Left at the crossroads?

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By LISZT VIEIRA*

We went from a total rejection of the Jair Bolsonaro government to a line of critical support, which requires having one foot in the institutional and the other in the social

1.

After more than a year of the Lula Government, the left seems to be at a crossroads, which can be seen even by simply reading the texts posted in various groups on social media. I am referring to the attitude to be taken towards the Lula government: total support, critical support, opposition.

I think the vast majority must support the critical support position, although there are those who are in opposition or in full support. But it is not always easy to define when to support and when to criticize, what to support and what to criticize.

To guarantee governability, the Lula government made important concessions to the market, right-wing parliamentarians and the military. This caused a lot of problems, as we all know. I ask permission to mention only the recent increase in the military defense budget, through support for the PEC that links the increase in the military budget to GDP.

This PEC was presented in 2023 by senator Carlos Portinho (PL-RJ), leader of Jair Bolsonaro's party. It provides for the allocation of a minimum percentage of 1,2% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) to the Armed Forces in the first year of validity, with an annual increase until reaching 2%. If the minimum level was already in force, for example, this year's budget Ministry of Defense would rise from the current R$126,6 billion to R$130,8 billion.

On the other hand, the government denied a raise to federal public servants this year. The federal government reiterated on April 10, at the so-called National Permanent Negotiation Table (MNNP), that it will not grant an increase to civil servants in 4. In relation to teachers, the minimum wage in Brazil today is R$2024, for a 4.580,57-hour work week. And more than 40 municipalities do not pay the current minimum wage for teachers, citing legal issues. There is concern that the election year in the municipalities will make it difficult to discuss the increase and the issue will be postponed until 700.

These are just two examples of the consequences of fiscal austerity policy, also called “zero deficit”, a jaboticaba extolled by neoliberals, but non-existent in central capitalist countries, such as the USA, for example. In Brazil today, we are faced with a conservative economic policy, alongside a progressive social policy, albeit with the tightening of functionalism.

2.

In the current situation, an aggravating factor is the permanence of the extreme right which, although affected by Jair Bolsonaro's demoralization, benefits from the strengthening of the extreme right in the world. A possible, perhaps probable, victory for Trump this year in the USA would lead, according to some analysts, to a resurgence of conspiracies aimed at new military coup attempts in Brazil or even an impeachment attempt. There are no reasons for that, but there were also no reasons for Dilma Rousseff's impeachment. They invented the tax cycle that already existed before and continued to exist after.

Today, after a year of the Lula government, there are those who see a coup in the air: the media attacks the federal government's deficit, and does not mention the deficits of the Bolsonaro state governments, much less the huge deficit of the Jair Bolsonaro government with Paulo Guedes. And he always demands cuts in public spending, to transfer resources intended for the poor to the rich in the financial market.

Furthermore, the media frequently echoes the evangelical movement's criticism of customs supported by progressives. They criticize the right to voluntary termination of pregnancy (abortion), the right to sexual freedom, criminalize the possession of drugs, even in small quantities, etc.

Given this situation, the Brazilian left is practically limited to fighting the extreme right, leaving aside its ultimate objectives. Nobody talks about socialism anymore. Good left-wing parliamentarians are no longer those who formulate policies and present good bills. They are those “good fighters”, those who face and fight the right and the extreme right in Congress and outside it.

Thus, the predominant position on the left is no longer to be in favor, it is to be against. To a large extent, the left is guided by the extreme right. This leads many activists to the position of total support for the Lula government, swallowing their mouths and ignoring the popular discontent that is beginning to manifest itself in opinion polls. And the problems are accumulating: the issue of digital platforms, the public social protection system and the lack of labor protection are some examples.

To all this we must add a troubled international situation with Israel's genocidal war against the Palestinian people, and with the continuation of the Russia x Ukraine war. The unilateral hegemony of the United States, according to many international relations analysts, is threatened by the economic rise of China. In terms of international politics, the Lula government has done well, but – with the media distortion – I don't know if this assessment reaches the majority of the population.

In Brazil, we will have municipal elections across the country this year. I confess that my traditional optimism is shaken. I fear that the right will have a significant victory in almost all of Brazil, opening the way to strengthen a right-wing or extreme-right candidate for the 2026 presidential election. The right-wing Ministers and senior officials appointed by the Lula Government will work this year for their candidates , it is clear. An electoral victory for the right in most municipalities would constitute a solid base of support for the future presidential election.

3.

After this quick summary of some issues, without any intention of exhausting the political problems that lie ahead, I return to the initial dilemma. Faced with this crossroads, what should we do? Support more, or criticize the current government more? Support what and criticize what? Set goals to be achieved, or limit yourself to fighting the extreme right?

It is up to political parties, opinion makers and social movements to face this dilemma in search of solutions that will always be provisional, since movement, conflict and change are the rules of society. Rest is the exception.

As the then candidate Lula received the support of all Democrats, not just the left, to stop the fascist candidate from the extreme right, he deserves our firm support, of course. But how, in order to govern, did he make agreements with his opponents on the right, contemplating the market with economic policy decisions, the right-wing parliamentarians with high positions in the government and the military with the forgiveness and forgetfulness of the crimes of the military dictatorship, in addition to the increase in the Defense budget, deserves our criticism because it moves Brazil away from participatory democracy, sustainable development, and a path guided by socialist or, at least, social democratic values.

We are facing a complex and difficult situation. We went from a total rejection of the Jair Bolsonaro government to a line of critical support, which requires having one foot in the institutional and the other in the social. Neither full support nor opposition. This year's municipal elections will show whether or not we are doing well and will probably point out new directions and course corrections to successfully confront the right and the extreme right in the 2026 presidential elections.

*Liszt scallop is a retired professor of sociology at PUC-Rio. He was a deputy (PT-RJ) and coordinator of the Global Forum of the Rio 92 Conference. Author, among other books, of Democracy reactsGaramond). [https://amzn.to/3sQ7Qn3]


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