Using force against force

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By VLADIMIR SAFATLE*

The attempted coup d'état produced symbolic victories that will feed the insurrectionary imaginary of Brazilian fascism

The most unique thing about the invasion of the Esplanada dos Ministérios last Sunday (8/01/2023) is that we knew it would happen. There were many who spent the entire previous year insisting that something like this was waiting for us, even more so after an election in which the government of Jair Bolsonaro managed to be endorsed by almost half of the voters present in the second round.

But we simply weren't prepared for what happened. As if the fact that we believed in our desires was enough to change reality. So, now, it would be a case of starting with some findings such as: Jair Bolsonaro was not an outlier, Brazil will not “return to normal”, national fascism is not isolated. This is called the reality principle.

What we saw last Sunday was a carefully staged act, with explicit support from the military police, the Armed Forces and extreme right-wing governors. A national act that achieved enormous symbolic achievements, such as invading the core of power and imposing itself as a popular force. This act was linked to the blockade of refineries and roads. That is, something that needs months to be organized and funded. Something that has a very precise technical name: attempted coup d'état.

The fact that it was an “attempt” does not mean that it was a “mere” attempt. The initial function of the action was to destabilize the government, show its fragility, drive new actions, produce symbolic victories that will feed the insurrectionary imaginary of Brazilian fascism. In plain English: this was just the first chapter. Others will come. In that sense, everything was extremely successful.

I don't say this out of masochism, but because there is a disconnection with reality coming from inoperative and bad analyzes that have accumulated over the last few years. We are in the midst of a multi-stage fascist insurrection. If we remember, for example, September 7, 2021, we will find the same mobilized mass, truck drivers blocking roads and finally a retreat.

What was the analysis at the time? Jair Bolsonaro didn't get what he wanted, his supporters were arrested, he's demoralized, he's done. Well, after that, he almost won the presidential election and now his supporters have done something that makes the US invasion of the Capitol look like a high school rehearsal. That is, the process did not stop, it was consolidated and will now unfold on several fronts.

So, perhaps it was time to ask: why do we desperately settle for those analyzes that always prove to be ineffective, which are denied the following month? Perhaps because we are afraid to clearly state the actions we need to get out of the situation we find ourselves in.

Now, the country has woken up to the fact that the beginning of this catastrophe must be sought in the amnesty that sealed the beginning of the New Republic. Far from being a national agreement, it was extortion produced by the military. It will always be the case that crimes against humanity, such as torture and state terrorism, are not amnesty. The amnesty did not apply to members of the armed struggle who committed so-called “crimes of blood”. They were imprisoned even after 1979. The amnesty was only valid for the military. When the country now repeats “Amnesty, never again”, “No amnesty”, it is to restart Brazil without the same mistakes of the past.

And this demand for justice is not just aimed at Mr. Jair Bolsonaro. Rather, it targets the entire civil-military system that made up the true axis of government. And targeting the system means destroying it. Not just putting individuals in jail, but decomposing the power structures that subject Brazilian democracy to continuous blackmail, which subjected the Brazilian people to criminal management during the pandemic.

In that sense, something like what happened on Sunday will not be resolved with arrests, although they are necessary. It requires two core actions. The first is the dissolution of the military police. The Brazilian military police is not a State police, it is an armed faction. As if the fact that it serves mainly to carry out administrative massacres, periodic massacres aimed at submitting sectors of the Brazilian population to the sovereign subjection of those who decide for life and death, it is now presenting itself as a political party.

On Sunday, it became clear how it acts, namely, protecting, aiding and encouraging coups d'état. Since the actions of the Federal Highway Police on the day of the second round elections, it was clear that the PM and the PRF would be in continuous insubordination. Removing one or two policemen will not change anything. The guarantee of Brazilian democracy involves the dissolution of the military police, the breakdown of its hierarchy and the creation of another police force, no longer military.

The second action consists of removing the Armed Forces high command and placing them in reserve. What we saw on Sunday was simply unimaginable in any democracy: the Armed Forces, using tanks, prevented the National Security Force from entering the area in front of the General Headquarters, in Brasília, to dislodge fascists. This already configures a military force in insubordination against the President of the Republic.

The Armed Forces have spent the last four years blackmailing the Republic, calling into question the security of the elections. They took the Brazilian State by storm, placing more than 7.000 of its members in first and second level posts, to manage the State according to their degree of incompetence and insensitivity. When elected after a campaign in which his life was threatened several times, Colombia's President Gustavo Petro removed nearly 70 generals and colonels from the army and police. It was a necessary action for a country that no longer wants to subject itself to the exceptional status that the military forces claim.

Some may find such propositions unrealistic. I would say that unrealistic is the reality we find ourselves in now. It is not possible to have a government that coexists daily with forces that seek to demolish it. That is what will happen if we do not act decisively in the first days of the Lula government. Everything is very clear from now on. May we not be satisfied once again with illusions.

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

Originally published on Cult Magazine.

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