Lula there

Image: Markus Spiske


Lula is today, again, the best option for Brazil among the ones we have

To Eduardo Suplicy and Tereza Campello, tireless in the fight against poverty and inequality

Shall we dream a little today? Suppose, reader, that Lula will win the elections and start a new government in January 2023. I am neither a PT nor a Lula, I should mention that over the last few decades I have had disagreements with the PT and its main leader – and I have publicly expressed them at various times , sometimes emphatically. But it seems clear that Lula is, once again, the best option for Brazil among the ones we have.

Ciro Gomes may even present better-formulated proposals in terms of a national development project, but he does not, it seems, have a great chance of being elected. He seems to have burned himself with the left without thereby securing the trust of the right. In his eagerness to win the anti-PT vote, he has shown a lack of judgment in the way he refers to Lula who, whether he likes it or not, is a political giant and has already entered Brazilian history in grand style, whatever happens. from now on.

We're just dreaming here, I say again. I have already explained in several previous demonstrations, including this column, the countless reasons, both economic and political, that lead me to believe that the electoral dispute with Bolsonaro (if he gets there) will not be a walk in the park. The favorite is Lula, but the current president, who is perhaps going through his worst phase, can, unfortunately, recover in time to contest the 2022 election with a chance.

In recent weeks, Bolsonaro's weariness has deepened and the possibility of an interruption of his mandate has grown, through impeachment, interdiction or (a hypothesis that seems much less likely) resignation. In this case, the third way would become the second – which, incidentally, as I have also explained on other occasions, is one of the reasons for believing in the possibility of impeachment or interdiction. Well then, in that case, Lula's election will not be easy either. A candidate from the traditional right, with strong support from the corporate media, financial capital and foreign forces, will probably be able to mobilize anti-PTism, capture a large part, perhaps the largest part, of the Bolsonarist votes and arrive competitive in the election. The rejection of Lula and the PT has diminished, but not to the point of being neglected.

And yet, dreaming is necessary, even if it may seem hasty. Great transformations, said Fernando Pessoa, always depend on romantics and dreamers. Lula himself would never have done half of what he did and would never have heroically endured the trials he went through, in recent years and in other periods of his life, if it weren't for himself, a dreamer. Evidently, a dreamer with a strong sense of Realpolitik, a keen and even brutal sense. But a dreamer nonetheless.

Centrist campaign, bold government

Saying that the 2022 campaign will have to be broad and centrist is a simple tribute to Counselor Acácio. The challenge is to prevent it from contaminating and paralyzing the government, and preventing the agreements and combinations made in the electoral dispute from immobilizing the future administration. Mutatis mutandis, is to do what Biden did – centrist campaign, but bold and innovative government.

The Lula government, dear reader, will have to come in with a crack. You can't get there by groping your way, cautiously trying to discover and apply what Faria Lima accepts, what Wall Street approves, what the corporate media praises and supports. Again, Biden's example is instructive. Already in the first 100 days, the new American government showed what it was coming for. He wasn't looking for consensus and trying to identify what Republican opponents, billionaires and Wall Street financiers find palatable. The political capital of an elected government is always greater in the first year – you have to know how to take advantage of it, with intelligence, discernment and courage.

In other words, nothing to repeat the meager beginning of the first Lula administration, from 2003 to 2005, with Palocci at the Treasury and Meirelles at the Central Bank. Not even the meager beginning, to give another example, of the second Dilma government, with Levy on the farm, in 2015. The eagerness to appease the financial market, understandably to some extent, had a high cost. The economy suffered, PT governments wasted political capital and – here comes the worst – moderation was not even rewarded by the buffoon crowd and its political, legal and media tentacles. Lula was almost overthrown in 2005 in the “mensalão” crisis and ended up losing José Dirceu, his main political articulator. And Dilma's fate was hastened by the disastrous economic policy followed in 2015 by her finance minister, a graduate of the financial market and intensely celebrated by him. Levy was a kind of Trojan Horse.

Fundamental lesson: don't let the opponent climb the team. It is of little use to win the election and then hand over the government.

It is necessary, of course, to establish a hierarchy of enemies/adversaries and objectives. That is, one should not attack simultaneously on several fronts. For example, which is more important: removing the spending cap or the inflation targeting regime? The first, clearly. Military? It has to bring, at least in part, to the government's side. Centrão? Idem. Now, what about the domestic financial capital/corporate media bloc with its international connections? Therein lies the danger. Any hug from this class is from Tamanduá.

Outside, the picture looks favourable. Resuming the BRICS will not prove difficult at all. And Biden will be, I believe, a perfectly viable interlocutor, with a lot of common ground on strategic global issues like the climate and health crises. Obviously, the president of the United States is one thing, the deep state (I am using telegraphic language, so as not to tire the dear reader and on the assumption, too, that I am speaking with the proverbial good connoisseur).

Income distribution and fight against poverty

I don't want to abuse the right to dream, but what is, after all, the first, essential, urgent task of a new Brazilian government worthy of the name? In my opinion, it means setting in motion a broad and vigorous program to generate jobs, distribute income and combat poverty. Ah, they will say, we have no money for that! Well, it will have to be fixed.

A future Lula government can rely on the successful experiences of the PT administrations themselves. I ask permission from my friends Eduardo Suplicy and Tereza Campello, great specialists in the matter, to venture a little into their area. I will give just one example: Bolsa Família. It is a worldwide success, I witnessed it during my long period away from Brazil. Bolsonaro is doing his usual damage here too, but the dismantling will not be total (not least because he needs the program to try to get re-elected).

What to do? In my view, expanding the program quickly, increasing the number of beneficiaries and the amount of benefits, while preserving its central aspects - the requirement of children in school, vaccinations, payment to the woman (except when the father has legal custody of children) etc. A program like this kills several birds at the same time – it puts money in the hands of those who spend it, moves the economy and generates jobs, fights extreme poverty and improves income distribution.

I go further. The government must have quantified goals in the social area. Why only fiscal and inflation targets? Why not specific numerical targets, year by year, for 2023, 2024, 2025 and 2026, targets for job creation, reduction in the unemployment rate, poverty reduction and income distribution, with a significant reduction in the Gini index? The targets would galvanize government action and mobilize society. They could be the central flag of the federal government, which would seek to work with Congress, state and municipal governments, to carry forward, without hesitation, this true crusade to rid the country of the wounds of poverty, misery and income concentration.

I got carried away, as you can see. But I said we'd dream, didn't I?

*Paulo Nogueira Batista Jr. he holds the Celso Furtado Chair at the College of High Studies at UFRJ. He was vice-president of the New Development Bank, established by the BRICS in Shanghai. Author, among other books, of Brazil doesn't fit in anyone's backyard: backstage of the life of a Brazilian economist in the IMF and the BRICS and other texts on nationalism and our mongrel complex (LeYa).

Extended version of article published in the journal Capital letter, on June 25, 2021.


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