Facing the pandemic is, today, central to the class struggle

Image: Elyeser Szturm

By Ricardo Gebrim*

The left must rebuild its relationship with the proletariat, shaken since the 2016 coup.

For popular fighters, there is no doubt: the center of tactics at this moment is the defense of the people, their conditions of survival and health. The big risk group is the proletariat. Therefore, our fight is materialized in demanding the maximum social isolation with provision of income, wages and without layoffs.

Still without emergency aid, unemployed women are fighting hunger. We are facing a situation with such a profound impact on humanity that it is not an exaggeration to compare it with the outbreak of the First World War (1914-1918). It is still reckless to make any forecast of future possibilities in the face of the deep economic crisis we will face.

However, two probable situations can already be predicted. The first is that China, in its strategic alliance with Russia, will make a qualitative leap in its economic and political overcoming of US imperialism. A scenario in which the US will rely even more on its military capacity, raising world tension.

The second is that the sudden worsening of living conditions will open a new “historical window”, as a concept that expresses a limited temporal framework, in which the provisionally existing conditions make possible a given type of transformative strategy.

However, we need to be clear that the “window” opens to popular forces, but also to our enemies. Especially for current neo-fascist forces. I have insisted on recommending the work The Shock Doctrine, by Naomi Klein, which helps us understand the capitalist ability to take advantage of crises as shock therapy. Her book demonstrates how crises are used to ideologically reinforce the system and even more reactionary and conservative alternatives can always be built, disputing popular dissatisfaction.

The incipient proposal to generalize the so-called “Green Yellow Employment Card”, beyond the emergency period of the pandemic, signals the intention to consolidate labor losses that occur at a special moment.

In Brazil, the potential for deaths due to our social inequality is frightening. Bolsonaro has been a growing obstacle to facing the pandemic. In a back and forth movement, it builds a risky bet to oppose social isolation, seeking in the present to dispute precarious workers and sectors of damaged entrepreneurs and, in the future, placing both responsibility for the inevitable economic crisis and the number of dead in the back of governors and mayors. A characteristic stance of fascism, which always seeks to point out a false enemy to divert responsibility from capitalism.

Defeating Bolsonaro, removing him from the Presidency of the Republic is fundamental. In recent weeks, he has been losing support, especially in the middle-class sectors that were his voters. But it still has social support and its bet on precarious sectors may gain strength with the necessary extension of social isolation and the worsening of the economic situation.

The political situation accelerates and progressive forces unite against Bolsonaro. However, for left-wing forces, “Bolsonaro Out” is an atypical “slogan”. In its classic sense, a “slogan” not only translates a tactic, but raises the awareness of the masses to influence the political struggle. However, consistent with the social isolation that we must defend with all our intensity, our ability to influence the social struggle is very limited.

In our homes, the action is restricted to doing “advertising” on social networks, always limited to our “bubbles” of scope and to important “panelaços” whose final version will be given by Rede Globo and other means of the mainstream media.

It is true that important contingents of workers in essential activities remain working and that Italy even recorded strikes that demanded the stoppage of activities to adhere to social isolation. However, with a trade union movement facing such adverse conditions, with the provisional measures allowing a reduction in working hours and wages, the chances of the labor movement's influence in the current situation face immense challenges.

Moments of profound turmoil, such as the current ones, entail an inevitable and brief detachment of intellectuals and political representatives from their respective class fractions. The movement of the bourgeois fractions, which had been maintaining a unity around Paulo Guedes' economic program, is still difficult to understand. An apparent chaos of conflicting positions prevails, which will soon be organized in defense of their respective interests.

Our current impasses are many and complex. As defenders of democratic guarantees, the probable implementation of the slogan “Fora, Bolsonaro” must necessarily be an impeachment, with all the limitations of a National Congress that meets virtually. There is no guarantee of a democratic exit with Bolsonaro’s impeachment: the so-called “Mourao exit”. We are currently watching, from our homes, an interbourgeois conflict with low incidence capacity, limited to social networks and “panelaços” in which we will dispute the version with Jornal Nacional.

Let us remember that, in countries where the peaks of the pandemic occurred earlier, the armed forces gained strong popular legitimacy: they distributed food, detergents, disinfected streets and transported coffins. In our case, in addition to these tasks, it is reasonable to assume that they will participate in the repression of possible looting.

The central issue that arises for the left to regain its ability to influence the political struggle scenario is to rebuild its relationship with the proletariat, shaken since the period before the 2016 coup. of changing methods and political cultures deeply ingrained in recent decades.

The pandemic will be overcome. The decisive issue is to build the conditions to face the “historical window” that will open. Organized vanguards, equipped with a strategy for gaining power, will continue to be the main element.

* Richard Gebrim is a lawyer and member of the National Board of Popular Consultation.

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