How to win an election and lose a government

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By JEAN MARC VON DER WEID*

The contradictions of Lula's campaign

No, I'm not talking about a possible coup, either by Jair Bolsonaro or by the general public, together or separately. I'm talking about the price that Lula will pay to win this election and guarantee his inauguration as president.

They are tough choices. Good logic dictates that we join forces as much as possible against the threats I mentioned in an article posted on the site the earth is round of the “ball or ball” tactic adopted by Jair Bolsonaro: pours money to win the electorate desperate for hunger and poverty or coup with the support of the FFAA, military police, armed fanatics organized in the Shooting Clubs, militiamen and the herd of worshipers of the myth, all of this flowing into a vote suspending the elections by the Congress dominated by the Centrão headed by Artur Lira.

Lula is seeking agreements with the left and center left, which he has already achieved, despite some setbacks in Rio de Janeiro, Ceará and Rio Grande do Sul. He also tries to attract the so-called “republican” center, center right and right, that is, contrary to Jair Bolsonaro’s coup-like grins. This leads the left, especially the PT, to swallow fat frogs and accept deals with the hated coup plotters who overthrew Dilma Rousseff under the pretext of peccadilloes that are almost comical compared to all the crimes committed by Michel Temer and Jair Bolsonaro. But as Michel Temer said in unbelievable sincerity, “Dilma does not know how to talk and relate”. That is, she was impeached for being unfriendly, a unique case in history, ours or any other republic since the Romans invented this form of government.

From frog to frog, Lula, who was already called a bearded frog by Brizola, made the left, PT or not, digest Geraldo Alkmin, Márcio França, the candidates for governor in Amazonas, in Paraíba in Mato Grosso, among others . Now Lula is seeking agreements with sectors of the ruling classes, with nods to Faria Lima and, more incisively in recent days, to agribusiness.

This sparked a yellow light among opposition sectors concerned with environmental issues, which found expression in a statement by Marina Silva protesting against such openness. Lula's stance should not generate much internal reaction in the PT, whose narrow-minded developmentalism is not very different from what Lula said in a meeting with agribusiness: "there are people who prefer to keep the tree than starve".

This opposition is false in more ways than one. Firstly, it is perfectly possible to satisfy hunger without destroying the environment. Secondly, agribusiness does not have the slightest intention of killing hunger, with or without cutting down trees. The sector that Lula is elbowing with at the moment is the least hydrophobic of our ruralist elites and understands very well that its exports are threatened, precisely because the world is concerned with the trees that Lula, so lightly, accepts to immolate on the altar of that what he thinks are the interests of agribusiness. For those rural businessmen with whom he is dealing, Lula's speech did not go well. They do not produce food for our people but for export and, in most cases, to feed animals in other countries.

Many people think that Lula is just like that, a skilled politician who says what each audience wants to hear. In this case, in addition to saying the wrong thing to this public pressured by threats from European consumers, Lula seems to forget that these conversations are not secret and that nowadays everything is known and everything is almost instantaneously on whatsapp. And what pleases some will displease others. Before long, different segments of the electorate will be wondering which statements are for real and which are verbal pleasantries to fool the suckers.

Added to this picture is the fact that Lula's campaign does not have a diagnosis of our reality after years of economic, social, political and environmental disasters that have been getting worse since 2014 and, above all, with the cataclysm of the Jair Bolsonaro government. Lula also has no proposals on how to deal with the tsunami of problems he will have to face and, even more so, with an immense weakening of the executive power and with a broken State. If many people have discussed the veracity of the expression “cursed inheritance” used by Lula to characterize the Brazil he received from former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso in 2003, today no one has any doubts that the inheritance that Lula will inherit from Bolsonaro will be evil.

Lula's electoral tactic is to say that he will repeat what he has already done, especially in his first government and forgetting the governments of Dilma Rousseff. Okay, that's a good memory, although the current version is more than embellished. But the reality is different, both in the country and in the world. Furthermore, Lula is forgetting that the electorate is not the same as it was 20 years ago either. Or even 12 years ago, when she left the government with an 80% approval rating. O recall it doesn't work for the youngest, even though Lula is well quoted in this range of the electorate.

The lack of a program aimed at the present and the future is heavily criticized by the mainstream press and will be the subject of confrontations in the debates between the candidates. It will not be possible to always answer starting with “when I was president…”. Weak point for Lula. Some analysts say that this does not matter much in an election that is marked by the rejection of Bolsonaro and everything he represents. True, but this makes attempts to expand the anti-energy front somewhat opaque. It also makes the campaign somewhat unexciting, generates little hope other than (and it is not little, I recognize) the expectation of getting rid of Jair Bolsonaro.

Lula cannot formulate and defend the necessary government program to face the structural crisis of Brazilian capitalism, nor can he formulate a more moderate proposal to relaunch the economy, even along the lines of the current unbalanced model. If he did that, he would run the risk of throwing our entire ruling class into the arms of Bolsonarism. That is, he has to stick with vague proposals and concessions for each elite group he tries to win over or neutralize.

All of this is justified by the enormous risks of a new term for Jair Bolsonaro. But the price paid is high. Electorally, he is obliged to sell “allotment in the sky” to the people. Lula cannot even promise illusions that contradict the elites he intends to bring to his candidacy. This can make the perception of voters from the floor below somewhat frustrated, even though the people have no alternatives but to bet on him. On the other hand, selling illusions has a price to be charged in the future, when it is time to make government decisions. Let us remember that Dilma Rousseff did exactly that in 2014 and, when she felt cornered into adopting a conservative policy in her second term, she lost support from her voters in a vertiginous way, allowing the installation of the political framework that led to her removal in the 2016 coup. .

What to do then? Lula should adopt a minimum essential program that addresses basic issues for the people and does not stray from these few points, both in negotiations with the elites before the elections and in the initiatives of the newly elected government.

What should those points be?

 

a minimal program

In my view, the most important issue now and in the near future will be, for the poorest electorate, the issue of hunger and food insecurity. And the solution, for some time at least, will be the creation or recreation of an aid, a Bolsa Família 2.0.

Formulating a program now and defining it precisely in terms of the number of families and the amount needed for each to stave off the threat of famine cannot be delayed. It is not enough to remember what Bolsa Família was in the past or to criticize Auxílio Brasil as a voter. Everyone remembers the emergency aid that supported many more people than both programs and with many more resources. Now there are 33 million people going hungry and 54 million eating poorly and another 40 million with specific food shortages. Even if the program is centered, due to problems of unavailability of resources, in the most seriously affected sector, it will cost more than Bolsa Família and Auxílio Brasil.

And then there is the problem of financing the program, an issue raised day after day by the mainstream press, fixed in the fiscal balance and in the spending ceiling. It is not enough simply to say that these two policies are neoliberal and that they have to be abolished. If there is not some kind of sustainable financing for this and other programs, we will have a return of inflation that will erode the benefits, as is already happening now.

This is the knot that Lula is afraid to cut, because he demands a policy that will clash with the petty interests of the top floor. Candidate Lula cannot fail to propose a financing policy for this program against hunger and he will have to take money from those who have it, that is, the billionaires and millionaires of this country. A fee aimed at financing a fund to eradicate hunger (while the economy is not able to reabsorb the unemployed and underemployed with enough wages to meet basic needs) will be a political slogan of great popular appeal. And it will escape the criticism of “irresponsible spending”. This campaign should be extended to all candidates for deputy and senator, as they will have to vote on it next year.

Still on the issue of hunger, if we want to face the problem beyond emergency solutions, it will be necessary to reorient the agricultural development policy in order to expand the supply of food products as quickly as possible. And it is not enough just to increase the volume offered, but to guarantee the quality of the product. The control of the use of pesticides will have to be implemented in a radical way, changing the course of “let do” which made us world record holders in the use of poisons, including many banned throughout the world. Agribusiness is very reluctant to produce for the low-income domestic market, because it earns much more by producing for cattle, chickens and pigs in the first world or China. Or producing for the richest 10% of the country.

Family farming is the potential solution for this production, but policies to promote the development of this category will have to be greatly improved. In effect, the programs of the FHC I and II, Lula I and II and Dilma I and ½ governments led the better-off portion of family farmers to adopt the agribusiness productive model and, logically, they ended up associating themselves with the production of exported commodities for animal feed (and no longer planting beans…). Credit, technical assistance and government procurement programs would have to be reviewed in the light of an assessment of what happened in the 20-something years of the mentioned governments.

All this would lead agribusiness to paroxysms of fury and to a rejection of Lula's candidacy. It so happens that this sector, with rare exceptions, is already part of the hard core of Bolsonarism and Lula is repeating the mistake of other elections, when he gave these people the thumbs up and the result in terms of electoral support was zero.

A second key issue, not so much from the point of view of gaining votes, but from the point of view of its importance for the country and for the world, is the creation of a zero deforestation and burning program. A recovery program for degraded areas in all biomes, with large-scale planting of native species. This program could employ many people who are unemployed today and would certainly find strong international support for its impact on controlling global warming. Once again, agribusiness would shudder in horror and close ranks with the madman. As I said, we would only be losing what we never had or will have, the support of agribusiness.

Other important points must be added, but I do not venture to propose them because they do not belong to my area. The most relevant themes for the country and for the people, in addition to those I have presented, are those of health and education and, in my opinion, Lula's campaign should equate what it intends to do in these two essential areas and widely publicize the proposals . There is no lack of civil society movements with in-depth formulations on these issues and Lula should listen to them.

I know that Lula's position is one of the most difficult, but I believe that, if he wants not only to win the elections, but to govern to solve the people's most urgent problems, he should make choices now, and not after taking office. Choosing later is surrendering to alliances with sectors such as agribusiness and disappointing your electorate.

*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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