The first round of the Brazilian elections are over. Our priority and central struggle now is to help the working class defeat Bolsonaro at the polls on 30 October. For this, first of all, it is necessary to understand the real proportion of votes in the first round. The 57.2 million votes for Lula and the 51 million votes for Bolsonaro correspond to 48.4 percent and 43.2 percent of the so-called “valid votes”. However, when we consider the total of 156.4 million voters eligible to vote in Brazil, it is clear that Lula received a vote of 36.6 percent of them and Bolsonaro only 32.6 percent, that is, less than a third.
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Although Lula won 6.2 million more votes than Bolsonaro in the first round (and therefore he is much more likely to win in the second round), the fact is that the political line of Lula's campaign is a recipe for defeat, as we warned months ago. And even this significant advantage can be lost. The reason why the Bolsonaro government, so hated by the majority of the population, was not decisively defeated in the first round, is none other than Lula’s political line of national unity with the bourgeoisie.
The Marxist Left [IMT in Brazil] launched the slogan Fora Bolsonaro! (“Bolsonaro Out!”) in March 2019, in opposition to virtually all parties, tendencies and left-wing leaders, from the PT to the PSOL, including Lula. Everyone remembers that Lula came out of prison openly opposing the “Fora Bolsonaro” movement and defending the idea that Bolsonaro’s four-year term should be respected. The truth is that the Bolsonaro government could have been overthrown before 2022, on the streets. However, the leaderships of the labour and youth movement (PT, CUT, PSOL, PCdoB, UNE, the large unions) blocked the development of mass mobilisations against the government – in particular those that took place between May and July of last year – and worked to channel popular discontent into the electoral arena, that is, into the territory of the bourgeoisie.
Bolsonaro, at the head of the state machine, used all the weapons available to him to contain his drop in popularity. He used a series of electoral measures, such as raising Auxílio Brasil (formerly Bolsa Família, a social welfare programme) to R$600.00 and increasing the number of beneficiaries; tax reductions to reduce the price of gasoline; benefits for truck drivers and taxi drivers etc. Improvements in general economic indices (even if timid and fleeting) and the pandemic finally starting to be brought under control (which, of course, occurs despite Bolsonaro) may also have benefited the government at this time.
Bolsonarismo: an enduring minority
In any case, the result of the first round demonstrates that Bolsonarismo was able to maintain a loyal base of voters, electing a series of deputies, senators and governors in the states. But this observation cannot lead us to impressionistic evaluations that inflate the real strength of Bolsonaro and his followers. The numbers also show that they continue to have minority support in society as a whole and that, most likely, Bolsonaro is the first president who will fail to be reelected in Brazil since the reelection rule was passed. Bolsonaro only won in 2,192 municipalities, while Lula won in 3,378. Bolsonaro was defeated in 660 cities that he had won in 2018, including São Paulo, the largest city and the main political and economic centre in the country.
However, it is essential here to analyse the results of Lula and the PT, and their inability to win a majority of votes to defeat Bolsonaro in the first round. It is necessary to understand why, for example, the Lula-Alckmin candidacy was not able to mobilise the more than 38 million who did not vote for anyone (including blank votes, spoiled ballots, and abstentions) in these elections. It is true that polarisation has reduced the number of “non-votes”, in particular blank and spoiled ballots, but even so there was a huge number of voters who did not vote for any candidate. This can only be explained by the persistence of a general discrediting of elections, parties and candidates, that is, of bourgeois democracy.
The meltdown of the more traditional bourgeois political parties is another demonstration of this. The PSDB, the preferred party of the bourgeoisie, the one which is most aligned with international finance capital, is in crisis and has not managed to stand a candidate for president. In São Paulo, where they have ruled since 1994, their candidate for government and current governor (Rodrigo Garcia) did not even make it into the second round. The so-called “third way”, as in 2018, produced poor results.
At this juncture, the line developed by the PT is one of defence of bourgeois democracy, the bourgeois order and its institutions: it is a line of class conciliation. Lula has put his signature to a statement in defence of the rotten bourgeois institutions and forms alliances with bourgeois parties and candidates (represented by his running mate, Geraldo Alckmin). On the eve of the first round, he met with businessmen and bankers. This is the line of defeat, which led the PT to shipwreck and prepared the ground for the removal of former president Dilma Rouseff from the presidency and propitiated the growth of Bolsonarismo.
It is worth remembering that the popularity of the Dilma government was around 10 percent on the eve of impeachment, and the PT suffered numerous electoral defeats in recent years, particularly in the country's main political and economic centres. Today, after the experience of 13 years of governments of class collaboration with the bourgeoisie and countless betrayals in that period, added to attacks by the same bourgeois institutions it defends, including the public ridicule of Lula and his imprisonment, the PT has not even a shadow of the political authority it once had.
In this first round, we saw the Brazilian left mostly carrying out the most right-wing campaign since the end of the country's dictatorship. Candidates from the PT, PCdoB and PSOL expressed, for the most part, policies of a liberal left, crying out in defence of bourgeois democracy, and postmodernism, expressing a ‘polyclass’ and identity-based perspective for public debate. It is necessary to note the absence of any debate based on the struggle between exploiters and exploited, which would unify the brutal experience of all layers of the proletariat under the Bolsonaro government. In view of this, numerous layers of the proletariat were led to interpret the situation through superficial lenses, reflecting religious and moral prejudices, which are disseminated by the direct and indirect agents of the ruling classes.
Critical support for Lula
Yet despite all this, the vast majority of the working class and conscious youth are using the visible tool at hand – Lula’s candidacy – to defeat the Bolsonaro government. Despite Alckmin, despite the defence of bourgeois order, despite a political line that does not encourage a militant campaign, and which only in recent weeks made an effort to increase mobilisation in street rallies.
The Marxist Left has already defended a critical vote for Lula in the first round and reaffirms this position for the second round. Vote for Lula to defeat Bolsonaro and continue the fight for the immediate and historic demands of the working class. We also reaffirm that in this second round, in São Paulo, Bahia, Sergipe and Santa Catarina, we defend a critical vote for PT candidates for governor against the candidates of the bourgeois parties.
Whatever the final result of this election, it is necessary to strengthen the independent organisation of youth and workers. Bolsonaro may be defeated, but Bolsonarismo survives and has achieved a significant base in parliament. Social polarisation and the emergence of populist and far-right political expressions are not unique to Brazil. The recent Italian elections gave the victory to a party with a direct historical connection to Musollini; in England, Boris Johnson's successor, Liz Truss, bases herself on Margaret Thatcher (albeit with little success); in the US, Trumpism is still going strong.
On the other hand, the working class seeks to express its resistance and fight by all means at its disposal. Thus we have seen the recent election of Boric in Chile, Petro in Colombia, the massive vote for [PSOL leader] Boulos in São Paulo, as well as the possible election of Lula as president. We are also seeing the wave of strikes in the US and UK and the uprising of Iranian women in recent weeks. The deep international crisis of the capitalist system can only result in more attempts by the ruling class to attack the proletariat and this will lead to more and more class struggle. There is no solution under capitalism, neither in Brazil nor in any country in the world.
It is necessary to explain, act, fight, win more and more young people and workers to a line of class independence and struggle for socialism. Most of the young people who took to the streets since the demonstrations against education cuts in 2019, who surprised the frightened left by defying the government in mass mobilizations already in May of that year, this youth who turned the 2020 Carnival into a festival “Fora Bolsonaro”, and who later beat pots and pans and organised to overthrow Bolsonaro in the midst of the pandemic and took to the streets last year, this youth supported Lula’s candidacy in this 1st round to get rid of Bolsonaro. This youth represents a perspective of the future for the working class and to it, mainly, we address ourselves.
In this 2nd turn, we will continue the struggle that we carried out in the first. We will fight for a critical vote for Lula, explaining, at the same time, the rottenness of the capitalist regime and the need for a socialist revolution to stop the path towards barbarism.
The Marxist Left participated in these elections, running candidates that had no illusions in the bourgeois institutions, shaped by and for the enemy class to maintain their domination. We explained the need for struggle and organisation to build a new society. The resolution of the National MS Conference, held on 2-3 July, defined our objectives in electoral intervention:
“The success of our electoral intervention will not be measured, in any case, by the number of votes in the candidacies presented, but rather, and fundamentally, by the number of new comrades won, of new cells constituted and, also, by the collection made to guarantee the financial independence that guarantees political independence and that provides the means for building the revolutionary organisation.”
Our campaigns explained the truth, presenting a revolutionary platform, explaining our analysis and the need to fight for the construction of a new world, placing as a central task, in each activity, the strengthening of the revolutionary organisation. We handed out leaflets in schools, universities and workplaces; organised meetings and debates; gathered new contacts and have already begun to integrate new militants into our ranks. A great effort amidst the sea of adapted and opportunistic campaigns, including among the left. We are proud to fight this fight by refusing funds from the party and electoral fund, defending the militant self-financing of parties and candidates that represent the working class.
We also salute the re-election of comrade Glauber Braga [PSOL] to the position of Federal Deputy in Rio de Janeiro, supported by the Marxist Left. This means the continuation of a mandate on which we fought important joint struggles, such as the fight against the PSOL forming a federation with the [bourgeois party] Rede and for the party to have its own presidential candidate. The results of the PSOL, such as the increase from 10 to 12 federal deputies, could have been even more impressive were it not for the policy developed by the party leadership, of adaptation to the PT and class conciliation. May the mandate of comrade Glauber continue to be a point of support for the organisation and struggle of young people and workers.
Until 30 October, we defend the maximum possible unity and mobilisation to defeat the Bolsonaro government. We invite everyone to join us in this fight, and to join the ranks of the Marxist Left.
Down with capitalism!
For a workers' government, without bosses nor generals!
Long live international socialism!