the democratic commitment

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By MARCUS IANONI*

From the anti-PT united front to the broad front with Lula: the democratic rescue of the Planalto

As several analyzes recognize, the 2022 presidential election marks a turning point in the political process of democratic regression that was underway in Brazil, especially since 2016, with the deposition of former president Dilma Rousseff. The main new variable, resulting from the ballot boxes, is the signal that the tottering Brazilian democracy is starting to recover the vigor capable of reversing the trajectory of decay that it had been thrown, in particular, by Bolsonarism, a movement with a neo-fascist profile, which colonized several state institutions over the past four years and brought chaos to society.

Lula's election was supported, from the first round, on a coalition qualified as being broad front, for its purpose of uniting parties and social actors until then opponents around the democratic rescue of the federal government and the nation. Ten parties made up the coalition registered with the TSE: the Brazilian Hope Federation (PT, PCdoB and PV), PSB, PSOL Rede, Solidariedade, Avante, Agir and PROS. The PCO also supported Lula from the beginning. In the second round, 4 more associations joined – PDT, Citizenship, PCB and PSTU –, totaling 15 parties.

In addition, the PT leader had the solid support of the presidential candidate and senator of the MDB, Senator Simone Tebet, as well as the PSDB and União Brasil freed up their directories to support whoever they wanted. In São Paulo and Pernambuco, for example, the PSDB did the L. Nine former presidential candidates supported Lula in the second round, including Fernando Henrique Cardoso. Now, with the transitional government in place, the MDB made its participation official in this key stage and appointed three more of its staff, in addition to the already integrated senator.

From November 2019, when he left prison, until October 30, 2022, Lula, a popular and charismatic leader, turned a veto into a vote and into allies. He converted the veto he received in 2018 into a broad front vote, when, in a context of extreme anti-PT and lawfare, was arrested and prevented from running for election. On the occasion, the liberals united in a united front against the PT, against the left. Since the middle of this year, one of the main novelties of the conjuncture has been the rupture of a portion of the liberal political and social leaders with the compromise in relation to Bolsonarist authoritarianism, evidenced, even before the election, in initiatives such as the Letter to Brazilians and to the Brazilians in defense of the Democratic Rule of Law! The locomotive of this rupture was the Lula-Alckmin ticket, which PSB and PT formalized since April-May.

It is no small thing, quite the contrary, for the country to have transitioned from the anti-PT united front to the broad front with Lula, after transiting through the democratic corrosion opened by the 2016 coup d'état and deepened by the (mis)government of Jair Bolsonaro, who, among others , did not pass the test of the pandemic crisis, which also infected the economy, mistreated by health denialism, by Paulo Guedes, by the captain's reelection headquarters, by the secret budget of the centrão, etc.

Crisis situations are conducive to changes in three key elements extracted from the analysis of the concept of the State: political regime, public policies and coalitions. Regime refers to the rules of the institutional political game, the formation and change of government and its duration, freedoms and rights existing or not, etc. Public policies concern government proposals and decisions on topics of public interest, with emphasis, obviously, on the topic of the economy, due to its impact on the income of workers, companies and the State itself.

Finally, whether to decide on political-institutional rules or on public policies, State agents (politicians and career bureaucracy) need support, which comes from coalitions, in the broad sense of the term. A party, per se, is a coalition of actors, voters, social groups, etc., constituted both formally and informally. Not infrequently, parties coalesce among themselves. Examining coalitions from a broader perspective, they are political-institutional and socio-political. Executives, parliaments and parties are not islands apart from the market and society.

History shows that the democratic commitment of the actors is a barrier against autocratization and this was the case in this presidential election in Brazil. In the Great Depression, Hitler, after being elected in 1932, successfully pressured President Hindenburg, with the active support of the big bourgeoisie, to be appointed Chancellor of Germany, in a context of division between social democracy and the Communist Party, due to to the refusal of the unity of these workers' organizations by the Third International, already controlled by Stalinism. Thus was opened the way for the fascist united front.

In this same great crisis, the coalition of the New Deal, sewn around President Roosevelt and the Democrats, reconciled the demands of large urban and rural entrepreneurs and workers, who had their rights recognized (union organization, collective bargaining and action, social security). In this same crisis, while in Brazil the political process of the 1930 Revolution was unfolding, in the United Kingdom, in 1931, the unusual National Government was formed, a coalition between the Labour, the Tories and the Liberals, which lasted until 1940 and caused a democratizing political-institutional impact, supported by the big business, but which did not block some relevant achievements of the workers, such as the Holidays with Pay Act 1938, which guaranteed paid vacations, only abolished by the Statute Law (Repeals) Act 2004, under Tony Blair.

In post-war Brazil, external and internal factors – in this case, the Mineiros Manifesto and the very fact that the country was then a dictatorship that fought in the trenches of the Allies can be highlighted – reconfigured, through civil and political pressures, military, the balance of forces and led Vargas to resign, opening populist democracy.

The crisis of neoliberal capitalism, opened in the Great Recession (2007-2008) and unfolded in the European debt crisis and the slowdown in emerging countries, was and has been the mainstay of various forms of autocratization, including a neo-fascist profile, as can be conceived Trumpism and Bolsonarism. The poor or unsatisfactory performance of the economy, fiscal austerity and the related increase in inequality fuel the emergence, in several countries, including Europe, of conservative and authoritarian political leaders, who support xenophobic, racist, exclusionary, Eurosceptic, nationalists, anti-immigrants, anti-Islamics, misogynists and so on.

It is about the search for a way out of the crisis of neoliberal capitalism, an alternative that is, on the one hand, socially restrictive, in terms of public policies and, on the other hand, politically contrary to the regime of popular sovereignty, but which, given the normative appeal of people power, aims for mass legitimacy for authoritarianism: America First, We are the majority etc.

It should be noted that, in the context of the European debt crisis, the UK Independence Party (UKIP) grew up in the UK, where some fascist leaders such as Nick Griffin of british national party, the victory of the Brexit in 2016 etc. In Germany, neo-Nazism emerged, especially with the Alternative for Germany (AfD), created in 2013. However, in these two countries, despite the outcry of some extreme right groups, the democratic pact blocked its development, while in the US and Brazil, democracy was put at risk. In Germany, during this period, several grand coalition governments between CDU/CSU and SPD stand out.

In all the examples mentioned above, the crises rearranged the three variables of the State: regime, production of public policies and coalition of support. Change is not always regime change. There may be regime change, i.e. more or less democracy or authoritarianism. In the rearrangement of the State, the range of public policies and coalitions tend to change and also change. In public policies, the change is not always one of paradigm, as in the case of the passage from neoclassical orthodoxy to Keynesianism, in the great depression. In the Lula administrations (2003-2010), for example, macroeconomic policy made the tripod more flexible (inflation and primary surplus targets and floating exchange rates), without breaking with it.

Despite the political milestone that Lula's victory represents, the extreme right showed social and party strength. Its representation in Congress achieved a relative increase, led by the PL, although the Associação Brasil da Esperança has also grown, albeit less. The electoral victory of the broad front has great significance, but it was tight, sweaty, difficult. In any case, the will of the majority of voters pointed to the reconstruction of democracy and the economy.

The challenge is for the broad front to leverage the transition, the gradual resumption of the country's political, economic and social development. It is an immense challenge, given the unfavorable international context, the heterogeneous and eclectic nature of the expanded coalition under construction, the avarice and irrationality of the market and, among others, the fact that the polarization of the extreme right against the democrats is not showing signs of of truce, given the occupations of highways and the coup demands directed at the barracks and sponsored by businessmen, the apocalyptic messianism attributed to the future government, etc.

Even so, sustaining democracy requires performance. Luckily, Lula is a political animal and there is no leader in Brazil today more qualified than him to exercise the art of democratic politics in the sense of placing the broad front at the service of the nation as a whole, and not of the plutocracy, as did the Bolsonarist coalition, highly elitist. The open space for political action on a nationally wide scale is the great victory that the civilized and progressive forces conquered, after tragically learning that the unity of the liberals around authoritarianism meant a red light for democracy.

Indeed, the presidential election showed that the green light for democracy in this politically polarized country is red, or rather pink. Brazil is entering the Second Pink Wave in Latin America.

*Marcus Ianoni is a professor at the Department of Political Science at the Fluminense Federal University (UFF).

 

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