I barely know where to begin, except to say that we may be, probably are, at the beginning of a long fascist wave.
Why? Because the same patterns always obtain. The economy stagnates. The liberal-centre and mainstream Right, persistent in its course despite obvious crisis, collapses. Sections of the middle class resent their decline, blame the poor, and fear being driven to their condition, and radicalise to the right. The Left is on the back foot, the labour movement weakened, often by the actions of its own side. The views of fascists are paraded and amplified in media economies that cannot but find them fascinating, compulsive -- at first with ridicule, then with apprehension, then with cautious respect.
The state is stalemated. Corruption, both real and perceived, is leveraged by the fascists. The fascists portray corruption and the failings or erosions of democracy as symbolic of moral degeneracy, of the collapse of racial distinction, sexual prohibition, and the 'authentic' paternal relation between ruler and ruled.
And then there's the bourgeoisie who, it turns out, are not reliably antifascist. Indeed, capitalist nihilism is such that, Jair Bolsonaro's victory was paved in large part by investors. Now that he has won, the stock market is soaring. We've seen this before, with politicians who have real blood on their hands. The Economist saluted the pogromist Narendra Modi as the "strong man" to fix Indian capitalism, and Fareed Zakaria on CNN waxed lyrical about his 'inspiring' election. Now, news outlets from CBC to the BBC are euphemising like crazy, wondering about investment possibilities, or the chance of a "refreshing break from political correctness".
These conditions are structural. And what is more, I suggest that they will worsen. It is not coincidental that Trump, Bolsonaro and Putin are 'climate deniers'. There are certainly forms of eco-fascism available, as Marine Le Pen shows us, and right-wing imperialist modes of adaptation and survival. But the middle class Right which is driving these political surges for fascism, is well aware of the implications of the climate crisis and the sixth mass extinction.
It isn't just the end of 'consumerism', by which the middle class has defined itself socially through its modes of consumption. It isn't just the end of certain property-based freedoms. The struggle over human survival is a struggle over the distribution not only of property, but over the costs and consequences of climate change. The struggle for human survival is tendentially already a struggle against capitalism.
Fascism is moving through a phase of rehabilitation through electoral process, media spectacles and so on, but that isn't its destination. Fascism can't take power in a state that retains democratic rights and liberties. It has to destroy those and the social basis for their defence. How it assembles the means to do that will reflect conditions specific to the twenty-first century, especially the properties of new communications technologies (which, of course, Bolsonaro successfully exploited in his electoral campaign). But the end point is the overthrow of democracy. At a time when we should be having emergency meetings in town halls every week to discuss the crisis of humanity, it would crush democracy. It would crush survival.
Jair Bolsonaro is a fascist cadre. An outright and earnest enthusiast for dictatorship, mass murder, torture. Far more comparable to Duterte than Erdogan, Modi, Putin or even Trump. Trump, as the Salvage formulation has it, is not not a fascist. Bolsonaro is just a fascist. He has declared that he would carry out a coup on day one of taking office, and that a massacre of some thirty thousand people would be needed to change Brazil in the way that he wants.
It is not much consolation to learn, as I listen to Alfredo Saad-Filho on The Dig, that Bolsonaro is incompetent. On the one hand, competence may come with opportunity and experience. That, after all, is why the far right in Europe adopted the strategy of 'mainstreaming' -- dissimulating their politics in order to gain access to the state, and prove to the ruling class that they are capable of running it.
On the other hand, fascism thwarted by incompetence, as opposed to mass opposition, is still dangerous. Fascists with power, frustrated by their lack of success, will tend to try to escalate.
Look at Trump just over the last week. He is the laziest, most feckless, and in relative terms the most ideologically vacuous leader the alt-right could have found. He hasn't been able to significantly alter the predicates of US foreign policy, he has no serious alternative to liberal globalisation, and most of his real achievements relied on the connivance of supposedly 'moderate' Republicans like the unspeakable Lindsey Graham, or Supreme Court liberals. It was Graham who led the defence of Kavanaugh. It was the supposedly bad-ass Ruth Bader-Ginsburg who voted with the Right for a version of Trump's travel ban. Absent these enabling factors, he would be even more at sea.
So he's going for it. Remember that this is the week in which yet another mass shooter stormed into the Tree of Life synagogue and murdered Jews. Jews whom he claimed were literally satanic, and blamed for helping refugees who "slaughter our people". It's the week in which the so-called MAGA bomber attempted to assassinate George Soros, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
Trump chose this week to announce that he's sending five thousand troops to protect the border against a caravan of migrants. As though to repel a military invasion. Trump chose this week to announce that he will use an executive order to deny the children of migrants, born in the US, citizenship. And it was not long before that, that his administration signalled that it would champion the most overtly eliminationist policy toward trans people, not simply denying them protections but eliminating the category in law.
All of that is still constrained within the framework of capitalist democracy. And some of it will fail. But the point is to keep prodding, keep moving, keep creating poles of attraction and agitation. And I'm willing to bet that will help the Republicans in the mid-term elections, while the Democrats appear more-or-less helpless in the face of serious reaction.
Bolsonaro, as I said, is far worse and more dangerous than Trump.