It hasn’t even been a week since the fascist Jair Bolsonaro won the presidency in Brazil, and the country has already taken a rapid turn towards brutal totalitarianism. In the week before the election, more than twenty Brazilian universities were invaded by military police. They confiscated books about the history of fascism, interrupted classes because of “ideological content,” and took away anti-fascist banners and posters.
When Bolsonaro becomes president, he’s going to make things like this happen over and over again. He’s said that he wants to return Brazil to its former military dictatorship, implement torture, persecute gays, and make Brazil a Christian theocratic state. And he’ll no doubt try to get things to this point by making one smaller-scale takeover after another, which is how authoritarian leaders have destroyed democracies throughout history.
Even if Brazil’s institutions hold against these attacks, the closing in of fascism in Brazil is part of a worldwide collapse of liberty. This neo-fascist movement is collectively a reaction to the collapse of the climate, the rise of neoliberalism, and the other disasters that have appeared during the decline of capitalism. And its effects are being felt on increasingly destructive levels.
This movement’s leaders have no respect for human rights, international law, or the constitution. They only attack scapegoated groups and consolidate governmental and corporate power, while they get their supporters to rationalize this all as vital for “national security.”
For example, this week Donald Trump moved to end birthright citizenship, an action that would clearly violate the 14th Amendment while putting 300,000 infants a year in danger of being taken away by ICE. Whether or not Trump can get away with doing this, his call for it is an attempt to stoke xenophobia and support for an unconstitutional white ethnostate. Much of Trump’s base now backs the idea of creating an underclass of brown immigrant families who are afraid to send their children to school, give birth in a hospital, or send children to the doctor for risk of having their kids be deported.
This effort to dehumanize immigrants and people of color comes at the same time when Trump’s White Houses is using the military to target Hispanics. Last month, Trump made plans to send as many as 15,000 troops to the southern border to “defend” America from an influx of migrants. Trump’s characterizing the migrant caravan as an “invasion” is further indication that Trump and his fascistic staff are seeking to deprive disfavored ethnic groups of their humanity, and that they want to escalate state violence against these groups. The people in the caravan are seeking their U.N.-ensured right to asylum. And Trump’s claim that the caravan includes MS-13 members is brazenly false.
It’s hard to imagine this happening just a couple years ago, and there’s no telling how far the assault will have gone several years from now. Where they hope to take it was recently hinted at when Trump suggested that troops should shoot at migrants who throw rocks-which is a kind of retaliation that’s recognized as a war crime by American soldiers. Trump has since only walked back this threat because of all the backlash against his remark. And the remark has made Trump’s base comfortable with using the military to target unarmed Hispanics.
We know there’s a good possibility that the Trump administration will eventually be able to shoot parents for throwing rocks because this is what the Israeli government already gets away with. And, modern Israel shows what a society looks like after a long period of steps towards genocide.
Israeli-Palestinian relations used to be a lot better, even as Israel was illegally invading and expelling Palestinian communities. But much like the American government is doing right now with Hispanics and Muslims, Israel’s leaders have steadily ratcheted up racist rhetoric while normalizing larger and larger attacks against Palestinians. The result is a situation where Palestinians in Israel navigate a prison of discriminatory laws, while the IDF shoots unarmed Palestinians with no regard for the laws of war. And Israel’s efforts to deprive Gazans of food and water while blocking their exits from the region have effectively made Gaza into a concentration camp.
It’s parallels like these that show us America’s future. In a press conference on Monday, Trump said that he’s ordered the military to construct a massive network of detention centers to hold the people in the migrant caravan, making for a vision that he described as “massive cities of tents.” Trump tried to justify this by characterizing the migrants’ claims to asylum as “meritless,” which was a weak way to hide the fact that the Trump White House is seeking to create vast concentration camps. It’s likely that this project will go through since it’s only an expansion of the immigrant detention centers which are already in operation.
In his book “The Destruction of the European Jews,” Raul Hilberg wrote about how Germany was prepared for the Holocaust that “The destructive process was a development that was begun with caution and ended without restraint.” This gradual change towards nightmarish dystopia is happening to numerous countries throughout the world; democracy and human rights have been disappearing not just in the U.S., Israel, and Brazil, but in Orban’s Hungary, Erdogan’s Turkey, Duterte’s Philippines, and in Poland under the neo-fascist Law and Justice Party. Ethnic nationalist movements and religious extremism are also spreading in almost every part of the world. This makes for what the essayist Pankaj Mishra calls the “Age of Anger,” where people respond to humanity’s 21st-century crises by starting wars against scapegoats.
The capitalist crimes that created these social conditions will not be addressed by “liberal” institutions like the Democratic Party, because these institutions are tied into the capitalist establishment. Click To Tweet This is why the world’s capitalist elites have cheered on the arrival of Bolsonaro’s neoliberal fascist government, and why Democratic “Resistance” leaders like Claire McCaskill and Joe Donnelly have supported the repeal of birthright citizenship. The “moderate” people in power are willing to assist monsters like Bolsonaro and Trump as long as their class status is protected.
We’re not going to fight this by voting for Democrats in the midterms. We need to join the organizing groups that are capable of militantly defending against fascism and racism. These groups include the John Brown Club-also called Redneck Revolt-whose goal is to arm vulnerable communities against attacks from hate groups. The Socialist Rifle Association, a non-militia group, has a similar mission of arming poor people and people of color. I recommend that people join any other available socialist group in order to counter the onslaught of fascism, like how many people are already doing in Brazil.
While a debate is essential in the fight against fascism, so is directly working to stop the violence that the fascists are engaging in. Because the attitude that the fascists have towards their enemies is exemplified in the answer that a Trump supporter recently gave to an interviewer’s question about how to treat migrant families: “What would solve the whole thing on the border [is] if they would just start shooting.”