The end of the nightmare?

Blanca Alaníz, series Día de los muertos en La Merced nº 1, Analog photography, Mexico City, 2021


The deleterious character of the (dis)government of Jair Bolsonaro has yet to be fully known.

On October 29, 2022, a group of professors and researchers held an act in Porto Alegre in support of the Workers' Party candidate for the next day's election, called “Scientists with Lula”. The chosen location had a significant appeal, the monument in honor of the soldiers of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force who had died in combat against Nazi-fascism in Europe during World War II.

The demonstration was part of a movement that replicated thousands of similar initiatives by the most diverse groups of young people, intellectuals, artists, workers, small farmers, indigenous people, residents of slums and poor neighborhoods, militants of environmental causes, identity, anti-racist and anti-fascist. throughout Brazil during that month in which the campaign for the second round of the presidential elections was carried out, which opposed former left-wing president Lula da Silva to the then extreme right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro.

Lula was elected on October 30 to hold the position of President of the Republic for the third time in a historic turnaround that was unprecedented. After an eight-year term concluded with unprecedented levels of popularity, he managed to attend the election and re-election of his minister Dilma Rousseff in 2010 and 2014. It is clear that this was a case of persecution by the Federal Public Ministry in Curitiba, which led to his conviction and imprisonment in 2018, a sentence imposed by a judge later considered partial and incompetent, Sergio Moro.

The revelation of his collusion with the accusation that had corrupted the process was the reason for the extinction by nullity, declared by the Federal Supreme Court. In all, 26 lawsuits were opened against the former president, who was acquitted in all of them, in what was, alongside the tragedy of Julian Assange, perhaps one of the biggest cases of lawfare in the world.

At that time, President Dilma Rousseff had been impeached and the country was governed by a vice-president with a well-deserved reputation for being corrupt, who not only betrayed Dilma Rousseff when she was impeached, but also contributed to the neo-fascist Bolsonaro presenting himself as an alternative in that year’s elections. . Having won the election against Fernando Haddad, a university professor who was the candidate of the PT in view of Lula's impeachment, Jair Bolsonaro set in motion, without much doubt, what was the worst government in Brazil since independence in 1822.

The deleterious nature of the (dis)government of Jair Bolsonaro has yet to be fully known. However, many elements of his corrupting action on the Brazilian State and destroying its capacity to make public policies became evident at the end of his four years in office. Since their first days, Bolsonaristas have tried to infiltrate agents and co-opt public security and police officers, as well as in government control and auditing bodies and in the armed forces, in the judiciary and in the public prosecutor's office, and with that they managed to cover up crimes. and misappropriation of conduct and monetary resources, transforming these public service sectors into transmission belts for their political movement.

The process closely follows what happened in Nazi Germany, as Franz Neumann masterfully describes it in his colossal Behemoth: the infiltration and corruption of the judiciary, police and army (Wehrmacht), transformed into Hitler militias. But there is, however, difference and this is relevant. The Nazi project had two central objectives: first, the purification of the German people through the elimination of all dissimilar people, Jews, communists, gypsies, people with disabilities and “Orientals”. Secondly, a project of economic development, territorial expansion and domination of peoples and geographic spaces that would enable the formation of a Germanic empire largely supported by the slave labor of non-Aryans. The Brazilian case was more modest.

The extermination of the different was more in rhetoric and reached materiality in cases of persecution, harassment and violence against people, reaching the point of some murders that, were it not for an explicitly political motivation, could be mixed with everyday violence in Brazil. Likewise, no development process was proposed, only the implementation of neoliberal measures of appropriation of public goods such as the privatization of many companies and the extinction of numerous mechanisms for regulating the economy and social relations, providing opportunities for property gains, increased exploitation of work with the adoption of more flexible rules, profits from illicit businesses ranging from the arms trade to the invasion of indigenous lands and natural reserves, or the facilitation of the sale of pesticides and a discourse in favor of agribusiness that reverberates a nostalgia for return to colonial times when Brazil was a big farm.

Economic liberalism and its current form, neoliberalism, does not fail to evoke one of the extremisms of the 1920s, this time in its Italian and precursor version, fascism, which had the most unrestricted freedom of the market as its economic program. But certainly what most evokes Nazi-fascism in this case is the process of permanent excitement, of endless movement, of continuous movement of social agitation and mobilization of efforts and, mainly, of affections around its leader and a mission to save the nationality, a call that makes every man and woman a soldier in a redemptive war against evil.

In this way, government actions are not evaluated in their results, but in their purposes. Freeing up guns does not increase anyone's safety or reduce crime; increasing the use of agrochemicals does not increase agricultural production; cutting down forests to create pasture for cattle does not improve food or increase animal protein exports; occupying natural reserves and indigenous lands does not expand sovereignty over the Amazon; reducing workers' rights does not create new jobs.

The list of results that never happened is immense and yet the popularity of the far-right government was maintained and the fascist candidate had 58 million votes. This phenomenon of going on indefinitely chasing goals that never materialize results from an explanation as magical as it is false, the excuse that “the system” does not let the leader act as necessary. The corollary of this biased reasoning is more of the same: Jair Bolsonaro deserves a second term and needs to have more power to deliver the results that, in the end, would create a bright future. Only then would a higher stage in the history of the nation be reached, the return of an idealized past in which the Brazilian people were homogeneous and identical, all of the same white color, of the same Christian religion, of the same bivalent gender of an idealized masculinity and femininity, moved by a selfish individualism, entrepreneurs of themselves, a uniform mass of beings who don't think, just go beyond their primary impulses.

This dystopia created by individuals without a superego, with a narcissistic wound in their ego that makes them resentful and revolted against a world that does not allow them to reach the ideal of their sick ego, the image of the strong, resolute leader who cannot be contained by no law because he is above all. After all, those who need the law are the weak.

But the story is often surprising. Behold, the elections, which would only serve to prove the invincibility of its movement and its leader, produced a defeat; by just over two million votes, but a defeat. There is only one explanation in the thinking of its supporters: fraud, because the leader should always prevail. In the sequence, hordes of supporters mobilized along the roads and in front of the army barracks in pickets and camps, calling for an intervention by the federal armed forces to undo the results of the elections and prolong his government in the form of a dictatorial regime. In this fascist-inspired perception, legitimacy is given by the movement and is inherent to the leader, as it stems from his redemptive mission. The government of Jair Bolsonaro and its expression as a political movement, Bolsonarism, are an attempt to implement a Nazi-fascist dictatorship in Brazil.

The absence of moral content is another necessary mark of this movement. Heir to the Manichean vision of the Cold War that invented an insidious, mellifluous and camouflaged enemy – communism –, Bolsonarism was built on a hybrid war strategy against a part of the Brazilian population. Thus, their actions and the commitments that were necessary to put them into effect were and continue to be of the most abject immorality, based on lies, dissimulation, corruption, mobilization of “any means” and hatred.

From this unethical posture, the military who participate in mismanagement have the greatest responsibility. Moral dubiousness, where loyalty is only for your own because the enemy needs to be deceived to be defeated, is ingrained in the very training of the Brazilian military, trained as they continue to be for missions that include the possibility of waging war against their own people.

The case of the Ministry of Health is emblematic of the nature of this government, which honors death in each of its decisions. Amidst all the undoing and destruction, the Covid-2020 pandemic came in 19. The health crisis revealed the worst of the federal government. From the first moment, the refusal to follow the recommendations of the WHO and the Brazilian scientists was his only answer. Like what happened to many other government departments, the minister of health was fired because he wanted to deal with the pandemic. He was replaced by a general faithful to Bolsonaro, who tried to disorganize, disrupt and sabotage the national health system, the SUS.

False treatments, sabotage of vaccination and collusion with bad bosses for whom “the economy could not stop” turned the fight against the pandemic into a tragedy with almost 700 thousand victims, of which 400 thousand could have been avoided if Brazil, following the recommendations of the science, reached the world average of mortality, which, with the public health system that the country is endowed with, would be a result even below the possibilities. The coverage of the service network is universal, the vaccine system is exemplary and the agents of the health system, the SUS, did everything in their power to prevent more deaths. A commission of the National Congress identified nine crimes against humanity and against public health committed by the president of the republic during the first months of the pandemic.

The wisdom of the voters knew how to put an end to all this devastation. Driven by the votes of the poorest voters, those with less schooling, blacks, women and residents of less developed regions, Lula's candidacy won both rounds of the October elections. At this moment, the parties linked around Lula and the social movements that supported him are trying to take stock of the situation and define the first steps of the new government.

This group of political forces gathered together is trying to consolidate their support in society and is organizing the government that begins in 2023. at the beginning of World War II. At the same time that they adopted a firm position against Nazi-fascism, they were flexible in their alliances, allowing everyone who had a contradiction with the greater evil of totalitarianism to fight shoulder to shoulder. It is all too current in Brazil today to evoke Churchill's warning to Chamberlain that the agreement he had made with Hitler, in which he sacrificed honor but supposedly preserved peace, handed him war and dishonor.

In the effort to expand support to face the fascist candidacy, nothing was more symbolic than the definition of a leader of the former PSDB, the former governor of São Paulo, the richest state in the Federation, Geraldo Alckmin as vice president. The party has disputed power with the PT since 1994, for six consecutive elections, and was responsible for implementing the neoliberal agenda when it governed Brazil in the 1990s. Communist rule was formed in the first round and expanded during the second round with the accession of the defeated center-right forces.

The breadth of the alliance was set up to guarantee governance and, at the same time, provide security for the realization of Lula's commitments to the workers and popular classes, the immense group of poor Brazilians, the main beneficiaries of the public policies proposed in the electoral campaign and which the new government intends to implement. For that, the agreements and commitments signed with political forces more to the right need to be constituted by a deep moral content and greater transparency. The loyalty of the popular base of this alliance is precisely based on a position in which government actions are perfectly verifiable and can be followed by all. The values ​​of equality, solidarity and care for the needy must be present in all the initiatives of the new government.

The difficulties are immense in view of the situation the country has been led to as a result of the political struggle of the last decade and, mainly, of the government that was born with the coup and existed between 2016 and 2018, and the Bolsonarist disaster of 2019-22. Since the relative immobility of the government at the time of the protest demonstrations in 2013, an economic crisis marked by the absence of growth, falling investment and unemployment was aggravated by the coup that ousted Dilma Rousseff in 2016.

Subsequently, the adoption of a set of measures that could be described as the revenge of neoliberalism only amplified the crisis with a brutal reduction in public social spending, revocation of the rights of workers, retirees and pensioners, monetary tightening with an increase in interest rates, and discontinuity of policies and investments. The future of the Lula government is conditioned, in addition to the denazification of the State and society, to overcoming everything that could be called in recent Brazilian political vocabulary the removal of all neoliberal and authoritarian debris.

*Luiz Augusto Estrella Faria Professor of Economics and International Relations at UFRGS. Author, among other books, of The Size Key: economic development and prospects for Mercosur (UFRGS Publisher).


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