Once you’ve heard the words “Jair Bolsonaro, president of Brazil” you have to prepare yourself to hear, in the future, “Marine Le Pen, president of France”. We already have a far-right Italian deputy prime minister, Matteo Salvini, but Bolsonaro’s victory also signals that Salvini could one day rule without the restraint of a coalition partner. The Brazilian president’s victory was, in short, the first case study in how a financial elite responds when faced with a choice between fascism and the left.
The left, in Brazil’s case, was no longer the radical left. The Workers’ Party (PT) had a proud history of representing the poor, but had accustomed itself to running a corrupt and corporate form of state capitalism. So when Bolsonaro and his army of online trolls speak of saving Brazil from the fate of Venezuela, they are distorting reality. But that will not stop the president trying to jail the PT’s leaders, destroying trade union power and suppressing left-wing protest. This, however, is not the reason the Brazilian middle class supported Bolsonaro.
Across the world, the neoliberal economic project is under stress. Though elites everywhere wish to continue with the bonanza of free central bank money, low taxation and the destruction of welfare states, they understand that consent for this cannot be maintained. Beginning with the Greek crisis in 2015, then Brexit in 2016 and the victory of Donald Trump thereafter, we’ve seen a series of attempts to reorder the neoliberal world by force. [Continue reading…]