on the defensive



Brazil is experiencing a civil bourgeois military tutelage, in which the military, big business, Congress and the STF also act in the tutelage

In recent weeks, there has been a relative change of mood in the Brazilian political situation and, once again, there is a hooray as if Bolsonaro was already falling, all that was left was to set the date. That's right?

The arrest of Fabrício Queiroz (18/05) symbolized a defensive entry by Bolsonaro, reversing his previous offensive. But one of the first factors that began to change the situation were the demonstrations that took place on May 31, with a strong presence of supporters of football teams, which did not have a tradition of political participation. This showed that there is a desire for oppositional mobilization beyond those traditionally more organized.

Then, anti-fascist and anti-racist demonstrations were called more widely and were characterized by the far right as “terrorists”. And its significance increased after Vice-President General Hamilton Mourão tried to protect civil society by writing an article in the newspaper “Estado de São Paulo” accusing the demonstrations of being “criminal”.

The demonstrations questioned the military guardianship

Not holding the demonstrations would be accepting that the FFAA, which had already been protecting the government, Congress and the judiciary, would also start protecting the opposition in the streets. The general threatened, but nothing stopped the demonstrations.

There are no conditions now for massive demonstrations, of thousands of people, but they will be necessary to remove Bolsonaro. From a legal point of view, there are full conditions for impeachment for a crime of responsibility or forfeiture of the TSE ticket. But this will only happen if their participation in extravagant crimes is fully proven, making the support of the armed forces unsustainable. With optimism, a denunciation by Queiroz. Or else, with large mass mobilizations. Otherwise there will be a transaction over.

Bolsonaro tries to extrapolate and will never abandon the desire for a coup d'état with himself in mind. But there are different controls because we still live in a representative liberal bourgeois democracy, even with all the aggravating factors of authoritarianism and arbitrariness that are there.

The revival of opposition demonstrations in the streets, still small, was more representative than the acts of the extreme right in general. These, in addition to being smaller, were less aggressive and without the presence of the greatest leader of neo-fascism, Jair Bolsonaro. They also lost engagement on social media and the presence of the opposition in general increased.

Last Sunday, there was also a “Stop Bolsonaro” World Act on social networks and on the streets in some cities abroad and in Brasilia. There was also a small demonstration in support of him in front of the General Headquarters and in the Praça dos Três Poderes in the capital.

Add to that, several defeats of the extreme right before the juridical-coercive apparatus and in the National Congress.

The most acclaimed was the arrest of Queiroz, accompanied by other arrest warrants and search and seizure. With the aggravating factor that he was at a place owned by President Bolsonaro's lawyer and his son 01. And the irony of the place being located in Atibaia where the militiaman was taken after spending a few days in the same lawyer's apartment in Guarujá.

Bolsonaro suffered institutional defeats

Bolsonaro suffered partial defeats in the STF, in the Public Prosecutor's Office, in Congress, in the TSE and even in the PGR (Attorney General of the Republic) which, even with ambiguities, continued investigations. And the police in Rio and São Paulo, who arrested Queiroz, and the government of the Federal District, which repressed the illegal actions of Bolsonarism. In addition to the OAB's decision to consult its regional offices to file an impeachment request.

There was also the arrest of Sara Winter, who says publicly that she intends to “Ukrainize” Brazil, and her subsequent maintenance under house arrest with an electronic anklet.

The DF police dismantled the paramilitary training apparatus in Brasília, as well as the same group camp in Praça dos Três Poderes. And there was also the repression, even if a posteriori, of leaders of the attack with fireworks on the STF and the partial blocking of the Fake News system that even used public funds.

These are actions in a liberal sense, which represent fractions of big capital.

There was also the fall of Weintraub and his suspected illegal flight to the US. And the new “minister of education” has already arrived marked by an attempt to defraud a doctorate and a postdoc and having written a master's thesis with plagiarized excerpts.

Bolsonaro also continues to lose some of the support of his original constituency, according to some recent polls. He still maintains around 30% support, but only around 20% would be part of his voters in 2018 and around 10% of those who did not vote for him but are receiving emergency aid of 600 reais. He loses ideological support in exchange for pragmatic support.

The situation is more favorable than before for the opposition in general and the popular camp in particular. But, if Bolsonaro went on the defensive, this is a tactical maneuver. Make no mistake about it. He will continue to articulate within the State, with legal-coercive political apparatuses, including the Armed Forces and the police in general and with civil society, while seeking to build a more stable base in Congress. Not necessarily an absolute majority, but at least a minority large enough to prevent impeachment. This is the function of Centrão's co-option.

Because, in order to approve the great projects of anti-popular reforms, in the interest of big capital, it does not need to have a majority of its own. Congress is already mostly aligned with the neoliberal perspective. In that, Congress, the STF, the Armed Forces, Bolsonaro, big capital and the big media are all united. As, by the way, we just saw the approval of the privatization of water and sanitation in the Senate.

So, the possibility of impeachment depends on facing this situation with strong mass mobilization.

The key element of its support is the armed forces. Brazil is experiencing a civil bourgeois military tutelage, in which the military, big business, Congress and the STF also act in tutelage. Since the military protects the government, but also Congress and the STF.

It is not a guardianship that manages to determine everything that the captain president does, but one that manages to condition his actions, at least as a veto power of his extravagances that do not have the consensus of the dominant fractions of big capital and the political, legal and military elites .

But this generates a situation of permanent crisis and instability that cannot last for another two and a half years.

There is great political volatility that generates more volatility for an already very unstable market with the synergy between the economic crisis and the pandemic. It is not possible to imagine the government remaining in this situation of crisis and permanent instability until 2020. Not even big capital can handle that. Even more so because the economic crisis will continue, the pandemic is far from over and the IMF forecasts a drop in GDP of around 9% this year and only 3,5% growth in 2021. That is, there is a strong possibility of there being a zero GDP balance at the end of the 4 years of government, if he gets there.

What are the possible outputs?

Where will the end of this instability come from? In theory, there are three possibilities. The first, with Bolsonaro accepting guardianship, adapting to the straitjacket and avoiding conflicts to save his skin. Knowing his political-ideological and psychological profile, this is not easy. The second, the end of the Bolsonaro government and the third a coup d'état with Bolsonaro in the presidency, at the moment most weakened. This is the crossroads at hand, as the country cannot support another two and a half years with a new crisis every week and permanent instability.

The end of the Bolsonaro government may come about through negotiation from above, between the subjects of bourgeois civil military tutelage. This implies an agreement on the continuity of radical neoliberal reforms in the interests of capital and the role of the state in the post-pandemic and on which space the military will continue to occupy, as they will not accept losing all the political role and corporate and personal privileges they have achieved.

Or, from a popular perspective, based on strong mobilization, via impeachment or withdrawal of mandate.

The left needs to fight for the most advanced in the situation. What is it, in addition to the defense of a radically popular emergency plan, Fora Bolsonaro and Mourão, impeachment or impeachment of the mandate and the General elections.

For this reason, it is necessary to move forward, with the necessary care at the moment, but warming up to put the whole block on the street as soon as possible.

On the defensive, what is Bolsonaro doing? Avoiding provocations to the STF, speaking in favor of the “harmony between the powers”, fleeing the wear and tear in the presence of public coup acts, trying to control the excesses of its radicals and sewing physiological agreements with the Centrão, to avoid impeachment. Agreements that will cost more at this time of tactical defensiveness by the neo-fascist president.

But his agreements with Centrão and his momentary moderation also create cracks in his relationship with his bases more identified with neo-fascism, who are already publicly criticizing him, on social networks, for his new behavior. They are the agents who apply the guidelines from the Bolsonarist “Cabinet of hate”, headed by Carluxo Bolsonaro, but ideologically inspired and provoked daily by the lives of the “astrologer from Virginia”, Olavo de Carvalho. And this is an important contradiction in Bolsonaro's political marketing system.

But recent facts show that, for Bolsonaro himself, the decisive actors in the ongoing process are the government’s military. Which fulfill several fundamental functions at the moment[I].

The second semester will be decisive for the future. In addition to the unfolding of the economic and social situation intertwined with the pandemic, Bolsonaro will be nominated for the STF, where the new president will be Luiz Fux; the campaign for the election of new presidents in the Chamber and Senate (where the Centrão will be decisive), key positions in impeachment processes, which may or may not mitigate his isolation. And the mass mobilizations for Fora Bolsonaro. And, on the other hand, the possibility of Trump's defeat in the US presidency, which could increase his international isolation.

*Jorge Almeida He is a professor at the Department of Political Science at UFBA.


[I] See “Bolsonaro and the civil bourgeois military tutelage”. https://aterraeredonda.com.br/tutela-militar-civil-burguesa/ and “Who governs Brazil” https://aterraeredonda.com.br/quem-governa-o-brasil/

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