The Tactics Center

Brian Jungen, People's Flag, 2006


The Brazilian left, starting with the PT, needs to place the program it defends at the center of the national political debate.

Most of the Brazilian left considers that the center of the tactic is to defeat Bolsonaro and is confident that this can be done in the 2022 presidential elections through the election of Lula. In the name of achieving this double objective (defeating Bolsonaro and electing Lula) a good part of the Brazilian left is willing to make broad alliances, not only to win elections, but also to govern.

The alliance disposition is so great that a part of the left even admits to supporting the nomination of Geraldo Alckmin as candidate for vice president on the list headed by Lula. Such a disposition should not surprise anyone: after all, the PT rehearsed, but did not carry out the critical and self-critical assessment of its experience in the federal government (2003-2016) and, therefore, did not carry out the necessary revision of the strategy that guided the Party in that period. period.

For those who still believe in that strategy, it is more valid now than before: after all, if broad alliances were justifiable to defeat neoliberalism, they would be more justifiable now to “defend democracy against fascism”.

From this front-to-back strategy derives a program. In 2002 this program was summarized in the Letter to Brazilians. In 2022 there are those who simplify the equation, saying that Alckmin in vice would be the equivalent of that Menu.

Those who defended such a program in the past and those who defend it today do not necessarily give up on our medium and long term objectives, they just consider that such objectives will be unrealizable if the federal government is not reconquered; and they think that this reconquest would be impossible, or at least very unlikely, if the left adopts a “maximum program” (whatever that means).

What they defend, therefore, is something more or less like this: 1/ grant the secondary (for example, the vice) to guarantee the main (the election of the president), 2/ start slowly (the reconstruction) to go far (the transformation ) and 3/to buy the time necessary to reorganize and strengthen our bases, give some “guarantees to the enemy” (the Letter to Brazilians fulfilled this role to some extent).

A similar script was adopted between 2002 and 2016, with a known outcome. There are those who think, however, that the outcome on that occasion resulted from the attitudes of President Dilma Rousseff. Accept this absurd thesis, the coup ceases to be a coup, the victim becomes the aggressor and the strategy adopted does not need any repairs.

But let's leave this and other similar historical experiences temporarily aside and concentrate on some "new" problems.

Part of the Brazilian left believes that the current world crisis will push capitalism away from neoliberalism. And he believes that this is already happening in several countries around the world, including the United States, on the initiative of sectors of the ruling class. However, even the most optimistic about this recognize that there are no signs of change in the relationship between the former imperialist powers and the periphery of the world. Strictly speaking, we can say the following: either to maintain the current pattern of accumulation, or to finance a change in the pattern of accumulation, the central powers will continue to try to transfer “the account” to the periphery.

On the other hand, the world crisis deepened a phenomenon that existed before 2008: the existence of an extreme right with a mass base and with “internationalist” pretensions. An important sector of the world's population was captured by positions related even to fascism. And the environment in which this capture took place was that of neoliberal hegemony, even if the aforementioned extreme right is not always neoliberal. This is because neoliberalism is not just an economic policy or a political doctrine; in a certain sense, neoliberalism is a pattern of capitalist accumulation, present both at the national and world levels.

Even in the core countries, this pattern of accumulation has reduced the link between capitalism and social welfare to a minimum. And especially in peripheral countries, it reduced the relationship between capitalism and the preservation of national sovereignty to a minimum. As a result of these and other processes, the relationship between capitalism and democratic freedoms is increasingly difficult. In other words: the threat to democratic freedoms, well-being and sovereignty does not come only or mainly from the extreme right. The extreme right is an acute problem, but neoliberalism is the root cause.

In the case of Brazil in the 1990s, for example, Bolsonarism did not yet exist, but neoliberal policies were already in contradiction with part of the original determinations of the (limited) 1988 Constitution. Temer and pursued by Bolsonaro has a logic: to regress and freeze Brazil as a primary-export nation, importer of industrial products and hotbed of speculative capital. One of the effects of this is: a growing portion of the Brazilian population will find it increasingly difficult to survive or to guarantee a better future for themselves and their descendants.

This situation has structural political implications: a pattern of accumulation brings with it a certain political culture and a mode of domination. In this regard, in the 1980s, a Brazilian ambassador to the US and later Minister of Finance said something more or less like this: it is a problem for Brazil to have more voter registration cards than work cards, as titleholders can use them to obtain wallets. And in fact the workers did that, in 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014. To interrupt this virtuous dynamic, the ruling class had to resort to the coup against Dilma and the electoral ban of Lula. But in doing so, it opened space for extreme right-wing political forces that proved capable of disputing, against the left, the support of important sections of the population.

However, it is not just the extreme right that increasingly makes use of clientelism, religious fundamentalism, prejudices of all kinds, in addition to treating the social question as a matter for the police (and militia). These and other mechanisms have become a growing part of the way the entire ruling class operates. The styles or strains may vary: Bolsonarism, Lavajatism, Gourmet Right, etc. But the essence of the phenomenon is similar: neoliberal policies generate a pattern of social exclusion and – just as important – a type of political culture incompatible with the maintenance of democratic freedoms.

This digression leads to two conclusions: (1) if our objective is to defeat not only Bolsonaro, but also Bolsonarism and other strains of the extreme right, then it is mandatory to face and overcome neoliberalism, that is, the current pattern of accumulation not only in our country, but in an important part of the planet; (2) if our goal is to overcome the neoliberal accumulation pattern, then programmatic definitions (where we want to go, what kind of society we want to live in, etc.) must be the starting point of strategic and tactical definitions, not the other way around. It is about defining which pattern of accumulation and what kind of political culture we want for Brazil.

The corollary of all this is that alliances with neoliberals – even if they were electorally advantageous, internationally prudent and historically recommendable, which is not the case – go against the grain of the program we need to implement.

This does not mean that these alliances cannot be made in any case or circumstance. But it does mean that –in exceptional cases where an alliance with neoliberals is necessary – we need to recognize the contradiction and know how to face its consequences. Exactly the opposite of what is happening in the debate about Alckmin, who is being canonized in life by some people.

By the way, does anyone know what Alckmin thinks about the government program? About the spending cap? About Petrobras and Pre-Salt? About SUS funding? About outsourcing? Which brings us back to the need to take the program as a starting point.

An “anti-neoliberal” program means overcoming not only neoliberal economic policy, but also and mainly facing and overcoming the foundations of the neoliberal accumulation pattern, namely: financial capital, the primary-export complex and imperialism. There are several ways to do this; and both the form and the speed will essentially depend on political conditions. But an “anti-neoliberal” program needs to at least indicate what will be put in place of the current hegemony of those three “sectors” of capital.

Our synthetic answer is: convert the country into an autonomous hub (industrial, technological, energy, food), direct the income of the primary-export sector towards a new type of industrialization, place large financial capital under public control.

An important sector of the Brazilian left agrees in theory with the first objective, agrees in theory to discuss something similar to the second objective (via, for example, some type of taxation), but does not even consider the third objective possible and/or necessary.

The problem is that in current capitalism, especially in a country like Brazil, it is unrealistic to promise to carry out profound transformations or even a reconstruction that deserves the name, without completely changing the place of imperialism, financial capital, agribusiness & mining in society, in the Brazilian economy and politics.

Therefore, if “programmatic timidity” prevails, in case of victory in the 2022 elections, even though professing a developmentalist rhetoric and with social democratic pretensions (in the old sense of the term, therefore nothing to do with tucana social democracy), the Brazilian left could end up applying a social-liberal program. In other words: a program that will try to improve people's lives, expand freedoms, defend sovereignty, resume development, but without breaking with the limits and structural determinations of neoliberalism.

This would be bad under any circumstances, but it is especially bad in the current context, because if we don't quickly overcome the neoliberal structure, if we don't quickly reindustrialize the country, if we don't quickly raise the material and cultural conditions of the Brazilian population, if we don't quickly strengthen the capacity of the State effectively defending national sovereignty, if we do not quickly change the political culture prevailing in large portions of the population, we run the risk of the extreme right turning around.

The need for speed stems not only from the right-wing opposition, but also from the level of popular dissatisfaction (which, paradoxically, tends to be expressed with more political force in the event of a left-wing victory), as well as the highly volatile world situation.

For all the above reasons and more, the ideal would be for Lula's government program to take due account of the equation set out above, adapting them to electoral contingencies. But even for this to happen, the Brazilian left, starting with the PT, needs to place at the center of the national political debate the program that we defend for the country, including the emergency measures that need to be adopted in the first weeks, to generate jobs. , kill hunger and protect the health of the people.

*Valter Pomar He is a professor at the Federal University of ABC and a member of the National Board of the PT.


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