Questions about neo-fascism (and Bolsonaro)

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By Valério Arcary*

The bird of prey does not sing.
Misfortune does not make an appointment.
Ignorance and wind are the greatest audacity.

(Portuguese folk wisdom)

A theoretical-political debate has opened, including on the left, whether or not Bolsonaro is a neo-fascist. This debate is not dilettantism. It requires rigor. What should be the criteria for classifying a political movement? We must be very serious when we study our enemies. Those who do not know who they are fighting cannot win.

Evidently, the qualification of any ultra-right political current or leadership as, summarily, fascist is a hasty generalization, theoretically superficial and, politically, ineffective. Neofascism is such a serious danger that we must be serene in defining it. The entire extreme right is radically reactionary. But not all the extreme right is neo-fascist. It is necessary to carefully evaluate and qualify our enemies.

Is it not a rhetorical exaggeration to qualify Bolsonarism as neo-fascist? The political regime in Brazil has not yet been displaced, but neither does it remain intact. The government is a coalition of four distinct far-right groups. The neoliberal group around Paulo Guedes, the authoritarian military group in relation to the Army command, Sergio Moro's LavaJato group and the Bolsonarist faction. It still doesn't have a shock troop of black shirts. But it has relations with the militias. And it feeds a virulent militancy on social networks.

No political current can be understood by examining only the program it defends. Other factors have to be considered: the nature of the class; trajectory; relationship with institutions such as Congress, the Judiciary or the Armed Forces and, therefore, their position vis-à-vis the political regime; relationship it maintains, respectively, with the ruling class and the working class; what kind of party is your fighting instrument; what are your international relations; where does the money come from, or what are its funding sources; and, above all, what is its political strategy.

Bolsonarism's strategy is to transform its political-electoral victory, in 2018, into a historic defeat for the Brazilian working class, immobilizing its ability to fight for a long period, as the counterrevolution did after 1964. This confrontation is necessary for economic adjustments -social factors it intends to impose. It demands the authoritarian Bonapartist subversion of the political regime built over the last thirty years. Bolsonarism is an irreconcilable enemy of democratic freedoms.

What was Nazi-fascism?

It was not just a German or Italian phenomenon, or an extreme right-wing reactionary current, or the political regime that organized the Holocaust. Fascism, programmatically, was the party of the world counterrevolution. It was one of the extreme right tendencies that defended the need to displace the left and workers' organizations with methods of terror. In the XNUMXs, it achieved increasing mass influence on a European and even international scale. Its growing audience is explained, in the context of the serious social crisis opened by the First World War, after the Treaty of Versailles, by the political impact of the victory of the Russian Revolution, and the fear of new revolutions.

What was the strategy of Nazi-fascism?

Historically, its evolution knew two distinct moments: the affirmation of a fascist current, and the installation of a fascist political regime. After the economic crisis of 1929, and as the imminence of a new world war became clearer, Nazi-fascism asserted itself as the party of national-imperialist revenge, and of world counter-revolution. Its strategy was the destruction of the USSR and the colonization of Eastern Europe in order to conquer world domination by introducing neo-slavery forms of exploitation and, at the limit, the racist holocaust. The Nazi-fascist regime was the regime of the world counterrevolutionary war, therefore, of the destruction of civilization as we know it.

What distinguishes Nazifascism?

Fascism is a counterrevolutionary movement of the desperate petty bourgeoisie that can win support among higher segments of the proletariat. But the fascist regime is a monolithic bourgeois dictatorship, which governs by state terror, subjugates the functioning of other institutions, such as Parliament and the Judiciary, and responds to the need for destruction of the left, imposing censorship, police persecution and methods of civil war. Twentieth-century Nazi-fascism had distinct national peculiarities: in Italy it was Caesarist, in Germany the racist frenzy of anti-Semitism took hold, in Spain monarchist-centralist Francoism, and in Portugal clerical imperialist national salazarism.

Is neo-fascism an international current?

We live in the stage after the capitalist restoration in the former USSR, and the neo-fascism of the XNUMXst century cannot be the same as the fascism of the XNUMXth century. It comes after more than half a century of concertation between the Triad powers (USA, European Union and Japan), after thirty years of financial globalization, and forty years after the defeat of the USA in Vietnam. There is no imminent threat of triumph of socialist revolutions.

But there are also no prospects of regulating the increase in social inequality through reforms, or of regulating the growing inequality between center and periphery in the world market. Neo-fascism responds, from an international perspective, to the worsening of the social crisis in a context of long international economic stagnation, ten years after the 2007/08 crisis, and to the intensification of rivalries in the world market with a US imperialist national turn under Trump, especially against China, which once again puts the danger of a world war on the historical horizon. Bolsonaro's unconditional alignment with the US is one of the fundamental political traits of his strategy.

What characterizes Bolsonarism as neo-fascist?

Fascism was the expression of hatred of Bolshevism and fear of new October Revolutions. Fascism was the political expression of racism as a state ideology to conquer world domination. Bolsonarism is neo-fascism in a semiperipheral-dependent country.

It is a political current that responds to the crisis of the 1988 Constitution regime, and to the hatred of the egalitarian project, even if it is in the form of a moderate reformism, such as Lulism. It emerged with mass weight after the legal-parliamentary coup of 2016, as a radicalized expression of the enraged fringes of middle-class mobilizations, since 2015. It is based on a deep social rancor of the petty bourgeoisie.

Responds to the demand for strong leadership in the face of corruption in politics and government; of command in the face of the worsening public security crisis; of resentment at the increased burden of taxes; of the ruin of small businesses in the face of economic regression; impoverishment in the face of inflation in the costs of education, health and private security; of order in the face of strikes and demonstrations; of authority in the face of the stalemate of the political dispute between the institutions; of national pride in the face of economic regression. It also responds to the nostalgia of the two decades of the military dictatorship. If that weren't enough, it feeds on the politicization of racism, sexism and homophobia.

*Valerio Arcary He is a retired full professor at the IFSP (Federal Institute of Education, Science and Technology).

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