Bolsonaro won in the first round of the Brazilian general elections and could possibly be the next president of the republic. He received support from about 33 percent of the 147 million voters. Haddad (the PT candidate) received support from about 21 percent of voters. Of the total voters, 27.32 percent (more than 40m) decided not to vote for any candidate. This is an expression of the feeling that runs through the streets.
The so-called "valid votes" counted by the Electoral Court produce the false impression that the winner has the majority of the population on his side.
The PSDB was swept away: it went from 54 deputies elected in 2014 to 29 now. The MDB fell from 66 to 34. The largest number of deputies remains with the PT, despite falling from 88 elected in 2010, to 69 in 2014, and now 56.
Bolsonaro’s PSL has gone from one to 52 deputies. The PSOL has grown from six to 10 deputies, despite failing to get its candidate anywhere near the presidency. Only 240 deputies were re-elected, out of a total of 513. With these results – and the expansion of political polarisation – a new situation has opened up in Brazil.
The proletariat is without political representation
When the Marxists departed from the PT in 2015, we explained that the party had broken with its historic labour base and the youth. We also argued that the PSOL could become the alternative for the reconstruction of the political representation of the working class. After more than three years, the vote in this first round has confirmed our analysis of the PT. However, the PSOL is very far from being a mass labour party.
The PT lost in all proletarian centres, as it had lost in the municipal elections two years ago. It also lost votes in the working-class neighbourhoods of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Minas Gerais, and, indeed, across all major cities more generally. It has become a party that survives more and more on the basis of remote areas, rather than being a party of workers and youth – a party that represents the proletariat. The electoral map, including the Northeast, shows this.
The PSOL, meanwhile, has increased its number of deputies, but is far from a mass party. Its presidential candidate, Boulos, had the worst candidate-to-president vote in party history. This says a lot about the "tactic" of trying to be the "other PT", rather than defending socialism. If the party managed to have the best vote for any "left" deputy in São Paulo, this is due more to the bankruptcy of the PT than to confidence in the PSOL.
The political bankruptcy of the representation of the proletariat has led to what journalists and commentators have called the "conservative wave" or "rightist wave," which almost saw Bolsonaro elected outright in the first round.
This is a critical situation. With the current policy of the PT, this scenario will hardly be reversed in the second round. The question for the Marxists, for socialists in general and for those who want to fight alongside the proletariat, is: what is the best way to fight Bolsonaro?
What does Bolsonaro represent?
Situating Bolsonaro in an international context, it is inevitable to compare him with the growth of other extreme right-wing politicians and parties: Trump in the USA; Marine Le Pen in France; The League in Italy; the AfD in Germany and so on. At the same time, there are differences. For example, Trump defends protectionist measures and job creation within the United States. Bolsonaro and his economist, Paulo Guedes, defend an ultraliberal economic policy, of submission to the international market (with Bolsonaro even saluting the United States flag), privatisation of everything that is currently state-owned, the end of the labour rights that still exist – such as the ‘13th salary’ (an additional monthly wage given once a year), vacations, pensions, etc. Obviously, his demagoguery about arming the population against the ‘bad guys’ is a blatant lie, which he intends to circumvent by extending the license to kill that the police already have and encouraging repression against workers' and youth organisations.
What is similar between the cited international cases and Bolsonaro is that they all ride an anti-establishment wave that runs through the base of society. Such phenomena have a common origin: the deep crisis of capitalism, which is the root of the international political instability and the demoralisation of the so-called ‘moderate’ formations of the ‘left’ and right, who took turns in power to administer this system.
Placing Bolsonaro within this global perspective helps us to understand that a good portion of his constituents are not made up of macho, racist, dictatorial, fascistic types – although he does enjoy the support of fascist groups. Amongst his voters are some proletarians, caught between the violence of the drug traffickers and the police, who long for the means to defend their families. There are also young men, angry with politics, who want to put someone in power who will simply burn the whole rotten edifice down. Additionally, there are, of course, petty-bourgeois elements, frightened by the crisis, who want to lower the cost of living with tax breaks and cuts to labour protections.
However, today there is no organised fascist party with a mass base capable of assembling battalions to attack workers' organisations, even if the fascist groups feel more comfortable to act in this climate of social polarisation. There is no social basis for sustaining a brazen dictatorship. Supporters of the military dictatorship may make a lot of noise, but they are a minority.
The need for the bourgeoisie to promote an offensive of the state apparatus in the repression and criminalisation of the struggles of youth and workers is unquestionable. However, a dictatorship or a fascist regime would have to defeat the working class, which is currently disoriented but not defeated.
Bolsonaro is, in fact, the deformed and degenerate expression of the hatred of various social layers against the establishment and politicians. His policies include violent repression, destruction of public services, privatisations without limits and, therefore, will lead to further unemployment and suffering. Bolsonaro does not have a fascist party behind him, but he can certainly use the repressive instruments and levers of state power to impose his reactionary agenda. This cannot be ruled out, but it would require, first, the defeat and destruction of workers' organisations to make them abandon even their own demands.
Moreover, Bolsonaro did not have (until recently) the support of the national and international big bourgeoisie. The most enthusiastic support he received in the first round was from the ultra-reactionary layers of rural Brazil, former police officers and the most degenerate evangelical sects. The sectors of the native bourgeoisie that have joined Bolsonaro are still marginal. The fact that bourgeois politicians are now supporting him in the second round represents an attempt to control Bolsonaro, while continuing to enjoy the spoils of exploitation.
Some left-wing activists – frightened about the idea of a coup, the imminence of fascism and dictatorship – will begin to see qualities that never existed in the PT and the governments of Lula and Dilma. Under the pressure of events, they are capitulating. Others cannot understand the difference between Bolsonaro on the extreme right, and the bourgeois-worker party (as Lenin characterised the Social Democracy) in the form of the PT. These are the sectarians who declare that it doesn’t matter whether the winner is Bolsonaro or Haddad, and they will spoil their ballots in the second round.
The current political situation is a minefield. The bourgeoisie knows that a wrong step could lead to explosions of struggles with a revolutionary character. The ghost of June 2013 still haunts them.
The PT and its governments betrayed the working class, made vicious attacks against it and submitted to the interests of international capital. Lula and other PT leaders politically destroyed a mass party, constructed by the working class, as a tool of struggle. The consequence has been a disorganisation of struggles and confusion that has culminated in the current situation.
For this reason, the PT lost its base in the urban proletariat, the factories and the youth, and sustains its electoral base mainly on the basis of the past, when there was some economic growth, which allowed for more jobs, and greater consumption based on easy credit. The fact is that, today, the objective economic situation, both nationally and internationally, has changed: there is no room for manoeuvre. There is no choice but to attack the workers. The proletariat will face the challenge of reorganising, resisting and fighting; overcoming the obstacles that insist on blocking and deflecting its path.
The PSOL’s results
What was seen in these elections was a presidential candidate from the PSOL with reformist rhetoric and petty-bourgeois orientations, guided by electoral opportunism. This prevented the party from presenting itself as an alternative to the PT, that would stand against the current system, and serve as a point of organisational expression for the working class. Emblematic of their completely mistaken policy, from the point of view of the working class and youth, was the publication of the electoral programme: "50 Boulos recipes". This was presented in the format of a cookbook, trying to imitate Pablo Iglesias, who published his programme in the format of an IKEA furniture catalogue. In his programme, Boulos praised and offered incentives for "entrepreneurship": much like the PT saying it wants to develop capitalism.
Faced with the political failure of his campaign, in the final stretch, Boulos declared himself "against the system". But this was already useless given the 50 recipes that he had been defending, and lacking any means to differentiate himself from the PT and Lula.
All this prevented the PSOL from gaining the support of those who no longer believe in the current political system, in the way Podemos in Spain, France Insoumise, Corbyn in Britain and even Bernie Sanders in the USA have been able to do, despite their limitations.
Boulos’ candidacy and campaign were huge mistakes by the PSOL leadership. They annulled the party as a possible alternative, disarmed its militancy and resulted in an electoral regression that was enormous in relation to previous results. This was a campaign without identity, without personality and with a right-wing, reformist programme that even defended "entrepreneurship". That is: encouraging youth and the working class down a path to success in capitalism. As a consequence, Boulos had the worst vote in the history of PSOL, which contrasts with the growth of the party's congressional deputies.
The PSOL must distance itself from the policies that led to the fall of the PT or it cannot develop as a true socialist party. All efforts of the Marxist Left must be directed towards assisting in the construction of an independent, mass socialist party.
It was with these objectives in mind that the Marxist Left participated in the elections, focusing its campaigns on politically organising activists and supporters. It was in the spirit of class independence that we refused to touch a single cent of bourgeois state money offered through partisan and electoral funds. These campaigns were entirely funded by supporters, which guaranteed complete political independence.
Nothing is decided yet. An open battle will commence to win the 27.32 percent who did not vote for anyone, as well as the voters of all the other candidates. In the second round, we will fight to defeat Bolsonaro.
The Marxist Left invites all its supporters to vote against Bolsonaro in this second round of elections. We will vote for the PT, without any confidence in Haddad’s programme. The only objective is to bar Bolsonaro. Our struggle is to wipe out this whole rotten capitalist system and establish a real workers' government, to expropriate the bosses and democratically plan the economy.
The Bolsheviks learned in August 1917, under the leadership of Lenin and Trotsky, to counter Kornilov's counterrevolutionary coup, without giving any support to the Kerensky government, which repressed the Bolsheviks in July, arrested Trotsky, and forced Lenin into exile. In Germany, in the early 1930s, the Communist Party, under Stalin's direction, refused to stand with the German Social-Democratic Party – whom they called "social fascists" – against Nazism. This criminal leftism allowed for the coming to power of Nazism and then the massacre of Communists and Social Democrats. Trotsky, in a 1932 letter on the situation in Germany, said:
"There are seven notes on the musical scale. The question of which of these notes is ‘better’: Do, Re or So, is a meaningless question. But the musician must know when to play and which notes to play. The abstract question of who is the lesser evil – Brüning or Hitler – also lacks any meaning. You need to know which key to play. Is that clear? For those who do not understand, let's quote another example: if one of my enemies forces me to swallow small daily portions of poison, and another enemy, lurking in an alley, is about to shoot directly at me, then I will first take the hand of my second enemy, this will give me an opportunity to get rid of my first enemy. But that does not mean at all that the poison is a ‘lesser evil’ compared to the revolver."
The issue in this second round is to "take the revolver" away from Bolsonaro and to continue the fight against the "poison": the attacks that a PT government would also implement. Between the two possible options, it is best for the working class to reorganise its forces and prepare for future victories.
In all those states where there will be second-round elections between bourgeois parties for the position of state governors, the Marxist Left invites all its activists and supporters to spoil their ballots or abstain.
There is no defeat, no demoralisation, and no fascism around the corner. What exists is social polarisation, a failed regime, a lack of revolutionary leadership, and betrayal by the traditional leaders of the working class. However, there is also a mass of people willing to fight, who will do so when they find a channel to express their indignation. An intensification of the class struggle is on the horizon; and it is in the streets, factories, workplaces and schools that our enemies will have to be defeated.
The Marxist Left invites everyone to discuss these issues in the open meetings about the results of the first round that we are organising. We invite all activists and sympathisers to join our organisation, to fight together, to help build the proletarian party that the working class needs.