the underground ones



The Achilles heel of the Bolsonaro family is found in the bifurcation of its activities into two parallel series of alleged illegalities: the iceberg of its links with the world of crime and the fake news industry.

The set of justifications for the preventive detention of Fabrício Queiroz on June 18, 2020, listed in the arrest warrant issued by Judge Flávio Itabaiana, would perfectly allow his detention to take place in November 2018, when the scandal of the cracks of Alesp-Rio. The arrest at this precise moment attests to the erosion of the power of the Bolsonaro family.

The electoral coalition that elected Jair M. Bolsonaro was made up of the most powerful segments of Brazilian politics and economy. This alliance was based, above all, on two points of a common program: to exclude or render inoperative the political action of the representation of the working class, its parties and unions; and deploy a new shock, on record hard, of neoliberalism (with the aim of ending the CLT). The agreement on these two points generated an unusual convergence between the political oligarchy and the different fractions of the capitalist class, the agrarian, industrial and financial; groups associated with the external sector and those focused on the domestic market; large, medium and small businesses. This association, built throughout Dilma Rousseff’s terms, crystallized with the coup that overthrew the PT president, directed the Temer government to implement a program called “Bridge to the Future” and reached its peak in the 2018 elections. .

The governing coalition – unable to satisfy this plethora of heterogeneous and contradictory interests – remained in a situation of permanent unstable equilibrium, in a fierce and never-decided dispute between different circles for command in determining the guidelines and running the government. This structural instability acquired new contours with the arrival of the coronavirus pandemic in the country. Bolsonaro and his group of faithful followers identified in the health, economic and social crisis the opportunity to accelerate the project of implantation of an authoritarian government, consecrating it as a kind of new Leader. This sudden movement caused dissensions and fragmentations that intensified the process – already underway since taking office – of disintegration of the power bloc.

The most visible face of this unfolding was the departure of the government of Health Minister Henrique Mandetta, at the behest of the DEM and a significant group of deputies; and, subsequently, the dismissal of Minister Sérgio Moro, the main representative of “lavajatismo” and who has expressive support, I would say almost majority, in the judiciary, in the corporate media and in the traditional middle class.

Bolsonarism, as a local branch of the neo-fascist movement in the northern hemisphere, flourished in the soil fertilized by the post-modernist cultural movement (coeval with the beginning of the so-called “globalization”) [1] and by the reconfiguration of subjectivity and individual identity promoted by neoliberal sociability [2]. Theorists of “postmodernism” disseminated the idea that any form of knowledge, including scientific discourse, constitutes only a “narrative” subject to dispute. Thus, shuffling the spheres dissociated throughout modernity, they turned everything into a struggle for power, therefore, into politics (although they announce themselves as anti-political) [3]. The determining forms of identity configuration in this period of neoliberal hegemony hypertrophied individual action in a Hobbesian world of “each man for himself” (and god against), destroying the last remnants of community social ties. The specific modalities bundled in the Brazilian neo-fascist movement, in turn, acquired their own characteristics in a society marked by almost undying legacies: slavery, patriarchy, patrimonialism and the inquisition.

This combination makes clear some of the reasons why a significant portion of Brazilian society (although not the majority when taking into account those who abstained or annulled the vote) preferred to choose a weapon rather than a book, a soldier rather than a teacher. “Earth flatism”, the contempt for technique, for the specialist, for science and, at the limit, for reflection and rational action, showed its limits unequivocally in the guidance given by Bolsonaro and the health emergency team caused by Covid-19.

The intensity of the spread of the coronavirus, the inaction and ineffectiveness of the measures recommended by the government, the protagonism that Jair Bolsonaro acquired as a “denialist” significantly reduced – according to the measurement of several research institutes – the positive evaluation of the president and the government. The battlefield was evidently not the most propitious for the ex-soldier. After all, in the face of the disease, experts and the scientific knowledge embodied by doctors have more credit than belief, acceptance than reprimand, care than disdain, solidarity than individualism.

In the restricted scope of political activity, since then we have witnessed the reconstitution of the so-called “liberal-democratic” right (the quotation marks are necessary to remember its active participation in the 2016 coup), which instituted the extreme division of Brazilian political life. right, right and center left.

The division in the vast field of the right repeats in many points the split that was triggered during the transition from dictatorship to civil regime (1974-1985) between the group that insisted on maintaining the dictatorial political form and the composition that promoted the “New Republic” . The families of the political oligarchy and the mainstream media, the economic groups most engaged in the process, are almost the same, with few differences. At the hyperaccelerated pace of the pandemic, in a few months, developments that once took years are repeated, such as, for example, the cooling of the enthusiasm of the traditional middle class and sectors of capital for authoritarian forms of political domination.

The right wing that broke away from the government immediately went on the offensive. The DEM-PSDB-Rede Globo consortium – hegemonic in the “New Republic” until the PT came to power in 2002 – decided to face the extreme right with the arsenal that was already at its disposal in 2018, but which calculatedly ceased to be used. mobilized. It attacked the Achilles heel of the Bolsonaro family, the bifurcation of its activities into two parallel series of alleged illegalities: the iceberg of its links with the criminal world and the fake news.

The historiography of the dictatorship period does not always highlight, although neither does it ignore in its reports, the inflection of the Brazilian military regime caused by Jimmy Carter's victory in the presidential elections of November 04, 1976. touch of the “Carter doctrine”, configured a new paradigm for the intervention, direct or indirect, of the North American military power. The justification for defending, on a world scale, the dominance of the capitalist class – the central point of American diplomacy since President Wilson's Fourteen Points speech in 1918 – ceased to be the “fight against communism”, gradually becoming the “defense of liberal democracy”.

Faced with this new scenario, the struggle for command of the Brazilian Armed Forces was polarized between two groups, those in favor of a “slow, safe and gradual” opening and those who advocated maintaining the validity of the standard established by AI-5. The predominance of the first group was consolidated with the resignation, on October 12, 1977, by General-President Ernesto Geisel of his Minister of the Army, General Sylvio Frota, and with the failure of the attempt of a “coup within the coup”, rehearsed by the troops adept at what was then called the “hard line”.

A part of the military from Sylvio Frota's support base, especially those who worked directly in the repression and guerrilla combat bodies, did not accept this outcome. They continued to act underground with the same modus operandi, as was evident in the episode of the RioCentro attack on April 30, 1981. A portion of them established organic links with organized crime, some even occupying command posts in the misdemeanor.

The construction of Jair Bolsonaro's candidacy, a process that began in 2013 with the turn to the right of the demonstrations initially called with an agenda of expanding rights and the welfare state, took place largely outside the traditional public space. Used to of low-rated entertainment programs on TV, Bolsonaro acquired political weight due to the support of groups that organized the “yellow canary” demonstrations against Dilma Roussef and, above all – it was only known later – due to a mass boost on social networks .

Jair Bolsonaro replicated in Brazil the organization model of the neo-fascist right in the northern hemisphere. For this he had the explicit support of some think tanks from the USA as the network Atlas Network and the Ludwig von Mises Institute [4], from organizations such as American Conservative Union (ACU) [5] and theorists such as Matt Schlapp and Steve Bannon. company operator Cambridge Analytica, famous for its suspicions of data manipulation in the election of Donald Trump and Brexit, Steve Bannon appointed Eduardo Bolsonaro to head the South American section of the The movement, an association founded with the aim of bringing to power parties favorable to the agenda of combating “globalism” and supporters of authoritarian forms of government.

The simultaneous installation of three investigations into the fake news – (a) a CPI in the National Congress, (b) an investigation in the STF conducted by Minister Alexandre de Moraes and (c) another in the midst of a lawsuit in transit in the TSE – indicates that the traditional right decided to resort to the arsenal that avoided putting in action during the construction period of Jair M. Bolsonaro's candidacy and also in 2018, a decisive factor for the election of the former soldier.

With the departure of the classic right from the government, the political conflict took on the features of a game of Poker, in which the opponent's cards are ignored, the bluff running wild. Bolsonaro's style is quite predictable. He seeks at the same time to distract and disorient the “enemy” through the incessant production of noise – in a succession of decrees, Provisional Measures and preposterous declarations affirmed, then denied and then reaffirmed, etc. – and frighten him with repeated threats, in a policy of “intimidation”.

The traditional right, reconfigured and invigorated by the president's inability to show concern for the pandemic and to show solidarity with the families of the dead, resolved, as the players say in the slang of Poker “pay to see”. To this end, he adopted different procedures to neutralize each of the three weapons that Bolsonaro threatened to draw whenever his decisions were not implemented, either because they were unconstitutional or because they did not obtain enough political support for their processing or approval in Congress.

The ongoing inquiry at the STF framed the digital militias through the execution of search and seizure warrants in the homes of their main operators and some of their most notorious financiers. This network constitutes an essential element of Bolsonarism not only because messages circulate that reinforce the affective (libidinal) bond between the leader and the masses, but also because they massively disseminate fake news targeting their political opponents.

It's not just about that, though. The deepening of investigations into the functioning of the fake news if you go back in time to 2018, you can prove accusations from the time of the election that the assembly and operation of these networks were implemented with the help of know-how, labor and foreign capital.

The Brazilian electoral code, in section VI of Chapter II, states: “It is forbidden for political parties and their foundations to receive, directly or indirectly, under any form or pretext, donation, contribution or pecuniary or appreciable assistance in cash, including through advertising of any kind, coming from: I – foreign origin”.

The foreseen punishment is stipulated in article 28: “The Superior Electoral Court, after a final and unappealable decision, determines the cancellation of the civil registry and the statute of the party against which it is proven: I – to have received or to be receiving financial resources from foreigner [6].

The two other letters that Bolsonaro claims to have in his hands, and which many still believe may prevent further investigations, are support from the US president and support from the Brazilian Armed Forces.

The intensity of the pandemic in the US, added to a recent wave of gigantic demonstrations against racism, has undermined Donald Trump's popularity to such an extent that it is predicted that he will be very unlikely to win re-election. The US state bureaucracy (not sympathetic to Trump) and the Democratic majority in the House of Representatives have managed to prevent some of Trump's projects from being carried out, as is the case of the always promised military intervention in Venezuela.

The fog that prevented knowledge of the position of the Armed Forces in relation to the announced coup by Jair M. Bolsonaro against the STF seems to be dissipating. The newspaper Economic value reported that, on June 10, there was a private meeting between STF Minister Gilmar Mendes and Army Commander General Edson Leal Pujol, mediated by former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso. Son and grandson of generals, a personal friend of the Clintons, FHC is undeniably a trusted man of the establishment of the Democratic Party. He is also perhaps the main “formulator” and ideologue of what is left of the Brazilian business class.

In an interview granted on June 16 to Bruno Lupion and posted on the Deutsche Welle Brazil, when asked about the meeting with the general, Minister Gilmar Mendes said: “They are making a self-criticism. Research has recently come out that indicates that there is an identification between the Armed Forces and the Bolsonaro government, in a negative tone”[7]. And he added in his characteristic peremptory voice: “I have said that the Armed Forces are not militias of the President of the Republic, nor of a political force that supports him”.

The escalation led by STF, TSE, MP-Rio against targets linked to Jair Bolsonaro can unfold in four possible scenarios: (a) be contained by summit agreements; (b) government reorganization controlling the authoritarian impulses and the president's bossiness; (c) Bolsonaro's impeachment; (d) the annulment of the election due to irregularities in the Bolsonaro/Mourão ticket campaign.

The legal and political consequences of this conflict are almost exclusively based on the restricted field of the ruling class. The fate of the Bolsonaro government and the near future of the country is in their hands.

The working class, through its political representation, its social movements and its political representation (the range of center-left parties), constitutes the only force effectively committed to democracy in the country. If she does not manage to get out of the ropes, the political and social isolation to which she was coercively confined, we will continue, with or without the Bolsonaro family, in a facade democracy, in a pseudoconstitutional regime.

Ricardo Musse is a professor in the Department of Sociology at USP.


[1] For a historical account of the genesis of theories of postmodernity cf. Perry Anderson. The origins of postmodernity. Rio de Janeiro, Jorge Zahar, 1999.

[2] For a summary of the bibliography on neoliberalism cf. Estevão Cruz & Juarez Guimarães, on the website the earth is round"Neoliberalism and negative dialectics".

[3] I am referring here to the traditional strand of postmodernism that has Jean-François Lyotard as one of its exponents. I comment on leftist theories about postmodernity in the article “The Marxist debate on postmodernity”. In: Cultural Z, Year VII, n. 3. Riode Janeiro, UFRJ, 2012.

[4] Kátia Gerab Baggio accurately and accurately reports the links betweenthe atlas network with the organizers of the protests against Dilma Roussef's government in the article, posted on the website the earth is round, "Atlas Network and ultraneoliberalism".

[5] Eduardo Bolsonaro organized in Brazil, in October 2019, the annual meeting for Latin America of the ACU, the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), financed by the Índigo Foundation (Institute of Innovation and Governance), linked to the PSL. For an account of the event cf. the article by Otávio Dias de Souza Ferreira, published on the website A Terra é Redonda, "The far-right International.

[6] Available here.

[7] Available here.


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