What to expect from the presidential elections in Brazil

Since being freed from prison, ex-president of Brazil Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (known commonly as Lula), has had his conviction nullified, been found innocent, and had his political rights restored. Now he is in first place in the opinion polls for the upcoming presidential elections in October, on 46% as against 29% for the current president, Jair Bolsonaro.

But Lula, of the PT (Partido dos Trabalhadores, ‘Workers’ Party’), has chosen as his deputy a historic opponent of the PT, his staunch bourgeois adversary, the former governor of the state of São Paulo, Geraldo Alckmin. What can we expect from the elections, and from a likely future Lula-Alckmin government?

As the deadline approaches for political parties to announce their presidential candidates, we can start to see more clearly the outlines of the electoral channels through which the class struggle will be able to express itself, in a deformed way, at the polls in the coming months of campaigning in the national election.

On the one hand, large sectors of the bourgeoisie clamour for a “third way” (read: a bourgeois candidate capable of presenting themselves as a viable alternative to both Bolsonaro and Lula), but they are unable to consolidate this desire. Important sectors of the bourgeoisie placed their bets on Sergio Moro (the judge who sent Lula to prison, and who later became the Minister of Justice in the Bolsonaro government). He later resigned from the government at the onset of the pandemic (after spending almost a year and a half with Bolsonaro), and he sought to present himself as a more responsible representative of the big bourgeoisie.

Moro was hit hard by the leak of messages published by The Intercept, which clearly revealed that he had acted illegally and partially as a judge in order to arrest Lula, as well as to convict business owners and politicians linked to the PT government. Meanwhile, he spared those linked to the parties of the bourgeoisie, like Alckmin’s PSDB. 

Even though this scandal led to the annulment of all of the convictions against Lula, Moro still put himself forward as a presidential candidate. But given the fact that opinion polls showing only 6 to 9 percent of voters intended to vote for him, Moro ended his run for the presidency a few weeks ago in order to have a go at being elected as a deputy or senator.

Another bourgeois candidate, Ciro Gomes, who sought to present himself as a possible “third way” candidate, defends a kind of ‘national-developmentalism’. However, he does not enjoy the confidence of those most important sectors of the bourgeoisie that are subordinated to American imperialism (opinion polls placed him on about 7% of the voting intention).

Since Lula had his political rights restored (in March 2021), he has been seeking to build a kind of national unity against Bolsonaro around his own candidacy. Thus, he has had help from the very beginning, from Guilherme Boulos of the PSOL. As soon as Lula regained the right to run as a candidate, Boulos publicly announced that he would no longer run for president himself (and that he would instead run for governor of the state of São Paulo). However, this would not rule out the PSOL having a presidential candidate (we will return to this point later).

On the other hand, Lula invited none other than the former governor of São Paulo, Geraldo Alckmin – who has historically been a staunch, bourgeois opponent of the PT – to be his running mate. 

Geraldo Alckmin Mic Image JARDIEL CARVALHOLula has chosen Geraldo Alckmin, historically a staunch, bourgeois opponent of the PT, to be his running mate / Image: Jardiel Carvalho

Alckmin was the longest-serving Governor of the state of São Paulo (the richest and most populous state in Brazil). He had previously been deputy governor of the state, after having served as a constituent deputy throughout the 1980s. When Governor Mario Covas died in 2001, Alckmin took over the government until 2006. He then ran for president in 2006, losing in the second round to Lula. He returned as Governor of São Paulo again from 2010 to 2018,  supporting Dilma’s 2016 impeachment, and celebrating Lula’s arrest in 2018.

As governor, Alckmin was known for violently repressing the teachers striking against the attempted closure of 700 public schools (which was defeated by the movement of high school students occupying their schools); violently repressing protests against an increase in public transport fares (which culminated in the ‘June Journeys’ protests of 2013); privatising the subway and public services; and commanding the most lethal military police in the world (under his government, police officers in São Paulo beat their record for homicides – particularly of black youth – with a 96% increase in lethality).

In January 2012, under the command of Alckmin, the Military Police organised what became known as the “Pinheirinho Massacre”, where they displaced more than 2,000 families from their homes, which were then immediately destroyed in favour of the former owner of the land, a millionaire real estate speculator and friend of the governor. In this violent operation by the police of São Paulo, even children were killed.

Fast-forward to 2022, and Alckmin has left his traditional party, the PDSB (Social Democratic Party of Brazil – the main bourgeois party in Brazil) to become Lula’s running mate; and he has joined the PSB (Socialist Party of Brazil – a bourgeois party that presents itself as ‘socialist’). Now Lula calls Alckmin a “comrade”, on the grounds that in order to face Bolsonaro, the broadest unity is needed. In this way, they are increasingly consolidating the support of the majority of the Brazilian bourgeoisie for the Lula-Alckmin ticket, against Bolsonaro.

The situation in Brazil under Bolsonaro

There is a mood for struggle among youth and workers around the world – and Brazil is no exception. Despite the claims of much of the ‘left’ immediately after Bolsonaro’s election in 2018, the latter has been far from able to advance towards a fascist regime or a totalitarian dictatorship. His term has instead been marked by weakness, instability, clashes with majority factions of the bourgeoisie, and widespread hatred. 

Emotional Bolsonaro Image Fábio Rodrigues Pozzebom Agência BrasilBolsonaro's term has been marked by weakness, instability, clashes with majority factions of the bourgeoisie, and widespread hatred / Image: Fábio Rodrigues Pozzebom Agência Brasil

From the election campaign in 2018, through to 2019, and even during the pandemic in 2020 and 2021, there were massive demonstrations against Bolsonaro across the country. The only reason these demonstrations did not develop further – into a general strike culminating in the overthrow of the government – was the betrayal of the traditional leaders of the Brazilian labour movement.

The economic crisis also hit the country hard. Although it grew by 4.6% in 2021, GDP had dropped by 4.1% in 2020. The cumulative inflation in 12 months over 2021 was 10.06%, and it continues to increase. The national public debt reached R$5.6 trillion (US$ 1.1 trillion) by the end of 2021. The figure that the debt had reached by the end of 2019 – R$ 4.24 trillion (US$ 830 billion) – represented an increase of more than 30% in two years. 

According to official government data, unemployment was 11.1% at the end of 2021. But this index is quite distorted, as it arbitrarily disregards those who have given up looking for a job, those who work fewer hours than they would like, and workers in the informal sector. Thus, out of a population of 176 million people of working age (out of a population of 212 million inhabitants), the government only takes into account 97 million individuals in its calculations. Thus an unemployment rate of 11.2% would be equivalent to only about 13 million unemployed. However, according to government data gathered and organised by ILAESE (Latin American Institute of Socioeconomic Studies), in 2020 there were 58 million unemployed in Brazil, and another 33 million underemployed (workers in informal and precarious work); while only 44 million people were employed with salaried work and 29 million were retirees who do not work.

According to the survey by the Brazilian Research Network on Food and Nutrition Sovereignty and Security, 125 million Brazilians (more than half the population) live with some degree of food insecurity, and of these, 33 million are hungry. Officially, there have been more than 650,000  fatalities from COVID-19 in the country (a number that is in reality much higher) – a direct result of the government’s policy of not promoting a lockdown, sabotaging social distancing measures since the beginning of the pandemic, and sabotaging the purchase of vaccines, in addition to campaigning against vaccination.

This is the Brazil ruled by Bolsonaro, and this is the decisive reason he is heading for electoral defeat in October. However, the mobilisation of the masses could have put an end to this hated government already. There was a willingness on the part of the rank and file to do so, but the leadership of the apparatuses (PT, PCdoB, CUT, UNE, of the large unions) gradually dismantled the struggle to overthrow the government. Thus, since the end of 2021, the youth and workers, without a decisive leadership, began concluding that the only possible way out (or the most economical way out), would be to put an end to the Bolsonaro government through the electoral process.

The fight for a PSOL candidate

Following last year’s restoration of Lula’s political rights and the announcement by Boulos (who had been the presidential candidate for PSOL in 2018) that he would no longer run for president, the federal deputy from Rio de Janeiro, Glauber Braga, put himself forward as ‘pre-candidate’ for the presidency of the republic for PSOL.

His candidacy was supported by Esquerda Marxista (Marxist Left), the Brazilian section of the International Marxist Tendency. However, there was no consultation with the rank and file of PSOL – not even a teaser, nothing! The only decision-making forum that put forward the position of comrade Glauber’s ‘pre-candidacy’ was a “national electoral conference” held on 30 April. 

Plenário do Senado Federal durante sessão solene do Congresso Nacional destinada a homenagear a União Nacional dos Estudantes (UNE) pelo aniversário de 80 anos da entidade. ..Em discurso, deputado Glauber Braga (PSOL-RJ)...Foto: Roque de Sá/Agência SenadoGlauber Braga, the federal deputy from Rio de Janeiro, has put himself forward as ‘pre-candidate’ for the presidency of the republic for PSOL / Image: Roque de Sá/Agência Senado

But this “conference” was not composed of elected delegates from the rank and file of the party. It consisted only of members of the National Committee (DN) of PSOL. They called it an “electoral conference”, but it was just another meeting of the DN, restricted to its 61 members. And what was the outcome of that vote? 35 voted in favour of PSOL entering the coalition around the Lula-Alckmin candidacy, as against 25 votes in favour of the PSOL presenting Glauber Braga as its candidate for president (a member of the DN was absent due to health problems, otherwise it would have been 35 to 26).

That is, even in this undemocratic decision-making process, the proposal to launch a PSOL candidacy still obtained 42%. Far from a vast majority in PSOL in favouring joining the Lula-Alckmin candidacy, there is a divided leadership. Furthermore, most of the 35 members of the DN who approved this decision are from those currents that have carried out so-called “mass affiliations” to the party in recent years, with the aim of winning a majority in the PSOL congresses; but they hardly represent the majority of the actual active membership of the party (the PSOL has about 25 internal currents, among them the Esquerda Marxista).

If PSOL launched the candidacy of comrade Glauber Braga with a programme of breaking with capital, it would be able to obtain support from a considerable part of the Brazilian proletariat. This programme would be particularly popular amongst the youth, who reject Bolsonaro and no longer have illusions in Lula and his class conciliation policy: a part of the proletariat and its youth are seeking the instruments needed to fight against capitalism and for a new society!

Whether or not it would be feasible for the PSOL to reach the second round, there is no way of knowing. In addition to the fact that all the opinion polls carried out and published so far have not included Glauber’s pre-candidacy (in an evident boycott of the PSOL), there is no way of knowing how voters further to the left would behave in the face of a Lula candidacy with Alckmin confirmed as his deputy. As Glauber’s candidacy was blocked, we will never know.

It was to be expected that all the major bureaucratic currents of the PSOL would adopt this position of adherence to the Lula-Alckmin candidacy from the first round. But to the surprise of some, what secured this position as the majority in PSOL’s ‘Electoral Conference’ was the adherence of two of the currents claiming to be ‘Trotskyist’. These so-called ‘Trotskyist’ tendencies of PSOL believe that in order to face what they call ‘neo-fascism’, we must engage in the broadest united front from the first round onwards – irrespective of Alckmin being Lula’s running mate.

For our part, there is no doubt that in an eventual second round between Bolsonaro and Lula, the PSOL should support Lula’s candidacy with all its strength – even with Alckmin as his running mate – to defeat Bolsonaro. It would be a situation of “class against class”, despite the support of important sectors of the ruling class for the Lula-Alckmin ticket. However, PSOL should not renounce its own candidacy and programme in the first round of October’s elections. By not having their own candidate, the possibility is removed of the most advanced layers of the working class practically expressing their struggle independently of the bourgeoisie in the election. 

The ‘Trotskyists’ who adopted this position during the dispute in question inside PSOL, committed at least three mistakes:

The first of these three mistakes is the impressionistic error of characterising what we are fighting as ‘neo-fascism’. If that were the case, we would not even have the opportunity to debate electoral tactics, as there would not even be elections in which a party like the PSOL could be allowed to participate (nor the PT, for that matter). Just look at what the current Ukrainian regime has done to working-class parties (and we are not even claiming that Zelensky’s government is fascist, although it does rely on some neo-Nazi organisations and has incorporated them into its armed forces).

Bolsonaro may have the ambition of heading a fascist-type regime, but between his desire and reality there is a huge gap. We are not even close to such a regime in Brazil. The precise characterisation of the Bolsonaro government was made by Esquerda Marxista in November 2018, even before he took office. What we have is an attempt at a Bonapartist regime: weak, in crisis, and only capable of remaining in power because of the cowardice and betrayal of the leadership of the Brazilian labour movement (we will come back to this in detail later).

One of the speakers representing these ‘Trotskyist’ tendencies, in his speech at the PSOL Electoral Conference, added to the talk of supposed “neo-fascism” the statement that “a section of the ruling class wants to break with the liberal democratic regime”. According to this logic then, neo-fascism is in government, but the liberal democratic regime has not yet been broken. So that would be what exactly? A “liberal democratic neo-fascism”?!

And who exactly is this “section of the ruling class” within the big bourgeoisie in Brazil who continue to support Bolsonaro to the point of confronting the predominant portion of the rest of their class, who oppose Bolsonaro and continue to support bourgeois democratic institutions such as the Supreme Federal Court (STF)? And even among the tiny minority of the Brazilian bourgeoisie that really supports Bolsonaro, who among them would be willing to go all the way in an adventure of “breaking with the liberal democratic regime”, against the resistance of the majority of the bourgeoisie (not to mention the proletariat and its organisations)? We have to have a sense of proportion.

The second of the three mistakes those claiming to be ‘Trotskyists’ make, is to imagine that in confronting this supposed “neo-fascism”, we can rely on the bourgeoisie or upon sectors of it (like Alckmin). This is a serious misconception, the tragic consequences of which have already been demonstrated historically. The united front against Bolsonaro must be effective among all layers of the working class.

Only the unity of the working class can face down fascist reaction or even a scheme in that direction. Alliances between the working class and the bourgeoisie weaken the struggle of the proletariat against fascism. When the leaders of the working class govern together with the exploiting class (and therefore in defence of the interests of the latter) the proletariat loses confidence in its leadership and, if there is no alternative leadership capable of winning the confidence of the proletariat, the proletariat tends to lose confidence in itself. It can end up becoming demoralised. It can become out-flanked, and can find its most backward strata co-opted by the radicalised, reactionary petty bourgeoisie.

The phenomenon of “mass Bolsonaroism” only became viable in Brazil because of the PT’s policy of class collaboration. In other words, Bolsonaro’s presidency is a by-product of the policy applied by the Lula and Dilma governments in coalition with the bourgeoisie. The current Lula-Alckmin ticket is a new edition of the same problem and not a solution. The PSOL should not, therefore, adhere to this ticket, but should oppose it in the first round and only support it as a last resort to avoid an electoral victory for Bolsonaro in the second. This ticket could be used as an electoral instrument to remove Bolsonaro from power. But the resulting government will only prepare the ground for the strengthening of the phenomenon of “mass Bolsonaroism” later on. It was Trotsky who, criticising Popular Front policy in the 1930s, explained that class collaboration is the antechamber of fascism.

Some might argue that these ‘Trotskyists’ who defend PSOL’s support for Lula's candidacy also criticise the choice of Alckmin as his vice-presidential candidate – “it's a bitter choice”, said one of their representatives in his speech on 30 April. But, as Paracelsus already observed in the 16th Century, “what differentiates the medicine from the poison is the dosage”. In an eventual second round between Lula and Bolsonaro, a vote for the Lula-Alckmin ticket would indeed be a bitter, but necessary, pill. However, in the first round, PSOL’s support for this dish is a poison (and whether it is bitter to the palate is of little importance).

The third mistake of these ladies and gentlemen lies in seeking to mechanically apply to the Brazilian elections of 2022 the lessons that the Trotskyists drew from the classic historical example of Germany in 1933. The refusal of the Stalinist leadership of the German Communist Party (KPD) to make an electoral alliance with the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) was a political crime that made possible the electoral victory of Hitler’s Nazi Party in 1933. But, could it be said that, if PSOL launched its own candidate for president now, it would be committing the same sectarian mistake as the KPD of 1933? The answer is definitely, “no!”

The two scenarios are very different. And not just because Bolsonaro today does not have an armed and organised fascist-type mass movement, as Hitler did. The German elections of 1933 were very different from the Brazilian elections of 2022. Back then, there was no second round. The Nazi Party won with about a third of the vote. An electoral alliance between the KPD and the SPD would have easily prevented Hitler from winning the elections that year. Here, the PSOL could present its candidacy with a revolutionary programme and, should it fail to obtain the necessary electoral support in the first round, in an eventual second round between Lula and Bolsonaro it could then declare its support for Lula to defeat Bolsonaro.

And in the face of an improbable scenario in which there is the possibility of a second round between Bolsonaro and another bourgeois candidate (such as Moro, for example), and Lula was in third place fighting to go to the second round (as was Mélenchon in the recent French elections), PSOL could withdraw its candidacy and support Lula’s, thus taking him to the second round. The PSOL should never maintain its candidacy in such a scenario. This was the mistake of the French Communist Party – if it had withdrawn its candidacy in favour of Mélenchon, the latter would have gone to the second round against Macron, in place of Marine Le Pen, in the recent French elections.

In other words, from the point of view of electoral tactics to prevent Bolsonaro’s re-election, there is no justification for PSOL’s withdrawal of its independent candidate in the first round. Quite the contrary. Lula, with Alckmin as his vice-presidential candidate, increasingly presents himself as standing for order, for the system, for the status quo. Without a PSOL candidacy, the youth of the exploited classes who want change find themselves with no choice but to vote for Lula or Bolsonaro (or abstain or spoil their ballot). If there’s anything that can still give Bolsonaro some chance of winning an electoral victory this year (which is quite unlikely), it’s if he manages to magically present himself as the representative of “throwing out the status quo” – even though he’s at the head of the government. Unbelievably, Lula is giving Bolsonaro a great help in this regard, presenting himself, alongside Alckmin, as being “in defence of the institutions”. It is not by chance that since Alckmin was confirmed as Lula’s vice-presidential candidate, Bolsonaro has made a small recovery in the opinion polls.

Another argument used by the fraction of ‘Trotskyists’ in the majority leadership of the PSOL to justify their support for Lula is that “we failed to defeat Bolsonaro in the mobilisations of last year… Therefore, it will have to be in the electoral field!” At the end of the PSOL Electoral Conference, a public event was held with the participation of Lula. One of the “Trotskyists”, Valério Arcary, took to the floor to expand on this argument:

“These were very hard years. Let’s be honest. It wasn’t just the pandemic. Our attempts to mobilise on the streets... We gathered 10,000 in some cities, in others 20,000, and 50,000 in others. In São Paulo at times we exceeded 100,000. That wasn’t enough. And there was no shortage of reasons for millions to take to the streets. The problem is that it’s not enough that things are really bad for people to fight. That’s not enough. Tragedy is not enough. Catastrophe does not pave the way for revolutions. People need to believe that it is possible to win. It is a transformation, a shock to the mentality, in the consciousness of tens of millions of people that does not occur merely through individual experience. There needs to be a process of struggle that makes consciousness take that leap. What we didn’t conquer last year on the streets is now the challenge… the challenge is tough, we’re going to have to conquer it in the elections.”

To say that it is necessary for people to believe that it is possible to win in order for them to mobilise is merely stating the obvious. No one takes to the streets to protest without believing in the possibility, however small, of victory. But if, as Valerio says, there was no lack of reasons for millions to take to the streets, then what happened? Valério argues that people did not believe it was possible to win. Is this reading correct? Let’s see.

In May 2019, less than 5 months into Bolsonaro's government, more than two million people took to the streets in a single day against Bolsonaro’s cuts to education spending. Those mobilisations were dubbed the “Education Tsunami”. At that time, Esquerda Marxista was practically alone in raising the slogan, “Bolsonaro Out!” on the streets. This slogan was seized by the youth in struggle, who shouted, “Bolsonaro Out!” in all corners of the country. Oblivious union and student leaders, when faced with the slogan chanted by the protesters, also repeated it in the microphones and sound cars: “Bolsonaro Out!” But the leaders of the organisations rushed to prevent a movement to overthrow Bolsonaro from emerging. The press reported that a meeting between leaders of the PT, PCdoB, PDT, PSB and PSOL had concluded, at the urging of Lula (who was still in prison), that they should not use the slogan “Bolsonaro Out”. Thus, the leadership of the workers’ and youth organisations managed to transform the “Education Tsunami” into a small wave of mobilisation that ended up being completely incapable of preventing the approval of Bolsonaro’s pension counter-reform in the following months.

Those demonstrations in May 2019 were bigger than the demonstrations in 2021, when the bureaucratic leadership finally decided to belatedly raise the call, “Bolsonaro Out”. They did so only in order to channel the growing movement across society into safe institutional channels, first through innocuous calls for impeachment, and then relegating the battle to the 2022 elections.

Valério Arcary seems to be unaware of this process, or else it has slipped his mind. He forgets that when we called for PSOL to join the call for “Bolsonaro Out” in 2019, it was his allies in the party that fought us at the meetings of the PSOL National Committee. Has Valério forgotten who gave a speech in front of the Metalworkers Union in São Bernardo, when Lula was released from prison, saying that we should not fight to overthrow Bolsonaro, and that we should “respect the four-year democratic mandate”?

The line of reasoning set out by Valério seeks to exempt the leaderships of the workers’ parties, the trade union confederations and popular movements from any responsibility. He seeks to absolve Lula in particular of any responsibility. According to Valério, there was no decisive sabotage by the leadership to stymie a mass movement to overthrow Bolsonaro from developing. If we give credence to the claims of this “old Trotskyist” (as he introduces himself), we must conclude – as he evidently has – that responsibility for our failure to overthrow Bolsonaro lies with the masses; because they did not take to the streets, despite having numerous reasons to do so.

But it is necessary to go deeper. With this speech, Valério seeks to exempt himself from responsibility. He was the one who, for more than a year, wrote article upon article fighting our political line of agitating for “Bolsonaro Out”, accusing us of being “Belakuninists” and the like. It was he who, while there were two million young people on the streets in May 2019 shouting “Bolsonaro Out”, wrote that “it is not yet time”, called for calm, sought to convince the youth that it was necessary to be cautious, and that we were in an “unfavourable situation”. The conclusion we have is that these so-called ‘Trotskyists’ have been guided by a feeling of fear based on an impressionist reading of reality. And now they come to say “we tried but failed”?! That “we mobilised 100,000 on the streets”?! Millions took to the streets – not because these gentlemen put them there, but actually in spite of all the efforts of Valério, Lula, Boulos and their comrades. They guaranteed that there was no fight against Bolsonaro by claiming that “it was not yet time” or that people had to “respect the democratically won mandate to govern for four years”.

Now they present the “only way” to defeat Bolsonaro as a fait accompli: through bourgeois elections.

How can the proletariat express itself in the presidential elections?

Faced with the absence of a candidacy of its own in the PSOL – one with a clear programme of struggle for socialism, of a rupture with the current order – the support of the majority of the proletariat for the Lula candidacy grows stronger by the day; and this despite Alckmin being his running mate. Such is the desire to defeat Bolsonaro.

There are still three presidential candidates to the left of the PT. Two from parties of the Stalinist tradition of the [ultra-left] “third period” type (UP and PCB), and one from a Morenoite background (PSTU). However, Brazilian electoral legislation requires that in order for a party to have the right to participate in television debates, it must have a minimum parliamentary representation in the National Congress; and these three parties do not have any elected deputy. Thus, they are very weak candidates with very little weight; practically invisible to the eyes of the masses and therefore incapable of winning the trust of important layers of the proletariat.

Thus, in a contradictory manner, the proletariat’s vote for Lula to defeat Bolsonaro will be the way that the feeling of “class against class” expresses itself; although the most important sections of the ruling class also support the Lula-Alckmin ticket.

The real class conflict will therefore not take place over which candidate to vote for, but on the content of that vote:

  1. For the big bourgeoisie and imperialism, the vote for the Lula-Alckmin ticket and its political and financial support will be based, first of all, on Lula’s commitment to governing for international finance capital (a commitment which includes, among other issues, ensuring about half of the national federal budget will pay for the public debt). It will also be based on Lula’s promise to promote social peace by reconciling the interests of antagonistic classes – unlike Bolsonaro, who promotes open class confrontation, against the will of the bourgeoisie, in addition to provoking friction between institutions of the bourgeois state.
  2. For the proletariat, the vote for Lula, despite his faults, will be a vote to remove Bolsonaro from power, revoke the counter-reforms imposed under his and Temer’s governments, and for new measures to achieve greater rights for the workers.

Evidently, Lula has already sealed his commitment in favour of the interests of the bourgeoisie. This is the meaning of the choice of Alckmin as vice-president: a guarantee, a kind of ‘safety lock’ that Lula himself has given to the bourgeoisie so that, should he fail to govern in the interests of capital, the bourgeoisie can replace him (by any means convenient to them), and have a faithful representative like Alckmin ready to fill the seat of the presidency without the need for new elections.

Although Lula’s programme then includes the “repeal of Temer’s labour counter-reform”, for example, once elected Lula will work for only minor revisions, and nothing that would restore labour rights.

This contradiction (between the meaning of the proletariat’s vote for Lula, the workers’ expectations in a new government headed by the PT, and the programme that will actually be applied by it when elected) will lead to a new political and social crisis that will force a new repositioning of all the pieces on the board of Brazilian politics.

A large part of the left-wing leaderships and organisations will participate in an eventual Lula government, probably including those who currently control the leadership of PSOL. But the fumes of the electoral victory over Bolsonaro will soon evaporate, and popular dissatisfaction with the new government will grow as each day passes. On the right, a Bolsonaroist opposition will seek to use this to grow and try to re-elect Bolsonaro in future elections (or one of his children if he’s ineligible). On the left, it will be up to those capable of developing an independent class opposition to seek to gain the confidence of sections of the proletariat in this process. PSOL will be permanently put to the test, as will the PT itself, the CUT, and all the leaderships of the labour movement.

With the constant threat of Bolsonaroism returning to power, for a while Lula will still be able to enjoy a certain tolerance on the part of the heavy battalions of the working class. But the PT leadership of the CUT [the trade union confederation] no longer controls the union rank-and-file as it did in the past. Sooner or later, this dissatisfaction will explode into open struggle in the factories and on the streets. Whether this will happen sooner or later, as well as the degree of radicalisation of these movements, will depend on the capacity of the workers’ organisations to develop a policy of independence from the government among workers, in addition to ensuring that such struggles are not susceptible to assimilation by the Bolsonarists.

All this is, of course, predicated on Lula’s electoral victory over Bolsonaro resulting in a smooth transition. Although it is evidently not in the interest of any section of the bourgeoisie, we cannot completely rule out the possibility that Bolsonaro will not recognise his electoral defeat and attempt a coup that may go further than the theatrics of the Trump supporters that we saw at the Capitol in January 2021. Although the Biden administration has already warned Bolsonaro not to go down that path, there is no way of knowing for sure how far this rogue’s nonsense will go. However, an adventrist coup by Bolsonaro would further accelerate the contradictions and could lead to an explosive movement in the streets that Lula would find difficult to control.

This is the perspective that flows from the cards now being drawn from the deck. But this will also be subject – and brutally so – to the broader context of the international class struggle and the global crisis of capitalism. The mass struggles that we saw  developing in recent years – and growing in quantity and quality just before the advent of the pandemic – can and are destined to take off again, as the imperialists have no other alternative but to behave as they are doing. Their wars mean the deterioration of workers’ rights and conditions, in addition to privatising and scrapping public services in order to extract ever greater quantities of surplus value produced by the world proletariat as a whole.

Firmly maintaining our political line of class independence; calling for a critical vote for Lula; criticising his programme and his alliances, starting with the vice-president; and presenting a programme of rupture with the bourgeois order and confrontation with capital, through the concrete demands of the working masses – this is how we will be able to advance our revolutionary policy in the coming months in Brazil.

The foreseeable future is one of a powerful intensification of the class struggle at the international level. The absence of a mass Marxist International leaves the proletariat struggling to unite its fights together. The struggle for the expropriation of the bourgeoisie and the planning of the economy under workers’ control in the different countries where the conditions for this are presenting themselves must be taken up. For our part, we continue to build the International Marxist Tendency as a point of support for the development of this international instrument so necessary for the working class and humanity. Join the IMT!