Nov 12, 2018
The following article was translated from Lutte Ouvrière, the newspaper of the French revolutionary workers group of that name.
On October 22, with 55% of the vote, Jair Bolsonaro was elected president of Brazil. After having vegetated for 28 years on the sidelines of the national assembly, this retired Captain has made part of the population believe that his election can lead to a solution to their most urgent problems.
Bolsonaro based a big part of his campaign on demagogy about security, calling for the liberalization of gun sales and for harsher repression against all sorts of criminals. Violence poisons the lives of all Brazilians, and especially people who live in the favelas, the poorest neighborhoods. But this violence is the product of an extremely unequal society, where the police and justice system are openly on the side of the rich, where 60,000 people die from violence every year.
At the same time that he adopted the pistol quick-draw as his signature move, Bolsonaro posed as a “good man,” defender of morality, of patriotism, of religion, of propriety, with the support of the omnipresent evangelical churches, as well as the agricultural and industrial lobbies. He played on all the most reactionary, heinous prejudices, against Indians, black people, feminists, and homosexuals.
Standing for the most anti-communist far-right positions, Bolsonaro promised to machine-gun the “rabble of the Workers Party” and to “clean” Brazilian society of any partisans of the Venezuelan regime of Chavez and Maduro. Social protections, or landless peasants illegally occupying unused lands of the big owners, or anything that appeared even close to being of the left, however moderate, Bolsonaro labeled as part of the “red spectre” of collectivism. To perfect his image as a strong man, he draped himself with all the “virtues” of the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil from 1964-1984, carrying out bloody repression.
Bolsonaro’s election does not mean that the majority of the population in this country of 210 million people has become misogynist, homophobic, and nostalgic for the dictatorship. The victory of this politician of the extreme right expresses a massive rejection of the whole political class, left and right, mixed up in the same hatred.
This rejection is in the first place targeted at the Workers Party (PT) of Lula. He came to power in 2003, promising an honest government that would operate in the interests of the poorer layers of the population. Profiting from a favorable economic context, he put in place social programs that somewhat ameliorated the situation of the poorest people, but without really changing Brazilian society, which remained one of the most unequal in Latin America.
The PT acted as a loyal manager of the affairs of the Brazilian bourgeoisie. When Brazil was hit by the economic crisis in 2014, the PT made the working class and the poor pay for it. The 13 million unemployed and the return of inflation pushed many middle class people into the streets, fearing for their standard of living because their salaries, jobs and income were threatened. Corruption scandals in which the PT was implicated, following the example of the parties of the right, discredited it. Those who demonstrated by the millions in 2015 against the price of public transit, and in 2016 against the PT president Dilma Rousseff, expressed their discontent at the polls by voting for Bolsonaro.
After being around for thirty years, the PT has disappointed and demoralized its working class base, to the point that workers gave their votes to an open enemy of the workers. In the state of Sao Paulo, where the PT was created, its candidate, Haddad, got 16% in the first round and 32% in the second, against 53% and 68% for Bolsonaro. And in the city of Sao Bernardo – with more than 700,000 people, 300,000 of them wage workers with about 130,000 metal workers, site of the big auto plants, fief of the PT where Lula was an organizer and where he lived – Bolsonaro got 46% in the first round, 60% in the second, compared to 24% and 40% for Haddad.
Bolsonaro’s election is a political consequence of the economic crisis and its brutal aggravation. But it is also the result of the failures and treason of the left in power. Lula, the PT, as well as all the political forces which presented them as the only hope for the poor, bear a heavy responsibility for the extreme right taking power in Brazil.
The working class was capable in the past of carrying out important and determined struggles to defend its interests, even in the very difficult conditions of the military dictatorship. It continues to be the only force capable of offering a perspective to Brazil’s exploited.