Oct. 8 — The first round of elections in Brazil took place yesterday and, as expected, left the ultra-rightist Jair Bolsonaro facing the Workers Party (PT) candidate, Fernando Haddad, in the run-off election on Oct. 28.
What was less expected from polling during the last week of the campaign was that Bolsonaro would come as close as he did to the 50 percent needed to win on the first round. He got 46 percent. Haddad, with 29.3 percent, finished a strong second, but was still far behind Bolsonaro.
In terms of electoral politics, this leaves the Workers Party and their allies in an uphill battle in the three weeks before the second round. The PT needs to hold on to their votes and win nearly all the votes of the center, center-right and leftist parties. The other possibility is that the ultra-rightist candidate exposes his weaknesses on how his economic program will hurt workers and poor people who may have voted for him as a sign of protest.
Brazil’s class struggle goes beyond electoral politics, so the Brazilian left must organize in the streets as well as for the voting booth.
For the left, Haddad, a university teacher of Lebanese ancestry who was once mayor of Sao Paulo, is representing the PT. Running for vice president with Haddad is the candidate of the Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB), Manuela D’Ávila, a former youth leader. The PT, the PCdoB and the small Party of Social Order make up “The People Happy Again” coalition on the ballot.
The first to bring the struggle to the streets were a half million to a million women and their supporters, who demonstrated in Brazilian cities large and small on Sept. 29, marching under the slogan #EleNão (not him, meaning not Bolsonaro).
Ciro Gomes, candidate of the Democratic Labor Party (PDT), has already thrown his support to the #EleNão movement for the second turn.
Guilherme Boulos, the leader of the Homeless Movement and candidate for the leftist Socialism and Freedom Party (PSOL), wrote, “Now we will be in the streets to defeat fascism and elect the candidate who represents democracy on the second round: Fernando Haddad. #EleNão.” (Vermelho, Oct. 8)
Cops, the political section of the military and many members of the evangelical churches — about a quarter of Brazil’s population — support Bolsonaro’s candidacy. Winning the election for the PT is an important goal, but it is only the first step to defending the Brazilian working class and all the oppressed. It is only the first step in defending democratic rights.
Who is Bolsonaro?
The ultra-right candidate, a former army captain who served seven terms in the National Assembly with little accomplishment, has said he supported Brazil’s 1964-85 military dictatorship. He openly rants against women, LGBTQ people, Indigenous people, Venezuelans and other immigrants, and calls for more open cop and army violence against alleged criminals in the poor neighborhoods, the favelas, in the big cities like Rio de Janeiro.
Bolsonaro runs for the newly formed Social Liberal Party. His vice presidential candidate is Gen. Antônio Mourão, a former general in the Brazilian Army. As could be expected, he too is pro-militarist. While Bolsonaro was not the favorite candidate of Brazil’s big bourgeoisie, they hate the Workers Party more.
Brazil’s super-rich ruling class tolerated the first PT governments under Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva (2003-11) in a period of unprecedented prosperity. At that time the PT passed laws aiding tens of millions of Brazil’s very poor. Once the price of raw materials collapsed, and the economy shrunk, this ruling class has waged a vicious austerity offensive against all of Brazil’s working people.
The right wing first impeached and removed PT President Dilma Rousseff from office with a parliamentary coup in 2016. The succeeding government of current President Michel Temer started rolling back the social security programs.
They have especially attacked Brazilians of African descent — who are half the population — and the remaining Indigenous peoples. They have also attacked women’s rights on the job and elsewhere and increased persecution of LGBTQ people, even before Bolsonaro’s rhetoric took it a few steps further.
When it became apparent earlier this year that Lula was the leading candidate in the presidential election and might well win, the judiciary framed him to keep him in jail and off the ballot. The media giant O Globo kept up a continual campaign against the PT and its leaders and railed against “delinquency” in the poor neighborhoods, while it attacked “corruption” of all politicians.
U.S. imperialism has been lined up with those in Brazil who want to remove the PT from office and keep them out.
While O Globo did not support Bolsonaro — his supporters even attacked O Globo reporters for alleged “fake news” — its attacks on the PT fertilized the ground for his fascist-type campaign. He has been compared to Donald Trump or Rodrigo Duterte of the Philippines. There was a report that ultra-rightist publicist Steve Bannon aided his election campaign.
Bolsonaro was stabbed while campaigning on Sept. 6 and apparently barely escaped with his life. This may have actually helped his campaign as he avoided all debates where he might expose his own weaknesses. Instead he played the outsider and wound up in first place. The struggle continues.