October 2nd, a crossroads



We are the social majority, but attendance at Acts remains stagnant

“In this world there is no impossible task, if there is persistence. One spark can start a fire that burns an entire meadow. If the roots are not removed during weeding, the weed will come back next spring” (Chinese folk wisdom).

In the street mobilizations of October 2, we gained strength, and a moving hope remains, but we have not overcome the limits that the Fora Bolsonaro campaign has known so far, which leaves us at a crossroads. The balance sheet deserves to highlight three elements:

(1) The protests reached 300 municipalities, with demonstrations in all capitals, which mobilized, when added together, a few hundred thousand. The campaign for Bolsonaro Out has a mass audience, but has failed to bring millions to the streets. There is a constancy, perseverance, commitment to activism. Even in a less dangerous context of the pandemic, in which the danger of contagion is still present, but is a little lower due to the advancement of vaccination, there has been no change in quality, only some quantitative variation for a little more or a little less. They were Acts that can be characterized as the mobilization of an expanded vanguard in the area of ​​influence of the most organized social movements and leftist parties.

(2) In the superstructure, what prevailed was a repositioning of the liberal right-wing opposition, after Michel Temer's astonishing letter apologizing on Bolsonaro's behalf. Even so, there was an expansion of the arc of political alliances, but not on the streets, even after Bolsonaro's fascist provocations on September 7. The overwhelming majority of the Acts were left-wing people. The incorporation of twenty parties, both from the center-left such as PDT, PSB, Rede, Solidariedade, dissidents from liberal center-right parties such as Cidadania, DEM, MDB, PSD, PSDB, and even the extreme right that broke with Bolsonarism as the PL, Podemos, and Novo did not add adhesions.

The most important thing, unfortunately, was Ciro Gomes' lack of temper or folly who, harassed by boos while he was speaking, a predictable risk, decided to denounce that “red fascism” was the same as yellow-green, an aberration. Afterwards, he was the victim of an attempt at physical aggression, in a grotesque and regrettable episode. There is no reason to expect that the next Act, even with the expansion of leaders representing sectors of the bourgeoisie through impeachment, will be able to attract dissatisfied conservative middle sectors.

(3) If only the objective conditions for taking to the streets against Bolsonaro are considered, they are more than ripe, they have even rotted. The limits of mobilizations are the subjective conditions. The consequences of the pandemic remained acute in September, with a daily rate of infections above 15.000, without considering underreporting, and deaths above 500, with some deceleration. Unemployment fluctuated around 1%, but still affects something around 14 million, with only 30 million working in the private sector, less than a third of the economically active population. Inflation skyrocketed to 10% a year, but exceeds 20% when considering the basket of consumption of the working class.

Analyzes should be neither optimistic nor pessimistic. The method of Marxism is revolutionary realism. We are the social majority, but attendance at Acts remains stagnant. One way of looking at this dynamic is to underline its limits. Another is to point out that fatigue did not prevail, something notable after some wear and tear after four months. Both are true. Have we reached the limit? What is the dynamic that will prevail?

In reality, a campaign to try to displace a government like Bolsonaro's must be considered as a process, with oscillations, and requires perseverance. It only ends when it ends, and this year we still have the 15N challenge and, following that, the 20N organized by the black movement. But it is unavoidable that there is not an explosive situation of willingness to fight. We shouldn't grumble, it's no use. The question is to understand this subjectivity of the popular masses. After all, why? Three factors, unfortunately, seem to be the main ones:

(a) The first is unbelief. The trend that has been imposing itself on the social base of trade union, feminist, black, youth and popular movements is that impeachment is not possible. People don't believe. The masses only take to the streets in their millions when they believe in the imminence of victory. And Bolsonaro seems armored in the National Congress. Huge anguish and resentment can remain contained for a long time, and it explains why the "clock of history" is slow. The reasons for this doubt or insecurity are varied.

(b) The second is the electoral expectation that Bolsonaro may be overthrown in 2022. As time passes, and opinion polls multiply, a bet on defeating the extreme right at the polls seems to prevail. The calculation is based on the experience of the last thirty-five years of uninterrupted elections. But it is also fueled by the fear that radical mobilizations against the fascists will awaken even more radical reactions from Bolsonarism, which, as everyone knows, has great influence on the officers of the Armed Forces and the state police.

(c) The last is the weight of accumulated experience after so many defeats in the last five years. The institutional coup against Dilma Rousseff passed, Temer took office and served his term, Lula was convicted and imprisoned, Bolsonaro elected, the labor and social security counter-reforms were approved, the Spending Ceiling Law was applauded, privatizations continued with Eletrobrás and Correios. People are politically hurt. Wounds make consciousness recede.

Many on the more combative left have also warned that Lula's absence cannot be ignored. They are not wrong. They are right to criticize because it is inexplicable, or even unforgivable, that the greatest popular leadership chose not to go to the Acts, not even to send a recorded video to be projected on the screen, even after Bolsonaro's fascist apotheosis on September 7th. A systematic dissemination of the Acts through videos on their social networks, and the expectation of their presence would have greatly strengthened the Fora Bolsonaro campaign. It is a serious argument that we are still in conditions of health alert, and Lula is 75 years old, he had cancer, he was imprisoned for more than a year, and he must protect himself. It was not impossible to circumvent the dangers of contagion by organizing a rigorous security service.

But it is unreasonable to exaggerate Lula's role. The hard core of the PT leadership bet on the strategy of attrition, quietism, avoiding provoking the fascists with a short stick, favoring the occupation of spaces so that Lula can assert himself as a catalyst of social malaise for 2022. But it is necessary be lucid in assessing the social relationship of forces, and recognize that it does not depend on the will of the PT leadership to overthrow Bolsonaro this year. The assessment that attributes all responsibility to Lula for the crossroads the Fora Bolsonaro campaign is at is not correct. Counterfactuals are legitimate, because in social and political struggle there is always an open field of possibilities. But not everything is possible.

Even if Lula had engaged, it is still not a likely hypothesis that millions would have responded. The PT is the biggest leftist party, but it doesn't have the same strength as two decades ago. Nor are those who insist on the proposal to advance towards the preparation of a general strike to overthrow the government right. There are, unfortunately, no conditions to build a day of general strike. A summons, even admitting the movement of an apparatus of hundreds of sound cars, and thousands of union employees at the doors of large companies, would inescapably result, at this moment, in a resounding failure. It is not enough that the objective conditions are dire. It is also essential that the subjective be present.

Finally, two other criticisms have been made: (a) some among us consider that there is a political problem. They argue that there is an error in the agitation program of the Brasil Popular and Povo sem Medo Fronts. They defend that the priority of the summons should be the most felt claims and not the slogan “Bolsonaro out”. There is a grain of truth in this criticism. But it is also true that vaccine in the arm and food in the arm were always present in all the messages. There is no shortcut, “magic” slogan or abracadabra in political struggle. It is not political leftism that the crux of the campaign is “down with the government”. All available polls and opinion confirm that, especially among the urban poor, there is a majority who consider government a disaster.

(b) some observe that the format of Acts-Concentration, without demonstrations and with two and a half hours of speeches, is not very attractive. But it is unreasonable to imagine that a more combative format with marches, or a more playful format with more music would be enough to attract millions.

To recognize that we are at a crossroads is to admit that there is a dilemma before us. A dilemma is a difficult choice. But we must maintain the Fora Bolsonaro campaign, and insist on preparing for the November acts, without rest, without delay. Nothing is more important. The fight against neo-fascists will be long and hard.

*Valério Arcary is a retired professor at IFSP. Author, among other books, of Revolution meets history (Shaman).


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