the main enemy

Image: Margerretta


Giving up the streets for Bolsonaro’s demonstrations will corner the opposition in the campaign and does not guarantee the avoidance of clashes

When I was a member of Ação Popular, a left-wing organization that fought against the military dictatorship, we discussed a lot who the “main enemy” was, a concept often used to guide the strategies and tactics to be employed. There was a debate, often sterile, about the greater target to be attacked, whether the military in power or its mastermind, US imperialism.

At the risk of falling into the sterility I criticized above, I will debate the application of the concept in the current political framework. Let's see if it makes sense.

Intuitively, the biggest target of progressive forces today is the nerd who presides over our sad Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro. The unspeakable threatens the elections, either through the outpouring of money distributed to gain support among the poorest in a situation of immense misery and hunger in the country, or through the more than evident preparation of a coup against the elections themselves. It's the tactic I described in a previous article posted on the website the earth is round as "ball or bullet".

Analyzing the political picture drawn in recent days, in particular the Congressional votes that allowed the pouring of money for electoral distribution, we have to assess whether the biggest threat is not in the mayor, Artur Lira.

It is increasingly clear that Jair Bolsonaro understood that he needed the collaboration of Congress to suspend the elections. His attempt last September was such a fiasco that it showed the fragility of his base of fanatics, of military police and of the armed forces themselves to generate the political and social event of lack of control that would justify a state of exception, with the suspension of democratic life. The president has been successfully fighting to strengthen this base, involving the FFAA in the effort to wall the TSE and the STF, exchanging commands to put generals in a better mood in relation to their liberticide rants; expanding its armed militancy in the Shooting Clubs; inciting its supporters in the military police and exciting its fanatics to paroxysm, which is multiplying attacks against Lula's voters and even reaching the first political assassination of these elections. But the greater danger seems to lie in the ease with which Artur Lira trampled on the Constitution, the House rules of procedure and the electoral legislation.

Artur Lira voted, even with a more than suspicious power outage in the Chamber, the state of national emergency. Emergency state? He was not considered during the two and a half years of the Covid pandemic. It was also not mentioned in the Brazil Aid vote, to face the real hunger emergency that already plagues 33 million people across the country, not to mention the other more than 90 million in a state of food insecurity in varying degrees of severity.

Thinking only about the electoral effects, Bolsonaro proposed and approved a badly elaborated distribution of resources, both in terms of values ​​and in the definition of beneficiaries, resulting in few resources for the poorest and access for others less badly allocated. When he saw that the spill was not working from the point of view of voting intentions, Bolsonaro increased the bet aiming to contribute another 200,00 reais to those already registered and adding two million beneficiaries.

Added to this outpouring of money, supposedly for the poorest, is a series of other measures that completely break into the electoral law, facilitating the distribution of secret budget resources without any control to the Centrão bases.

The result of this operation, which completely blows the treasury and which harms all other sectors of the administration throughout this year, may not guarantee the turnaround of votes that Bolsonaro needs to remain competitive in the October elections. However, one thing is more likely: the re-election candidates linked to the Centrão will have a strong incentive to guarantee their votes among the poorest. Artur Lira and his cronies win, with or without Bolsonaro's victory. The prospect of being elected a Congress even more regrettable than the current one is becoming more concrete every day.

If the spill of money does not result in a reversal of expected votes for Jair Bolsonaro and/or does not guarantee the re-election of the physiological majority in Congress, what will Jair Bolsonaro and Artur Lira do? Let's assume that opinion polls indicate the prospect of defeat for these right-wing forces in September. The alternative of suspending elections and extending all mandates becomes the solution.

Voting for the pour to strengthen an electoral victory was easy for Artur Lira, but suspending the elections is a much more serious step to be taken by this rabble. As I have said in other articles, voting for a dry state of exception, without a situation of generalized political and social turmoil, is much more difficult, but not impossible. It all depends on society's reaction to the disastrous situation we are experiencing.

I don't believe in a spontaneous reaction of the population desperate for poverty and hunger. I thought this was going to happen with the horror experienced by the country during the pandemic, with strong government collaboration for this state to be installed. But people died without air and without care in the doors and corridors of crowded hospitals. The atrocious suffering of the sick, numbered in the millions and with almost 700 dead, was not enough to promote popular reactions.

People suffered and died and their families mourned their losses to the sound of the president's sneering laughter. Its fanatics arrogantly disregarded pandemic control measures, failing to wear masks as a way of affirming their adherence to Bolsonaro's denialism and favoring contamination by the virus. The horror was not enough to provoke mass reactions. There was no demonstration for vaccines, even for oxygen in the case of Manaus. It was extreme suffering experienced in solitude by each affected family.

I thought that the growing hunger in an escalation that adds millions of new sufferers month by month would lead to a popular reaction with looting of supermarkets and fairs. Nothing relevant happened either. Scenes of hungry people rushing to pick up leftovers from refrigerators, skin and bones, shocked the country, but did not multiply. Jair Bolsonaro was frustrated with this lack of reaction, indicating that he was counting on the despair of suffering to generate a state of social and political instability that would allow the adoption of forceful measures by the executive.

This history points to the improbability of a social upheaval for which there is no lack of objective reasons. In this context, how will Bolsonaro justify his request for a state of exception and the suspension of the elections?

This is where the Bolsonarism provocation comes into play. A campaign filled with hate, with thousands of armed fanatical extremists willing to do anything, has every possibility of generating a situation of confrontation between Lula's voters and those of Bolsonaro. For the time being, the angry people are only creating a climate of provocation with occasional but dramatic results, such as the murder of PT militant Marcelo Arruda in Foz do Iguaçu. But something much heavier cannot be ruled out, in particular shooting and bomb attacks at Lula's rallies and the progressive candidates. This is very easy to do. All it takes is Jair Bolsonaro and/or his offspring to give the signal for organized groups of the extreme right to attack.

Another scenario of enormous danger is the mobilization of these same groups to attack opposition rallies, with aggression and beatings, with or without gunshots and bombs. The reaction of Lula's supporters would lead to an intervention by the military police, loyal Bolsonaristas in large part, hitting the opposition mass. The more beatings, the more tear gas, the better for creating the “climate of political instability”.

This design of provocations is more than inscribed in Bolsonaro's strategy and should go on sharpening until September, with the seventh being announced as the moment of the great confrontation. This can be avoided, on this day, if the opposition decides not to demonstrate on the occasion and leave its mass events for another day, which will not fail to happen, even at the end of the campaign. But, if it is interesting for Bolsonaro, the confrontation will exist, whatever the moment chosen by the opposition to demonstrate.

In other words, we are facing an explosive electoral process full of risks, exacerbated by hate speech and provocations by organized groups of Bolsonarism. Always with the “ball or ball” tactic, if Bolsonaro fails to react in opinion polls, he will trigger his “troops” to culminate the campaign with a super provocation to opposition demonstrations. With a picture of widespread violence, he will ask Artur Lira to vote for a state of exception and suspend the elections.

Artur Lira knows that, even if he has an expanded Centrão base in Congress, a Lula government will not make his life easier. With Bolsonaro, he knows that the current state of relations with the executive will be prolonged and the dependency of the energetic in relation to his parliamentary ally will, if possible, increase. It is clear that the risk exists, for Lira, of the energetic thinking that the exception state will be able to dispense with this support from Congress. If that is the case, Bolsonaro will have to take another step towards an explicit coup, to dominate the legislature, as the generals of the dictatorship did for 21 years.

What to do to face these huge risks? I defend that the candidates against Bolsonaro seek a republican agreement for the defense of the elections, the TSE, the electronic ballot boxes and the possession of the elected. And that an agreement be sought from all non-Bolsonarist parties in Congress, affirming the same principle. Parties and civil society need to organize and demonstrate in the broadest possible way against violence in elections and for respect for the ballot box and its results. Entities of all classes must be summoned to demonstrate in this sense, demanding, above all from employers, a position for democracy.

The question remains whether or not the opposition will take to the streets during the campaign. A more defensive tactic, avoiding giving rise to Bolsonarism's provocations, seems the most prudent and reasonable. However, giving up the streets for Bolsonaro’s demonstrations will corner the opposition in the campaign and does not guarantee the avoidance of clashes.

We cannot exclude a terrorist operation by Bolsonarism on the very day of the election, with sabotage of the electrical grid (following the model of Artur Lira in the PEC vote) in places where there is a clear probability of a strong vote for Lula. Or with bomb attacks in these same places. Or attacks on Lula voters by groups of provocateurs with the approval of the military police. Multiply this across the whole country and we will have the pretext for the state of exception. Sabotage by the TREs and TSE on election day would have the same effect.

For all these arguments, I continue to think that we will have to run the risk of street clashes, in parallel with the campaign for peace in the elections and hope that this combination pushes the electorate against the energetic and the defeat is such that it inhibits Congress from agree to play the game.

*Jean Marc von der Weid is a former president of the UNE (1969-71). Founder of the non-governmental organization Family Agriculture and Agroecology (ASTA).


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