The passion for false controversies

Image: Francesco Ungaro


Considerations on the possible Lula-Alckmin ticket

In stark contrast to the discretion of the two major players involved in the case, the whole of Brazil seems to have no other topic than the possible Lula-Alckmin ticket for 2022. As a general rule, demonstrations are by surprise. But there are surprises who salute and celebrate the “contraption” while others are shocked and execrate it. And as in other times, the “formal opposites” have been revealing their “dialectical identity” in the new polemic.

The more radical left has been revolted by the political setback represented by a Lulo-Petismo composition with a character who is more than a center-right politician: he is an icon among the “root toucans”. The most extreme right wing also hits hard on the Frankenstein ticket, as it already anticipates what it would mean to invalidate the characterization of Lula's candidacy as leftist, averse to dialogue, populist, physiological and corrupt. Alkmin does not make these criticisms unfeasible because he is an exemplary politician, above suspicion. But because the conservative media have presented him as the example of anti-PTism for decades. And now he himself would be giving his endorsement for Lula's return to the presidency as second on the ticket.

On the other hand, the “contraption” has been receiving applause from that portion of the Brazilian left more concerned with expanding the base of support for the candidacy and sustaining a future Lula government than with the purity and pedigree deputy politician. Flávio Dino synthesized this perspective with irony and sharpness: “You don't make sandwiches with bread and bread. Sandwich is mixture”. And the slate was also welcomed by the less conservative fraction of the (already almost ex-) defenders of the “third way”, distressed with the low popular support and difficulty of taking off of Ciro's candidacy. This group resisted Lula's candidacy above all because they feared that the PT's return to the Federal Executive would also mean rescuing the political polarization that marked the country between 1994 and 2016. judicial farce responsible for Lula's arrest after successive electoral victories of the PT over the PSDB; despite the political hegemony of the latter party in São Paulo (one third of the national GDP) and among the supposedly intellectualized national economic elite, which rhymes modernization with privatization, but not with inclusion. The risks of this deja vu to reverse would be evident in a country with weak political institutions, but with Justice and Security systems (Judiciary, Public Ministry, Police and Armed Forces) as strong as they are prone to exercise their authority based on ideological convictions and commitments to sustaining an exclusionary social order . From the perspective of these analysts, the Lula-Alckmin composition would eliminate the risks of a return to the past, undermining the arguments that – despite the candidate's own stance – still lend some rationality to Ciro's candidacy.

But the unity of opposites that we referred to above goes far beyond the agreement (so recurrent) between the ultra-left and the ultra-right in the radical criticism of conciliatory political compositions or the agreement between the moderate left and right in applauding these same compositions. In fact, the great unity of opposites is found in the universal surprise and in the willingness of so many to argue about the Lula-Alckmin ticket as if it contained some disruptive dimension. This is the great mistake that allows us to characterize the whole polemic as essentially false. Then let's see.

In one of the most accurate analyzes of the political meaning of “2022 contraption” political consultant Renato Pereira states that the Lula-Alckmin composition: “would be equivalent to the Letter to the Brazilian People signed in 2002 by the PT party … released with the aim of reducing resistance to Lula's name in the financial market. In it, [Lula] committed to respecting contracts, preserving the primary surplus and reducing the public debt”.

Bingo! Much more than the choice of José Alencar as deputy, it was in the famous Letter that Lula declared the limits of his future government in terms of modernization and rupture with FHC's two terms. But it is still necessary to take one more step in the analysis and ask the really central question: why does the same left that received the 2002 Charter with masterly tranquility react, today, with hostility to the possibility of composition with Alckmin?

The answer is not simple; it has countless dimensions, all of them intertwined. But one element stands out among the rest: the commitment expressed in a composition of former antagonists is obvious and transparent; while the commitment to maintain a given economic policy is subtle and relatively incomprehensible to anyone who is not an economist, banker or market operator. In reality, I believe that the opposition between the transparency of the agreements being signed in 2021 and the opacity of the agreements that were signed in 2001 and 2002 is even deeper. There is no doubt that the agreements underlying the 2002 Letter to the Brazilian People were articulated under the leadership of Antônio Palocci. What we cannot assert (despite the abundant evidence) is whether the “market” already knew, long before the 2002 elections, that the economic team in Lula's first term: (1) would be managed by Palocci; (2) would count among his main paintings with Henrique Meirelles, Marcos Lisboa and Joaquim Levy; and (3) it would adopt monetary-exchange management standards and primary surplus targets as a percentage of GDP that were even more orthodox and consistent with the interests of the financial sector than those that characterized FHC's second term.

But the opacity of the 2002 movements is not capable of explaining all the difference in the left's reaction to the agreements signaled, at the time, by the Charter, and today, by the possible Lula-Alckmin partnership. After all, what was obscure until the inauguration became crystal clear in the first months of Lula's first term. Without any substantive criticism or reaction emerging within the PT's left. Mobilization for the creation of the PSOL only emerged when the neoliberal-inflected economic policies of the first years of Lula's first term reached the corporate interests of a portion of the federal civil service, with the small Social Security Reform of 2003/4. And the new party soon engaged in campaigns criticizing PT governments for their alleged involvement in physiologism and corruption (Mensalão, Ficha-Limpa, Lava-Jato, etc.); regardless of the fact that these campaigns were articulated by conservative parties, by the mainstream media and by politicized leaders of the Judiciary and the national Public Ministry. An engagement that carries a clear and transparent message: for this left wing, for a “good cause”, any alliance is allowed.

We apologize for the (perhaps excessive) digression, but it seemed important to us to demonstrate that what is surprising is not the possibility of a Lula-Alckmin ticket but, rather, the claim that such a “contraption” is foreign to the national political tradition and to the practices of the Brazilian left. The political practice of the Brazilian left in recent years has been marked by “gimmicks”. Be it the practice of the PT in power – managing the problematic coalitional presidentialism -, or the practice of the PSOL and other parties (allegedly) to the left of the PT, which, in one way or another, articulated themselves to brooms and washing flags. jatistas raised by the conservative media and by the politicized Judiciary in the service of the anti-PT Casa Grande.

In fact, from our point of view, the main novelty of the Lula and PT campaign for the 2022 elections lies in the articulation of an economic program much more to the left than the 2002 program. markedly insufficient and we have been trying to contribute to it by pointing to those that, from our point of view, are its two Achilles heels: 1) the excessive dependence on the approval of legal and constitutional reforms (such as the reform of the PEC of the Spending Ceiling) ; and 2) the virtual disregard of the problem of chronic Brazilian inflation and the absence of any criticism of the price control pattern based on currency peg  But beyond its real shortcomings, the differences with the 2002 economic program are evident. Starting with the team responsible for its formulation, coordinated by Guilherme Mello and Aloísio Mercadante, Unicamp professors of clear heterodox inflection. In addition to the fact that this program is being the subject of broad national discussion through the regional forums of the Perseu Abramo Foundation and the various sectors of the PT.

In short: if there is something new in the 2022 campaign in relation to the 2002 campaign, this novelty is not found in the possible Lula-Alckmin ticket. The big news is that the whole debate around the alliances and the economic strategy of the future administration is being carried out with an effectively revolutionary degree of transparency in a country where politics has always been done from above, in the collusion between the “most equal”. For many, this novelty is unbearable. Especially for that fraction of the left that never tires of playing the roles of Candide and/or Vestal, in order to have the opportunity, a posteriori, to be shocked by the discovery that it is impossible to govern without agreements and concessions.

Real naivety is not a quality among political agents. But false naivety is even more perverse. Because it works like a time bomb programmed to explode at the most inconvenient moment: with the current government. Whether or not there is an eventual Lula-Alckmin ticket, mere speculation about it has already fulfilled its role: that of highlighting the obvious to the eternal vestals of the left: yes, there will be compositions, negotiations, concessions and alliances with former adversaries . Anyone who doesn't know the game of politics and governance, get off the boat while there's still time. Because the trip will be long and complex, there will be squalls and seaquakes, and it is necessary to avoid, from the outset, riots and (not at all) friendly fire on board.

*Carlos Águedo Paiva he holds a doctorate in economics from Unicamp.


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