the path of hope



For a policy of democratic impediment of Jair M. Bolsonaro.

The Bolsonaro government has so far benefited from the ambiguous support of neoliberal parties and the limited institutional horizon of the opposition moved by parties on the Brazilian left. But without a social, national and unitary political movement for its democratic impediment, it will not be defeated by the left.

In his reference book denouncing the 2016 coup, The hindered democracy (Editora FGV), Wanderley Guilherme dos Santos formulated a dilemma for the Brazilian left: if they abandoned the institutional and electoral struggle, they ran the risk of isolating themselves and giving up without resistance all the room for maneuver to those who had led the coup in Brazilian democracy ; if they chose to fight on institutional and electoral grounds, they ran the risk of legitimizing the coup process and its institutional consequences.

On the 6th. PT National Congress, this dilemma found an optimal solution answer with the maintenance of Lula's candidacy for the presidency even in prison and his confirmation until the final impeachment. Thus, the political movement to denounce the coup served, at the same time, to create the social and political bases of what would be the Haddad / Manoela candidacy for the presidency.

On the 7th. PT Congress, this dilemma found a different answer: by a majority – against the position that defended the impeachment of Jair M. Bolsonaro –, it was decided not to defend his impeachment, leaving the question open for a future update of positions . Clearly, the horizon that was announced was to compete with Bolsonaro in the 2022 presidential elections.

The update of positions – the definition of a position favorable to Bolsonaro’s impeachment by the National Directorate of the PT – came in the middle of the first half of 2020, amid a worsening of the government’s crisis. But it always had an institutional orientation: instead of organizing itself to organize the fight in society, made extremely difficult by the pandemic, it was left in anticipation of some referral of the numerous requests for impeachment by the mayor, Rodrigo Maia. As this blocked the referral, the “fight” for impeachment disappeared in the municipal electoral disputes of 2020.

In the dispute for the presidency of the Federal Chamber, the position adopted by the majority of the PT and PC do B – contrary to the position finally decided by the PSOL – was to support a candidacy born from the neoliberal right, which did not assume commitment with forwarding a request for impeachment. With the overwhelming victory of the candidate supported by Bolsonaro for the presidency of the Federal Chamber, this perspective of institutional struggle for impeachment would have been overcome as unfeasible.

Lula's interview with Kennedy Alencar, from UOL, clearly expresses this pragmatics. Political time and institutional unfeasibility make Bolsonaro’s policy of democratic impediment inopportune. The center of the political strategy from now on should be a candidacy for the presidency in 2022 led by the PT, capable of probably going to the second round in a polarization with Bolsonaro, with chances of victory. A unity between the left and center-left, impossible to build in a context of various electoral protagonisms, would thus be conceived only for the second round.

This pragmatic policy, returning to the dilemma of Wanderley Guilherme dos Santos, would lock the PT in the institutional trap of legitimizing the coup and its electoral consequences. And it would generate three dilemmas in sequence: the dilemma of identity, the dilemma of electoral illusion and the dilemma of solitary protagonism. They could only be overcome with a policy that combined the social, national and unitary organization of a movement for the democratic impediment of Bolsonaro with the construction of a leftist candidacy for the presidency.

Institutional pragmatism and identity crisis

Since 2014, there has been a strong shift to the right in the correlation of forces that organizes Brazilian institutions. The overthrow of the Dilma government, the Temer government and, even more, the rise of Bolsonaro to the country's central government, dragged the functioning of the institutions agreed upon in the liberal democracy of the 1988 Constitution to a scenario of degradation and militarization, or even, of open fascistization. Minimal democratic procedures in the National Congress were broken, as well as all the hard-built participatory infrastructure, in a context of extreme arbitrary judicialization, without constitutional support.

The adoption by the PSDB of a radical neoliberal programmatic platform, in line with the DEM and PMDB, and the rise of Bolsonarism, associated with an expansion of the “bullet, the ox and the Bible” bench (interpreted by conservative fundamentalism), formed certainly the most conservative compositions of the Senate and the Chamber since the country's redemocratization.

This pressure on the right had and still has an impact on left and centre-left parties. A significant part of the federal benches of the PSB and the PDT regularly attend the neoliberal voting agendas, supporting, for physiological reasons, Bolsonaro's candidate for the presidency of the Chamber. Ciro Gomes' PDT seeks a national alliance with ACM Neto's DEM.

The PC do B, threatened by the barrier clause, is currently experiencing the biggest crisis of its historical identity, in a proposed merger with the PSB and with a frentist proposal with neoliberal parties, in conflict with Bolsonaro.

This pressure to the right certainly also exerts itself on the PT in the sense of seeking the path of alliances to the “center” understood as necessary to enable an electoral protagonism seen as potentially viable for a victory in the presidential elections of 2022. In a deeper sense, PT's participation in the list formed by the DEM in the elections for the presidency of the Chamber expresses this pressure. In the overwhelming majority of the country's states, particularly in the Southeast and South, but also in the North and Midwest, the PT today does not present its own candidacies capable of, due to their own protagonism, with greater probability of running for a second round. Will the electoral path, then, be that of composing, supporting neoliberal “broad to the center” podiums in the states?

This true plunge into post-coup institutionality, with its right-wing and neoliberal drift, would certainly lead to the destruction of the PT's socialist identity in crisis.

Pragmatism and electoral illusion

Electoral illusion is particularly recurrent in parties deeply embedded in institutional dynamics and works as a future expectation that feeds present pragmatism. It's been around since the 7th. PT congress, an assumption that as the party was the great protagonist of the polarization with Bolsonaro in 2018, the predicted erosion of his government would automatically or even probably benefit the PT electorally in 2022.

To a large extent, this was the expectation for the 2020 municipal elections, in which the PT would be strengthened for the 2022 elections. This was not what happened, even considering the strongly unfavorable general results of the 2016 municipal elections. It is very difficult for the PT to build, based on its own protagonism, potentially majority electoral candidacies in the states of the South, Southeast, Midwest and North regions.

Even in the Northeast, races for state governors will certainly be difficult. But the electoral illusion of pragmatism restores its reasons: if the PT is weakened at the municipal and state levels, at the national level - vis à vis other candidates from the left or from the center-left or even from the neoliberal right - the PT would still have a greater role potential in the first round in opposition to Bolsonaro, leading him to lead a victorious polarization with Bolsonaro in the second round.

There are three reasons that conspire against this election prediction.

The first stems from an incorrect analogy with the dynamics of the bi-polarized presidential disputes with the coalitions led by the PT and the PSDB. If in 2014, Marina's almost passage to the second round already expressed the strength of pressure on this binary polarization, the rise of non-party Bolsonarism multiplied the trends of fragmentation of the Brazilian party system. It is possible to think of the electoral dynamics in capitals and large centers in 2020, in the first and second rounds, as expressions of a triple polarization: the left, with PT, PSOL and PC do B; an anti-PT neoliberal right and Bolsonarism. PSB and PDT have in fact oscillated between an alliance with the left and an alliance with the neoliberal right. In the second round, the electorate of these last two forces – Bolsonaristas and the neoliberal right – converged.

In short, there would be a new pattern of electoral dynamics in the making, expressive of shifts to the right in the aforementioned correlation of forces. This two-layer anti-left dynamic, the neoliberal right and Bolsonarism, is based on the memory of the political movement that led to the overthrow of the Dilma government, which intended to create a new political cycle in which the left, and not just the PT, would lose the role of polarization. This dynamic, if not deconstructed, would close the way to an electoral victory for the left in 2022.

A second reason is of an electoral legal nature: the electoral reform approved in the Temer government greatly reduced the already asymmetrical democratic conditions of the dispute, by cutting the time of free electoral time by half. Elections without public debate, with powerful operating machines of fake news, with judicialized electoral justice, with spills of corporate financing and the political violence of a militarized state. It is a scenario, thought of in its own dynamics, not very conducive to an Olympic electoral victory for the left.

The third reason concerns the social weakening of the working classes, organized people, social movements and left-wing party forces, as a result of the already very advanced stage of implementing a neoliberal refounding program for the Brazilian State. Thus, as the Lula and Dilma governments created conditions for a social strengthening of the left, the Temer government and the Bolsonaro government methodically acted in the opposite direction.

A left-wing strategy should assess, problematize, realistically build responses to these difficulties and not circumvent them in a calculation based on illusions.

The dilemma of solitary protagonism

Even as a defense instinct in the face of one of the most violent and sordid campaigns ever suffered by the left in all of Brazilian history, the PT has before it the gigantic and permanent challenge of reaffirming its dignity and reaffirming its historical meaning for the Brazilian people. . The permanence of an anti-PTism, stronger in the states of the South and Southeast and in the big urban centers, already reflects a certain degree of crystallization, that is, a judgment conformed and reiterated daily by the big media companies that follow the motto: “don't talk about the PT, but if you do, talk badly!”.

As Jeferson Miola well wrote, there is “Anti-Petism of all tastes”: that of the cold war of the military, the fascist of Bolsonaro, that of the “corrupt PT that broke Brazil” of the neoliberals, the fundamentalist in the moral plane of the great majority from the evangelical sects, from the conservatism of legal and medical corporations and from the middle classes, which thrived in the midst of the culture of hate. Ciro Gomes, by centralizing attacks on PT and Lula, certainly seeks to meet this common sense, reinforcing it. The PSB used this anti-PTism to defeat Marília Arraes in the second round in Recife in the 2020 elections.

Certainly, the demoralization of the Lava-Jato process and the probable vote of no confidence in the STF over Moro's conduct comes to break a fundamental link in the neoliberal narrative. But she should not be thought of as, by herself, overcoming the anti-PT wave: there are many prejudices, unreasonable feelings of hatred and interests embedded in her.

The path of electoral self-assertion, competitive with the other forces of the left and center-left, certainly leaves the PT more vulnerable in the face of anti-PTism, as it adds to it the reasons for the disagreement between the lefts. A hegemony without hegemony is the most frequent criticism leveled at the PT.

The PT, history and a new political cycle

The proposal to build a social, unitary and national movement for Bolsonaro's democratic impediment should be conceived as the way to universalize a PT candidacy for the presidency that proposes to be the leader of a new political cycle of refounding democracy in the country. It would be the vehicle par excellence for fighting for a political platform that is a true categorical imperative in the country's current situation: vaccination now and construction of a National Salvation Committee to confront Covid (as proposed by Abrasco and Frente Pela Vida), emergency aid of 600 reais, annulment of Lula's conviction and restitution of his political rights, full resumption of construction of the SUS and education with the end of EC-95.

Its objective would be to deconstruct Bolsonaro's legitimacy to govern the country and deconstruct Bolsonarism as a political movement capable of contesting the 2022 presidential elections with a chance. for the origin, support and defense of Bolsonaro's mandate.

At the same time, it would be an opportunity to rebuild the social foundations of the Brazilian left, to vitalize it in its relationship with democratic and popular forces, creating an ambience of unity in the movement bases that presses for a common expression in a political front between the left and center left. A common platform and a basic program of co-governance of the country could be elaborated in the context of this social, national and unitary movement.

The PT is still a fundamental path of hope for the Brazilian people. But he must now be able to fully actualize this hope. It is necessary to prevent Bolsonaro from contesting the 2022 presidential elections and, if this is not achieved, that he arrives at the elections so socially repudiated that he will not even be able to contest the second round. Defeating Bolsonaro and Bolsonarism is reopening the path of hope.

*Juarez Guimaraes Professor of Political Science at UFMG. Author, among other books, of Risk and future of Brazilian democracy (Perseu Abramo Foundation).


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