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At 60 years of the coup, remember and fight so it never happens again

Resistência-PSOL, from Brazil

Today we remember the 60 years of the coup that gave rise to one of the darkest periods in our history: the military dictatorship that lasted from 1964 to 1985. There were two decades of persecution, death, torture, murder, contempt, and annihilation of indigenous populations, cultural, economic, and police siege against the outskirts and black people, corruption, censorship, scarcity, and international indebtedness.

It all began as it does now: first, the denial of national elites to accept minimal and partial reforms that would give some degree of dignity to the most suffering people; then, political terror, the “ghost of communism,” the myth of the destruction of the family; later, the appeal to the “moderating power” of the armed forces and their supposed incorruptibility and patriotism. This powerful movement, based on the middle and privileged classes, which had been coming since at least 1961, triumphed in 1964 in a bloody coup that had the support and financing of national and foreign businessmen, media, TSE, governors, and mayors, part of the National Congress, and had the political and logistical support of the United States Embassy.

The country plunged into a night of horror. There were thousands of deaths, tens of thousands persecuted, fired, and exiled. The military government repressed demonstrations, leftist parties, trade unions, civil society organizations, journalists, and artists. The people resisted as best they could. Some activists remained inactive for many years, others went on the desperate path of armed struggle, and still others acted clandestinely, molecularly, waiting for an opportunity to return to open struggle.

In the end, the dictatorship was defeated by the irresistible force of the working class in a new wave of political and union reorganization that began in the late 1970s. The dictatorship left the scene in a melancholy way (let us remember the famous phrase of João Figueiredo when leaving the presidency: “Forget me!”), but not before offering itself and its agents an amnesty that spared them the fate that several dictators from other countries had: prison.

Impune military

Thus, the dictatorship left power, but the murderers and torturers were never punished. The country declared its “hatred and disgust for the dictatorship” (famous expression of Ulisses Guimarães when promulgating the Constitution of 1988), but never really settled accounts with its past. The Brazilian elite – petty, cowardly, uneducated, and traitorous – never allowed a true process of democratization.

After the dictatorship, the Military Police remained in practice as absolutely omnipotent and autonomous entities, only remotely subjected to the civil authority of governors (and even with that, they want to end now!). The Army, Navy, and Air Force preserved an archaic structure, distant from the people and an internal reactionary ideology, disconnected from the real defense and protection needs of the country. For Brazilian military personnel, the “internal enemy” (read: the left and social movements) remains the main enemy. Meanwhile, they earn very high salaries, live in the comfort of their military villages, leave their pensions to adult daughters, engage in joint exercises with the U.S. Army, and receive instructions from Israeli military personnel. The Brazilian armed forces are the most alien thing to the people one could imagine in a country as afflicted as ours.

The coup yesterday and today

Today, 60 years after the coup, the fascist serpent remains alive in the armed forces and the support given to them by the middle and upper classes of the country. We saw this in a very graphic way on January 8, 2023, when a mob tried to stage a new coup in the country. The pathetic surface of that attempt should not lead us to error: it was a serious operation. There were meetings with the commanders of the armed forces, a draft of the coup, plans to close the Supreme Court, arrest and hang Alexandre de Moraes, and install a state of siege in the country, with the suppression of civil rights and democratic freedoms. For very little, the history of 1964 did not repeat itself.

Therefore, more than ever, it is important to fight for the memory of what the coup and the dictatorship were. Lula made an important mistake by entering into a tacit agreement with the military where no one speaks of what happened and everyone “looks forward.” Big mistake. While the government cancels its remembrance activities, the fascists continue with their campaign on social media about the need for a new coup and a new dictatorship. The government has given up on playing an educational role (especially for youth, who have very little idea of what the dictatorship was), while the coup agitation of Bolsonarism has not stopped for a minute. It is not difficult to see who benefited from this exchange.

Since the establishment of the Republic, the Brazilian armed forces, supported by the national elite, have always had a dictatorial and coup vocation. That is why the danger remains real. To prevent a new coup and a new dictatorship, it is necessary, first of all, to condemn and imprison Bolsonaro and the coupist generals who tried a coup between the end of 2022 and the beginning of 2023. In addition, it is necessary to proceed with the debolsonarization of the State: to promote a radical democratic reform in the armed forces, including the Military Police, which must be controlled by elected rulers and self-organized entities of civil society. An external control is urgently needed.

But more than anything, to finally ward off the danger of the coup, it is necessary to deliver what was promised: structural, significant reforms that affect people’s lives. The people need to be called to the streets to actively support the government’s progressive measures. But this can only happen if these measures exist: salary increases, cheaper food, quality job creation, investment in education, health, and transportation, concrete prospects for precarious workers and black and poor youth. It will not be possible to implement such a government hand in hand with Artur Lira’s centrão, the current military leadership, and the sectors of neoliberal right. It is necessary to build and bet on popular mobilization.

In 2022, the majority of the people rejected the violent and reactionary narrative of fascism and decided to give Lula and the PT a new chance. This chance cannot be wasted. Bolsonarism is judicially cornered but very active and strong politically, making a tough opposition, just waiting for government mistakes to resume agitation to return to power in the country, either through elections or through a new coup attempt in the future. We cannot allow it.”

Translated by portuguese from Davi Nunes