By Professor Augusto Jobim do Amaral
Lecture given at the Columbia Center of Contemporary Critical Thought, Columbia Law School on March 28, 2023
If Brazil has been notable as a privileged experiment of Naziliberalism in this period of history, with the attack that took place last January 8th in Brasília, little doubt remains that we are living the most expressive laboratory of the world fascist insurrection. The undoubtedly unprecedented impact in Brazilian history should induce radical discussions on numerous fundamental issues for the Brazilian political context.
1. The Lula III government that had taken office the week before the events already pointed to the reaffirmation of the same conditions that, to some extent, brought us here, that is, a discourse marked by the assumption of the old policy of pacts. A conciliatory and appeasing posture, very much agreeing with the primordial exercise of politics as negotiation. No one despises the tremendous victory achieved at the polls with the defeat of Bolsonaro by a “broad front”, but what we have not yet clearly realized is that we have gained, above all, time. Not that this is little, particularly when it comes to Brazil, when the daily life of the people is marked by the management of death policies. We have gained time to save lives and to organize ourselves. The election was won by a margin of one percentage point. It is not risky to say that this fact had a lot to do with a victory of the oligarchic right wing (meaning the traditionally constituted powers in Brazil, both in the legislature and in the judiciary—not forgetting the hegemonic media channel, until yesterday anti-PT, (Grupo Globo), which strategically made it unbearable to maintain Bolsonaro and supported Lula. Furthermore, when Lula took office, despite the bold climate agenda brought in his January 1st speech (which was difficult to accomplish due to the complacency within the government itself with the developmentalist and agribusiness sector; and even more difficult when Marina Silva, current Minister of the Environment, in her first major international engagement at the World Economic Forum in Davos, took as part of the Brazilian delegation the CEO of Vale, the company responsible for the environmental tragedies of Brumadinho), Lula's keynote was the “return”, the restoration to the right path and finally “waking up from the nightmare”. The premise is based on a return to the past of a political moment, instead of the “anti-politics” represented by Bolsonaro. One should remember that, according to the same hasty political reading, the 2013 uprisings were also very well repressed by a left that functioned time and again as a force of order in this politically averse area. The June 2013 events were, coincidentally also labeled as terrorist acts. Bolsonarism did not come from Mars. The conditions that made it possible are constitutive, not only of the management of the collapse of modernity evident in the Lula and Dilma governments (with notable achievements), but of the very foundations of Brazil's military-managed slave colonialism. It was not hard to see that in less than a week after the new President took office, there was no normality to return to—Brazilian society, one must assume, is divided and will remain so—and, although Bolsonaro lost electorally, the force of fascism is far from receding and still has a leading role in the Brazilian political spectrum.
2. Let us aim now directly to the facts that represented the invasion and destruction of the buildings of the three branches of government in the capital city of Brasília. This in itself would already lead our thoughts away from the idea of a “Brazilian Capitol”, however tempting the comparison may be. The Brazilian case is indeed much more serious. Even if the torrent of an international fascist is easy to feel and puts the US and Brazil alongside various other fronts, on the same page, the parallels stop here. If we wanted to look for another type of deeper coincidence, we should foresee the social base from which these nations, in their own distinctive way, end up anchoring themselves: slavery and the necessary assembly of forces of control for the management of non-white populations, meaning, the police. The condition of common infamy perhaps gives us a clue as to why both fascist uprisings and abolitionist efforts of resistance against the police—still much more voluminous in the United States for several factors, have privileged spaces in these countries.
As for the invasions, the buildings that were attacked in Brazil were empty, it was Sunday and everything had been announced for a while. No foreshadowing of the attempt was needed. Not that the scale and unprecedentedness of the achievement awed anyone. However, the violent escalation had been going on for at least two months. Camps calling for military intervention were scattered in all the states of the federation, with the broad connivance of the police and the commands of all the armed forces. Earlier, on the eve of Christmas, an unexploded bomb was set up near the airport in Brasília, which, it was learned from the detained suspect, was intended to bar the inauguration ceremony of the new President who was to take place days later. Even one day after Lula took office, on Monday, January 2nd, Brasília had already become a stage for war with cars and buses being burned, gas canisters exploding, and an attempt to invade the Federal Police headquarters. Of course, no one was arrested in the act by the forces of law and order because, after all, this is the famous democratic state functioning normally. Then, not even ten days after the January 8th attacks in Brasília, sixteen sabotages of various electric transmission lines throughout Brazil had already occurred. Yes, the conditions remain given for even worse events.
The authorities responsible for protecting the sites of the January 8th attacks were Bolsonaro's former Justice Minister Anderson Torres, who oversaw the Military Police of the Federal District after being appointed January 2nd as Security Secretary by Federal District Governor Ibaneis Rocha. It will be in the home of the same Anderson Torres who was found, two days after the attacks, on January 10th, serving an arrest warrant against him, among his documents, the draft of a “State of Defense” Decree with the objective of invalidating Lula's victory at the polls over Bolsonaro with intervention in the Superior Electoral Court.
More impressive, therefore, is to know how, even though the displacement of more than 120 buses to Brasilia on January 08th calling for military intervention was widely reported by social networks, even the new Minister of Justice of the Lula government, Flávio Dino, having already called a contingent of the National Security Force to protect a possible invasion of his Ministry building, still managed to maintain dialogue, and worse, cultivated some confidence in the posture of the Federal District governor and his Secretary. On the other hand, let us not forget the fundamental role to be played by Lula's appointed Defense Minister, José Múcio Monteiro, responsible for the joint and singular employment of the Armed Forces. The same man who shamelessly declared that the Bolsonarist camps in barracks all over the country were legitimate and democratic demonstrations, even claiming to have friends and relatives in the acts. Both, after what happened on January 8th, they had their roles maintained and the support of President Lula confirmed. The last journalistic detail that is important to remember is that, even after the depredation of the buildings for almost three hours with the broad complacency of the police forces, on the same night of January 8th, when the coup plotters tried to dismantle the camp installed in front of the headquarters in Brasília, to which the invaders had returned, the Army set up a tank barrier and prevented it from being dismantled under the argument that there were relatives of military personnel at the site. The dismantling and arrests only occurred in the morning after.
It should be noted that the brazilian Institutional Security Office (GSI) is directly responsible for the security of the Planalto Presidential Palace, and that on that day it decided not to reinforce security there, even though it had the Presidential Guard Battalion and the 1st Cavalry Regiment of Guards at its disposal. Until recently called “Casa Militar” (Military House), and always headed by a Minister from the barracks, the GSI is also in charge of the Brazilian Intelligence Agency (ABIN). In other words, we still have a military-headed Civilian Secret Service in Brazil, which has not been changed by any President since the re-democratization, and nothing indicates that a mere purge will have any effective result. In fact, it was Lula himself who gave up the services of the GSI even for his inauguration ceremony. Beyond the urgency of immediately extinguishing the GSI and any interference in civilian intelligence by military orders, one question, among several, resonates with these facts: why did the Ministers themselves, either of Justice, with direct interference in the Federal Police, or of Defense, with the command of the Armed Forces, have not acted with caution and mobilized their contingents beforehand and instead trusted the Federal District government? And even though they failed to act carefully why, on the day, after almost three hours of demolition, were the forces not called in immediately? Or if they were called urgently, why have they not obeyed?
YES, THEY WON!
3. Another important issue is the debate over whether or not the fascist forces succeeded in the January 08th events. To begin with, those who think that the “coup was a failure” are zealous of an institutional myopia that understands little of what has occurred and what is still happening. The Bolsonarist strategy, even if it does not have a leader or the awareness of it, has always been marked exactly by the distance, mismatch, and asymmetry with the institutional level. Its dynamic is anti-institutional. This was the Bolsonarist way of governing par excellence. Bolsonaro - paradoxically, but not without a certain dose of intelligence - lead a kind of government against the state that repeatedly disposed as political capital to legalize the exception as a response to the (alleged) attack against him from all (institutional levels), including from sectors internal to the government itself. Thus, the January 8th demolition undertaking was not done to “seize power” - beyond the obvious: the headquarters were empty. More important - hence its resounding success - was to put the elected government itself on a defensive position and, above all, to mobilize its troops in an unprecedented way, demonstrating the strength of what they are capable of. Even less credible would be the weakening of the parliamentary base or state governors - beyond appearance. Otherwise, it is the sheer display of power on display that leads to greater alertness. Let us not be fooled by the stage games of speeches repudiating the acts coming from the elected fronts. We elected the most reactionary parliament in the entire Brazilian democratic history and the governors of the three largest Brazilian states are supporters of Bolsonaro. Let us not ignore that. It would be naïve to believe any distance taken by them, if not as false bravado. They will have the opportunity to be the first to conveniently sanction future fascist insurrections. Let us assume, without belittling the adversary: yes, the facts of January 8th were a victory for fascism. Unless by political loss we mean a cheap, one-off, momentary distance from some of its elected supporters (deputies, senators, and governors) - as opposed to any disarticulation of its popular front that tends to become even more radicalized. In sum, if we can be more apprehensive and say that Brazilian fascism has proven more powerful after January 8th, this is the most direct proof that, even though we have not established a new government - which some seem to argue is a “failure” - the primary focus has never been to take institutional control but to intensify the continued pulverization of diffuse militia violence always ready to reterritorialize itself under the most diverse contexts. As long as the conditions are given, we should consider that something even worse than Bolsonaro may emerge.
4. As said, Brazilian society is still parted, and this is not going to end by as if by magic. After the acts never before seen in the history of Brazil that destroyed the Three Powers Plaza, almost 20% of the population thought the invasion was normal, and almost 40% either supported it or considered it justified. The answer can only come from a precise active popular force against an unenviable fascist power and organization. First of all, of a power that perceives the most opportune and forceful moment like this to confront once and for all some exposed nerves of the Brazilian condition. In order to avoid decoys, we must be clear that we are immersed in at least two large-scale propensities that can be verified in global political terms. Not only in Brazil, after all, to detach the country completely from a global relation of forces would be naïve. On the one hand, as we have already mentioned, we have a reactionary international well stamped in the Brazilian laboratory in its insurrectionary phase, with the classic themes and their order variables: God, Homeland and Family. On the other, there is a tendency that we also need to face a necessary critique of its limits, concerning liberal democracies and their dynamics of institutional re-enchantment. In other words, in order to try to face the current state of affairs, we can, on the one hand, resound with the argument that “institutions continue to function normally” and that “democracy has won,” that is, we can cower within the juridical-sovereignist discourse of liberal democracies and hide that we are advocating a different kind of order, or, on the other hand, to have the ambition and the effort to expose ourselves to a greater creative power. Our poverty in some sense is political, too. Our limitation is often imaginative, dressed up as responsibility. Present an unbearability docilized by a deadly false realism that only leads back to the same coordinates. We see our future hijacked by an emptied now, forgetting that there is no tomorrow. There is the “now” and it is made up of what we do to produce tomorrow.
AMNESTY NO MORE: THE POLICE MUST STOP
5. Trying hard to circulate something new on the Brazilian political horizon, in the direction of what has been shouted since Lula's inauguration and obviously accentuated after January 8th, a collective manifesto of “Amnesty Never Again” (https://www.change.org/p/anistia-nunca-mais) has been gaining considerable weight, having as its starting point the non-repetition of what was established with the New Republic in Brazil: a self-amnesty. That is, to start from the back of the Brazilian Amnesty Law promulgated at the beginning of the country's formal democratic opening (Law 6.683/79). In reality, a law imposed by the military representing a unilateral forgetting of the crimes against humanity committed by the dictatorial regime, since no crime or penalty of those persecuted by the regime was extinguished. It is worth remembering that it was the Brazilian Supreme Court itself, already under the democratic regime in 2010, that endorsed the constitutionality of this law. The sumit of the national Judiciary, which today strangely has become the depository of hopes of national progressives, perhaps of short memory, after the complicity of the Federal Supreme Court with the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff, the chorus of abuses in “Operation Car Wash” and the imprisonment of the current President Lula - just to mention a few recent emblematic cases.
Back in focus, this new momentum of “Amnesty Never Again” intends to leverage an effort to not forget the crimes committed by the Bolsonaro government during the Covid-19 pandemic period, forcing public debate and action by the new government through a Russell Tribunal-inspired “People's Tribunal,” as well as inducing discussion on the “demilitarization of the Brazilian state”. Legitimate agendas that can instigate a necessary active popular force and that, above all, bring to discussion some tactical-pragmatic strategies ready to lead to fundamental issues.
If the January 8th events clearly lead first to the explicit realization that the Brazilian Military Police (each state in the federation organizes its own Military Police) functions as an armed faction, and needs to be disbanded immediately, it is so that above all we can, once and for all, face what the police itself means in concrete political terms, and take seriously directly an initiative toward the end of policing in Brazil, not only the Military Police. We must radicalize the agenda, even if a “slow, gradual and safe” (as the generals liked to say during the “opening” of the dictatorial regime) dissolution of the Military Police can be a valid tactic. So, it is the police that this is about. In the Brazilian case, its tradition became even more obvious with the accession of the so-called Federal Highway Police - formally civilian - as a prominent incubator of Bolsonarism, not to mention the record number of police officers of all hues who have risen as candidates in recent years, currently culminating with the burning complicity of the best paid security force in the country, the Military Police of the Federal District (PMDF). None of this excludes the urgent question about the eligibility of these professionals and the requirement of complete resignation in case they run for office, without any chance of removal or leave.
It is evident that the MP's status, as auxiliary forces of the Army, thus determined by our Constitution, is a particular Brazilian excrescence, in allowing them to carry out with protagonism the ostensive policing of the general population outside the military units. However, we will miss the right political focus if we only invest in this, to forget about their miserable situation. The rottenness, felt more clearly now, has been warned about long ago: it is necessary not to be deceived by the democratic mantle and to examine what has grown out of police fascism. The pith lies in the perennial possibility that the police present of coextensively colonize politics. A symptom of a still-present legacy that the “Amnesty Never Again” cannot ignore.
The police power ought to be the permanent coup d'état. This is exactly why it is the main operator of the colonization of politics by the indistinction between violence and law. Hence the reason for the resounding failure of every humanization effort that produces nothing but the expansion of control and the depoliticization of discussion, with the constant injections of legitimacy given by its reforms. We should have already learned in Brazil, before any other nation, that the role of the police is to be a manager, through security, of inequality of all kinds (race, class and gender). It has never been, is not and never will be distinct from this reality: the police exist primarily as producers of inequality by repressing social movements and by managing the behavior of racialized populations or those who lose out in the eventual economic and political arrangements in place. Regardless of the good will of anyone, member or not, administrator or academic reform enthusiast or not, its indelible mark is colonialism and slavery. Let us treat this, in short, as an index of the burning unbearability of the Brazilian condition. And all this will not stop with the punishment of some members of the security forces reinforced by the “rotten apples” argument. The police in Brazil need to end. Let us discuss how it will happen.
6. On the other hand, the debate on “Amnesty Never Again” needs to escape being captured by the relegitimizing punitive logic of the penal system. It is of an abolitionist desire that must survive. Not for some complacency with the fascisms of occasion, nor with the more than 1500 arrested (only after the attacks, it should be said in passing, since no more than five were arrested red-handedly), whether the agents of the security forces or the masses mobilized with their collaborators and organizers, but to avoid reinvigorating what punitive power has always produced: violence, resentment, sense of injustice, as well as localized and programmed responsibility for reinforcing vulnerabilities. Again, to infer any future beneficial effect from punishment in view of the reproduction of concrete inequalities through the stigmatizing selection of certain members of the social body is to ignore the bankruptcy and unsustainability of any positive purpose given to state punishment. No fascist insurrection has been prevented by the punishment of anyone. No fascist regime has ever failed to establish itself for fear of being punished. On the contrary, the law has often been in their favor.
Will the arrested citizens serve as a pretext to once again claim that the “institutions are functioning normally”? Somehow, yes, they are working as usual. It is known that family members and some other privileged people were removed before the camps were vacated. It is widely known, to eyes willing to see, who financed, for example, the maintenance and transportation of the mob in the various cities throughout Brazil. It is almost pedagogical the operation of the punitive power which, to assimilate the preventive prisoners of those more than 1500 prisoners in the attacks in Brasilia who would be entering the system, the prison system of the Federal District put under electronic monitoring prisoners who should already be in semi open regimes, proving more and more the political decision that backs the criminal issue and that we have the number of prisoners we decide to have and especially who they will be.
We will depoliticize the overriding issue either by discussing it from a “guaranteeism of occasion” (i.e. “human rights also for coup-plotting humans”) or with doses of “necessary punishment” for the “terrorists”. It is worth noting that both dimensions are the ones that are most often bandied about naturally by leftist sectors as reactions to January 8th. What we are experiencing gains even more surreal tones when we witness a General such as former Vice President Hamilton Mourão, now Senator-elect, a notorious defender of the military dictatorship, calling for respect for the human rights of those arrested in the attacks on the buildings of the three branches of government in Brasília on January 8th, while the left is increasingly calling for “exemplary punishment for terrorists” as manifested by President Lula. To be restricted to this kind of vicious circle is fatal. Especially when, again and again, it will be sectors of the left that will cry for order by claiming punitive power. We will end up in the same punitive bondage: one through excess for the enjoyment of others' pain, the other tied to the tricks of the sad passions and the compensatory joys of adequate punishment.
It reiterates, in other quarters, the common aphasia that the left has in not even being able to elaborate a language except from the grammar of its enemy. “Terrorism,” in turn, seems to have established itself as a basic concept in the lexicon for classifying attacks. We forget that this category is not only legal. Even if we want to force the controversial framing of the acts in the Anti-Terrorism Law (Law 13.260/2016), we would again lose the most important of its political issue that puts more at stake than criminal typification. Straight to the point: since its sanction by Dilma Rousseff, as a condition for the promotion of major events (World Cup and Olympics) and in the context of the street demonstrations of 2013 and 2015, we know well to which subjects and movements the Law was applied. If it does not come to mind, we can ask some governors of leftist parties that have not hesitated to use the Military Police in repossessions or in protests by teachers and students. In other terms, we are contributing more and more to unblocking an instrument that has always been used against the very same people who call for exemplary punishment for terrorists.
It could be a good entry point to analyze what else this kind of semantics is used for, the very treatment given to the events by the national mainstream media, such as the Globo Television Network. A little more than 10 days after the events that took place as I write this text, we can already see a successive transit between expressions: first “demonstrations”, then “radical Bolsonarists”, and later “terrorists”, when not, more commonly nowadays, “coup plotters”. One can already see what conveys calling these practices “terrorist”, i.e., also a kind of mirroring between opposites, after all there were terrorists both in 2013 and now, from the left and the right. Even more problematic is what both the expressions “radical Bolsonarists” and “coup plotters” matter. Both somehow isolate, camouflage and immunize Bolsonarism, playing only with a narrower and more extreme register of it. Again, the “rotten apples” argument works, ignoring that it is of the immanence of Bolsonarist fascism to have this kind of violent, reactionary, coup stance. Just as also the term “coup plotters” ends up diluting them, as if any political spectrum was present there. It is indeed important to observe in real time the reconfiguration of the narratives that currently also pertain to the security forces, within the register of “defense of the institutions”. The recorded videos, usually provided by the police themselves of the “heroic resistance” that prevented the complete depredation of the buildings by their agents on the day of the attacks have already been massively distributed. After the flagrant structural connivance of the public security forces and the military, we have literally armed ourselves with the renewal of the amnesty condition, if only by safeguarding part of the institutions.
FOR THE ABOLITION OF MILITARIZED MANAGEMENT IN BRAZILIAN SOCIETY
7. Thus, the debate is necessarily broader and should involve, primarily, besides the abdication of the belief in a positive instauration effect through pain inflicted criminally, touching on what the police issue already signals. It is not exactly a matter of demilitarizing the Brazilian state, even if the exoneration of more than six thousand high-ranking military personnel (more than in the military dictatorship that occupied Bolsonaro's government in 2021) is essential. Even the identification of the companies that financed these mobilizations (perhaps, as a remedy, their nationalization will be proposed, something not at all unheard of - see what was done to some companies after World War II in England and France, or the delegation of management to a workers' council) is a fully achievable measure. Even if the immediate removal of the high command of the three forces to the reserve (choose the model: either before as Charles de Gaule or today as Gustavo Petro) as well as all military commanders responsible for the omission, in the face of the Bolsonarist encampments in all states of the Federation, is a minimal measure of logic as an effect of insubordination. Even if the secret documents implicating the military, above all with the embezzlement of public money, should be repeatedly disclosed, without any purpose of merely purging the forces, but as a measure to prove their historical administrative incompetence.
Even if the right tactic is to end the military's room for maneuver in politics, one must persevere and seek to turn the agenda to the extreme, to give them the chance to explain the reasons for the extinction, the dissolution through a “low, gradual, and sure” scrapping of the Armed Forces in Brazil. At least let a chance be given for the issue to be discussed. They are the amalgam that organizes, also through their police expressions, the constant colonization of Brazilian politics by the militarized management of the Brazilian society. We need not examine the training and education in the three forces to understand how they see themselves as the moderating power of the Republic and guarantors of the others - no matter how much some hermeneutical wishful thinking or other dogmatic dream has good will (or illusion) to impose some force in the interpretative handling of the Constitution. The military has always felt like saviors of the nation in the face of some enemy that is whole, repackageable depending on the context. They legitimated torture to defend the country from the communist threat and, according to them, we should still be grateful for that. Any pragmatic strategy in this direction should not be distanced, as it would be valid for the police contingent, starting by the gradual de-financialization with the effect of restricting the technologies they have at their disposal; by the radical departure from any idea that more militarization/police means greater security and, above all, by the intense immediate reduction of the scope of their activities. All of this, very attentive to the practices that will try to remaster its strengths, such as new training mechanisms, transparency, and supervision, as if exactly higher remuneration, investment, diversity, etc. had provoked nothing more than an attempt to give it greater institutional legitimacy.
Far from the direction set by President Lula's decree of “Federal Intervention” in the public security of the Federal District. Once again, the strategy of cleaning up the forces, of the dysfunctional minority, on which a purge and a different command would be enough, is reinvigorated, so far, signaling nothing about any fundamental transformation that we can raise. Above all, the problem of Brazilian fascism is faced precisely by the path that feeds it the most: the militarization of Brazilian society, security as a record of government. Contingency bequeaths us this tremendous opportunity to at least open the flank for these kinds of discussions. The terrible experience seems not to have been enough.
To be able to circulate the potency of ideas like these is to fight against a lack of realism that avoids facing a historical heritage of the Armed Forces in Brazil: they have never served for anything they set out to do, if not to be accomplices of violence from the Colony to the Empire, and as promulgators and guardians of the Republic. The disaster of the managed deaths during the pandemic also had its fingerprints on it. Passing through chapters such as the genocide committed in the only “defeated war” (the Paraguayan war in the 19th century) or the “delay” in being part of the allied forces in World War II in 1942, the flagrant sympathy for the Nazi forces of President Getúlio Vargas and his Minister of Defense and future dictator, Marechal Eurico Gaspar Dutra, reaching the peace missions in Haiti, better known for the massacres headed by General Augusto Heleno, appointed by Lula between 2004 and 2005 (Bolsonaro's future Minister), to place any credit or confidence in this institutional record is, indeed, irresponsible. On the other hand, it will be important not to give up thinking about other models of defense and security organization, precisely so that we do not give in and remain hostages of the current forms. Its constitutional tasks of border protection, combating illegal drugs and arms trafficking—not to mention the embarrassing situation of proximity to illegal mining and deforestation, which has been even more blatant recently, although its budget was the fourth largest in 2022, surpassing investments in health and education—only confirm that “Amnesty Never Again” is also to face this head-on, evidencing that this condition of non-reconciliation will not pass.
FASCISM AFTER ALL!
8. As much as we can be restricted to conjunctural analyses in terms of state organization, what is most opportune for the laboratory of the fascist insurrection that Brazil has become, among other things, is to understand and be able to really call a spade a spade: fascism. Ad nauseam the Foucauldian argument has been correctly insisted upon, never to treat fascism only as a historical phenomenon or located in a strict state political regime, but as a libidinal regime that flattens our energies, that is, a way of life and a way of conducting our existence. Even more, as an immanent presence in the hegemonic forms of life of liberal societies. Something that inhabits us all, haunts our spirits and everyday life. Not to understand it in this way is to make such a condition something accidental, a misrepresentation, exactly losing sight of the fact that it is about the way the processes of subjectivation took place and are carried out, to a large extent, until today; in short, the way individuals were constituted in modernity. Figure of the critical moment of Freudian self-criticism of civilization, and that Reich knew so well how to exploit to define a fascist regime of desire. It is the very progress stamped by institutions that is the immanent source of our regressions via modern rationality. Therefore, what we saw on January 8th, with the corresponding institutional reaction, as shocking as it may seem, is not, as common sense would easily like, the reflection of the struggle of civilization against barbarism. It is precisely the opposite: that was the burning expression of civilization itself, in what civilization knows very well how to produce, ruins. Barbarism, yes, is the state of affairs we live in, the violence naturalized and cunningly rationalized with the most refined arguments. Only in this way will we bring the Benjaminian fire alarm to the center and set out to construct the “real state of exception” of his eighth thesis on history.
On the other hand, to take seriously the context in which we live is to take it, surely, as revolutionary. Obviously, well understood with Reich, fascism as a mixture of “revolutionary emotions” and “reactionary social concepts”. In any case, that has revolution as its principle, even if it is denied, as Bataille asserts, “denied since the internal domination exercised militarily by militias”. Certainly, it is ego bruising for orthodox revolutionaries who dream of the ultimate pure emancipatory epiphany. In my view, this seems to be the condition to immediately escape from what generally dominates the critical discourse on fascism, strongly fixated in Brazil, precisely defined by Safatle as a “deficit reading of fascism”. In various senses of the term, not only because it fails to analyze the fundamental, but because it remains stuck trying to explain it for deficit reasons, that is, for lack or deficiency. Thus, notes about cognitive deficiencies (usually misled by “fake news”) or moral deficiencies (driven by “hate” or “resentment”) multiply, reaching the extreme of bias in pathologizing readings. If we are to talk about illness, it is worth remembering, firstly, that it usually reveals much more about what kind of health we aspire to, about what normality we deceptively want to return to. Social symptoms must be problematized. Therefore, we prefer neither to insist on a supposed moral superiority, nor that we are simply talking about madmen driven by fake news. There is something more fundamental in the molecular dimension of the flows of desire mobilized there. We think the classical lessons are more fruitful, since Spinoza at least (or earlier by Boètie), but followed by some like Reich and Deleuze, that the masses were not deceived, they desired fascism. The illusion of the masses is not enough in short to explain it. Deleuze in his classic quote states, “they desired fascism at a certain moment, under certain circumstances, and this is what needs to be explained”. Thus, they get to the point of wanting it not only for others, but also for themselves. Here is the central point, they want before they can justify themselves. The memes produced around the images of people praying to tires and barrack walls, or even someone stuck for kilometers to the bumper of a truck may be cartoonish and comical, but they express a certain enviable engagement and enthusiasm. What will come to give substrate and will try to fill the actions will only be the effect of something that makes us act, changes us and transforms us before. This is why affections are so important in politics, not as mere sentimental states, but as a vital force that pushes us forward.
That is why we can risk saying that somehow they see the problem very well: the exhaustion of an order that they do not know how to elaborate, with a deeply wrong and misrepresented response. They perceive, as it were, some truth with the wrong reasons. To face it, there will be no way to ignore this pull to creation that we must recover, through mutating plots that generate new desires, infect and circulate new worlds. It is in the inherent immanence of the subjects that potency is increased, therefore, always in act and in common and from an anarchic ethical multiplicity.
WHAT CAN OUR POLITICAL BODY DO?
9. The crossroads at these times is always abrupt. And it is signaled in the Brazilian case by a fundamental question: is there a willingness, in fact, of the forces of the left to break the dynamic of behaving as guarantors of ruined institutions? Will we know how to get out of a condition of liberal parasitism that prevents us from radicalizing our agendas and condemns the left to be the managers of ancillary public policies? Opportunities become narrow when a cowardly posture condemns the need to build new models in favor of the functional strengthening of noisy institutions for their better adjustments.
Some refutation could easily arise that would make the perceptions put forward so far sound unrealistic. I would say that out of reality is, rather, the way we endure the unjustifiable all the time. Unreal is the current state of affairs. The question turns out to be, not how to organize revolt, but how not to revolt all the time. This goes through how we understand the Political. It will not be enough to understand it only as an enlargement of the possible. The lesson of surprise from the attacks that took place—insurrectionary, even if organized and planned—teaches us pedagogically. Their political strength arises from this. It will be to a left fated to be an administrator of the possible that will not cease to be surprised by the impossible accomplished by fascist forces.
To resume the foundations of this political scene would require more than enlarging the sphere of the possible, even if the enlargement of the sphere of the possible would entail realizing that beyond the needs linked to the predictable evolution of the present reality, there is a dimension that can always be freed from its forms. If it is the experience of the possible that needs to express itself, in a kind of enlargement that arises exactly from these movements, other rhythms that, at a certain point, amplify the pronounceable and the visible. A potency of modeling the imaginary that is always possible at every instant can only come from another field that would give it meaning: the zone of an event that crosses in a skewed way any possible horizon.
This potency of a “future,” so to speak, of the ability to create possible futures that escape finite tendencies and realize common capacities, is not unquestionably by what imposes its mechanisms of emergence. To properly think its regime of possibility, that is, the structure of these spaces of possibility, the question cannot be addressed only to the “possible,” in justice to the motto. The demand will not cease to be summoned from the impossible. This is the demand of the impossible, as in the motto of May 68: “be realistic, demand the impossible”. So that this radical political difference can be possible and updatable so that the event is not amputated, it is the impossible that is spoken of, something that crosses asymmetrically, that I do not expect to come, irreducible to any projection horizon. The limits of the possible will always depend on what at some point is unthinkable, unspeakable, not representable and inconceivable, even if bound to it in an inextricable contamination: possible and impossible in a complementary asymmetry. Ultimately, this contamination is always there. There is impossible in the possible. May moments like the one we are living in Brazil be the trigger to open beyond the predictable, the agreed upon, the politically projectable and possible.
And that does not translate into a guarantee of anything. This perseverance bears both good and bad news. The power of the impossible, of the event that comes, can always bring them. But only those who expose themselves have any power, and the greater the power will be the greater the capacity to be affected by the new, even under great effort that will be required to cope with all the pressure. We will gain complexity and size only at the price of greater affectation, the very element that can make us suffer. How much we will manage, only our strengths will tell. The war has just begun.