The paths of the left in the 2022 election

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Lulismo and petismo try to present themselves as the only representatives of the Brazilian left. but this is not true

Lula's governments

When, in 2002, Lula finally managed to be elected, there were huge celebrations in the streets, because after several attempts, he was elected the first president considered of the left since the period of the country's redemocratization. Lula, who was a worker from São Bernardo, had not gone to college and who had only the factory floor, unions and political struggle as experience managed to reach the highest position within the Brazilian Republic. His own condition as a factory worker encouraged the various sectors of the left and also the majority of workers, since whoever was in charge of the country now was someone who understood what it was to be exploited, what it was to be persecuted, understood, in short, the subaltern condition of the majority of the Brazilian population.

However, the precipitated euphoria hid problems that the PT governments would point out later. In the middle of that same year, 2002, Lula wrote a text entitled “Letter to the Brazilian people” which was actually not written for the people, but for the most important sectors of national and international capital, stating that Lula would continue to honor the fiscal policies adopted in the previous government, that of Fernando Henrique Cardoso. Among these commitments were the payment of public debt and loans made. A left-wing government would have defaulted on all debt and loan payments, because they constitute an assault on public coffers by big capital. But that's not what Lula did.

In addition, Lula implemented a program also elaborated during the FHC administration, but which gained structure and activation only in his own government, called “Bolsa Família”. This program was a welfare measure, intended to provide some material condition for the existence of a large portion of the Brazilian population that was wallowing in the most absolute misery. It is worth remembering that this program was conceived by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a foreign agency, responsible for precisely making loans like those that Brazil had contracted. It is an organ for maintaining dependency in underdeveloped capitalist countries and has no leftist traits.

This assistentialism was conceived by the IMF precisely to weaken possible revolts or even revolutions, since many countries in Latin America, Africa and Asia faced serious social problems in the 1990s. The “Bolsa Família” therefore has a contradictory nature. On the one hand, it actually provides minimal material conditions of existence for a portion of the Brazilian population. On the other hand, it is a program that does not aim to end hunger or extreme poverty, but only to alleviate them, precisely because it is not a program by a leftist organization. However, the Lula government and the PT governments claim this program as the greatest social achievement of the last 30 years, which is evidently a pure fallacy.

As if the entire right-wing framework that built these welfare programs was not enough, we are currently witnessing not only the maintenance, but even the expansion of these same programs. Although Jair Bolsonaro was initially against it, he had no choice but to provide emergency aid because of the COVI-19 pandemic, he changed the name of “Bolsa Família” to “Auxílio Brasil” and increased his credit, placed a gas vouchers for the poorest segments of the population. A correct analysis of reality will realize that these assistance programs do not have a grain of left-wing conception, because they were elaborated and effectively adopted also by right-wing governments.

Another leftist agenda completely ignored by the Lula government was that of Agrarian Reform. The fight for land has never been so necessary in a country that was built based on large estates and the export of raw materials. What did the Lula government do about this? It carried out only slightly more settlements for Agrarian Reform than the clearly liberal government of Fernando Henrique. The land was not treated as property of the Brazilian population, but the glaring inequalities in its distribution were maintained and expanded, as the PT rightly accuse the Bolsonaro government. In fact, alliances with large landowners were intensified, culminating in 2016 when one of the main supporters of then-president Dilma Rousseff was a senator from the “boi bench”, Kátia Abreu.

Furthermore, transgenics, rightly criticized by movements such as the MST, underwent a great expansion during the Lula governments. Cotton, corn and soybeans could be planted using transgenic seeds, which only reinforced the dominion and power of the landowners. There was an attempt to increase inspection to prevent deforestation from increasing, but without ever having effective control of this problem.

In the field of Education, new federal universities were created. However, the foundation of the PT government to insert the poorest students into the Brazilian university system took place in another way. On the one hand, a program that had been redesigned by the FHC government called FIES was continued. It is a student loan program, where students take out a loan and then have to pay with interest, following a model similar to that used in the US, but there, students borrow directly from the bank. Anyway, it is a system that makes the student have to pay for his studies, which can stretch over long periods of time and make life extremely difficult.

In addition to this program, PROUNI was also created, which, unlike FIES, was not based on loans, but on scholarships. The government gave scholarships to students and the money from these scholarships was paid directly to private institutions of higher education. In both cases, what can be seen is that Lula's government chose to prioritize private education over public education and although these policies had a great effect, allowing thousands of people to attend a university, they are against what a party the left should defend, that is, public, free and universally accessible education.

In 2005, a scandal called “Mensalão” broke out, which basically consisted of paying a monthly fee for several congressmen to vote in favor of projects of interest to the Executive. It was a case of great repercussion, but it did not negatively influence President Lula himself, as he managed to be re-elected in 2006 and began his second term. However, for those sectors on the left, this scandal was the demonstration that the PT and Lula were no longer fighting for social transformation, but were inserted within the corrupt Brazilian political system and were effectively part of this game. Nothing is further from what should be the posture of an effectively left-wing party and leader.

There are still two important aspects to talk about the Lula government. In 2008, the government of Rio de Janeiro implemented a program called the Pacifying Police Unit (UPP), which was endorsed by the president and intended to place community police in favelas to try to dismantle organized crime. The model was considered a success by Lula himself, despite what reality would show. In 2013, a bricklayer named Amarildo was taken from his home in the Rocinha favela to a Pacifying Police unit. These policemen who arrested him were responsible for torturing and finally killing him.

Amarildo's case represents in all its potency what the police do in the poorest parts of the country, chasing, killing and torturing innocent people. It is a reflection of what the police actually represent, an armed class arm within capitalist society. The police carry out class oppression by means considered legal and legitimized. Currently, many of these UPP's work in favor of militias. For Lula, however, the UPP's were a great hope in the fight against drug trafficking and organized crime. For the PT and the then president of Brazil, justice could be served even in those poorest places, where historically people were oppressed and mistreated. Lula himself only came to discover that justice is not fair when he was the target of bourgeois justice, in the Lava-Jato operation headed by then judge Sérgio Moro. History punishes those who do not study it.

Finally, we must mention one last aspect, but no less important, which represents and summarizes the entire Lula conception of government and the PT's own policy. Lula claims, victoriously, that the banks have never made as much money in the history of Brazil as in his government. Someone on the left should be ashamed to say a sentence like that, but not the former president of the country. And this for a very important reason. For the former trade unionist, the objective was, from within the government, to provide some more dignified living conditions for the population, while making other sectors (banks, landowners, businessmen) continue to earn their money.

Now, for those who critically analyze the capitalist mode of production, it is very clear that it is impossible for all social classes to win at the same time. This is because this mode of production is based on the exploitation of one class by another, on the exploitation of workers by capitalists. If, however, it seems that workers are gaining more purchasing power and improving their living conditions, this can only mean that the capitalist class is profiting much, much more than the workers themselves. So if life has improved for the workers, it is because it has improved ten, a hundred, a thousand times more for the capitalists and that is to say that their profits have increased.

There is no reality, within the capitalist system, that allows workers to stop being exploited, no matter how much they improve their living conditions. And the account for this change effectively arrives, sooner or later, precisely because it is a change with an expiration date and in the first crisis, these same workers will lose what they had conquered. Lula is proud of having made everyone win within his government.

The only thing he wants is for some of these gains to be given to the poor, for some of these gigantic profits to be shared. Cynicism and ignorance are evident. First, because giving a few crumbs to the poor is not a solution for anything and only someone who wants to boast about something will argue according to this reasoning. Lula wants to be considered the savior of the poor or in more Brazilian language, the “father of the poor”, a fallacious imitation of the Vargas Era.

And secondly, it denotes complete ignorance about what needs to be done effectively to transform Brazilian social reality. It is empty rhetoric, designed to promote the speaker as a hero. However, Lula is back in the electoral race and according to polls he appears in first place. What's left for the left to do?


What to do?

The question evokes Lenin's consecrated work, inspired by another Russian author, Nikolai Gavrilovitch. What should the Brazilian left do in the face of this upcoming electoral scenario? In his famous socio-political analysis, made in the book The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Marx writes that “Men make their own history; however, they do not do it of their own free will, since they are not the ones who choose the circumstances under which it is done, but these were transmitted to them as they are.” There is the ideal world and the real world and it is with this second that we have to account. The choices we can make are not random, but determined by a set of factors that have left us at this point. However, within this delimited range in which men make their history, there are options and one is not doomed to just one predetermined choice. There is freedom conditioned by necessity.

The first clear point of this election is that they want to defeat Jair Bolsonaro. Even knowing that defeating the current president by election will not automatically mean that the ideas he defends are extinguished, it is a common ground that it is necessary to stop, in some way, this barbarism that reigns over our country. However, care must be taken with the tactic to achieve this goal, as it must be within a larger strategy. For the PT, there is no doubt that the best option is to vote for Lula, who leads the polls. Not only for that reason, but because he would be the only leftist force in the country capable of doing so.

Lula is certainly an electoral leader, but not a political leader. Since 2019, when he was released, Lula has not called the people to the streets, let alone in the 2021 demonstrations. This is because he has his own electoral interests and would not put them at risk under any circumstances. But, after analyzing some aspects of his government, it is clear that, if we want to be kind, Lula is, at best, someone from the center-left. The alliances made for the electoral campaign range from meetings with Eunício de Oliveira to the candidacy of Geraldo Alckmin as his deputy. It is not even necessary to comment on a figure like Geraldo Alckmin. Lula makes alliances that guarantee his electoral victory, regardless of the interests of the Brazilian people.

Then the PT accuses Dilma Rousseff's impediment of being a coup, but forgets that it was the PT and Lula who made alliances with figures who are at the service of capital. The coup thesis is an atrocious political imposture. There is no coup when you dance with the devil. And that is precisely what Lula and the PT are doing now, regardless of the historic failure of the PT's class conciliation. The result is already known.

Therefore, not supporting Lula in the first round is not only a task for those who call themselves on the left, but an obligation, a class commitment. The second round does not interest us at this moment. Lulismo and petismo try to present themselves as the only representatives of the Brazilian left. But this is not true. There are small political parties (PCB, PSTU, UP), which struggle daily to transform workers' consciousness and to alter the precarious conditions of their existence. Believing that there is only the PT horizon is a historic error.

Communists must go their way not based on an electoral victory, but on a political victory. 13 years of PT governments led to total demobilization and a lack of class consciousness on the part of workers. It's no use beating Jair Bolsonaro in the election if the conditions for a critical conscience do not accompany this victory. Radically transforming Brazilian society will not be the product of an election. The fight is day-long and goes far beyond the electoral process. Communists must not fear class independence from those who opt for conciliation and accuse these same communists of being responsible for “fracturing the left”.

Just as the Earth is round and constantly moving, so too will the struggle continue after this election, no matter who wins. The objective is to defeat Bolsonaro, but above all it is to end the overexploitation of the workforce, dependence, misery, hunger, unemployment, improve education, value the culture of the people, transform cities and the environment in favor of of its inhabitants and no longer serve as elements for the usufruct of the capital. These are the true tasks of the Communists and they will accompany us to the end.

*Flávio Magalhães Piotto Santos is a Master's student in Social History at the University of São Paulo (USP).

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