The Manifesto Together

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By VALERIO ARCARY*

The Lula enigma remains. Will he be an agitator in the fight to overthrow Bolsonaro or will he be the negotiator of an electoral transition?

"Going back is better than getting lost on the way.” (Russian folk wisdom).

The Brazilian left was able, in May, to unite around a joint demand for Bolsonaro's impeachment. But now, in June, it was divided on two topics: the signing of the Together manifesto, and participation in the first street demonstrations after the start of the pandemic. The two controversies arouse passions, but they are very different. The first has a strategic sense, the second is tactical in nature.

Tactical mistakes can be quickly corrected. Strategies are more complicated. Therefore, Lula's decision to go against the grain, and contrary to many in the PT, and even in the Psol, was courageous. Because the Together manifesto does not stand for Fora Bolsonaro. And this silence stems, evidently, from a veto imposed by Fernando Henrique. The fight to overthrow Bolsonaro can be strengthened by looking for a specific unity of action between the left opposition and the liberal opposition. And every unit of action is only possible based on a lowest common denominator. These days, for example, a unity of action has been possible demanding transparency in the disclosure of pandemic data. But a manifesto in defense of democracy, which does not even denounce Bolsonaro's self-coup threats, does not deserve to be signed. It would be surrender.

We need to learn from history if we want to defeat Bolsonaro. There is a danger of committing sectarian mistakes, or taking ultra-left initiatives, but the opposite danger cannot be ignored. In fact, the danger of a capitulation to the pressures of the liberal opposition is the greatest at this moment. But there is still time to turn back.

The dilemma is posed for the entire left. Will the quietist tactic of waiting for the 2022 elections “without provoking” and respecting Bolsonaro’s mandate, accepting FHC’s position of putting pressure on the government to avoid a self-coup, win? Or will those who defend the need to face Bolsonaro now and now, uniting the left in resistance to the neo-fascist danger, be heard? In this context, a little historical perspective may be helpful.

What was the tactic debate on the left in the final phase of the struggle against the military dictatorship? Who was right in 1978/79? What was the tactic that passed the test in the laboratory of history? How did the PT conquer the hegemonic position on the left in the eighties?

Was the moderate left, the PCB, PCdB and MR-8 right - who remained within an MDB that explicitly negotiated a slow, gradual and safe transition, awaiting the 1982 elections, and the Electoral College? It was correct to accept the leadership of the MDB, which represented a fraction of the ruling class that wanted to guarantee a controlled transition, within the institutions of the regime, to avoid, at any cost, the danger of a new coup attempt like that of General Frota in 1977? Was the “don't provoke” tactic right or wrong? Was the quietist tactic, of waiting “quietly” for the pace of transition organized by the dictatorship itself, to be the best path?

Or is it not true that the leadership of the MDB only accepted to lead the campaign for Diretas Já, from January 25, 1984, because: (a) it feared that the initiative would remain in the hands of the PT, or even of Brizola, elected governor of the Rio de Janeiro in 1982; (b) feared Maluf's victory against Andreazza inside the Arena/PDS; (c) bet on the division of the dictatorship party, and the formation of the PFL led by Sarney; (d) and why did Ulysses Guimarães pressure Tancredo and Montoro to the maximum limit?

Or was it correct to bet, after the wave of strikes in 1978/79, on a mass struggle to overthrow the dictatorship? Was the PT leadership right or wrong when it understood that the bourgeoisie was divided, that the middle class was moving towards opposition to the dictatorship, and that a new working class, in a more urbanized country, had the social strength to overthrow the regime? Was the PT leadership right in saying that the greatest danger was not “not provoking” but “not collaborating”? How was the Brazilian left reconstructed after twenty years of military dictatorship?

If the most lucid and combative sectors of the left had not founded the PT in 1980, if the PT had not launched Lula as a candidate for governor, running against Franco Montoro, in 1982, when there was not even a second round, if the PT had not taken the initiative of the Diretas campaign at the Pacaembu rally in 1983, Lula would not have been able to occupy the place he had on the streets in 1984. The PT would not have gained authority to not participate in the Electoral College that elected Tancredo Neves. It would not have positioned itself coherently to be in opposition to José Sarney. As a result, Lula would not have made it to the second round in 1989.

The PT's tactics between 1980-/89 have passed the test of history. The PCB/PCdB and MR-8 tactic proved to be wrong. They overestimated the strength of the dictatorship, and underestimated the power of the mass mobilization of the working class. One of the reasons why the ruling class managed to reduce the damage in the transition, and preserve the military-police apparatus intact, was that a portion of the left, the majority in those years, served as a screen in protecting the leadership of Tancredo's MDB, and the negotiation for he led.

The leadership of the PCB, still the largest leftist organization in 1978/79, finally went to the limit of destroying its own party. The leadership of the MR-8 transformed one of the most dynamic and vibrant organizations of the left into a satellite-appendix of Quercism, a decadent São Paulo wing of the MDB. The leadership of the PCdB correctly repositioned itself during the Sarney government, and allied itself with the PT and Lula in time for the 1989 dispute.

A left for the XNUMXst century has to be useful to fight Bolsonaro. The neo-fascist nature of the Bolsonarist current that maintains hegemony within the far-right government is the key factor that forces a very serene reflection on the tactic. The central objective of Bolsonarism is to impose a historic defeat on the working class, and the annulment of the Brazilian left. They are very afraid of what happened in Chile last year. They are very afraid of what might happen if Trump loses the US election. They are very afraid of being overthrown, and then criminalized.

Evidently, any leftist party whose position is perceived by the masses as an obstacle in the struggle to defeat Bolsonaro will be seriously frowned upon. Therefore, the question of which tactics will prevail, and which political forces will lead the opposition is very important. There is no reason not to accept occasional common initiatives with the liberal opposition, as long as they are effectively against Bolsonaro. Because the tactic of fighting to get off the defensive and defeat Bolsonaro, before the elections, is very different from the position of the liberal opposition. They have already made it clear that they intend to respect Bolsonaro's mandate until the end.

The most serious thing, however, is that, if the current conditions of “temperature and pressure” are maintained, defeating Bolsonarism’s candidacies in 2020 or, even worse, in 2022 will be a very tough fight. There are at least four variables to be considered: (a) the consequences of the health catastrophe that can assume apocalyptic dimensions, but are in dispute; (b) the degradation of the economic and social scenario, and the perception that the popular masses will have of the government's responsibility; (c) the strength of political and social resistance in the face of Bolsonarism's offensive in all terrains; (d) and the future of investigations into Bolsonarism's relations with militias and fake news.

The issue is therefore complicated. Parties are not an end in themselves. They must be instruments of collective struggle. But "one plus one" is only two in arithmetic. In politics there are alliances in which the allied forces are strengthened, and others in which they cancel each other out.

Another fundamental question, at this moment, in the place that the left intends to dispute, but where the fate of the PT is also decided, is whether or not Lula recovers his political rights. He will have the difficulty of trying to reinvent the PT a la Corbyn, having been, twelve years earlier, himself, the Blair of the PT. It won't be simple, although it won't be impossible. However, the Lula enigma remains. No one knows what place they want to occupy in the face of history. Will he be willing to be an agitator in the fight to overthrow Bolsonaro? Or will we see “Lulinha Paz e Amor” again trying to be the negotiator of an electoral transition? Lula's interviews so far do not allow conclusions to be drawn. But he was very good at not signing a dangerous manifesto.

*Valerio Arcary is a retired professor at IFSP. Author, among other books, of The Dangerous Corners of History (Shaman).

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