We the Democrats

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The affirmation of “democracy” as a “universal value” triggered controversies and more controversies within the Brazilian left

The celebrations surrounding the happy resistance to the coup attempt carried out on January 8, 2023 bring to the fore some reflections on its success, resistance, and its failure, coup.


Despite its apparent speed, attempted a week after the president-elect took office, the coup was a late attempt. Before that, there were a series of failed trials, starting on September 07, 2021, with the initiative to surround and, if possible, invade the Federal Supreme Court and the National Congress by a mob of frenzied Bolsonarists driven by the continuous anti-democratic preaching of his former captain transformed into a militia capo disguised as the president.[1]

Between this attempt and January 8, 23 there is a common thread: apparently a strategic key to the chosen tactic was to provoke the call of the GLO – Law and Order Guarantee action – which, in practice, would mean, at those times, an intervention military action in the Federal Capital, eventually supported by military actions in other cities carried out by the Armed Forces and/or the state Military Police. In fact, this was the weak point of the chosen tactic: depending on a legal action – the GLO – to “delegalize” it, transforming it into a coup d’état.

In both cases, GLO ended up not coming; Neither did the President of the Supreme Court, who could do so in 2021, nor did President Lula call it in 2023. The paradigm of this attempt that ends in failure is the famous “Operation Valkyrie”, which should follow the death of the Leader in the attack on July 20, 1944. Operation Valkyrie was a planned action by the German Army to be launched in the event of a serious attack against the order in force at the time – a kind of GLO at the time. It should consist of an occupation of strategic locations launched from the Berlin HQ. The conspirators of 1944 were counting on taking over their command and thus carrying out a coup d'état.

Therefore, when thinking that the Leader had in fact died in the attack, the leaders of the conspiracy rushed to the Berlin HQ. How the Leader in fact he did not die, on the contrary, he escaped unharmed, Operation Valkyrie did not come, and the conspirators found themselves in the enemy's cage, with no plan B or escape. It should also be noted that the attack occurred late, due to its long and meticulous planning. Due to this delay, it happened in a hurried and improvised manner, with the person in charge of taking the bombs to the house where Hitler was staying – defined at the last minute – was the Count of Stauffenberg.

With his hands crippled by previous injuries, of the two bombs that were supposed to be activated he only managed to arm one. Another conspirator, also present at the meeting with the Leader, I didn't know that the attempt would take place there at that time. He ended up pushing away the bomb that Stauffenberg placed near Hitler, inside a briefcase, with his foot. Result: he escaped, and the other conspirator died in the explosion.[2]

 Also in the episode of January 8, 23, there was planning, hesitation and late and hasty execution, after numerous armed rehearsals between October 30, 22 and the day of the inauguration. I say “late and hasty” because the attempt took place without guaranteeing the essential adhesion of other Armed Forces units other than those of some units in Brasília – important, but insufficient to guarantee the success of the coup which, in the end, It was suppressed by the local PM following the courageous, concerted and decisive action of the Ministry of Justice.


Along with the difficulties faced by the scammers, one of them being the proverbial obtuse cowardice of their little “leader”, who fled the line at the right time, the motivation of resisting the coup must be added as a key factor in success. And here a historical tour is necessary, quick but far-reaching. Back in the 1960s and 1070s, the word “democracy” had an ambiguous value, to say the least, among the left-wing. Its collapse in 1964 was regretted; but at the same time there was a certain “contempt” for what was considered “bourgeois democracy”.

I remember one of the phrases that we were – I and others and other sympathizers of a certain clandestine left-wing organization – asked to spray paint on the walls of Porto Alegre, in the case of an upcoming election: “On November 15th cancel the vote: the election is a bourgeois farce.” The graffiti didn't come off. The phrase, in fact, very significant due to its generic content, was immense. We managed to convince those in charge that before reaching the two middle points, the tagger would already be arrested. The eventual defense of “democracy” that we made was a tactic to try to unbalance the enemy; but deep down what we really wanted was to establish the “dictatorship of the proletariat”.

When we came to power, “democracy” would see how many sticks a canoe can be made with. After the poignant and painful defeat of revolutionary impulses, in the 1970s the dubious game with “democracy” intensified thanks to the news that reached us from Europe, with the adoption of “Eurocommunism” by the communist parties of Italy, France and Spain. , as well as others. One of the keys to this new trend was the phrase Italian leader Enrico Berlinguer said in Moscow in 1977, distancing himself from Soviet communism. In it Berlinguer, after stressing that fighting for “democracy” was more than establishing a “ground on which the class adversary is forced to retreat”, he stated that it was “a historically universal value on which to found an original socialist society ”.

The affirmation of “democracy” as a “universal value” triggered more and more controversies within the Brazilian left. I often heard the comment that such a statement consecrated “bourgeois democracy” as a “universal value”, returning to the relative contempt of the 1960s. Well, a lot of water has flown under these bridges. It is true that many adherents of “Eurocommunism” and other social democrats and socialists took a third path which, especially after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the end of the Soviet Union, led them to surrender to fully capitalist principles and plans. of austerity with clear neoliberal inspiration.

In Germany, England and other countries, parties that called themselves center-left applied neo-liberal reforms that moved them away from their traditional bases and made them lose contact with youth. On the other hand, struggles in Latin America took a path of “democratic restoration” that led them to surprising but understandable situations. Today those who in our countries were socialists, communists and revolutionaries are revered – and rightly so, it should be noted in passing – as heroes of democracy, without quotation marks or hesitations and much less with adjectives that tarnish the noun.

It can be said that if adding the adjective “universal” to the noun democracy may seem somewhat abstract, it is very concrete that for most of our leftists, democracy has become a permanent value – fortunately, by the way, and This is more than a rhyme, it's a resonance. This is what hindered a government elected by the left to lead the resistance against the coup of January 8, 2023, repeating feats such as those of 1955 (Marshal Lott's counter-coup to guarantee Juscelino's inauguration) and 1961 (Legality Campaign to guarantee the possession of Jango, led by Brizola).

Because, in our country, legality, loyalty to Constitutions and Laws is a utopia that hovers over and under different sectors of society. Certainly this utopia does not encourage eager capitalists who plunder public coffers, journalists and media owners who disguise themselves as liberals to carry out scams and more scams, much less militiamen, sellers of a religiosity in temples powered by tithes extorted from other people's beliefs, murderous illegal miners of forest people, occasional racists, “good men” who cherish evil and those similar to the banditry of national scum.


To conclude, I refer to a metaphor with popular appeal. It is no surprise that in our country, despite its current lamentable state, football arouses so much passion. It is a metaphor for the utopia outlined here. Everyone knows about the behind-the-scenes trickery, the complicated and dirty game that takes place in its basements and traps. But everyone knows that within those four lines, despite possible deviations, the law is the same for everyone who enters them, whether masked or not, a millionaire star, as well as the random guy from the nearby floodplain team.

Flavio Aguiar, journalist and writer, is a retired professor of Brazilian literature at USP. Author, among other books, of Chronicles of the World Upside Down (boitempo). [https://amzn.to/48UDikx]


[1] See article by Luís Costa Pinto on the website Brazil 247, “History: how the silent action of the STF and PGR defeated a coup attempted on September 7, 2021”.

[2] See the book about Operation Valkyrie and its failure Berlin diaries: 1940 – 1945: behind the scenes of the operation that tried to kill Hitler, by Marie Vassiltchikov, published by Boitempo Editorial.

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