Challenges for the left in Brazil

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By RONALDO TAMBERLINI PAGOTTO*

It is not a time for euphoria with a possible defeat, nor is it a time for pessimism

The Brazilian situation is complex and has required analyses, responses and positions at an increasingly accelerated pace. In the last period, two factors stand out in the national situation: the resumption of Lula's political rights and the return to the streets by the left. In addition to the two highlighted points, it is also worth considering a third and previous one: the framework of the Bolsonaro government in crisis and growing disapproval / rejection rates.

With these three factors, the political situation began to be analyzed with more optimism than in previous periods since the decisive moments of the impeachment votes. This relative or incipient optimism is not unreasonable. In fact, these three factors make it possible to evaluate the scenario with broader possibilities than what we had in the same period of the previous year and in previous years. This change allows us to resume the initiative in a more robust way, but the political scenario is still marked by difficulties and important impasses. This article is about challenges within this scenario.

Bolsonaro and the faithful minority is not a traditional conservative force and we have already built a certain consensus on that. He is a force that is always placed in a logic of attack. There seems to be no negative picture for the government, and if there is, it is the work of forces in the system that reach a global articulation by bringing together the Chinese Communist Party, Jorge Soros, the mainstream media, etc. It doesn't matter if it makes sense, what matters is to build an explanation for everything. And that explanation needs to be simple, clearly identify enemies, and have popular reach. No accepting criticism, much less showing weaknesses. This is a typical format of neo-fascist segments in history: they are “strong”, even attacked by powerful enemies and the best defense is an attack.

This force is not consistent with any debate. It is important, in the face of any crisis, to point to those responsible: the system, the communists (as always), the mainstream media and international forces. They play that the enemies of the government are the blasphemers of the faith, attackers of the homeland and destroyers of families. They shield themselves in popular symbols and this is a mixture of strategy and fragility in appealing to the last pillars of support for conservatism (I would add corruption here, but this pillar has lost strength in the last year and a half since the policy with the so-called Centrão). This force – neo-fascism – does not defend itself, but always attacks, and in this fight there are no rules, laws, values, principles, nothing. They are for MMA, always in the debate and in the fight. But the fact that they shield themselves in these three pillars demonstrates that they are always attacking in the name of defending something bigger – which increases the possibility of legitimizing the attacks, but the degree of appeal is evident.

He is a destructive force that builds nothing. And her differential has two aspects in Brazil today: she has not incorporated the fact that the government she defends tooth and nail is not anti-corruption, anti-old politics or spurious alliances, but is pragmatic and very dependent on these sectors. But she is not shaken and continues to act. The other is that in the crisis it continues with initiative capacity (motociatas) and some social presence in the capitals. It mobilizes a small part of society, but it mobilizes. And these two aspects – indifference to contradictions and the capacity for initiative and mobilization of a neo-fascist segment – ​​configure a differential of current times.

In the face of the pandemic crisis – deaths, unemployment, hunger and despair – the popular sectors have guided health and protection measures with a national reach. The fight in defense of the vaccine, isolation and emergency aid play a central role in the fight for the most central issues of the national situation. And a good part of the left dedicated itself to solidarity initiatives to face the problem of starvation, with emphasis on the MST, Periferia Viva and Mãos Solidárias. There have been thousands of tons of food and other basic and essential items since the first day of the pandemic.

The scenario points to an impasse. The government was victorious in the elections and since then has only been losing social strength, even though it has sought to increase its strength in certain sectors (police, within the FFAA), negotiations with parties to obtain strength in parliament, but in society the support is minority and various organized sectors are in opposition, whether in the opposition since forever, or the spectrum that was with Bolsonaro in the elections (even if only in the 2o shift or discreetly). The electoral victory did not create a situation of expansion of forces, hegemony of ideas or politics, but much more as a victory as a reflection of the economic, political and sectors of the Brazilian bourgeoisie crisis. The problems of the current crisis point to the fall of the president as a way out and many impeachment requests have been filed since mid-2020. But the deadlock continues.

However, the request depends on the acceptance of the president of the Chamber or, given his refusal, of the majority of the deputies. The picture inside the parliament is not a walk for the president, but neither do the requests already have enough support. Faced with this scenario, the impasse will continue around the pressure for the president of the house to accept, or, in the case of appeal, for the parliamentarians to accept it. Not to mention the need to build a complaint for a crime for which the President is responsible, which is ongoing and with emphasis on the super unified request for impeachment.

Returning to the impeachment impasse, which is to have a sufficient majority for impeachment in the Chamber, it results in a somewhat obvious development: if the way to remove it via impeachment is not clear, the center tends to shift to anticipation of the debates on the succession in 2022. And this indicates that the center of the debate on the political exit combines the struggle for impeachment with the theme of the general elections. Therefore, it is not a question of mere anxiety or excessive betting on the way to the national elections of 22, but a development for the impeachment impasse and the centrality of the role of the president (his departure!) in the current crisis.

Given this scenario, we are facing a scenario in which the 2022 elections will be the longest in history, comparable to the 1989 election, with the most relevant facts being outlined in this next period. It is important to consider that everything indicates that the situation of the Bolsonaro government is the worst today and the trend is for a timid recovery in all areas - economy, employment, health crisis and consequently popularity and support. This would change with some extraordinary factor occurring. This needs to be seriously considered, it is not because it came in a downturn that we will plunge into an even more acute crisis and the government will collapse because of it.

One aspect worth noting is that the 2022 elections will take place within a special period in Brazil's history: a brutal conservative offensive since 2015; dismantling part of the struggle structure (unions and centrals); high rate of unemployment and informality; framework of chronic difficulties for popular struggles to obtain victories and others. As a result, unlike the situation of polarization in 1989, it will not be accompanied by a robust mass movement, which continues to recover its capacity for struggle and initiative. We continue on the downswing of the mass movement and this will have an important impact on the process, this is the highlight.

This theme is important for us to think about the scenario of 2021 and 2022 in different themes and in the perspective of the struggle, the impeachment and the 2022 elections. But mainly in two aspects that are a result of it: the amplitude of the alliances and the program. In the middle a comment about the main objective and the secondary ones.

The theme of alliances continues to be the subject of heated debates, intense controversy and deep divisions on the left. The basic element of this debate is that an alliance is necessary when a certain political objective is unattainable – or subjected to very difficult conditions, not to predict as unattainable – and they are absolutely central (the objective). In view of this, three positions are more regular: the search to increase the strength around that central objective, as a demonstration of fragility and coherence with the principality of that center of the political struggle; or betting on a profound change in the strengths to the point of allowing progress from the current situation of incapacity to a better scenario of “self-sufficiency” to achieve this objective (with quotation marks because it is not the best term to define this condition, but in the absence of another ..); or, not betting on expansion or evaluating how it is possible to change the political situation, that political objective is converted into a non-central reference, in which victory would be the struggle, the accumulation arising from it and, therefore, the central objective becomes be accumulating strength for the future. In this third there is a change of the center of the tactic.

From the previous challenge, another may emerge and, given its importance, it deserves to be highlighted. What would be the central objective for the next period? If that answer is a set of objectives, we will not have centrality and possibly not have an adequate policy. It emerges from the political situation that the center of the tactic, which subjugates all other objectives, is to remove Bolsonaro from the command of the federal government, either via impeachment or in the 2022 electoral process. of alliances takes on other contours.

The program is another theme that is guided by debates on the left. It would not be enough to take out Bolsonaro, but take it out with an advanced program. It is important to highlight that the political program is not the result of political enlightenment, will or the best and most beautiful dreams of the avant-garde. It is a component of the political struggle and which has its direct relationship and contours almost of a determination based on social pressure, that is, concrete struggles and organized sectors. The program has a direct relationship and result with the struggles and mobilizations. Periods of heightened struggles, of rising mass struggles, result in more advanced programs with mass social support. In periods of downturn, or of a defensive character, such as the current one, there is an additional difficulty in this matter. Our wish is that this theme is the expression of what we have most advanced in the diagnosis and proposals on the Brazilian problems. But in reality, the program is not just that, but, and above all, a formulation supported by the streets and struggles. In a situation like ours, the general tendency is for programs to be much more timid and even conservative. It is difficult to break with this difficulty – mass movement, struggles and program – without profoundly altering the political framework. Without this alteration, the risk is that the issue will be resolved with idealized positions of a political program detached from reality and without mass support.

The program is not just a determination of the struggles, which could result in a passive position on the subject, but what is sought to be affirmed is that the debate must understand the framework and start from it to think of the program to conquer broad masses, whose vote The previous one demonstrated adherence to a proposal that was conservative in terms of customs, neoliberal in terms of the economy, punitive in terms of social issues, internationally associated with an anti-communist current and with strong fascist overtones. It is very necessary to remember that voting is not the only way to measure it, nor is voting for Bolsonaro as an expression of some homogeneous force, but among the many reasons for voting for him, all are from the conservative camp and some are clearly fascist. That is, in addition to the descent frame, the theme of the program must consider this photograph from 3 years ago.

Faced with this situation, the situation will require answers and mistakes will cost us dearly. For this purpose, the points below are more specific contributions on issues and challenges of greater importance:

a) The fight for Bolsonaro Out (1), resumption of emergency aid of R$ 600,00 (2) and mass vaccination (3) are of a gigantic scope. It is unquestionable that the sectors with the greatest commitment and interest in these struggles are from the left, but they reach a large spectrum in society, beyond the left. This needs to be expressed in the initiatives of this fight, that is, we will need to involve broad sectors for this fight to be victorious. Purity will only guarantee us narratives, which for life only comfort the remedied.

b) The fight for memory and justice for more than 500 victims could be strengthened in this framework. There is an unprecedented health crisis that reaches millions, who are outraged and can mobilize to fight for memory, reparation and accountability. This theme deserves to be better worked on in the days of struggle, in the support and formation of state associations, etc.

c) The fight needs to continue combining political solidarity initiatives such as the MST, Maoes Solidárias and Periferia Viva. Lives and hunger are not indifferent to us and this has enormous potential for recovering a strong characteristic of the left: being respected for social work as part of political work. And I saw these actions enter territories and segments that were important to the struggles.

d) Vaccination is heading towards a young sector, this week entering the 30-year-old range in several states. It would be an opportunity to carry out small conspiratorial actions of agitation with the denunciation of the government's responsibility, pointing out the dead in that city and state, as well as family members. This could be partly done with people with symbols of the left, but a better part (perhaps most) would be to do it as an act of desperation and two or three angry people. It generates empathy, puts militancy to plan actions and conspire to do hundreds of small “vaninaços” for Brazil.

e) If the goal is to overthrow Bolsonaro, we must salute and expand to all sectors willing to join in this fight. The expansion of callers is a positive sign and not the opposite. Our main objective now is not to bring justice to forces that carried out the coup in 2016, applauded the car wash or supported Bolsonaro. This is secondary.

f) Debating the program requires building spaces to debate and popularize flags, struggles, programs and ideas. Organize debate days, popular committees to debate Brazilian problems, training courses for the courses, agitation and propaganda days, all to politicize and create spaces to debate the solutions for Brazil. Past programs, Projeto Brasil Popular, Ciro's program and others are references, with a focus on the work of greater breadth and scope conducted by the progressive field – Projeto Brasil Popular as subsidies for this.

g) We need more ideas dispute initiatives. Conforming a program of books for the general debate of militancy, articulation of blogs and progressive websites to conform a common and unitary space, are steps that can help us to strengthen the battle of ideas in this hot period that we will live. Hotter than we've had so far.

h) The national acts of “Fora Bolsonaro” lack two movements within our reach. Expand the format to include symbolic acts on behalf of the more than 500 dead, as happened on the 03rd in João Pessoa[1] and build agitation and propaganda brigades to inform and mobilize for the acts, without which the calls are limited to leftist circles and a fringe of supporters.

It is not time for any euphoria with the defeat of Bolsonaro – whether in impeachment or in the 2022 elections. But neither is it time to “continue doing things as before”, because, if we want a different impact, we need to change our efforts and initiatives.

If this is not a time for euphoria with a possible defeat, it is not a time for pessimism either. Let recent times be our worst times. For this, we will need to combine, as the great references have already taught us, a careful analysis, without projecting will, with a strong will to build initiatives so that the current situation is changed. And pave the way for profound changes in the near future.

*Ronaldo Tamberlini Pagotto, lawyer, member of Consulta Popular in SP and Projeto Brasil Popular.


[1]     Chronicles of an act against the genocide. https://www.brasildefatopb.com.br/2021/07/04/cronicas-de-um-ato-contra-o-genocida

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