Should the socialist left be in opposition to the Lula government?

Image: Cesar Pessoa


The current government is an “abnormal” government because of class collaboration, led by the PT, the largest left-wing party in the country.

"He who runs after two hares, one and the other will lose." “Who sings before lunch, cries before sunset”. “He who mixes bran with pigs eats” (Popular Portuguese sayings).

The left is divided before the Lula government. A minority and very fragmented field defends that, despite everything that happened in the last seven years, Lula's narrow electoral victory, and the permanence of Bolsonarism, it is necessary to be a radical left opposition to the Lula government. The PT's leadership rests on a popular majority that supports the government and accepts or even defends, without further criticism, as inevitable the concessions that were made to Centrão, and that could culminate in the integration of Bolsonaristas into the government.

An important portion of activism in social movements maintains reference to the left of the PT and the PCdB, and in the PSol and agrees that the center of the tactic is the fight for the defeat of Bolsonarism, for popular mobilization in the streets in campaigns such as the taxation of the rich and Fora Campos Neto, for the inversion of the unfavorable social relationship of forces, which requires a United Left Front to come out of the defensive. PSol also defends an independent location, without participation in the government. Six months after Lula's inauguration, who is right?

The vote on the first part of the Tax Reform opened up a controversy because three PSol deputies abstained, while the majority of the bench voted in favour. It was a tactical decision not worth dramatizing. In PSol, correctly, the criterion of seeking to build a unified intervention prevails, but with freedom of public differentiation. Moreover, there were good arguments in favor of both positions.

Those who protested with abstention defended that the Tax Reform maintains indefensible tax exemptions, and that there was no danger of Bolsonarism winning. On the other hand, those who voted in favor warned that, despite many limits, the Tax Reform, an inter-bourgeois dispute ground, was a measurement of forces with Bolsonaro, and that a confusion of the combative left with the extreme right would be a mistake. In addition, they rightly stated that the simplification, since what is in effect is an insanity that favors the fiscal war, the collection of IPVA on luxury goods, and the Carf vote are progressive changes.

But a decision on parliamentary tactics on a vote is not the same as defining a strategy, that is, a position before the government. There are not only two paths, unconditional support or irreducible opposition to the Lula government. It's never all or nothing. Nor should independence be a mask for either shamefaced support or covert opposition. The definition of tactics must obey a judgment about what is at stake.

This calculation responds to an assessment of the conjuncture and the social and political power relations. The most important of all variables is that the working class and youth have not yet come into motion. Unfortunately, so far, Lula's electoral victory has not reversed the defensive ebb situation. There is no ascent. Everything that is most serious is still in dispute, and is uncertain.

At the end of the first six months, the government consolidated its positions. It is stronger today, despite the centrão's permanent blackmail in the National Congress, because the neo-fascists were defeated on January 8, and because Jair Bolsonaro is ineligible. The main indicators are: (a) increase in growth above market projections, to 2%, maybe even 3% maintaining the level of 2022; (b) inflation decelerating close to 3%; (c) reformatting Bolsa-Família as an income distribution program, and 80% of salary agreements guaranteeing the recovery of inflation, and even small gains; (d) surveys indicating the perception of a large majority that life will improve; (e) the government's popularity remaining stable with approval slightly above 50%, even though something around 30% of the population is aligned with Bolsonarism, (f) the prospect of lower interest rates. But many of these factors are transitory.

But, at the same time, after the response to the January 8 coup d'état, no important popular struggles took place, only defensive strikes. All Acts were from vanguard sectors. Expectations towards the government prevailed, because insecurity in one's own forces is still the dominant feeling in the mood of the masses, even of the most organized sectors. No unitary call for social mobilization was even rehearsed, even when there was an acute need for approval of the Temporal Framework. The Brasil Popular and Povo Sem Medo Fronts had no initiatives. That is, the movements did not bet on the fight, and the government embraced, until now, the strategy of seeking “cold” governance, whatever the cost. What can be fatal in what is to come.

The situation has not yet changed, qualitatively, when we also consider political power relations. The bourgeoisie is divided, but the Bolsonarist opposition remains very strong, in institutions, on the streets and on the networks. The unbrochable is now ineligible, but his leadership within the far right has yet to crumble. The possibility of a new coup attempt is not a plausible hypothesis. Jair Bolsonaro repositions himself to run the race within the rules of the liberal-electoral regime, betting on the municipal elections of 2024, even though the neo-fascist current maintains one “foot” within legality, and the other “outside”. The bourgeois fraction that broke with Jair Bolsonaro, on the other hand, keeps one foot in the government and the other outside, agitating a permanent campaign of demands and criticism. Brazil remains fractured, but neo-fascists are on the defensive.

Just as there are different types of political regimes compatible with the preservation of capitalism – from dictatorships to different forms of electoral democracies, more authoritarian or less – there are also many different types of bourgeois governments. Political tactics cannot always be the same. The Lula government is a bourgeois government, however, “abnormal”. We are facing a bourgeois government because: (a) its program respects the institutional limits of the regime that sustains Brazilian peripheral capitalism; (b) because the ruling class is represented within the government, through Geraldo Alckmin, Simone Tebet, Gilberto Kassab's party and ministers from União Brasil; (c) because the government accepts the conditions imposed by the centrão bloc led by Artur Lira, which demands respect for the role of a “semi-prime minister” to guarantee governance in the Chamber of Deputies; (d) because it has the support of the bourgeois fraction that bet on the third way, and it is becoming a Frente Amplíssima government with sectors, until yesterday, Bolsonarists, with high costs for the reform project; (e) the approval of the fiscal framework, the turbocharged Safra Plan and the tax reform ensured stability in the relationship with the ruling class, including agribusiness.

But it is an “abnormal” government because it is a government of class collaboration, led by the PT, the largest leftist party in the country. It is an anomaly because the capitalists, although divided between reactionaries who want to dispute the direction of the government, and right-wing extremists who want to displace it, cannot recognize the government as theirs. At the same time, the immense majority of workers and people identify with Lula's leadership.

The Brazilian ruling class is the most powerful in the world in the southern hemisphere. In 2016, he did not hesitate to support an institutional coup to overthrow the Dilma Rousseff government, even after thirteen years of uninterrupted concertation. It became clear in the “laboratory of history” that it has no unbreakable commitment, except with its interests in preserving class privileges. The support of a bourgeois fraction for Lula in the 2022 second round was circumstantial, ephemeral, conditional. The extreme right opposition led by the neo-fascist current, although on the defensive, is alive, and continues to be the pole that disputes power against the Lula government in the foreseeable horizon. Jair Bolsonaro’s ineligibility did not leave Bolsonarism “no-brainer”. He can be replaced because, in addition to millenarian messianism, there is political and ideological support in the country for the extreme right program.

In this context, the challenge arises of what the left's strategy should be. Those who defend the need to build a frontal opposition wield two central arguments: (a) the bourgeois government on duty is always the main enemy of the workers, and the center of the tactic is its denunciation, because otherwise the right-wing opposition will grow; (b) the role of the anti-capitalist left is to build mass mobilizations against the current government, and we should not rely on progressive measures to go further.

These two arguments are false because they ignore the objective conditions – the neo-fascist right-wing opposition influences at least 30% of the country – and the subjective ones – we come from seven years of accumulated defeats – of the concrete reality, that is, the radical left cannot be “innocent”. useful”, or worse, complicit in the threat of Bolsonarism returning to power. Anyone who did not see, in the recent past, the danger of the “Siberian winter”, the historic defeat, was wrong. There is, for the time being, a revolutionary situation on the horizon.

The fight for the demands of workers and youth is fair, and the entire left must promote them, but without losing the compass of class. You can't fight against the two socio-political forces at the same time, with the same intensity, because it's impossible. The central enemy is fascism, and it can only be defeated with the United Left Front, including the moderate left that leads the Lula government.

But those who defend that the center of the tactic is the consolidation of the alliance with the liberal capitalist fraction that broke with Jair Bolsonaro are also dramatically wrong. The extension of the government to the most opportunistic and physiological wings of the oligarchies compromises the fate of any reform project. This is a dangerous illusion. It's no use having an agreement in Congress with the bourgeois dissidents, if we lose the support of the popular masses who want to change their lives, now and now. However great the patience of the workers and the people, everything has limits.

The tactic is the definition of a path, or an orientation. It is the challenge when we ask ourselves, after analyzing the situation, what to do? Tactics are defined considering the relationship of forces, objective and subjective factors. But ultimately decisive are the subjective: an analysis of what prevails in the average consciousness of the working class and the people.

This conscience fluctuates, advances and retreats, but if the government is not a support point for the defense of class interests, it will succumb. In 2016, when it was necessary to put millions on the streets against the coup, it was no longer possible. We won't have thirteen years to make mistakes again.

*Valério Arcary is a retired professor at IFSP. Author, among other books, of No one said it would be Easy (boitempo).

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