The Challenge of Bolsonarism

Clara Figueiredo, series_ Brasília_ fungi and simulacra, super court, 2018
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By DAVID MACIEL*

It is not enough to beat Bolsonaro, it is also necessary to regain political initiative

The results of the 1st round of presidential elections, held on October 2, reveal processes that have been under way in Brazilian society for some time and indicate extremely worrying political and ideological trends for the working classes, social movements and left-wing organizations, particularly those of the socialist left.

The biggest highlight comes from the massive voting of far-right candidates in all spheres of dispute, conquering political and institutional space greater than in previous elections, with great weight in the dispute for the second round and in the future political struggle. Despite the economic, political and moral debacle of Jair Bolsonaro's government, he won a surprising number of votes in the presidential race, particularly among the proletarian sectors, while Bolsonarism and its allies advanced significantly in state governments, in the Chamber of Deputies and in the Senate. .

Such results show the great insertion of the conservative and even fascist political-ideological perspective in large portions of the population, revealing a rootedness that calls into question the tactics and strategy of struggle of the left of order and Lula's candidacy itself. While the Bolsonarist campaign went into confrontation, making use and abuse of the advantages granted to it by the “state of emergency” to mobilize its base and intimidate the opposition – coup threat, political violence, electoral assistance, fake news, militia, evangelical and/or corporate “halter vote” –, Lula’s candidacy was limited to operating within the framework of order, presenting himself as guarantor of the “system”, of the “institutions”, as if these, completely frayed, still enjoyed some legitimacy with the mass of the population.

Faced with the challenge presented by Bolsonarism, the Lulista campaign opted for “quietism”, not mass mobilization and grassroots organization; sewed alliances “from above” with the forces and leaders of the center-right, in an accelerated process of electoral meltdown, treating social movements and left-wing organizations as mere appendages of the “great alliance”; promised the restoration of an idealized and historically superseded past, instead of presenting a program both for reversing authoritarian measures, counter-reforms and extreme neoliberalism, and for expanding workers' political, social and labor rights.

In the final weeks of the campaign for the 1st round, Lula appealed for the monotonous speech of the “useful vote” in defense of the “democratic State of law”, a completely abstract theme for the majority of the population and that does not match at all with the political reality and institution in the country since the 2016 coup.

This electoral tactic is part of a political strategy of accommodation with the political, institutional and economic changes adopted since the 2016 coup, and even more with Bolsonarism itself, as it bets on the conciliation of classes and the conquest of the government from within itself. current authoritarian institutionality. To do so, it was necessary to curb popular mobilization for the impeachment of Jair Bolsonaro and against the fascist and neoliberal escalation led by the government and the Centrão throughout this year, thus allowing Lula’s presence in the electoral dispute as an “ideal opponent” to counterpoint Jair Bolsonaro.

In addition to being powerless to confront the advance of Bolsonarism and the ongoing fascist/neoliberal escalation, this strategy sends the necessary political, institutional and economic overcoming of the 2016 coup to the Greek calendar, strengthening its political legitimacy through elections and allowing only “corrections” ” punctual here and there. Corrections that do not alter the correlation of forces in favor of workers, nor modify the current economic model of ultra-precariousness and over-exploitation of work, economic primarization, increased dependency and plundering of public and natural goods and resources under the influence of financial capital.

However, despite the contradictions between the Bolsonarist and non-Bolsonarist bourgeois fractions, for the whole of the bloc in power this situation is extremely comfortable, because in these circumstances the possibility of political legitimation and deepening of authoritarian measures, counter-reforms and neoliberal economic policy strengthens, regardless of the outcome of the second round.

In the bourgeois strategy, both the license given to Jair Bolsonaro by the “state of emergency” to commit electoral crimes, mobilize his base for political violence and strengthen his candidacy, and the pressure on Lula’s candidacy to maintain the adjustment budget, the spending ceiling, neoliberal counter-reforms, the tripod of economic policy (primary surplus, inflation targeting regime and floating exchange rate) and other measures that favor the exploitation of workers, capitalist accumulation and the privatization of goods, resources and rights in the name of maintaining the “democratic rule of law”! That is, for the bloc in power, the historical course started in 2016 has no turning back, it must be legitimized, maintained and deepened.

Faced with this scenario and the results of the first round, it becomes evident that it is not possible to fight the total war waged by Bolsonarism, nor the bourgeois perspective of legitimizing the current status quo, with cabinet agreements, accession of artists and celebrities or reminiscences of the past. It is necessary that workers, social movements and left-wing organizations transform the electoral campaign into a broad movement for Bolsonaro Out and against the legitimization of the 2016 coup through the election of Lula and the creation of permanent popular committees, which do not dismantle after the elections. elections.

Therefore, it is not just a question of electing Lula and thus avoiding the victory of Jair Bolsonaro and preventing the continuity of a disastrous government that is absolutely hostile to the most common interests of workers. It is also about regaining political initiative, resuming mass mobilization and advancing grassroots organization, so that the capitalist crisis and the 2016 coup are overcome by expanding democratic freedoms and social rights and by controlling public goods and resources. by the workers. The forces of the socialist left and the social movements are called upon to fulfill this historic task without delay or prevarication.

*David Maciel is a history teacher. author of History, politics and revolution in Marx and Engels (Gargoyle edits).

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