The victory of Jair Bolsonaro in the second round of the Brazilian elections represents a huge political step backwards for the country and the Brazilian people.
We do not share the cynicism of bourgeois analysts who speak about the legitimacy of the system and “consolidation” of the democratic institutions.
A candidate who explicitly defends dictatorship and torture and who stimulates street violence against opponents which has led to deaths and injuries, should not be treated as a “normal” candidate.
The violence which the ex-army captain has encouraged has already cost lives, such as that of teacher Mestre Moa do Catendê, who was stabbed 12 times for criticising Bolsonaro or the 23 year-old Charlione Lessa Albuquerque, son of a CUT trade unionist, shot by a Bolsonaro supporter on a pro-Haddad (PT candidate) demonstration.
A week before the elections, Bolsonaro publicly threatened his opponents with exile or prison and a video in which his son, Eduardo Bolsonaro (MP) threatened to shut down the Supreme Court, has been widely circulated.
Bolsonaro will not be a “normal” President. He was elected on the basis of a sequence of coups and abuses which followed the institutional coup which brought down Dilma Rousseff (former PT President). There is a great risk to democratic rights and this must be said loud and clear.
Following his victory, even in the midst of an operation to calm the atmosphere, Bolsonaro continued to make threats. In interviews with the national newspaper, Rede Globo, he said that when he spoke of banning all “red bandits” from the country, he was “only” referring to the leaders of PT and PSOL (Party of Socialism and Liberty, in which LSR – CWI in Brazil – participates) and made direct attacks against Guilherme Boulos, PSOL candidate and leader of the homeless workers movement MTST.
The elements of an undeclared “state of emergency” which were already present in the country since the 2016 coup will be deepened. The role of the judiciary in this process has been key. We must remember how they locked up the candidate who was favourite to win these elections (Lula) making the way for Bolsonaro, and ignored the revelations about the corruption surrounding Bolsonaro’s campaign.
Illegal financing, estimated at at least 12 million Real, from big business which financed a mass campaign of “fake news” in favour of Bolsonaro on private social networks was even denounced by the Organisation of American States (OEA) as unprecedented in democracy.
The Supreme Electoral Tribunal did nothing about this. It was only revealed by a special report in the main paper, Folha de Sao Paolo. This paper, and the journalist who wrote the report, are today being threatened by Bolsonaro.
It is also no coincidence that just before the second round of the elections, at least 17 universities suffered police interventions simply because students, teachers and other workers had exercised their democratic right to protest against proto-fascist ideas and practices.
Intimidation and suppression opposition and of the right to protest was already happening before Bolsonar took power. What can we expect now?
Proto-Fascist Practices and Ultra-Neoliberal Policies
Despite not being their first choice, big capital first tolerated and then directly supported Bolsonaro. Their mission is now to contain some of the excesses of the ex-captain but at the same time to take advantage of his “iron fist” to apply tough and radical neoliberal attacks.
They are prepared to tolerate many abuses in the name of deep cuts, mass privatisations and pension counter-reform.
They know that the majority of Bolsonaro voters did not vote for him expecting a worsening of their living conditions, a loss of rights, and that sooner or later, discontent will come.
With the exception of an openly reactionary section of society, a big part of the 39% of total votes (57 million voters) for Bolsonaro are from people who are sick and tired of the political system, who want to see a radical change and saw no alternative on the left.
The remaining 61.8% (89 million) who did not vote for Bolsonaro (accumulated votes for Haddad, blank votes, spoiled votes and abstentions are not prepared to accept policies which attack their fundamental rights.
Despite this, even if it promises to respect the constitution, the government will tend to increase the Bonapartist elements which already exist. Together with this, Bolsonaro is already opening the way for violence by para groups and fascistic elements, to complement his authoritarian government.
There could be divisions and conflicts within the ruling class in the face of increasing Bonapartism from the government. We should seek to understand, stimulate and take advantage of these divisions. However, we also need to understand that only the organised power of the masses, the working class and all the exploited and oppressed can face up to the authoritarianism and attacks of Bolsonaro.
We Will Not Abandon the Streets
The victory of Bolsonaro is a defeat for the workers movement and worsens the social and political balance of forces from the point of view of the oppressed. However, this scenario is still being defined and will be determined in the days to come. The balance of forces is also defined by concrete action by our class and our organisations of struggle.
Therefore, it is crucial to participate in the mass demonstrations for 30 October in the different state capitals called by the Frente Povo Sem Medo (Front of People without Fear). We must make clear that we will not abandon the streets and will not accept threats and intimidation of movements.
The actions of the student movement on the day after the elections, with actions called to counter attempts by the pro-Bolsonaro right wing in the universities, are examples of how we need to take our places in the streets, workplaces and neighbourhoods and not leave any space for proto-fascist groups to make progress.
The defence of democratic freedoms will be a fundamental banner in all our struggles. We also must warn of the danger that Bolsonaro and Temer will immediately make alliances in parliament to implement attacks like the pension reform.
For them to pass this attack on public pensions now, before Bolsonaro takes power, would free Bolsonaro from the enormous damage which passing this reform would do to his government. Once more Temer is playing a rotten role.
This includes preparing the ground for Bolsonaro by passing the decree which created a new Intelligence force, led by the current Minister for Security, the reactionary General Sérgio Etchegoyen. It will be a tool which, beyond organised crime, will be used against public opposition.
The Trade Unions and other social movements must mobilise against these counter reforms, especially the pension reform and the attacks on democratic rights. We must create the conditions for the workers movement to take strong measures, such as the great general strike of April 2017, which stopped the pension reform at the time.
In the days before the second round a broad movement of activists was reborn, often spontaneously, which took actions, organised leafleting, door-knocking, meetings in town squares, action on social media etc, against the far right and Bolsonaro.
Many committees of struggle, democracy brigades and anti-fascist fronts were created. A new layer of activists was born and many returned to activity, generating huge hope and solidarity.
This movement needs to be continued and strengthened. The organisation of the struggle from below can give real power to the movement and guarantee democratic participation and decision making. Organisation on a territorial level, in workplaces, schools, and universities, on a broad and democratic basis, to organise the resistance against the government and far-right gangs, is crucial.
The guaranteeing of our security can only be achieved by collective organisation. Actions of solidarity, political pressure, mass actions and also practical self-defence, can only be effective if collectively organised. This is a task which the mass organisations of the working class must clearly assume, with the participation of every committee, brigade and local group.
For a United Front of the Socialist Left
The task of the moment is the building of a united front of all working class organisations in resistance to Bolsonaro and the far right and its neoliberal authoritarian agenda.
Beyond the united front of the working class, which brings together the trade union federations, social movements and working class parties, we must also build even broader unity in action with democratic organisations and civil society. This applies mostly to the defence of democratic rights from attack.
However, it is necessary to understand that the basic motor for this struggle must be the united and coordinated action of the working class and the oppressed. Only our class organisations can make the necessary connection between the defence of democratic rights and the fight against the neoliberal agenda and anti-working class measures. At this time, authoritarianism and neoliberal measures go hand in hand and must be fought together.
In this struggle the socialist left must stimulate a debate about the re-organisation of the Left. We cannot win against the far right without a deep understanding of how we got here. This means a deep understanding of the failure of the policies of class conciliation and adaptation to the system adopted by PT and the Lula-ist camp.
The experience of this current defeat will only be useful if, in the process of resistance and struggle, wide sections of the working class and youth, women and other oppressed sectors arrive at conclusions about the need to build a new political force of the socialist Left, based on the direct struggle of the working class, organised from below, radically democratic and with an anti-capitalist and socialist programme to solve the current crisis.
This Left alternative must come from both PSOL and what it has accumulated until now, but also must be even broader, involving alliances with the MTST and other social movements. This should push forward the re-organisation of the working class Left and the combative sections of the workers, students’ and popular movements.
The far-right has channelled a lot of the popular discontent partially because it could present itself as something new, radical and outside of the system. In truth, they only represent continuity and the deepening of the current order and its chaos.
We, the consequent socialist Left, must offer the working class and poor as a whole a new, radical, combative banner filled out with the ideas of equality, solidarity, democracy and socialism
To the struggle!
First published in english at SocialistWorld.net.