In Brazil too we see what has become now neoliberalism's common practice: recruit the far-right to do the dirty job
Boaventura de Sousa Santos, professor of sociology at Coimbra University in Portugal, and a distinguished legal scholar at the University of Wisconsin Madison, spoke with Greg Wilpert of the Real News, about the shocking rise of neofascism in Brazil through presidential candidate, Jair Bolsonaro.
It’s very well documented that the United States is - through several organizations - really advising, financing Bolsonaro’s campaign. Bannon has said that he had talks with the Bolsonaro’s son and they have particularly advised him in terms of digital strategies. That’s what they are doing. But we know that the Koch brothers have also been helping fund him.
We are in a society in which the class inequalities go together with the racial prejudice. In this society, which in fact for a long time it was very conservative and run by the oligarchies, in the last 15 years, there was a revolution in terms of the social policies - particularly the identity policies. Affirmative action, for instance, took place under Lula for the first time in Brazil. Up until then, everybody said that Brazil was not racist, it was a racial democracy. Well in fact, we knew that it was racist. And therefore, the affirmative action started at that time. The laws promoting, for instance, gender equality.
So there were lots of advances that in fact ran against the interest of the conservative society. But at the time, because there was a possibility of the rich going on being richer, as it happened during the Lula terms, all the profits of the banks were growing all the time, so there was really no problem until 2009-2010.
Then, the profitability of capital went down because of the crisis, because the acceleration of China and all these models started to become unsustainable. At that point, in fact, the social resentment came up. These ideas, extreme conservative ideas, are a distraction in a sense. They are very serious, but they are the topic that neoliberals want Bolsonaro to concentrate on.
They don’t want him to tell anything about the economic policies, because in power, the guy that will be in charge is Paulo Guedes. And Paulo Guedes was in Chile under Pinochet, so we know, they want to privatize everything. The want to privatize the national health system. They want to privatize education. They want to privatize the two big national banks.
So, they have a very wild neoliberal program. If you read Bolsonaro’s program, it’s a neoliberal program, but a radical one. But he never mentions that, because neoliberal policies don’t gain votes, because what he wants is more concentration of wealth. The poor people, of course, are the ones that need public education, public health. Well, everything that is in his program is against that. So, they are going to privatize, it’s going to be a social disaster.
So they want to keep those topics not touched in the debates. That’s why he was not present in the debates. As you saw with Haddad, what Haddad says is very important. These guys avoid this guy. Bolsonaro avoided the debate, he never participated in any debate.
He doesn’t want to tell the voters what he is going to do with education, what he is going to do with the pension system and the health system. So, these identity issues against lesbian, gays are very serious because he’s really sexist and racist. Of course. But they want the focus of their talk – and I think that’s what the extreme right, Steve Bannons like, are advising him, to focus on that issue.
Because they capitalize on the old conservative resentments of a colonial society and never mention what you are going to do in economic terms, because that’s what matters.
When it starts, there will be a very radical neoliberal program. So I think that at this stage, the markets, even very respected, respectable type of agencies have said, ‘No, it’s fine, Bolsonaro is acceptable,’ if not the favorite of the markets. Because in a sense, for them, all this is distraction. But it’s very serious for the Brazilian people, of course. The racist policies and the violence already started. The violence already started, this is increasing. But it’s a way of not showing the neoliberal agenda.
Now, he has to show it up in the second round. We’ll see what happens.
What Santos describes here is very interesting. Neoliberalism dominated for decades and conducted some dirty wars against the majority, in order to stabilize its sovereignty over Brazil and Latin America.
After a wave of Leftist governments in the region in previous decade, people saw the difference. The Left implemented some very substantial policies in favor of the majority of the people and showed its fundamental difference against neoliberalism's apolitical nature.
So, neoliberalism's 'emptiness' has been exposed and people realize that it has nothing to offer except of what it was designed for: take more for the rich at the expense of the poor.
Now that the political center collapses, neoliberalism turns to the far-right. As this bankrupt ideology is politically empty, it uses now the far-right to distract the masses from the substance of politics, by directing the agenda to extreme conservative ideas, like racism and xenophobia. Jair Bolsonaro is the perfect man to do the job in a society "in which the class inequalities go together with the racial prejudice" as Santos says.
Through this tactic, neoliberalism not only manages to divide the electorate, but also, to distract the attention of the people from the policies that are about to be implemented: demolition of the social state, brutal privatizations, imposition of austerity, etc.