Elections in Brazil – the struggle of the left

Image: Plato Terentev


The decisive question remains that of forming a popular majority

Juarez Guimarães, professor of political science at the Federal University of Minas Gerais: – The decisive issue remains that of forming a popular majority.

Once the results of the first electoral round are known, we could say –following the suggestion of Juarez Guimarães– that the decisive question is as form that popular majority, necessary to change the course of Brazil.

In Brazil, this is an urgent issue, which has a date: October 30, 2022. It is about consolidating a front capable of defeating President Jair Bolsonaro, an initiative headed by former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

It is an effort to give a new direction to the country that, in general terms, has been defined as a confrontation between a democratic leader and a fascist one. A definition that simplifies things, but leaves others, very important, out of the debate. But it has been used a lot in the campaign.

In all areas of public life –in the economy, in culture, in education, in health, in the environment, in security, in races, in gender, in all of them, there will have to be political reformulations.

But the secret of everything is how the State will be organized so that the country produces and distributes what is produced in the best way among the entire Brazilian population.

The “Bridge to the Future”, a neoliberal program in which Temer supported the coup against Dilma Rousseff, proposed “executing a development policy centered on the private sector, through transfers of assets that may be necessary, broad concessions in all areas of logistics and infrastructure, partnerships to complement the offer of public services and return to the previous regime of concessions in the oil area, giving Petrobras the right of preference”.

The law that establishes a spending ceiling limits the possibilities of offering public services – including health and education – to the majority of the country's population.

"I'm against the spending cap," said Lula, already campaigning for the second round. “What was done was to avoid investments in education, health, SUS, to guarantee money for bankers. And I want to guarantee the money for social policy, rice, beans, meat, onions, tomatoes, a liter of milk. Therefore, we are going to be very responsible fiscally, socially and with Brazil”, she said. This will be the center of the political struggle, especially if Lula wins the elections.


First round results

Professor Juarez Guimarães is among those who optimistically interpret the results of the first round. There are others, with a more pessimistic view.

For him, the most decisive fact of the first round “was the almost majority achieved by the Lula-Alckmin ticket”. Never has a left-wing candidacy reached 48,2% in presidential elections in the first round, noting that this represents growth in all regions, in income, color, or schooling ranges, compared to the 2018 elections.

But the results can be analyzed from another perspective, as the economist Flavio Tavares de Lyra does. For him, the left-wing forces suffered a “somewhat pessimistic impact with the results”, but he recognizes that Lula's chances of victory in the second round are great. The victory of the right in the legislative elections should not be surprising, he said, “in view of the public resources that the government has allocated to favoring its candidates”.

Naturally, it is not the only reason for Bolsonarism's performance, better than predicted in the polls. Flavio Tavares de Lyra himself cites, in addition to the “secret budget” approved by Congress, the influence of evangelical churches in the campaign.

For a newspaper analyst The globe, in an article published on Monday after the elections, “Bolsonaro showed strength and weakness. The strength was the higher-than-expected voting percentage. The weakness, the fact that despite aspiring to re-election – which traditionally represents a great advantage – Bolsonaro was five points behind Lula, with a difference of just over six million votes.

But the reality is that, even if he wins in the second round –according to analyst Thomas Traumann– “Lula will have a Chamber of Deputies much less eager to negotiate with him” than during his two previous terms.


center spin

In this scenario, what should be Lula's strategy to face the second round? It is not just a Brazilian debate, even though, at this moment, nowhere else does it have such urgency and such immediate practical effects.

One option is to “move to the center”, along the lines of the “new capitalism” that Tony Blair and Gerard Schroeder proposed at the end of the last century, with the catastrophic results of a growing social disparity, which are now well known.

For Leonardo Attuch, editor of the portal Brazil 247, this requirement has two objectives: the right to choose the Minister of Finance, someone capable of resuming the proposal of the “Bridge to the future” – he quotes Henrique Meirelles – but, mainly, “the maintenance of the price policy of Petrobrás and the dismemberment of the state-owned company, which transfers the income of Brazilian society to local and international funds”.

Once again, the decisive role of the Brazilian oil company and the enormous resources of the pre-salt layer stand out, which are even more valued in the current world political scenario.

The debate revolves around the ownership of natural resources – in this case, oil – and the distribution of public funds. the same newspaper The globe he said, in his Monday editorial, that Lula's great challenge is the economy. And he asked: What is your proposal to replace the spending cap? What will you do about labor reform and privatization? Or about tax and administrative reform and the role of the State and public banks in development?

For Leonardo Attuch, “everything that has happened in Brazil since the 'June 2013 days', including Lava Jato and the impeachment without a crime of responsibility against former president Dilma Rousseff, has always had the central objective of stealing income from Brazilian oil. , after the pre-salt discovery”.

The danger of “turning to the center” is highlighted by several authors, among them Valerio Arcary, for whom, instead, the campaign should be guided by an “relentless polarization against Jair Bolsonaro and the fascist danger”. “Lula and the command of the Front must not reduce the campaign to nostalgia for the past. We need to present proposals for concrete changes in life”, says Valerio Arcary, who suggests a wide list of measures: raising the minimum wage, public works to create jobs, strengthening the SUS, expanding racial quotas in education and public services, revising of labor reform, repeal of the spending ceiling, taxes on large fortunes, increased income tax exemption, zero deforestation, defense of indigenous population reserves, rights of women and the LGBTQIA+ population. And he ends by suggesting “not to give in to the pressure to turn to the center”.

But the campaign does not start today. It started several months ago and one of the first decisions was to invite Geraldo Alckmin – until then a tough opponent of Lula and the PT, linked to neoliberal policies – to the vice-presidency. Lula also agreed to maintain the independence of the Central Bank, but has already said that he does not accept the spending ceiling. In other words, this “turn to the center” has already taken place, which will be at the center of political tensions in an eventual Lula government.


Decision taken

The debate illustrates well the correlation of forces that takes place in these elections. But not only that. If for Lula's campaign this option was inevitable (and has already been resolved, as we know), it continues to be a challenge for the left all over the world, incapable of offering a coherent proposal that will enthuse voters, finding a viable program, an alternative to neoliberal project that expanded around the world as a result of the end of the Cold War. This left often preferred to avoid this debate or replaced it with others, such as identity struggles.

The path is to combine and not oppose or separate the struggles of the working classes from identity struggles, rightly says Juarez Guimarães. But it is necessary to place them in their proper relationship so that they all become potent and one does not weaken the other. He is right when he says that “the policy of opposing the claim of oppressed identities and class struggles falls to the ground”, but it remains to establish a clearer relationship between the two, because they are not the same thing, nor do they define a political project in the same way.

No one has the right to make a mistake about the political scenario of an eventual new Lula government, which formed a vast coalition to face the electoral campaign. Perhaps for this very reason, the warning of the former president of the Brazilian Defense Studies Association (ABED) and former vice-president of the CNPq, Manuel Domingos Neto, is more valuable: “The institutional left stopped, a long time ago, calling the most suffering to fight,” he said. “He got used to calling them to the polls to consecrate promising political representation of blessings”. In this scenario, it is Jair Bolsonaro who reaches the hearts of many, calling for the fight against the system, he warned.

“Against this faker –says Domingos– Lula must call the people to change Brazil, not to return to the time when they ate picanha, traveled by plane and had a chance of achieving higher education”.

But for that, first he has to get to the Planalto Palace.

*Gilberto Lopes is a journalist, PhD in Society and Cultural Studies from the Universidad de Costa Rica (UCR). author of Political crisis of the modern world (Uruk).

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