Bolsonarism as fascism

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The phenomenon of fascism is firmly anchored in the prevailing society and economy. It is a stabilizing action of order, “disguised in an age-old crusade of heroic vitalism”

To talk about fascism as a current political phenomenon is to talk about what exactly? Charismatic leaders? Choreographed crowds? Spectacular mobilizations and purification ceremonies? Racism? Are there a minimum of characteristics for a given political phenomenon to be framed in this concept? Talking about fascism in these terms, and only in these terms, can be pleasant and comforting. In this sense, the phenomenon is easily identified as the action of a well-organized horde, guided by some key ideas (for example, nationalism or racism) and that erupts in the blue sky of the political and economic normality of capitalism, generally instigated by a supposed radicalism from the left – whether from German social democracy, or even from the Workers' Party. Thus, the conniving, indifferent or accomplices of the fascists, when they gain life and an agenda of their own, may well take their body off and claim that, in fact, all that is very strange and different from their usual and well-mannered social practices. . As Gramsci states,

Most of them, however, in the face of fait accompli, prefer to talk about ideal failures, definitely collapsed programs and other similar jokes. Thus, the lack of any responsibility begins again.

As if the political forces grouped in the self-appointed political center, once they have lost the political direction of anti-leftism, have no responsibility for the current political scene. As if the commitments that made the electoral victory of fascism possible were enough to suffocate a movement that has been, sometimes silently, sometimes scandalously, built at least since 2005. There is nothing new with the support given to fascism by the wealthier and more educated layers of the Brazilian population.

The truth is that the phenomenon of fascism is firmly anchored in the prevailing society and economy. It is a stabilizing action of order, “disguised as an age-old crusade of heroic vitalism”, in the words of Arno Mayer. Fascism is a political action and a network of relationships. It is a mobilization technique, pure tactics and therefore extremely flexible and capable of repeatedly violating its own principles. The inconsistency is its ideological nature, since its program is to mobilize the masses, extremely heterogeneous groups, highly diversified social strata in crisis, in addition to attracting and reassuring the powerful guarantors of the social order. Fascism, then, is a radical mobilization in defense of order. In the words of João Bernardo, it is the Revolt of the Order. A revolt driven by the desire for a radical transformation of the individual's living conditions without jeopardizing the foundations of the social structure responsible for producing these terrible living conditions.

As Robert Paxton states, fascism arises from a narrowing of horizons, the result of a sense of catastrophic crisis, whose solution is far beyond the reach of traditional ways of resolution. Added to this form of perception of the crisis are the dreams of grandeur produced by two psychosocial experiences characteristic of capitalism. In the first place, the desire to improve the life of the working class, which arises from a concrete fact which are the appalling conditions of life. Secondly, the fear of the proletarianization of the middle class, a concrete reality produced by the process of concentration and centralization of capital, an inherent result of the process of expanded reproduction of capital.

However, as João Bernardo reminds us, these two experiences, despite being the raw material of fascism, do not necessarily produce it. The desire to improve the quality of life is what drives workers to organize and seek political emancipation. Fighting for concrete issues, such as better wages, creates social cohesion, a sense of community and reveals to workers their place in the social structure and their power as an organized group. The fear of proletarianization on the part of the middle sectors can also have a progressive aspect. As a result of the impossibility of ascending the social hierarchy and of continuing to accumulate symbols of social distinction, relative impoverishment can reveal to these classes how many of their convictions and values ​​are nothing more than ideologies and prejudices, such as, for example, meritocracy. This fear can reveal to the middle class that their target community, within the current conditions of social reproduction, is closer to those at the bottom than those at the top.

These two experiences constitute the fertile zone of convergence between the subaltern entrepreneur and the self-enterprising worker – the basis of Bolsonarism. Both completely autonomous: without community, social, class or union ties.

Fascism, therefore, is all that political movement that reactionarily capitalizes on these two psychosocial experiences characteristic of capitalism. When optimistic and progressive visions of the future are discredited, discredit is cast on the possibilities of a universal solution for human beings – either through the market or through its destruction. The idea of ​​a return to a golden period gains strength, when the conflicts that are in evidence, as a result of the crisis, supposedly did not exist. Conflicts that, according to the fascist mobilization techniques, were not provoked by the way society is organized, but by conspiratorial and corrupting agents, almost always in cooperation with foreigners. The conspiratorial view, as opposed to the critical-analytical view of history, is fundamental for the mobilization of frightened sectors, especially those of middle income. It offers young people who are badly trained by textbook systems aimed at public tenders and college entrance exams a simple, coherent and plausible explanation for a crisis that calls into question their fundamental ideologies/prejudices. It makes it possible for the “humiliated” to save their self-esteem, diverting their sight from the real problem – the economic and social order – for supposed groups that would be benefiting, behind Jews and communists; here alleged communists, but also LGBTI, blacks, women, students entering through the quota system and scholarship holders of any kind. These groups are the enemy and must be eliminated from society.

However, it must be recognized that these discourses are very common. How long has Olavo de Carvalho been writing his books? Who in their right mind doubts racism and sexism as fundamental and long-lasting structures of our society? What should concern us, therefore, are the conditions in which these discourses gain not only a supposed coherence, but, mainly, adepts. Fascism never became a relevant movement in history before the defeat of a revolutionary movement or the accession of leftist parties to order. Fascism gains ground precisely where the left swims with the current and starts to defend budgetary balance, to understand economic mathematization as the true content of the concrete and fiscal accounting as the art of resolving and harmonizing antagonistic class conflicts. Faced with the reduction of the utopian horizon of the left to fiscal balance, fascism triumphs. Thus, economic crises transform the workers' revolt into a violent desire for individual ascension, and the fear of proletarianization is translated not into a collectivist ideal that unifies the community of destiny of the middle sectors and the popular classes, but into a collectivism suited to class prejudices (we who work, who pay taxes, who study, etc.).


The main issue is not whether Bolsonarism is fascism or not, but what is the degree of development and capillarity of fascism in Brazil today. The stubborn 20-30% support recorded, even after the major media joined the effort to overthrow the government, shows that the scenario is much more serious. The left, faced with the enormous social crisis, is unable to formulate anything other than a request for impeachment. You must ask yourself, sincerely, what would be the use? Save the institutions that in 2016 were used for its defenestration from the State? Safeguard the biography of the agents in the pay of Faria Lima who destroyed our already precarious social protection mattress? Throw the fascist leader – the most popular leader in the country at that time – out on the street? Facing him in a territory where he built his main victories? Removing Bolsonaro from the presidency is to end the possibilities of defeating him in the short term.

In view of the president's behavior in recent weeks, we may have reached the point where, like the fascist wave that originated during the 1930s, we don't have much to do but wait for the military defeat of the leader and his supporters. However, just as Bolsonarist fascism has important differences in relation to the forms that this political phenomenon acquired during the wave of 1930, its defeat will be different in form, but perhaps equally tragic in its content. The Soviet army that is advancing in a devastating way in our territory can have a much more sinister aspect: it would be a protein capsule involving genetic material, without any geopolitical pretensions or reason of State. Unfortunately, it is necessary to concentrate efforts to reorganize the period after the scorched earth. If we are successful, we must not make the mistake of the Italians on that April 28, 1945. It is extremely important that alongside the fascist leader there hang his supporters of accomplices who, at this moment, seek to disclaim responsibility, speaking of “ideal failures, of programs definitely collapsed and other similar pranks”.

*Fernando Sarti Ferreira Master in History from the University of São Paulo (USP).


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