Brazil: out of hell, far from paradise

Image: Scott Webb


The truly left-wing sectors that enter government run the risk of being swallowed up by the institutional limits of the current state.

One of the most lucid posts I saw on social networks in the second round said that Lula da Silva's victory would not take us to paradise, but would close the door to hell. We can complete by saying that, however, Lucifer continues to mobilize his demons behind the door of the depths of evil.

Lula da Silva's victory should be greatly celebrated. It was not easy to win against the great machinery of the state machine, an important part of big capital, religious fundamentalism, the fake news, the climate of threats and fear, the pressure from the Armed Forces and the mobilization capacity of the extreme right in general. It was the narrowest victory for a Brazilian president, but with the highest number of votes in our history.

It meant the guarantee of basic democratic rights and non-political hardening, continuity of privatizations and breach of rights, if Bolsonaro won. Including trying to implement some level of fascistization of the political regime, something that did not happen in his four years in office. It also meant a conjunctural alteration in the correlation of forces, but still not a strategic one. It also focuses on improving the correlation of forces in Latin America.

The first objective that was set was to guarantee the inauguration, because, despite the main supporters of Jair Bolsonaro having recognized the victory of the Lula/Alckmin ticket and Bolsonaro himself having authorized the transition of governments, he did not recognize the defeat in a clear and public way. .

The tight difference reflects political polarization and a victory that, despite some boastful speeches, was never “guaranteed”, neither in the first nor in the second round. The result was within an already historic “left” division versus “right”, where the extreme right has strengthened within the right.

In terms of the composition of the National Congress (Chamber and Senate) the result was unfavorable to the new government, however, as a whole, not very different from the previous one. However, within the field on the right there was a relative strengthening of sectors of the extreme right. With some important figures in this field, especially in the Senate and in the government of São Paulo.

Evidently, it is necessary to deepen why, despite so many disasters and tragedies promoted by the Bolsonaro government, it was so difficult to win. In this short space, we are unable to go into this in depth, but it is good to remember that the actions of Bolsonarism and the right in general cannot be blamed. The campaign will take place at the end of a period of 20 years, which began with Lula da Silva's first government, and within the scope of strengthening bourgeois hegemony in Brazil, which has advanced since then. Period in which the left and the popular movements disaccumulated politically, ideologically and organizationally. Hegemony that was not faced in this campaign nor during the four years of the Bolsonaro government, which suffered an opposition marked by vacillations.

Without a rigorous assessment of this process, the repetition of strategic and tactical errors and their tragic consequences could happen again.

Furthermore, during the campaign many concessions were made to order, laws and bourgeois institutions, which became more legitimized in the anti-bolsonarista electorate. Legitimacy also reinforced due to the Covid-19 pandemic. And, now, the tendency is to use this legitimacy against the Lula government itself and the social movements of the popular field and the left.

The applauded STF will also try to protect the new government, in the same way that all state institutions (and the Armed Forces in particular), big capital, big business media and bourgeois civil society organizations in general will act.


The behavior of Lula da Silva and Jair Bolsonaro in the transition period

After the election result, both Lula and Jair Bolsonaro are acting within an expected profile.

Jair Bolsonaro continues to be tutored, until the new president takes office, by the same ones who tutored him during the government.[I] He's going to hand over his job and he's not going to give a coup. Not that that desire ever got out of his head during his tenure, but because he doesn't have the strength or support for it. But it mobilizes its radicalized bases to defend a coup called “federal intervention”. It follows, as it did during its tenure. However, its objectives are more limited, although also quite ambitious.

Above all, he struggles not to be convicted and imprisoned. Neither he nor his relatives nor his closest associates. Well, there is no lack of clear evidence that he and his allies committed countless crimes that could lead to many years in prison. He wants to show that he has the capacity to create facts, that he has the strength to mobilize his bases in order to provoke a very big political and institutional crisis in the case of the beginning of the indispensable investigations, processes, judgments and convictions.

He wants to maintain his own mass base and remain the great leader of the Brazilian extreme right and the central figure of an active and systematic political, social and mass opposition, from the right in general, to the Lula-Alckmin government.

He wishes to prepare his candidacy, as an alternative for 2026. Or, if this is not possible, to have an alternative for his continuity. Therefore, it needs to keep its demons making life hell in sectors of the state, civil society and the economic structure. However, the far-right agitation that is taking place in the transition period is also interesting for those who tutored him during the government.

For the Bolsonar Armed Forces and police apparatus, it is interesting because it serves as a ghost of institutional threat. They want impunity for their bosses who committed crimes and maintain institutional protection in the transition and in the next government. And also guarantee the accumulated corporate privileges, as well as part of the positions they obtained in the neo-fascist government. They do not effectively support a coup, but benefit from demonstrations and the coup atmosphere.

It interests some sectors of the ruling classes, because it serves as a counterpoint to Lula, as a kind of pressure against possible measures that the new president may take against some of his interests. This even includes sectors of big capital that supported it in the first or second round, who intend to maintain the privileges of financial capital, agribusiness, etc.

It is also of interest to parliamentarians who did not support him, but who, in part, are already negotiating a transition meeting Lula's demands and even a transit to his political-parliamentary support base. The coup expressions serve to improve your bankroll in negotiations.


The first steps of the transition

On Lula da Silva's part, strictly speaking, nothing has happened outside of expectations either. He has been building a base of alliances and support that involves sectors of big national and international capital and sectors of the right-wing political elite. Even part of those who supported him in the first and second rounds were involved and supported both the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff and her illegal conviction.

Likewise, it looks for that part of the corrupt right-wing political elite, present in the Centrão, which was with Jair Bolsonaro until the second round election, but which is already preparing a pragmatic and physiological change of alliances.

Lula is betting mainly on governance from above, on negotiation with big capital and the right-wing political elite, and on an improvement in the living conditions of the people. He shows no interest in promoting popular mobilization. Not now, against Jair Bolsonaro and his coup demonstrations, not even later.

Because these mobilizations could scare big capital and its right-wing political allies, which it intends to have as its governing base.

It does not want these mobilizations to advance to support claims and eventual protests in defense of popular conquests that have been attacked at least since the Temer government.

It will also seek to build, in the medium term, a trustworthy succession alternative, preferably for the PT or even itself (despite statements to the contrary) depending on what happens by 2026. that meet your broader and more explicit campaign commitments. He will need to respond to a large number of popular demands and his own promises.

In the campaign, Lula presented proposals that are more like a list of promises than a consistent government program. A series of fragmented measures that intend mainly to improve economic growth and the most basic conditions of the material and educational life of the people. That they can take Brazil off the hunger map again and the population that has returned below the poverty line.

How to put an end to hunger, especially via a new expanded emergency aid (new Bolsa Familia), the real increase in the minimum wage and some immediate recovery of the social budget and that gives conditions for the state to implement measures and investments that generate jobs and economic growth. Which requires breaking the infamous “spending cap”. Finally: it intends the return of a state that is more active in encouraging the economic, “neo-developmentalist” process.

All of this in a situation of worsening of the global structural crisis of capitalism that tends to continue with strong signs of low growth or economic recession, at least in 2023. And in a context of geopolitical conflicts and inter-imperialist bipolarization, between a bloc led by the US and another by China. On the other hand, the electoral results in recent years in Latin America, the recent relative defeat of Trump in the US, the sympathy he generated in part of the leaders of the European Union and the expected good relations with China, allow him to improve his margins of action.

A situation like this can be taken advantage of by a nation-state, provided there is an effective project to seek sovereignty and break with dependence. But a project of this depth does not exist. A simple “capital attraction” can temporarily improve the economic situation, but it does not address our structural dependence, quite the contrary.

Lula will also take some measures with a relatively low budgetary cost (and even receiving foreign “cooperative” financing) and high return on political marketing, such as those linked to the environmental issue and indigenous peoples.

Because, to the extent that today they are themes that have become the agenda of broad sectors of big capital itself and the political elite of the imperialist countries – and today have the support of the big national and foreign business media – they will be measures that, despite the opposition and rejection of the most reactionary sectors of the big national capital and of the more ideologically conservative ones, it tends to have support and great positive repercussions nationally and internationally.

Even because its measures will not go beyond the limits of ecocapitalism. Putting an environmentalist with great recognition in common sense in the Ministry of the Environment and an indigenous leader in the new Ministry of Indigenous Peoples will have this repercussion.

Placing a part of the so-called “social” ministries in the hands of figures considered “on the left” and, at the same time, the key economic ministries in the hands of people trusted by big capital, is to be expected.

Having a more active and lofty foreign policy than the current one, which seeks to occupy a relevant space on the international scene, is also expected. That is, not to salute the flags of foreign countries, as Bolsonaro did with the USA. Not even taking off your shoes to enter the US, as happened with FHC's Minister of Foreign Affairs.

However, neither do they take effectively anti-imperialist measures, such as those proposed by Chávez (such as ALBA) to Lula in previous governments and never accepted by the Brazilian leader (but this is a topic that deserves another article).

Finally, these are measures that do not alter the political order of representative liberal bourgeois democracy. Nor the essence of neoliberal macroeconomic policy, based on “fiscal responsibility”. Much less the capitalist economic and social order, dependent and subjected to foreign imperialism in its various aspects.

So, it will be necessary to carry out many popular social mobilizations to guarantee rights and the repeal of previous policies, such as the spending ceiling and the cut in the social budget and public policies and, especially, privatizations and the breach of social security and labor rights, themes treated in an ambiguous way by the president-elect, as well as that of an “administrative reform” that remains a mystery.

Also challenges are the resumption of the increase in the minimum wage above inflation, as well as the recovery of wage losses for civil servants during previous administrations, since that of Dilma Rousseff.

But, it is not clear how all this will be done by the new government. The material expectations of the majority of the people are significant, but the political and ideological expectations of the majority of its militancy and electorate are lowered, and can be “meet” with improvement measures, without deep social reforms or a radical repeal and strong political and ideological struggle against bourgeois and conservative culture. This could bring passive support to the government, as has happened in previous PT governments. But passive support is not enough to promote deep, lasting and “sustainable” transformations.

However, despite the difficulties, internal and international, of its beginning, the Lula-Alckmin government tends to start with a good evaluation, at least of its electoral base, especially if compared to the tragedy of the government of the genocidal Jair Bolsonaro. And it can maintain a good rating in its course. And good economic results can increase this popular support, including in part of Jair Bolsonaro's voters.

But this does not mean a profound qualitative transformation of our national reality nor of our subordinated and dependent insertion in the imperialist world order. This is because the Lula-Alckmin government, in the midst of its labyrinths, does not tend to be a truly “left” government. It will probably present itself with a “face” of what internationally is called the “center-left”, allied with the right and seeking support from the left, in order to contain autonomy and a critical posture of the left and popular movements.

The truly left-wing sectors that enter the government run the risk of being swallowed up by the institutional limits of the current state, especially in a pragmatic government that does not intend to break with bourgeois hegemony, with the horizon of trying to improve the living conditions of the people, in lowered standards. and within a framework of profound inequalities and national sovereignty limited by structural dependence on imperialism.

Finally, for left-wing movements and currents that have not lost a strategic anti-imperialist perspective and towards socialism, there is a double challenge: facing the demons of Bolsonarist neo-fascism (in the mass movement and institutionality) and mobilizing popular movements in to win both immediate victories and build up forces from a strategic perspective.

*Jorge Almeida Professor at the Department of Political Science at UFBA.


[I] VIEW “Bolsonaro and the civil bourgeois military tutelage”  e “Who governs Brazil?” .

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