Bourgeois united front supports Bolsonaro

Image: Stela Grespan


The political preference of the big capitalists and their allies: to tame Bolsonaro and avoid impeachment.

The main structural lever supporting President Bolsonaro, who has already committed numerous crimes of responsibility, the most serious of which is the catastrophic management of the current pandemic, is his firm commitment, with little hesitation and with a certificate of military guarantee, in relation to to the ultraliberal program of the governmental economic team, supported by a broad coalition between class fractions of the bourgeoisie (finance, industry, agriculture, commerce and services and transport) – including international capital that has direct or portfolio investment here –, and parties and parliamentarians with seats in the National Congress, linked to this agenda.

Sign of the times. One of the main consequences of the international emergence of neoliberalism, since the Thatcher and Reagan governments, is the change in the balance of forces between capital and work, which implies the structural propensity for the unity of the business community in all sectors of activity (starting with large corporations and institutional investors), through their class associations, around a core of demands addressed directly to the State and/or through elected political representatives and their parties.

The programmatic axis of this structural tendency towards the unity of capitalists is based on the economic side of the offer: it aims to provide the business a double reduction, that of costs (salaries and taxes) and that of regulation (flexibility of the labor contract, weakening of unions and liberalization of business). The centrality of combating inflation (which also has a cost) and privatization (new businesses) also enter into this recipe. Less State for those at the bottom and more market for those at the top.

Although the specific and contradictory preferences of the different business sectors do not disappear with the dominance of the financial valuation of capital, typical of neoliberalism, this pattern of capitalism configures points of convergence, which bring them closer together, especially in situations of crisis. It was like this in the stagflation crisis of the 1970s, which politically gave birth to the goodbye to the historic compromise of the Glorious Thirty, and also in the period opened by the financial crisis of 2008, when, after measures to save banks and other firms, the policies austerity measures began to gain primacy in the decision-making recipe of economic policy in the Obama administration, supposedly aiming to reduce the ratio between public debt and GDP, in order to try to win investor confidence and the resumption of growth. The approximations between capital and labor that occurred in the 2000s in Latin American countries took place within a specific conjunctural framework, which encompassed the crisis of neoliberal policies at the turn of the millennium, the political-electoral capitalization of center-left and left-wing parties , the call pink waveAnd tree international commoditiesThe 2008 crisis gradually changed this historic opportunity favorable to experiences that bet on the relaxation of market discipline.

With regard to more recent Brazil, Geraldo Alckmin was the main organic candidate for businessmen in the 2018 elections. impact of Lava Jato on the political system, and with the strength of the broad structural wave of social and party coalition with anti-PT and neoliberal content, which had already leveraged the deposition of Dilma Rousseff in 2016 and which moved to prevent a possible fifth consecutive victory for the PT in the presidential election, far-right salvationism emerged as the only effective alternative to be embraced by the owners of money.

And they embraced her without blinking. Brushing a representative example, I would highlight that Octavio de Lazari Jr., president of Bradesco, in a public note on Bolsonaro's victory, issued on October 28, 2018, shortly after the announcement of the results of the polls, stated: "From this scenario, we feel invigorated to start a new cycle of structural reforms towards the modernization of Brazil”. This bank will earn BRL 25,8 billion in 2019. I would also highlight that the ruralist caucus, then chaired by Deputy Tereza Cristina (DEM), now Minister of Agriculture, declared a few days before the first round of the 2018 elections, its support for Bolsonaro's candidacy. The Confederation of Agriculture and Livestock (CNA) and agribusiness in general, a sector with a large concentration of capital and several multinationals, maintain their support for the government, including the Minister of the Environment, Ricardo Salles, who is willing to “pass the cattle ” in environmental regulations.

In 2016 and 2017, Temer and his parliamentary coalition, representing the bourgeois united front that connects State institutions to the market and vice versa, approved the much-desired amendment to the public spending ceiling, the labor reform and reversed, in favor of capital abroad, the route of social-developmentalist inspiration for regulating the oil sector. Bolsonaro and Guedes managed to implement the Social Security reform, around which the bourgeois united front reached its peak in the current government, when nine business confederations from all sectors, in an open letter addressed to the President of the Republic, demanded its approval. All the measures mentioned were widely defended by the materialist spirit of the bourgeois united front, which has deepened Brazilian associated capitalism, although the effective results in terms of growth, employment and the much-desired budgetary balance did not appear even before the pandemic. GDP for the fourth quarter of 2019 was just 0,5%; that of the first quarter of 2020 fell by 1,5%. The most recent forecast Focus Bulletin indicates a drop of 5,62% for this year.

In May 2019, a survey carried out by BTG Pactual with entrepreneurs from small, medium and large companies concluded that 59% of them evaluated the Bolsonaro government well, seen as excellent by 20% and as good by 39%. Only 10% saw the government as bad (3%) or terrible (7%). For 27% of respondents, it was a regular government.

In the month prior to this survey, Luiz Carlos Moraes took office at the National Association of Automotive Vehicle Manufacturers (Anfavea), which represents 32 multinational companies operating in the country. In his inauguration, he defended the Social Security reform, then underway, as well as evoked other pro-market reforms, such as the tax and the reduction of bureaucracy. But it should be noted that, in the previous month, Guedes had renewed a free trade agreement with Mexico, started in 2002, which foresaw, for March 2019, the end of the import and export quota system. Despite Anfavea having asked the Minister of Economy to postpone the full effectiveness of free trade, Guedes refused to do so. Meanwhile, the Brazilian Association of Motor Vehicle Importers and Manufacturers (Abeifa), founded in the context of the trade liberalization promoted by Collor, praised Guedes' willingness to reduce the tax from 35% (maximum rate allowed by the WTO) to 20% car import. On August 1, 2019, the government, which strives to attract foreign direct investment and to radicalize free trade, zeroed for 17 months the import tax rates on 261 capital and IT goods, which until then had been 14%.

In July 2019, according to Datafolha, Bolsonaro was losing support in the middle class, but gaining support among the richest. The president, then, went around saying that there was no hunger in Brazil, that the official data on deforestation in the Amazon were wrong and that northeastern people were “paraíba”. But, for Candido Bracher, president of Itaú, at the time enthusiastic about the approval of the pension reform in the first round, the political turmoil did not influence the progress of the reforms. This executive assessed that high unemployment allowed growth without inflationary explosions. “This makes Brazil's macroeconomic situation as good as I've ever seen it in my career” (UOL). In November, his classmate, the aforementioned president of Bradesco, excited about the completion of the Social Security reform and with Guedes and wanting to go further, expressed interest in implementing the government's intention to transfer the management of the FGTS, currently in the hands of CEF, for private banks. The following month, the CNI released the survey “Special Survey: Assessment of the Government by the Industrial Entrepreneur”, which surveyed 1.914 businessmen throughout the country. Since 60% of them evaluated the government as excellent or good, with satisfaction with the labor legislation and with the reduction of interest rates ahead.

In March 2020, Bolsonaro was at Fiesp headquarters to participate in the first meeting of the newly created Superior Council for Dialogue for Brazil. The event brought together more than forty shareholders and executives from the main business groups headquartered in Brazil, from all sectors of activity. The host, Paulo Skaf, said at the end: “The keynote of the meeting was optimism, confidence and support from the productive sectors throughout Brazil for the government and the economic agenda. There is a consensus that we are on the right path”. Also present, André Gerdau, president of the Gerdau Group, put it this way: “In 119 years of activities we have never been so excited about the proposals of a government as we are with this one”. Representatives of the financial sector highlighted, in addition to low interest rates, inflation control and credit growth.

Three facts brought some noise to the flirting between the capitalists and President Bolsonaro. The management of the pandemic crisis, the anti-democratic demonstrations and the resignation of Minister Sergio Moro. I will approach backwards. Gabril Kanner, the Bolsonarist enthusiast and president of the Brasil 200 Institute, who says he is conservative in customs and liberal in the economy, was outraged by Moro's resignation and his accusations that Bolsonaro was interfering with the Federal Police to protect himself and his family. your children and friends. But, once the dust settled, the group (Havan, Centauro, Riachuelo, Polishop, Smart Fit, etc.) maintained its support for the President of the Republic. Some of its members were searched and apprehended as part of the inquiry that investigates lies and threats directed against the STF, including on suspicion of financing irregularities, cases of Luciano Hang and Edgar Corona.

The president's authoritarianism was institutionally challenged by the STF and Congress. The searches and seizures referred to above are part of the confrontation with the cabinet of hate by the STF. In addition, instigated by a Direct Action of Unconstitutionality (ADI) by the PDT dealing with the constitutional role of the Armed Forces, with a request for a precautionary measure, Minister Luiz Fux, to whom the assessment of the demand was distributed, partially granted it. He clearly stated that the Armed Forces do not have an institutional mission that facilitates “the exercise of moderating power between the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary branches”. On his turn, Rodrigo Maia exhorted the fight against virus of authoritarianism, associated dictatorship with disorder and criticized the coup rhetoric. Furthermore, Maia attacked the influence of lunatics (Olavo de Carvalho & Cia.) about Bolsonaro and called the president to dialogue. As for the social reaction to authoritarianism, I will comment later.

In relation to the pandemic, there is a double dimension, health and economic. In health, Bolsonaro's biggest wear in the business environment is on account of Rede Globo. In the edition of National Journal On the night of August 8, when the death toll from Covid-19 reached 100, the presenters made it clear that the government is disrespecting the Constitution, by failing to fulfill its duty to guarantee the right to health, by failing to act to reduce the risk of illness. As for the economy, the greatest dissatisfaction with the measures came from small companies. On July 16, the IBGE reported that 522 companies had closed their doors due to the pandemic crisis, 99% of which were small. The line of credit supposedly made available to micro and small companies, the Small Business Support Program (Pronampe), was not reaching interested parties. The Chamber of Deputies has just approved an increase of R$ 12 billion in Pronampe.

With the progress of investigations into irregularities involving his children and the arrest of his friend Fabrício Queiroz in mid-June, Bolsonaro has controlled, but not cured, his verbal incontinence. This retracts its far-right and neo-fascist social base, already curbed with the arrest, also last month, of the leader of the 300 from Brazil, activist Sara Winter. These political facts converge in the sense of shaping the political preference of the big capitalists and their allies in Congress and the STF, such as Maia, Alcolumbre, Barroso, Fux, etc.: to tame Bolsonaro and avoid as much as possible the impeachment. One day after the consulting firm Atlas Politico found that 55% of Brazilians want presidential impeachment, the pragmatic business again made it clear that the important thing is the economy. “We all left these meetings light. We feel a climate of pacification and harmony between the heads of the three Powers. This is what Brazil needs to start rebuilding with an agenda of reforms and the future,” said Skaf on July 3, after meeting with Bolsonaro in Brasília, accompanied by heavyweights from Bradesco, Cosan, Embraer and BRF.

Two actions that well express the bourgeois united front with Bolsonaro framed in the political regime of a de-democratized, hybridized, militarized democracy, which is closer to a semi-democracy than a democratic representative system, are registered in publications. One is the We Are Together Manifest, sponsored by two major billionaire supporters of the overthrow of Dilma Rousseff, who finance the organization Pact for Democracy: Jorge Paulo Lemann (3G, Ambev etc.) and Maria Alice Setúbal (Itaú). In an expanded version, published on the website of the said organization (, under the heading Manifesto “Together for Democracy and for Life”, reads the following: “it is a duty to make efforts to stop the Bolsonarist march, mobilizing society and institutions to make this majority speak and bring the president and his government to containment and responsibility by all available legal means, existing precisely to provide the necessary antibodies in the protection of democracy and the Constitution”.

In the other publication, an editorial entitled “Democrats need to talk”, the newspaper The Globe clearly expressed, on May 31, the convergence against the impeachment of the president: “This political path should not exclude Bolsonaro, who, in turn, needs to make a gesture for understanding, the best alternative also for him and his government. With the pacification, the president will open spaces for negotiation in Congress, beyond the center, in order to execute his agenda, paralyzed, like everything else, due to the political crisis. And it will continue like this with the end of the epidemic, if this moment is not overcome”.

Anyway, the strongest ongoing coalition in the country is the neoliberal united front with Bolsonaro. And? And until when? And that's why this solid block makes it very difficult to get the projects out of the drawer. impeachment accumulated on the table of the president of the Chamber of Deputies, unless the evolution of the investigations into the president's clan further aggravates his situation. This is also why the neoliberal program has not unlocked the economy and nothing indicates that it will, quite the opposite. Regarding the until when, there are two problems: first, as Guedes himself has just acknowledged, his team is disbanding. His ideological ultraliberalism has collided with the reality of politics and with Bolsonaro's claim to re-election, which implies releasing budgetary resources, for example, for Renda Brasil. The president seems to be cooking Guedes, despite successively reaffirming that he remains committed to the continuity of reforms (administrative, privatization, tax, debureaucratization) and with the spending ceiling. Will Guedes survive? Furthermore, if Bolsonaro makes governmental neoliberalism more flexible, will the bourgeois united front follow him?

*Marcus Ianoni Professor at the Department of Political Science at the Fluminense Federal University (UFF)


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