Three tactics divide the left in the face of the Lula government

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By VALERIO ARCARY*

One should not participate in or unconditionally support the government. But one cannot be, unconditionally, against the government, in the face of the neo-fascist threat

“A path is made by walking. The shortest path is not always the straightest” (popular Portuguese proverb).

There are three distinct assessments of the Brazilian political situation, three assessments of the Lula government, and three tactics. Tactics are choosing a path. The context of measuring the social relationship of forces establishes the marks of differences in the conjuncture analysis.

The majority view on the moderate left is that the situation is quasi-counterrevolutionary. The opposite perception in the more radical wings is that it is almost pre-revolutionary. This article defends a third opinion: we are still in a reactionary situation, but the inversion of the conjuncture, due to Lula's victory and the change in the political balance of forces, introduced transitory elements.

Not so bad, not so favorable. The calculation of the social relationship of forces must not be reduced to the assessment of the turbulence of conflicts between the government and Congress, even less to the result of votes in the Chamber of Deputies. But one cannot ignore them, considering the difficulties of mass popular mobilization.

Who's right? The discussion is only possible if we reach an agreement on the metric. The metric refers to a “ruler” measuring the respective positions of the classes in struggle. What supports this method is the analysis of objective and subjective factors. They are always interrelated, which requires a “jewelry” in fine tuning. The material is, essentially, the unfolding of political facts, such as, for example, the repercussion of the siege of Bolsonaristas by the Superior Courts, or the intransigence of the Central Bank, clashes in the field of class struggle, such as movements, occupations and strikes; the information available through opinion polls; and those collected through the intervention of left-wing militancy.

If the situation is counterrevolutionary, a historic defeat has occurred and what prevails is a solid bourgeois unity, a majority in the middle sectors that supports the demands of the capitalists, and a division of a still demoralized working class. This review is an exaggeration. There is no bourgeois unity. A capitalist fraction entered the government, the mass of the bourgeoisie, in particular, the core of agribusiness remains Bolsonarist and in opposition, and there are sectors with one foot in the government and the other outside. The middle strata are also divided, and the majority mood in the working class is one of relief and anticipation. Lula has a high approval rating, above 50%.

If the situation is pre-revolutionary, what prevails is an irremediable fracture in the ruling class, a displacement of most of the middle sectors to the left, and a willingness to fight in the working class. This view is also impressionistic. There was no "turn". Tensions between capitalists are high, because there are important Bolsonarist reserves, but a recomposition has taken place, and there is no “real and immediate” danger of a new 8 de Janeiro coup.

A majority position prevails, making demands of the Lula government, pressing for an unconditional alignment with the US in the war in Ukraine, and for respect for the autonomy of the Central Bank. The middle layers do not maintain the same degree of alignment with the neo-fascists, but they are suspicious of the Lula government. And we, in the popular classes, are still far from a combative spirit.

If, however, we are right in assessing that we are in a reactionary situation, but in a different context, after Lula's victory, then we must recognize that the bourgeois unity that favored Jair Bolsonaro has broken down, that a portion of the middle sectors have distanced himself from the neo-fascists and, even without confidence, voted for Lula, and that the state of mind among the workers is one of great relief, even if the willingness to fight remains low. There are transitory elements, as we saw in the mobilization in response to the coup rehearsal on January 8, or in strikes by categories such as teachers in some cities and subway workers, but there is no upward wave. May 1st was very weak.

The assessment of a counterrevolutionary situation seeks to legitimize the defense of an alliance that incorporates Geraldo Alckmin and Gilberto Kassab, Simone Tebet and União Brasil, and a permanent negotiation with Arthur Lira and Rodrigo Pacheco in the National Congress to neutralize a hostile parliamentary majority. The argument is that if the situation is counterrevolutionary it would not be possible to govern “hot”. It would not be possible to seek support in social mobilization in the streets, because the masses would not respond, even if Lula assumed the role of the convening.

The strategy of “cold” governing, via concertation, obeys the view that there is no other form of governance possible. From this perspective, the Lula-3 government program cannot go beyond the common denominator of the Frente Ampla. Denominator is the most conservative position. The government is led by the left, but it cannot be a leftist government. This perspective explains the fiscal framework. A new tax regime with a Spending Ceiling with “discounts” would be the least bad possible. The outcome is a tactic of unconditional support for the Frente Ampla government.

There is a “grain of truth” in this assessment: it is still difficult to mobilize the masses. But the thesis is false and the tactics wrong. The balance of forces can never improve if we don't try to get workers and youth excited about a program that corresponds to their interests. To outsource this responsibility to unions and movements, as if the government's role should be one of “neutrality” is not serious. It's absurd.

Those who make the assessment that we are in a pre-revolutionary situation seek to legitimize the idea that the best tactic would be an immediate location as a left opposition. As a result, for example, they disregard the centrality of the fight for the arrest of Jair Bolsonaro, and magnify the complaint that the government has not suspended privatizations, prioritize the complaint of Fernando Haddad and downplay the demand for the resignation of Roberto Campos Neto from the Central Bank.

They argue that Lula's electoral victory has demoralized the extreme right, that Bolsonarism is no longer the main enemy, that it is necessary to build a support point for the mass struggles to come. The thesis that supports this strategy is that the absence of a strong left-wing opposition with visibility in denouncing the limits of the Lula government would facilitate the recovery of the influence of the neo-fascists.

There are, therefore, three distinct assessments of the Lula-III government. The first prevails in PT and PCdoB and defends that it is a Frente Ampla government, but would be committed to a popular-democratic project. The Lula government articulates an unstable alliance of political forces that united in the elections against Jair Bolsonaro and is in dispute. Evidently, everything that exists in life has contradictions, and is in dispute.

The question is to know exactly what is meant by the formula “in dispute”, because it covers up an unknown. What is really up for debate? In this view, what is in dispute is whether or not the government will go beyond the limits of neoliberalism. This bet is unlikely. The fiscal framework is a sign of respect for the search for a primary surplus, preserving the fluctuation of the exchange rate and a plan of targets for inflation, the tripod of the IMF. All announced or unannounced progressive reforms are under threat.

The second, opposed by the vertex, is that it is a normal bourgeois government, because, although led by a leader of popular origin, and articulated by the PT, it embraces a project of stabilization of peripheral capitalism. Nothing is in dispute. From this point of view, there would be no quality differences between the Lula government and the legacy of the governments of Michel Temer, and even of Jair Bolsonaro, even if the extreme right's strategy was bonapartist.

All would be bourgeois governments with a capitalism management program with a neoliberal strategy to raise the levels of super-exploitation of workers. But you can't fight everything and everyone at the same time. The tactic neither Lula nor Bolsonaro, or neither/nor, ignores the greatest danger that surrounds us. It would be as if the clock of history had turned backwards, and we would be in a similar situation to 2003. Only not. It's 2023, we've come from a seven-year long reactionary situation, and Jair Bolsonaro is not an unburied corpse.

The third position recognizes that the Lula-III government is one of class collaboration with the bourgeoisie, but it is an abnormal bourgeois government, because it is not the capitalist leaders who are in charge. ruling class. There are bourgeois in the government, but it is a government of abnormal business management, because it has Lula in the lead and the biggest party is the PT. This contradiction has enormous, “Mesopotamian” importance. The immense majority of the social base of the left believes and places hope in the government. This expectation is decisive for defining a fair tactic.

Because the central strategic issue that remains undefined is that Bolsonarism has not yet been defeated. Jair Bolsonaro is on the defensive, but the far right remains very strong. What is in dispute is whether or not the Lula government will be a point of support for mobilizations that defeat neo-fascists. Boosting the United Left Front against Bolsonarists remains central. In this context, one should not participate in or unconditionally support the government. But one cannot be, unconditionally, against the government, in the face of the neo-fascist threat. The path of social mobilization is the key to unblocking the situation.

* Valerio Arcary is a retired professor at IFSP. Author, among other books, of No one said it would be Easy (boitempo).


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