PT's new challenge

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By LEONARDO AVRITZER*

The two risks faced by the PT in 2020

Brazil is not for beginners. Antônio Carlos Jobim's phrase well expresses the dilemmas of the left and the PT in 2020. The PT faced two risks in this crisis situation: the first one that it did relatively well was the attacks it suffered from Operation Lava Jato and the media between 2014 and 2018. Operation Lava Jato was transformed from an operation against corruption into a political factionalism that aimed to overthrow the Dilma Rousseff government and derail the candidacy of former President Lula for the presidency.

This association, which managed to create a stronger campaign than the one that overthrew Vargas in 1954, had an initial impact on the PT: the percentage of Brazilians identifying with the PT, which had reached almost 30% in the first decade of the 9st century, dropped to 2016% at the height of the economic crisis and the Lava Jato operation. The PT suffered its two main defeats in 2018: the impeachment and the generalized electoral defeat in the municipal elections. 44 was not better, even though Fernando Haddad's growth in the second round and the XNUMX% mark of the votes stopped this process, in particular when we look at the defeat of the centrist parties in the same election.

Since 2018, the PT has been recovering for a few reasons: the first, of course, is that we now see the ability or inability of the Brazilian right to govern. The Bolsonaro government is a synthesis of the inabilities of the Brazilian right with a hint of ungovernability produced by the president himself. It helps to debunk those relatively obvious facts such as the myth of the efficiency of the Armed Forces, an untested Army, which does not engage in military conflicts, but which defends the idea of ​​its efficiency.

I would not go as far as Supreme Court Justice Gilmar Mendes in accusing the Brazilian army of genocide. I believe that it is just a completely inefficient and incompetent organization, guided solely by the corporatism of its high officials and that operates only with a view to the balance of its bank account filled with benefits paid by the Brazilian citizen.

It is worth noting that bank account balance and efficiency are unrelated in the case of the Armed Forces in Brazil. This is what explains their complete operational incapacity during the pandemic. Allied to the poor performance of the Army, the bad habits of the members of the judicial corporation who insist on benefits for themselves and believe that citizenship is a pejorative category, as the judge from Santos recently reminded us.

Finally, the picture of the Brazilian right is completed with businessmen who are proud of tax evasion or who openly defend on social networks that the sacrifice of lives (of course not theirs or those of their loved ones, just that of the mass of poor workers and helpless). Thus, the so-called return of the right to power in Brazil is already an absolute fiasco and allows for a recovery of the PT and the left in the country. But it is exactly at this moment that the second risk arises, that of personal or partisan projects prevailing over the need to impose a crushing electoral defeat on conservative forces in 2020.

In order to understand this second point, it is worth making some considerations about the relationship between the PT and the Brazilian left. The Workers' Party acquired complete hegemony of the left field in Brazil as a result of the historical mistakes of the other left forces, in particular the former PCB, when it refused to adhere to a popular party agenda and when it denied the need to an independent trade union.

Despite being relatively well positioned for the democratic transition, the PCB lost the hegemony of the left field and the bases of the Brazilian left adhered to the PT project. The PT's hegemony on the left became even greater with the election of ex-president Lula and continued until 2010. However, three historical mistakes by the PT caused this hegemony to fray and undermined its electoral strategy this year: first First, the weak reaction of the Dilma Rousseff government to the demand for political change made in the streets in 2013. The inability to carry out political reform, the insistence on running in alliance with the PMDB at a time when the leadership of the party was already in Eduardo's hand Cunha, expresses the overlapping of political logic with an electoral logic, if not a personal one on the part of the former president.

Secondly, the realization of an economic adjustment that opted for an automatic pilot by penalizing the popular sectors to the detriment of financial groups historically beneficiaries of economic policies. Thirdly, the Dilma government was not able to put limits on the anti-republican impulses of Operation Lava Jato, refraining from carrying out the controls that would be the responsibility of federal government agencies in relation to the political use of the Federal Police by Lava Jato and the PGR.

Thus, if it is true that the 2014-2020 crisis involved an attack by conservative forces on the PT in relation to which the PT received the support and solidarity of left-wing forces, in particular PSol and PSB, it is also true that the crisis of his political project was linked to the way in which the Dilma Rousseff government and the PT as a whole left aside an agenda that is dear to the left. Thus, it is not difficult to see that although the Workers' Party was attacked by the right, the crisis was aggravated by contentious agendas with the left field that are now resurfacing.

The moment of recovery of the left in 2020 also seems to be a moment of reorganization of the political hegemony acquired by the PT still in the 1990s. In fact, this reorganization has been taking place since the 2018 elections. more diversified and Flávio Dino has an important leadership role, a leadership that is more expressive than that of PT governors such as Rui Costa and Wellington Dias.

The PT has had little visibility in opposition to the Bolsonaro government in the Chamber. Some of the main opposition agendas have been better led by the Psol. Finally, the PT has not been very agile on the judicialization agenda, which is one of the main opposition agendas. Incidentally, this was already happening in the Dilma Rousseff government itself, where some very important impeachment agendas ended up being led by Jandira Feghalli, who led the action in the STF to standardize the impeachment vote in the special committee of the chamber.

It is also worth remembering that the PT has had little visibility in the pandemic agenda. For example, few were those who remembered at the time when emergency aid is granted through this miserable application that does not cross any data, that the Ministry of Social Development organized a much superior record in terms of crossings under former Minister Patrus Ananias. of data.

Lastly, it is worth remembering that the agenda surrounding Operation Lava Jato's excesses should not be the main agenda of the 2020 elections. I was one of the first to criticize Operation Lava Jato and I am absolutely convinced that it was a politicized operation that instrumentalized the judiciary with a view to targeting former President Lula. I am also absolutely convinced that Judge Sergio Moro associated himself with Jair Bolsonaro long before 2018 and made judicial decisions with the intention of supporting him. I am also in favor of punishing Deltan Dallagnoll for several of his illegal actions, including the absurd conference given secretly at XP.

But the agenda set by former President Lula and the PT centering the electoral game around these issues does not tend to have support. The left's electoral agenda in 2020 should be different and focus on Bolsonaro's impeachment, on recovering the economy and on preventing poverty and inequality from increasing. For this, it is necessary to understand that winning elections in key cities is more important than recovering PT and that candidates from other leftist parties are very well positioned in some important electoral cities.

I offer some examples, the main one in the city of São Paulo. Guilherme Boulos reached the mark of 11% of the voting intentions in the city of São Paulo, according to research by Big Ideia, a respectable mark that makes a victory in the elections possible. In research released this weekend appears tied with Tatto. Meanwhile, Jilmar Tatto is a machine candidate with popular bases in the south of the city and complete inability to expand his candidacy to the middle class sectors of the capital.

In other cities, we noticed similar problems: the division of the left in Belo Horizonte, where the candidacy of the current mayor Alexandre Khalil is very strong, could make the PT disappear from the city council, even more so if the candidate Bruno Engler supported by Jair Bolsonaro manages to polarize with Khalil. At the same time, the PT has strong and competitive candidates in some cities in the Northeast, such as Salvador and Recife.

Thus, two questions arise for the PT: first, to realize that there has been a process of relativization of its political strength in several capitals. In the cases of São Paulo and Belo Horizonte, cities that the PT has governed for more than one term, the reality is that today it is smaller than other leftist parties or has less potential for electoral growth, just as the Psol is smaller in capitals. do Nordeste and other parties such as the PC do B are important in some states in the Northeast such as Maranhão. That is, in all these cases, there is a possibility that the left will win if it stands united in the campaign, but it does not exist if the PT assumes from the outset that it is the biggest or only relevant force on the left.

Recognition of its limited strength in the left field today is the main challenge faced by the PT and one that will determine its long-term survival. The PT managed to survive the onslaught from the right, the most well-orchestrated attack in Brazilian history against a political force and its leaders, but it may be facing an even greater challenge if it fails to adapt to the new reality of leftist forces in Brazil. There he will suffer accusations from the right-wing forces in relation to which he can survive, but he will survive isolated in the political field of the left forces. This is the biggest risk the PT faces today. Reversing it while there is still time will contribute to the victory of the left in the 2020 municipal elections that is on the horizon.

*Leonardo Avritzer is a professor of political science at UFMG. Author, among other books, of The Pendulum of Democracy (Still).

 

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