Two years of misrule – the will of the ruling class



Bolsonaro demonstrates that he does not know the art of governing and does not have technical competence in any domain

Governing is an art. We should have known this since Machiavelli. And the rulers should know much more about this. However, Machiavellianism courses have not yet been created in Brazilian universities and it seems that there is, in Brazilian lands, a total lack of understanding of what it means to govern. In Brazil, a country where the court jester was crowned king, some of the subjects rage, forgetting that they are also responsible for this situation. We will carry out a brief analysis of the Bolsonaro government and its relationship with the art of governing from the perspective of its actions in two years of government.

The art of governing presupposes wise rulers, at least in this area. A wise ruler in this area, when he is ignorant in other areas, surrounds himself with wise people. When a ruler is ignorant of the art of governing, he surrounds himself with people like him. Chaos is the most likely outcome. The Bolsonaro Government is a government that has the most conservative sectors of society as its social base. The political conception that best describes the supporters of that government is “conservatism”[I].And conservatism is quite poor intellectually and, in Brazil, it is extremely poor. This does not prevent some insights arise within you, especially to identify problems in the enemy.

President Bolsonaro could have been wise and surrounded himself with people with the technical competence to govern, but this would not have been possible, even if he wanted to, as he did not have the intellectual framework to do so.[ii]. Conservative intellectuals are few and far between. Incidentally, one of the social bases of the Bolsonaro government are the failed intellectuals, who, despite having achieved a ritual training (diplomas), did not have the slightest structural training (real, that is, some mastery of the specialty for which they were formed).

Thus, it would not be possible to create a competent technical and administrative staff with failed intellectuals. These failed intellectuals are, above all, resentful. They are resentful for not being able to enter universities, especially in the era of PT governments. Thus, the union of unpreparedness with resentment produces a lack of clarity, a favorable ground for the development of outlandish ideas.

The art of governing presupposes a government team that has mastery of it. Now, as we have already stated, the failed intellectuals around the Bolsonaro government do not provide a competent technical-administrative framework to carry out a reasonable government. Bolsonaro tried, at first, to attract some who are considered better and who could support him, such as Sérgio Moro and Paulo Guedes. They are not two great “representatives of wisdom”, but, in view of the rest of the group, they were really the most “prepared”. It may be possible to find one or two more in the lower ranks.

However, the government bureaucracy was, on the whole, extremely unprepared[iii]. The government was unable to hold Sérgio Moro for a long time and Paulo Guedes, who was called by the government not because of his competence but because of his proximity to Bolsonaro – uniting personal interests of one and personal-electoral interests of the other – and for being a convinced neoliberal , which the then presidential candidate needed to lessen the rejection of his candidacy by sectors of the bourgeoisie. Paulo Guedes, however, is not only weak to be a Minister of the Economy, he still does not have the internal strength to be able to implement his neoliberal measures and that is why he lost space over time and is already becoming a decorative figure in the government.

That leaves Jair M. Bolsonaro himself. He is an average individual, influenced by conservatism, but who does not renounce opportunism to remain in government, and who is a politician with little preparation for executive power. In addition to not being circumspect, a characteristic that every ruler should have[iv], demonstrates not knowing the art of governing and not having technical competence in any domain.

His flashy manner, his lack of intellectual training, his attachment to conservatism, among other characteristics, make him possibly the most unprepared president Brazil has ever had. There were others, but at least the government team “saved the day” or at least “diminished the disaster”. The new president is moved by the certainty of the ignorant and this is extremely harmful because it is a more influential mobilizing force than rational conviction and, at the same time, farther from reality. The case of the government's position in the face of the coronavirus pandemic shows this well.

Thus, the final and obvious conclusion is that the Bolsonaro government has not mastered the art of governing. Here is the great conclusion which most cannot go beyond. The phrase “even so he rules” is enough to see that there is something deeper to be discussed. He doesn't know how to rule, but he continues to rule. This is where we can advance in reflection on the Bolsonaro government. The fundamental question is: how can an incompetent government, which does not dominate the basic elements of the art of governing, and which does not have a strong and structured party and solid and organized social bases (especially if we note that a large part of the initial supporters have already abandoned the leaky boat ), still ruling?

The answer to this refers to broader issues, such as, for example, the role of government and the interests that dominate society, as well as the strength of the opposition and the existing alternatives, in addition to the historical and social context. The role of government in modern society is to reproduce capitalist production relations and the interests of the capitalist class. This is the interest of the dominant class, which dominates not only in the economic sphere, but also in the cultural and political sphere. Without the will of the ruling class, a government is unlikely to fall. And, for the ruling class to embark on an adventure to change the government before the end of the term, the situation must be unbearable or popular pressure must be very threatening, in addition to the need to have an alternative to put it in its place and maintain order. .

The Bolsonaro government fulfills, in a mediocre way and with little competence, its function. He has some sectors of the bourgeoisie that oppose him, but other sectors are silent and some support him. The situation, for the capital, is not good, but it has not yet become unbearable and the government has been taking measures to please it (such as retrograde reforms, which began with the Dilma Government and expanded with the Temer Government and continued relative in the current government). It is better to leave it as it is than to embark on an adventure that may generate something undesirable.

Thus, the situation is not unbearable, there is no popular pressure against the government (there are noisy oppositionists, but without greater mobilization force and popular support, and fanatical supporters, which balances the balance). Furthermore, there is no alternative on the horizon. An alternative, in this case, would be a popular figure representing the interests of capital. Lula does not appear as an option after the problems that culminated in the impeachment of the Dilma government, not to mention the fear of “revanchism” on the part of some sectors.

Ciro Gomes does not make a profession of neoliberal faith, which is what still dominates the minds of most of the bourgeoisie, and there are no other big names. It is easier to follow a quiet route, as seen in the last elections, in which polarization decreased and the unwanted (progressives and conservatives) were not the ones who had the most votes, thus opening up the possibility of creating an alternative until the next elections. presidential.

The various governments can exercise their function with greater or lesser competence, with good results or mediocre results. The key element is being able to carry out your function. If this is done with poor competence and mediocre results, it can be traded. However, to be exchanged, it is necessary to have an opposition or a sector of it that is able to replace and do what the current government does not do. This is lacking in the Brazilian political market. Currently, there are no politicians or parties that can make an adequate and effective opposition, or convince that it would be much better.

The last possibility would be popular pressure that would frighten the ruling class and make it cry out against the government and in favor of the impeachment or any other attitude that would result in the end of that government. This is somewhat difficult, since, on the one hand, the conditions under which Bolsonaro was elected are unchanged and, on the other hand, the opposition is incompetent in the “art of emulation”. The polarization between anti-progressives (especially anti-PT) and progressives (PT and allies and other sectors not so allied) continues, as well as the moral polarization. The division of society into these two sides continues, although cracks occur on both sides and the extremes have lost strength, as seen in the last election. Economic conditions have not improved, but the pandemic has generated a good pretext (and actually caused negative effects, including worldwide) to justify this. The other conditions, with the low politicization of the population, remain the same.

What could generate popular pressure would be a change in conditions, with the economic situation getting much worse, and/or an opposition movement that managed to convince key sectors of society and the majority of the population of the need for a change of government. However, there is no such oppositional movement. The conservative sectors of society, other representatives of the bourgeoisie, do not have the strength, spirit or interest in a confrontation with the government, with few exceptions. The progressive sectors, mostly linked to the interests of the bureaucracy and the intelligentsia, are in the same situation as a hunter who finds himself in a “bush without a dog”. A part of them plays into the hands of the government. Whether it's actually a game, which would even be smart, or just conservative nonsense isn't the most important thing.

What matters is that the effect of entering into the controversies promoted by the government bureaucracy is to strengthen the government's support bases. This can be seen in progressives' insistence on moralistic bias. The dispute between conservative moralism, in its conservative version, and progressive moralism, in its subjectivist version, ends up involving the opposition and this one, with its incompetence, did not realize that such polarization was useful, but now it is harmful.

The only smart strategy would be to abandon subjectivist progressive moralism[v]. But, aiming to please a part of its audience, such as some sectors of social movement activists and other sectors of society, it keeps the discourse in the same direction, reinforcing the polarization, which, in turn, reinforces the government by keeping other sectors of society attached to it to save them from the vicissitudes of subjectivist moralism.

Some even try to appeal to the “art of emulation”, but they don't know where the rooster crows. Hence the attempt to maintain the discourse of “Bolsonaro Government fascism” and generate an alleged “anti-fascism”, which yields emotional phrases on virtual social networks and nothing else. The majority of the population does not know what fascism is – and does not even care about it – and thus the “anti-fascist front” only converts those already converted. It would be necessary to better understand the art of emulation to know that the “anti-fascist front” only works as a unifying pole in very specific situations, as well as, in the current Brazilian context, it can only reinforce the PT's hegemony within the progressive bloc. This generates a weak result for the PT and a general weakening of the progressive bloc, as seen in the results of the last elections[vi].

The lack of understanding of the contemporary and Brazilian reality, alongside the lack of reading, reflection, creativity and of dedicated and prepared intellectual cadres in the parties and organizations, points to the inability to face the enemy. In some cases, there is even a lack of clarity of objectives and, therefore, of the necessary means to achieve this. The apparently common goal is to be against the Bolsonaro government, but there is an internal dispute for hegemony and the strongest competitor is the worst option, as well as its imitator competitors are not a great alternative. The Brazilian progressive bloc is orphaned of leaders, organizations and ideas. All that's left is the poor electoralism of some and the ineffective virtual activism of others.

Is there no light at the end of the tunnel? The dominant bloc does not move against Bolsonaro and has no interest in doing so, except for some sectors. For these, an impetus could only arise if it came from the United States with its new president, which is unlikely, since this one seems to be a little more competent than the one we have here and will not cause unnecessary problems. The most likely are some discursive pinpricks and one or another punctual action.

The progressive bloc not only “missed the tram of history”, but also “the way home”, that is, not only did it disconnect from long-term history by falling under the spell of fads and electoralisms, but it does not even know how to return to its housing itself, losing its “identity”, to use a fashionable term. The Brazilian progressive bloc is less and less progressive and more and more Americanized[vii].

The revolutionary bloc, which had its big moment in 2013, was pulverized and a large part hitched a ride on the errant wagon of the progressive bloc and now lives in its tow. What remains of a truly revolutionary and unambiguous position are small groups. These are intellectually strong, but without great mobilization force in the current situation. In order for it to regain lost space again, it would be necessary to overcome the ambiguities of various sectors of the revolutionary bloc, increasing its quantitative strength, and a resurgence of workers' struggles, which sometimes seems to be sketching out, but which has not yet taken effect and the coronavirus pandemic tends to dam for some time.

Faced with this not very positive picture, we still have the resignation of intellectuals. Some renounced its meaning, much advertised and little practiced, as a critical sense of society, others abandoned its disguise of “neutrality”. The abandonment of the critical sense means moving away from reflection on society, politics, culture, going beyond everyday representations, party-political positions, fads, immediate interests. Hypothetically, it would be up to intellectuals, due to their profession and training, to be responsible for a broader and more reliable reflection of reality, leaving their passions and immediate interests aside when thinking about Brazilian society and its dilemmas.

On the other hand, the abandonment of the “neutrality” discourse ends up compromising intellectual productions, as they have increasingly become passionate testimonials (and filled with misunderstandings and lack of a sense of reality) against the government, without seeking to understand it. it more deeply and the wider social context. The discourse of politicians, parties and activists is one thing, as their objective is to convince and mobilize.

When intellectuals only reproduce this, they disarm those same politicians, parties and activists, as they let them believe in their illusions and fantasies, which, however mobilizing they are, are ineffective. Intellectuals who passionately adhere to a political position and start to serve only mobilization, leaving aside reflection, critical sense, effectiveness and objectives, do not help to overcome the unwanted situation, they only reinforce the herd's journey towards to the abyss.

Finally, we can say that the two years of the Bolsonaro Government have shown the dramatic situation of Brazilian society, which coexists with the general contemporary dilemmas of bourgeois society and, at the same time, sinks into a realm of ignorance on all sides and which assumes the more varied forms. The situation in Brazil is the same as in the rest of the world, although there are specificities and different degrees. We live in a world where the sunlight has gone out, but life goes on – we don't know how.

Darkness generates wanderers who do not know where they are and where they are going. Thus, it is possible the explosion of revolts that could either generate a new society, especially if they open space for a development of conscience, or a new savagery, with dictatorships and mass exterminations. Individual responsibility is manifested at this moment: we are going to risk the future of humanity in favor of personal and immediate interests, or else in favor of beliefs, fantasies and illusions, or, still, for individualism, hedonism and selfishness, or else we are going to think more globally and in a humanistic way, aim to understand the problem and seek to solve it?

The Bolsonaro government is just a symptom. It is necessary to go beyond the symptom – and understand that we can be part of it – to cure the disease. Eliminating the symptom does not mean defeating the disease. The current political challenge posed by the Bolsonaro government is to understand which disease it is a symptom of and thus fight it and avoid new symptoms and worsening of the disease. The light at the end of the tunnel will only exist if the majority of the population reevaluates the refusal of reason and theory and we return to the process of critical reflection, because subjectivist ignorance, whether progressive or conservative, only brings us closer to the abyss.

*Nildo Viana is a professor at the Faculty of Social Sciences at the Federal University of Goiás (UFG). Author, among other books, of Capitalism in the era of integral accumulation (Lyrics Ideas).


[I] The social base of conservatism, in current Brazilian society, is formed by more conservative religious sectors, sectors of the national bourgeoisie, failed intellectuals wanting space or revenge, conservative moralists. Conservatism is one of the manifestations of conservatism, a much broader and more general phenomenon in modern society. On the Bolsonaro government and conservatism, cf.

[ii] The only alternative would be to import cadres from other parties and sectors of society, as the PT governments did, but the narrow horizon of conservatism makes this difficult in the case of the Bolsonaro government.

[iii] So much so that the first months of government were marked by rectified actions, a part of which was unconstitutional, which is still laughable. Another example of this was the quick ministries exchanges and ministers and other staff members with fake resumes, which is farcical.

[iv] And this is even more embarrassing in terms of international relations, as seen on several occasions, with the president or his team (including sons and ministers) causing problems with several countries.

[v] On this, cf.

[vi] The defeat of progressivism in the last elections was just not noticed by some narrow-minded intellectuals, who did a lot of discursive juggling, such as including the PSDB in the “left”. Not recognizing defeat is the best way to keep losing.

[vii]On this, cf.

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