Review: Being Aware is First Step to Resisting US Militarization / by W.T. Whitney Jr.

Photograph Source: Jason Eppink – CC BY 2.0

The military draft in the United States has disappeared. There’s no major U.S. war and military affairs rate little attention in the media. The U.S. public embraces the pervasive influence of the military-industrial complex across U.S. society. The U.S. Congress seems never to hold back on wildly exorbitant military spending.

Travelers entering North Carolina on Interstate 95 almost immediately see a sign proclaiming “Nation’s most military friendly state” – a sign paid for, in part, by the N.C. Bankers Association.  In high schools, military recruiters “insinuate themselves into school life at every level.” Loudspeakers at sports events sound out tributes to veterans and active-duty troops. The latter may receive free tickets to performances, preferential parking, and discounts on merchandise.

Unveiling of the new “Welcome to North Carolina” sign for interstate highways in the state – Fayetteville Observer

Clarity Press, 2023

Author Joan Roelofs has written a new and much needed book that explains much about praise and support for the U.S. military. The Trillion Dollar Silencer, provides atravelogue of sorts through the U.S. military-industrial complex. It moves from the military establishment and big corporations to colleges, universities, NGOs, philanthropies, foundations research institutes, and other kinds of defense contractors.

Her thesis is that dependency on the part of civilian institutions involved with the military establishment has the effect of shielding the military from widespread popular outrage at war-making and big spending. She asks, “Why is there so much acceptance of and so little protest against our government’s illegal and immoral wars and other military opera­tions?”

The author shows her anti-war perspective in rejecting NATO and in criticizing U.S. military interventions, subversion, and covert military actions as violations of international law. She condemns U.S war-makers’ use of Cold War and anti-terrorism pretexts to have free rein to maim and destroy.

Roelofs, a retired professor of political science, is the author also of Foundations and Public Policy: The Mask of Pluralism (SUNY Press) and Greening Cities (Rowman and Littlefield).

She argues that the incentive for civilian institutions and private companies to support military funding and U.S. military purpose lies in their interests being satisfied. Propaganda, distractions, and fear of repression, she points out, are other persuaders. Her new book is about “the interests created by [the] military’s penetration into so many aspects of civilian life.”

Roelofs writes about large and small defense contractors and private, public, and non-profit ones. They are colleges, universities, research foundations, healthcare organizations, and groups working on political and legal issues and the environment.  They provide the military with supplies, logistics, weapons development, human services, defense against atypical threats.

She indicates that, “75% of the [Defense Department] budget is paid to contractors.” These had enough funds, she reports, to financially support dozens of think tanks and foundations. Money, we suggest, is basic to the “interests” cited by the author.

Other observers point out that U.S. companies in 2019 accounted for 57% of the arms sold by the world’s 100 top weapons manufactures. The world’s five biggest weapons manufacturers are U.S. corporations.

Lockheed Martin took in $58.2 billion in revenues in 2020 and showed profits of $9.1 billionin 2021. Raytheon Technologies reported arms sales of $36.8 billion in 2020 and profits of $5 billion in 2021. Boeing’s profits in 2021 were $5.19 billion. Northrop Grumman sold arms worth $30.4 billion in 2021 with $7.0 billion in net income. General Dynamics’s arms sales totaled $25.8 billion; its 2021 profits were $3.3 billion.  The average salary of the CEOs of these companies was $20,795,527, according to

According to the book, defense contracts provide economic rescue even for next-door operations.  In 2012 an $866,000 three-year contract for making cribs for childcare centers helped to revive a children’s furniture manufacturer in the author’s hometown Keene, New Hampshire. Granite Industries of Vermont was declining until it received a contract for making up to 4000 headstones a year for Arlington National Cemetery.

Surprises turn up as to who are the big defense contractors. The for-profit health insurance company Humana is the seventh largest of all of them, according to Roelofs. Massachusetts Institute of Technology ranks in 38th place.

Relationships are tight within the military industrial complex. Upper-level employees of universities, philanthropies, and non-government organizations and the top military brass and Defense Department officials oscillate between one sphere and the other. According to the author, Defense Department grants to philanthropies, foundations, and to environmental and civil rights groups are oriented to reforms and not so much to basic social change.

The single-issue orientation of most of the contracting philanthropies and NGOs fits with military and official preferences; their fear would be that different issues seen as connected might encourage critical thinking and even dissent. Roelofs looks at the role of state and local government entities in reaching out to youth to serve military needs such as ROTC units, recruitment, and encouragement of scientific and technical educational paths.

Roelofs’ purpose has been to make “the extent and implications of the military industrial complex more visible.” But, as she notes, “many look away, and the mountain is huge to move.” Additionally, “Our political system …  does not afford citizens much democratic control over policies, and hardly any over foreign policy.” The question is: “What can be done.”

Roelofs is alluding to the powerful forces attached to the economic and political status quo, among them the civilian enablers of the military establishment. She is saying, in essence, that the process of consciousness-raising that does lead to useful political action would be a long and arduous one.

Her book, which is written in a readable, accessible style, would have us start out at the beginning. The first item on the agenda is that of persuading ordinary people to say “No.” They would stand up, test the waters, be active in some way, and make a few gains.

She calls upon her readers to speak out, write to editors, contact elected officials, join and work with antiwar organizations. She advocates for a Green New Deal, a “national service program,” and “conversion to a civilian economy.” She is evidently hoping that masses of people will build a resistance movement, score some victories, gain confidence, and learn.

If Roelofs had presented all-encompassing themes like past U.S. military misadventures and the evils of a profit-driven political system, her call to action would have yielded almost nothing. Instead, more promisingly, she is lending support to a protest movement in its infancy. Now is exactly the right time for her highly recommended book.

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a retired pediatrician and political journalist living in Maine.

Counterpunch, November 18, 2022,

Juneteenth 2022: Demanding a Third Radical Reconstruction of U.S. capitalism / by John Bachtell

The Revs. William Barber and Liz Theoharis at the head of a march led by the Poor People’s Campaign. | Poor People’s Campaign

Tens of thousands are descending on Washington, D.C. for the historic, multiracial “Moral March on Washington and to the Polls.” The march occurs during the Juneteenth Holiday weekend and the growing battle to preserve and extend U.S. constitutional democracy.

The march, called by the Poor People’s Campaign, aims to mobilize the nation’s 140 million Black, Brown, and white poor and low-wage workers, and to unite, organize, and activate this potentially powerful force in coalition with others to remake U.S. society, the economy, and democracy from top to bottom.

Such a force could be decisive for the upcoming midterm elections. At stake is the people’s ability to shape the nation’s future for the benefit of all, our Constitutional democracy, the lives and rights of our people, and the existence of planet Earth.

Juneteenth celebrates the Emancipation of enslaved African Americans in 1863. This tradition of observance and celebration dates back to 1866 and is deeply rooted in African American culture and history.

The adoption of Juneteenth as a federal holiday by a Democratic majority Congress and president reflected the victory of a broad pro-democratic, multiracial, anti-racist coalition of forces that ousted the most openly racist administration in 100 years. It demonstrates the strength and level of African American equality and anti-racist movements to advance a multiracial democracy and is a dramatic validation of the premise that elections have consequences.

But the Moral March and Juneteenth celebration also occur against the backdrop of the ongoing attempted coup by Trump, his billionaire allies, the insurrectionist Republican Party, and the far-right and fascist movements so vividly captured during the nationally televised hearing of the January 6 Select Committee.

These forces are determined to achieve in 2022 and 2024 what they failed to accomplish in 2020. Their ascension to power would open the door to the complete rollback and likely violent repression of all democratic rights. They aim to restore unchallenged white supremacist minority rule, eliminate the peaceful transfer of power, and impose permanent governance by the fascist Republican Party.

The fight to mobilize the majority of Americans to isolate and defeat these forces to preserve and expand democracy is growing.

The Rev. William Barber III and Rev. Liz Theoharris, co-leaders of the Poor People’s Campaign and the June 18 march, are among those who view the current drive to defend and expand democratic rights as part of what is referred to as a Third Reconstruction in the U.S. They view it as a radical remaking of U.S. society, politics, and economy to benefit all.

Emancipation and the First Reconstruction

The First Radical Reconstruction era followed Emancipation, the second great American Revolution, and lasted from 1867 to 1876. Together, these two events marked the most significant advance for democracy in U.S. history. It was a recognition that the U.S. could never be fully democratic if African Americans were not entirely equal in every respect.

A multiracial coalition exercising federal political power, with the newly emancipated playing a leading role, drove the revolutionary social and economic reforms that ensued. The goal was to radically remake or reconstruct the nation from the grassroots to reflect its founding ideals, proclaimed on paper but not yet in practice.

During Reconstruction, Black political representation radically expanded. Over 600 African Americans were elected to state legislatures and Congress. New state constitutions were adopted in the former Confederate states proclaiming equality. The new state governments extended public education and distributed land and other economic resources to the emancipated. It was also an era of a general expansion of worker’s rights, and these advances favorably impacted the lives of white workers and their families, too.

With the passage of the 15th Amendment, droves of Black men went to the polls to exercise their newly recognized right to vote. In this ‘Harper’s Weekly’ print, Black men of various occupations wait patiently for their turn as the first voter submits his ballot. | Alfred R. Waud, “The First Vote,” November 1867 / Library of Congress

Reconstruction Amendments to the U.S. Constitution accompanied legislative advances and were a codification of the expansion of democratic rights. The revolutionary 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments abolished slavery and involuntary servitude (except in cases of incarceration), guaranteed citizenship, equal protection under the law, and voting rights (but only to men).

No sooner were these laws passed than the ruling forces comprising the old slavocracy began to mobilize to regain their power and reverse the revolutionary democratic gains. After only a decade, the old slavocracy defeated Reconstruction and the multiracial fusion coalition that won it.

From its beginnings, U.S. capitalism thrived on the exploitation of humanity, most brutally represented by the system of slavery. Despite the gains of Reconstruction, the systemic racism that was rooted in the capitalist system reasserted its power.

Employing open racial terror and racial division and allying with ruling elites nationally, the old slavocracy overthrew the Reconstruction governments. African Americans were disenfranchised and removed from political office, their newly accumulated wealth stolen or destroyed. The new state governments adopted Black codes to suppress African American rights and impose segregation and a brutal racial hierarchy.

The open racial terror and violent repression of African American rights, including lynch terror and imposition of Jim Crow segregation, lasted some 70 years and drove over six million African Americans to escape the sweltering oppression of the South during the Great Migration. Capitalism’s systemic racism ensured the existence and continuation of systemic poverty throughout the country in the decades that followed and right up through the present day.

Civil Rights Revolution and the Second Reconstruction

The mass Civil Rights movement crushed this fascist terror and broke the back of Jim Crow segregation. The Civil Rights Revolution, which many call the Second Reconstruction, resulted in landmark legal and legislative victories from Brown v. Board to civil, voting, and housing rights.

But the movement, rooted in the African American freedom struggle, came to reflect a broad multiracial movement for democracy. It helped spur historic democratic uprisings for the rights of Mexican Americans, Native Americans, women, LGBTQ people, immigrants, and disabled persons and for peace and the environment.

But the forces of white supremacy, the corporate ruling class, and reactionary elements never accepted this remaking of America and expansion of democratic rights, as incomplete as it was. Like the First Reconstruction, the Second Reconstruction also sparked a racist ruling class backlash. The result was a suppression of the movement, particularly the African American freedom movement, including the assassination of its leaders.

Central to this reactionary backlash was the rise of the new American extreme-right coalition backed by the most reactionary sectors of corporate America, which aims to dismantle the newly gained rights for equality. But its more significant aim is to impose white minority corporate rule and undo all social gains. These include worker and social rights won during the New Deal era, including union rights, Social Security, and other social progress. Just like the old slavocracy, they aim to destroy U.S. Constitutional democracy.

It took a Second Reconstruction, led by the Civil Rights Movement, to break the back of Jim Crow segregation and realize voting rights and greater democracy. But those gains have been under intense threat for more than 40 years. | Library of Congress

March for the Third Reconstruction

Our country’s multiracial working class and people have been in an epic battle with these reactionary forces since the 1980s. While the far-right and fascist movements and institutions, including right-wing mass media, have grown, so too have the mass movements for political and economic democracy.

Among the many gains recorded was the election of the nation’s first African American president, Barack Obama, whose campaign was based on fusion multiracial coalition politics. “Obama’s election represents the possibility of a Third Reconstruction,” Rev. Barber has said.

The new multiracial electorate that elected Obama, growing demographic changes, advances for racial, women’s, LGBTQ, and disability equality, and its growing unity and power scares corporate ruling forces and those influenced by white male supremacy and fear of societal change.

The backlash to these recent gains has been fierce and relentless, beginning with Republican passage of voter suppression legislation across the South but now extending to the denial of abortion rights, attacks on union rights, and creating a public health crisis from the flood of guns in our streets.

Efforts to break up the multiracial electorate and roll back the rights of African Americans, Latinos, and other people of color and slow down and reverse the demographic shifts immediately followed Obama’s election victory. The far-right also mobilized against the rights labor, women, immigrants, and the LGBTQ community.

The backlash gave rise to the MAGA fascist movement and ultimately the election of Trump, the imposition of an extreme-right-wing majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, and the passage of further voter suppression and election subversion laws to permanently institutionalize Republican rule.

But the mobilization of the forces to defeat Trump and defend U.S. Constitutional democracy has expanded the possibilities to expand democratic rights for a Third Radical Reconstruction. If mobilized, a democratic majority of Americans can exercise political power to address poverty and income disparity from the bottom up, address racial and gender inequality, avert the ecological and climate crises, and demilitarize the economy and society. “A Third Reconstruction to revive our moral and political commitment to democracy” is what must happen, says Rep. Barbara Lee.

U.S. capitalism, particularly its most reactionary sectors, is responsible for the massive economic, racial, and gender disparities that plague U.S. society and for the gun violence, militarization, and environmental threats that threaten life on this planet. As Rev. Barber noted, “Forty-three percent of people—over 140 million—live in poverty or are low income. 52% of our children live in poverty. And the Federal budget is just as immoral—$700 billion for defense and $700 billion for everything else. During COVID, billionaires made $2 trillion more and eight million more people fell into poverty. That’s ridiculous!”

The fight to end poverty, save the environment, demilitarize the economy, and defend and radically reform U.S. Constitutional democracy are all intertwined. A Third Reconstruction fulfills the hope of Juneteenth, the spirit of “Sí, se puede,” and the vision of “This land is your land, This land is our land.”

So wherever you are this Juneteenth weekend—whether it’s Washington, D.C., with the thousands of people mobilized by the Poor People’s Campaign, or in your own hometown—march for equality, justice, and democracy. And on Election Day, march again to the polls to cast your vote. March for the Third Reconstruction that our nation needs.

John Bachtell is president of Long View Publishing Co., the publisher of People’s World. He served as national chair of the Communist Party USA from 2014 to 2019. He is active in electoral, labor, environmental, and social justice struggles. He grew up in Ohio, Pittsburgh, and Albuquerque and attended Antioch College. He currently lives in Chicago where he is an avid swimmer, cyclist, runner, and dabbler in guitar and occasional singer in a community chorus.

People’s World, June 18, 2022,

Brazil, Amazon, World: Erections And Elections / by Jean Wyllys and Julie Wark

A 22-year-old Dilma Rousseff is tried at a military court hearing in Rio de Janeiro in 1970, after being tortured for more than 20 days – Brazil’s National Truth Commission Archives.

Brazil ranks tenth out of 142 countries listed in the Global Firepower Review and is deemed to be comparable in military strength to Great Britain, Pakistan, and Turkey. But another aspect of patriarchal potency seems to be well below par. The phallic symbolism of all the country’s weapons isn’t enough to assuage anxieties about the image of manhood military alpha males have created for themselves, especially when their boss, former paratrooper and army captain, President Jair Messias Bolsonaro, 67, has set the bar so high with his frequent claims of being imbrochável (immune to the broxada, or loss or non-event of erection) and public bragging about greeting his wife with his morning hard-on. If a recent armed forces shopping list is anything to go by, it seems that senior military men feel that they must rise to the occasion (it’s impossible to avoid bad puns when referring to this outlandishness) with all the help they can get, viz. 35,000 Viagra pills (most for the navy), $546,000 worth of Botox between 2018 and 2020, inflatable penile prostheses, and anti-baldness remedies, all paid for with public money. If their manhood was faltering, they were cheered up by the purchase, between February 2021 and 2022, of 1,184 tons of filet mignon, rump steak, and salmon, as well as whisky, premium beers, whipped cream, and codfish, delicacies worth about $12 million that the rank-and-file soldiers never get so much as a whiff of, unless they’re kitchen hands.

This pathetic scandal is about much more than the sexual anxieties and refined digestive systems of men who wield weapons. To quote poet Paulo César Pinheiro, it’s an “orgy of crooks”, true heirs of more than two decades of military dictatorship, for whom no crime is too foul when it comes to protecting their privileges. For them, the 1984 Diretas Já movement and the 1988 Citizen Constitution must be erased and suppressed by all means possible. Bolsonaro has therefore revived celebrations commemorating the military coup of 31 March 1964 against democratically elected president João Goulart, thus reversing a 2011 decision by then president Dilma Rousseff ordering the military to end any celebration of the coup, which was also a rejoicing over the removal from office of 4,841 elected representatives, the torture of some 20,000 people (including Dilma Rousseff), and the death or disappearance of 434 people, crimes for which no one has ever been held accountable.

These crimes are publicly endorsed by Bolsonaro. “I’m pro-torture, and the people are too” … “You’ll only change things by having a civil war and doing the work the military didn’t do… Killing. If a few innocent people die, that’s alright.” … “The dictatorship’s mistake was just torturing and not killing.” Making light of the high fatality rates of police violence in Rio de Janeiro, he insinuated that a policeman’s manly willingness to murder is the mark of his worth: “Policemen that don’t kill are not policemen.” These statements and Bolsonaro’s fanatical sex and masculinity obsessions may create a convenient smokescreen covering up his evident corrupt incompetence, but this isn’t just some exotic Brazilian or Bolsonaro aberration.

The connections between the present penis-enhanced military, ethnocide, ecocide, and other crimes against humanity go way back, and straight to the heart of US (Democrat) foreign policy, as Muckrock reports. “A memo detailing a White House meeting on April 1st (as the 1964 coup happened) also show US naval and military forces in position and poised to act in support of the Brazilian military, with the blessing of President Lyndon Johnson and top defense and intelligence officials.” So, in 1971, when members of the Brazilian clergy were denouncing the torture of nuns and priests, a scheduled visit to the US by president General Emílio Garrastazu Médici was a mere PR headache, a “potential embarrassment” for Médici and Nixon. But, in the end “constructive relationships are the most effective way to influence other nations”. And, back home in Brazil, when a declassified US State Department memo showed in 2017 that president Ernesto Geisel (1974 – 1979) gave explicit permission for Brazil’s intelligence service to carry on with its policy of executing dissidents, among them the journalist Vladimir Herzog who was tortured to death in 1975, Bolsonaro Trump-eted that this was fake news, a “coordinated campaign” against his candidacy.

Penis-fixated masculinity reached its lethal zenith with COVID-19 which was quickly identified at the top as a main chance for easy political and economic pickings. Within twenty-four hours of the Health Ministry beginning to take preventive measures against the pandemic on 13 March 2020, Bolsonaro scaled back its procedures. By 16 March, with the excuse that the “pandemic transcends public health”, he had placed the ministry under the control of the Casa Civil, the Executive Office of the Presidency, then headed by General Walter Braga Netto, who will probably be his running mate in the elections this year, the selfsame man who was responsible for the purchase of all the male sex and beauty aids plus the gourmet delicacies. Meanwhile, around the country, health services unable to deal with the pandemic, also lacked medicines for chronic diseases. Insulin for example.

Transcending “public health” meant transcending the public and transcending health in favour of neoliberal kickbacks on steroids (plenty of them) as Bolsonaro and Braga Netto oversaw crooked multimillion-dollar deals in vaccine purchases. With the COVID-19 death toll presently standing at 663,000, a Senate investigation into the government’s mishandling of the pandemic has produced strong evidence of fraud by Bolsonaro’s key allies in Congress and the military who attempted to buy vaccine from intermediaries like the firm Precisa Medicamentos with which Bolsonaro’s son, senator Flavio Bolsonaro, has close ties. There were also negotiations to acquire twenty million doses of Covaxin produced by the Indian company Bharat Biotech at above market rates. This involved inter alia a $45 million upfront payment to a company based in Singapore. Meanwhile, Roberto Dias, former head of logistics of the Health Ministry, demanded a $1 tip for each dose from a supplier that claimed it could provide 400 million AstraZeneca shots. Actually, the supplier couldn’t supply them, but it still managed to negotiate with Brazil’s top “health” officials. And there were other fraudulent contracts. As opposition politician Paulo Pimenta put it, “There is a direct relationship between denialism, corruption, and the way the pandemic has become the country’s greatest health tragedy and the greatest story of corruption”.

The sex problem of the imbrochável is part and parcel of all these deaths. One day after he had tested positive for Coronavirus, Bolsonaro used a homophobic slur to bait presidential staff who were using masks, which was, he said, coisa de viado (for fairies). A few months later, he called on Brazilians to stop being a “country of sissies”. For the imbrochável, Coronavirus was just a “little flu”. By this means, he was sending the double message that the people who were dying were already sick (or “fairies”) while also repeating, yet again, to the Brazilian people that LGBTI+-phobia is acceptable, that violence and discrimination against “fairies” is “normal”.

War on “gender ideology” is a cornerstone of the Bolsonaro power base which, to some extent, explains the extreme toxic masculinity of his regime. After winning the 2018 election, he wasted no time in setting the tone. His campaign had relied on the Bible which is “the toolbox to fix men and women”. The Bible is also enriching as evangelical Education Minister, Milton Ribeiro soon discovered. At Bolsonaro’s request, he ensured that the government prioritised municipalities whose requests for funds were negotiated by pastors, who then received bribes, even in the form of gold bars. Mayors reported that pastors had asked them to buy the Holy Toolbox, complete with a photo of the minister in return for access to educational funds. In the end, the gold bars scandal was more damaging than penis enhancers and Ribeiro was forced to resign.

War on gender ideology isn’t just a war of words but a brutal, bloody war on progressive gender and sexual activism. Gender ideology isn’t a thing in academic or theoretical terms, but a fantasy presented as a conspiracy to promote immorality and undermine family and religious values. The enemies are feminists, gays and trans people and anyone who stands up for their rights, so the “war” against it, justifying all kinds of violence, has become a veritable crusade for Pentecostal and evangelical politicians. Especially since the Supreme Court legally recognised same-sex unions in 2011, the powerful evangelical bloc in Congress (203 out of 594 members, from several political parties) has systematically tried to undermine all sexual and reproductive rights and, if it hasn’t been very successful in changing the laws, it has managed to present itself as the defender of family and Christian values and create moral panic among voters. Whipping up moral panic was a successful move in Bolsonaro’s 2018 presidential campaign when he accused his opponent, former education minister Fernando Haddad who had tried to combat violent homophobia and discrimination with educational materials for schoolchildren, of promoting a “gay kit”, a threat against the “natural” sexual binary. Such was the outcry that President Dilma Rousseff was forced to veto the measure. In a 2013 interview with actor Stephen Fry, Bolsonaro claimed that “homosexual fundamentalists” were brainwashing heterosexual children so they could “satisfy them sexually in the future”.

Forcing Rousseff to cede on the gender issue didn’t stop at that. The ploy played a significant role in the 2016 parliamentary coup against the Workers’ Party government. The “public rhetoric employing misogyny, ridicule and moralist appeals to traditional family values incited against Brazil’s first female president … paved the way for the return of white, male, sexist and authoritarian politics”. In the impeachment proceedings against Rousseff, Bolsonaro delivered a special taunt by using his parliamentary immunity to dedicate his vote against her to Colonel Brilhante Ustra, head of the Doi-Codi torture unit (“who sparks fear in Dilma Rousseff”), and notorious for his sadism. Here is one example of the man eulogised by Bolsonaro: “Amelinha was naked, sitting in the electric shock chair, urinating and vomiting, when she saw her two children, 5-year-old Janaína and Edson, 4, enter the torture room. Ustra had sent for the two children because he wanted them to testify about their parents.”

Since Bolsonaro was immune from censure, the scandal was shifted to a co-author of this article, then congressman Jean Wyllys, who had responded by spitting at Bolsonaro. However, as commentator Gegorio Duvivier notes in a YouTube broadcast titled “Decency”, “many condemned him for missing but the saliva fell on the face of the then-ruralist congressman Luis Carlos Heinze, so he may have missed the target but he hit the mark because Heinze is about the level of Bolsonaro. And a congressman who defends pesticides can’t complain about saliva.” Not only does he recall Bolsonaro’s closeness to the bullet, beef, and bible lobby but makes the point that Wyllys spat at Bolsonaro “for the sake of decency” against “the most indecent statement a politician could make in democratic times”.

The decent gay politician Jean Wyllys was forced to leave Brazil in 2019 after receiving death threats several months after his friend Marielle Franco, gay rights activist and Rio councilwoman, was shot and killed together with her driver, Anderson Gomes. Two of the “state agents” known to be involved in the crime are directly connected with the Bolsonaro family. One worked in the office of Flavio Bolsonaro and the other lives in the same private condominium as the president with whom he has been photographed at several social events. The legal process is still non-existent, and the families of Franco and Gomes have had no access to the police investigations. The message is loud and clear. Women and LGBTI+ people can be killed with impunity for trying to put policies in favour of gender and sexual justice on the agenda. Crazy lies whip up the violence. So, one story that went viral on WhatsApp had Haddad distributing “erotic baby bottles” in public childcare centres while his female running mate, Manuela D’Avila, was an atheist defiler of religious symbols.

At first sight, penis enhancers might seem to be unrelated with Brazil’s highest court of law, the Supreme Court. But the hypermasculinity of Bolsonaro and his men inevitably leads them into direct conflict with it, to the extent that the struggle, supposedly over family values (Bolsonaro’s factitious power base), will determine the country’s political fate. The Supreme Court has been the main protector of LGBTI+ rights, often in opposition to the much more conservative Congress with its Bancada Evangélica (evangelical caucus). This group (which, if a party, would be the largest in the legislature) is influential not only as a policy pushing gang but also as negotiators of debt forgiveness and tax concessions for churches, as owners of media, especially TV, outlets, recipients of electoral campaign funding who have managed to turn their churches into electoral “corrals”. For some, the aim is nothing less than a theocracy. For example, the Minister for Women, Family and Human Rights, Damares Alves, an evangelical pastor who, opposed to abortion and LGBTI+ rights and supporter of “traditional gender roles”, openly expresses the view that, “It is time for the church to tell the nation that we have come … It is time for the church to govern” because the “Brazilian family is being threatened by diversity policies”.

Now, with the appointment of pastor André Mendonça, the evangelicals have secured a place for one of their supporters in the eleven-member Supreme Court. This is understood—and, with elections looming, was meant to be understood—by other members of the flock, like pastor Kenner Terra, to mean two things. First, “Now is the time of moral issues and rollbacks in questions related to gay rights, gender issues and social policies. Now the evangelicals have taken power and these things will not have the same space in the country”. Second, separation between church and state is now moot.

The rapid rise of evangelicals in Brazil to represent more than thirty percent of the population has a perverse relationship with filet mignon and hair restorer for generals. The more the country’s public institutions in health, education, housing, and other social services go into decline, the more important the rapidly self-enriching evangelical churches become in poor communities where, usurping roles once played by left-wing organisations and progressive Catholics, they offer literacy courses, activities for children, and even financial support in some cases, all in a highly patriarchal framework often imposed by violent militia gangs, which also offer income for unemployed young males. All this means votes and more members of the flock to purvey their political agenda.

Meanwhile, Bolsonaro claims that the Supreme Court is “committing abuses” after it authorised investigations into claims that he made police appointments for his personal benefit, as well as into rallies which, endorsed by Bolsonaro, called for military intervention in politics and a shutdown of the Supreme Court and Congress. Moreover, he has been further backed into a corner by the court’s decision in 2020 (on the grounds that the judge, Sergio Moro—later Bolsonaro’s Justice Minister—was biased) to annul the corruption changes against former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva who, after spending eighteen months in prison, is now able to run in this year’s election. More recently, Bolsonaro has pardoned a political ally, legislator Daniel Silveira one day after he was convicted of hate speech for posting a video online defending the military dictatorship and saying that the court justices deserved “a thrashing”. Bolsonaro defended his gesture of the pardon “in the name of freedom of expression, an essential pillar of our society” when it was, in fact, one more ominous episode of a long-running campaign to attack Brazil’s democratic institutions.

Lula now has a comfortable lead in the polls. The pollster FSB Pesquisa estimates he would win a first-round vote by 43 percent to 29 percent if the election were held today. Bolsonaro’s last chance seems to be a military coup with Trumpish echoes (“I don’t believe in polls, but the guy who practically destroyed Brazil is ahead …Either the surveys are fraudulent or people are not well informed.”), which might be why he’s filling the bellies, heads, and penises of key military men with public money. It’s no joke. Observers from other countries including José Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, Yanis Varoufakis, Jeremy Corbyn, Fernando Lugo, Caroline Lucas, and Adolfo Pérez Esquivel have signed an open letter expressing their alarm at the signs, for example Bolsonaro’s military parade in Brasília last year as his allies in Congress pushed through sweeping changes to the electoral system, in preparation for a “counter-coup” against Congress and the supreme court.

Brazil’s reality today is one of rocketing food and energy prices, inflation, environmental disasters, all the COVID-19 deaths and devastation, rising poverty, violence, and social fragmentation and vulnerability. In the Rio City Council, Marielle Franco’s fellow lawmakers refused to get in the lift with this favela-born, openly bisexual woman who had the temerity to press for policies geared to combatting violence against women, better day care for kids, supporting working people, and improving facilities and social life in the favelas, activism that constantly drew attention to militia and state violence. The choice in this year’s election is stark, between the decent values Marielle Franco stood for and the brutish rapine represented by Bolsonaro. It may not even be a choice if Bolsonaro can use his fake-scalped, fake-penised, and full-bellied generals to get his “family-values” way. There’s nothing more wounding than being a loser in a macho culture, which makes this less-than-mediocre man even more dangerous than the earlier cocksure version who is already largely responsible for more than 663,000 COVID-deaths.

Jean Wyllys is a Brazilian lecturer, journalist and politician. He was also notable as being Brazil’s second openly gay member of parliament and the first congressman who was a gay-rights activist. He has been compared to Harvey Milk for his work. In 2019, citing death threats, he gave up on his Congress seat.

Julie Wark is an Australian/Spanish citizen, resident in Barcelona for twenty-seven years. She is a translator (Catalan/Spanish to English, literature, politics, philosophy), long-term human rights author/activist, and is on the editorial board of Sin Permiso. She is the author of The Human Rights Mainfesto (Zero Books).

Counterpunch, April 28, 2022,