It is a known fact that Bolsonaro is preparing for the possibility of losing the elections and attempting a military coup. Whether this coup will succeed or not will depend on the concrete relationship of forces.

By: Eduardo Almeida

Originally published in Portuguese here

The very existence of this intention, currently being openly discussed by the Presidency of the Republic, with the acknowledged support of sectors of the Armed Forces, the police, and the armed militias [1], should provoke a serious discussion on the part of the mass movement in Brazil.

Yet, we are not currently discussing this possibility. The leaderships of the PT and PSOL, as well as the majority trade unions, are simply betting on the victory of Lula-Alckmin and on the institutions of bourgeois democracy to “avoid the coup.”

Today it seems to us that the majority of the big national bourgeoisie, as well as the majority sectors of imperialism, do not support a proposal for a military coup because they are assured through one of the majority lists at the polls (Bolsonaro or Lula) the continuity of their economic plans. But that does not exclude that Bolsonaro may attempt a coup, with unpredictable consequences.

Moreover, Bolsonaro expresses a far-right that is here to stay. Whether he wins or loses the elections, whether he attempts a coup or not, the far right is more organized than ever at the grassroots and will provoke clashes in the future.

There are emboldened militias (bandits and interconnected police), armed neo-fascist or fascist groups, civil and military police, and sectors of the Armed Forces in growing numbers in Brazil, as well as in much of the world. There is a polarization of the class struggle at the international level and one of its manifestations is precisely the growing presence of the far right.

The most visible and immediate threat is the possibility of a coup attempt given Bolsonaro’s likely electoral defeat. But clashes by far-right armed groups against workers’ strikes, women’s, LGBTQ, and other demonstrations could become commonplace in the future. What already exists today in the countryside with agribusiness gunmen assassinating peasants, quilombola and indigenous leaders (as was the case with the attack on the Yanomami) may move to urban centers.

This already exists to a certain extent in the popular neighborhoods with the genocide of black youth by the police often associated with the militias. Several of these police sectors are led by ultra-right-wing groups.

The growing presence of the far right is an expression of the polarization of the class struggle, which will tend to become more acute in the coming years. The elements of barbarism, hunger, and unemployment increase with the implementation of neo-liberal plans. This will end up provoking more resistance from the workers and the poor people. Today there are strikes like that of the National Steel Company (CSN), Avibrás [aeronautical industry], Chery [automotive terminal of Chinese origin], and public employees. And there will be more during the year. But, in the end, everything will be directed toward the October elections.

After the elections, many things will depend on who is the winner. But, even with Lula’s victory, the reality of world capitalism imposes the continuity of neoliberal plans without the possibility given by the commodities boom in 2003. Even if there is initial confidence in the government, it is likely that struggles and mobilizations will arise. The possibility of social explosions cannot be excluded.

The bourgeoisie uses the state apparatus, with the Armed Forces, the police, and the judiciary, to “maintain order” and repress mobilizations. But it can also use these organized and armed groups at the base. An armed group can dissolve an assembly or a demonstration.

The fact is that the far right is actively and publicly preparing, both for the possibility of a coup and for the daily confrontations with the workers’ movement.

However, the other pole, the mass movement, is not ready. And that begins with the bad political education on this issue. The strategy of the majority currents, articulated around the leaderships of the PT and PSOL, is electoral, inside the institutions of bourgeois democracy. Everything is oriented towards the October elections and confidence in the justice system, in Congress, in the Armed Forces. They never call for the self-organization of the movement and even less for its self-defense.

The bourgeois institutions do not deserve any confidence even to resist a coup attempt, and even less to defend the struggles of the workers.

The justice system, including the Supreme Federal Court (STF), has already demonstrated its bourgeois class character and its cowardice in the face of the far-right, covering up crimes such as the murder of Marielle Franco and the police massacres in the neighborhoods of Rio de Janeiro. The Congress, dominated by the centrão [center parties], can sell itself to the highest bidder. The Armed Forces and the police are likely to be divided in the face of a coup. Besides, historically they are against the struggles of the masses.

Even if these institutions resist a coup, the resistance will be partial and limited. They may emerge victoriously, but nothing guarantees it. And, if these armed groups enter the scene against unarmed sectors, they will have a greater chance of success.

The only real possibility of resistance is from the mass movement. The people in the streets overthrew the dictatorship in Brazil in 1984, in Argentina in 1982, in Bolivia several times (the last one defeating the coup of 2019), and prevented the imperialist coup in Venezuela in 2002.

But, for that, it is necessary for the workers to prepare themselves. Both for the possibility of a coup and for the struggles of the coming years. Exactly as the far right is already doing. This means organizing the self-defense of the workers.

The urgent need for self-defense

The workers are the absolute majority in society, and they produce everything that we eat, wear, and live in. But who controls the state and society is a small minority, the bourgeoisie, owners of the big companies. That minority governs today with Bolsonaro and, although with a different face, will be in power with Lula.

The domination of the bourgeoisie has an ideological and political part, ensured by the institutions (government, congress, political parties), which ensure conformism and the acceptance of domination. An important part of this domination is, in bourgeois democracy, the possibility of changing governments repudiated by the population (like Bolsonaro today) for others (like Lula) in which there are expectations. Thus, the erosion and crisis of governments can be channeled through elections always controlled by big capital.

The essential and decisive part of bourgeois domination is the Armed Forces and the police, which guarantee “bourgeois order”, that is to say, the capitalist exploitation of big business, by force of arms and through repression.

We defend democratic freedoms within the Armed Forces and the police to hinder this repression. We demand the right of soldiers and NCOs to organize unions and strikes, the right to elect officers, and the demilitarization of the Military Police. Obviously, as long as capitalism exists, the police will always be at the service of the repression of the people. Therefore, our program is the construction of another state and the end of all the organs of repression against the people. By defending the demilitarization of the Military Police (MP), and creating a unified police where soldiers have the right to organize and, at the same time, public control, we are trying to take steps towards the dismantling of the repressive forces.

But that does not exist today. The reality is the harsh repression of the masses by the repressive apparatus of the state.

The monopoly of arms by the bourgeois state is a fundamental part of this domination, seen as “normal” by the population and defended by most bourgeois and reformist parties.

The result is that police repression often succeeds in ending demonstrations and strikes. Police can act as occupation troops in communities, injuring and killing black youth.

In addition, there are the quasi-state armed groups of the bourgeoisie, like the yagunzos in the countryside, who assassinate peasant leaders. Bolsonaro encourages the arming of the bourgeoisie and the upper-middle-class to defend their properties and support his coup.

Despite being an absolute majority, the workers accept their domination and exploitation through ideological and political control. And, when they rebel, they are repressed by the armed state and quasi-state apparatus led by a minority: the big bourgeoisie.

The struggle against this situation begins with politics. The workers have every right to defend themselves against the violence of the bourgeoisie. It is not correct to accept passively the repression of the state or of the armed groups of the bourgeoisie.

This has nothing to do with the defense of the guerrillas, of groups detached from the mass movement, which pretend to supplant the action of the masses. Either the masses mobilize to defend themselves, or nothing. The experience of 2013 showed how some vanguard groups, like the Black Blocs, with actions at the margin of the masses, only facilitate police repression. Moreover, they are sometimes infiltrated by the police.

When the masses take action and assume their defense, they can emerge victoriously, and they accumulate consciousness and organization.

This often occurs as a consequence of direct struggles. In strikes, pickets are formed, which serve to convince the doubters, and also to use force against the strikebreakers. The pickets are examples of self-defense of the masses.

At more advanced moments of the struggle, for example, during the occupation strikes in the 1980s at Mannesman and Belgo in Minas Gerais, as well as at GM in São José dos Campos, the pickets also prevented the police from entering the factories and guaranteed the victory of the strikes.

As Trotsky stated, “At bottom, the picket line is the embryo of the workers’ militia. Whoever thinks it necessary to renounce physical struggle, must renounce all struggle because the spirit cannot live without the flesh.”

In the occupation of Pinheirinho, located in the city of São José dos Campos (SP), in 2012 the population organized resistance against the police invasion. The police occupied Pinheirinho, but even so, the population resisted heroically. The example of resistance in Pinheirinho became a reference for other occupations.

In the revolutionary upsurge in Chile, in 2019 and 2020, the “First Line” was organized. These were groups of activists who defended actions and marches against the police. These were not individual actions, outside the masses, like the Black Blocs in the 2013 mobilizations. The First Line was a direct part of the movement and a part of the masses.

We see a tendency for the class struggle to sharpen and polarize. Workers need to organize to fight against the violence of the bourgeoisie, whether by the police, right-wing militias, or the armd forces.

Therefore, we affirm the need to begin now the organization for the self-defense of the mass movement. The confrontation with the possibility of a Bolsonaro coup is only the expression of a deeper need of the masses.

As we said, this begins with a political debate, which should be publicly assumed by the parties and the major trade union centers of the movement, such as PT, PSOL, and CUT.

This means assembling self-defense teams in all unions, social movements (peasants, urban and rural land occupations, and quilombolas against the oppression of women, LGBTQ, against racism), youth, and neighborhood associations. We must form self-defense teams for martial arts training and defense in demonstrations, picket lines, etc. This includes preparing self-defense teams also for elections, and preparing the response in case of a coup.

The question of the right to armament

Part of this debate has to do with the right or not of the people to arm themselves. This includes the collective process, as we said above, of the self-defense of the masses from their organizations of struggle. And it also includes the individual right to arm.

This polemic is open in the movement. And part of it has to do with Bolsonaro’s systematic defense of the armament of the bourgeoisie and the middle class. Both the PT and the PSOL, like the majority of the bourgeois parties, respond to this with a pacifist posture against armament.

However, this position only weakens the right of defense of the mass movement and of the population as a whole against the violence of the State and of the far-right Bolsonarist groups. It is a fact that, in the first three years of Bolsonaro’s government (2019 to 2021), the registration of firearms by the Federal Police more than tripled compared to the previous three years (2016 to 2018). Middle class and bourgeoisie “gun clubs” are multiplying in the country. Bolsonarist militias are ostensibly armed.

Faced with this reality, pacifists advocate disarmament. We do not agree with that. The arming of the population is a democratic right. It was fundamental in the bourgeois revolutions, starting with the French. In the bourgeois-democratic revolution of the USA, the population was also armed, and this conquest is still assured in the Constitution, which says that an unarmed citizen cannot be a free citizen.

Why not ensure the collective right of the workers to armament? Why not ensure the individual right of the Brazilian population to armament, as in the Constitution of the United States? Why can’t the movement defend itself against the police, the yagunzos of the bourgeoisie, and the far right? Why can’t the people defend themselves in the poor communities, both against the bandits and the police?

Against Bolsonarist gun ownership, we defend the democratic right of the poor people to be armed.



[1] In Brazil, “militia” is the name given to extreme right-wing groups formed by active or retired police and military personnel that were formed to fight drug gangs in the poorest neighborhoods of the cities and ended up transforming themselves into a criminal organization [Translators Note].

Article published in Portuguese at, 5/16/2022.
Article published in Spanish at, 5/19/2022.

Spanish Translation: Natalia Estrada
English Translation: John Joseph