The spectrum of the extreme right

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By LISZT VIEIRA*

A part of the left continues to bet everything on combating economic inequalities, ignoring the importance that the cultural struggle gains in moments like this of the advance of the extreme right.

The election for the European Parliament this Sunday (9 June) showed, as expected, the advance of the extreme right, mainly in France, with 32,4% of the votes, against 15,2% for President Emmanuel Macron's party and 14,3 .16,5% from the socialist party. In Germany, with 181%, the ultra-right Alternative for Germany party became the second political force in the country. In general terms, the right should have 150 seats in the European Parliament, the extreme right, 135 seats, and the left (Socialists and Democrats), XNUMX seats.

The vast majority of young people voted for the right. According to statements to BBC News, “to end the status quo”, “because the left has failed”, “we can’t find work and the immigration policy is very soft”, “the radical right channels feelings anti-establishment" etc.

Today there are no more utopias of the future that mobilize hearts and minds. For Italian intellectual Enzo Traverso, “left-wing social movements and political parties are not capable, in the short term, of filling this utopian void and acting as brakes on the new right”. He states that “a specter haunts the world, and this time It is not communism, but a new right that is advancing in Europe, the USA and Latin America, in contrast to the power vacuum of the traditional party system that has lost its social bases and also its identity discourses” (Las Nuevas Caras de la Derecha, publisher Siglo Veinteuno, 2021).

According to Enzo Traverso, part of the left, unable to understand the changes in this historical stage, continues to bet everything on combating economic inequalities, ignoring the importance that the cultural struggle gains in moments like this. Therefore, in the case of Brazil, for example, it is difficult to understand that, despite the improvement in economic indicators – with inflation under control, an increase in GDP, a decrease in unemployment, an increase in the income of the poorest – there continues to be a deep malaise among the poorest in relation to politics as a whole. According to Enzo Traverso, “the instruments historically built by the working class, such as unions, community associations and parties, are no longer where life is lived”.

Enzo Traverso praises left-wing identity policies that demand “recognition”, while those on the right demand “exclusion”. But the radical left, according to him, never knew how to reconcile different identity agendas, putting the economic factor (class) above identities of race, gender and religion..

In the same vein, the American philosopher Nancy Frazer, since 2001, defended the need to articulate redistribution with recognition, the economic claim with the struggle for the recognition of identities. Separating redistribution from recognition, as well as separating the social from the institutional, as some want, is a serious mistake. The institutional, without the social, becomes a sterile bureaucracy. The social, without the institutional, generally becomes a powerless ideology, unable to promote social transformations.

With regard to the election of government officials, there are several factors that can influence voters when voting. One of them is, without a doubt, the voter’s identification with the candidate. Voters often vote according to their identities, such as social class, economic level, religion, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender and even sports club. Another important factor in the formation of opinion that influences the vote is the action of traditional media and social networks.

Misinformation and fake news Today, they play a very important role in voting decisions, with misleading or false information. Social identities, public policies, media influence and campaign strategies are elements that influence the decision to vote, in addition, of course, to economic conditions.

Thus, the traditional thesis that voting is primarily explained by the economy no longer corresponds to reality. The famous phrase “It’s the economy, stupid”, coined in 1992 by James Carville, then strategist of presidential campaign de Bill Clinton against George HW Bush, lost its exclusive reign of recent decades. The current situation in the USA and also in Brazil is enlightening in this regard.

The improvement in the North American economy is undeniable. The annual rate of economic growth under the current Joe Biden administration has only been surpassed on four occasions in the last 24 years. Unemployment is at 3,7%, a historically low level. Over the last three years, 17.973.000 jobs were created, while in the government's first three-year period Donald Trump 7.994.000 were created.

The way Joe Biden faced the pandemic and its economic effects contributed to national tranquility and the resumption of expansion of the TAX ID No. Inspired by New Deal by Franklin Roosevelt, mobilized the government to encourage investments in infrastructure, clean energy and technological research, in addition to stimulating industry. At the international level, Joe Biden is paying a high price for military support for the genocide of Palestinians committed by the Israeli government. But, in domestic politics, the economy is doing well and even before the massacre of the Palestinians, Joe Biden was already poorly evaluated by the majority of public opinion.

Despite economic advances, Biden is behind Trump in electoral polls. Although prosecuted in court, Donald Trump appears as the favorite in the American election next November and everything indicates that he will win the election, if he is not prevented by the courts from being a candidate, which will strengthen the advance of the extreme right in the world.

Something similar is happening with the Lula government. The economic advances are clear, but they are not perceived by a large part of the electorate, intoxicated with the fake news and with daily propaganda on social media and even in the mainstream press. Lower inflation, higher GDP, has already grown 3,2% compared to the same period last year, according to IBGE. The dollar remained at around 5 reais. With regard to Reserves, Bolsonaro lost US$66 billion in four years, and Lula increased US$14 billion in 70 days.

The level of unemployment fell to the lowest level since 2015, according to IBGE. The main reason was the growth of informal work, which pays lower wages and contributes less to sustainable economic growth. Brazilians' labor income has risen the most since the Real Plan. The increase reaches 11,7% in 2023 due to greater public spending. Inflation forecast for this year is 3,8%, while the Selic interest rate remains high, scandalously above 10%, due to the decision of a Central Bank at the service of the financial market.

The villain appears to be the increase in food prices, which have been rising above inflation since October last year. Now, the floods in Rio Grande do Sul and the drought in the Central-West are two aggravating factors. Social welfare policies such as health, education and, depending on social class, the issue of public security also weigh on voters' decisions.

More important is the feeling of abandonment of the peripheral population who see their homes flooded by floods every year, with almost total loss of their property. For these people, there is no important difference between different governments. They are not concerned with parallel ABIN and other superstructure issues, they are entirely dedicated to seeking survival stratagems. To benefit this marginalized population, a policy of great impact such as the New Deal would be necessary, with strong investment by the State in the economy, as occurs in the USA with the current Biden government that preaches neoliberalism to other countries, suffocated by the fiscal austericide that benefits the financial market.

With the climate catastrophe in Rio Grande do Sul, it was to be expected a mass rejection from the governor who canceled and changed 480 items of the Environmental Code of Rio Grande do Sul and from the mayors, especially the Mayor of Porto Alegre who diverted funds planned for prevention of floods and did not maintain the flood protection system, leaving the floodgates, dikes and retaining walls to be scrapped.

Both are neoliberals and notorious climate crisis deniers. Apparently, however, this rejection is much smaller than expected. Nor is the Federal Government's emergency support action to Rio Grande do Sul being recognized, as it deserves, including several personal visits by President Lula to the State.

The decision of the current Lula government to seek a consensus with the right for conciliation and distribution of senior positions in the State apparatus aims to contribute to governability in the short term and facilitate the approval of the government's agenda in Congress. But, in the medium and long term, this could be counterproductive, contributing this year to the victory of right-wing candidates in the next municipal elections, which will serve as a base of support for an eventual victory of the right or extreme right in the 2026 presidential election.

And, until now, the appointments of Ministers and senior officials appointed by Centrão – a euphemism for the parliamentary right – have favored the right much more than the Government, which has already lost many votes in Congress. And, despite advances in the economic area, the popularity of the government and the president has not increased.

In an interview withInstituto Humanitas Unisinos – IHU, political scientist Rudá Ricci declared that “the Lula government does not confront the right and the extreme right, it is a conservative government”. According to him, Lula had an electoral victory and political defeat due to the alliances he made with the right. On the other hand, in an example of critical support, João Pedro Stedile, leader of the MST, in an interview with the portal Brazil of Fact, declared that “the Government is not doing anything in agrarian reform, it is a shame. Expropriation did not advance, credit for settlers did not advance, nor did the National Education Program for Agrarian Reform.” But Stedile reinforces the need to defend the government from its enemies: multinationals, financial capital, predatory large estates and part of agribusiness.

Another issue with ideological weight is the problem of criminal violence and security, which leads many people to support the far-right discourse of “shoot first and ask questions later”, “a good criminal is a dead criminal”, resulting in the deaths of innocent people. in favelas and peripheral neighborhoods. And of great relevance is the environmental issue that exploded as a catastrophe announced in Rio Grande do Sul.

Today, human and animal life is threatened by climate change, resulting mainly from the emission of greenhouse gases and, in Brazil, from deforestation caused by predatory agribusiness, supported by denialists and neoliberals, generally with the support of the media. It would be expected that the catastrophe in Rio Grande do Sul would shake traditional opinions and, on the left, contribute to a profound critique not only of neoliberalism and traditional developmentalism that ignores sustainability, but also – and above all – of climate denialism and its dogmas, ostensible on the right and sometimes, although hidden, present on the left.

But this does not seem to be happening, as demonstrated by the Lula government's decision, with the support or silence of the left, to explore oil in the Equatorial Margin of the Amazon, contrary to the energy transition.

And President Lula's statement on Environment Day – stating that “the environmental issue is no longer for activists and crickets, it is a call to human responsibility” – was a hidden confession of the left's traditional prejudice and rejection of the environmental issue and its defenders in science, social movements and the University.

The denialists, on the right and on the left, don't want to remember that they called environmentalists ecochatos, a cricket bug, the environment is a fagot's thing, in Brazil the problem is social, it's not environmental, the environment is a fad imported from Europe, and so Here it goes. A more correct attitude would be to be self-critical and recognize that environmentalists and climate scientists have always been right.

Alongside the macroeconomic factor, whose advances are not perceived by the marginalized population, we have an important segment of the population that only gets information through social media and identifies with conservative values ​​such as machismo, homophobia, racism, etc. They are against the voluntary termination of pregnancy, same-sex marriage, etc. We are facing a doctrinal issue here, of religious influence.

They are against abortion in the name of the right to life, but, after birth, they don't care if the children die of hunger or are shot by police in the favelas. Marriage is a civil contract between two adults, regardless of religion, gender, political orientation or favorite football team.

An important political instrument of indoctrination is the “anti-system” speech. Young people, with fewer possibilities for employment in the labor market, are very sensitive to attacks on the system to “change everything that is there”. It is not said how, there are no political, economic, cultural or any other projects. Change can improve or worsen, as we see now in Argentina, where Javier Milei received a significant vote from young people, and we had already seen it in Brazil during the last government. It is good not to forget that Lula is now the System, he makes agreements from above and often grants advantages to already privileged sectors, all in the name of governability. Examples of this are the concessions made to the market, the military and the right in Congress.

On the other hand, Pope John Paul II, by destroying Liberation Theology, with the support of Cardinal Ratzinger, future Pope Benedict XVI, opened the way for the Pentecostal and neo-Pentecostal evangelical movement, of North American origin. Prosperity theology is the doctrinal banner of neo-Pentecostal evangelicals, recently “enriched” with dominion theology. The faithful must destroy their adversaries, seen as enemies of God. The recent advance of so-called “Christian Zionism” is linked to this new theology of dominion.

Given this, only long-term grassroots work can reverse this belief and support from the faithful and a large part of the middle class for far-right politicians, with whom they identify mainly for conservative values, and not for economic proposals or projects. politicians. Possibly, these conservative values ​​and hatred began to influence voter behavior more than the economy.

Considering that the last year of the presidential term is absorbed by the electoral campaign, the Lula government has already gone half way. If there are no drastic changes in the composition and actions of the Government, we run the risk of losing the election in most municipalities and then the presidential election in 2026.

After all, the extreme right is advancing all over the world. In Latin America, Brazil, Colombia and Mexico serve as buffers. But, with the possible victory of Donald Trump, the favorite candidate in the US presidential elections, if he is not prevented by the courts, the possibility of a victory for the extreme right in Brazil, with the support of the right, including that installed in the government, is a hypothesis that cannot be discarded and demands to be faced.

*Liszt scallop is a retired professor of sociology at PUC-Rio. He was a deputy (PT-RJ) and coordinator of the Global Forum of the Rio 92 Conference. Author, among other books, of Democracy reactsGaramond). [https://amzn.to/3sQ7Qn3]


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