Per Vladimir Safatle

Brazil’s institutional fragility is not something that can be doubted at this point. Like a train heading for shock and that nothing seems to be able to stop, the country discovers every day situations that only explain how its electoral process and its possible transfer of power will not be something “normal”, regardless of what that term may actually mean. During the Bolsonaro years, there were many occasions on which we saw attempts to destabilize and create conditions for something close to a coup.

The last one took place on September 7 of last year. After that, Bolsonaro released a letter to the nation signing it with the integralist motto. Some of his most enthusiastic supporters have received arrest warrants. Many analysts said that this was the expression that he had been forced to retreat, demonstrating his weakness. Whoever said at the time that the coup had already begun seemed to have been wrong.

However, in recent days the country has returned to the same point, now thanks to the Armed Forces explicitly acting as a destabilizing agent, questioning electoral procedures with the Superior Electoral Court (TSE). As if the Armed Forces were given some strange form of legitimacy to position itself as an institution that can demand an explanation from other institutions of the Republic, “suggest” changes in procedures, even when dealing with a matter that has nothing to do with the military. In other words, the Armed Forces clearly assumed what they are today, that is, the government. Concretely, this is a military government, as it could not fail to be a government that has 7,000 soldiers in first and second-tier posts.

As a government, the military has shown how completely in line with Mr. Bolsonaro. About a year ago, he had changed the command of the Armed Forces and there were analysts who understood, once again, that it was an expression of the government’s weakness and despair in its attempt to subject the barracks to its interests. A year later, it’s clear that there was no weakness, that the alignment process went smoothly. In other words, Brazil is preparing for an institutional crisis.

A classic coup is just one of the possible scenarios, always within reach, if your actors understand that the conditions are right for it. But, between a coup and respect for the election result, there are multiple possible scenarios. Brazil knows very well how to make institutional patches when its elites deem it necessary, given the invention ready-to-wear of parliamentarism in the 1960s.

The truth is that many of us insisted that there was nothing to do but fight and demand the impeachment Bolsonaro as soon as possible, before the electoral process, because there was no shortage of justifications, his desires for institutional rupture never needed to be hidden. However, in the name of institutional respect and the refusal to make the country to put another “trauma”, we are now facing a trauma that comes to us in slow motion.

I would insist that this behavior by government political actors is based, among others, on the understanding that there will be popular support for everything Bolsonaro tries. After a criminal management of the pandemic, with its more than 700 thousand deaths, after an economic management of impoverishment and after being the first government in decades to surrender the nation to the decrease in the purchasing power of the minimum wage, the current occupant of the presidency holds something around 30% of voting intentions.

If we take into account that we have not even started the electoral campaign and that, during the campaign, government occupants who seek reelections have a natural tendency to rise, since they have the support of the governmental machine, we can see an impressive resilience that deserves to be studied further. in depth and more analytically.

“More analytics” isn’t there for free. It would be worth pointing out that it is useless to say that the fight against Bolsonaro is a fight “of civilization against barbarism”, “of science against obscurantism”, “of joy against hate” and things of that nature. The affirmation of our alleged moral and intellectual superiority has never served any purpose, only to compensate for our difficulty in understanding how the extreme right and proto-fascist governments are consolidated.

Fascists saw themselves as the real representatives of the great Western culture allegedly degraded due to its instrumentalization by “cultural Bolshevism”. Nazi Germany textbooks had quotes from Plato to justify racism, opinions in favor of euthanasia came with quotes from Seneca. This serves, among other things, to remind us that our civilization is no guarantee against barbarism. She carries it in her heart as one of her potentialities. We will be better able to deal with social and political regressions if we understand how much shadow there is in our lights.

In the same way, it would be the case to say that “hate” is a theological-moral category. It is the surrogate figure for “evil”, “irrational”, “diabolic”. And it is not clear what the role of theological-moral categories of this nature can be within a political struggle. Bolsonaristas also describe us as beings driven by hatred.

So it would be more useful at this point to ask ourselves how the far right grows out of our own contradictions and silences, how it captures real desires for change and rupture. Bolsonaro mobilized his voters throughout the pandemic using the discourse of freedom as the property that each individual would have over their own body. He spoke at all times of the ability to take risks and not expect some “paternalistic” form of security in relation to the state. Well, how many times have speeches of this nature been used by those who claim to be progressive? Do we still believe in them?

In fact, the political discourse of the opposition to the government has a pendulum movement that oscillates between the calls to “dialogue” with sectors of the population loyal to Bolsonaro and the description that our fight is against “barbarism”. This polarity cannot work. It would be better to remember that political mobilizations that are organized in an eminently negative way, based on the refusal of a candidate (“now, we are all against Bolsonaro”), are short-lived. Breaking the popular force of Bolsonarism requires more, it requires preventing the political imagination from going through atrophy.

In various parts of the world, we see the exercise of building new horizons of struggle through the production of political innovations and institutional creations. Chile discusses the implementation of the Parity State and the Plurinational State, Berlin fights to pass a law that sets and reduces the price of rents, France discusses the creation of a maximum wage and a limitation of the wage gap within companies (as way to force lower wages up), the United States, through Bernie Sanders, discussed the implementation of a mandatory quota of workers on the board of directors of all companies.

It is us? What are we creating unity out of? From fear to Bolsonaro? How effectively can this work and for how long? Fighting the coup involves making politics operate at its strongest point, namely, its ability to make us create futures, expanding the horizon of the possible.

Vladimir Safatle is a founding member of Arns Commissionphilosopher, writer, musician and professor at the University of São Paulo (USP).

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