After the protests – It’s time to isolate fascism

Some media voices played off the calls for shutting down Congress and the Supreme Court as protests against old fashioned politics but the core of the demonstrations was antidemocratic. Under the excuse of fighting old fashioned politics and “corruption”, their goal was to abolish or starve all democratic institutions and establish a police state.

by Marcelo Zero

The important and unavoidable task for the powers that still have a minimal commitment to democracy is to politically isolate Brazilian neofascism.

The total absence of real democratic commitment from our traditional, politically conservative powers was what enabled the rise of an extremely dangerous scenario that threatens to end  what little remains of our democracy after the 2016 coup and the political imprisonment of Lula.

The May 26th protests – despite only being medium sized at best even in the strongholds of Bolsonarism – were called by the Captain to shut down the democratic institutions, especially the National Congress which has shown independence in the face of the government’s unbelievable, absolute incompetence.

This came with no surprise whatsoever. Bolsonaro has always done everything, during his long political career as a congressman, to fiercely oppose democracy. He has always publically praised the dictatorship and torturers. He has always defended, without hesitation, the physical or political extermination of those who are different.

The press knew this, as did the conservative political parties, the “opinion formers”, Sérgio Moro, his prosecutors and the courts. And more than anyone, the Capitalists knew this, perfectly well. Even the capivaras on Paranoá lake knew this.

Nevertheless, they all decided to support him with the goal of beating the university professor Fernando Haddad and implementing an ultra-neoliberal agenda destroying rights and sovereignty. The only innocents in this sordid tale are the poor capivaras and the progressive political forces which, isolated, bravely opposed this tragedy foretold.

What caused somewhat of a surprise, however, was the tacit support that a good part of the conservative and commercial press gave to the new demonstrations against democracy. In the name of “necessity” of approving the destruction of the Pension system, they broadcast yesterday’s protests live and tried to inflate the fascism on the streets. One more time, they showed that they have no effective commitment to democracy.

They tried to play off the calls for shutting down Congress and the Supreme Court as protests against “old fashioned politics” and tried to justify them by saying that this antidemocratic current only represented a minority of the protesters.

It did not. The core of the demonstrations was antidemocratic. Under the excuse of fighting “old fashioned politics” and “corruption”, their goal was to abolish or starve all democratic institutions and establish a police state.

In this sense, the demonstrations were as democratic as those promoted by the Nazi party in Germany during the 1920s and 1930s. “People on the streets” is not always a sign of democracy. It could mean the contrary. During that time, the Nazi demonstrations were also presented as demonstrations against old fashioned politics and corruption. Nazism and fascism were the “new politics”.

Some are now arguing that the demonstrations, due to there modest size, were a failure, and that Bolsonaro committed a tactical error.

This is possible. Bolsonaro, due to his total mediocrity and incompetence, and for his clear ties to the militias, is losing popularity at blitzkrieg speed.

It would be a mistake, however, to write off his potential for destruction.

We are in an era of extremely grave and chronic crisis. In similar times in the past, political volatility was always immense.

During the 1928 elections, the Nazi party gained less than 3% of the vote. They said Hitler was finished. Bismark even revoked the ban on Hitler’s rallies in Prussia, thinking that danger had passed.

Four years later, however, Hitler made a triumphant comeback, gaining over a third of the votes. A few months later, he took power. All that was needed was a deepening of the economic crisis, which started in 1929, for the enemies of democracy to triumph.

The persistence of the economic and political impasse in Brazil may lead to authoritarian solutions. There is a serious risk that the people’s resentment and frustration will be directed not against the neo-fascist government but against what is left of democracy and its institutions. Under the excuse of putting an end to “old fashioned politics” you can end up destroying politics altogether.

The current military guardianship over civil power, the lack of democratic commitment of a large part of our oligarchies, the eagerness to approve the ultraneoliberal agenda, the persistent crisis and the criminalization of political activity promoted by the Lava Jato investigation constitute a propitious scenario for all kinds of adventures.

The last survey conducted by Latinobarómetro (2018) shows that popular support for democracy in Brazil is currently very tenuous. Only 34% of the people surveyed answered the question, “do you consider that democracy is preferable to any other form of government”affirmatively. In other words nearly two-thirds of Brazilians would support – or at least tolerate – an authoritarian regime if they think that democracy (or “old fashioned politics”) has failed.

Bolsonaro has shown that he is willing to turn the population against democratic institutions. This is now moving from rhetoric to action. As the crisis progresses and the government continues paralyzed, many are tempted to bet on an authoritarian solution.

In this context, there must be a firm reaction from the democratic powers. Time is running out for making a deal in Congress and in civil society and everywhere where there are still powers committed to democracy.

They say that the devil’s most cunning act was to convince the people that he does not exist.

Brazilian neo or proto-fascism exists. It is in power and showing that it is extremely dangerous.

Brazilian democracy still exists, partially. But what is left of it is running the risk of being wiped out of existence.

Translated by Brian Mier


By Marcelo Zero

Marcelo Zero is a sociologist, international relations specialist and technical adviser to the PT Senatorial leadership.