Strategies and Tactics of the Left

Carlos Zilio, ESTUDO, 1970, felt-tip pen on paper, 47x32,5 (2)


It would be unwise not to consider that the definition of the best tactics for the left to compete, in the main cities, in the second round is very important.

“Ignorance forces us to take the same path twice”
(Portuguese popular wisdom). 
“Youth is like water from the stream; Left to itself, it destroys bridges.”
(African folk wisdom).

The year 2020 has been especially difficult, due to the humanitarian tragedy that the pandemic has turned into in Brazil, but it has brought some surprises. I had to wait forty years to write that Breno Altman, one of the best left-wing journalists, one of the last unrepentant Stalinists, and passionate member of the imaginary Communist Party, an ideological-affective current with a symbolic presence in the PT, PSol and PCdB, is right . And now it happens almost every week, which is, perhaps, disturbing, but amusing.

And I can also confess that I take a contained satisfaction in disagreeing with Valter Pomar, one of the most serious and intelligent members of the PT leadership, and who is always among my favorite controversial interlocutors. Yesterday the theme of the controversy was the repercussion of the victory of Boulos/Erundina in the PSol previews. The discussion between Altman and Pomar was about what the PT's electoral tactics should be in the municipal elections. Should the PT have its own candidate in the first round, if not Haddad? The four texts can be found at these links[I]. They are unmissable.

I will not develop many arguments about them. It is not for diplomacy. The PT's dilemmas indirectly affect the entire Brazilian left. It's because I don't think it's wise now to have strong opinions about the left's electoral prospects in November. The central challenge will be the ability to hold Bolsonaro, Doria and Covas accountable for this year's health catastrophe and economic calamity. It is not difficult to conclude that the candidacy that could potentially excite, energize and mobilize the left in São Paulo is that of Boulos/Erundina. We don't know if it will be enough to go to the second round. It is still early. They are, without a doubt, the best bet.

But it would be unwise not to consider that defining the best tactics for the left to compete in the second round in the main cities is very important. Because there is a real danger that, especially in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, a candidacy from the extreme right and one from the right-wing opposition will reach the second round, albeit disguised as centre-liberal. Which would be a disaster. And in the definition of tactics, the choice of candidates is one of the central decisions. She's not the only one, obviously. The political line counts for a lot. It so happens that the discussion of electoral tactics is indivisible from an unavoidable strategic controversy.

But first, I think it's important to establish a premise. The left prevails who thinks that the unity or division of the left in electoral processes rests on a struggle of personal vanities. I know this criticism is well-intentioned, but it is naive. There is a place in political struggle for the role of individuals with their virtues and whims, but it is almost always misunderstood and, above all, misinterpreted.

It is not for vanity that Fernando Haddad did not accept to be a candidate in 2020, but for a strategic bet. Haddad is protecting himself, of course. Of course, this bet would be inexplicable without evaluating that, if he were to run and lose the 2020 election, he would have more difficulties in being able to be a candidate for the presidency in 2022, if we consider that, unfortunately, however, probably, Lula will not recover the their political rights in the trial that may take place by the end of October at the STF. This struggle remains, therefore, decisive for the future of the left, in its most serious sense.

Haddad can also be moved by personal ambitions, but if we consider his trajectory, it seems an unfair conclusion to conclude that they are what guide this decision. Haddad always placed himself at the service of the strategy of the majority of the PT leadership.

Therefore, the central issue is that several projects are in dispute on the Brazilian left regarding the dynamics of where the reorganization of the left is going. The underlying strategic question is how to pave the way for Bolsonaro's defeat. But it unfolds at tactical crossroads.

And just as there is, on a tactical level, a fight on the left for leadership of the opposition to Bolsonaro, there is also, on another level, a dispute for positions between the parties on the left. This party struggle is explained by the fact that the projects are different, but are poorly understood.

There are several projects on the left, because the programs are different. Simplifying, and being therefore a little brutal, there is the majority of the PT and the left of the PT, the PSol, the PCdB and even the PStu. And of course, last but not least, there's Lula the sphinx.

The project of the majority of the PT is, essentially, the expression of its governors, the majority of senators, and a large part of the trade union and electoral apparatus. They defend the Frente Ampla tactic uniting the opposition and, therefore, supported the election of Rodrigo Maia; they prefer that the measurement of forces with Bolsonaro only be done in the 2022 elections; if Lula cannot be a candidate, which is the most likely hypothesis, they will support Haddad; and, finally, they are inspired by the Peronist victory in Argentina, because they defend a program to boost economic growth, and the extension of compensatory public policies. They want to do, for the second time, the same path as in 2018.

The project of the left of the PT is different, because they are ultra-defensists of the PT, and they bet everything on Lula's ability to reinvent himself, and play a leading role in social mobilization; are committed to defending mobilizations against Bolsonaro before 2022, including the prospect of his overthrow; defend the priority of the Left Front as a tactic to oppose Bolsonaro; and they have a strong reference in the Chavista experience in Venezuela of combining electoral dispute and popular participation.

PSol's project is to be a useful instrument of anti-capitalist struggle to build, in the conditions of a reactionary situation, a Left Front to resist the Bolsonaro government, get out of the defensive and defeat the neo-fascist current of Bolsonarism, investing in direct mass action; the PSol does not fight for power for the PSol, it fights for a left-wing government that is a government of the workers and the oppressed, going beyond the limits of coalition presidentialism, and sustained by popular mobilization and organization; because the PSol also wants to go beyond the limits of the experiences of the PT's concerted governments for more than thirteen years that, finally, resulted in the defeats that have come since 2016. The bet that unites the PSol, in its diversity, is that without revolutionary disposition it is not possible in Brazil to conquer social rights.

The PCdB project was presented by Flávio Dino and is a bet on a very broad Frente Ampla to resist now, with maximum damage reduction during Bolsonaro’s term, blocking the intentions of self-coup, and guaranteeing Bolsonaro’s defeat in 2022; this would only be possible with a center-left candidacy, like that of Ciro Gomes, or Flávio Dino himself, if not another name; this Front could even assume an organic form in a new legal party, metaphorically defined, as a left-wing MDB, uniting sectors of the PT, dissatisfied with the insistence on Haddad's candidacy, sectors of the PSB, PDT, perhaps, Rede and, possibly , others, besides the PCdB itself.

The PStu project is the expectation of a revolutionary overthrow of Bolsonaro through a general strike in the perspective of an insurrection. They bet on the imminence of a pre-revolutionary situation.

But everything is very complicated because the parties are not homogeneous. In the PSol, for example, there are those who make formulations similar to those of the PSTU, but there are also others who are not very far from what the PT left defends, and even those who flirt with the ideas of the PCdB. There is a lot of diversity in the PT: in addition to its majority, there are those who agree with its left wing, those who support PSol's, and those who prefer PCdB's. In the PCdB there is a preferential bet, but there are also those who consider the hypothesis defended by the left of the PT.

Everything is very uncertain, it is not simple, and what is at stake is dramatically important. Just as strategic lucidity is necessary, so is tactical intelligence. And a little luck is always welcome.

*Valerio Arcary is a retired professor at IFSP. Author, among other books, of Revolution meets history (Shaman).


[I] e

Consultation on 21/07/2020

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