The conflict between the 1988 institutions and neo-fascism

Image: Lars May


State institutions and the mainstream media increase pressure on Bolsonaro, who is forced to comply with the neoliberal program

The institutions of the New Republic are considered by Bolsonarism not only as insufficient or worthy of reform, but captured by the leftist agenda. Thus, in order to annihilate its enemies and “save the country”, neo-fascism intends to implant a dictatorship. Bolsonaro leads this mass reactionary movement and, from the height of his position as president, he invests and retreats, advances and retreats: in this way, he tests the limits of the fragile Brazilian democracy; it puts to the test and solidifies its forces and, finally, hopes to find its moment.

So far that moment has not come. And the course of events seems to make the chances of a neo-fascist coup unlikely. In view of this, the idea, sometimes implicit, gained strength on the left that the containment of the authoritarian rise of Bolsonarism stems from the recovery of the fighting capacity of popular forces. This recovery would coincide with Lula's re-entry into the electoral race and, notably, his robust growth in polls of voting intentions, with real possibilities of victory in the first round. In the most optimistic version, the annulment of the lawsuits against Lula is advertised as an achievement of the “Free Lula” campaign.[I] In closing, all this would have happened despite the big bourgeoisie, which continues to support the Bolsonaro government, as evidenced by the failure of the impeachment attempts.

We intend to discuss these ideas and air an alternative hypothesis: although the containment of Bolsonarism is of interest to the popular forces and allows them better conditions to, later on, recover their fighting capacity, it is not in this pole that the explanation for this fact lies, but, fundamentally, , under the pressure exerted by the neoliberal big bourgeoisie, which takes place through the so-called institutions of liberal democracy.

Nicos Poulantzas elaborates two very useful concepts to understand this complex situation: (1) the distinction between ruling class and hegemonic class; (2) the unitary function of the State apparatus in organizing the hegemony of the dominant class, which includes, however, a center of dominant institutional power and resistance opposed by other centers.[ii]

The first concept enhances the analysis of Armando Boito Jr. about the class nature of Bolsonarism, which is at the root of our hypothesis.[iii] Defined as a neo-fascism, a reactionary movement of the intermediate layers of society, Bolsonarism could only reach the Presidency of the Republic co-opted by the neoliberal big bourgeoisie – the symbolic personification of this is given to us by Paulo Guedes.

Traditional state command posts, derived from the president's pen, are ideologically filled with the social bases of neo-fascism, which reigns but does not govern: small and middle bourgeoisie and middle classes, notably sectors inserted in the military repressive apparatus (police and armed forces ). However, due to power relations, a relationship between classes, the social and economic policy of the State that this government is forced to implement primarily serves the interests of the neoliberal big bourgeoisie, which is the hegemonic class fraction. When there are sacrifices of immediate and far-reaching interests, it is not those of this fraction that are passed over, far from it.

See the end of emergency aid, which had guaranteed the government notable popularity at the height of the pandemic, as well as the restrictions imposed on an attempt to boost Bolsa Família; Petrobras' pricing policy, which serves financial capital to the detriment of the internal market, and thus pits the government against truck drivers, one of the most active sectors of neo-fascism, and in general against the broad working masses; the defeat, for the sake of agribusiness, of the “anti-globalist” line in international relations. There are many examples.

This contradiction produces friction between the centers of exercise of power in the State apparatuses: the strength of the executive power, which continues to be dominant, is, in various ways, drained and other centers emerge, such as the summits of parliament and the judiciary, in a way to ensure the effectiveness of the policy resulting from the unstable balance of commitments that has been uniting the power bloc. This drainage is turbulent and made up of institutional shocks.

In the Senate, the CPI of Covid, using interrogation methods that are not always orthodox, equipped the daily artillery of the mainstream media against denialism – genocidal policy, in fact – by the government in relation to the pandemic; in the Chamber, the specter of impeachment made Bolsonaro hand Arthur Lira the Planalto agenda, which, paradoxical as it may be, also serves the mainstream media to criticize him for falling back into the “old politics”. In the judiciary, more precisely in its dome, the hardest shocks are given. Alexandre de Moraes presides over the secret – and controversial in the legal field – inquiry into fake news (INQ n. 4.781), whereby the STF accumulates investigative and decision-making powers, albeit precautionary, but with very concrete punitive and dissuasive effects, such as search and seizure warrants, suspension of publications and even the arrest of a federal deputy[iv]. Investigations into ghost employees and private appropriation of the salaries of advisors in the Bolsonaro family's parliamentary offices, as well as their links with the militias, serve as a silent and perennial threat.

And all of this takes place in terrain already captured by neoliberal hegemony: the spending ceiling PEC and the autonomy of the Central Bank, now institutionalized, remove important resources from the hands of the Chief Executive to intervene in the economy. If something goes out of the script, due to an act of the president that threatens the unity of the bloc in power, the top of the judiciary can intervene to annul it, or parliament can resort to the “extreme remedy”.

Neo-fascism responds with an ideological struggle and a coup threat, whose intent cannot be ruled out. There was a rehearsal on September 7th, with an important part of the elements necessary to create a situation of instability and uncertainty, in which a division in the forces of repression could open space for the coup's triumph. The size of the street demonstration that took place on Av. Paulista in favor of the government and against its main enemies – personified in Minister Alexandre de Moraes of the STF. And this after nearly 600 deaths, at the time, from Covid.

And who does not despise it, as we know from the newspapers, is the command of the Brazilian Army, which is preparing against a possible “Capitol scenario”, advancing the calendar of military exercises in order to have at its disposal during the electoral period the entire force of the Force .[v] This is an important institutional reaction. In the same sense, the Superior Electoral Court summit appoints General Fernando Azevedo e Silva, former Minister of Defense in the Bolsonaro government, to the position of general director, in which he will take care of biddings and the technology area; the clear objective of the strange combination of uniform and toga is to reinforce the credibility of the 2022 elections – the accusation of fraud was vital for the failed coup attempt in the US episode.

A siege closes, now, on Bolsonaro, who finds himself pushed to a crushing electoral defeat and, who knows, to jail. This is not the end of the matter: on the contrary, it may serve to spur you into action. The presence of Bolsonarism in the armed forces and police is alarming; there are also the hundreds of thousands of hunters and shooters, armed to the teeth and ideologically radicalized. How to measure the willingness of this sector to confrontation and all or nothing? Historical examples reveal that agents of actions of this type carry out this “hot” mediation.

In summary, the result is really complex: State institutions and the mainstream media increase pressure on Bolsonaro, who is forced to comply with the neoliberal program; this, on the other hand, creates difficulties for him in terms of political support and throws him against his social base of origin; to serve it as best he could, Bolsonaro, concretely walled in, continues with his anti-system discourse and his ideological and authoritarian attacks, which, in the end, feed back the “institutional framework”. Undoubtedly it is a government that lives from successive crises; a truly exceptional situation.

Identifying this main contradiction of the post-2018 political process does not imply attributing democratic pretensions to bourgeois institutions. Incidentally, the institutions that today seek to tame the monster are the same ones that made it come out into the light of day a little while ago. The crisis inaugurated in June 2013 challenged all actors in the political scene, under penalty of ending up in the dark background of the stage, to raise the tone and dare to cross the limits of the game played until then. On the left painted the chance to change, to the Chilean, the script, by political intuition, soon abandoned, of the then president Dilma Rousseff, who proposed to the streets a Constituent of the political system: to break with the 1988 Constitution not because of its virtues, but because of its limits.

On the right there was not the same hesitation regarding the direction of the winds and the 1988 pact; to achieve the objective of interrupting the neo-developmentalist hegemony, in which the internal big bourgeoisie obtained the electoral support of the working majorities, the little that was democratic in the established order was sacrificed, at the hands of nothing clean the judiciary, the mainstream media and the yellow-green masses in the streets. Since then, nothing has been like before.

However, despite having used lavajatismo first and then neo-fascism, the neoliberal big bourgeoisie is not confused with these political, rooted and tributary representations that are from middle sectors of Brazilian society, even if they are also partly contaminated by neoliberal ideology that crushes them. With the hegemony of the big bourgeoisie associated with imperialism re-established, the political process since 2018 reveals that the tendency is for these representations to be transformed or domesticated, as has already happened with Lava Jato and as has been happening with Bolsonarism.

The paralysis of the proletariat in terms of demanding struggle and political action poses the same risk to Lula's candidacy, which from now on proposes precisely to “restore normality”. And, an eventual post-Bolsonaro Lula government will have an aggravating factor: the risk that, dislodged from the Planalto, the neo-fascist monster will continue to mobilize from the streets, with radicalism, a right-wing opposition to the government. The left, after all, cannot avoid the challenge of radically reconnecting with the proletariat and rebuilding its capacity for struggle. For this, however, it needs to lose its illusions in the institutions and support a program of a popular and democratic nature.

*Thiago Barison, lawyer, is a researcher in the postdoctoral program in political science at Unicamp. book organizer Marxist theory and concrete analysis: selected texts by L. Althusser and E. Balibar (popular expression).



[I] We criticized this idea in “Sérgio Moro no STF”, the earth is round, 10/3/2021, «».

[ii] POULANTZAS, N. Political Power and Social Classes, Campinas, SP: Ed. from Unicamp, 2019. Poulantzas defines the classes or fractions reigning as “those whose political parties are present in the dominant places of the political scene”, distinguishing them, based on the analyzes of K. Marx n´The 18th Brumaire, of the dominant classes or fractions in the power bloc (p. 254); for the analysis of the possibilities of horizontal displacement and the relationships of subordination, resistance and dominance between the centers of power within the State apparatus, according to their role as organizer of the political unity of the bourgeoisie, see the chapter “The capitalist State and the classes dominant” (pp. 305-16). Also check Fascism and Dictatorship, São Paulo: Martins Fontes, 1978, pp. 93-5.

[iii] BOITO JR., A. “Why characterize Bolsonarism as neo-fascism”, Marxist Critical Magazine, no. 50, 2020, pp. 111-119. And also, by the same author, “Neofascism in the semiperiphery of the imperialist system”, the earth is round, 5/11/2021, «».

[iv] The entire content of Alexandre de Moraes' decision that determines the arrest of federal deputy Daniel Silveira can be consulted, using the code 822D-6628-4C25-0B28, password 56D3-0FBF-89C1-A3C4, here «http://portal.».

[v] GIELOW, Igor, “Fear of electoral violence makes Army change planning for 2022”, FSP, 6/1/2022, «».

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