Understanding the new right, in order to combat it

In Brazil, Bolsonaro supporters protest after Lula wins presidential election.

By: Raúl Zibechi

It’s very common that we face new challenges with attitudes and ideas born in previous contexts that, therefore, don’t adjust to the emerging realities. Something similar happens with the new right: We are content with using adjectives such as “fascist” or “ultra-right,” which may sound appropriate in certain aspects, but it is not enough to understand what it really represents. Therefore, it will be more difficult to neutralize or defeat it.

Believing that the new right can be limited with the existing really 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 placed it at their service. The second is that the institutions do not want and cannot fight the new insurgent right, as the armed state apparatuses in Brazil are showing these days.

It seems wrong to me to oppose “democracy” with “fascism” (or Bolsonarism, or Trumpism, or whatever adjective is preferred), because the political culture embodied by this right is the daughter of institutions and the way of doing politics that we call “democratic.” Because it consists of replacing collective action with 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 destined enormous efforts to channeling conflicts (from the political-social to the personal) through the most diverse paths, because to insist on denying them or suppressing them leads to social disaster. We have come to believe that conflict is abnormal and destructive, when in reality “the negation of conflict can lead to barbarity;” because “conflict is the foundation of life” and allows the emergence of the new, as Miguel Benasayag and Angélique del Rey maintain in In Praise of conflict.

Supporters of current president Jair Bolsonaro block the BR-060 highway after he loses the run-off election to Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.

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

Belonging to Pentecostal churches influences daily behavior, something that Catholics do not achieve who seem to ignore the concrete life of their faithful. 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 populous state, Sao Paulo.

In Brazil, the emerging power of agribusiness [1], which has economically and culturally displaced the manufacturing industry and the centrality of the working class, has its own aesthetic, as Miguel Lago argues in the aforementioned article. “The rodeo has become the biggest party in the country, and the song that plays the most on Brazilian radio is a kind of country music sung in Portuguese.”

This culture is accompanied by the carrying of guns, is masculine and patriarchal, makes strength and power its hallmarks and contrasts sharply with the working- class culture of the 1970s, when the Workers’ Party was born. Just as working-class culture was linked to liberation theology and base church communities, cattle-ranching culture goes hand in hand with neo-Pentecostal churches.

Anthropologist Jeofrey Hoelle, author of the book Caubóis da Floresta (Forest Cowboys), argues that cattle ranching culture in the Amazon is superimposed on forest culture, which seeks to conserve the forest and defends indigenous peoples. He investigated the cattle culture to understand the logic of those producers who are part of the Triple B caucuses: bulls, bullets and the Bible, which add up to a decisive portion in Brazilian parliaments in recent years.

A rodeo in the small town of Monte Negro in Rodonia state, just south of the Amazon basin. [2]

Hoelle concludes that ranchers 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, savage nature, without value,” he explains in an extensive interview (Amazonialatitude.com, 17/11/21).

In each country and in each region, the new right is based in particular situations, but has some common characteristics: 1) the rejection of environmental protection; 2) attacks on women, diversities and differences and 3) hatred of migrants, black and indigenous populations.

We can only neutralize the extreme right by putting our body on the line, without violence. Not through institutions. In these days of road blockages, soccer fans once again showed courage and determination (https://bit.ly/3Ue2sCA), by going in groups to lift the blockades given the passivity of the police (http://glo.bo/3h85OsI).

As always, we learn from those below.


[1] Brazil is the world’s largest producer and exporter of sugar, coffee, orange juice and soybean.

[2] The Guardian has amazing photos of the cowboy culture in Brazil’s agricultural regions.

Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Friday, October 4, 2022, https://www.jornada.com.mx/2022/11/04/opinion/023a1pol and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

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