The Hellenic fable writer Aesop famously wrote about The Boy Who Cried Wolf. In the story, a local shepherd boy repeatedly runs into his village falsely shouting that a wolf is approaching. When later the boy actually does spot a wolf, none of the villages believe that his alarm is sincere and as a result the hungry wolf devours all of his sheep.
A similar phenomenon has occurred throughout liberal political circles in recent years where anyone who deviates from liberal political orthodoxy is at one point or another labelled a “fascist”. As true fascism was the most dangerous political ideology of the 20th century, it ought to behove responsible observers not to frivolously label any ideology they find distasteful as “fascist”. The result of liberals labelling multiple non-fascist and in some cases anti-fascist leaders as “fascists” has expectedly numbed the wider public in respect of maintaining the ability to recognise, name and shame real fascism when it re-appears. This has been true at least since the 2014 Ukrainian coup in which fascists played a substantial role and it is equally true in the context of Brazil’s forthcoming Presidential election. This helps explain why the rise of Jair Bolsonaro as the front-runner in Brazil’s election has been so woefully under-reported outside of South America. While Bolsonaro is clearly a fascist, he is often portrayed as something very different.
In the first round of voting conducted on 7 October, Bolsonaro won 46% of the vote while the runner up Fernando Haddad of the Workers’ Party will now face Bolsonaro in the second round to determine who will be the next Brazilian President on the 28th of October. That being said, the election itself could be reasonably deemed to be undemocratic even before the first vote was cast. This is the reality as Brazil’s most popular politician Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (known affectionately as Lula) was jailed prior to the campaign. In spite of winning an appeal before a judge who guaranteed Lula his freedom, another judge overruled the decision and as a result the man that every major opinion poll shows would have won in a landslide continues to languish behind bars due to corruption charges that are self-evidently politicised.
As a result, Haddad of Lula’s Workers’ Party had little time to campaign as the Party aimed to secure Lula’s release from prison prior to the election, something that would have virtually guaranteed his victory in the vote. Instead, a judicial coup against Lula forced his longtime loyal supporter Fernando Haddad to step into his considerably large shoes after having sat out most of the campaign in the hopes that Lula would be released in time for the first round of voting.
Jair Bolsonaro on the other hand has been campaigning for months on a platform emphasising nostalgia rather than anything remotely modern. According to Jair Bolsonaro’s own words, he is an advocate of Brazil’s military regime which ran the country between 1965 and 1985. A vote for Bolsonaro is therefore a vote to endorse a slide back towards military rule and what’s more is that Bolsonaro does little to hide his disdain for modern politics, civic democracy and civilian rule. A vote for Bolsonaro is quite frankly a vote against democracy and a vote for a return to the military dictatorships that ruled multiple Latin American nations from the 60s through to the 80s. Bolsonaro knows this, the military knows this, the United States knows this and it seems only the journalists falsely calling Bolsonaro a populist fail to grasp this incredibly overt reality.
While Bolsonaro’s rhetoric is often flamboyant and apparently controversial by design, his retrograde policies of taking the civilian government back under the wing of the military along with reinstating all of the 1970s style far-right positions that dominated much of Latin America in the second half of the 20th century, is neither progressive populism nor right wing populism, it is merely unabashed far-right reactionary politics in its most unadulterated form.
If Bolsonaro does in fact win the final vote on the 28th, he will be Latin America’s most far-right and overtly fascistic leader since the downfall of Chile’s dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1990. While the current socio-political status quo in Brazil does objectively leave much to be desired, such a sharp turn to the extreme right will likely make a bad situation far worse.
But while Bolsonaro is the prototypical Latin American fascist, liberal media were too busy hurling the “f-word” at those who are not fascists to allow concerned citizens to realise that the fascist tendencies of the Latin American right are once again conquering the centre group in Brazil’s broken political system.
It is nothing short of tragic that Donald Trump (for all of his many faults) is falsely labelled as a “fascist” by far too many liberals while Bolsonaro has been given the nickname “tropical Trump”. In reality, Trump is merely a right-wing populist with some discredited old-leftist trading policies thrown in for bad measure. By contrast, far from just being a sub-equatorial version of Trump, when it comes to fascism Bolsonaro is the real deal and he is likely soon to take the helm of Latin America’s largest country.