liberals in the mirror

Image: Pieter Bruegel


Liberals now express regret in voting for Bolsonaro, but do not abandon the government's economic agenda

A wave of regret for voting for Bolsonaro, or at least for the underestimation of its danger, takes hold of the liberal hosts. Among the icons of Brazilian liberalism, some have already declared open regret for voting for the energetic in the 2018 election. Rodrigo Maia, former president of the Chamber of Deputies, who in 2017 decreed that from now on the agenda of Congress would be the agenda of the market, is one of the repentant. Recently declared that he supported Bolsonaro in the second round because of the candidate's liberal economic agenda. Fernando Gabeira recognizes that he underestimated the danger posed by Bolsonaro ( And Reinaldo Azevedo, who did not vote for Bolsonaro but for years emulated the far-right's ire against any trace of progressive thinking, went even further: concluded that Dilma's impeachment was a mistake.

But one might ask: what would have made such smart people support a proto-fascist for the presidency, or underestimate his danger? It was the economy, stupid! After all, Bolsonaro never denied being what he is: a fascist, militiaman, scrotum, crook, sexist, homophobic, denialist, reactionary, etc. All these enlightened liberals knew the candidate's dismal record. Even so, many of them decided to bet on Bolsonaro for a simple reason: the ultraliberal agenda defended by the genocide in the election campaign. The application of this agenda was secured by the nomination of Paulo Guedes, the “Posto Ipiranga”, as superminister of the economy. To mitigate the guilt of the infamous choice, Veja magazine even printed a photo of Guedes on the cover of its 22/08/2018 edition, with the title: “HE CAN BE PRESIDENT OF BRAZIL” (https://veja.abril It was as if the magazine were saying the following: do not feel guilty for voting for Bolsonaro, because Paulo Guedes will in fact be in charge. Vera Magalhães, an enthusiast of the 2016 coup and now one of the regretters, declared on October 21, 2018, that the warnings about the authoritarian character of the future Bolsonaro government were nothing more than “exaggeration proclaimed in an alarmist tone by PT voters”.

These repentant liberals, acting as true denialists, thought that the proto-fascist's verbal radicalism was pure staging to win the electoral race. Once sworn in, Bolsonaro would attenuate his speech or be controlled by the “institutions” of our “strong and vigorous” democracy. However, what these people do not say is that such institutions are apparatuses of the bourgeois State, whose role is to reproduce relations of production based on exploitation and class domination. The revelation of the dialogues between the prosecutors of the Lava-Jato operation shows how the “institutions” served as instruments for the coup in 2016 with all its political and social consequences. It would be comical, if it weren't tragic, to see these liberals now complain about Bolsonaro's denialism. After all, they were the ones who put the ultraliberal agenda as an excuse for voting for the “capetão”. They knew the horror they were betting on and still preferred to pay to see.

That is why the appeal made by Vera Magalhães to market operators and the economic elite, in a column published in Globo on February 09th, “A Fé da Faria Lima” ( vera-magalhaes/post/fe-da-faria-lima.html). In the column, the scribe appeals to the market, which has its base of operations on Avenida Faria Lima in São Paulo, to abandon the president while there is still time. Without abandoning her faith in the liberal creed that is destroying the country, Vera warns that Bolsonaro will never deliver the reform agenda promised by Paulo Guedes. And on top of that, she warns that the captain is a threat to the economy. Because of “his chronic cowardice”, fearful of being the target of criticism, the energetic could reissue the emergency aid under pressure from the popular masses, which will “end up messing up the public accounts”.

If Vera's column insists on reciting between the lines the liberal creed that is insensitive to the suffering of the people (emergency aid will mess up public accounts), it highlights two extremely important issues.

The first is the movement, given the growing unpopularity of the government and the unpredictable consequences of the imminent health collapse, to discard the captain to save the ultraliberal agenda. And for that, Bolsonaro is accused of not being an authentic liberal, but a right-wing populist. An example is the article published on the DW Brasil website, “Gradually the myth of a neoliberal government in Brazil crumbles” ( -a-neoliberal-government-in-brazil/a-56771745). The text complains that Bolsonaro is abandoning “a liberal economic program that included the privatization of state-owned companies”, to walk “increasingly towards economic interventionism”. The text suggests that a manifestation of this interventionism would be the emergency aid, which would have served to raise “the government’s approval rate”. And it implicitly indicates how neoliberalism is the doctrine par excellence of the owners of capital. Professor Oliver Stuenkel of the Getúlio Vargas Foundation, an interviewee for the article, presents as a sign of this abandonment of neoliberalism the fact that “Bolsonaro is no longer seeking the support of the rich elites, but of the poor and conservatives of the big cities”. In short, the poor and conservatives want more economic intervention, while the rich want a free, unregulated market. Clearer about the real meaning of impossible neoliberalism.

The second question in Vera's text is very revealing. It explicitly states that one of the main support bases of the Bolsonaro government, even in the face of chaos and a country that in the pandemic becomes a modern tumbeiro for its people, is the riffraff of Faria Lima. In other words, Brazil's economic elite. In other words, the owners of capital, the Brazilian bourgeoisie. Bolsonaro is, therefore, as much as refined liberals do not admit the right subject to apply an agenda whose objective is to facilitate, for the ruling class, the assault on the State and the worsening of the super-exploitation of the working class. It is a highly destructive agenda for the people and the country, which requires a brucutu for the task and not an exquisite subject with fine manners. Someone who is the expression of the intrinsic brutality of Brazilian “capetalistas”.

But this trajectory of Brazilian liberals should not surprise us. It repeats the script common to liberals around the world since the mid-twentieth century. Out of hatred for the people, and in order to defeat the most conscious and organized segments of the working masses, they embrace fascism and other politically reactionary avenues. They release the demons from the bottle so that they can fulfill the role of shock troops for the interests of capital. Afterwards, unable to control them, devoured by the monster they themselves emulated, they show regret and appeal for the formation of a broad front capable of defeating it. It was like that in Germany and Italy. This is how it is in contemporary Brazil.

In order to defeat the working masses and impose their agenda of regressive reforms, capital and its liberal spokesmen were interested in unleashing a mob of denialists, reactionaries, troglodytes, fundamentalists, flat earthists, monarchists, fascists, racists, sexists, homophobes and conspiracists. The liberals hoped that after the 2016 coup, this mob, fulfilling the dirty role of shock troops for market interests, would be satisfied with having “taken the left” out of power and would return to the sewer from which they came. It was expected that the 2018 election would serve to normalize the turbulent political scenario created by the 2016 coup, with the election of a clean and smelling liberal like the toucan Geraldo Alckmin.

What these liberals did not expect, as well as more traditional fractions of the bourgeoisie who made this bet, was the profound demoralization of the political system. In this environment, the reactionary crowd took to the streets, withdrew from this clean and smelling liberal center and were able to present themselves as something new to the electorate. Taking advantage of the scenario, this formation unashamedly joined hitherto marginal fractions of the Brazilian bourgeoisie in the literal and figurative sense of the term: pirates of the financial system, retail trade networks, the most destructive and devastating agribusiness, land grabbers, mining companies, loggers and the militias. All blessed by religious fundamentalists and ensured by the armed forces, especially the army, which hovers like a threatening shadow over a shattered democratic order, in case the opposition “tightens the rope”.

The current Brazilian crisis is the most serious in our history since Independence. With an eye on the looting of national wealth, the parasites of the financial system, supported by Bolsonaro and the Centrão, lead Brazil to a situation of bankruptcy, disarticulation and interdiction of the national State. The result is that we may be witnessing the Brazilian territorial disintegration itself. This is no exaggeration. Under the guise of a convenience liberalism, justified by the fight against patrimonialist vices, the complete privatization of all national assets is presented as a way out of the crisis. In this context, the fight between the different bourgeois fractions, transformed into true criminal factions, is to see who gets the best share of the booty. The result of this dispute between rival militia bands, which is what the Brazilian bourgeoisie has become, could make the exercise of political-administrative unity over the country unfeasible. The militias' control over vast regions of Rio de Janeiro is the prototype of what awaits us, now on a national scale: a veritable intra-bourgeois civil war for the spoils of the Brazilian State.

For these reasons, the “Faith of Faria Lima” in the Bolsonaro government will not be shaken, neither by the pathetic appeals of liberal virtuosos, nor with the pandemic producing deaths on an industrial scale. The government's genocidal management of the health crisis is not the result of mismanagement. Follow a precise plan. While society is demobilized, as it is concerned with saving itself and its family from death and hunger, the “capetalistas” remain the most faithful allies of the “capetão”. They are interested above all in advancing with their project to squander the country. And for that, Bolsonaro's criminal policy is convenient for bourgeois interests, as it reduces the chances of significant popular resistance arising.

There will be no way out of the serious crisis that the “market” and its genocidal government threw the people into if the liberal agenda is maintained. As much as now the icons of Brazilian liberalism try to save their project by distancing themselves from Bolsonaro, the way the president governs strictly follows the liberal orientation they defend. In essence, the state should discharge any responsibility for the security and privacy of its citizens. Its only concern is the accumulation of capital, which pushes bourgeois autocracy to an unbearable limit. It is each one for himself raised to maximum power. As much as some liberals squeal their disenchantment and regret, the Bolsonarist genocide is a logical result of Guedes' and the market's ultraliberal agenda. And refined liberals, as much as they don't admit it, are placed in front of the mirror.

Understanding this scenario is important at a time when the fight to defeat the nightmare that torments us requires devising an adequate strategy and tactics. In the scenario described here, the defeat of the ultraliberal rubble is a necessary step to be faced. Defeating rentism politically, renationalizing privatized state-owned companies, annulling labor and social security reforms, putting an end to the spending ceiling and putting an end to the Fiscal Responsibility Law, universalizing the right to quality public health and education, etc., would be stages of a more comprehensive program aimed at a real political and social revolution in Brazil. Which also requires, on a more immediate level, emergency measures that put an end to the barbarism we are going through, for vaccines, food and jobs. Fighting for this program requires the Brazilian left to understand that joining repentant liberals and “democratic coup leaders” in the name of a broad front to defeat fascism would pave the way for a new defeat.

*Renato Nucci Jr. He is an activist for the Communist Weapon of Criticism organization.


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