It sounds like a joke: What’s the difference between the United States and Brazil? Precisely two years and two days, the length of time between the January 6, 2021 fascist putsch in Washington, D.C., and the January 8, 2023 fascist putsch in Brasilia. Many have noted the obvious similarities between the two events, including the key role of defeated Presidents Trump and Bolsonaro in trying to take back by force what the voters had taken away from them. No two events in such different countries could be identical, and Bolsonaro had already left office when his followers tried to reinstall him in power, while Trump was using the mob to try to stay in power, but there were so many other similarities that something far more than mere coincidence was involved. Of course there was: Trump’s crackpot house intellectual, convicted criminal Steve Bannon, was openly egging on the Brazilian fascisti, just as he has worked for years with the European “far right.”
Hungarian strongman President Victor Orbán is a lodestar for many of these people, as he is for Italian semi-hemi-crypto-fascist Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, and Israel’s forever Prime Minister, Benjamin “Bibi” Netanyahu, who has morphed from a center-right politician with a Nixonian resentment streak into a wanna-be illiberal democrat in the Orbán mode, in actions if not quite yet in rhetoric. His new government is composed of the likes of street-thug provocateur Itamar Ben-Gvir, who has been rewarded with control of the police(!), and convicted bribe taker and tax fraudster Aryeh Deri of the allegedly ultra-pious Shas Party. These worthies are now engaged in trying to steamroll through the Knesset (Parliament) a bill essentially stripping the Israeli courts of their ability to act as a check on government policies that violate minority rights and human rights in general, a move cribbed directly from Orbán. This has led to massive protests in Israel and by the Jewish community in other countries, American Jews foremost among them.
The coming weeks and months will tell whether Israel can avert the worst. I was sourly amused to read an opinion piece decrying this opposition and warning Bibi’s enemies not to try to stop him the way Trump’s opponents did with “hysterical” warnings and protests. To the contrary, I am heartened to see the hapless Israeli center and left learning from the opposition to Trump, which began even before he took office and continued with an enormous demonstration of some three quarters of a million people in Washington’s National Mall the day after his inauguration. We were not able to get him removed from office, but we were able to limit him to one term and to stymie the most ambitious plans of Bannon, General Flynn, the Trump Supreme Court cabal, and the like to install a Christianist racist dictatorship. We have stopped them so far, at least; the struggle is far from over, but in three elections in a row (2018, 2020, and 2022) it has become clear that the American majority is anti-fascist; come to that, Trump himself of course fell three million votes short in the “popular” tally in 2016.
For Brazil and now for Israel, the resilience of the besieged American republic has been a vital inspiration, as has the determined Ukrainian resistance to Putin’s Hitlerian war of aggression. The free peoples of the world are all in this together. Long live the struggle for liberty!