Socialist Worker

Divisions in the military put Bolsonaro under pressure

by Alistair Farrow
Issue No. 2636

Bolsonaro has promised to attack the left, but will he be able to push his programme?

Bolsonaro has promised to attack the left, but will he be able to push through his programme?

The far right Jair Bolsonaro has been sworn in as president of Brazil.

His government promises to attack workers, women, LGBT+ people and the environment. It will fight for the interests of the rich, and give greater powers to the repressive state forces.

Academic Alfredo Saad-Filho spoke to Socialist Worker about the contradictions at the heart of Bolsonaro’s government, and the potential for resistance.

“Bolsonaro’s alliance is unstable and potentially unsustainable,” said Alfredo.

“The coalition behind him during the election campaign was largely made up of evangelical Christians.

“They are not a homogenous block, though they do share many interests.

“He was not the candidate of the military or the middle classes at the start. But now he’s in power more groups are putting demands on him in return for their support.”

Chief among these is Brazil’s powerful military, and rival factions within it.

“In the military there are two wings—the conservative nationalists and the pro-US neoliberals,” said Alfredo.


“For a long time many people on the left argued that these two wings would paralyse each other and would not be able to act as a unified political actor. That was wrong.”

Now Bolsonaro has to balance these interests. Each will pressure him to move in a different direction.

Bolsonaro’s government is fragile, but real resistance is needed to get rid of him.

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Members of the Workers’ Party (PT) and British Labour Party MPs addressed a Brazil Solidarity meeting in the House of Commons in November 2018. The main message was that the PT was swindled.

Labour MP Richard Burgon said, “If the PT’s Lula wasn’t going to win that election, they wouldn’t have bothered putting him in jail.”

Lula was involved in corrupt practices, but those who jailed him were far more corrupt.

Alfredo argued, “I don’t think Lula will be released so long as he represents a threat to the right.”

Julia Almanas from the PT’s London branch told the meeting, “The governments of Lula and Dilma Rousseff introduced laws that allowed the independence of the police from the government, and the independence of the public prosecutors.”


She said Rousseff had warned that “black people are going to suffer, that indigenous people are going to suffer, and that this is just going to get worse under Bolsonaro”.

The argument has to be about how to resist. It was heartening to see the protests during Bolsonaro’s inauguration and the continuing agitation among students. That must be built on.

“At the heart of any resistance to Bolsonaro must be the workers,” said Alfredo. “Unfortunately they are fragmented because of the pull of the PT.

“This continues to have a huge demobilising effect.

“The majority of the trade unions are not left wing—only a handful are, and they are small.

“Bolsonaro’s government will move very quickly against the Landless Peasants Movement and the Urban Homeless Movement, as well as other movements associated with the left.

“If these key groups of the left are crushed then the rest will be a matter of mopping up.

“The government is not strong. It is fragmented and unstable. It is possible that resistance can defeat it.”

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