What to do in the face of a coup in preparation

Carla Barchini, Self-portrait VIIII, 2019, Cement tiles, 20 cm3


Fighting against the coup involves making politics operate in what is strongest about it, namely, its ability to broaden the horizon of possible

The institutional fragility of Brazil is not something that can, at this point, be an object of doubt. Like a train towards shock and that nothing seems to be able to stop, the country discovers situations every day that only explain how its electoral process and its possible transfer of power will not be something “normal”, regardless of what that term may actually mean. During the Bolsonaro years, there were many occasions on which we saw attempts to destabilize and create conditions for something close to a coup.

The last one took place on September 7 last year. After that, Jair Bolsonaro released a letter to the nation signing it with the integralist motto. Some of his most enthusiastic supporters have received arrest warrants. A good part of the analysts said that this was the expression that he was forced to retreat, demonstrating his weakness. Whoever said at the time that the coup had already started seemed to have been wrong.

However, the country has returned to the same point in recent days, now thanks to the Armed Forces acting explicitly as a destabilizing agent, questioning electoral procedures before the Superior Electoral Court (TSE). As if the Armed Forces were given some strange form of legitimacy to place themselves as an institution that can demand an explanation from other institutions of the Republic, “suggest” changes in procedures, even when dealing with a subject that has nothing to do with the military. That is, the Armed Forces clearly assumed what they are today, that is, the government. Concretely, this is a military government, as it should be a government that has seven thousand military personnel in first and second echelon posts.

Being a government, the military showed how they are completely aligned with Mr. Bolsonaro. About a year ago, he had changed command of the Armed Forces and there were analysts who understood, once again, that it was an expression of the government's weakness and despair in its attempt to subject the barracks to its interests. A year later, it is clear that there were no weaknesses, that the alignment process has been consistent. In other words, Brazil is preparing for an institutional crisis.

A classic coup is just one of the possible scenarios, always within reach, if your actors understand that the conditions are right for it. But, between a coup and respect for the outcome of the elections, there are multiple possible scenarios. Brazil knows very well how to make institutional patches when its elites deem it necessary, given the invention prêt-à-porter of parliamentarism in the 1960s.

The truth is that many of us insisted that there was nothing else to do but to fight and demand what impeachment Bolsonaro as soon as possible, before the electoral process, as justifications were not lacking, his desires for institutional rupture never needed to be hidden. However, in the name of institutional respect and the refusal to put the country through yet another “trauma”, we are now facing a trauma that comes to us in slow motion.

I would insist that this behavior of government political actors is based, among others, on the understanding that there will be popular support for everything Bolsonaro tries. After a criminal management of the pandemic, with its more than 650 thousand deaths, after an economic management of impoverishment and after being the first government in decades to deliver the nation to the reduction of the purchasing power of the minimum wage, the current occupant of presidency holds something around 30% of the voting intentions.

If we take into account that we have not even started the electoral campaign and that, during the campaign, government occupants seeking re-elections have a natural tendency to rise, since they have the support of the government machine, we can see an impressive resilience that deserves to be studied further. in depth and more analytically.

“More analytics” isn't out there for free. It would be the case to point out that there is no point in saying that the fight against Bolsonaro is a fight “of civilization against barbarism”, “of science against obscurantism”, “of joy against hatred” and things of that nature. The assertion of our alleged moral and intellectual superiority has never been of any use, only to compensate for our difficulty in understanding how the extreme right and proto-fascist governments are consolidated.

Fascists saw themselves as the real representatives of the great Western culture allegedly degraded due to its instrumentalization by “cultural Bolshevism”. Textbooks in Nazi Germany had quotes from Plato to justify racism, opinions in favor of euthanasia came with quotes from Seneca. This serves, among other things, to remind us that our civilization is no guarantee against barbarism. She carries it into her heart as one of her potentialities. We will be better able to deal with social and political regressions if we understand how much of a shadow there is in our lights.

Likewise, it would be the case to say that “hate” is a moral-theological category. He is the substitute figure for “evil”, “irrational”, “diabolical”. And it is not clear what the role of theological-moral categories of this nature might be within a political clash. Bolsonaristas also describe us as beings driven by hate.

Therefore, it would be more useful at this point to ask how the extreme right grows out of our own contradictions and silences, how it captures real desires for change and rupture. Bolsonaro mobilized his voters throughout the pandemic using the discourse of freedom as the property that each individual would have over their own body. He spoke at all times of the ability to take risks and not expect some “paternalistic” form of security in relation to the State. Well, how many times have speeches of this nature been used by those who claim to be progressive? Do we continue to believe them?

In fact, the political discourse of opposition to the government has a pendular movement that oscillates between calls to “dialogue” with sectors of the population loyal to Bolsonaro and the description that our fight is against “barbarism”. This polarity cannot work. It would be better to remember that political mobilizations that are organized in an eminently negative way, based on the rejection of a candidate (“now, we are all against Bolsonaro”), are short-lived. Breaking the popular strength of Bolsonarism requires more, it requires preventing the political imagination from atrophying.

In various parts of the world, we see the exercise of building new horizons of struggle through the production of political innovations and institutional creations. Chile is discussing the implementation of the Parity State and the Plurinational State, Berlin is fighting to pass a law that regulates and reduces the price of rents, France is discussing the creation of a maximum salary and a limitation of the salary difference within companies (such as way of forcing lower wages to rise), the United States, through Bernie Sanders, discussed the implementation of a mandatory quota of male and female workers on the board of directors of all companies.

It is us? What are we creating unity out of? From fear of Bolsonaro? How effectively can it work and for how long? Fighting against the coup involves making politics operate in what is strongest about it, namely, its ability to make us create futures, expanding the horizon of possibilities.

*Vladimir Safatle He is a professor of philosophy at USP. Author, among other books, of Ways of transforming worlds: Lacan, politics and emancipation (Authentic).


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