Brazil: Lula, elections and class struggle in 2018

The year has barely started and we’ve already seen large popular demonstrations all over Iran. Demonstrations, that had started with economic demands, developed into a revolt against the reactionary Islamic regime. In Tunisia, the youth have taken to the streets demanding employment and an end to IMF-imposed austerity policies. These two cases bring to mind, once again, the political instability that is spreading throughout the world and revolutionary explosions that may be detonated by little sparks.

[Written by Esquerda Marxista]

In Brazil, contrary to government propaganda, the economic crisis keeps deepening and the only escape for the capitalists is to intensify their attacks against the working class. The ratings agency Standard & Poor’s once more slashed Brazil’s credit rating, citing among the reasons for increased risk of investment in the country: the delay in approving “fiscal equilibrium” reforms, the growth of public debt, and the uncertainty surrounding the 2018 elections. That is, the market is putting pressure on the government and parliamentarians to accelerate measures of fiscal adjustment, in particular the approval of the pension reform.

On the other hand, the working class suffers unemployment. The official rate of 12%, already high, conceals the large increase of casual labour. The labour reform came into force in November, opening the way to exploitation and more precarious work conditions. Public services are increasingly being scrapped and public sector workers have received no wage adjustment, and some are receiving wages with a delay. Violence and police repression are rife in popular neighbourhoods. This is the mix that, added to the massive outrage against the current system, prepares a convulsive situation also in Brazil.

In the first semester of 2017 we witnessed large demonstrations, including the largest general strike in the country’s history and Brasília being taken by 100,000 demonstrators facing heavy repression. The treacherous role of the leaderships, in particular of the largest trade union federation in the country, the CUT, blocked the ascending wave, dismantling the 30th June general strike and running campaigns without really mobilising the rank and file. But it would be a mistake to say that the youth and workers are discouraged; what there is, in fact, is a will to fight that lacks a corresponding channel through which it can be expressed.

Elections amid the crisis

The political crisis is deep. The Temer government has reached record levels of unpopularity, the institutions are exposed and the politicians are demoralised, the ruling class is divided. A new Minister of Labour, Cristiane Brasil, was nominated by the Temer government even though she had previously been convicted in two labour-related lawsuits. The judicial power attempted to soften the shameful effects of that nomination and blocked her taking office, giving cover to a government already drowning in mud.

The political situation as a whole will leave a mark on this year’s elections. The crisis finds expression in the difficulty of the bourgeoisie in defining its candidate. Alckmin is their favourite name but he isn’t taking off in the polls. Henrique Meirelles, a name that pleases the markets, suffers ffrom having his image linked to the Temer government. This impasse leaves the door open to a candidate that may appear as “new”, such as João Doria, who had abandoned his candidacy after his fall in popularity as mayor of São Paulo, or the TV presenter Luciano Huck, despite his statements denying he wanted to make a presidential bid in 2018.

Bolsonaro, who isn’t the favoured candidate of the bourgeoisie, appears as a distorted and reactionary expression of the rejection of the political system, a phenomenon similar to Trump in the USA. And, like Trump, Bolsonaro is a bourgeois candidate who wishes to keep the capitalist system and the exploitation of the working class, and as such he should be unmasked by Marxist revolutionaries.

Lula is still ahead in the polls. But this does not mean the PT [Partido dos Trabalhadores – Workers’ Party] has regained the trust of the working class; it rather reflects a response against the right and, to an extent, a pragmatic comparison between today’s moment and the two Lula governments, when the economic crisis had not yet hit Brazil hard, leaving breathing space for illusions in reformism. The reality is that Lula and the PT follow their old policy of class conciliation, opening their arms to those they used to call “coup plotters”. An eventual new PT government would carry on with the subservience to the ruling class.

Lula’s trial

But the bourgeoisie has decided to end the phase of class conciliation. It intends to take the lead and directly apply the necessary measures to save the system. For this reason, they are discarding Lula and the PT.

The purpose of the Lava Jato criminal investigation, as Esquerda Marxista has explained, was to perform a “general cleansing” that appears to renew the political system, aiming to save the institutions from discredit  and popular anger. This operation has clear bourgeois-imperialist political and economic aims. We have stood from the beginning against Lava Jato and its attacks on democratic freedoms, with media shows, abuses, accusations and sentencing without evidence, opening the way to an increasing criminalisation of the social movements and a Bonapartist role of the judiciary.

We repudiate the political condemnations of Lava Jato, we stand against the sentencing of Lula without evidence, and we defend his right to be presidential candidate.

At the same time, with clarity, we are opposed to Lula’s and the PT’s policy of serving the interests of capital, conciliating the right wing, and adopting the corrupt governing methods of the bourgeoisie which led them to their current predicament. For this reason, Esquerda Marxista will not participate in the actions against Lava Jato on 24th January, the day of the trial, given that all the previous actions against Lava Jato were dominated by the defence of the policies of the PT governments and morphed into “Lula 2018” rallies. We do not give any support to the candidate Lula, even if we recognise his right to stand in the election.

An explosive 2018

In Brazil and the world, the contradictions of the system are sharpening. There is no  stable capitalist government. The masses are looking for solutions, they have already shown time and again in recent years that they are ready to fight, in some countries this is overflowing into revolutionary explosions, even with the boycotting and betrayals of the conciliatory reformist leaderships.

PSOL [Partido Socialismo e Liberdade – Socialism and Liberty Party] may play an important role in the present conjuncture, but it needs to distance itself from the reformism that led to the political failures of the PT and to link itself to the struggle of the working class. Therefore, we consider it a mistake that the political memo of the PSOL about Lula’s trial did not include a clear criticism of the policy of class conciliation of the PT governments, and that it ended with the defence of the “Rechtsstaat” or the “rule of law”, which in the last instance is a defence of the bourgeois state, its laws and its institutions.

In this year’s elections, the PSOL may grow as an alternative. Esquerda Marxista has argued since last year that the PSOL should present its own candidate on a class-based socialist programme. For this reason, we have always supported and are campaigning for comrade Nildo Ouriques to be the PSOL’s presidential candidate. We think that the revolutionary political line of this candidacy can tap into the dissatisfaction and revolt of the rank and file.

2018 has already started hot and big struggles are being prepared. In various cities around the country, there was an increase in transport prices and the youth has taken to the streets. The activists of Liberdade e Luta (LL) are in this struggle, defending free and universal public transport. LL is preparing its Revolutionary Camp on 25th to 28th January in Florianópolis to discuss the national and international political situation, the student struggle, the 50 years of May ’68, and the lessons of the Cuban Revolution.

The action of revolutionaries in the class struggle, side by side with the youth and workers fighting for their demands, is part of the struggle to raise the level of consciousness and organisation of the proletariat. This is the only way to overcome the crisis of leadership and to build a class party, a fundamental tool to bury this decadent capitalist system. This is the struggle of Esquerda Marxista, a tendency of the PSOL, the Brazilian section of the International Marxist Tendency. Join us!

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