Lula’s parole changes Brazil’s political panorama. After 580 days of unjust imprisonment, the PT leader making the most of his conditional release by returning to the streets and the speaker’s platform, reigniting a polarization with the far right. Whether owing to the support upon which he counts from a section of the population, or the strong opposition he awakens in another, the ex-president is once again impacting the national debate.
And in his first public pronouncement, Lula adopted a decisively oppositional towards far-right Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro’s government, declaring in Recife on Sunday, November 17 that “the struggle today is to liberate the country from this band of militias.” One week earlier, in the ABC districts of São Paulo, the PT leader pointed to the example of the mobilizations and Chile, arguing that it is necessary “to go on the offensive and not only defend ourselves. He also made powerful criticisms of finance minister Paulo Guedes, calling him a “destroyer of dreams.” In so doing, Lula is seeking to energize his base and, most of all, assume a leading role in opposition to Bolsonaro.
The ex-president’s emphatic criticism of the Ministry of Finance’s neoliberal economic policies profoundly upset the business elite, the big media, and the right wing parties, who accuse Lula of “radicalizing.” These attacks on Lula make explicit the role these sectors play in sustaining the far-right government. If, on the one hand, pro-business newspaper like O Globo and Folha de São Paulo, and right-wing figures like president of the Chamber of Deputies Rodrigo Maia and others, oppose Bolsonaro’s authoritarian “excesses,” on the other hand, they defend the exclusionary economic and social policies pursued by this neofascist president and his Ministry of Finance.
Lula’s tone is characterized by frank criticism of this government of militias and its economic policies, as well as Lava Jato (Operation Car Wash – a politicized anti-corruption witch hunt) and the corporate media — all of which is extremely positive. However, his criticism has made some sectors of the PT leadership uncomfortable, those who prefer moderation. Unfortunately, to this day many PT leaders have not learned that conciliation with their enemies only prepares new and bitter defeats.
Despite the strong oppositional stance he has adopted, it must be said that Lula does not appear disposed to make any sort of critical balance sheet of the serious errors committed in the recent past. On Saturday, November 16 in Salvador, he said that the PT does not need to make any kind of “self-criticism.” Lula’s position ignores the damage done by repeated alliances between the PT and the right during his government (such as those with the conservative Brazilian Democratic Movement Party of Michel Temer and Eduardo Cunha, for example), or the 2015 shady electoral pact which led PT president Dilma Rousseff to begin implementing neoliberal adjustment policies, paving the way for the pro-coup forces to take to the streets, or to the underestimation of the danger Bolsonaro posed in the 2018 elections, something totally disregarded by Lula. As Guilherme Bolos (2018 presidential candidate for the left-wing Party for Socialism and Freedom) rightfully affirmed in an interview with Universo Online, a left that cannot recognize its errors cannot lead the way forward.
We consider Lula’s desire to confront Bolsonaro and his project of destroying social, democratic, and working-class rights to be very positive. Furthermore, he carries an enormous responsibility in this battle. If the PT leader puts his weight behind unified mobilizations, the working class, the youth, and the oppressed will be stronger in their resistance.
Therefore, we believe PSOL’s position in favor of building unity with Lula and the PT in the fight against Bolsonaro is correct. However, the unity in question must be, above all else, a unity of forces working towards social mobilization and a fight to change society’s consciousness. Our strategy is to defeat Bolsonaro and neofascism in the streets, in other words, to construct the conditions to overthrow this government through the force of popular mobilization.
To this end, a united front of all left-wing political forces, social, trade union, student, and cultural organizations, and movements of the oppressed is indispensable. Accordingly, the proposal by the Front of People Without Fear and the Brazilian People’s Front for unified action on December 6 in São Paulo, including an invitation to Lula, is extremely important.
Yet the necessity of fighting unity against our common enemy does not erase all political and programmatic differences on the left. We do not agree with Lula’s class conciliationist policies, policies which are based on the search for an agreement with right-wing political forces and the ruling class with the aim of managing Brazilian capitalism, a pact which does not envision structural change. For this reason, we believe PSOL should put forward its own political and programmatic project, one which avoids repeating the PT’s mistakes.
Brazil’s right and extreme right did not hesitate to strike down Dilma and arrest Lula for their own political purposes, mobilizing massive support in the streets under the green and yellow national flag. Defeating them, and preventing them from achieving the complete destruction of all working-class, social, and democratic rights, will require mobilizing for social confrontatoin in the streets, as Chileans have been doing for more than a month in their country. Will Lula opt for mass struggle? Or will he again try the path of conciliation, taking the high road of tepid opposition to Bolsonaro? Our position is that the Lula should work to construct unified mobilizations, which are the only sure way to destroy the neo-fascist threat and open the way for a government of, by, and for the majority of the people, one the rejects any alliances with the right and the big capitalists.
Originally published by Esquerda Online.