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High stakes in Brazil’s election

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Far right Bolsonaro could be out but class struggle is needed to break his legacy
Issue 2825
Brazil presidential candidate Lula speaking on a platform during his campaign as an alternative option to Bolsonaro

Brazil presidential candidate Lula (Picture: Twitter/ @ricardostuckert)

Brazil, a country of 215 million people, is heading to the polls on Sunday with a huge amount at stake. Another victory for the incumbent president, far right Jair Bolsonaro, would be a  terrible further blow after the success of Giorgia Meloni in Italy.

Bolsonaro has presided over deep corruption. And his lethal Covid polices that abandoned people to the disease have seen 686,000 deaths.

Bolsonaro’s government has been an avalanche of horrifying events which he brags about remorselessly.

He also seems to be inclined to wipe out anyone who gets in his way. Opponents who have been murdered include the left wing councillor Marielle Franco, British journalist Dom Phillips and indigenous expert Bruno Pereira, Workers Party treasurer Marcelo Arruda and many others.

Back in 1999 Bolsonaro did an interview for TV Bandeirantes and said Brazil needed a civil war and to kill at least 30,000 people. Through Covid he ended up number 22 times over. 

Bolsonaro has also been an ecological disaster, tearing up the Amazon region in the interests of giant corporations. Last year 13,235 square kilometres was deforested, up 22 percent from a year before.

He has also threatened to overrule the result of Sunday’s voting and, like his friend Donald Trump, to treat any evidence of a defeat as fraud and fake news. Bolsonaro has said he only has three options: to be killed, arrested or be re-elected.

This dangerous figure has to be brought down. And not just him but the whole legacy of his rule and the far right and fascist forces he encouraged.

Sandy Martung

What is the alternative to Bolosnaro?

The polls suggest that Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva—Lula—of the Workers Party (PT) is going to win the presidency. Some forecasts suggest he could win 50 percent of the vote on the first round and avoid a run-off.

That would come as an immense relief to tens of millions of people in Brazil and more widely.

But Bolsonaro’s road to power was partly created by the disillusion following earlier PT rule. Although it came out of massive struggles by workers, the PT had shown its readiness to fit in with the ruling order even before Lula was first elected president in 2002.

Lula’s first vice president was a leading industrialist. The central bank governor was an orthodox conservative economist.

Lula pledged he would honour Brazil’s debt that had been run up by corrupt and brutal earlier ruling class politicians,. He shied away from all all-out assault on privatisation and followed orthodox neoliberal economic policies.

The fighting and democratic tradition that had built the PT did not follow it into government. There were important reforms. Lula brought in welfare programmes like Zero Hunger and Family Basket. Brazil became a less unequal society.

But such changes were based on soaring prices for the products that Brazil exported. When these stagnated and fell, the reforms stopped.

Lula’s successor as president, Dima Rousseff, ended up implementing austerity. This, combined with corruption inside the PT, gave Bolosnaro his opening.

Now large sections of big business seem to prefer a Lula victory to the chaos and uncertainly under Bolosnaro.

An open letter in defence of democracy, seen as a rebuke to Bolsonaro, last month united Brazil’s very conservative banking association Febraban, the powerful Sao Paulo industry lobby Fiesp as well as a host of unions and NGOs.

But as an article in the Financial Times newspaper reports, “The reality is different: whisper it quietly, but many Brazilian business executives and bankers still prefer Bolsonaro.”

His assaults on the working class have pleased the rich. Foreign direct investment shot up 78 percent last year. 

The Financial Times goes on, “Bolsonaro’s indifference to the razing of the Amazon rainforest may alarm the west but the country’s powerful soy and beef farmers instead see a champion of their interests.”

“Almost all the people I know will vote Bolsonaro,” said one private equity executive from Sao Paulo. “They won’t say so in public but they are doing well under Bolsonaro and they don’t trust Lula.”

Lula’s response has been to soothe corporate interests. His vice-presidential running mate is Geraldo Alckmin whose previous career has been in the  neoliberal Brazilian Social Democracy Party. During more than a decade as governor of Sao Paulo, he implemented privatisation, defended big business and attacked social protests.

Independent organisation from below is the only guarantee aginst coup plots, And it will be needed even if Lula becomes president.

The crucial task is to strengthen the struggles of workers, the poor, LGBT+ activists, anti-racists, Indigenous people, environmental activists and many others who have confronted Bolsonaro. Whoever wins on Sunday, the battle continues.

Charlie Kimber

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