military in politics

Image: Ricardo Kobayaski


The unique conservative thinking of the military is on the narrow border between authoritarian liberalism and fascist extremism

The Brazilian military, especially those in the Army, have a belief in which they see themselves as founders of the nation. The episode that is at the origin of this – which is, in fact, a fantasy – is the Batalha dos Guararapes, when the Portuguese colonial forces defeated the Dutch and managed to expel them from Brazil. A war between two colonial empires disputing dominance was elevated to the status of the founding myth of Brazilianness. The Portuguese white soldiers and their support forces summoned and which had the presence of indigenous and Africans, if they fought side by side, they were intrinsically different, the last two in a position of complete inferiority. In the imaginary vision, however, this difference disappeared giving way to an ideal Brazilian, fruit of the union of these three “races”.

The same perspective is at the origin of the choice of the Duque de Caxias as patron of the Army, a decision taken in 1962, in the middle of the Cold War. For a long time, the most admired commander was Osório, an example of bravery, who was also a liberal politician. Caxias, who was a friend of Osório, but conservative in politics, had been very active in suppressing several rebel movements during the empire, such as Farroupilha and Balaiada. This performance was rescued as the fable of the hero who guarantees the unity of the nation, a role that the land force intended to emulate.

Four centuries after the mythical episode, the unity of the people remains distant, marked by prejudice and exclusion the “inferiority” of the descendants of the original peoples and Africans, still present in Brazilian society today, despite the abolition, the republic, the laws against discrimination, the legal recognition of indigenous and quilombola communities and the criminalization of prejudice. The development of capitalism here ended up reinforcing colonial racism with the incorporation of these human contingents into different social classes. The bourgeoisie and the middle class were made up of the descendants of the white Portuguese and other groups of European immigrants, while the working classes and those excluded from the city and countryside were formed mostly by the descendants of indigenous peoples and Africans. Color became a mark of social division.

However, even today the myth of the unity of the races is evoked. This belief is the origin of an authoritarian conception that denies exclusion and prejudice and wants to impose a unique identity on national diversity. In the recent past, however, the armed forces themselves had their own diversity, as witnessed by the Tenentismo and the Coluna Prestes, the 1935 uprising, led by communist soldiers, and the Aragarças uprising in 1959, this time on the initiative of the right . With the 1964 coup consolidated, 6.591 soldiers and officers were expelled from the ranks of the three forces. This true ideological cleansing ended up producing a kind of unique conservative thought, whose nuance lies on the narrow border between authoritarian liberalism and fascist extremism.

Since the end of the dictatorship, there was an expectation that the thinking of the military had distanced itself from politics, affection towards the professionalism surrounding its mission in the defense of the country, since today's commanders were junior officers at the time, without greater commitment to the 64 coup, and who had even experienced a feeling, formed at the end of the dictatorship, of estrangement or discomfort with the regime's basements and its crimes. Even so, the tradition of loyalty to the commanders at the time ended up reinforcing the denialist and revisionist positions on what really happened in the dungeons of the repression organizations.

For many, the enthusiastic support of the military to the coup against Dilma, to the election of Bolsonaro and to the participation in his government, seemed surprising, since he is a despicable and caricatured figure, removed from the Army for insubordination and terrorism. To understand this apparent surprise, it is necessary to look at the thread that connects the myth of Guararapes to Cold War anticommunism and the ideology of the American extreme right of today. In this line there is a permanence, the idea of ​​the innate unity of the people that is threatened by external agents, the Dutch, communism and “gramscism”. It is as authoritarian a conception as that of Nazism and its pure race.

The contemporary version is particularly delusional compared to the antecedents, as the Dutch had indeed invaded the Northeast and communism was a reality in the USSR or Cuba, although its influence on Brazilian politics was minimal. What threatened the country in the 1960s, as it still does today, is social division, segregation, the violence of inequality and the unbridled exploitation to which the majority of the people are subjected. Our political system has always had enormous difficulty in admitting the prerogative to the victims of these injustices to fight for their overcoming. It is because our republic fails to accept the rights of this majority that the split, which is not the result of leftist ideas but of social reality, challenges national unity. The only solution to this situation is more democracy.

The fantastic journey about the danger of “cultural Marxism” bought from the US extreme right invaded the thinking of the military in the years following the end of the dictatorship, just as the revolutionary war had done before. And, like that, it was disseminated within military training institutions, their schools and academies. From his clumsy point of view, the manifestations of the political diversity of society are not taken for what they are, the legitimate demonstration of opinion and organization movements, of struggle for rights, but as a result of the infiltration of an enemy that comes to bring a war to ours. territory, breaking the unity of the nation. The armed forces, as guardians of national unity, should engage in combating this threat in operations of internal defense, psychological warfare, and the guarantee of law and order.

Note the difference in thinking with the US military. When Trump hinted at using his forces to quell demonstrations against racism, Commander Mark Milley said they would never attack their own people. It is good to remember, the same idea had been uttered by Osório, when he said that it would be a disgrace who used the weapons of war, employed to fight the external enemy, against his compatriots.

Strategic reasoning in this obtuse perspective points out the position to be maintained and the threat to be overcome. What must be preserved is the unity of the people as understood in the ideologized vision of that authoritarian right that denies democratic coexistence in the diversity of reality. There are social classes with conflicting interests, there are ethnic groups with their different traditions, there are antagonistic political currents from left to right, there are social movements with claims and conflicts to be satisfied or resolved, different religions and creeds, gender invocations and so on. For the extreme right, this diversity is destructive, it needs to be eliminated or repressed, just as the presence of Jews in Europe was for Nazism, as if those Jews were not European.

The manifestation of real differences and the demand for their recognition is seen as a threat because it is exploited and manipulated by a dangerous enemy, the communist conspiracy to seize power. This opposing force would fight a hybrid war, in which the most important means is culture and the initial objective is the control of institutions, hence the reference to Gramsci and his concept of war of position. That is why the objective of this government is not to implement social, environmental or economic policies, as Bolsonaro himself announced, but rather the destruction of institutions supposedly infiltrated by the left: schools, universities, research institutes, organizations cultures, religions outside the Judeo-Christian tradition, trade unions, NGOs, political parties. All institutions will either become "non-party" or be annihilated. To put an end to ideologies, the maximum ideologization of a single thought, the old Nazi motto: one people, one country, one leader.

Now, the debate of ideas and the diffusion of projects and proposals, the search to influence the opinion of society, the discussion about values ​​and beliefs are the very essence of democracy. They are the expression of society's real contradictions and differences, which may eventually even be overcome, but new contradictions will inexorably establish themselves in their place because history has no end. Coexistence, tolerance, negotiation and pact are the only democratic way to deal with them. Not even the extermination carried out to the extreme by the Nazis ended the contradictions of German society. But this is the illusion of the authoritarian thought that in Brazil claims the miscegenation myth to try to establish, through violence, a false unity and a lying identity.

*Luiz Augusto Estrella Faria Professor of Economics and International Relations at the Faculty of Economic Sciences at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS).


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