a reheated dish

Wols (Alfred Otto Wolfgang Schulze), untitled (violence), 1988.


The permanence of the military dictatorship

If a written text bears marks of its historical time, it also inscribes and positions itself in a temporal relation, in a temporal form. In 1964, the year that didn't end,[I] Paulo Arantes writes, at the end of the first decade of the XNUMXst century, about a today that not only bears the scars of the past, but that has barely left the cellars where violence occurred before and occurs now. Already in Who will carry out the coup in Brazil?,[ii] Wanderley Guilherme dos Santos (WGS) has another relationship with his today: in 1962, today was a time of coup in march, which looked at the storm of the future through the cracks in the cloudy and dark sky of the present. These two positions in relation to the writing of a story point to a convergence that gives the starting point, but leaves open the point of arrival of this reflection: how does the continuity, or rather, the permanence that inhabits the time described by Arantes, And what is the relationship between this today and the current WGS coup today?

Arantes begins his text with the internal dialogue of the book[iii] in which it appears, but which is by no means an internal dialogue of a handful of theorists, but one of the nodal points of Brazilian political history: “All in all, what remains after all of the dictatorship? In the frankly cross answer of the psychoanalyst Tales Ab'Sáber, simply everything. Anything but dictatorship, of course. Too rhetorical? A crass error of historical vision? It could even be all this and much more. But not so much.”[iv]

The permanence is a symptom of a fundamental trauma, as it shows not only the contamination of the past in the present, but the way in which the policy of erasing or distorting the memories of the dictatorship builds legitimacy for the intensification of violent practices in the current regime, many of them remnants of the military dictatorship. The dictatorship produced a break in the country's history, a historical fracture, causing a radical change in the form of exception in Brazilian politics. It equipped itself with the appearance of legality to build a permanent threshold of protection and threat, putting bodies on the seesaw of hyperexposure and disappearance. If to govern is to order arrest, the transformation of the logic of the exception must be understood according to the devices of power that it started to mobilize.[v]

Arantes asks Virilio to talk about a disappearing power, that is, the way in which State terrorism has subjected bodies to torture and forced disappearance, a technology of power that produces an absolute non-place, a key part of the new logic of exception, present in the death flights and torture chambers, but also in prisons and asylums.[vi] In Virilio: “…the confession of the political-military interrogations, extorted from the suspect thanks to the torture of electroshock, also has the importance of a social experience, or, better, a technossocial one, of a new effort in favor of transparency. Technical and medical prostheses tend more and more to form new blends destined for pacification…”.[vii]

The effort for transparency and pacification is related to a point of connection between punitive technologies and the construction of memory in the country: “the shock treatment of the dictatorship erased even the memory that one day there was real nonconformity in the country”.[viii] The capacity for political organization of the dangerous classes was the target of the terror tool of the exceptional coup regime; a counterrevolution that presented itself as a preventive measure by a civil-military bloc, based on an ideological dilemma of military dictatorship or popular revolution, and thus declaring war on the nation's Enemy. The Enemy is a non-person, he is refractory to law;[ix] it is any Enemy, “multiform, manipulative and omnipresent (…), of an economic, subversive, political, moral, etc.”; “unsignable material saboteur or human deserter in the most diverse forms”.[X] The military dictatorship armed itself with a technology for declaring war on the Enemy, producing the need and official justification for full powers; a Doctrine of National Security which, leaving serpent eggs for posterity, founded a permanent state of economic emergency.[xi]

The decrees of the exceptional regime and its rigid but unstable regulation are characterized by Napolitano as “fundamental for the affirmation of the tutelary character of the State”.[xii] Such normative chaos of the Acts was not exclusive to the dictatorship, after all, the amendments to the “Citizen Constitution” piled up by the dozens, unmistakable odors of leftovers. In the current oligarchic rule of law, the law remains erratic in order to guarantee the legal security of the financial valuation platform for capitalist accumulation and to consolidate the entrepreneurial logic in the public sector, in a characteristic relationship of complementary hostility between the State and the market. , which ultimately produces a savior State.[xiii]

The Amnesty Law, which ensured impunity for the executioners of the military regime, would not, therefore, be just an appendix to the Constituent process of 'redemocratization'. However, it would be a symptom of a Constitution presented as a citizen, but which maintains Art. 142, which gives to the same Armed Forces that sustained a coup for 21 years the sovereign power to guarantee law and order. Making the coup d'état constitutional, as long as it is led by the Armed Forces, the Age of Impunity would not only work with an isolated Amnesty Law, but requires that the citizen's Constitution itself contain its suspension clauses and constitutional tools to declare regimes of exception.[xiv]

“From the Central Bank to the Tax Code, passing through the 1967 administrative reform, the 1988 Constitution incorporated the entire state apparatus structured under the dictatorship. (...) the discourse of the dictatorship was that of economic orthodoxy, which the same delinquent State, whose agents carried out a policy of selective killing, declared itself, in the granted constitutions, merely subsidiary of the private initiative”.[xv]

Both the coup regime and the post-dictatorship government are based on the paradigms of salvation and national security, basic primers of the logic of exception. If it is through “devices of exception that democratic constitutions are transformed into their opposite”,[xvi] post-1988 Brazil guaranteed exception devices firmly supported by the militarization of public security. WGS identifies something similar and attributes it to “strong government” dictatorships: “…the constituted government would act above the parties, solving problems in a “technical” way, and the military, serving such a government, giving it strength and authority, they would simply be complying with the measures, or guaranteeing their compliance, which would aim, in the language of the coup, to defend national security and salvation.”[xvii]

The ideological paradigm of the post-64 Brazilian State (including everything that remained after 88) sustains the dual position of guaranteeing a liberal-constitutional statute for the propertied classes and a punitive and controlling mechanism for the subaltern classes; mobilizing its apparatus of repression under the guise of the general interest of the people.[xviii] Destroying the memory of resistance and repressing the revolutionary political organization, what remains are lonely crowds, captured by the technical process of the spectacle and surrendered by the violent state interpellation that governs them by fear of violence.[xx]

The technical resolutions to which WGS refers, often protagonists of neoliberal economic discourses, articulate the computerization of the social for a government of bodies, essentially repressive. As in Negri and Guattari on the counterrevolutionary reaction: “The zones of strategic importance, the circuits of reproduction that support life and struggle are increasingly controlled, scrutinized and, if necessary, preemptively repressed, so that time of life is closely crushed under the military time of capital.[xx]

Under the arms of the Military Police, in the torture chamber or in the non-disappearance place, state terrorism abuses death as a biopolitical tool.[xxx] In the dead time of a dictatorship that never seems to pass, the subaltern classes, already economically violated and placed in the position of partial and disfigured appendages of the machines, a mere vital function, are subject to the most brutal privations in favor of human security, which are, in ultimately, “imperatives for the security or salvation of the ruling class”.[xxiii]

If the today of WGS was that of a coup in progress that foresaw a dictatorship similar to both the one that was established in the coup of 64 and the post-dictatorship government, the today of Arantes is expressed by the remnants, by the leftovers of the dictatorship:

“The rest, which is simply everything, is punitive and compensatory social management by a market society condemned by systemic underemployment to issue alarming signals of possible convulsion, enough to trigger emergency economic powers, closing the vicious circle of control .”[xxiii]

The maintenance of unemployment guided by monetary policy, referring to Marx's analysis of the industrial reserve army and its role in pressuring active workers (to accept worse conditions under the threat of dismissal and the poorest who could easily take their job , making it disposable) is one more of the devices of violence that has been intensified in this too military and too oligarchic post-dictatorship government, where the law goes hand in hand with its suspension clauses, with its tools of exception. Here, then, is the imperative of the Brazilian State: in the economic emergency, issue decrees on inflation and interest rates, forgive bank debts, cut aid; in the security emergency, arrest the terrorists, tap the phones, shoot the criminals. While the coup put Brazil in a cycle from which it was unable to escape, the tendency, currently personified by such a low-ranking subject, is towards a dish that is increasingly reheated with the leftovers of the military dictatorship.[xxv]

*Bernardo do Rego Monteiro Moreira He is a graduate student in Social Sciences at the Fluminense Federal University..


ARANTES, P. “1964, the year that never ended”. In: SAFATLE, V.; TELES, E. What's left of the dictatorship. Sao Paulo: Boitempo, 2010.

DEBORD, G. The Society of the Spectacle. Rio de Janeiro: Counterpoint, 1997.

DELEUZE, G.; GUATTARI, F. thousand plateaus — Vol. 5. São Paulo: Ed. 34, 2012.

JAPPE, A. et al. Capitalism in Quarantine: Notes on the Global Crisis. São Paulo: Elephant, 2020.

MARX, K. Capital: critique of political economy (Book I). São Paulo: Boitempo, 2017.

NAPOLITANO, M. 1964: History of the Brazilian military regime. Sao Paulo: Ed. Context, 2014.

NEGRI, A; GUATTARI, F. The Nomadic Truths: For new spaces of freedom. São Paulo: Literary Autonomy and Politeia Publisher, 2017.

POULANTZAS, N. Political power and social classes. Campinas: Editora da Unicamp, 2019.

SAFATLE, V.; TELES, E. What's left of the dictatorship. Sao Paulo: Boitempo, 2010.

SANTOS, WG. Who will carry out the coup in Brazil? Rio de Janeiro: Brazilian Civilization, 1962.

SOARES, A.; COLLADO, F. The Virus as Philosophy, Philosophy as a Virus: Emergency Reflections on Covid-19. São Paulo: Glac Editions, 2020.

VIRILIO, P. Aesthetics of Disappearance. Rio de Janeiro: Counterpoint, 2015.


[I] (Arantes, 2010).

[ii] (Santos, 1962).

[iii] (Safatle, Telles, 2010).

[iv] (Arantes, 2010:205).

[v] (Safatle, Telles, 2010; Arantes, 2010).

[vi] (Arantes, 2010).

[vii] (Virilio, 2015:55).

[viii] (Arantes, 2010:216).

[ix] (Arantes, 2010; Santos, 1962).

[X] (Deleuze, Guattari, 2012:166; Brossollet, 1975 apoud Deleuze, Guattari, 2012:116).

[xi] (Arantes, 2010).

[xii] (Napolitano, 2014:75).

[xiii] (Arantes, 2010; Jappe et al.

[xiv] (Arantes, 2010; Safatle, Telles, 2010).

[xv] (Arantes, 2010:221).

[xvi] (ibid, 2010: 226).

[xvii] (Santos, 1962:39).

[xviii] (Arantes, 2010; Poulantzas, 2019).

[xx] (Debord, 1997).

[xx] (Negri, Guattari, 2017).

[xxx] (Soares, Collado, 2020).

[xxiii] (Marx, 2017; Arantes, 2010; Santos, 1962).

[xxiii] (Arantes, 2010:236).

[xxv] (Marx, 2017; Arantes, 2010).

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