Lessons from Brazil's victory

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By CHICO WHITAKER & ODED GRAJEW*

What lesson can we at the World Social Forum draw from what happened in Brazil, while the noise of confrontation persists?

It is interesting to note that the feeling of many people outside Brazil, when they comment on Lula's victory in this 2022 election, is that we were lucky that the ball went in despite skimming the crossbar. And in fact the difference in the number of votes for each candidate was 1,66% of the total, a minimum necessary for the ball not to deviate from the bottom of the goal. A difference that was dramatic for those who followed the calculations and expected that the difference of 5,97% of the votes received by Lula in the first round would increase or be repeated. Even more so with the decrease in blank and null votes, as well as abstentions, which decreased from 20,95% to 20,56%.

One can imagine the shock that the result must have caused to those who lost, seeing victory slipping through their fingers minute by minute. And he must have been so sure that he was going to win that he even declared to a journalist, immediately after the final debate between the candidates – which in fact did not even win – that whoever won the election would be sworn in. The probable shock also explains his silence for almost three days, after the Superior Electoral Court proclaimed the results and, therefore, his defeat.

His first words in front of her were pompous, with ministers and supporters around him, but very short, after realizing that he was going to be completely isolated. He didn't even name the winner, greeting him – as is customary in democracies – quickly handing over to one of his ministers the task of announcing that the transition process, provided for by law, would begin. And what a mystery are the ideas that must still be running through his sick head, and those of his family and political clan, after he made a second statement asking his supporters, a few days later, to continue protesting, but not to block the roads. But it was significant that this time he appeared on television screens sitting alone at a simple table, in a T-shirt, without a jacket, and without advisors or Libras translator, as he always did.

When we reported a few days ago, to friends at the World Social Forum, that we had not just depended on a well-aimed kick, for a decision on the future of our country (with all the implications it would have for the whole world), they told us they asked us to give more details, because who knows what happened can inspire them in the search for ways to build the other possible world. This is what we are doing with this text, which we hope will be completed and corrected by others.

Why Bolsonaro's probable certainty that he would emerge victorious? Because it has never been seen or even imagined possible in a second round campaign in Brazil (because it constituted an electoral crime punishable by invalidating the candidacy) such a gigantic use of public resources and the government machine to buy votes, relying on the misery created by its own economic policy, at the service of big capital. Unfortunately, buying votes from needy voters – this time done with financial aid, credits and promises distributed by the handful – is an old tradition in Brazil. It is this tradition that makes us postpone indefinitely overcoming poverty and the scandalous income inequality that characterizes our country, heirs to more than 300 years of slavery, which today still exists in new forms.

In fact, the shortcomings that victimize our people have become necessary, in political practice, for the continuity in power of a large number of greedy and opportunistic professional politicians. They use it to get elected and then completely forget their own promises to work to improve the living conditions of the people. In 1999, a popular law initiative – a form of social participation in the making of laws, created by the 1988 Constitution – managed to be approved in Congress, as Law 9840/99, making the way to prevent this crime already typified in electoral law more effective. .

It had repercussions ten years later, with the law also of popular initiative known as the Clean Record Law, of 2010, which renders ineligible for eight years anyone who has been convicted by a collegiate of judges, in second instance, without needing to wait for the final and unappealable convictions – a useful reminder for anyone worried about preventing Jair Bolsonaro from trying to repeat his crimes by running as a candidate in 2026. it has not yet managed to convince all voters that “voting is priceless, it has consequences”, as those who committed themselves to this initiative repeated. And the unpunished scandal of Jair Bolsonaro's campaign in 9840 shows that even at the level of our institutions, we are not fully aware that almost thirty years ago this instrument was placed in the hands of the people, by the more than one million citizens who subscribed the bill that created it.

The avalanche of electoral crimes of buying votes in the second round certainly determined that the difference between the number of votes between the two candidates decreased instead of increasing, as was the general expectation, due to the different wear and tear that Jair Bolsonaro was suffering with actions and statements by their supporters and in the debates between the candidates themselves. In addition, this purchase of votes with public funds was also reinforced with other crimes of great practical effect, never so shamelessly committed in Brazil, but this time committed on a large scale by a large number of the most diverse types of employers – public or private, in the homes or companies – aiming to change the voting option of those who depended on them to work. And this set of illegalities also erupted, and also, the threat of violence against Lula's supporters, supported by the facilitation of access to weapons and ammunition provided by the Executive and Legislative Powers - knowing that the president has long been linked to the illegality of armed groups that enforce their law in many peripheral areas of large cities.

The scandal of the use of the machine, in turn, was unbelievably evident on the very day of the election: the Federal Highway Police, under direct orders from the Minister of Justice, began to stop on the roads – with the scandalous argument of safety, because their tires would be worn out – municipal, state or private buses that were complying with the determination of the Federal Supreme Court to make it as easy as possible, free of charge, to transport voters to their polling places. It should be noted that such “operations” focused especially on the Northeast of the country, poorer than the Southeast, where it was expected that most of the votes for Lula would come, as it did.

What we now hope for is that, in due course, the perpetrators of all these crimes are exemplarily punished, so that we can start, in Brazil, a vigorous process of overcoming impunity, which dangerously combines with the social tendency to trivialize the unacceptable, to become the great Brazilian political wounds. They were the ones who allowed the serial criminal who assumed it in 2018 to remain unpunished in the Presidency for four years – and whose action during the pandemic took on an unhealthy dimension, by practically associating with Covid to cause a number of deaths much higher than the disease. alone would provoke – as well as the bunch of his accomplices who took up positions in the government to defile the instruments that the Republic relied on to ensure the proper functioning of democracy in our country.

The result of this set of actions was that the country was politically divided in two. Worse still, two halves separated by the anger of those who were defeated by those who won, because one of the essential characteristics of Bolsonaro's actions - with the permanent use of lies to influence the most unaware - was precisely to inflate intolerance and even hatred and - why not? – the assassination of opponents.

This explains why he manages today to mobilize a large number of his voters to gather on roads to prevent the free movement of goods and people and to demonstrate in front of military buildings asking that the Armed Forces prevent Lula from taking office. To achieve this, Jair Bolsonaro counts on the funding of that part of the most retrograde and greedy business community in the country, which has always supported him. Fortunately, this mobilization tends to cool down, thanks to a more decisive action by our Judiciary, which will be able to reach these businessmen, although it may still gain the dimension of violent attacks, given the fact that the number of weapons entering the country and clubs of snipers tripled during the Bolsonaro government.

The part of our population that allows itself to be led in this way has been deceived by the diabolical and corrupt image attached to the left, with the aim of removing the Party created by Lula more than twenty years ago from power. And such fraud was associated with remnants of Cold War anti-communist propaganda, which continues to exist in the minds of many people, especially the middle class. In addition, Jair Bolsonaro allied himself with a large number of greedy profiteers of popular religiosity, who created large corrals, spread across the country, with people tamed by a systematic and persistent indoctrination and the dissemination of lies through electronic social networks - this novelty of interpersonal communication that has been implanted around the world in recent decades.

But this would be the subject of another text, in due course. To respond to the request of the friends of the World Social Forum, it would be useful to tell them how, in our opinion, Brazilian society, despite all of the above, was able to say, by voting, enough to everything that was happening.

For the other half of society, it became increasingly clear, throughout the entire electoral campaign, in the first and second rounds, and for more and more people, that we could not allow our democracy to collapse entirely, as well as our relationship with nature and with the rest of the world. That was the perspective of life and the near future that we all envisioned if the neo-fascist experiment we were already living was continued for another four years.

The diversity of those who were progressively taking a stand against it was enormous, in different types and areas of work, functions, positions, responsibilities – in state governments, companies, class organizations – in age, level of education, ideologies, religions, party affiliations, forms of artistic expression, means of communication – from blogs to major newspapers and TVs, etc, etc. They got up and publicly declared – and made it public as much as possible, via the internet and with stickers on their clothes – that they were going to vote for Lula.

Thus, we all came together in a huge “Frente Ampla”, which in the following shift began to grow rapidly and intensely, without needing to call itself that way in order to exist in fact, nor getting lost in internal disputes about the power attributed to each one or who or what. which group would run it. We live in the reign of respect for diversity and free initiative with common goals, the reunion of many who had separated due to political differences, support from all to all, mutual help in the autonomy of each social group, freedom of action without competition unreasonable in the face of a common enemy that is powerfully destructive and manipulative of the masses – and, no longer afraid of Covid, by the embrace in the streets, which began to be occupied again by thousands to demonstrate.

And a huge amount of large and small acts and initiatives of all kinds were appearing everywhere and throughout Brazil, on social networks and on the internet for the election of Lula and denouncing Bolsonaro's crimes, initiatives that were spoken, sung and danced, in base of society and wider, bringing people together or speaking one by one, exploding from all sides and at all levels, without hierarchies between them or imposed, negotiated or voted coordination, or artificial unifications or uniformities. A true revolution without an owner, fighting for Life with a capital letter to defeat what had only the odor of Death, Lula himself assuming, with no other pretensions, the role of great general animator of a collective construction much broader than himself and his party, as well as its allies who can help make it happen.

What lesson can we at the World Social Forum draw from what happened in Brazil, while the noise of confrontation persists? Would we have the right to dare to say that in Brazil there was a great political victory for the “open space”, initial orientation regarding the character of the World Social Forum, in its creation in 2001? Asserting itself as a new way of doing politics, which includes joy when it is happening and even more when a victory is achieved, as with the “party” like the one we are having today throughout Brazil, at all levels of society. society?

And showing that such a “space” is not inconsequential, but a producer of concrete actions by encouraging initiatives from various political subjects. Among which are those of the people themselves, beneficiaries, along with nature, of the struggles to change the world and, more than just beneficiaries, being in fact those who lead the decisive struggles. The well-known columnist Celso Rocha de Barros was quoted these days by another equally well-known, Mario Sergio Conti, when he said that in Brazil “the poor saved democracy”.

The victory of the Brazilian people would prove that vertical structures can exist, but they are not essential nor should they be unique (as they were not in what happened in Brazil, where neither parties nor unions issued guidelines or were at the forefront of initiatives), nor should they occupy the entire political space and prevent the emergence and multiplication of autonomous structures and groups, formalized or non-formalized, necessarily interconnected horizontally, for mutual recognition, understanding and mutual help, which reinforces each and everyone, self-organized from the foundations of society, without wearing themselves out in permanent competition with each other, what makes people separate in a deadly individualism of self-realization – perverse basic logic with which capitalism feeds its dynamism?

Isn't that what people try to live and learn in the “open spaces” of the World, regional, national, local or thematic Social Forums? In fact, it is in the heat of joint confrontations for essential causes that we can build the other possible world, as currently – at a global level – “in the struggle for the cause of democracy against fascism, for the environmental cause against the destruction of the planet for production and unbridled consumerism of material goods, for the cause of solidarity against exclusion and social, gender and minority inequality, for the cause of poor, oppressed and original peoples against racial logic, for an economy at the service of human rights and the needs of all against the impersonal and inhuman logic of accumulating money and finance”.

Our fight is long, of many generations. It is a new culture under construction. We will still have to go through many episodes like the one Brazil is experiencing now to really move towards another possible world. Perhaps the World Social Forum still has a great role to play, in terms of support, mutual training and bringing together those interested in participating in this long revolution.

*Chico Whitaker is an architect and social activist. He was councilor in São Paulo. He is currently a consultant to the Brazilian Commission for Justice and Peace.

*Oded Grajew he is a businessman and president emeritus of the Ethos Institute.

Text sent to the members of the International Council of the World Social Forum.

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