Brazil: tragedy, farce and fascism

Brazil's far-right demons are loose and democracy is under attack, writes author Urariano Mota ahead of Brazil's elections

30 Sep 2022
Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro has given a voice to extremists who have been largely silent since the 21-year military dictatorship. Photo: Isac Nóbrega/PR/CC BY SA 2.0

It seems incredible but Brazil is becoming a hotbed of fascism, something we thought was more of a European phenomenon. Michel Gherman, a member of the Far Right Observatory, a collaboration between academics from more than 10 Brazilian universities and from other countries, says that Bolsonaro’s election has created a “Disneyland of neo-Nazism in Brazil”, because those who defend him “begin to feel more at ease”.  It is true. After the end of the Brazilian dictatorship in the 1980s, the extreme right was ashamed of itself or remained silent. Now its demons are loose, attacking democracy, killing democrats, because it feels protected by the individual in the presidency and the police around him.

To understand some of the reasons for Brazil reaching this state of affairs, it is well worth reading the book Passengers of the Storm: Fascists and Denialists in the Present Time, by professors Francisco Carlos Teixeira da Silva and Karl Schuster Sousa Leão. Published by Cepe, the second largest publishing house in Brazil, we can learn about the history of fascism in Italy, Germany and Japan, which did not remain in the past, because fascisms (that’s right in the plural) work until today on the great masses with irrationality, lies, the implausible and fear, according to the authors. During the research in the book we come to the Brazil of 2022:

“The current president of Brazil, Jair Bolsonaro, corroborates the authorisation of the indiscriminate use of violence by constructing and using social devices as a tool and policy. When he uses social media to state that ‘reporters should really be beaten’, being replicated by his supporters, seconds later, with the statements ‘journalists should be beaten’ and ‘journalists deserve to be beaten, YES’, he instrumentalises politics through a personal, authoritarian, and charismatic abuse of power that aestheticises sociability with the normalisation of the use of force.”

As early as the election campaign of 2018, Bolsonaro declared, “Let’s shoot the petralhada”, petralhada being a reference to left-wing supporters.

And then came the assassinations.

On Sunday, 18 October 2018 in Salvador, capoeira master Moa do Katendê was killed with 12 stab wounds in the back after defending voting for the Workers’ Party (PT) and declaring himself opposed to Bolsonaro.

In 2019, 61-year-old Antônio Carlos Rodrigues Furtado died of cardiac arrest in Balneário Camboriú, Santa Catarina after being kicked and punched by Bolsonarist Fábio Leandro Schwindlein.

In July 2022, Marcelo Aloizio de Arruda, 50, was shot to death at his birthday party by federal criminal police officer Jorge Guaranho. A Bolsonarist, the killer invaded Marcelo’s private party – which had the PT as its theme and images of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva – shouting “here is Bolsonaro”, shooting the host three times.

In early September, according to the Civil Police of Mato Grosso, Benedito dos Santos, a Lula voter, was killed by an attacker wielding an axe.

Before this wave of political crimes committed by Bolsonarists, Brazilian fascism presented both the stimulus and the approval for aggression against democracy. The book Passengers of the Storm says that in 2020 “35 per cent of officers and 41 per cent of military police soldiers throughout Brazil interact on social networks supporting President Jair Bolsonaro”. The authors go on to say, “Their positions in favour of the president, who for at least two years has openly discoursed against several governors, with the Northeast as a focus, make the issue even more politicised and instrumentalised.”

Karl Marx, in writing about the French coup of 1851, noted: “Hegel observes in one of his works that all the facts and characters of great importance in the history of the world occur, as it were, twice. But he forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.”

For Brazilians, we are now in the second phase of the tragic dictatorship that began in 1964. This is presented in two ways: the tragic destruction of lives by Covid, for which the president said he was not a mortician, and by the destruction of the Amazon.

In 2022, there is talk that garimpo (artisanal mining for precious commodities that is common in the Amazon and often illegal) has “lost its shame”. Under Bolsonaro’s barbarism, openly favourable to the interests of this illegal activity in the forest, the defenders of garimpo are circulating in the corridors of power in the Amazon’s capitals and in Brasilia, and intend to fly even higher: to occupy elective positions in the Legislative Assemblies and in the National Congress, in addition to the governors’ palaces.

Bolsonaro’s attacks on Brazil’s education system, the persecution of artists and the press are tragic but are farcical at the same time. Bolsonaro is ridiculed for being imbrochable, a man who never loses sexual potency, yet he revels in it and this shows in his shouting and speaking. We have reached the point where the animals speak. This is tragedy and farce in unity, the lowest and grossest comedy.

Bolsonaro, in one of his latest farces, has turned historian. He said, “I want to say that Brazilians have gone through difficult times, history shows us. 22, 65, 64, 16, 18, and now 22. History can repeat itself. Good has always won over evil”.

What are these dates he is referring to? It cannot be Modern Art Week because he doesn’t even know what that is. But how has good always triumphed over evil? With murder, torture and cold executions in the dictatorship? With wars and holocausts? Or with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki? Or with the recent killings of Bruno and Dom in the Amazon? Or does good overcome evil when the forest is devastated? We understand the new language, an absolute inversion of values: good is evil, and evil must be the hope and struggle of the resistance.

For now, we can hope that this barbaric farce can be overcome. We, united, have the streetcar, the ship, the ship of future democracy, whose name is Lula, hopefully winner of the election’s first round. If it is not Lula, then we will sink in the darkness of Brazilian-style fascism.

Urariano Mota
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One response to “Brazil: tragedy, farce and fascism”

  1. Gintas Vilkelis says:

    It’s important to point out that a far-right party or a politician can’t be “fascist” because fascism in Hitler’s Germany was far-LEFT:

    Hitler’s party’s name “National SOCIALIST German WORKERS’ Party” was NOT a joke. They meant it. Hitler himself had said on multiple occasions that his ideology was a derivative of Marxism, and his major point of pride was that he had “figured out how to make socialism work”.

    If we look at Hitler’s economic policies, they were just a tad to the right of Stalin’s, and the _only_ important difference between Stalinism and Nazism was that Hitler didn’t take that one final step – expropriation of ownership of means of production. Hitler (correctly) thought that this would cause disastrous damage to the economy, and this was one of the main reasons why he hated the USSR and Communists so much: because, according to him, the Soviets _”screwed up the good thing and gave Socialism bad name by doing something incredibly stupid”._

    So while Stalin just killed off or chased away all the factory owners and put economically-incompetent Commissars in charge of every single detail of production, Hitler told the German factory owners: “We will let you keep your businesses, but you will do exactly what we tell you to do” – which means it was _still_ a centrally-controlled command economy (just like the USSR), except that the more granular details of running the operations were left in the hands of people who were _more competent_ at this than Communist Commissars.

    And for those factory owners, who refused to comply, things didn’t end well. For example, when Goering’s Air Ministry moved to take more direct control of all Germany’s airplane production and Hugo Junkers refused to comply, he “mysteriously” died soon afterwards, and a much more “cooperative” person was installed as his replacement.

    What eventually turned Hitler into such an evil historical figure, was the fact that he was _also_ a brutal imperialist: started WW2 and committed large-scale crimes against humanity. Had he stayed peaceful, he would have gone down in history as one of the revered figures of the Political Left.

    The reason why so many people NOW believe that Nazis were “far-right” is because, after the war, the international Left had to distance themselves from the bad PR of the Nazis, so what’s better than to recast them as something *opposite* of themselves: the “far-RIGHT”? Hence, recasting Nazis as “far-right” became one of the priority agenda items for the post-war Left’s “long march through the institutions” (a.k.a. Cultural Marxism), and they were obviously successful, in part for reasons that the Right didn’t see this as something important enough to push back against.

    It must also be said that, in many ways, the Nazi arrangement _did_ share quite a few similarities with “crony capitalism” – which is another reason why a lot of people can get fooled into believing that Nazism was “right-wing”. But what would be _more accurate_ to say instead, is: “crony capitalism” is what happens when capitalism drifts too far to the _Left._

    And since this post-WW2 “redefinition” of National Socialism, the *”Nazis were far-right” meme* has been an _incredibly valuable_ *”political weapon” for the Left,* because it gives them the power to silence everybody, who’s disagreeing with them, by equating them with the Nazis by using the formula:
    “We are the Left. If you disagree with us, then you are far-right. Nazis were far-right, therefore you are a Nazi, and everybody knows that Nazis were horrible criminals, which means that you are a criminal too, for which you should be prosecuted, unless you shut up immediately and stop resisting our agenda.”

    He who controls the language, controls the narrative – which is why the Political Left has always put so much effort into controlling the language (including the definitions of certain strategically-important terms).

    Another reason why the “Nazis were far-right” meme is of such strategic importance to the Political Left is because for as long as a lot of people continue believing that “Nazis were far-RIGHT, therefore Political Right are like Nazis”, then their political affiliation decisions will be strongly influenced by the _very_ highly-persuasive message “everybody, who considers themselves to be decent and moral people, must reject Nazism by always opposing the Political Right and supporting the Political Left”.