A front against fascism

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By Eugenio Bucci*

On the first of May, the first rehearsal: a front on the way

Finally, it starts to sink in. With their sloth-like rhythm, the opposition begins to wake up to the imperative to wake up. Saying the same for other synonyms: the oppositions show signs of awakening to the need to understand each other, to weave agreements among themselves, however small they may be. Beyond their differences – serious, profound, numerous and legitimate –, the opposition to Bolsonaro’s misgovernment is realizing that they have in common a good that they must protect. The name of this common good is democracy.

The word “democracy” is worn out and lends itself to almost all kinds of opportunism, but the issue here is presented quite directly, without any frills. It will not take much Latin to describe the fact that challenges us: what defines, first of all, the nature of the government that is there is that it is situated and insists on situating itself – and insists on declaring that it is situated – outside the democratic realm. Even more, it makes a point of opening itself wide as an opposing force to the democratic field. In all its own statements – all, without exception – this is a government that takes democracy (whether as a social form or as a coexistence regime) as its enemy and acts to destroy it. Now, if things are like that, and they are, the opposition, even if it is out of survival instinct, need to unite against this (mis)government.

This is where a front becomes thinkable and indispensable. Not an electoral or party front, but a front that includes parties, but not just parties, and that establishes as its program the daily fight against the outbursts of arbitration coming from the Planalto Palace and the intransigent defense of democratic institutions. This in daily action.

This front must go beyond class boundaries, although it does not exclude the strengthening of the identity and independence of the working class (as we conventionally call it) and its own policies. The defense of the democratic order, at this moment, is organized above all by the systematic repudiation of a government that insists on defining itself not only as an antagonistic force to the democratic field. If Bolsonarism presents itself to History as a factor destined to break democracy and its institutions, it is natural that members of the democratic field defend and close themselves against it. For these and other reasons, finally, the penny began to fall.

But there is a problem there. What does it mean to defend democracy in Brazil? What democracy is this, pale face? At this point in the equation, you could even say that democracy in Brazil is a farce and that, being a farce, there is no point in defending it. Not a few of my friends say that, and they are not wrong. You can even insist: defending the survival of an entity that has no life is a kind of delirium that will lead us nowhere. If you go that way, you'll have your reason, you'll have a good argument. It is true that the armor of Brazilian democracy perpetuates traits that slavery bequeathed us. In our current democracy, the right to life is nothing more than a rhetorical figure for the poor segments of the periphery.

All this is true, but at the time this good argument does not help much. It not only takes us out of place, but has the potential to open a shortcut to a worse setback. Think about it: taken to its logical consequences, this argument would demand to destroy the democracy of appearances that confines us. The idea is not at all unreasonable, but if we continue there, we will soon come to a contradiction. If the task is to discredit, demoralize, unmask and make democracy collapse, the argument would lead us to embark on the mirage that Bolsonaristas, by flogging the withered democratic project that we have left, are doing what needs to be done. Is that right?

The present situation shows us that no: definitely not that way. It is true that our democracy is bad, it is flawed, in addition to enshrining the impunity of those at the top and the social exclusion of those at the bottom. It is not true, however, that bombing it is the way to go. To fix it – and this, by now, most of us know – we need not less, but more democratic freedoms. And there you have it. Those who attack democracy today – Bolsonaristas – are viscerally opposed to freedoms. They require violence and discretion to resolve what in democracy presents itself as an impasse. That is why, by planting their bunkers in the externalities of the democratic field, they bomb civilization – they bomb us all, adopting the posture of enemies of us all.

Hence, even those who diagnose the “moribundity” of the country's democracy do not hesitate to proclaim: better democracy, with its hypocrisies and criminal oppressions, than the militias in power. Everyone, or almost everyone, realized that giving up the very precarious democracy we have is paving the ramp of the Planalto Palace for the militia troop – or millicientos.

Those tropes are almost there. The forces of darkness advance, assume positions in the public machine, and there they revel more and more without the slightest ceremony. They still don't slap, but they already slap other people's faces in an open scene, without hiding. Some militia members, dressed as players of the Brazilian national football team, beat journalists this Sunday, May 3, 2020, in Brasília, in front of the Planalto Palace and in front of the brutalized and accomplice eyes of the President of the Republic. That was a ritual of obscurantism. The president himself, with that laugh that looks like a “cynophilitic” growl, authorized violence against reporters and made gestures in which his hands simulated trembling firearms.

This is the time when the front is needed. Either we defend democracy, or we strengthen our weakened and flawed democratic institutions, or the brucutus trample us. And, if we really want to stop the forces of darkness, we will have to mobilize a joint action of the oppositions. Other forms of resistance certainly exist, but a front that unites the opposition in defense of the democratic field cannot be missing.

For all these reasons, the news we received on May XNUMXst was good. On the afternoon of that Friday, a national holiday, we had a public event via the internet, with singers and speakers. Among these speakers were the main opposition leaders. Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Ciro Gomes, accompanied by Marina Silva, took the floor and praised political unity to oppose a President of the Republic who speaks in the name of death. It was a step.

Until the other day, FHC discarded the idea of impeachment claiming that we should have “historical patience”. Then he lost his temper and publicly demanded Bolsonaro's resignation. It's about time. In a context where there are many Bolsonaro supporters who trust FHC's voice, this request for resignation will make a huge difference and advances towards the composition of a front.

Other than that, you can execrate one or the other of the four who, now together, claim that the president is unable to govern Brazil. You can have the most varied and justified criticisms of FHC, Marina, Lula or Ciro. You will have legitimacy if you say that one is a neoliberal and the other is an irate colonel disguised as a social democrat, but you cannot say that democratic freedoms and social rights will escape unscathed if these four fold their arms and refuse to work for a front.

If these four, who are the main references of the oppositions, do not act in an articulated way to stop the fascism that is already trotting over the floor of the Central Plateau, things will certainly get worse. If they do not show that they have a minimum agreement on democratic guarantees, those institutions – and the authorities that are in charge of them – will not have the support to enforce the Constitution.

The front we need now will not take the same form as Juscelino Kubitscheck, Jango Goulart and Carlos Lacerda improvised theirs, in 1966 – and which went wrong. Nor will it be like the one that made possible the memorable Diretas Já campaign in 1984 – which was also not victorious in the short term. The front for the defense of democracy, today, will have the conformation of a bloc for the defense of rights and freedoms, and its effects will be felt in different areas, far beyond the summits of the political parties. This will be a front with a social profile, more than a partisan one. The agreement it will set in motion will be the agreement that no one can give up democracy – and that only with more democracy can democracy be improved. No concessions on that point.

I look at this prospect with a twinge of hope. No more than a dot. I think that this experience may help currents on the left to better understand an agenda with which they still have difficulties: the agenda of a broad and inclusive democracy, which, if it does not obey the designs of each of the many ideologues out there, at least ensures them a place in the sun (or, come on, in the shade too).

Furthermore, for the moment, it is not necessary for us to qualify in detail the theoretical definitions of our precarious democracy. For us, suffice it to say that we are opposed to those who want to exterminate it. This qualification – that of being against those who are against democracy – will be enough to support the action. All we need now is a front that doesn't turn its back on us, a front along the lines that historian Heloísa Starling has been preaching. It's not asking too much. And if we have the courage and open-mindedness to ask for it, we will be in a position to make it happen. A front against fascism. The rest we see on the way, out loud.

* Eugene Bucci is a Full Professor at ECA-USP. Author, among other books, of Is there democracy without factual truth? (Editora Estação das Letras e Cores, 2019).

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