Oct. 29 — People in São Paulo, Brazil’s largest city, came out into the streets following the announcement that pro-fascist Jair Bolsonaro won the Oct. 28 presidential election. Their message: The struggle may be in a worse place than a day earlier, but the struggle continues.
This continuing struggle requires international solidarity of working-class organizations worldwide, including those in the U.S., with the Brazilian left and with that part of the population that resists the new president and his reactionary program.
The retired army captain got 58 million votes compared to 47 million votes for Fernando Haddad of the Workers Party (PT). Based on Bolsonaro’s Oct. 7 first round victory, 46 percent to 29 percent, this result was no surprise. Haddad’s coalition drew closer, but still fell short.
Bolsonaro is an extreme right-winger, a fascist. He insults women, attacks unions, supports using the army to kill people in the shantytowns or favelas whom he considers criminals, dehumanizes LGBTQ people and threatens communists with death.
He also praises the generals who ran Brazil from 1964-85 and murdered 30,000 people, criticizing them only for not killing another 30,000 left-wing activists and union organizers.
He has a base in the military itself and in the militarized police. He also has the support of the majority of the pastors of the evangelical churches, who preached that Bolsonaro was a savior and the PT were devils. The churches attract 20 percent of Brazil’s 208 million people. Washington supported them for decades to counter the influence of liberation theology based in the Catholic Church.
At this difficult moment, there are important questions to answer: What happened so that the PT lost a significant number of votes from sectors of society that voted for it earlier and that Bolsonaro attacks? And how should the Brazilian left proceed to defend their people and organize to reverse this serious setback?
While the PT transferred wealth to very poor Brazilians during an earlier period of economic growth, it never mobilized them for independent action. Nor did it confront the wealthy capitalists, leaving them the lion’s share of economic growth.
During the economic downturn after 2009, it was inevitable that the Brazilian ruling class and middle class would resist and finally refuse to share dwindling profits with tens of millions of poor. The banks and oligarchs targeted PT leaders, whom they considered the problem. Brazil’s rich had the full support of U.S. imperialism, which was caught spying on President Dilma Rousseff, the second of the PT presidents.
Growing poverty and unemployment drove more people into precarious work. Crime grew. The usual corruption rampant in any capitalist society spread among the politicians. Meanwhile, petty crime and growing violence made the poor feel unsafe and susceptible to appeals for law and order.
No class collaboration
Although all the capitalist parties were knee deep in corruption, megamedia outlets like O Globo focused their attacks on the social democratic PT as if that party invented bribes. The rich wielded the judiciary against the PT, a tactic known as “lawfare.” Congress, half of whose members are under suspicion of corruption, nevertheless impeached Rousseff and, in a frame-up, drove her out of office in 2016.
As this year’s election drew closer, Lula da Silva, the most popular PT leader, was jailed for alleged corruption in another lawfare maneuver to keep him from contesting the election. Lula led early polls. He was a much better known and more popular political leader than Haddad, an academic.
During the second round of the election, nearly all Brazil’s rich — along with the Wall Street Journal and the Donald Trump administration — backed Bolsonaro.
The lesson is that the PT’s attempt to collaborate with the Brazilian capitalists crashed. The ruling class rejected it. The temptation to conciliate with the capitalists should die with this experience.
In the end, some of the poor were susceptible to the lies that the PT was to blame for everything wrong. Some accepted fascist Bolsonaro’s phony image as an outsider coming to clean up politics. All will soon learn that the new president’s economic program will impose even more inequality and hurt all but the very rich.
In an attempt to keep Bolsonaro from winning the presidency, the PT, the Communist Party of Brazil, the Socialism and Liberty Party and the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB), as well as the Brazilian Socialist Party, united. They, along with unions and the organizations of landless and homeless people, the women’s movement that mobilized under the slogan #EleNão (Not him) and the LGBTQ movement, organized anti-Bolsonaro demonstrations of tens of thousands.
Already vicious forces inspired by Bolsonaro’s violent rhetoric have attacked and killed people, merely for being for Haddad.
Today the PCB issued a statement: “It is necessary immediately that all popular and democratic forces should unite around the building of a broad anti-fascist front, which should mobilize the various social sectors dissatisfied with the election of Bolsonaro and those who will have their rights hit by the attacks to come.”
Something like this anti-fascist front would have been needed even if Bolsonaro had lost. Now it is an emergency situation, as is the need to show solidarity with Brazil’s anti-fascists. Day one of the resistance.