Note from BW of Brazil: So of course, by now, it’s old news. Extreme right PSL candidate Jair Bolsonaro won the election for the presidency by a percentage of about 55-45% over his PT (Workers’ Party) rival, Fernando Haddad. I started taking interested in the controversial congressman in 2012 when he responded to a question by singer Preta Gil with a rather eye-brow raising comment. Not really being familiar with him at the time, I was kinda just like, “who is this guy?” Then, as the years passed by, I kept hearing more and more controversial comments made by Bolsonaro, both current as wells those he had said in the past. He was always presented as a representative of the extreme right by those who repudiated his no holds barred comments. Then, when it became clear that he would run for president, I thought, who would vote for a man who says such racist, sexist things on a regular basis.
His views on race, sexual orientation, gender, affirmative action, human rights, gun laws, policing methods,etc. and his recent victory in the presidential race speaks volumes about the Brazilian people, a topic that can’t possibly be summed up in one post, but I will continue to discuss this issue in coming weeks, months and years as he will be guaranteed the post of president for at least four years. So let’s get right to it. Below, Pedro Borges of the Alma Preta website takes on the issue who and why spearheaded Bolsonaro’s victory. Borges touches on something I’ve discussed in a number of previous posts: a segment of Brazil’s white middle class that simply doesn’t like seeing black and poor residents have access to the same things they have. Could this really be all about not wanting to see the daughter of the maid in their homes going to the same university as their daughters?
There is not a more stupid political segment than the white middle class
By Pedro Borges
The white middle class, the group responsible for popularizing the candidacy of Jair Bolsonaro (PSL), helped elect a candidate who will also harm it
Brazil and the world are experiencing a deepening of the class struggle and other social tensions. In Latin America, the presence of governments that have worked to reduce social inequalities, such as Brazil, Venezuela and Uruguay, among others, has led to the strengthening of a conservative discourse in the region.
In Brazil, the main argument used to restrain the advances promoted by the PT (Workers’ Party), by social policies and the left has been corruption, a debate stimulated by the great scandals of the Mensalão and Lava Jato.
The press certainly plays a prominent role in this whole process. It criminalized not only the Workers’ Party, but all social movements and all who have organized themselves in the fight against inequalities.
These two movements, of criminalizing and associating with corruption, however, hide important elements to understand the victory of Jair Bolsonaro. After all, right-wing politicians have also been and are accused of participating in corruption schemes, as is the case with the new president of the republic.
Since 2003, with the victory of former President Lula, Brazil has started a process marked more by the distribution of income, and a little less by the diminishing of social inequality.
With regard to the black population, there were some initiatives exclusively focused on this segment, something unheard of in the country, such as the inclusion of black women and black men in higher education, and there were also universal social policies, without a racial slant, that also benefited this group. Here it is worth remembering programs like the Bolsa Família program, which favored mainly black women.
Despite all the contradictions, especially in the field of public security, where black imprisonment and homicide increased, the response from the polls could not have been different. Fernando Haddad carried with him the legacy of the Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT, Workers’ Party) and was voted among the comunidade negra (black community), with massive support among those who declared themselves pretos (blacks).
The tendency of the black community was followed by the other historically marginalized groups that had a greater possibility of political participation during the PT era.
Haddad was the favorite among the women, who even organized one of the strongest demonstrations in protest of the newly elected, with the expressions #elenão (not him) and #elenunca (him never) in social networks and also in the streets. Under these slogans, the women organized one of the most potent protests against Bolsonaro, a week before the first round of the elections.
In the Northeast, Haddad was also victorious. In one of the regions most benefited by a series of PT social programs, Bolsonaro had little support. On the outskirts of large urban centers, Haddad also won.
More than the historical projects of the progressive field in these regions and directed to these groups, Fernando Haddad saw his opponent repeatedly use racist, sexist, LGBT phobic ads and against residents of the Northeast region. Statements that in the end certainly contributed to his rejection with these segments.
A classe média branca (The white middle class)
Jair Bolsonaro was then victorious with broad support from whites, men, heteros, and middle-class guys. These groups have not been affected by Bolsonaro’s speeches and believe they can benefit from a government led by the main figure of the PSL party.
It is the class struggle, with all its complexities in a slave-driven country like Brazil. Under the slogan of governing for all, there are also symbolic, material and economic interests behind this Bolsonaro vote.
Who will a millionaire vote for? In candidacies that defend the taxation of large fortunes, or in figures that intend to tax the poorest and the richest equally? Obviously the richest slice gets the second option.
The big question within this scenario is that the white middle class benefited greatly during the PT government. A number of measures directly benefited it, such as the increase in the number of universities and the creation of projects such as Ciências sem Fronteiras (Sciences Without Borders).
The most dynamic economy during the Lula administration, the creation of jobs, the greater distribution of income also favored the average businessman and the liberal professional, who saw their market opportunities grow.
A political project that concentrates income, which taxes all equally, that seeks to empty the public university in Brazil is also disastrous for this white and urban middle class. It’s very interesting from an economic point of view, to the big businessman and to capital.
It seems to me that other signs motivated this group’s vote in Jair Bolsonaro. Even proposing an economic project that benefits only a real economic elite, a group of farmers and bankers, the now president is the guarantee of exclusivity in certain spaces, as well as the permanence and deepening of an inequality typical of a slave country.
This middle class will have the exclusive right to travel abroad to study, the access to the university, as well as the right to the city, health and safety.
In this case, it seems that for this middle class the privilege of having exclusivity in certain environments rather than actually thriving economically is worth more.
Instead of living in a less unequal and violent country, the middle class, especially the liberal and proto-fascist segment, prefer to contribute taxes like any other worker, and enjoy the privilege that it has of being better paid and paying twice for certain services.
Instead of a quality public education, it pays taxes and pays for a private school for its children. It also advocates the privatization of squares, gardens, and prefers to live surrounded by walls so as not to have to live with blacks and the poor.
The stupidity of this white middle class is then summed up in two respects. It mobilizes from the political point of view to defend an economic project that should burden more, and does so often motivated by racism, machismo, LGBTophobia, and backed by the discourse of corruption, even if it is a problem of all spectrum of politicians.
This desire to distinguish itself from the poorest, at the expense of its dispossession, affects the electoral dynamics. And in these elections the strength that this social segment has is perceived. Even if it is not the owner of the means of production, the white middle class enjoys symbolic and cultural capital, which allows it to directly influence political disputes.
It is necessary to build another dialogue with the working class and not to describe it as a “new middle class”. Show how this group was and also benefits from any project that democratizes the country.
The moment, however, does not allow an endless lament. It is more than ever necessary to organize to face what is to come. When Bolsonaro announces that he intends to “appease” the country, a society full of social, racial and gender conflicts, it is understood that he intends to silence the opposition and social movements, which he himself has already declared in the last demonstration in his favor.
To see the complexity of this political moment is to allow to also observe the black, feminine, LGBT and working class political organization as a whole.
If we have at this political moment a figure like Jair Bolsonaro, it is important to recognize the increasingly daily strength and presence of the black movement in the national political sphere.
Source: Alma Preta