Political and institutional context

Image: Renan Quinalha


Elements on the correlation of forces after the May 29 demonstrations.

Correlation of forces of social classes

The correlation of forces in society is still unfavorable for working-class organizations, marked by the impeachment coup in 2016, the arrest of Lula and the election of Jair Bolsonaro to the presidency in 2018. During this period, we suffered the defeats of the labor reform and of social security, the approval of the constitutional amendment of the spending ceiling and the autonomy of the Central Bank.

The bourgeoisie has acted as a unitary bloc around a neoliberal program, which aims to reduce the value of the workforce, restrict the role of the State in the economy, deregulate the exploitation of natural resources and submit foreign policy to the interests of States. United.

The Brazilian economy remains in a deep crisis, reaching even greater levels with the coronavirus pandemic. The neoliberal promise of a way out of the crisis with a spending ceiling, a more flexible labor legislation and a pension reform failed.

The framework of the labor market is marked by unemployment, informality and the drop in income with the cut in emergency aid. The unemployment rate exceeds 14 million people. The number of employed persons stands at 85 million, below the 2019 contingent. Most of the growth in employment in recent months was in the informal market, which comprises 39% of the employed population (33 million workers).

The institutional crisis is profound. With the implosion of the traditional political system, which had the PT and PSDB as organizers of the electoral dispute, the extreme right emerged with an ideological discourse against bourgeois democratic institutions. Under the Bolsonaro government, the conflict between the Executive, Judiciary and Legislative branches is permanent, including the involvement of the Armed Forces.

Popular forces face difficulties in influencing society, which have deepened with the limits imposed by the pandemic. The actions carried out in the last period failed to mobilize the working class. The difficulty persists in converting the flags defined by the organizations into popular struggles with the participation of working class groups.

Lula's resumption of political rights, which put the left back in the electoral game with the prospect of resuming the federal government, brought about a change in the correlation of forces. Lula began to exercise his role as leader of the opposition to the Bolsonaro government, gave greater unity to the progressive camp, attracted sectors from the center and opened a channel of direct dialogue with the Brazilian people.

Street demonstrations, depending on their ability to aggregate working class groups, can alter the correlation of forces. The May 29 protests had a contingent of middle sectors, student youth and the leadership of working class organizations. The participation of the base of the working class and the peasants was low.

Political and institutional context

The tragedy of the coronavirus pandemic, with an average of 2 deaths per day, crosses the conjuncture, with an impact on people's lives, on the intensity of economic activity, on discussions in Congress and the Judiciary and on the actions of popular forces.

The expressive demonstrations of the 29th of May are a new element, both in terms of national capillarity and the number of participants in the protests. Acts were recorded in all states and the Federal District, in 213 municipalities, mobilizing more than 420 people. With this demonstration of strength, the popular movements resumed their political protagonism and expressed the unity of the left, encouraging the progressive sectors to return to the streets.

Bolsonaro loses the “monopoly of the streets” with the mobilizations of popular forces, at the same time that the CPI of the Covid-19 Pandemic in the Senate imposes permanent wear and tear with the exposure of the irresponsible posture in the conduct of sanitary measures, the fixation on chloroquine and neglect with the purchase of vaccines. At the same time, the performance of Bolsonarist militias on social media is losing intensity, as they face difficulties in building narratives to get out of the adverse situation.

A new journey is scheduled for June 19th, which could gain strength and make an offensive against the government possible. The demonstrations maintain the centrality of the banners “Fora Bolsonaro”, vaccine in the arm (greater investment in the SUS, guarantee of beds and supplies and acceleration of vaccination) and food on the plate (emergency aid of R$600, policies to maintain wages and support for small and medium-sized enterprises). The Copa América theme in Brazil appears in a secondary way, keeping the focus on the unitary flags. To avoid mischaracterization, health care will be maintained at protests and the perspective that they are extraordinary acts in a pandemic given the extreme situation of irresponsibility of the Bolsonaro government.

At his worst political moment, Bolsonaro uses control over strategic areas of government, the support of the “centrão” (the physiological right) in the Chamber of Deputies and the Attorney General of the Republic Augusto Aras to face the situation. The invoice from the centrão to the government should be more expensive. Measures will be demanded to rebuild support in the elections, with an increase in public spending and the acceleration of reforms to meet the pressures of big capital. Economy Minister Paulo Guedes, according to a newspaper note, would be convinced of the need to open the safe. Valdemar da Costa Neto, president of the PL and adviser to the president, proposed to resume the emergency aid of R$ 600.

Bolsonaro maintains his commitment to radicalization, ideological discourse and the mobilization of loyal supporters. The acts they have performed with bikers in Brasilia and Rio de Janeiro are a sign of their support base. Movements in the Armed Forces, such as the participation of former Minister of Health and active general Eduardo Pazuello in a political act – who committed a military transgression, was not punished and was appointed to the Secretariat for Strategic Affairs – strain the disciplinary regulations and the army hierarchy.

The hardening of Bolsonarist sectors in the Military Police in the states, as in the repression of the May 29 act in Recife and in the arrest of Professor Arquidones Bites Leão in Goiás, demonstrates the president's influence among police officers. A national survey on the quality of life of military and civil police officers in the 26 states and the Federal District, by the Ministry of Justice and Public Security, will provide the government with an X-ray and a list of contacts of agents of repression throughout the country.

This scenario strengthens the polarization between Bolsonaro and Lula, projecting a horizon of intensification of the pre-election dispute. The scenario could evolve into a political and ideological war, including acts of violence and hatred by the extreme right. It is not possible to rule out the possibility that the extreme right will use tricks to destabilize the elections and open a confrontation. Bolsonaro already anticipates the dispute against Lula and distills the anti-left ideological discourse and tries to replace the conservative agenda (“God, Fatherland and Family” ).

The margins for the neoliberal right are getting narrower. It does not have a competitive name for the presidential election and is watching popular forces resume their protagonism in opposition to the Bolsonaro government. However, it controls important state governments, has political strength, reference in society, programmatic trust of fractions of the bourgeoisie and of the great means of communication.

The non-Bolsonarist right will have to increase the burden against Bolsonaro, otherwise it will have difficulties to supplant the current president and make the 3rd way possible against Lula, who appears consolidated as a leftist candidate. In addition, it must open the artillery against the ghost of polarization, in line with the video released by the Citizenship Party (EX-PPS), to sow fear and preach the need for a 3rd way to "pacify" the country.

Trends, scenarios and challenges

The evolution of the pandemic, more precisely vaccination, and the economic scenario are decisive for the political dispute and for the elections. Management of the water crisis, which could lead to a blackout in states such as São Paulo, Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro and Paraná, depending on the amount of rainfall, is an additional element.

The most “pessimistic” reading highlights the low level of economic activity, the maintenance of high levels of unemployment, the erosion of income with high inflation of basic products and services, the increase in indebtedness and default. Consequently, there will be a deterioration in the living conditions of workers. In this scenario, the neoliberal right could displace Bolsonaro, drag sectors of the bourgeoisie and attract the most conservative electorate dissatisfied with the government.

The most “optimistic” projection points to a slight economic recovery with growth in the first quarter (above expectations of stagnation), in a context of devalued exchange rates, low interest rates and the recovery of China and the USA. The expansion of federal transfers to state and municipal participation funds signals an increase in tax collection. With that, the government will have some fiscal margin to open the box, make investments in some areas and create a new social program of greater scope. The growth could reach 5% this year and create an improving effect on the lives of the poorest workers. At the same time, vaccination is advancing, albeit slowly, and should reach a large part of the population by December. In this case, Bolsonaro will be in better political conditions in 2022, will have a larger support base than the current one and will be able to attract fractions of the bourgeoisie, interested in Lula's defeat.

The intensification of polarization implies organization and preparation of popular forces for the intensification of the class struggle until the elections. Now, the task is to move forward with the “Fora Bolsonaro” campaign to wear down the current government as much as possible. At the same time, the challenge of ideologically disputing and involving sections of the working class, especially youth, is growing, defending income, salary and employment policies. Further ahead, in the process of preparing for the elections, it will be necessary to involve democratic and progressive forces to defeat the extreme right and build a militant campaign in defense of popular emergency measures to face the national crisis, contrasting with the ongoing neoliberal program since 2015.

*Igor Felipe Santos is a journalist.


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