Understanding the New Right, In Order to Combat It

Bolsonaro supporters blockade roads with trucks.

It is very common for us to face new challenges with attitudes and ideas born out of previous contexts which, therefore, do not adjust to the emerging realities. Something similar happens with the new right wing: we are content to label it as “fascist” or “ultra-right”, which may sound adequate in certain aspects, but it is not enough to understand what it really represents. Consequently, it will be more difficult to neutralize or defeat it.

Believing that the new right wing can be curtailed with the existing democratic institutions is a utopia that disarms us, for several reasons. The first is that the nation-state has been hijacked by the one percent who have placed it at their service. The second is that the institutions are neither willing nor able to fight the new insurgent right, as the armed state apparatuses in Brazil are showing these days.

I think it is wrong to juxtapose “democracy” with “fascism” (or bolsonarismo, or trumpismo, or whatever ism you prefer), because the political culture embodied by this right wing is the daughter of the institutions and the way of doing politics that we call “democratic.” Because it consists of substituting collective action for the management of experts, replacing the conflict of classes, skin colors, sexes, genders and ages, with public policies that relegate them to the role of beneficiaries instead of active subjects.

Humanity has made enormous efforts to channel conflicts (from the political-social to the personal) through the most disparate paths, because insisting on denying or suppressing them leads to social disaster. We have come to believe that conflict is abnormal and destructive, when in fact “the denial of conflict can lead to barbarism”; because “conflict is the foundation of life” and allows the emergence of the new, as Miguel Benasayag and Angélique del Rey argue in In Praise of Conflict.

Let’s look at Brazil. A recent article argues that Bolsonaro is not a conservative, but “an extreme right-wing revolutionary” who “articulates emerging and insurgent forces present in our society: neo-Pentecostal religiosity, agribusiness aesthetics and social profiling” ( Folha de Sao Paulo, 1/11/22).

Belonging to the Pentecostal churches influences daily behavior, something that the Catholic churches, which seem to ignore the reality of the lives of their faithful, do not achieve. The neo-Pentecostal Republican Party, the political front of the Universal Church of the Kingdom of God, will govern the largest portion of the population and the most populated state – Sao Paulo.

In Brazil the emerging power of agribusiness, which has economically and culturally displaced factory industry and the centrality of the working class, has its own aesthetics, as Miguel Lago argues in the aforementioned article. “The rodeo has become the biggest party in the country, and the song most played on Brazilian radio is a kind of country music sung in Portuguese.”

This culture is accompanied by the bearing of arms, is masculine and patriarchal, making strength and power its hallmarks and contrasting sharply with the working-class culture of the 1970s, when the Workers’ Party was born. Just as the workers’ culture was linked to liberation theology and grassroots ecclesial communities, the cattle culture goes hand in hand with the neo-Pentecostal churches.

Anthropologist Jeofrey Hoelle, author of the book Caubóis da Floresta, argues that in the Amazon, cattle culture is superimposed on the forest culture, which aims to preserve the forest and defend the native peoples. He researched cattle culture to understand the logic of those producers who are part of the Triple B benches (factions): bull, bullet and Bible, which in recent years have made up a decisive portion of the Brazilian parliaments.

Hoelle concludes that cattle farmers are aware that their business is the largest source of pollution in the country, but they have a different view. They defend what they call “clean pastures”, which they identify with “order and control”, while “the forest is seen as darkness, wild nature, without value,” he explains in an extensive interview (Amazonialatitude.com, 17/11/21).

The ultra-right can only be neutralized by putting our bodies on the line, without violence. Not through institutions. During these days of road blockades, the soccer fans once again showed courage and determination (https://bit.ly/3Ue2sCA), when they came in groups to lift the blockades in the face of the passivity of the police (http://glo.bo/3h85OsI).

As always, we learn from those from below.

This was published in La Jornada on November 4th, 2022. English translation by Schools for Chiapas. https://www.jornada.com.mx/notas/2022/11/04/politica/comprender-la-nueva-derecha-para-poder-combatirla/
English translation by Schools for Chiapas.

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