The Central Única dos Trabalhadores (Unified Workers Central/CUT) is the largest labor union federation in the Western Hemisphere. It is renowned worldwide as a historic example of social movement unionism, which goes beyond fighting for higher wages for its members, and works to improve conditions for the working class as a whole. In this article, CUT journalist Luciana Waclawovsky sees the recent violent attacks against leftist politicians and activists as a warning sign of the return to dictatorship. This article was translated by Brasil Wire and can be seen in its original portuguese here.
The recent episodes of violence against popular democratic manifestations represent a transition towards dictatorship
by Luciana Waclawovsky
On the second to last day of Lula’s whistle stop tour of southern Brazil, two buses in his caravan were attacked with gunfire. One bus, one of the final ones in the convoy, was full of journalists. Lula was in the convoy’s first bus.
Violence against the convoy started in Rio Grande do Sul where a rally was met with stones, eggs and clubs, and blocked from proceeding in some towns. The situation was so extreme that in one town in Rio Grande do Sul, a supporter of Lula was horsewhipped while he was trying to walk towards the event to hear Lula speak.
The violent and barbaric images that circulated widely in the social media networks shocked the nation and sent a warning sign about the advanced level of hate speech that is underway.
For the historian and professor at Joaquim Venancio Polytechnic school, André Dantas, we are experiencing a rise of fascism. He notes that the number of groups that are using fascist language and political personalities that publicly adopt this narrative are growing in Brazil.
“In the classic fascist experiences, the general acceptance of hate speech proceeded the configuration of a fascist State. Today, we don’t have this type of government in power, although public figures who adapt a fascist posture are present in the legislative and executive branches”, he said.
During Lula’s tour, which started on March 19, the omission of authorities in relation to the convoy, which included two ex-presidents of the Republic, was blatant. During a press conference on the night of March 27 after the buses had been shot at, Gleisi Hoffmann, national president of the Workers Party (PT)and senator from Parana state, demanded action from local and national security authorities. All of them had been informed of the convoy’s route.
“The violence against the convoy had been increasing and the authorities were informed about what was happening. Before the journey we sent a request to Brazilian Public Security Minister Raul Jungman explaining the route and asking for security support. We also sent the information to the Parana State Government and spoke with its Military Police Chief. The fact is that they did not provide any protection. The level of violence and hatred reached a point in which we need a public statement from the authorities to know what they think about everything that is happening. Will politics now become a wild west show in which people shoot at each other?”
In the opinion of political science professor from Paraiba Federal University (UFPA) Rodrigo Freire, what happened was the result of the deterioration of Brazilian democracy, supported by the commercial media, the judiciary and the legislative branch to remove a legitimately elected Brazilian president. He affirms that the groups which attacked the convoy in the Southern region of the country are formed by privileged members of the upper middle class, ranchers and plantation owners who are fed by this daily hatred in the corporate means of communication.
“A Pandora’s box is opening”, he said. “For Brazilian democracy, the Pandora’s box was the coup. Now the putschists can no longer control the hatred and it is transforming into fascism”.
Historian André Dantas recalls that moments of deep economic and political crisis are fertile ground for the expression of class hatred, which intensifies, most deeply among young members of the middle class. In this sense, he says that separatist movements like “the South is my nation” and national fronts calling for the return to military dictatorship are attracting followers and are becoming socially accepted in a manner that didn’t previously exist.
“There is no doubt that the intimidation of a character such as the ex-president is clearly fueled by class hatred because Lula effectively represents a discourse that the right wants to politically destroy through illegal means, ripping up the constitution in an attempt to block his candidacy. It is a strategy. Extreme right groups of fascists are using other tools, but the objective of class hatred is the same. They are distinct tactics used within the bourgeoisie.”
Rodrigo Freire says that the scale of violence is serious and relies on the collaboration of politicians from various spheres of government. “There are several videos circulating in the social media of the convoy passing with people throwing eggs and rocks in front of police who do nothing. A Senator from Rio Grande do Sul state made a hate speech inciting violence against the rallies. We are not only talking about a political manifestation which is important to guarantee democracy,” he said, “but one with participation from two Ex-Presidents of the Republic. The state is obligated to provide security, and this is not what we are seeing.”
Freire says that the execution of city councilwoman Marielle Franco (PSOL-RJ), who fought for human rights and had a strong level of discourse in favor of women, Afro-Brazilians and favela residents was killed without having suffered any threats. “The signs are bad and the assassination of Marielle was a message to people who defend the objectives of the left. It shows that we are all, some more than others, exposed and insecure.”
He said that the period of democracy which began with the 1988 Constitution was, in general, successful, as there was an expansion of rights and citizenship which we had never seen before in Brazil. “It was a virtuous period which suffered a break in 2016 and since then we have been living in a period of de-democratization. We hope that the 2018 elections occur normally and that Lula will be able to run for office like all the other candidates and that, starting in 2019 this current state of exception will come to an end through the popular vote. But at the moment we are living in a transition towards dictatorship.”