Fissures in the Bolsonarist political field



The Bolsonarist political field is socially heterogeneous, polyclassist, and therefore full of contradictions. Your unit is not as solid as it may seem

The neofascist movement and political field

Brazilian politics entered a new phase in 2015, when large street demonstrations began in response to the deposition of Dilma Rousseff. With the middle class, and especially its upper layer, as the main driving force of this movement, it was, however, directed by the associated big bourgeoisie whose purpose was to restore the political hegemony that it had lost with the PT governments.

The reference point for this fraction of the Brazilian bourgeoisie was the minimum state policy of the FHC governments, which the governments of Lula and Dilma Rousseff had abandoned to implement a policy of state intervention in the economy to stimulate economic growth and reduce poverty, a policy that we can call it “neodevelopmentalist”.

The impeachment movement, after purges and also with adhesion, including the adhesion of the Military Party, resulted in the formation of a mass movement of a neo-fascist type, bringing together, in addition to the upper fraction of the middle class, the petty bourgeoisie and capitalist landowners. mainly from the South and West regions of the country. Heterogeneous since its inception, the neo-fascist movement functioned as a catalyzing agent for the formation of a new political field, the neo-fascist field, which, in turn, is broader and more heterogeneous than the movement that gave rise to it.

And politics was ungrateful with the initial movement. The pioneers of the neo-fascist movement were pushed, as we will see, to the periphery of the political field whose formation they had facilitated. Although they remain the main driving forces of this field, and the social origin of the financiers and participants in the coup attempt of January 08, 2023 is proof of this, they are not the ones who direct it, that is, they are not the ones who have the last word on the program of the political field that owes its existence to the militancy of the pioneers of neo-fascism.

The associated big bourgeoisie, which had already politically controlled the impeachment movement, managing to restore orthodox neoliberalism with Michel Temer's government, attracted the neo-fascist movement and, at the beginning of the campaign for the 2018 presidential election, took over its leadership, obtaining, in November 2017, the neo-fascist candidate's commitment to appoint Paulo Guedes to the Ministry of Finance. In this new phase, the financial sector of this bourgeois fraction stood out, known in journalistic language by the metonym “Faria Lima”.

Brazilian politics, which was divided, until 2015, between, on the one hand, the neoliberal and democratic political field and, on the other, the neo-developmentalist political field, began to count on a third field that, itself, assumed neoliberalism, dressed in him, however, with an authoritarian outfit. The neo-fascist political field also expanded downwards, attracting sectors of the popular classes enlisted by Pentecostal and neo-Pentecostal churches. This new political field is, like the neoliberal democratic and neodevelopmentalist fields, socially very heterogeneous and, therefore, full of contradictions within it.

It is true that this field has a common denominator that is shared by all its members and that unifies them. This denominator is made up of anti-communism and political authoritarianism. However, each of its members also has particular interests and values ​​that can generate more or less serious conflicts and threaten its unity.

This means that elements such as the defense of the patriarchal family, which are very visible and which a more attentive observer could attribute to the Bolsonaro camp as a whole, are not, in fact, consensual among the social classes and the class fractions that make up this political field. , or, at least, they do not have the same importance for all its members. All these distinctions, often disregarded by analysts of the phenomenon, help, however, to have a clearer vision of Bolsonarism, realizing the heterogeneity of this political field and indicating its possible fissures, in order to allow workers and democrats to define more precise tactics. combat this enemy.

The specific interests and values ​​of each bourgeois fraction that forms part of the neo-fascist political field

The associated big bourgeoisie, which abandoned the democratic neoliberal camp and is the hegemonic social force of the neo-fascist camp, has to manage the most varied interests of its allies and subordinates. This bourgeois fraction is focused on defending the unrestricted expansion of international financial capital in the Brazilian economy and on defending fiscal and monetary policy that guarantees high remuneration for this capital and its internal associates, that is, the so-called restrictive or austerity fiscal policy – ​​restriction and austerity for others, not for finance capital. We will see that part of the financial capital is part of the internal big bourgeoisie, does not support an important part of Faria Lima's demands and publicly abandoned Jair Bolsonaro in the 2022 electoral campaign.

Returning to Faria Lima. The classmates of this sector and its political camp, the capitalist farmers, have serious problems with fiscal restrictions. They aspire to abundant and subsidized public credit, government financing for rural insurance, for the construction of silos on their properties, they call for public works such as railways, highways and ports and for other policies and initiatives that increase public spending. and make it difficult to obtain a primary surplus. They are staunch defenders of the state-owned company Embrapa.

These farmers' demands generate one of the conflicts that threaten the unity of the fascist countryside. It is worth mentioning that capitalist landowners were part of the neo-developmentalist political front during the PT government cycle. Coming from a lean period as a result of the fiscalist economic policy of the FHC governments, their business improved a lot from 2003 onwards. They began to change their political position only from 2013, when they began to prioritize the struggle for another social, environmental and order policy, which would silence the indigenous, peasant, quilombola and environmentalist movements. The political history of these farmers shows that they can oscillate between one political camp and another.

Middle capital is another fraction of the ruling class that allied itself with the associated big bourgeoisie and became part of the neo-fascist political camp. In the preparation of the coup d'état between October 2022 and January 2023, both the participation of landowners and their associations, as well as that of medium-sized companies spread throughout Brazil, participation that took place mainly as financiers of the camps in front of the barracks and also the “March on Brasília”, this participation is sufficiently documented in the legal processes.

Medium capital finds itself excluded from the dispute for hegemony within the power bloc – the economic development of capitalism itself has marginalized it and it does not consider the initiative of proposing an alliance with the labor and popular movement, whose political strength could compensate for its weakness. economic. As it does not, therefore, have the ambition to make the State's economic policy prioritize its specific fraction interests, the middle bourgeoisie began to value, more than all other bourgeois fractions, the anti-worker and anti-popular dimension of neoliberalism.

What it doesn't gain as a fraction, it wants to gain as a class. It was then integrated into the neofascist field due to the fact that it is this field that guarantees, in the new situation, the application of the most radical version of the social policy of neoliberalism, a policy that represents, for medium capital, compensation for what it loses. or stops gaining from economic policy, whether that of neo-developmentalist governments, or that of neoliberal, neo-fascist or democratic governments. Put simply: it seeks to take from workers, through social policy measures, what it cannot take from the big bourgeoisie, through economic policy measures.

However, medium capital has a complex relationship with the economic policy of big capital and, therefore, is not always a safe ally for the big bourgeoisie, be it the internal big bourgeoisie or the associated one. Just remember that medium capital was once in the neo-developmentalist camp. He particularly resented the BNDES policy focused on financing large internal capital – the so-called “national champions” – and then began his march to the right. In the impeachment movement, the middle industrial bourgeoisie of São Paulo was mobilized by Paulo Skaf's Fiesp to work hand-to-hand with the deputies in the impeachment vote.

Workers are the Achilles heel of the neo-fascist political field

Various segments of the working classes, starting with the middle class, represent, today, the great strength of this political field – they are mobilized in the streets, give the votes that fascist candidates need and can give the impression that their position is immovable and permanent. Examining things more closely, we can say that this is not the case.

Self-employed truck drivers, an important sector of the petty bourgeoisie, militant Bolsonarists and pioneers of the neo-fascist movement, aspire to higher remuneration for road freight and cheaper fuel. They also aspire to public funding for fleet renewal. In one case, they clash with the interests of the farmers, who are, however, their political allies, because the farmers intend to reduce the cost of transporting production, and, in the other case, they clash with the interests of financial capital, which directs the political field in which truck drivers are inserted, and which aims to maintain the so-called international parity price for fuel in order to increase Petrobrás' profitability and, thus, increase the dividends that the oil company pays it.

Truck drivers, who were once the base of support for the first two Lula governments, but who, today, still remain on the neo-fascist political front, were the first to be harmed by the government of Jair Bolsonaro, who betrayed them to serve the interests of Petrobrás shareholders, and throughout this government period, the truckers' fascism fed on ideology.

The upper middle class, outraged by the small improvement in the living conditions of lower-income families, fights to maintain their social distinction. This concern of the middle class with social distinction does not move the hearts of the “faria limers” at all – they are at the top of the social hierarchy, they are aware of the solidity of this privileged position and they care little about reducing the inequality that separates the class socially insecure average of low-income workers – provided, of course, that the bill for this reduction does not fall on financial capital.

A real policy of reindustrialization can, with the creation of a large number of more qualified jobs, attract a large part of the middle class, and even the upper middle class, to a more progressive position and, despite this same policy, raising the conditions of life of workers with lower income and qualifications. Lula da Silva won the presidential election in the Southern and Southeastern States in 2002.

Pentecostals, the most popular sector of the neo-fascist front, are focused on defending the patriarchal family – hence the machismo and homophobia that characterizes them. However, the popular people who adhered to Pentecostalism, given their living conditions, do not oppose – in fact they aspire – to social protection measures that clash with neoliberal policy. The patriarchal family, so dear to Pentecostals, is not a consideration for any of the bourgeoisie fractions to define their relationship with the government. What moves them in this case is the question of whether or not the government's economic and social policy measures meet their specific fraction interests.

Any bourgeois faction can eventually take a position in favor or take a position against the Pentecostal struggle if this provides it with an ally in its struggle within the power bloc. In other words, unity in this case would not be based on common interests and values, but on circumstances of political struggle.

The unity of the fascist political field may be broken

It is true that this neo-fascist political front or field, although broad and heterogeneous, remains united. We have already seen that anti-communism and political authoritarianism form a common basis for this unity – although anti-communism for farmers, Pentecostals and the middle class does not mean the same thing. However, the bible, bullet and bull benches are voting together in the National Congress and are aware of the strength that each party obtains from this unity.

The associated bourgeoisie has already learned that without coup maneuvers, such as Dilma Rousseff's impeachment maneuver, or without the neo-fascist movement, which represented its electoral salvation in 2018, it is very difficult for it to assume and maintain government power. You know you can't move forward alone.

The neo-fascist camp is still united, but defections may arise, something similar to what happened with the neoliberal camp at the end of the 1990s, when the internal big bourgeoisie and the middle class began their journey towards the neo-developmentalism proposed by the PT, and which subsequently occurred in mid-2010 with the neo-developmentalist camp, when the internal bourgeoisie began to move away from Dilma Rousseff's government.

A worrying case for Bolsonarism: a large part of the farmers, a pioneering and committed base of Bolsonarism, are starting to get closer to the Lula 3 government. The most recent episodes of this rapprochement were the favorable reaction of the farmers to the first Harvest Plan of the Lula 3 Government, plan that allocates an amount 30% greater to public and subsidized harvest financing than that of the last year of the Guedes-Bolsonaro government, and farmers' support for the same government's biofuels project. In order not to clash with its own social base, the Liberal Party (PL) was forced to support this government policy.

The unity of the neo-fascist political field depends on the evolution of the economy, politics and government action. But it also depends on the action of the anti-fascist movement. The democratic and popular movement must take into account the heterogeneity of the neo-fascist political field when defining its tactics in the fight against fascism. Specific political proposals are necessary, first and foremost, for the popular sector brought together by Pentecostal churches, but also for the middle class and even for medium capital. It is necessary to undermine and divide the fascist political front.

*Armando Boito Jr. is professor of political science at Unicamp. Author, among other books, of State, politics and social classes (Unesp). []

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