A fight continued!

Image: Efrem Efre


We don't have much time to get our action strategy right for the next four weeks and the clock is ticking.

The hangover was big, but we need to get our heads on straight. To begin with, we need to understand what happened in the first round. The game seemed played and we would be winning by a rout. Did the polls go wrong? I have heard or read analyzes by those responsible for several of the surveys, and my layman's conclusion is that there were two assumptions that turned out to be incorrect.

The first is that the undecided voters, who appeared in various polls between 11 and 13% of the electorate, were distributed more or less equally between the candidates and those who did not vote (white and null). As the real number of the latter was identical to that indicated by the polls, more or less 5%, the undecided (in the spontaneous statement) must have migrated primarily to Jair Bolsonaro. It would be the closeted vote, which many analysts thought would be more lulist than bolsonarista.

The second incorrect premise is that there had been a tide of overturning in favor of Lula in recent days, demonstrated by the vigor of the demonstrations that multiplied across the country, with or without the candidate's presence. It is a common mistake on the left to think that people demonstrating are indicative of voting. Many people, myself included, pointed to the low significance of Jair Bolsonaro's motorcades and motorcycles, from the point of view of the number of voters. It is a fact, but it does not mean anything in relation to the majority's voting intentions. That is, Jair Bolsonaro took the broad majority of the undecided and went from 35 to 38% (between the lowest and the highest index in the polls) to the 43,5 he obtained at the polls. That is, the undecided voters delivered between 8 and 5% of the votes to the energetic. He also took half the votes of Ciro Gomes and Simone Tebet, about 5%, who dehydrated like ice in the sun with the right-wing useful vote.

There is another tragic mistake I haven't seen mentioned by anyone. Abstention was not significantly higher than in other elections, just 1% more than in 2018. The problem is that abstention distorts the polls. In these, the interviewer looks for the voter and at the time of the vote, it is the voter who moves. As everyone knows, the strongest base of the Lula electorate captured in the polls was among the poorest voters, who are precisely those who make up the great mass of those who abstain.

In fact, from the point of view of voting for Lula and taking into account all the limitations on the participation of his supporters, Lula's results indicate a victory, and a very significant one at that. He was less than 1,5% away from winning in the first round, which he only managed in the 2006 elections, when he was in government and highly evaluated, despite the monthly allowance scandal. With such a dirty campaign and the executive's extraordinary abuse of power, the victory was even more significant.

It is good to remember that, unlike 2018, when the impact of social networks was overwhelming in the defeat of Fernando Haddad, in these elections, especially in recent weeks, Bolsonarism lost hegemony in the exchange of messages, isolating itself in its bubble. Lula had the support of some great digital influencers, such as André Janones and Anita, and he should continue to look for others.

What was decidedly a capital defeat was the vote for both the Senate and the House. Capital, but predictable and anticipated. The numbers, at least, were predicted by DIAP.

In the case of governors, the results were bad, but even better than expected. Apart from the case of São Paulo, where it was thought, with great optimism, that Fernando Haddad would maintain the advantage indicated by the surveys, in the rest of the country the results were as expected and even with good advances, in Ceará, Bahia, Maranhão, Piauí. No one with any knowledge of the Rio de Janeiro electorate ever thought Marcelo Freixo would stand a chance against the state government machinery. Or that Alexandre Kallil would leave Belo Horizonte to conquer the state from the hands of Romeu Zema. Still on São Paulo, the explanation for the rise of Tarcísio de Freitas has more to do with the useful anti-PT vote, coming from the toucan electorate in the interior than with errors in the polls. And the ascent of Onix Lorenzoni in Rio Grande do Sul has the same explanation.

For the Senate and the Chamber, the result, in terms of votes for the right, also does not differ from the predictions made by the DIAP. What was shocking was the vote for characters who were very identified with the disasters of the Bolsonaro government, such as Hamilton Mourão, Eduardo Pazzuelo, Damares, Ricardo Salles, Marcos Pontes and others. The chief's appointments to his electorate worked very hard. The big news in this new Chamber and Senate is the election of these fierce followers of the “myth”. Who loses relative space is Centrão. For those who thought that voting for Lula would mean an equal vote for Lula's candidates for parliament, the shock at the polls was great. But taking into account the flood of money that deputies and senators poured into their strongholds through the rapporteur's amendments, the result was not bad at all. Anyway, once Lula is elected, governing will be very difficult. But, as my wise great-grandmother used to say, “each day has its agony”.

Another important finding of these elections does not have to do with the cold numbers on the ballot boxes, but with the nature of these numbers. Everyone was shocked by the fact that such a poorly rated ruler managed to stay in the ring and avoid knockout in this round. How is it possible that the person responsible for almost 700 deaths from Covid, for 33 million hungry people, for high unemployment rates and very high underemployment, for a generalized drop in income, except for the richest, for the immense environmental destruction, could have so much resilience? How is it possible that a candidate who was elected fighting corruption can survive the continuous scandals of his government and his family?

Apparently, the ideological vote was absolutely decisive, and not only among neo-Pentecostals. A pious ideology, steeped in prejudice, determined to impose its way of seeing the world on everyone else, is here to stay and define the electoral behavior of a large part of our people. Jair Bolsonaro turned to the most backward and ideological discourse, especially since his campaign stalled after September 7th. Good against evil, left identified with the antichrist, primary anti-communism of the type “the left will take your house or your car”, Lula is for abortion, Lula is for the sexualization of childhood, communism dominates the Universities, all of that and much more was the axis of his campaign and our depoliticized electorate bought these “truths” and voted to protect itself from the red wave.

Finally, it must be noted that the left has lost its power to mobilize and penetrate the masses. Our parties became parliamentary parties and the lynchpin of politics shifted to the House and Senate. They left factories, workplaces, communities without the presence of day-to-day militancy. Those who carry out this type of action are the Pentecostal churches, since the Catholic church has also lost much of its presence among the faithful. Pentecostal churches offer a disadvantaged public a welcoming space that they do not find in other types of entities, such as trade unions or neighborhood associations.

Churches offer moral and material support, solidarity among the faithful, space for conviviality, leisure and culture. In return, this public willingly and happily submits to the ideological domination of the pastors. Not all pastors are the shameless manipulators like Malafaias and Macedos who have been jumping headlong into the political game for years, but the vast majority are essentially (ultra) conservative and, for the most part, frankly sectarian and aggressively intransigent. In this election there was a strong movement of pastors, especially from churches more engaged in the political sphere, such as Universal do Reino de Deus, mobilizing workers and workers to visit each of the sheep of the flock to take pamphlets and transmit guidelines from above. This is in addition to the intense preaching during the weekly services.

As a result, the Bolsonarist base among evangelicals was even more numerous than in 2018. Let us remember that Jair Bolsonaro won in that election with a difference of votes in the order of 10 million in relation to Fernando Haddad and that this was exactly the difference in votes of the two candidates among evangelicals. When the research and studies on this first round come out, I have no doubt that this number will be much higher.

The left that militates at the base has changed its profile and is now much more involved in identity movements and this was reflected in some unprecedented and important results in the first round. But what about the rest of people's everyday topics? Who is at the grassroots mobilizing against hunger and starvation?

The future will be very difficult for all of us, but it will be infinitely worse and not just for us Brazilians, if Jair Bolsonaro wins the second round. It can be said, without exaggeration, that the fate of the planet is being played out here and now. It may be that zero deforestation, which I defend as an urgent program for the Lula government, is not enough to stop global warming. But if Bolsonaro continues with the devastation he wrought in his first government, there will be no measure taken elsewhere to offset the volume of our greenhouse gas emissions. With the seriousness of what's at stake in mind, we're going to use what we've learned in this first round and set out to face the second with redoubled strength.

A lot will depend on Lula's strategy to win the votes he needs to be elected. Strictly speaking, we only need 1,5%, but it would be very good to open up a good advantage to prevent the ghost of the blow from returning. The movement towards the center and to the right made by Lula in the first round did not have major effects and will need to be very concrete if we want to attract the bases of Simone Tebet and, at least partially, of Ciro Gomes.

Lula will have to call for the creation of a democratic front for national salvation, attracting the MDB, the PDT, the PSDB, Cidadania and even the PDS. I have no doubt that the left, in particular the PT, will jump in horror at the idea of ​​such a broad front, but it will be necessary to dispel the “myth” and to govern afterwards.

The idea of ​​a very broad front seems obvious, but we have to remember the PT's history in terms of alliances. In the second round against Fernando Collor, the PT missed the possibility of winning the election by not having offered the PSDB, the PMDB and the PDT a seat at the table of the next government. Apart from Leonel Brizola, the other defeated candidates only formally supported Lula in the second round. After the fall of Fernando Collor, President Itamar Franco invited the PT to join the PSDB, PSB and PMDB in the government, but the PT preferred to stay in the opposition and try to win the government without mediation two and a half years later. Cleverness was enough in eight years of Tucano government. Even with frequent allied parties, such as the PSB, the PC do B and the PDT, relations were tense, with the others complaining of the PT's heavy hand. Let's see this time how it goes.

Let's get the possibility of having a progressive government out of our minds. It will be a center government, where the left will not rule and where Lula will have to negotiate step by step.

Furthermore, although I don't think there is time to define a concrete minimum program to be negotiated between the new partners, it will at least be necessary to point to some concrete priorities to announce to the electorate.

While Lula is negotiating support with the party leaders, the campaign should launch some concrete proposals to be adopted at the beginning of the government. Among these, a comprehensive and detailed Zero Hunger program should be prominently included. I have already touched on this proposal in other articles and I will not repeat it here. The issue of deforestation and fires should also be part of an emergency program to be negotiated with rich countries. And a healthy food production program should also be a priority. I didn't go into my articles on education and health (this one, yes, something modest), but there are specialists in collectives that debate these subjects and have very concrete proposals, if the campaign needs it.

Lula will have to move away from the extreme generality of his proposals so far, as they have limited themselves to recalling what was done between 2003 and 2010. As current conditions are completely different, these repetitive proposals are out of place. They make the upstairs restless and don't excite the downstairs. In fact, this campaign was more focused on antibolsonarism than on a positive and purposeful program.

We don't have much time to get the action strategy right for the next four weeks and the clock is ticking. We should take the initiative to do something as a collective and when/if Lula's campaign releases guidelines for all of us, we'll see how we adjust.

Finally, there is something good about this incomplete victory that takes us to the second round. Jair Bolsonaro is not contesting the polls or asking for annulment. With the possibility of winning by making his piggy eyes shine, the madman sheathed his sword. It will be more difficult for him to resume this path when he loses the second round. He must try, of course, but the possibility of being followed has greatly diminished.

*Jean Marc von der Weid is a former president of the UNE (1969-71). Founder of the non-governmental organization Family Agriculture and Agroecology (ASTA).

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