Thursday 1 November 2018

Nightmare On Bolsonaro Street.

Scary As: Working-class demobilisation produces a perfect political storm. It emboldens the worst elements of the Right even as it causes the political discipline among working-class conservatives to weaken. The result is an apparent coming together of right-wing middle- and working-class voters: usually around a charismatic right-wing leader like Jair Bolsonaro (above) who is willing to give eloquent voice to all those inflammatory prejudices which, in less extreme political circumstances, are kept out of “mainstream” discourse.

PRESIDENT-ELECT JAIR BOLSONARO and Halloween are made for each other. If you’re attempting to evoke feelings of fear and dread, then the next President of Brazil is indisputably the right man for the job. For sheer terror, however, nothing beats contemplating the people whose votes propelled him into office.

What does it say about the 55 percent of Brazilian voters who supported Bolsonaro that they were willing to set aside his open support for the former military dictatorship. (Apparently its biggest failing was not killing enough dissidents!) Or, that they refused to be put off by his overt expressions of racism, misogyny and homophobia? (He’d rather his son was dead than gay.) How could a country which, for the past decade-and-a-half, has voted for the Workers’ Party, suddenly be persuaded to elect the “Trump of the Tropics”?

One might just as easily ask: How could the people who voted for Barack Obama in 2012 possibly have voted for Donald Trump in 2016? Or: What made the men and women of Waitakere, Labour supporters for most of their lives, deliver their votes to National’s Paula Bennett in 2008? What is it that leads people to vote against their own objective interests?

The straightforward answer to that question is the subjective rage of a hard-pressed and/or deeply disillusioned electorate. Such was certainly the case in Brazil. Under the Workers’ Party, the Brazilian economy, following an impressive initial surge in the early 2000s, succumbed to a vicious recessionary one-two punch inflicted by the global financial system. After lifting the living standards of 20 million of the poorest Brazilians, the Workers’ Party was bullied by its Wall Street creditors into imposing a grim austerity regime on the Brazilian working-class.

As if this wasn’t enough, an unflinching team of official investigators has, over several years, exposed political corruption on a truly massive scale. Its stain spread inexorably through the entire Brazilian political class; undermining and ultimately destroying two Workers’ Party presidents (Luiz InĂ¡cio Lula da Silva, better known as “Lula”, and Dilma Rousseff.) In the election just past, districts which had been Workers’ Party strongholds for decades went to Bolsonaro by wide margins. Partly, this was a reflection of angry and embittered Workers’ Party supporters seeking revenge; but mostly, it was the consequence of mass working-class abstentions. Huge numbers of former Workers’ Party supporters simply stayed home.

The disillusionment of working-class voters, and the demobilisation of working-class political strength it encourages, produces two extremely dangerous political effects. First, it allows the Right to shrug-off any obligation to conduct itself responsibly. Without the consciousness of having to behave itself – or suffer dire electoral consequences – the Right feels free to up-the-ante by encouraging its more unruly elements to give free rein to their most incendiary rhetoric. The result is a swift and pronounced deterioration in the political climate – an environment in which the Right is obviously best placed to flourish.

Restraint having become electorally counterproductive, the scene is thus set for the second extremely dangerous political effect to manifest itself.

Strong and progressive working-class parties not only discourage the parties of the Right from behaving badly, they also serve to isolate and disarm the more conservative elements within their own ranks. These people may privately abhor many of the policies advanced by the Left’s leaders – especially those relating to race, sexuality and gender. But, so long as “their” party delivers economically, the open expression of racist, sexist and homophobic views is resisted. If, however, their economic security and status is undermined by their own party’s policies, and its support declines accordingly, then the willingness of working-class conservatives to go on biting their tongues will decline with it.

Working-class demobilisation thus produces a perfect political storm. It emboldens the worst elements of the Right even as it causes the political discipline among working-class conservatives to weaken. The result is an apparent coming together of right-wing middle- and working-class voters: usually around a charismatic right-wing leader who is willing to give eloquent voice to all those inflammatory prejudices which, in a less extreme political climate, are kept out of “mainstream” discourse.

Conservatives from all classes are thereby encouraged to use their vote as a weapon against all those social elements deemed responsible for their loss of security and status.

The result is a Jair Bolsonaro; a Donald Trump; or even – lest we Kiwis begin to feel too smugly superior to all those sad Brazilians and Americans – a Rob Muldoon.

This essay was posted simultaneously on Bowalley Road and The Daily Blog of Thursday, 1 November 2018.


David Stone said...

Bolsonaro might have been elected for the same reasons as Trump.
Here as well as Europe, (Greece, Italy, France ) the problem that has developed with democracy is the same. The incumbent electoral choices do not reflect the wishes of the population. It doesn't matter who you vote for, the same people gain and the same people loose. The electorates everywhere turn to what seems to be a strongman who will at least take control of the unelected power brokers. It's the idea of an individual that can stand up to the deep state that appeals , almost irrespective of their philosophy. I'm sure this was why Trump was elected. I doubt Bolsonaro will change anything that helps the people who voted for him much.

thesorrowandthepity said...

'The Road to Serfdom' by Friedrich Hayek pretty much sums up what you've written, if you haven't you should read it.
When mainstream political parties become beset with self interest & greed, no matter what good they initially did, it's all undone when the party comes to a crashing halt.
People end up voting for demagogues out of shear emotive anger.

Geoff Fischer said...

Those workers who are most angered by the corruption and betrayals of the left will turn to the only alternative on offer - the populist right. Those who are less angry and more thoughtful but just as surely disillusioned by the left, will not vote at all. This has been the pattern in New Zealand, the US, Brazil and every other corner of the capitalist world. It is not a disaster, just a case of history working itself out. It may end badly for the left, but the working class will survive and struggle through once freed from its attachment to the parties of the left.

Nick J said...

David / Sorrow / Geoff, you all say parts of what this man says
Seems capital does not care who fronts the politics, they own the whole spectrum....or at least have been allowed to.

greywarbler said...

Frederick Hayek and his ilk could be called Monetary Python's Flying circus. They can engineer a certain result that is guaranteed to deteriorate conditions for the mass poor, just follow a procedure which will be successful in transferring advantage to the upper classes out of the poor and lower middle class pockets.

They loftily take credit for foreseeing the end results as if they were great seers and superior but actually they are cold-hearted, mendacious and calculating. They, and the people who care nothing about others and their sorry outcomes, are a blight on a country, and we all probably have some such in our own families.

It is free market, laissez faire capitalism that provides the drug with extra phantasmagorical trips, to the Moon etc, and that heightening of the 'Affluenza' effect that will stop the heart. Or like HG Wells story, it will be something small like the pathogens that kill the aliens in War of the Worlds.

Nick J said...

Monetary Pythons Grey, fab line, it's tragic that your analysis is so correct. I have in mind the small pathogen that will kill the whole can't grow food sufficient to feed the masses without sufficient oil inputs, and when that happens any amount of digits of data aka money will be useless as a way of feeding yourself, even multimillionaire will be hungry.

David Stone said...

Thanks for that reference Nick .
Trump seems to be so open and extreme in his actions, both economic (trade related) and foreign policy belligerence that he could be deliberately holding a mirror to America's corporate control. If it is not deliberate it is still making it obvious to all and sundry how the world has been working. The chance is greater than ever to spread awareness and maybe people like Corbyn and McDonald / Sanders will put their hand up around the world and get the support they need. The establishment is looking more and more desperate. It needs to be subtle and obscure for the mind control system to work. You can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time.

greywarbler said...

Referring to my analogy of the trapezing economists working for a sort of monetary circus, python-like at 2/11 20.37, I note concerning comment from the modern managers of the BBC! While Monty Python jibes continue to be timeless, and a comment on our societal foibles, the Guardian journalist can only respond to them as dated or pantomime, and reacts to racist themes and silly walks.

It seems impossible to have a conversation about the future of comedy without bringing up 50-year-old sketch series Monty Python’s Flying Circus, so someone did and [Shane] Allen replied, continuing his emphasis on insisting that new voices be heard. “If you’re going to assemble a team now, it’s not going to be six Oxbridge white blokes. It’s going to be a diverse range of people who reflect the modern world.” Naturally, this kicking, or nudging, of the sacred cow (parrot?) became the focus of all subsequent discussion. John Cleese took umbrage, saying Python were “diverse for their time” and calling Allen “head of social engineering”. Don’t mention the comedy war.

(John Cleese's comment is on The Telegraph but they won't let me look at it if I don't remove my ad blocker. I understand their pain but I have to limit myself from being swallowed up by business mosquitoes! Perhaps I should support The Guardian, though they are criticised for their biases. but which is the least biased, and most independent minded mass printed media?)

Don't mention the comedy war; as the latest mind-trap for the chattering classes? Which war should we be talking about then? Perhaps the unacknowledged war by the uber-wealthy, the technocrats, and the ashpirational who will burn everything that blocks their path to greater wealth and commercial scientific breakthroughs. So keep on pressing forward to get more money like Mr Creosote (a Monty Python creation), or else more untrammelled curiosity and commercially satisfactory scientific findings, carrying on from primitive school experiments like cutting up frogs or mixing chemicals to make big bangs.

I think we should go beyond the current WW1 commemorations, and look at how WW1 and subsequent wars' brutalities set us up for our present reality misery, and the demagogues that are emerging carrying onward the flame of madness. This can be avoided and overlooked however by the light-headed concentrating on the trivia of the day. If we do not grasp the nettle (which should be said in the sonorous tone of Churchill), the tunnel-visioned fascist leaders will step forth apparently fresh and new yet grown from the stinking ordure of the past. We should recall the Corpse flower or the Rafflesia arnoldii and consider these as the true symbols of the followers of fascism and uncontrolled authoritarianism.

greywarbler said...

Note: I have just sent through what I thought was a good comment but it has gone somewhere else and may be lost. I see that mention of google has been made as a useful adjunct to the comment stream here. As I don't want to live my life squeezed into a wormhole that travels to and from google and am wary of all the mind-grabbing entities around, I don't wish to participate.

This is the second time my comments have vanished. I will take a personal copy next time so I won't have wasted my time trying to participate in discussions with this esteemed blog and people who attempt serious thought and discussion.

John Hurley said...

What does it say about the 55 percent of Brazilian voters
It says they vote for the main things he gets right.

Brazil’s conservative presidential frontrunner Jair Bolsonaro warned in a recent interview that “China is buying Brazil,” threatening the nation’s sovereignty.

Compare that to Jacinda or John?

John Hurley said...

Let's face it the Race Relations Office's main task since inception has been to show-trial resistance to the ideology of oneness of humanity. Did anyone sign up the Chinese to that?

Charles E said...

What mostly got Trump and this reactionary elected was exactly that: reaction to the identity politics the post-modernist neo-Marxist left has imposed on people without consent let alone any intellectual basis whatsoever.
So they, the left promoted voting for a semi black man, because he was black; then a women as a reason to vote for her; thereby legitimising others voting for a white man or any man who is loudly as non PC as possible. Utu!
When people have lies imposed on them, such as it is your sex or race or immigrant culture that makes you, or is equal to another in fact not just law or the eye of God, at some point they react decisively to give you a giant raspberry. Pythonesque indeed grey w.