Lula and Lenin's tactics

Image: João Nitsche


At 75, Lula remains Brazil's leading left-wing leader, and remains a sphinx.

There are pressures of an infantile “Aristotelianism” on the Brazilian left. The PT is a reformist party. So, everyone in the PT is reformist. Only it's more complicated. PSol is an electoral party, so everyone in PSol is electoral. It's also more complicated. The PCdB and PCB are parties in the Stalinist tradition. So all your militants are Stalinists. Again, more complicated. The Brazilian bourgeoisie trusts Lula. False, it's much more complicated.

The principle of identity is a law of formal logic, a powerful idea. There is always a useful grain of truth in the principle of identity. But reality is dialectical, therefore contradictory. The fundamental thing is to interpret the dynamics of where we are going.

At 75, Lula remains Brazil's main leftist leader, and remains a sphinx. We know his trajectory, but it is not possible to anticipate his next moves. Lula has already reinvented himself many times.

Between 1966 and 1978, during his formative years, he became the most capable among the leaders that were built within the union apparatus, and projected himself from an extraordinary role at the head of the ABC metallurgical strikes, with a classist discourse. It was your incendiary moment

Between 1979 and 1991, he assumed the role of political leadership of a left-wing party that had at the center of its program the fight against the military dictatorship, and the independent expression of the working class, spectacularly winning a place in the second round in the 1989 elections. defending socialism. It was his red moment.

Between 1991 and 2002, he was at the center of the PT's internal current that professionalized a powerful electoral machine, therefore, very bureaucratic. It was his reformist moment. Between 2002 and 2014, he led the PT to win four consecutive elections, and in government led a government of social concertation with almost no tensions with the ruling class. It was his presidential moment.

But since 2016, when the strongest core of the Brazilian bourgeoisie decided to overthrow the Dilma government, it began to be persecuted as public enemy number one and cloistered in prison. It was his martyr moment.

Lula is the leftist candidate best placed to defeat Bolsonaro in a runoff in 2022. Best placed because he can win. And strength always counts for a lot. Lula Livre changes the conditions of the political struggle, therefore, it changes everything. This influence rests on the support it maintains in the most organized sectors of the working class. This is not just an election hearing. It is also articulated with the presence of tens of thousands of active militants in trade unions and popular movements. It is rooted in the permanence of the PT as the largest leftist party.

The PT is an electoral party, but one must be careful with comparisons with the MAS in Bolivia, or Peronism in Argentina. The Bolivian MAS is the electoral expression of an archipelago of social movements, but it is not a structured party. Peronism is not, strictly speaking, a party, but a political movement with many different, and even competing, public wings, and it is not independent of the ruling class. The PT is a reformist party, but it is independent of the bourgeoisie.

It is not at all clear that what happened in Argentina, Bolivia or Ecuador will be repeated in Brazil. In Ecuador, Lenin Moreno was elected with the support of Rafael Correa and then, under imperialist pressure, broke with the more moderate left. In Argentina Cristina Kirchner accepted to be a candidate for vice-president. In Bolivia, Luís Arce replaced Evo Morales. Although it is still unpredictable whether Lula will be able to recover his political rights, it is not plausible that, within the PT, an initiative to replace him will grow. If Haddad is a candidate again, it will only be because Lula cannot run. Unless Lula gives up running.

Lula is a moderate reformist, evidently. The difference between reformers and revolutionaries is not between who is more patient and who is more impetuous. The difference is not between who is braver and who is more prudent. The difference is not between who is more restless or who is calmer. It's not between those who are in a hurry. The difference is not temperamental. There are many balanced, calm, serene and even peaceful people among the revolutionaries. And there is no lack, among the moderates, of anxious, restless, audacious and even combative personalities.

Difference does not center around the struggle for reforms. Both reformists and revolutionaries fight for reforms. Nor is it reduced to the disposition of a political struggle for power. Everyone wants to conquer power. The issue is the program.

The revolutionary program is to carry the struggle for reforms to the end, that is, to the break with capitalism. The reformist is limited by the refusal to break with the dominant class, and the adaptation to a project of regulation of capitalism.

But in the Marxist tradition, revolutionaries, in a minority outside of revolutionary crisis situations, were never an obstacle for reformist parties and moderate leaders to come to power through elections. The watchword from revolutionaries to reformists has always been: “fight for power, break with the bourgeoisie”.

The lack of knowledge of the main tactics of the Bolsheviks between February and October 1917 still prevails among the Brazilian left.
The tactic advocated by Lenin was not just the agitation of Bread, Peace and Land. It was also, and even more important, the shaking of All Power to the Soviets.

But the Bolsheviks were a minority in the Soviets before September 1917. Those who held the majority of elected representatives were workers, peasants and soldiers who followed the SSSRs and Mensheviks. These parties were also a majority in the provisional government, led by Kerensky, but in a composition with representatives of the ruling class. For months, based on the orientation approved with the April Theses, the Bolsheviks challenged the reformists to break with the bourgeoisie. The slogan they waved was “Out with capitalist government ministers”. They challenged the reformists to go all the way and seize power. If they did, the Bolsheviks would support them in the face of the counterrevolution, albeit without entering the government. They would be loyal. If you like, a kind of “contraption”.

The name with which this tactic formulated by Lenin entered the history of Marxism is the struggle for a workers' and peasants' government, as it was approved at the first Congresses of the Third International. It would be a transitory path on the path of socialist rupture. Lenin did not rule out, between April and July 1917, that eventually it could actually happen if Kerensky was displaced, although he was very skeptical. This was the tactic developed in his best PC Germany moments in the early twenties. Trotsky considered it very unlikely, but he maintained this possibility in the Transitional Program of 1938.

It is still useful, or remains in force when we think about the Brazilian situation. For this reason, there should be no doubts on the left about the importance of the Lula Livre campaign. It is indivisible from the fight for Fora Bolsonaro. It is a lever for the program that argues that the way out of the crisis is the fight for a left-wing government.

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


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