Valerio Arcary from Brazil: Lula is free! What next?

Neither wait-and-see nor permanent offensive, we need a united front of the whole left.

Valério Arcary is a leading member of Resistência, a revolutionary socialist current inside the Party for Socialism and Freedom (PSOL).

Lula was a political prisoner. His provisional freedom after 580 days in jail is the biggest democratic political victory since far-right president Jair Bolsonaro took office in January 2019.  Although Lula’s release is conditional, it deserves to be celebrated. Looking ahead, Lula’s presence in protests and demonstrations raises the possibility of popular mobilizations on a much larger scale – developments that will depend heavily on what course Lula himself decides to pursue. In fact, what position Lula occupies in the fight against Bolsonaro’s government is the biggest unknown in the current political conjuncture. 

Recovering his full political rights is of immense importance and will encounter unyielding bourgeois resistance. Remember, the Supreme Court only ordered his release from prison pending his final appeals against previous convictions. 

The Supreme court rightly freed Lula, dealing a blow to Lava Jato (Operation Car War), but the right-wing legal campaign against him has not been defeated. The overturning on appeal of two guilty decisions in Curitiba (site of Brazil’s Fourth Regional Federal Court) depends on approval of a habeas corpus petition to the Supreme Court scheduled for late November. And there are no guarantees because seven more charges against Lula are set to be heard by the same courts that convicted him on previous trumped up charges. In other words, political struggle for Lula’s outright freedom is far from over.

The role that Lula decides to play in the resistance is a critical factor, emphasizing the need for a single united front of the Brazilian left. If Lula is willing to campaign across the country to help build mobilizations against Bolsonaro, the entire left must be willing to participate.

In reality, the Brazilian left is very divided, scattered among two dozen organizations and currents with their own structures, operating inside the big legal, electoral parties with varying degrees of influence. 

Faced with this situation, any serious analysis reveals only three possible tactics. There are those who counsel a wait-and-see approach, those who defend launching a permanent offensive, and those who advocate a united front. Of course, these concepts have a history and refer to tactics accumulated by the international Marxist left.

Wait-and-see is associated with the leadership of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD) under the guidance of Karl Kautsky, while Bela Kun, a Hungarian leader of the Third International, pushed the idea of a permanent offensive by the left, which resulted in the defeat of the German revolution in 1923. Lastly, the united front tactic was devised under the inspiration of Lenin and Trotsky.

Today in Brazil, those who defend wait-and-see start from the premise that we have suffered a historic defeat. They conclude that the situation is counterrevolutionary and it will require years for the working class to regain its fighting ability. These analysts see any premature push by our side that would overextend our forces and open the path to a more powerful blow from the right as the greatest danger. Thus, we must not risk untimely action.

Advocates of the permanent offensive assume that the defeat we have suffered was essentially electoral, leaving working-class forces intact. They believe the situation is pre-revolutionary and expect a more or less imminent overthrow of the government. Thus, we must not hesitate.

Lastly, there are those who consider that a serious political-social defeat of a strategic kind has indeed occurred. We assess the situation as reactionary and we expect a defensive period in which resistance needs to accumulate strength in order to eventually launch a counter-offensive. Thus, we cannot vacillate. 

In defense of this last position, we must face the facts. Bolsonaro’s government continues to mount a devastating offensive on multiple fronts. An offensive supported, in the first instance, by the US embassy ​​and enthusiastically backed by the immense majority of Brazil’s capitalists – who are delighted by a long list of gifts and giveaways from Minister of Economy Paulo Guedes favoring the rich. Moreoever, Bolsonaro’s government rests on powerful support in the Armed Forces and the police, a reactionary majority in the National Congress, the Supreme Court itself, and most of the wealthy middle class. On the other hand, discouragement and insecurity still prevail, not to mention confusion, among the working class and the people at large.

Over the last few months, we have witnessed actions by a few thousand self-sacrificing activists in the vanguard of the struggle and there has been widespread support for the Fora Bolsonaro campaign (Bolsonaro Out) as an expression of a Basta or Chega (Enough Already or Times Up). In deed, this may be fueling illusions about the balance of forces. Apparently, this sentiment was on display at last month’s 700,000 strong Rock in Rio concert, which is great. Fora Bolsonarospreading as a buzzword, synonymous with Basta and Chega, is useful, no doubt about it.

But to embrace this sentiment as the axis of political strategy, namely  “Down with the Government,” means to declare that the objective and subjective conditions for trying to overthrow Bolsonaro, here and now, are being met. This is a precipitous conclusion because these conditions, unfortunately, do not exist yet. Throwing all our forces into a campaign that we cannot win, because we do not have the strength, can only lead to demoralization.

Hopefully, the situation will evolve, and do so quickly, but only then will such a tactic be correct and timely. Originally published at EsquerdaOnLine on November 8. Translated by No Borders News. 

Categories: Brazil

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