Fascism – not only in Ukraine

Image: Eugenio Barboza
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By LUIZ CARLOS CHECCHIA*

Notes on fascist emergencies in contemporary Brazil

The Russian military incursion into Ukraine has revealed how Nazism is present in part of that nation's daily life. Some examples are already notorious, such as the so-called Battalions of Azov and Aidar, which were originally Nazi militias and which, after acting in the coup d'état that took place there in 2014, were incorporated into the public forces without losing their ideologies.

Also increasingly evident is the popular influence of the far-right Pravy Sector party-movement, responsible for violent demonstrations against migrants and ethnic minorities. These and other situations presented in detail in the documentaries Ukraine, the masks of the revolution, by the Frenchman Paul Moreira and ukraine in flames, directed by Igor Lopatonok and produced by Oliver Stone, both from 2016, demonstrate how Nazism and Fascism are tolerated by a large part of Ukrainian society and participate in sustaining the State that was formed after the coup. If this evidence does not completely justify the Russian military operation in that country, it at least proves that one of its objectives, denazifying Ukraine, is not a dead letter or empty words.

That said, it is easier to understand what the rallying cry of part of the Brazilian extreme right that calls for the “Ukrainization of Brazil” means. It seems to us that they are not just screaming for the coup to take power, as happened in Ukraine, in 2014, and here in 2016, but are constantly calling for the structuring of the Brazilian State based on Nazi-fascist ideologies and organizations. The nazification of Brazil, or to be broader and more complete, its fascistization, seems to be a risk that is not taken seriously, because despite its problems with racism and misogyny, many people still believe that the country would be far from some form of ascension. of fascism.

Therefore, when the 2018 elections came to an end and Jair Messias Bolsonaro was elected with more than 55% of the valid votes, we began to ask ourselves, after all, how did a fascist get to the Brazilian government? There are not a few who still insist on saying that it is a “point outside the curve”, a “historical mistake”, a “deviation in our democracy”, but that it will soon be overcome and will never happen again.

Regrettably, it seems to us that the issue is much more complex and requires a more attentive and careful look at the presence of fascism in our country. This small text aims, therefore, to briefly present some of the most important fascist experiences in Brazil, not in the sense of listing them temporally, as a succession of events that occurred each in its own time and context, but as a constant presence that is updated thanks to experience accumulated generation after generation. That is, the generations of fascists do not replace each other, but overlap, accumulate, connect and form legacies that will be assimilated by generations to come.

We know that in Brazil, supporters of extreme right-wing ideologies are divided between those who defend fascist ideologies and those who defend Nazi ideologies, which can confuse some people. To help understanding and distinguish between the two, below we will make a few explanatory paragraphs to explain the difference between fascism and Nazism and place them under the same concept, that of “form-fascism”.

 

On the theory of fascism

We work here in this text with the following idea: fascism is a political form. Of course, this requires us to explain what we mean by “form-politics”: it is a concept that helps us to understand the historical, cultural and political connections that exist between phenomena that are often very different from each other. In the case of fascism, let us think of its most diverse expressions, such as Italian fascism, German Nazism, Brazilian and Portuguese Integralism, the movements skinheads etc. Each of them is a “particular fascism”, which is characterized by the specificities of each people and nation, each culture, each historical moment, etc. But they are all “fascism”, and so we need to understand what they have in common, what they share, what groups them together under a set of shared principles and meanings. We need, therefore, to understand its political form, which we will simply call fascism form.

To begin with, we present the context common to all expressions of the fascism-form, which is imperialism, and its class of origin, which is the petty bourgeoisie. While capitalism was still based on competition between companies and firms of different sizes, the petty bourgeoisie had a certain economic and political relevance. But already at the end of the XNUMXth century, the big bourgeoisie began to organize itself into cartels and trusts, and began to control all stages of production. They also expanded their operations to different parts of the planet. As a consequence of the concentration of capital and control over production, capitalism quickly lost its competitive and local character, which somehow favored the petty bourgeoisie, or rather, was its business environment.

These changes made the petty bourgeois continuously sink into political insignificance, assuming marginal positions in the processes of wealth production. On the other hand, the organization of the working class in trade unions and political parties created a mass mobilized enough to fight for better working conditions and higher wages, which also bothered the petty bourgeoisie a lot, after all, more and more it has to meet the demands of their employees and staff, often reducing their profit margins immensely. Resentful and limited, squeezed between bourgeois and workers, who became the main classes of capitalism, the petty bourgeoisie almost completely lost the conditions to dispute power in an autonomous and protagonist way, as explained by the Greek philosopher Nicos Poulantzas, in books such as fascism and dictatorship, by 1972, and Social classes in today's capitalismOf 1975.

However, the crises that are common to the dynamics of capitalism have become increasingly intense in imperialism. Most of them are located and operated by the authorities. But others evolve to become major social crises, those that combine political and economic problems of such magnitude that they discredit politicians and traditional parties (whether left or right). One of the possible results of political discredit is the vacuum in the hegemony of the State. It is in this scenario of drastic crises and the population's lack of confidence in traditional politicians that the petty bourgeoisie finds the right conditions for its mobilization and to dispute power. And when it enters the political fray, it organizes its program around its resentment of the other classes.

As its horizon is regressive, therefore, it does not think about overcoming the bourgeois order, but only creating a society in which relations were good as they were at some point in the past. Evidently, we are talking about an imaginary past, mythologized, but whose belief is strong enough to mobilize forces against any enemy that stands in its way. These enemies are usually those who present progressive and/or overcoming order agendas, such as communists, socialists, and feminists, popular movements and, in the cases of fascism with a high racist load, Jews, blacks and all sorts of migrants.

So petty-bourgeois resentment is a constant in capitalist societies. Therefore, when a large-scale fascist movement emerges, sometimes capable of winning local or national elections, it is not a question of a “mistake”, or a “bad moment”, but the emergence of a political form that constitutes imperialist capitalism. A political form that remains obscure in the restricted circles of its supporters (now amplified by social networks), but that can emerge whenever situations are favorable to them.

Thus, to end this theoretical excursion, we are talking about a political form, the fascism form; of a fascist-situation, that is, scenarios of acute crises and political discredit; and, finally, the possibility of fascist emergence, when its militants and organizations achieve enough popular mobilization to take advantage of the occasion of crisis to dispute political power. Finally, let us be aware of the fact that each fascist emergency leads to an update of the fascism-form, since new generations of fascists seem to demonstrate great ease in correcting mistakes of previous generations and in adjusting discourses and practices. That said, we can now address some of the major fascist emergencies that have occurred in our history.

 

The fascist emergencies in Brazil

Ever since it first appeared in the world in the early decades of the 1970th century, one nation or another has been ruled by a fascist leader. But great emergencies involving several nations governed or with governments strongly influenced by fascism occurred in three historical moments. In those first decades of the 1990th century, between the XNUMXs and XNUMXs, and now, in the first decades of the XNUMXst century. It is no coincidence that these were periods of great imperialist crisis, forming what we have already defined as fascist situations.

Brazil was never left out of these emergencies, in each of these moments the fascist mobilization in our country was of great importance. In short, we have a well-consolidated fascist tradition in the country that dates back to the first hour of fascism. After all, the first Nazi cell in Brazil was founded by German immigrants in the Santa Catarina city of Benedito Timbó, in 1928, as researcher Ana Dietrich explains in her book Tropical Nazism? The Nazi Party in Brazil. It is also no coincidence that after the Nazi takeover of the German state, the Brazilian section of his party was the largest abroad, with almost three thousand members, distributed in seventeen different states, from the north to the south of the country. This considering that only native Germans could join, leaving their descendants limited to other forms of party participation.

The Italian National Fascist Party, in turn, maintained its sections in Brazil, called fasci all'estero, who organized a network of cultural and leisure entities that constituted spaces of sociability and coexistence, as researcher João Fábio Bertonha wrote in several of his articles and books about it, and from which we highlight the collection On the Right, Studies on Fascism, Nazism and Integralism. The fascist social organization Opera Nazionale Dopolavoro in Sao Paulo, for example, managed to organize a football team that played in the intermediate division, in 1938, dragging a significant crowd behind it. Italian Fascists also operated an efficient printing press. only the newspaper the fanfulla, which was already a traditional newspaper of the Italian community when Mussolini came to power, became a fundamental propagandistic vehicle that reached, in 1934, a daily circulation of 40 thousand copies, as stated by Teresa Malatian, in her article “Italian Press in São Paulo and Fascism: the Fanfulla (1921-1942)”.

This first fascist emergency in Brazil also had expressions born here. In his fundamental book Integralism, Brazilian fascism in the 30s, Hélgio Trindade cites some fascist organizations that emerged in the country in that period, such as the Ação Social Brasileira, Legião Cearense do Trabalho, .Partido Nacional Sindicalista, Ação Imperial Patrionovista and the Legião Cruzeiro do Sul. But undoubtedly the most prominent of them was the Brazilian Integralist Action, the AIB, created by Miguel Reale, Gustavo Barroso and Plínio Salgado, on October 7, 1932. Initially it was a political movement, but in its II National Congress, in 1935, it became became a party that began to compete for Brazilian governments and parliaments.

The performance of the AIB was successful enough to report, in its national periodical The Offensive, that, in 1936, the organization had more than 1 million and 300 thousand members in its ranks. Despite all the care that must be taken with such information, which, after all, was provided by the AIB itself, the fact is that the organization maintained an expressive and well-known popular base in several Brazilian states. Its downfall came with the institution of the Estado Novo Varguista, in 1937, which prohibited party activities in the country and led Integralists to act underground, as happened with other Brazilian parties. With the end of the Estado Novo, the Integralists organized themselves into a new party, the Popular Republican Party. They were extinguished again, this time by the business-military coup of 1964, which imposed bipartisanship in Brazil, constituted by the party supporting the dictatorial regime, ARENA (Aliança Renovadora Nacional), chosen by the Integralists, and the allowed opposition party, the Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB).

The second fascist emergency in Brazil initially formed as street movements, the skinheads, since the party's action was limited and the Integralists accommodated in the structures of the military regime acting for ARENA. It was a group of ex-punks frustrated by the direction taken by the movement that founded the skinhead movement in Brazil, in the second half of the 1970s. , and therefore suffered from a lack of opportunities and expectations. There was little left for them but to roam the streets of working-class neighborhoods in the metropolitan region of São Paulo, where the movement began.

However, it was only at the end of the 1980s that the meeting of the skinheads Brazilians and Nazi-fascist ideologies thanks mainly to increased exchanges between local and European groups. As a result, Brazilian groups were roughly divided into those who embraced a fascist stance, with a strong approximation to Integralists, and those who adopted Nazism as an ideological line. The Carecas do Subúrbio stood out among the first and, among the second, the White Power movement, as explained by Alessandro Bracht and Carlos Eduardo França, in their articles “The nationalism of Brazilian Skinheads”, and “The multiple perceptions, representations and resignifications of the identity formations of the “Carecas do Brasil” and the Poder Branco Paulista”, respectively.

With redemocratization, the fascists reorganized themselves into party associations, among which PRONA, the National Order Rebuilding Party, stood out, with the physician Enéas Carneiro as its main leader. In the first post-dictatorship election, Enéas, who only had fifteen seconds in the time of electoral propaganda, was in 12o place among the 21 candidates. Already in the 1994 elections, he was in third place, having less than two minutes for his radio and TV campaign. In the 1998 elections, he had 35 seconds in his advertising time, placing fourth. In 2002, he ran for a seat in parliament, and obtained more than one and a half million votes, becoming the record holder for votes for the national congress. His record was only broken by another fascist candidate, Eduardo Bolsonaro, in 2018, in the midst of the rise of Bolsonarist-fascism.

We are currently experiencing the third fascist emergency in Brazil and in several other countries. This situation is surely linked to oscillations in the dynamics of Imperialism that have occurred since at least 2008, when the most severe crisis of capitalism broke out. There are two political events of major importance for understanding recent fascism in Brazil. The first of these is the coup that took place in Ukraine in 2014, as a result of the hybrid war carried out by imperialism. As we alluded to at the beginning of this writing, the overthrow of the government of that nation took place through Nazi organizations financed and fomented by both local and foreign coup plotters. No wonder major Ukrainian fascist groups such as Azov and Aidar Battalions, Pravy Sector and others were all founded between 2013 and 2014.

After taking over the state and government of Ukraine, some of these organizations began to exchange with groups from other nations and finance part of them. Some of the Brazilian groups were part of these exchanges and it is strongly believed that some of them also received some kind of financial support. The other event was the set of demonstrations that took place in Brazil, in 2013, in protest against the increase in bus fares. What started as acts with a progressive agenda, was soon taken over by extreme right-wing groups organized among themselves and which in a short time expelled parties, unions and left-wing collectives. The agendas were changed, assuming a regressive content and, in a short time, they ended up becoming the power that led to the election of the most conservative Congress since the one instituted by the business-military dictatorship of 1964. Many of the extreme right groups in the streets were precisely those formed or stimulated by events in Ukraine two years earlier.

There are two social environments that are not fascist in nature, but that are easily captured by extreme ideologies, which are neo-Pentecostal churches and armed forms and auxiliary forces. There are many reasons why they are easily captured by fascism, and we highlight some of them: the belief in the strength of leadership, the vertical structure with little possibility of internal mobilization, the impossibility of internal debates about decisions taken by the summits and the constant code of absolute obedience.

None of these factors is bad in itself, there are situations and environments that are decisive for its effectiveness. However, they facilitate contamination by fascist ideals and practices, as they facilitate its dissemination, especially when carried out “from top to bottom” and eliminate any form of opposing arguments or resistance. At the same time, they are environments that carry a strong conservatism in their nature, and this is always something dangerous. There was a strong furore in 2015 when information websites published the video of the group Gladiadores do Altar.

It was a platoon of boys in unison, chanting battle cries in unison. They were all strong and wearing T-shirts and camouflage pants and combat boots. In a short time it became known that the Gladiators of the Altar had units scattered in several states and some other countries in Latin America. After the great and negative repercussion, all the videos related to the group were removed from the internet and the Universal Church authorities claimed that the group had been misunderstood, that it was a temporary project, and that the criticism was nothing more than “religious intolerance”. Anthropologist Adriana Dias, who has been researching the issue of fascism and groups for a long time skinheads in Brazil said, in an interview to the information agency Vice, published on November 26, 2019, that there are currently a large number of former members of street gangs converting to neo-Pentecostal churches in order to participate in a conservative organization in which they could share their positions without raising suspicion or criticism as the groups skinheads.

In another article, this time for the agency Deutsche Welle, from June 26, 2020, Adriana Dias addresses the increase in cells and, mainly, members in each Nazi-fascist cell in Brazil. In the same article, the non-governmental organization SaferNet Brasil, which acts in the defense and promotion of human rights, reports that between 2019 and 2020 there was an extraordinary increase of 11.564% in the number of Nazi-fascist websites denounced. Certainly the movements since at least 2013, when far-right groups took to the streets to violently dispute for power, the increase in their militants and organizations only makes them grow and spread, as reported on the newspaper's websites. State of Minas, on April 16, 2013, from the news agency with the BBC, on January 18, 2017 and the Third Sector Observatory, on June 30, 2020, among others.

Although the size of the military's support for President Jair Bolsonaro is unknown and which are the sectors of the forces that are most engaged in him, any reflection on this must take into account that no other government has had so many military personnel occupying government posts. According to an article published by the newspaper The Globe, on June 27, 2021, the Federal Audit Court published that until July 2020, there was, in the Bolsonaro administrations, a 122% increase in the number of military personnel occupying civil and military positions in the government, reaching a significant contingent of 6.157 people. But the most scandalous fact that the report presents was the change in the character of the functions of the positions occupied by this contingent, making them all military, thus allowing the officers to take possession of these offices without having to go to the reserve.

This means the taking over of the government by a large number of officers with some degree of loyalty to Bolsonarism or who, at least, see in it a means to achieve goals of interest to internal groups and not always known that exist in the armed forces. But the main support for Bolsonarism comes from the auxiliary forces, the Military Police, whose most recent demonstration took place in the acts of September 7, 2021, as can be seen in the articles published on the website of the information agency. Power 360 and the newspaper The country, of August 23 and August 25, respectively, and other newsletters, since the subject was widely reported.

 

By way of conclusion

The Nazi-fascist experiences in Brazil, from the first Nazi cell in Benedito Timbó, to today's gangs, demonstrate a constant, deep and consolidated presence of the fascism-form in the country. Even when there are ebbs, they are never effective enough to ward off the risk of a new fascist emergence, when we least expect it. After all, as long as there are capitalist economic and political crises, the bitch of fascism will continue to multiply her brood.

Therefore, it is essential to be aware that even the most resounding electoral victory over any fascist leader does not mean a definitive victory over fascism, in any nation. Even the denazification actions that took place in countries defeated in World War II did not prevent its resurgence in other times. Furthermore, the victory over fascism will only be complete when the victory over capitalism is achieved. But until then, it is essential that Nazi-fascist experiences become a constant theme of public debates, in social, party and union organizations, in churches and in all relevant social entities in the Brazilian social formation. It should be featured in schools, the subject of specific disciplines in universities, and the subject of films and plays. Finally, keeping fascism as an ever urgent and heated subject may be the only way to avoid or mitigate its next emergencies.

Let's not forget that we are one of the nations that made up the Allied forces in World War II. The Brazilian Expeditionary Force, despite its great material limitations, carried out important achievements in that conflict, more than 14 thousand soldiers of the German forces (among them a significant number of officers), surrendered to our soldiers. Even so, little is said about our presence in that war. With the honorable exceptions of the play The snake is going to smoke, by César Vieira, from 2012, and the beautiful film road 47, by director Vicente Ferraz, from 2013, our participation among the allied forces continues to be ignored by our artistic, cultural and memory production. It is as if we had never engaged in the greatest struggle against Nazi-fascism.

As the communist militant Clara Zetkin defended, in a document for the Communist International, in 1923, fascism cannot be defeated only militarily (and we add: electorally) but only political and ideological victories could definitively overcome it. That means not letting it run into the shadows, but keeping it in the sunlight and public debate. As long as we live in a capitalist country and subject to imperialism, these emergences of the fascism-form in Brazil will continue to be an ever-constant risk. We must therefore always be attentive and prepared for this. After all, as Hamlet warned: “Being prepared is everything”.

* Luiz Carlos Checchia is a doctoral candidate in Humanities, Rights and Other Legitimacies at FFLCH-USP.

 

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