Brazil

Valerio Arcary: Socialist Boulos stuns São Paulo, runoff set for Latin America’s largest city

Valerio Arcary explains how the Party for Socialism and Freedom (PSOL) ticket headed by Homeless Workers Movement leader Guilherme Boulos and his running mate, historic feminist and leftist leader Luiza Erundina, stunned Brazil’s elite by coming second in the elections for São Paulo mayor, Latin America’s largest city, alongside the Banca Feminista, a group of socialist women running for the city council. In what is a major blow to far-right President Jair Bolsonaro and the centrist politicians who hope to ease him out of power after paving his way to the presidency, socialists have refused to play second fiddle. Arcary is the author of several books including O Martelo de História (History’s Hammer) and a leader in the Resistência current of the Party for Socialism and Freedom in Brazil. This article was originally published in Esquerda Online.

Over the coming two weeks, No Borders News will provide ongoing coverage of the runoff campaign with interviews and translations from campaign organizers and candidates.

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The contest in São Paulo was, and will be, among all Brazilian capitals, the most important. Two huge challenges were posed for the entire left. Push the far right out of the second round of the municipal elections and replace them with the left. Apparently, according to the exit polls, we have done it. An unequivocal political victory! The Boulos/Erundina ticketbest represented resistance to Bolsonaro.

Bolsonaro’s fate will be decided by mass, direct action on the streets. We do not know when pandemic health conditions will permit us to start that direct confrontation, to begin that test of strength to bring him down. But the fight against Bolsonaro has also passed through the municipal elections. It would have been a serious mistake, despite the pandemic’s torments, and the prospect of a social crisis on the horizon when government emergency aid to the unemployed is suspended, to have minimized the importance of the electoral contest.

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If the Party for Socialism and Freedom (PSOL) posed a coherent leftist opposition to Workers Party-led (PT) coalition government during Lula and Dilma’s administrations, it PSOL did not hesitate to stand shoulder to shoulder with the PT against President Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment. PSOL has argued for a left-wing united front for action between social movements, especially with the PT against conversative President Michel Temer and, especially, over the last two years, against Bolsonaro. PSOL did not hesitate to fight for Lula’s freedom in 2018 in 2019 when he was imprisoned on trumped-up corruption charges. Staking out this political position increased PSOL’s political authority on the Brazilian left.

It was these positions that opened the path to building the alliance around the Boulos/Sonia Guajajara for the presidency of the Republic in 2018. And it was this campaign, and the profile of a left-wing ticket linked to social movements, and Bolsonaro’s election that won PSOL a national audience that allowed it to leverage its support with the election of ten federal deputies, in addition to more than two dozen state representatives.

PSOL, with Boulos/Guajajara in the lead, was an expression of the movements that have gained strength since the days of the 2013 mass protests: popular movements like the Homeless Workers Movement (MTST), the Black struggle and the struggles of marginalized urban communities, united campaigns that demanded “Who ordered Marielle’s assassination?” and “Where is Amarildo?”, high school student occupations, the LGBTQ community’s demand to fire homophobe Fora Feliciano from his post in the Commission for Human Rights and Minorities, and the work of environmentalists and indigenous peoples in defense of the Amazon.

The Boulos/Erundina campaign is a legitimate heir to these battles and it is assuming its place in the political struggle. It is also had the greatest political and electoral capacity to accumulate strength in the process of the Brazilian left reorganizing itself because it brings together the strength of two generations of fighters. Luísa Erundina defeated malfeasance in São Paulo in 1988 when she was elected mayor. Her election then was one of the greatest electoral feats of the Brazilian left. And Guilherme Boulos has asserted himself as one of the greatest leaders of the Brazilian left today. This is why Bolsonaro threatened to persecute him and identified him as one of his main enemies in his first speech after being elected president.

[Read next, Esquerda Online: An anticapitalist LGBTQIA+ program for Brazil’s municipal elections.]

Boulos and the MTST assumed responsibility for calling, alongside PSOL, the first street demonstration in front of the São Paulo Museum of Art against the far right after Bolsonaro’s election in November 2018. And Boulos and the MTST were also, alongside PSOL, the first to join to anti-fascist soccer fans in the first street demonstrations against Bolsonaro after the start of the pandemic.

It took many years of struggle to get here.

[For international news and analysis from working-class, oppressed peoples, and socialist points of view, read No Borders News.]

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