The laissez-faire of authoritarianism

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By Marcus Ianoni*

It is up to the opposition to seek to raise awareness and try to deepen the objective movement of various actors against the dictatorship, against the pandemic and for a more active role of the State in the policies of the war economy

Why do political class groups dissatisfied with Bolsonaro not react to his attacks on state institutions and social isolation? Could it be that one of the hypotheses is that a brake factor on effective action could be the fear that it would strengthen Lula and the PT? Or is it a lack of leadership that induces a broad front with the liberals? This question is pertinent.

I think that liberal politicians and magistrates do not react, except verbally and superficially, and tolerate the intolerable not exclusively because they fear that their reaction could strengthen the left (Lula/PT), but also because, with the movement to the right of the entire political-ideological spectrum, pulled by the extreme right, which won the 2018 elections and seated the military in the Planalto Palace, they have before them the Armed Forces that, through Bolsonaro, achieved popular support. Incidentally, most of these liberals and their social bases voted for Bolsonaro in the second round of the last presidential election.

In the demonstrations on Army Day, and even though they were not so numerous, Bolsonarist forces, including small and medium-sized businessmen, with the support of some big ones (such as the so-called Véio da Havan) went to the doors of barracks asking for intervention in the STF and Congress. If, on the one hand, this can be read as an act of desperation and an expression of Bolsonaro's weakness in the coronavirus pandemic, on the other hand, it demonstrates audacity to react, willingness to fight against the obstacles placed before a president pressured by the crisis.

More and more I tend to consider the hypothesis that, although there are divergences in the Armed Forces and between Bolsonaristas and the military, these actors, in general, are united around Bolsonaro's authoritarianism and around the primacy of the market, leaving in the background, public policies to promote the rights to health and basic income and to preserve employment.

Liberals (in Congress, in the STF, in parties, in civil society) fear and reject the left more than any other political force. They have more courage and disposition to challenge it. They are more likely to speak harshly to the left and tolerate the wild behavior of the far right. In addition, we note that the president of the Central Bank told investors that it is better for the economy to tolerate coronavirus deaths than for the State to fight the virus to the detriment of business. It must express a certain view existing among market agents. One might think that the financial sector, so revered by liberals, does not so much reject the easing of social isolation advocated by Bolsonaro?

In this context, political leadership is fundamental to try to attract liberals to the defense of life and democracy. A firm position is urgently needed, which seeks to sew a broad united front around a policy of alignment with WHO recommendations, as the main countries in Europe do, as well as the defense of fiscal and monetary stimuli by the State. This is the best way to worry about the economy, it's the best way out and it doesn't mean the invention of the wheel, because that's what's happening in Germany, France, Japan, etc.

The perspective of a two-sided programmatic front does not oppose health and the economy, as it places the State as a mediator between these two interests. The Bolsonaro government has neither the interest nor the capacity to put the State in a policy of this type, which is why Congress took the lead, with the support of the STF. Upon losing institutional support, Bolsonaro began to resume his well-known attacks on the Legislative and Judiciary.

Coalition has an objective dimension (which has and tends to have a structural impact) and a subjective (volitional) dimension. In the case of the broad front against the pandemic and for democracy, it objectively already exists. There is a diffuse rejection of Bolsonaro's dual pandemic program, a pandemic in health and in the democratic order. This diffuse rejection is a broad objective front, which has a certain structural impact in the sense of curbing (not blocking) an explicit dictatorship.

On the other hand, it would be very important for this broad front to be more concrete and effective. But, even if this concreteness does not materialize, the democratic forces must propagandize it more firmly. It is not known in advance who would engage in more effective actions promoted by the political front, but consciously and subjectively explaining the objective process of repudiating the presidential disrespect for the epidemic and repudiating the dictatorship is necessary for the country and for the opposition to the government’s turmoil federal.

Bradesco, Itaú and Vale, as well as Globo, defend pro-market policies, but are supporting the State's fight against the health pandemic, which Bolsonaro does not do. I don't know if Bradesco, Itaú and Vale repudiate the attacks on democracy, but I saw Folha, Globo, Dória, several journalists, etc. criticize Bolsonaro's authoritarianism expressed again on Army Day. On the other hand, there are also large companies that have supported the fiscal stimulus package for needy families and firms. And there are actors like the BCB president minimizing the pandemic and prioritizing the interests of finance.

Finally, it is up to the opposition to seek to raise awareness and try to deepen the objective movement of various actors against the dictatorship, against the pandemic and for a more active role for the State in the policies of the war economy.

*Marcus Ianoni Professor at the Department of Political Science at the Fluminense Federal University (UFF)

Article originally published on the website Brazil debate.

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