struggle, universal, is particularized in the refinement of constructive intention, in the tone of proletarian proparoxytones
  • Why are we on strike?statue 50g 20/06/2024 By SERGIO STOCO: We have reached a situation of shortage of federal educational institutions
  • Theological manual of neoliberal neo-PentecostalismJesus saves 22/06/2024 By LEONARDO SACRAMENTO: Theology has become coaching or encouraging disputes between workers in the world of work
  • Opportunism, childhood disease of leftismchair 5 18/06/2024 By HERLON MIGUEL: Considerations on the strike at the Federal University of Bahia