In defense of a left front

Image: João Nitsche


Joint action on a Front could be transformed into a rich experience of dialogue, of overcoming sectarianism accumulated over decades of unjustified disagreements in the face of the enormous tasks and challenges that afflict us

The 2020 elections, once again, demonstrated the difficulties and lack of tradition to compose a permanent left-wing bloc in electoral disputes and even in political action on social fronts. In the political history of the country, these experiences are non-existent or very fragile. The long dictatorial and/or authoritarian periods in the 20th century and the exclusion of the left from electoral disputes, with the briefest exception between 1945/7, always hindered or prevented these experiences.

Even in years of some political openness, the decade of the 50s, for example, the consented space never reached the electoral party legalization of the left. We can say that full party plurality, legally and in fact, was only recognized in Brazil after the 80s, almost two centuries after the country left the condition of a Portuguese colony.

Ephemeral experiences such as the National Liberation Alliance (ANL) in the years 1934/35, the Redemocratization Front of the 40s and the frentism for democracy of the Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB) did not constitute viable organic alternatives in the long term.

In the 1982 elections, in addition to the substitutes of consented bipartisanship, the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB) and the Social Democratic Party (PDS), the Democratic Labor Party (PDT), the Workers' Party (PT) and the Workers' Party (PT) registered for the election. and the Brazilian Labor Party (PTB).

Labor split as a result of the regime's bureaucratic maneuver, in agreement with historic labor groups, to prevent its true heir, Leonel Brizola, from assuming the historical acronym of Getúlio Vargas and João Goulart. All, with the exception of the PT, were born within Congress, taking advantage of the rule that allowed registration with a minimum number of parliamentarians to join.

The PT was the only one to comply with the registration alternative: in nine months to organize provisional directorates in a minimum of 11 states and in these directive commissions organized in 20% of the municipalities of these federal units.

The main parties still clandestine – the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB) and the Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB) – remained out of the electoral dispute. Cautious, as the military regime lasted, they defended the support and maintenance of the PMDB's frentist character. Including, to launch and support candidacies through that caption.

Still in 1982, the dictatorship tried one more maneuver, the binding vote. In addition to the general elections for Congress and state assemblies, municipalities other than capitals and areas considered to be National Security would have simultaneous elections with general elections.

The coup devised by the tied vote was to pressure the voter to the “useful vote” in the parties that came from the regime, PDS and PMDB, already domesticated by parliamentary activity. The voter, if he did not vote for the same party in the municipal and general elections, would have his vote annulled.

The party reorganization of the 1980s-1990s

Even with the maneuvers of the dictatorship, the new parties survived. The elections in the capitals in 1985 and the struggle for the Constituent Assembly ended up supplanting the imposed bipartisanship and new parties emerged, expanding the political-party spectrum.

The 1988 Constituent Congress, frustrating the idea of ​​an exclusive and sovereign Constituent Assembly, maintained the electoral system with its ills and vices. The roll call vote, private funding, the permissiveness of coalitions, in addition to becoming increasingly corrupt instruments, are destroyers of party life itself.

The license in the creation of parties through provisional registrations, however, ended up consolidating the trend of explosion of party acronyms. Around 30 parties came into existence in the country, stimulated by the Party Fund and radio and TV times during election periods.

On the left, the vertiginous growth in the early years of the PT based on solid union representation and its unique internal organization, guaranteeing the right to internal currents, opinion trends, meant that the Party attracted a large number of groups, movements organized, small clandestine regional or local parties in order to benefit from this rapid growth and the attractiveness of the project of internal democracy.

In a short time, the Party or Political Front dilemma arose, caused by the heterogeneity of the groups and movements that formed it. These ranged from trade unionists across the country to intellectuals and university graduates, from grassroots community and ecclesiastical movements to groups and organizations that survived the dictatorship and reorganized themselves through alternative journals and newspapers.

The thesis prevailed that the PT would be a Party, but with the right to opinion trends within it and with respect for the proportional representation of these currents in its governing bodies. In the first years, proportional representation in the Directories. In the 1991 Congress, its extension to the Executive Boards was approved, as well as the minimum gender representation of 30%.

In 1983, the organization of the Central Única dos Trabalhadores, a national trade union central, distinct from the structure of Federations and Confederations of the old Consolidation of Labor Laws (CLT), was formed with similar criteria of unit composition through the proportionality of currents and union forces in congresses.

The new Central and its construction gave the idea of ​​a new and different character from the European union experiences, where prevailed union centrals ideologically and programmatically aligned with progressive rural parties: Christian Democrats, socialists and communists.

From 1986 the exponential growth of the PT, doubling its representation in the Federal Chamber at each election (1982- 8 deputies/1986- 16 deputies /1990-35 deputies/1994 – 50 deputies) / 1998- 59 deputies /2002 – 91 deputies )¹ contrasted with the crisis of references of the world left with the collapse of “really existing socialism” in Eastern Europe. Mainly the Communist Parties, historically identified with the Soviet Union.

Since its birth, the PT has taken an independent stance in relation to the Soviet experience and the European socialist parties. This was the result of the critical view of the founding left wing of the Party and the mistrust of union leaders in relation to European experiences and also because of the existence of these political positions as competitors in Brazil.

These elements facilitated the growth of the PT as the largest party organization in the Brazilian left and with the ability to build unity through democratic internal debate in a unique way. But, obviously, they did not help to think of unity with the left forces of other parties as a historical necessity.

The PDT and PSB, despite the little tradition of organizing union bases and theoretical-programmatic internal debate, approached the Socialist International, assuming a programmatic ideological identity with low repercussions on the life of these parties in the concrete political struggle in the country.

The need for party affirmation and programmatic consolidation of this wide range in the first years of democratization in the country, did not help in the sense of stimulating the unitary struggle. On the contrary, the dispute prevailed over the representation of the popular sectors and the working classes.

This trend will even extend to the trade union movement. The “unique” character intended by the CUT with the guarantee of proportionality in the instances of the central was insufficient to maintain unity. The ambiguity in relations with the CLT and its union structure, with the State and the source of financing represented by the compulsory collection of Union Tax prevailed. Furthermore, the particular interests of the parties and representation disputes led to the multiplication of Union Centrals.

In the 90s the need for unity on the left became more urgent. With the proliferation of party acronyms, despite their ideological and programmatic identity with capitalism, bourgeois parties in Congress sought a way to reduce risks.

Frightened by the PT's victories in Fortaleza, Porto Alegre and São Paulo and Lula's campaign in 1989, they approved the law of two electoral rounds. The “democratic” argument was to guarantee more legitimacy to the elected but without facing the permissiveness of the avalanche of parties. The approved rule is draconian. Either the candidate exceeds 50% in the first round or has to face a second round with the possibility of uniting minorities with reasonable conflicts and even contradictions, but which, in the face of the common “enemy”, are allied anyway. A very tough rule in the face of experiences in other countries where victory is guaranteed with 45% of the votes or even less, as long as the second is within ten percentage points.

The electoral system inherited from the 1988 Constitution is all set up to distort the democratic process. The nominal vote and its private financing, the brutal distortion in the representation of citizenship with the floor of 8 deputies and the ceiling of 70 deputies in the States and the duplicity of powers between the Chamber and the Senate.

All are rules that favor conservatism and make it difficult for leftist and transforming parties to advance.

The electoral victory with Lula in 2002

Lula's arrival at the Presidency of the Republic in 2002 was achieved despite the obstacles of the electoral system, but, while the president reached 46,4 million votes, the PT bench in the Federal Chamber received only 15 million votes, which allowed him to elect 91 federal deputies. Less than 20% of the seats in the Chamber.

The political front made up of the PT, PCdoB and PR had an electoral character only and we did not advance in a proposal to consolidate an alliance with closer sectors such as the PSB and the PDT, of Leonel Brizola.

The government opened itself up to a broad coalition that would guarantee governability via Congress and this policy prevailed throughout the four terms. We did not advance in the constitution of a more cohesive bloc, programmatically, and the consequences of the policy of broad alliances in Congress, including with sectors of the right such as the PP and parties linked to evangelical cults, were very harmful.

This orientation was generalized in the States and Municipalities, assuming an electoral and immediatist character, as well as, as a result, a mischaracterization of the party's origins and program. Including the abandonment of policies that identified the “PT way of governing”. In particular, participatory democracy policies and incentives for independent organization and popular participation.

We saw the moment of the coup against the Dilma government and paid a high price for the behavior of the center and center right allies and the absence of a more consistent policy in building a more solid bloc committed to a political project.

Reasons for a Left Front in Brazil

The political-electoral defeat of 2018 might have occurred even with the construction of greater unity in the popular democratic field. The coup that ousted Dilma and impeded Lula's candidacy was the result of a solid alliance of the neoliberal bourgeoisie, the monopoly media that took charge of criminalizing politics and, in particular, the PT, the complicity of the judiciary and the direct action of the political parties. center and right in the National Congress.

But, certainly, the electoral picture would be different if we had built a unit beyond the PT and PCdoB. The potential for attracting social movements and the ability to create large mobilizations would have been different with a unitary ticket involving parties such as the Psol, the PDT and the PSB in the first round.

Now, it is undeniable that the 2018 election, even with profound illegitimacy, reformulated the Brazilian party framework and its main references that had been forming since 1980. The Bolsonaro phenomenon and the anti-system discourse and deep criticism of parties and politics in general , the appeal to moralism in the fight against corruption , the identification of common sense with unity around national symbols, attracted broad sectors of the parties that throughout the 80s and 90s sought to enlist voters and affiliates around programs with greater coherence and with identification with sectors of Brazilian society.

The most consolidated parties, nationally, such as the PMDB, the PSDB, the PP suffered resounding defeats. Even with Haddad going to the second round, the PT also had a significant reduction in the bench, although it remained as the largest representation in the Chamber, with 54 deputies.

Added to this is the maintenance of the electoral system set up to favor individualism, personalism, electoral clientelism and the corrupting power of public funding. It is not surprising that permissiveness in the creation of parties and the lack of programmatic and ideological identity of the vast majority of parties are responsible for the current representation crisis.

The bureaucratization of the parliamentary system and parties – a classic phenomenon in capitalist liberalism – adds to the above scenario to make it difficult and confusing to recognize parties as necessary for a healthy democratic construction.

In our view, these elements further reinforce the need to form a left-wing bloc. The prejudice that was created by rejecting the parties, the common sense that “all are equal”, that “all politics is corrupt” are obstacles that are difficult to be overcome, individually, by the parties.

Finally, the biggest challenge, the crisis of theoretical and practical references of socialism after the collapse of Eastern Europe and the unattractiveness of the isolated experiences that exist do not help in the unequivocal choice of a political party or movement.

Even with the accelerated growth that raised it to the status of a world power, the Chinese experience with its bureaucratic-authoritarian model of a single Party and enormous ambiguities and growing inequalities in the socialist transition is not an attractive alternative for the global left as an alternative.

In Europe, where struggles and theorization of socialist experiences flourish, the crisis of alternatives in the left field still prevails. The former Communist and Socialist Parties, in almost all countries, experienced enormous crises of political representation and alternative governance to the neoliberal model of fiscal austerity and attack on the historical achievements of “social welfare”.

More recently, some experiences have been positive and point to new possibilities. The Left Front that supported Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the last presidential elections in France reached 20% of the votes in the first round. In Spain, the construction of unity between Podemos and Esquerda Unida also signaled the possibility of success in the main cities.

In Portugal, the agreement between the Bloco de Esquerda and the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP) to guarantee parliamentary support, even without participating in the government, to the Socialist Party has been guaranteeing resistance and concrete advances against the austerity policies and cut of social expenses of the European Union .

In Latin America, the richest experience of a party-political front with unity around a common program is, without a doubt, the Uruguayan Broad Front. Born in 1971, it survived the military dictatorship (1973/1985) and is on its way to completing 50 years as the main political force in the country.

In a Uruguay marked throughout the 20th century by a hegemonic bipartisanship between “blancos” and “colorados”, conservatives and liberals, but defenders of the capitalist order, the emergence of the Frente Ampla allowed the set of socialist, communist, nationalist parties and forces to from the left, radical democrats, artiguistas, etc… assumed a growing role that led the Frente Ampla to win the elections in the Capital and reach the presidency of the Republic, several times.

The Frente Ampla brings together more than 25 organizations, parties and political movements around a common program (democratic, anti-imperialist and of reforms and social conquests), without losing the identity of each of its members.²

Its roots throughout the country and grassroots organization allow any citizen to individually join the Frente Ampla without requiring prior affiliation to one of its organizations. Its long trajectory has enabled an identity with the social sectors it represents that goes beyond the positive result of unity and strength, but also plays an undeniable pedagogical role in the identity of struggles and elections.

More recently, Chile is also experiencing a rich frentist experience (Frente Amplio) that was born in 2017 and today is formed by 13 political organizations. Its origin is linked to the student and social movements of 2011 in the struggle for public, secular and free education in opposition to the privatist legacy of the Pinochet dictatorship and maintained by the “concertación” after the military regime, in the “slow and safe” transition of the dictatorship. The Front also expresses the struggle against the electoral system maintained by the “concertación” which, via electoral districts, prevents the proportional representation of minorities. In the 2017 elections, his performance was surprising, reaching 20% ​​of the votes in the first round.

These experiences are positive because of their unity, because they allow quantitative growth in representation, but they are mainly due to the need to produce a common program. Learning to build unity in the diversity of different positions, which on the left go back to historical conflicts and theoretical debates that span decades, is a difficult but necessary and urgent task.

The challenge of the programmatic reconstruction of the socialist left is worldwide. This crisis predates even the dismantling of “really existing socialism”. The experiences in the Soviet Union and in the other countries of the “socialist bloc” after the Second World War and in China, with the victory of the Revolution in 1949, were not capable of building socialist societies that fully surpassed the capitalist nations in all dimensions of social life. .

Economic growth and the superiority of planning over the market allowed these countries to become world powers in a few decades, overcoming centuries of backwardness from oligarchic and/or colonial domination.

However, the non-extension of the revolution to other countries, the permanent siege and the arms race, the process of bureaucratization of the State and the predominance of the Single Party thesis prevented the construction of a socialist democracy. Both in the mode of production, even with the nationalization of the means of production, new lasting forms of management were not produced with the protagonism of the workers nor a new institutionality superior in democracy than that practiced by the liberal parliamentarism in the developed capitalist countries.

This ideological and programmatic deficit continues until today and it is the task of socialist militants to recover it.

The historical backwardness is evident and is expressed when leftist parties come to government and are incapable of presenting alternatives in confronting the logic of capital and its parliamentary and judicial institutions.

Joint action on a Front could be transformed into a rich experience of dialogue, of overcoming sectarianism accumulated over decades of little-justified disagreements in the face of the enormous tasks and challenges that afflict us.

What state do we want? How to overcome the electoral system (corrupting, anachronistic and anti-democratic) and the current bicameralism (very expensive, bureaucratized, with duplication of competences and fraudulent proportionality) that we suffer? What property boundary are we fighting for? How to be a sovereign country in a globalized world and subordinated to the North American Empire by military power and unelected international institutions that decide the economy and our future? How to control and dominate the new information technologies that decide our lives?

There are many questions that we have not yet answered or convinced the population to transform them into a political force. We trust that discussing them together, sharing our experiences and deepening historical knowledge about the mistakes and successes of the struggle of socialists in the world, the faster and more successful our conquests will be.

Let's build the Left Front

At this moment, it is evident that there are several parties and political organizations that are in opposition to the Bolsonaro government and the ultraneoliberal model that he and Minister Guedes apply in the country. In Congress, parties that voted against President Dilma's impeachment and acted together in defense of labor and public pension laws have been assuming a permanent opposition against the Government. These parties: PDT, PT, PSB, PCdoB and Psol also signed a joint opposition work manifesto in the country. In addition to these, there are several movements of (re)organization of parties in the field of the anti-capitalist left that still do not have parliamentary representation but are in social struggles such as PCB, PCO, PRC, PSTU, UP and others.

Recently, around two hundred men and women, intellectuals, university professors, party leaders, trade unionists, journalists signed a public manifesto for a Left Front. Originating from Forum 21, the manifesto translates the feeling of this heterogeneity of citizens(s) who sign it and, also, the yearning and appeal of the participants of the great mobilizations of the last years for democracy, for the public University, for the attacked labor rights, for the Public Pension, in short , against the neoliberal and self-serving government of Bolsonaro and Guedes.

In the ongoing elections, in a significant number of municipalities, we built electoral fronts between parties in that field, regardless of the party position on Fronts beyond the electoral period, although, in cases of victory, we will govern together.

If it was not possible to build a more organic, more permanent front, the electoral processes alert us to this need. More than warning, they point out the serious political error committed in several large cities. We hope that the dozens of municipalities where we have built this unit will be another strong argument for building a superior unit.

To enhance everyone's work, to unify our common struggles, it is urgent that we build a permanent unit to face the common enemy, with the following characteristics:

1 – A political Front of Parties and organizations that claim representation, open to the direct participation and adherence of citizens (ãs) who agree with the Program and the forms of organization of the Front.

2 – A Common Program, consensually approved at the foundation of the Front where the points of unity of the group based on the defenses of Participatory Democracy, National Sovereignty and anti-imperialism are established.

3 – A permanent character and of national, state and municipal extension, with corresponding coordination bodies.

4 – A permanent search for joint parliamentary and governmental action, as well as in the already constituted social-union fronts such as the Popular Brazil Front and the People Without Fear Front.

5 – Consensual proportionality in the coordinations, according to pre-established criteria, as well as criteria of gender parity and age and race proportionality.

6 – Its permanent nature and common action in the daily struggles of the Brazilian people will also facilitate favorable conditions for cohesion, mutual trust and program identity for electoral disputes.

*Raul Pont, former mayor of Porto Alegre, he is a member of the National Board of the PT.



¹ “From Colégio Sion to Planalto”. In: Argument No. 102. January 2015 – Publication by the Cabinet of State Deputy Raul Pont – ALERGS – Porto Alegre.

² Statutes 2011 – Frente Amplio. Publication of the FA National Plenary, December 2011, Montevideo.


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