The fractured Brazil

Image: Mohamed Abdelsadig
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By VALERIO ARCARY*

There is still a lot of uncertainty about the outcome of the elections

“We don't clean weapons in wartime” (Portuguese popular wisdom).

Lula got an average of 44.5% positive mentions throughout Sunday night's debate, Jair Bolsonaro got 36.5%. This is the rule that matters: the repercussions of the debate. In a technical analysis, Lula won the first "round" by a large advantage, by being devastating in denouncing the government's irresponsibility during the pandemic. He tied in the second block of questions from journalists. He lost in the third, due to the lack of control of the weather.

Lula, correctly, decided not to lower the bar, but was unable to fit in a response on corruption. Jair Bolsonaro, predictably, went down to the bottom of “anything goes”: he used his body to try to intimidate Lula, repeated to exhaustion that the PT stole from Petrobras, abused the demagogic slogans against abortion, gender ideology and legalization of drugs, and tried to terrorize with the threat of closing churches and arresting religious.

Lula, visibly tired, had a great moment when he defended the dignity of workers living in favelas. There are thirteen days to go, and the most important thing is that Lula is still in the lead. But there is still much uncertainty about the outcome of the elections.

The second week of the second round ended with polls indicating that Lula maintains a 5% lead over Bolsonaro, the same level as the previous week on DataFolha. But in the most recent poll by IPEC, on October 17, in the total votes, Lula with 50%, minus one, and Bolsonaro 43%, plus one, there would have been a small fluctuation in favor of Jair Bolsonaro, also, in valid votes, 54 % to 46%.

The data is that 95% of Lula's voters are decided, against 93% of Bolsonaro's, and there is only 1% undecided. Lula's advantage is sustained by a large majority among those who earn up to two monthly minimum wages. Everything suggests that the abstention rate will be of decisive importance. Historically, it is higher in second rounds. The struggle for free public transport has gained the utmost importance. It is possible to win.

But Jair Bolsonaro is ahead in the South (59% to 41% over Lula) and in the Midwest (the same 59% to 41%), a technical tie in the Southeast, with a quantitative advantage for Bolsonaro (52% to 48%) and also in the North (51% to 49%) and Lula's overwhelming victory in the Northeast (72% to 28%). The country is, therefore, beyond divided, socially, fractured, regionally.

Lula won 41% of Simone Tebet's voters, Jair Bolsonaro 29%. From Ciro Gomes, Lula won 40% and Jair Bolsonaro 31%. If we do not disregard the fact that the polls have a margin of error of plus or minus 2%, in the worst case, Lula's advantage is just 1%. There is therefore uncertainty.

The disputed votes are a tiny minority. The campaign develops on five fronts. In the choices of political tactics, in the articulation of support, in the mobilization in the streets, in the agitation of social networks and in the hours of advertising on radios and televisions. What will be decisive will be the political tactic, not the “sealing”.

Jair Bolsonaro had the predictable additions of Romeu Zema, Rodrigo Garcia and Sergio Moro. Lula won the support of Simone Tebet, historical PSDB leaders such as Fernando Henrique and José Serra, in addition to the PDT, and a sigh from Ciro Gomes. On that ground he strengthened. Lula's superiority in the streets is also immense at this moment. The walks in Campinas and Belo Horizonte, Complexo do Alemão and Salvador, as well as Aracaju and Recife were overwhelming.

But it is true that we are still learning how to fight the extreme right. What should the line be? A majority of activism is supporting the sensationalist tactic of using absurd and abject, stupid and preposterous statements by Jair Bolsonaro against himself. But the dirty war on social media does not diminish the centrality of politics. Should it be centered on defending proposals that can inspire political hope, or on reclaiming the past? The proposal, for example, of exemption from income tax for employees earning up to five thousand reais was a very important inflection, unfortunately, not explored in the debate. Associated with the defense of taxes on large fortunes, and others, they point the way.

The PT governments generated Lulism in the popular layers. This is the key to understanding Lula's gigantic leadership in the Northeast that could decide victory over Jair Bolsonaro. In Brazil, the working class is divided into two large parts. On the one hand, there are a little more than thirty million salaried workers with a formal contract in the private sector, more concentrated in the Southeast and South, and thirteen million civil servants.

On the other hand, there are ten million employees with a boss, but without a contract and 25 million who work on their own, in the most varied activities. The weight of this semi-proletariat is immense throughout the country, greater in the North and Northeast. The PT became a party with mass influence, in the 1980s, from the mobilization of the working class, unionized, organized. It was always strongest in the Southeast before 2002.

Lulism became mass based on the practical experience of improving living conditions with the Lula and Dilma Rousseff governments. But in the last ten years the country has changed. While, on a national scale, especially in the more industrialized regions, the economy stagnated, in an axis that cuts Brazil from the interior from north to south, there was strong growth driven by the appreciation of the export of grains and proteins.

Historically, the most dynamic poles on the coast have fallen into decay. From the south of the Amazon, passing through the center-west of Mato Grosso and Goiás, from the west of São Paulo and Paraná, to Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul, agribusiness drags the mass of the bourgeoisie on account of the recent prosperity. The emergence of a mass neo-fascist extreme right is based, in addition to the turn to the right of the middle classes, also on this regional fracture.

*Valério Arcary is a retired professor at IFSP. Author, among other books, of No one said it would be Easy (boitempo).

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