Lula cannot govern!

Image: Alexander Isreb
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By LUIZ AUGUSTO ESTRELLA FARIA*

The fate of Lula's third term will depend on his ability to win the battles fought on four fronts

The defeat of last October was received with enormous surprise by the leaders of Bolsonarism. It was as if the impossible had happened, because, even facing his powerful propaganda machine, rivers of money and an avalanche of corruption in the electoral process, Lula won. Astonished, they sent obscure messages to supporters mobilized against the election result, where they recommended that they wait because something would happen. Some imagined anticipating the planned coup to occur at some point in what would be Jair Bolsonaro's second term and urged their supporters to remain engaged, while others, more cautiously, tried to formulate new plans.

Implementing an authoritarian regime has always been the objective of the military and civilian leaders of this neo-fascist movement. This objective is made explicit in the document that can be considered the most complete expression of its strategy: “Projeto Nação: o Brasil em 2035”. The work was coordinated by General Rocha Paiva and elaborated by several authors based on interviews and questionnaires in which right-wing military and civilian leaders were heard. It is even known that Army structures were used for this.

The final text was released by the Sagres Institute, the Federalist Institute and the Villas Bôas Institute, created by the homonymous general. In addition to the two already mentioned institutions and several other national reactionary activists, Sérgio Etchegoyen, the first general to assume a ministerial position since redemocratization, also participates in these institutions and who expanded the scope of the GSI during Michel Temer's government to properly political and centralization and coordination of all information and intelligence activities of the State. Until then, this body was a substitute for the old Casa Militar, a kind of presidential aid.

The document speaks of an authoritarian reorganization of the national State to occur at some point in the 2020s through the creation of a new body, the Center of Government - CdG, which would overlap with the three powers and would try to guarantee the continuity of the project whose execution started in the government of Jair Bolsonaro. The objectives of such a project are unclear, but somehow they point to, firstly, a continuation of the attack on the rights of workers, blacks and the poor that will allow the recovery of companies' profit margins; secondly, the expansion of neoliberal patrimonialism in the form of privatizations and concessions in all areas, such as education or health, the commodification of all social life, transformed in all its dimensions into new spaces for capital appreciation and, thirdly, first, an international repositioning of Brazil as a subaltern actor in the declining American empire.

Villas Bôas is the leader of the military that has been organized since the times of Lava Jato around the power project that aimed to implement this authoritarian regime and that counts, in addition to the aforementioned Sérgio Etchegoyen, with other generals such as Augusto Heleno, Braga Neto and Luiz Eduardo Ramos, in addition to expressive support among the ranks of the three armed forces and the militarized police. It was something like Bolsonarism before Jair Bolsonaro himself.

The captain kicked out of the Army for indiscipline and lies, for his popularity and ideological convergence, appeared as the instrument for this organization to come to power. At the same time, the environment of criminalization of the left and the PT with the issue of corruption and the action of the Lava Jato operation to persecute Lula will allow the conservative middle class to enter the political arena following the mobilizations of 2013, this time with a moralistic and reactionary agenda. The mobilizations that followed ended up overthrowing President Dilma Rousseff in the 2016 coup.

The economic crisis that had set in at the end of 2014 and which was mistakenly responded to with an orthodox turnaround in early 2015, cutting spending and raising interest rates, ended up eroding popular support for Dilma Rousseff until her overthrow in 2016. , the deepening of the neoliberal agenda under Michel Temer only made the recession worse, destroying GDP growth, increasing unemployment and dragging a large portion of the population below the poverty line. After having left the UN Hunger Map in 2014, Brazil returned to this sad place in 2019.

After his victory in an election that was tainted by Lula’s arrest – a decision by judge Sérgio Moro who was declared biased –, the movement that had Jair Bolsonaro as a battering ram tried to implement its political line. The Bolsonarist administration that followed set about destroying as much as possible the policies and organizations of the Brazilian State aimed at social protection, livelihood guarantees and socioeconomic development. Likewise, he prided himself on having made the country an international pariah. Its management method was the permanent crisis, an environment in which its strategists imagined it would be more viable to advance such a project.

It was a movement-government and the permanent crisis was the tactic that would make it possible to isolate and combat the unwanted part of the population: independent women, poor people, blacks, leftists, indigenous people, quilombolas, and LGBTQIA+ communities. That is, the overwhelming majority of Brazilians. Any resemblance to the methods of Nazism is no coincidence, far-right reactionism is not very imaginative.

At the same time, controlling a superministry of the economy, Guedes tried to produce the best possible business environment for his colleagues in the financial system. New opportunities with privatizations, changes in regulation “in favor of the market” (market friendly), tax benefits, greater space for exchange and interest arbitrage with large fluctuations in these rates and more internationalization. At the same time, it continued to boost profitability with wage squeezes, new “reforms” that reduced workers' rights and the disorganization of inspection activities.

The annihilation of the regulatory role of the State was a decision implemented from day one and in all areas of activity. What was seen as a consequence was the increase in all types of crime: invasions of indigenous lands, illegal deforestation, illegal mining, work analogous to slavery, proliferation of weapons and armed violence, persecution of vulnerable communities and social groups, generalized harassment and stimulated throughout the public service, especially in the areas of education and security, machismo, racism, sexism, misogyny and all kinds of prejudice manifesting itself in a violent and aggressive way, stimulated by the president of the republic.

The cases of health and education, science and technology policies are paradigmatic of the goals of far-right misgovernment, as well as the stimulus to police abuse and lethality. The Covid-19 pandemic and the policy of “get everyone contaminated so the plague will soon pass” left a legacy of more than 700 deaths, of which around 400 were intentionally caused by the government by contradicting and failing to adopt the recommendations from the scientific community and the UN. In the wake of this tragedy, all health indicators, from vaccination coverage to medication distribution or the scope of primary care, deteriorated.

The drastic reduction in funding for policies in favor of teaching and research resulted in a budgetary crunch for universities and federal schools, cuts in scholarships and funds for science, with the consequent stoppage of numerous programs. The disastrous reduction in student participation in the ENEM tests is a mirror of this disaster, as well as the growth of school dropout and learning deficit indicators.

After the four years of the genocidal mandate, all the social forces that supported this debacle mobilized for the continuity of the neo-fascist and neoliberal project. If the electoral defeat was a significant setback, the idea of ​​bringing forward the coup that would install an authoritarian state “at some point in the 2020s” was brought forward with the plan of creating an episode of chaos and political disorder to justify a call-up to the Armed Forces. in a regime change support intervention.

This is how one can understand the attack on the headquarters of the Federal Police and the depredations and fires on December 12, the episode of the bomb at Brasília airport on the 24th and, surpassing all in terms of destruction and vandalism, the invasion of the headquarters of the three branches of government. on January 8th.

Fortunately, the strategy for confronting that insurrectionary movement did not use personnel from the armed forces, only the federal and Federal District police. In this way, the newly sworn-in government managed to completely control the situation by the end of the night, despite the deleterious and subversive action of the few army contingents involved in the events.

The failure of the January 8 attempt can also be explained by the hesitation of Bolsonarism's military wing, which ended up retreating from the attempt to seize power sustained by military troops. Thus, the melancholy end of the coup option, with its thousands of prisoners facing justice, led to a tactical change. The watchword now is “Lula cannot govern”. Bolsonaristas and their allies began to use the spaces of power at their disposal to try to paralyze the elected government while preparing their return. To do so, they opened four battle fronts against the Lula government.

The first within the administration itself, where Bolsonarist servants try to sabotage the functioning of essential bodies for the realization of the PT project and allies of economic development and social democracy, reduction of poverty, inequality and discrimination. Sabotage is facilitated by the dismantling of countless departments and organizations that have been starved of personnel and resources since the Michel Temer government. The new administration is having to carry out numerous competitions to fill thousands of jobs left vacant, in addition to making enormous efforts to remobilize civil servants to handle reorganizing services abandoned by the previous government, especially in the functions of inspection and control in the social and of protection and care for vulnerable populations, such as the shocking case of the Yanomami.

In addition, the process of dismantling the State continues with the removal of Bolsonaristas from decision-making posts in the administration of ministries, autarchies and state-owned companies. This process has also been advancing, albeit timidly, within the Armed Forces, especially the Army, since the underground events of the 8th of January began to be revealed.

The second front of the extreme right's counter-offensive is fiscal and monetary policy. When it comes to fiscal policy, the absurd Spending Ceiling was replaced by the so-called Framework, a mechanism that authorizes a small increase in expenses. Even so, it still represents a brake on the financing of social policies and on investment. It will take a lot of creativity from the Treasury to make resources available in the areas of infrastructure, health and education. And the BNDES will need to supply with its financing the investments that the Treasury will not be able to make. But, unfortunately, one elephant was left in the middle of the room, the commitment to lower the debt-to-GDP ratio, which will inevitably constrain spending.

The other leg of economic policy, monetary policy, could boost growth by reducing the sterile spending of debt service payments by lowering interest rates. However, the Central Bank's crude monetarism keeps the rate at an unbelievable 13,75%. Now, Brazilian inflation has dropped, it is below 4%, lower than its historical average in this century and, unprecedentedly, also lower than those of Europe and the USA. Interest at an index that was half of the current rate, between 6 or 7%, would still attract foreign capital and achieve a positive return on investors. However, the BC president alleges that the rate needs to remain high because the public debt is large. The curious thing is that there is no objective measure of what would be “great”, the 264% in Japan, the 129% in the US? Anyway, and to compare, the value for Brazil is 73%, slightly above the 66% of Dilma's second term.

High interest rates not only made the debt grow, but were the cause of the credit crisis that not only broke Lojas Americanas but is producing recession and unemployment. The measure of renegotiating the debts of individuals who were induced into risky indebtedness by the previous mismanagement goes in the right direction, but there is a need to equate corporate indebtedness, particularly serious in commerce. And that will require some form of discounting at rates much lower than current rates.

The third combat front is Congress, where the right-wing majority can ally with Bolsonarists to obstruct the government with negative agendas. As principles are not what motivate these people, there is the possibility that, with wisdom and art, the government will do some favors and isolate neo-fascism in exchange for authorization to carry out its policies. This is what has been carried out in the always difficult negotiations with the parliamentary bloc of the so-called “Centrão”, in particular with its leader, the amoral mayor Arthur Lira. As long as it is possible to restrict the “price” of these parliamentarians to funds within priority programs, the government will do well. However, the wear will be permanent and the obstruction recurrent.

Finally, on the fourth front, we have the mainstream media. Its alignment with the interests of the dominant classes, especially the financial system, puts it in a thinly disguised opposition to Lula, defending high interest rates and fiscal “austerity”, always presented as scientific recommendations. This is how to explain the endless parade of “chief economists” of companies in the financial market, with their arrogance barely disguising the interests of their bosses and who belch their pretended science through television news, interviews and opinion columns. His monotone jester always says “austerity, austerity, less State and more market”. It's indigestible.

The fate of Lula's third term will depend on his ability to win the battles fought on these four fronts. It will be necessary to prevail over agro businessmen, bankers and other rich people, as well as the middle classes that follow them. Heirs of slave masters in hatred of the people and lack of compassion, they will do everything to prevent them from giving the suffering, helpless and exploited a better life. And for that they need the government to fail.

Luiz Augusto Estrella Faria is a professor of economics and international relations at UFRGS.

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