Brief review of the first round

Roger Hilton, Untitled, 1953


Voting for Lula to defeat Jair Bolsonaro at the polls can only overcome the defensive situation in which he was placed by the PT election campaign itself.

Brazil is experiencing a political polarization unprecedented in its republican history, which is not, however, yet a class polarization. The project (the word is not the most appropriate, but it helps to simplify things) represented by the Lula-Alckmin ticket is a class conciliation project, which re-formulates the practice of the four Lula-Dilma (PT) governments, as it it relies on a political coalition far to the right of the one that supported it in the first decade and a half of our century.

Jair Bolsonaro’s “project” (the word is even less adequate) is the imposition of a strategic defeat on the working class, attacking it directly, in order to atomize and break it, restoring capital accumulation to a new level, for the benefit of the big bourgeoisie and imperialism. It is no secret, as it has been made public, that the movement led by the former captain will not hesitate in implementing a fascist-type government, even if he does not even know the meaning of the word. The key to the fight against Bolsonarism, therefore, lies in the role of the working class and its organizations, including, of course, in the electoral dispute, which cannot be approached in isolation.

In the first round of the 2018 presidential elections, the Jair Bolsonaro-Hamilton Mourão ticket obtained 49,3 million valid votes, that is, 44,87% of the total. The ticket Fernando Haddad-Manuela D'Avila (PT-PCdoB) obtained on that occasion 31,3 million valid votes, 29,28%. In the 2022 elections, the Lula-Alckmin ticket obtained 57,3 million valid votes (48,43%) [1,57% were missing for a first round victory] against 51,1 million (43,20%) of Bolsonaro-Braga Netto.

Lula had almost 26 million more votes than Haddad in 2018; Bolsonaro won only 1,7 million votes this year. In percentage terms, the difference is more evident, as the slate headed by the PT obtained 19,1% more in the total electorate, while that of the former PSL captain, now PL, obtained 1,7% less. Abstentions and null votes (5.452.607) dropped in percentage terms; the two main slates concentrated 91,6% of the votes, against just over 74,1% in the 2018 elections. There is polarization.

Can one conclude, therefore, that the electorate is shifting to the right? Not based on this data. Certainly, it is necessary to take into account the other (very numerous) positions in dispute, governments and state and federal legislatures. There was an advance by the explicitly Bolsonarist bench. The legislative vote witnessed the fact that Hamilton Mourão, Sérgio Moro, Deltan Dallagnol, Ricardo Salles, Eduardo Pazuello, Mario Frias, Damares Alves, Magno Malta and other high figures of Bolsonarist misgovernment, were enshrined by popular vote. Abraham Weintraub, the minister of the “boiada”, however, was beaten in the same ballot boxes in São Paulo that consecrated Guilherme Boulos (PSOL) as the most voted federal deputy in the state, with just over one million votes.

The chloroquine bench experienced the same defeat, commanded by its captain (Mayra) with Nise Yamaguchi as a squire. We had, in the Senate, the election of 14 bolsonaristas against 8 lulists and five non-aligned. The bench of the “military party” was confirmed, already powerfully embedded in the State (and in its benefits). In the future composition of the Chamber of Deputies, however, a map made by Folha de S. Paul indicates that a possible Jair Bolsonaro government would leave with a total of 198 deputies for its “governmental base”, adding those elected from its coalition and the like, while a possible Lula government, following the same criteria, would have the support of 223 deputies.

In governance, the extreme right won: Bolsonaro supporters won in nine states in the first round (AC, DF, GO, MG, MT, PR, RJ, RO and TO); Lula's supporters won only six. For governor and senator of Rio Grande do Sul, two senior Bolsonarist government officials won (for governor, in the first round, as Onyx Lorenzoni goes to balloting). In the most popular right-wing victory/PT defeat, that of the state of São Paulo, Fernando Haddad was defeated by the candidate of the Republican Party, a different force from the Liberal Party, led by Tarcísio de Feitas, who received Bolsonaro's direct support, after a comfortable lead in favor of Haddad in the polls. There will be a second round.

In the other major right-wing victory, that of the “new” Romeu Zema, a Bolsonarist distanced from Bolsonaro, for the government of Minas, the circumstance forced the captain to travel to his home to obtain his explicit support for the second round of presidential elections. Judging by Bolsonaro’s face at the press conference outside the Tiradentes Palace, he did not like the situation (even less of Zema’s clarification that his electoral support was circumstantial and “from outside”). The fascists of the Chamber will be forced to coexist with four elected transsexual deputies, in an unprecedented way, as well as indigenous women and landless workers: the MST elected, for the first time, six federal and state deputies.

So far, cold mathematics, punctuated with qualitative indications of enormous importance. The bitter taste of defeat, however, was in the mouths of the PT and pro-PT the day after the first round. It was certainly not to be less so in sectors that had mobilized under the slogan, more than the prognosis, of “Lula's victory in the first round”. Lula's words, visibly disappointed, on Sunday night on TV, also had this flavor.

It wasn't an isolated feeling. Stock exchange quotes, on Monday, October 3, were on the rise. Shares in Petrobras, under tariff control to contain inflation, also rose. A sense of victory, produced by Bolsonaro's electoral performance, ran through the pockets (and the hearts, which depend on them) of large national and foreign investors, investment and pension funds.

The working and politicized population was disillusioned by the fact that a government and a leader that were so reactionary (and failed) obtained more than 40% of the votes after the scandals, including international ones, of 700 deaths from the pandemic (one of the highest percentages of deaths in relation to the entire population) thanks to a denialist policy until the last consequences (including deaths due to lack of oxygen in the Amazon), the return of Brazil on the world map of hunger, with 33 million people directly affected, the brutal deforestation of forests for the benefit of big businessmen and multinationals with profits from criminal activities and murder, such as that of Bruno Pereira and Dom Phillips, which had wide international repudiation (and complicit indifference from the holder of Executive Power).

the french newspaper Le Monde pointed out “the return of hunger, wild deforestation and the tragedy caused by Covid-19”: what else is needed to overthrow a government through legal and electoral means? Is it the Brazilian “cultural backwardness” that explains it? Even if this counted decisively, which it does not, it would still play a subordinate role to the class interests at stake in every precise political circumstance.

The errors of the research institutes, which were (approximately) right on Lula's percentages, but wrong on Bolsonaro's ("they did not capture the strength of Bolsonarism and its aggregates in Brazilian society"), are attributed to their inability to measure the " embarrassing vote”. Something they will never be able to do, as no “political science” or data collection methodology will allow them to assess the shifts in the mood of classes and class sectors in the very short term, typical of situations of exceptional crisis.

In a correct observation, for scholar Lucas Romero, more than the “shame vote” (people who hid their support for Bolsonaro), there may have been a strong current of “useful votes” (people who elected him out of fear that Lula won in the first round, setting up a catastrophic defeat for the extreme right). It would suffice to replace “people” with “classes”, a notion that research institutes only approach by measuring income levels, an imprecise and static index, ultimately illusory.

The support gained by Lula and Bolsonaro for the second round, although not predictable, ceases to constitute an important radiograph of the political map that is being drawn. The evangelical churches, centers of the clerical/neoliberal reaction (the “success theology”) not only declared their full support for Jair Bolsonaro, but also mobilized in his favor, with all their resources. Aside from the obvious support of Bolsonarist or allied governors, significant is the veiled support of Michel Temer, former ally and vice-president of the last PT-led government, and covert sponsor of the coup that overthrew him in 2016, whose true nature (militarism fascistoid) is thus revealed.

Lula conquered the expected support of the PDT (with Ciro Gomes taken by storm, under penalty of succumbing politically), from the MDB (Simone Thebet) and from the historic tucanate, not so from the neo-tucanato of Doria-Rodrigo Garcia, which seems willing to embark “civilized” in the ranks of neo-fascism. The geniuses of the PT political apparatus only gave advice and pressure to expand the arc of alliances (already composed, as was well pointed out, of “a line of political corpses”) further to the right, including religious support, with the price that already it is known (a “progressive” went so far as to claim “a balance between the economy and the moral issue, the latter of which should not be left exclusively to the Bolsonarist camp”, that each one understands this as they wish – but it is good to be careful).

As in every situation of exceptional crisis, the political “center” tends to disappear (the physiological “center” is something else, it is one of the decisive springs of the capitalist State), leaving right and left face to face (which absorb the “center” ) as key players. This is typical of the preludes to decisive clashes between classes, of the prolegomena of the clash between revolution and counterrevolution. Fernando Sarti Ferreira was right to title an article about it “Uma Weimar Tropical”.

What destroys fascism, yesterday, today and always, is the intervention of the working class and organized working and student youth, with their own flags and according to their own interests. This element, the independence of an organized class, is absent in Brazil's current situation. It does not depend only on objective factors, which can favor it, but on conscious political intervention based on a program. Its organizing speed, on the other hand, can surpass that of an “embarrassed vote” decided three days before an election. Historical examples abound.

The international situation, of an economic crisis with a tendency to turn into war, which affect a Brazil with an increasingly internationalized economy, also requires responses that leave behind the fence. The vote for Lula to defeat Jair Bolsonaro at the polls can only overcome the defensive situation in which he was placed by the PT electoral campaign itself, if it goes to the streets (“it is unacceptable that Lula had the vote he had in the city of São Paulo and its streets are only the stage for Bolsonarist demonstrations”) with independent flags of class struggle.

*Osvaldo Coggiola He is a professor at the Department of History at USP. Author, among other books, of Marxist economic theory: an introduction (boitempo).


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