out Bolsonaro


By Valerio Arcary*

Three notes in defense of a left-wing unified impeachment request


The Brazilian left faces a tactical dilemma. Whether or not to present a unified impeachment request for Bolsonaro at a time when the pandemic will precipitate a situation of social calamity. But the tactical dilemma is an expression of a strategic divergence. The PSol decided to incorporate “Fora Bolsonaro” into its political agitation, associated with the “Save lives” axis, since the last week of March. The PT embraced “Bolsonaro Out” two weeks ago. The Brasil Popular and Povo Sem Medo fronts adopted the “Bolsonaro Out” approach. In the field of social struggle, entities where the influence of the PC do B is great, such as the UNE, defend the “Bolsonaro Out” and, in a resolution of April 19 of the Central Committee, decided on the form “Bolsonaro’s Enough”.

For any worker to defend “Fora Bolsonaro” means “Down with the government”, therefore, in the parliamentary field, the presentation of an impeachment request, which is the main institutional resource available to displace the presidency. But so far it has not been possible to articulate a common initiative driven by leftist parties. Why?

It seems like a mystery, “but not”. In this nebulous context of shadow play, PSol is collecting signatures from entities and leaders, and has decided to present an impeachment request, albeit alone. But it is clearly not the best solution. It will not do so out of excessive protagonism, the seduction of the limelight, or a sectarian impulse.

It would be up to the main left-wing party to assume the role of bringing together the Single Front. The hesitation before the campaign for “Fora Collor” in 1992 must not be forgotten, and cannot be diminished. The PT arrived six months late. Very late. It only got involved after the mass demonstrations of student youth in the second week of August.

A repetition would be really regrettable. It would be much more serious now. Bolsonaro is not Collor. Bolsonaro is the ultimate leader of a neo-fascist current. He won't go down without a fight. If there isn't a left determined to lean on the popular mobilization to overthrow him, he could recover the initiative he lost in the last two months.


The political conjuncture changed at least a month ago, because we are witnessing a relative weakening of the government, the regime's main institution, although the situation, a periodization that essentially refers to the social relationship of forces, remains reactionary. The political relationship of forces assesses in the superstructural terrain the position of the government with the other institutions of the regime (Congress, Judiciary, Armed Forces), the struggle between the parties, the role of the media, the place of associations and representative entities, etc.

There are two distinct degrees of abstraction to assign meaning to the dynamics of events. Within the same situation, different conjunctures alternate. What defines a situation is the reciprocal position of the classes. The working class remains in a defensive position. But the situation changed because the relationship of the majority of the ruling class, and of the new urban middle class, an important fraction of the middle layers of society, with the Bolsonaro government under the impact of the pandemic, changed.

Bolsonaro had suffered setbacks, before the pandemic, such as the split in half of the party that elected him, the grotesque episode of his secretary of Culture imitating a Nazi, or the break with Witzel and Dória. But denialism and the Bonapartist attempt to assault the Federal Police provoked the ruptures of Mandetta and, above all, Sergio Moro, who were not defenestrated, on the contrary, they resigned, and they were qualitative.

From an offensive to preparing a self-coup à la Fujimori, Bolsonaro was forced to make concessions to Centrão to protect himself in the face of the danger of impeachment. A trend reversal. This is no small feat, considering how adverse the situation was in November of last year.

There is still an important bourgeois fraction offering support to the far-right government, of course. The STF meeting of representatives of industrial sectors illustrates that Bolsonaro's denialism is not just a personal extravagance or anomaly, it is a monstrosity, an aberration of a fraction of the Brazilian ruling class.

The evolution of the political situation will be conditioned, above all, by the development of the pandemic and the economic and social crisis. Will we have thirty or fifty thousand dead by the end of May? But the neo-fascist president is not yet defeated, and he maintains positions of strength: the neo-fascists are unstable, unstoppable, uncontrollable.

It is not ruled out that, faced with a lack of social control, Bolsonaro tries to precipitate a state of siege, for example. He would not have a majority in the National Congress, nor would he be endorsed by the STF (Federal Supreme Court), but the request would perhaps be enough to stir up the fascist hordes on a scale far superior to anything he achieved after he was elected.

A limiting factor of the conjuncture is the impossibility, for a period, of mass action on the streets by the left, given social isolation. Another factor that weighs negatively is the extremely defensive condition of the class in the economic field. But a left without an “instinct for power” is a lion without teeth, it is a clenched fist with its hands in its pockets.

The hand cannot tremble, because an opportunity has opened up. Why? (a) because the majority of the working class is already against the government; (b) because support for the government is already less than one-third of the population; (c) because it is a way for the left to dispute the leadership of the opposition to Bolsonaro; (d) because coherence matters, and the legitimization of impeachment comes from “Fora Bolsonaro”, it is nothing but its parliamentary translation, or else “Fora Bolsonaro” is wrong; (e) because Bolsonaro is the center of the crisis in the face of the pandemic and economic crisis, and we must try to stop him, before he regains strength and attempts a self-coup.


The strongest argument against filing an impeachment motion is that it would be “provoking the lion with a short stick”. It fetters the idea that an impeachment carried out by the left would be what Bolsonaro wants to put himself in a position of self-defense. In other words, it would be an ultra-left tactic.

The argument is impressive, but it is wrong, given the changing situation. It is nothing but a new version of the thesis that it would be “wrong to polarize against Bolsonaro”. The tactical gamble of avoiding confrontation with Bolsonaro rests on the strategy that the best thing would be to wear him down, slowly, to wait for the 2022 elections. That is, to defeat Bolsonaro without taking any risks.

But Bolsonaro is not FHC, and 2022 will not be like 2002. The premise is that we can only move forward with the impeachment request when there is a majority in favor in Congress. That is, it would only be opportune when the most organic representatives of big capital have come to the conclusion that Bolsonaro’s permanence has turned into a dysfunctional obstacle to the social order in the face of the catastrophe of the pandemic and economic depression.

This bet is wrong for four reasons:

(a) myopia leads one to see the photograph and not the film, because the dynamic that must define the impeachment tactic is not the parliamentary relationship of forces today, but the political and social relationship of forces in society in two months, when the apocalyptic impact of mass deaths shaking the consciousness of millions;

(b) the bet that Rodrigo Maia and his surroundings are allies that deserve confidence to defeat Bolsonaro, or even just to stop him, is an illusion, because the tactical differences that the coupist wing of the liberal right with the extreme- right are much smaller than the strategic agreements they have with the perspective of imposing a historic defeat on the workers;

(c) inertia seems to be guided by prudence, but it underestimates Bolsonaro's capacity in power to relaunch an offensive and recover part of the social and political support he lost;

(d) the only way to stop Bolsonaro is with mobilization, not with discouragement, prostration, paralysis, and the time for initiative, courage, daring has already arrived, because there is a hatred that accumulates, and the center of the dispute is to put the dead in Bolsonaro's lap.

Bolsonaro will not resign, he is not a Jânio and he will try a self-coup, in the probable form of a State of Siege. We cannot repeat the mistakes of 1964. The mistake was not provoking, it was not resisting.

* Valerio Arcary is a retired professor at IFSP. Author, among other books, of The Dangerous Corners of History (Shaman).

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