The future of Bolsonarism

Image: Tejas Prajapati


Jair Bolsonaro was overthrown from the presidential chair, but Bolsonarism emerged victorious from this election

With the 2022 electoral process just over, the Brazilian left celebrates what it has called a victory over fascism. However, the historic communist militant Clara Zetkin had already warned, in a document to the Communist International, published in 1923, that fascism cannot be defeated only militarily, but that it must be defeated politically and ideologically. Nowadays, we update comrade Clara Zetkin's alert, saying that as insufficient as the military victory is also the electoral one. Jair Bolsonaro was overthrown from the presidential chair, but Bolsonarism emerged victorious in that election, to the same extent that Lulism was defeated, even though Lula was elected the new President of the Republic.

Let's see.


the lulismo

Lulism is a contradictory formulation, which operates through the composition of agreements and arrangements at the different ends of the country's political interests. Thus, on the one hand, it guarantees the fulfillment of the economic agenda of the big bourgeoisie while, on the other hand, it serves the more immediate social agenda of the population. With this, it ensures the pacification of disputes between classes, guaranteeing the maintenance of their governments and avoiding any sort of rupture, whether through coups from above or revolutions from below. In any case, this logic makes the Workers' Party a controversial and contradictory political instrument, which tries to balance many dishes at the same time.

One might think that it is a tropical social-democratic party, but that is not the case, since what is generically called social-democracy is a specific historical form, built in a unique context, the post-war period, which emerged in countries with a solid bourgeois sociability, with politically active working classes and in a process of reconstruction of the nations of western Europe. And yet, that it had the plentiful resources of the Marshall Plan, while fighting against a supposed risk of sovietization of that European region.

We cannot overlook the fact that, at that time, the Soviet Union was recognized as the main entity of the coalition that defeated the Nazi-fascist machine, and, therefore, meeting the demands of the working class, in that context, was a necessity of imperialism to keep it distant. of any socialist impetus. Such an arrangement allowed for the formation of strong, active States, in conditions to mediate with certain successes the relations between capital and work, making massive investments both in infrastructure and in collective subjectivity, especially in the fields of education and culture.

Social democracy, however, met its end with the oil crisis in the 1990s, not resisting the collapse of the so-called “30 golden years”. Still, much of the legacy of social democracy endured for a long time in the form of assured rights, institutions, and guaranteed political arrangements. But, above all, it is important to be aware that social democracy as we imagine it did not occur in all countries and was not exempt from setbacks and crises.

When he sat down at the presidential cabinet table for the first time, Lula did not find the same economic, social and cultural conditions that existed in post-war Europe. Nor did it base its mandates, just as Dilma Rousseff did not do either, on the constitution of rights, institutions and political arrangements capable of modernizing the nation, aiming to form a society in which the majority of its citizens share a middle-class coexistence, therefore, under no circumstances is it possible to think of lulism as an idea of ​​social democracy.

On the contrary, the Workers' Party governments undertook their efforts to create a society based on popular consumption of low-complexity goods and low-level entertainment. They were also concerned with ensuring that the interests of the industrial, commercial and financial bourgeoisie were met through programs to transfer public resources to private companies, tax exemptions and the chronic indebtedness of a large part of the population. For all this to happen smoothly, the moment of extraordinary heating of the market of the commodities, a situation that guaranteed enough resources to hide the monster that was forming in the national economy.

It was a real pax petista, whose deepest roots were the agreements reached with the lower clergy of Congress. That's because, for the PT to be able to govern, it was necessary to isolate the PSDB, then its main opponent. Opting not to ensure their political strength through popular mobilization, the PT governments relied on the parliamentary support of politicians from the lower-clergy parties, which was done with the distribution of ministries and second- and third-level positions, as well as the concession always republican of public funds for its leaders and parties, in addition to the maintenance of many corruption mechanisms already incorporated in the relationship between the Executive and the Legislative. The long-term consequences of these agreements were the political strengthening of the centrão, which became nationalized and established its own political agenda.

Thus strengthened, the centrão was only waiting for an opportunity to stop being tutored by the PT governments and take, itself, the reins of the nation. This opportunity arose with the anti-government climate that emerged from the acts of 2013. Taking advantage of the legitimate discourse at the beginning of those demonstrations, the coup forces knew how to parasitize the agendas of the streets, changing their meanings and provoking a climate of strong distrust against the government. government. As a consequence, an even more conservative and self-activated congress was formed after the 2014 elections. This is part of the context that led to the overthrow of the government of Dilma Rousseff, the imprisonment of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and the rise of Jair Messiah Bolsonaro. In general, this was the process of exhaustion and collapse of Lulism.



Like Lulism, Bolsonarism is also an odd arrangement, and in its origins brought together broad sectors of the petty bourgeoisie (especially the high civil service, such as the judiciary and the armed forces), Christian religious leaders, conservatives, militarists, police, millenarians, lavajatistas and others. As much as it seemed like a heap without much future, this arrangement knew how to take advantage of the exhaustion of Lulism and the isolation of the PSDB to take Jair Messias to the presidency of the Republic. Installed in the Alvorada Palace, the new president is not satisfied with the heterodox arrangement that brought him to power: he provoked purges and promoted new leaders and groups, of which we highlight the organized truck drivers and the power to stop the country's supply in a few hours, and the CACs, as “hunters, sport shooters and weapons collectors” are called, who can become a well-armed army and without fear of shooting in public.

Political analysts – and especially the Brazilian left – have been dismissive of Bolsonarism. When pre-election polls, still in 2017, showed that no more than 6% of voters intended to vote for Bolsonaro, it was common for analysts to say that there was no risk of him going over that limit. After his pre-candidacy advanced far beyond that threshold, they said he couldn't make it to the second round. After becoming the direct competitor of Fernando Haddad, they stated that he would not be able to get elected.

But after counting the votes, in October 2018, Bolsonaro was declared the winner with 57 million, 797 thousand and 847 votes: Brazil had just elected the candidate who gave speeches like: “Let’s shoot the gunfire here in Acre, huh?” and also: “If this group wants to stay here, it will have to place itself under the law of all of us. Either go outside or go to jail.” and also, “There is no such thing as a secular state. It is a Christian state, and whoever is against it should move. Let's make Brazil for the majorities, the minorities have to bow to the majorities”. Now, in 2022, until the first round votes were counted, it was an uncontested certainty that he would not have a vote greater than 25%, which would be the “bovine” portion of the electorate. But the truth was different: Bolsonaro lost, but it was very close, and when he leaves the government, his main legacy will be a nation practically split in half: the former captain will return to ordinary life, taking half of the Brazilian electorate with him.

We could, even so, think that despite being impressive, this political capital could be undone rather quickly; but that's not all that Jair Bolsonaro carries under his arm. He achieved the feat of carrying out one of the biggest, if not the biggest, transfer of votes in our political history. If we consider only the ten best-voted deputies in the state of São Paulo, the largest electoral college in the country, half are directly linked to the president, only two are from the left and three are from the center-right. Although the little more than 1 million of Guilherme Boulos is celebrated, the second place vote, Carla Zambelli, was over 946 thousand votes, that is, only 55 thousand and few votes less than the leader of the MTST, something like number of inhabitants of any small neighborhood in the capital of São Paulo.

In addition, the federal deputy with the highest number of votes in the country belongs to Bolsonarism, Nikolas Ferreira, from Minas Gerais, who obtained 1 million, 492 thousand and 47 votes, far ahead of the state's second-placed, last-minute lulista, André Janones, who obtained the trust of 238 thousand and 964 voters. The results achieved in the Senate were also immensely expressive, where Bolsonarism won 20 of the 27 seats in disputes, surprisingly electing figures such as astronaut Marcos Pontes, without any political experience, until then.

There is yet another factor of great importance for the maintenance of Bolsonarism, this much more sensitive one. Shortly after the announcement of the final result of the second round of the 2022 election, Valdemar Costa Neto, president of the Liberal Party, which Bolsonaro currently belongs to, offered him a salary, housing and a political office in Brasília, hoping that the former captain exercise, immediately, the leadership of the opposition to the Lula government. This is a delicate agreement, since it means the guardianship of Bolsonarism to the interests of the President of the PL.

Even so, if carried out in full, it will guarantee the material maintenance of the Bolsonarist force, ensuring the material and operational structure necessary to maintain the cohesion of this large group of politicians, groups and parties under the leadership of Jair Bolsonaro, avoiding any kind of deeper fragmentation. or disputes between possible parties interested in taking over the leadership of the Bolsonarist legacy.

Of course, it is possible that part of this heritage will be lost with the new government. It is certain that Lula will cast his baits in the heart of the lower clergy, hooking all those who allow themselves to be seduced by the benefits offered, and probably a good number of deputies will jump from the Bolsonarist boat. Still, what remains will constitute a cohesive and organized nucleus capable of making a thunderous noise. Let us remember that Bolsonarism does not operate only in institutional logic: much of its strength comes from the capacity for popular mobilization, and this core that remains, if the Bolsonarist network is dehydrated, will be fully able to keep its followers excited and willing.


By way of conclusion

In general, all of this ensures that Bolsonarism will continue to be a political force as active and mobilized as it was during the Jair Bolsonaro government, far beyond what the Brazilian progressive field can perceive. Unfortunately, a certain naivety of Brazilian progressives has prevented them from seeing the clear signs that Lula's electoral victory was just a small step. Let us remember that while the re-election of Dilma Rousseff was celebrated in 2014, the progressive field did not notice the time bomb that was formed in the congress elected in that same election, as well as the coup-mongering desires of its vice president and the instincts for power that emerged of Renan Calheiros and Eduardo Cunha, presidents of the Senate and the Federal Chamber, respectively, at that time.

Maybe Geraldo Alckmin doesn't have such coup ambitions, but the current scenario is not very safe, given the set of disparate forces that arrives at the new government, bringing together from the pragmatic Gleisi Hoffmann, the austere legalist Aloizio Mercadante, the former toucan (but always toucan) Geraldo Alckmin, the “click hunter” André Janones, the landowner Simone Tebet, and also sectors of the big bourgeoisie, leftist parties, activists woke, academics, artists, and even the cast of Marvel movies. In short, many interests that rarely walk side by side following in the footsteps of a president who is already 77 years old. It should come as no surprise to us even to carry out a new type of coup, without overthrowing the president, but restricting him to the condition of a decorative head of state, guarantor of the government and its representative abroad, while the deputy is responsible , in fact, by the government.

Whatever happens, what is apparent is that the Brazilian progressive field, especially the Workers' Party, still does not understand that there is in the country a popular, ultra-conservative political force, with strong penetration along with the police forces, capillarized among the immense evangelical population, with an armed civilian mass – the CACs –, and willing to act in a hostile and even murderous way. Finally, a mobilized fascist force, which controls dozens of parliamentary offices and has relative influence over many others.

If we do not pay attention to the warnings made by comrade Clara Zetkin, Bolsonarism will certainly be a problem that we will still have to deal with for a long time, with real possibilities of resuming political command of the country.

* Luiz Carlos Checchia is a doctoral candidate in Humanities, Rights and Other Legitimacies at FFLCH-USP.

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