Lula's ultimatum

Image: Eugênio Barboza


The desire to reach power at any price is fatal.

“Ambition, like anger, is a very bad adviser. Friendship is not acquired except through friendship” (Portuguese popular wisdom).

The Frente Ampla tactic “until it hurts” opened a crisis on the left. A dangerous and disruptive crisis that Lula is apparently underestimating. Alckmin can never be a decorative vice. Alckmin's nomination was not just a speculative move, but also seems to be a fait accompli, a reality, something concluded, irrevocable or irremediable. In other words, an ultimatum for the left.

An ultimatum is an extreme political maneuver. Extreme is something very serious. Ultimatums can be explicit or implicit. It appears that the presentation of an ultimatum is a final decision, or a last warning, after which there will be no negotiations. The idea that Lula is so strong that she can issue ultimatums is a hasty calculation. The eagerness to come to power at any price is fatal. Actions produce reactions. Leadership should not be caudilloism.

The political challenge of 2022 is immense. Bolsonarism is not just an extreme right-wing electoral movement. Bolsonaro is not just a demagogic authoritarian scarecrow. Bolsonarism is neo-fascist, and Bolsonaro aspires to the Bonapartist subversion of the regime.

Anyone who understands this challenge, and recognizes Lula's legitimacy, is faced with the need to fight for a Left Front, until the last minute, in the elections since the first round. But that doesn't mean that the left can accept ultimatums that the alliances and program will be Lula's unilateral decisions. Lula can do a lot, but he can't do everything.

Caudillismo creates an optical illusion. Caudillismo is an authoritarian perversion of the authority relationship of the charismatic leadership of popular organizations with the broad masses. The personality cult is a demagogic resource that encourages the “direct connection” of the candidate who represents unions and social movements. No one should replace the collective organizations built by tens of thousands of militants. It is about abuse of power.

Lula's meetings with Aloysio Nunes, PSDB leader associated with Fernando Henrique, signal a discreet negotiation of a government of "national concertation" with tucan participation. The release by the press, last November, of meetings about a possible candidacy of Alckmin for vice-president alongside Lula emerged as an exploratory maneuver to check the possible reactions. An “exploratory” maneuver is a preventive initiative to anticipate scenarios, or a movement that seeks to assess the advantages and disadvantages of a repositioning.

It was a surprising initiative, because an alliance between the PT and a dissident wing of the PSDB, the party that, in recent decades, expressed more than any other the interests of the powerful fraction of the bourgeoisie in São Paulo, was disconcerting, unusual and astonishing. It could also be added, disturbing, something between the disproportionate and the grotesque.

Confusing, not only because of the historical differences, but because the PSDB supported, without dissent, the impeachment of Dilma Rousseff in 2016. Unusual, because none other than Geraldo Alckmin was the PSDB candidate, when Lula was imprisoned in 2018. no one knows if Alckmin has changed his mind about whatever it is. Unmeasured, because he disregarded even the PT's opinion. Grotesque, because there is something between the burlesque and offensive to start negotiations with Alckmin before even sitting down, for example, with PSol.

It is, first of all, an ultimatum to the PT itself, which discovered the articulation through the newspapers. But, also, to all the social and political organizations that built the Fora Bolsonaro campaign, loyally, around a common program in 2021. Lula/Alckmin. Finally, it is an ultimatum to PSol which, predictably, would be against it.

An ultimatum obeys a calculation of gains and losses, benefits and losses. It is grounded in an assessment of the political relationship of forces. The appreciation that inspires the invitation to Alckmin is that, electorally and politically, Lula's candidacy has such a drag force that, even if they are opposed, the parts of the left indignant with Alckmin's presence will be neutralized.

This estimate is wrong. Overestimates the potential of votes in the middle class that Geraldo Alckmin can add to defeat Jair Bolsonaro; it overestimates the commitment of the PSDB part attracted to the governance of a PT-led government; and, what is worse, it unnecessarily signals to the bourgeoisie and US imperialism the limits of a Lula government.

But it also underestimates the strength of social movements such as feminist, black, youth and popular, environmental and LGBTQIA+ movements that have accumulated a long experience with the Alckmin governments, in São Paulo, and the PSDB, nationally. In addition to disregarding the PSol audience and the more combative left, which has already proved to be a serious mistake in recent elections, such as for mayor of São Paulo, in which Boulos reached the second round.

Evidently, the 2022 elections will be qualitatively different from all other elections since 1989, and we must bear the utmost responsibility. The fundamental fact is that it will be a struggle against an extreme right-wing government led by a neo-fascist faction led by a candidate for Bonaparte. During the last three years, the threat of coup rhetoric has become clear. There was no moment of “real and immediate” danger from a barracks, but we were close.

We are in January 2022, ten months away from the first round and, in the context of this beginning of the year, opinion polls suggest that Jair Bolsonaro would lose the elections to Lula, if they were held now, perhaps even in the first round. But they are not now.

Decades of uninterrupted electoral processes, as well as the circumstance that there was a fracture in the bourgeoisie and a portion of the ruling class, with influence on the most influential portion of the commercial media, passed to the opposition, but they did not succeed in placing a unified name of “third way”. ”, generated a “facilist” mentality. Facilitation is a mental trap. The most serious is the underestimation of enemies.

Bolsonaro has not yet been defeated. And the danger of his re-election should not be overlooked: the extreme right's project is to impose a historic defeat on workers and youth. Without the demoralization of a generation in the popular classes, it will not be possible to pave the way for carrying out the recolonization of Brazil to the end, and this inversion of the social balance of forces requires the destruction of democratic freedoms.

It is a serious mistake to diminish the differences that exist between different bourgeois regimes. A liberal-presidential democracy is not the same as a Bonapartist-presidential regime. Both are bourgeois, but different. A bourgeois democracy is superior to Bonapartism.

Lula's electoral strength, much greater than the political weight of the left, but an expression of the social power of the workers and exploited struggle, is key in the fight against Bolsonarism. But the explanation for Lula's prestige lies, in the first place, in the construction of the PT. Not the other way around. One cannot explain the immense, almost messianic expectation of his political authority separated from the history of the PT. Without the PT, there would be no Lulism. Without the PT, Lula would not have been able to overcome Brizola in the 1989 elections, and the dispute in the second round against Collor was decisive for his later national projection.

Today the dynamics of the relationship has reversed, qualitatively. The PT depends on Lula. There is no reason not to remember that the formation in 1979/80 of a PT without bosses, which quickly evolved to mass influence in the large cities of the State of São Paulo, led by a metallurgical striker leader, without solid international relations, was a admirable but unforeseen political phenomenon. The PT was not a historic accident, but it was a surprise. In the Marxist tradition, a historical accident is an accidental or transitory phenomenon, therefore, ephemeral.

At the end of the 1970s, most of the Brazilian bourgeoisie and the political leaders of the dictatorship still seriously feared the political space that the PCB on the one hand, and Brizola and Arraes on the other, could occupy when the amnesty came. It was the historic stage of the cold war. It was a time of primitive anti-communism.

There was something formidable and exciting, but also something terrible in the history of the PT. To refer to the vocabulary coined by the Greek classics, we had the epic moment, the tragedy moment and even a bit of comedy in the trajectory in which PTism turned into Lulism.

The PT was the biggest party in the history of the Brazilian working class in the 10th century. In the eighties, Lula and the PT leadership (which organized the current Articulação) were able to galvanize a party that, in ten years, evolved from an organization of a few thousand to hundreds of thousands of activists. And that went from 1982% of the votes in 3 for governor in São Paulo (and less than 1989% on average in the other states), to a very close dispute in the second round in the XNUMX presidential elections, relying only on voluntary contributions.

The 2022 PT is, of course, another party, although the ruling faction is essentially the same. In four decades, the PT elected many thousands of councilors, a few hundred state and federal deputies, reached the government of more than a thousand city halls, many states and four the presidency of the Republic.

The PT of 2022 is the most professional electoral machine in Brazil, therefore, integrated with the institutions of the regime. Paradoxically, Lula's authority has not diminished. On the contrary, it has never been so big. So great that its leadership threatens the party itself by replacing it.

*Valério Arcary is a retired professor at IFSP. Author, among other books, of Revolution meets history (Shaman).


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