four years later

Image: Paulinho Fluxuz


Something terrible changed in 2016, and it subverted the social relationship of forces in such an unfavorable way that a reactionary situation opened up in Brazil

“Do not let your memories outweigh your hopes” (Persian folk wisdom)

Four years after that unfortunate August 31, 2016, we can try to attribute meaning, in a historical perspective, to the accumulation of defeats that brought us here. Something terrible changed in 2016, and it subverted the social relationship of forces in such an unfavorable way that a reactionary situation opened up in Brazil. Workers and the oppressed masses suffered many partial defeats between 1985 and 2015 – the Diretas Já were hijacked by Tancredo and brought Sarney to power, for example – but nothing comparable.

Lula conquered, between 1978 and 1989, the confidence of the immense majority of the workers and popular vanguard. Lula's prominence was an expression of the social greatness of the Brazilian proletariat and, paradoxically, of its political innocence. Between 1978 and 1989, Lula won the trust of the immense majority of the workers' and popular vanguard for his courageous role at the forefront of strikes.

A young and poorly educated working class, newly displaced from the miserable confines of the poorest regions in the previous fifteen years, without previous experience of union struggle, without a tradition of independent political organization, however, concentrated in ten large metropolitan regions and, in the sectors more organized, with an indomitable disposition to fight. A restless, angry, and unruly powerful working class.

A very combative social giant, but intoxicated by reformist illusions. An immense expectation that it would be possible to change society without a major conflict, without a break with the ruling class, was in the majority, and the strategy of “Lula there” rocked the expectations of a generation. The dream came true with the 2002 election victory, but turned into a nightmare thirteen years later.

The demonstrations on Paulista, from March 2015, and with a national dimension between March and April 2016, gave visibility to almost underground nuclei of an exalted extreme right, and managed to set in motion, on a scale of millions, middle sectors and even , minority, popular (articulated, predominantly, from evangelical sects), and took the institutional right – PSDB, DEM, and MDB – in tow.

A defensive situation opened up in Brazil from the point of view of workers' interests. Lula's trial was just as monstrously political as Dilma's. Any illusion in LavaJato's neutrality proved fatal. Therefore, it is presumable that the Habeas Corpus will be refused and Lula will not recover his political rights and will not be able to run in 2018.

It is unlikely that it will be possible to mobilize against the decision pending in the second panel of the STF. However, no one on the left should remain neutral in the face of Lava Jato's selectivity. This operation preceded and ignited the offensive that began in March 2015, went through impeachment, Lula's arrest, and culminated in the election of Bolsonaro. It was functional to ensure the displacement of the middle layers, and had a profound impact on the demoralization among the workers. But it doesn't explain everything. It is also necessary to consider the significance of the governments led by the PT.

A four-decade political cycle, the PT's uncontested hegemony on the left, has been slowly coming to an end since 2016. Processes of this dimension can only be explained by the accumulation of strategic defeats, therefore, by many factors.

Throughout this historical cycle, there were many oscillations in the power relations between classes, some favorable, others unfavorable for workers and their allies. Periodization can be helpful:

(a) we had a rise of proletarian and student struggles, between 1978/81, followed by a fragile stabilization, after the defeat of the ABC strike until 1984, when a new wave infected the nation with the campaign for Diretas Já, and sealed the negotiated end of the military dictatorship;

(b) a new stabilization between 1985/86 with the inauguration of Tancredo/Sarney and the Cruzado Plan, and a new peak of popular mobilizations, headed by the power of a CUT supported by the strength of combative unions, against the superinflation that culminated with the electoral campaign that took Lula to the second round of 1989;

(c) a new brief stabilization, with the expectations generated by the Collor Plan, and a new wave from May 1992, boosted by unemployment and, now, by the hyperinflation that culminated in the campaign for Fora Collor;

(d) a much more lasting stabilization with the inauguration of Itamar and the Real Plan, an unfavorable inflection towards a defensive situation after the defeat of the oil workers' strike in 1995;

(e) resistance struggles between 1995/99, and a resumption of the mobilization capacity that grew, in August of that year, with the demonstration of the 2002 by Fora FHC, interrupted by the expectation of the PT and CUT leadership that a victory on the electoral horizon of XNUMX would require a policy of alliances, which would not be possible in a context of social radicalization;

(f) social stabilization over the ten years of coalition governments led by the PT, between 2003 and June 2013, when an explosion of mindless popular protest took millions to the streets, a process that was interrupted in the first half of 2014;

(g) finally, a very unfavorable reversal with the giant reactionary mobilizations of the middle class inflated by the Lava Jato denouncements, between March 2015 and March 2016, when a few million offered support for the legal-parliamentary coup that overthrew Dilma Rousseff, ending the historical cycle.

This cycle was the last phase of the belated but accelerated transformation of agrarian Brazil into an urban society; the transition from the military dictatorship to a democratic-electoral regime; and the history of the genesis, rise, apogee and decline of the influence of PTism, later transfigured into Lulism, on workers; throughout these three processes the ruling class managed, by “leaps and bounds”, to avoid the opening of a revolutionary situation in Brazil like those that Argentina, Venezuela and Bolivia knew, although, more than once, pre-revolutionary situations had opened up. revolutionary actions that were skilfully blocked and circumvented, restoring governability.

The election in 2002 of a president with a working-class background in a semi-peripheral capitalist country like Brazil was an atypical event. But it wasn't a surprise. The PT no longer worried the ruling class, as in 1989. A balance of these thirteen years seems irrefutable: Brazilian capitalism was never threatened by PT governments.

PT governments were class collaboration governments. They favored some progressive reforms, such as the reduction of unemployment, the increase in the minimum wage, the Bolsa Família, and the expansion of Universities and Federal Institutes. But they benefited, above all, the richest, keeping the liberal macroeconomic tripod intact until 2011: the guarantee of a primary surplus above 3% of GDP, the floating exchange rate around R$2,00 per dollar and the target of controlling inflation below of 6,5% per year.

The silence of the bourgeois opposition, and the undisguised public support of bankers, industrialists, landlords and foreign investors, should come as no surprise, while the external situation was favourable. When the impact of the international crisis that opened in 2011 arrived, in 12/2008, the unconditional support of the ruling class was fractured. Then came the downfall.

Therefore, although Brazil is less poor and ignorant than it was seventeen years ago, it is no less unfair. The historical balance is devastating: the Lula leadership allowed itself to be transformed into the prey of the Lava Jato operation, demoralized itself in the face of the working class and youth, and handed over the exasperated middle classes (due to accusations of corruption, inflation in services, the increase in taxes , etc.) in the hands of the power of Avenida Paulista, paving the way for an ultra-reactionary Temer government, anteroom of Bolsonaro's election. They are not innocent. This is not what a generation fought so hard for.

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


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