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The following is a statement by Esquerda Marxist (Marxist Left): the Brazilian section of the IMT, after the victory of far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro in the Brazilian elections. The comrades explain the tasks ahead for the Brazilian left, who must immediately begin building a resistance against the reactionary and repressive policies of a Bolsonaro government.

[Read the statement in Portuguese]

Bolsonaro’s victory in the Brazilian elections is a demonstration of the political collapse of the New Republic regime and of the class conciliation brought about by the 1988 Constitution. It also demonstrates that huge sectors of the masses are disillusioned with ‘democracy’. Most of them (including Bolsonaro voters, and those who spoiled their ballots or abstained) made it clear they care little for ‘this democracy,’ and ignored Haddad (PT) and others’ calls for defence of a ‘democracy’ that has only brought them hardship and suffering.

A new political situation has now opened up. The ‘old’ parties and politicians – representatives of the status quo – were swept away. As the Brazilian Marxists always stated: the policies of the "Car Wash operation" – designed by the US Justice Department – were modelled on the Italian "Clean Hands"; that is, to allow the removal of parties and politicians hated by the masses in an attempt to rescue threatened institutions. That the ‘new’ is only a reincarnation of the ‘old’ is only to be expected: it will remain the case until revolution comes and clears out all the muck from the old society.

We are witnessing the end of the era of reactionary class collaboration between the PT and the bourgeois parties. The deepening crisis of capitalism nationally and internationally has now found its expression in a government that is ostensibly against all collaboration and wholly committed to attacking the working class. This government is ultraliberal: a shameless servant of the interests of imperialist finance capital. Such a government can only govern by seeking to constitute itself as a Bonapartist government ‘above the classes’, and basing itself on repression, whether masked or not by the actions of the judiciary. How far this government can proceed in this direction and fulfil its objectives will depend first and foremost on the class struggle: the working class in particular, and the politics of its leaders.

Bolsonaro is the by-product of an ongoing political, economic and social crisis and the betrayals of the PT while in power / Image: Agência Brasil

Bolsonaro is the by-product of a political, economic and social crisis that has dragged on for years. The responsibility for this lies entirely with Lula and the PT's leadership, who ruled for 13 years and in that time betrayed the hopes and support they received from millions of Brazilians to change this country.

The systematic work of Lula and the leadership of the PT – with their policy of alliances with the bourgeoisie and governing in the interests of capital, and the destruction of the class consciousness of the same working masses who carried the PT to the presidency of the Republic – has had the effect of delivering millions of desperate peasants, unemployed workers, disorganised workers, and young people with no future, into the arms of an unscrupulous adventurer and his entourage of ultra-reactionaries, fascists, landowners (who hunt down Landless Peasants Movement activists and indigenous peoples) and ruined shopkeepers. The PT has delivered the masses into the arms of a right-wing, demagogic Bonapartist, who claims to be governed by "Brazil above everything, and God above everyone"!

Bolsonaro won the election with 57,797,847 votes (39.24 percent of the total eligible voters). Haddad had 47,040,906 votes (31.93 percent of the total). Spoiled ballots, blank ballots and abstentions totalled more than 42m voters. This means that 89.5m voters (60.76 percent) do not feel politically represented by the winner in the most polarised election in decades. These figures show that there is a huge basis for building resistance against the government.

In our statement after the first round – besides affirming a vote for Haddad in the second round (with no support for Haddad's programme and policy, but to bar Bolsonaro) – we stated:

"With these results [of the first round] and the expansion of political polarisation, a new situation opened up in Brazil."

Now, with Bolsonaro's victory, the political situation has leapt forward again. The next period will see severe attacks against all proletarian conquests and democratic freedoms, and will see cultural and religious obscurantism dominating government actions, all at the service of international finance capital and its smaller Brazilian partners. The fundamental task of the Marxists is to help organise the resistance, based on the unity of the workers and the youth, and in this struggle build the Marxist revolutionary organisation: the Marxist Left.

Intentions and reality

Bolsonaro, on 21 October, declared to his supporters at Paulista Avenue:

"MST [Movement of Landless Peasants] bandits and MTST [Movement of the Homeless] thugs, your actions will be typified as terrorism. You will no longer bring terror to the countryside or the city. And this gang [referring to the left, or the red scum as he described them throughout the speech], if you want to stay here, will have to put yourselves under the same law as the rest of us. Otherwise, you can get out or go to jail."

In his first Internet broadcast to his followers, he said:

"We can no longer continue to flirt with socialism, communism and populism, and with extremism on the left."

In his ‘official’ statement for the press, Bolsonaro read out the following declaration:

“With you as my witnesses, this government will be a defender of the Constitution, of Democracy and of Freedom… Freedom is a fundamental principle of Constitution: freedom to come and go, to walk in the streets; freedom of enterprise; political freedom; freedom of opinion; religious freedom; freedom to make choices and have them respected. This is a country for all of us: Brazilians born or raised. A Brazil with diverse opinions, colours and orientations."

In the first speech on the internet, he reaffirmed what he said by holding a copy of the Constitution. At another time, he prayed, together with his team – thanking God for his victory. It is an effort to show himself "above all" – to demonstrate that he answers to God, rather than the world of men.

His whole attitude is, on the one hand, to assert himself as a ruling Bonaparte to whom all owe obedience; and on the other to calm the bourgeoisie who fear he will provoke a social conflagration. But his direct statements to his followers show that he knows he does not have a politically homogenous militant party: a fascist or paramilitary force capable of unleashing terror against the workers and their organisations. He is trying to build this, but he is still far from that goal. His supporters include small, insignificant fascist groups – encouraged and emboldened by his victory – but they are not the social fighting force of a fascist party.

Bolsonaro’s campaign programme was "against all the old corrupt parties and against this rotten system." But in fact, he is an agent of that system / Image: Fábio Rodrigues Pozzebom

Therefore, he will be forced to use the repressive levers of the state apparatus (the police, judiciary, etc.) to discipline the masses. This mediocre and ignorant former military man speaks, acts and thinks like a law enforcement officer who intends to end the class struggle by the intervention of the police. This is impossible to accomplish. In the current international situation, this policy will meet with huge and invincible resistance. Even if he attempted to go down this route, after the fighting subsided, Bolsonaro would be stuck in an economic crisis in a semi-colonial country, faced with the growing hatred of the masses: including a large part of his current voters.

Bolsonaro’s campaign programme was "against all the old corrupt parties and against this rotten system." But in fact, he is an agent of that system, brought about to save capitalism and deepen exploitation. In the context of capitalist crisis, this will also mean more corruption.

He also says: "put all the bad guys in jail and make sure the people are armed to defend themselves." It is inconceivable that the bourgeoisie – in the epoch of capitalist decay, in which the suffering of the masses will only increase – will permit the general armament of the population. In the United States, almost all the bourgeoisie have been fighting for years to disarm the population, depriving them of arms conquered in the revolutionary years of that country's constitution. And obviously, there is no way to get all the bad guys in jail, because capitalism is a thriving factory of gangsters and bandits of all kinds. Only the end of capitalism can solve this.

Finally, he promises: "I will make Brazil a strong and wealthy nation, reducing the size of the state, selling state companies, opening Brazil to international investors, ending unemployment by creating a green-and-yellow labour portfolio, and reforming social security." The translation of this policy is, in the order: cuts and privatisation of public services, carving up public institutions and selling them off to multinationals and cronies, the delivery of Brazil’s natural resources and the wealth of the working-class into the hands of multinationals and speculators; destruction of the progressive accomplishments of the working class; and dissolution of social security, with its transformation into pension funds.

This programme is both impossible to carry out within capitalism and will cause an even greater social tragedy. As a whole, this programme will isolate Bolsonaro and propel his own voters against him in a short space of time. The Bonapartist candidate has attained power in a situation of economic crisis, which he will not be able to solve and which will provoke an explosion of struggles. Very quickly, the conscious vanguard of the working class and youth will rearm and scream at the top of their lungs, in the streets, in factories, in schools and at workplaces: Bolsonaro out! Down with the reactionary government! For a workers' government!

Perspectives of the Bolsonaro government

Capitalism, in its phase of senile decay, is incapable of maintaining the democratic institutions the bourgeoisie developed in its period of ascension. In the epoch of imperialism – in which revolution and counterrevolution face each other permanently – ‘democracy’ is increasingly a farce and the state is increasingly forced to reveal what it truly is: a band of armed men tasked with defending existing property relations – the control of the means of production, and privileges of a minority exploitation class. The legal veneer placed over repression and attacks on democratic freedoms won through hard struggle by the proletariat have started to peel away, as the state becomes ever-more selective in its application of laws. The judiciary increasingly arrogates the right to decide on everything: to legislate and to execute in an attempt to govern directly, and save a state that is unable to maintain itself by ‘normal’ democratic means.

Bolsonaro – a right-wing demagogue and outspoken anti-communist who has managed to profit from the demoralisation of the system its traditional parties – will deepen the Bonapartist character of the state apparatus.

Bonapartism is characterised by authoritarian governance and attacks on democratic freedoms, led by a figure who represents the ‘incarnation of the nation’ – who tries to rise above the classes to save the ruling class. Trotsky described it as follows:

"A regime which indicates that antagonisms within society have become so great that the machinery of the state to 'regulate' and 'order' these antagonisms while remaining as an instrument of property owners assumes certain independence from all classes. The Bonapartist regime can only achieve a comparatively stable and enduring character in the case of ending a revolutionary epoch; when the balance of forces has already been put to the test in battles; when the revolutionary classes are already exhausted, but the possessing classes have not yet escaped terror: 'Will there be no further convulsions tomorrow?' Without this basic condition, that is, without a prior exhaustion of the mass energies in the fighting, the Bonapartist regime is not in a position to advance."

The Marxist Left reaffirms its analysis that there is no social basis for a fascist regime today: the fascist groups are very small, there is neither a party nor a paramilitary organisation by which the petty-bourgeoisie can attack the mass workers’ organisations, and certainly not to establish a military dictatorship in the style of 1964-1985.

There has been no "exhaustion of the energies of the masses” necessary for the advancement of a Bonapartist regime towards a fascist government. The working class is disoriented, but it is not defeated / Image: Marxist Left

Additionally, there has been no "exhaustion of the energies of the masses”: one of the conditions pointed out by Trotsky for the advancement of a Bonapartist regime towards a fascist government. The working class is disoriented by repeated betrayals and blockades, but it is not defeated. This is not the perspective for Brazil, immersed as it is in the international crisis of capitalism.

The role of the PT and the future of PSOL

The low PT vote in the working-class neighbourhoods of the São Paulo working belt and its defeat in all the great cities of the south and southeast shows the party has been abandoned by the most important layers of the proletariat, which once formed its flesh and blood. And even in the northeast, the biggest victories of the PT were in the interior: it was almost defeated in the capitals.

Bolsonaro only managed to grow due to the absence of a socialist party, capable of channelling the hatred towards the system. Bolsonaro, by contrast, appeared as the ‘new’, anti-establishment candidate, and this guaranteed his victory.

The PT line in the second round, of "uniting for democracy", led to defeat / Image: Agência Brasil

It is a great misunderstanding to blame the ‘fake news’ and promotion of propaganda on WhatsApp (paid for by pro-Bolsonaro businessmen) for this outcome. The problem is political. The PT’s campaign did not connect with the anti-establishment sentiment present at the base of society and, therefore, could not convince the millions of people who abstained or spoiled their ballots, and left the door open for the right wing, who partly capitalised on this sentiment.

The PT line in the second round, of "uniting for democracy" – of proposing to govern in a national union, of seeking to join with all that is "old" in society – was a line of defeat, as we previously explained.

The "democratic front" also dragged down the PSOL. PSOL, having failed with the Boulos campaign, diluted itself in Haddad's campaign instead of putting up a real fight against Bolsonaro. It should’ve called for a PT vote in the second round to stop Bolsonaro, but maintained its independence and criticism of the PT’s conciliation, pointing to need to build a revolutionary, socialist alternative to the PT.

PSOL, having failed with the Boulos campaign, diluted itself in Haddad's campaign instead of putting up a real fight against Bolsonaro / Image: fair use

The PSOL, if it does not change its policy, will be seen more and more as a mere appendage of the PT, which will emerge as the opposition party to Bolsonaro. The PSOL will thus be unable to build itself up as an alternative in politically reorganising and arming the working class. It could actually take a shortcut to the same impasse faced by the PT. It is urgent that the PSOL leadership convene an extraordinary congress to take stock of the Boulos campaign, break with the PT's "Democratic Front" and rearm the party to face the Bolsonaro government.

Study, organise, mobilise

It is necessary to immediately organise the resistance and fight against the Bolsonaro government. This includes preparing ourselves theoretically and politically to understand the situation, and taking stock of the character and fighting forces of our adversary. We must study the history of the revolutionary labour movement. The Marxist Left will publish a series of articles related to the current situation on our website. But we must also prepare for extreme right-wing provocations, as well as steeling the working class and youth, and their organisations, against the repressive economic and social attacks to come.

Anti-Bolsonaro protests in the capital, Brasília / Image: fair use

The police, extreme right-wing groups and reactionaries of all kinds will feel more comfortable to act with Bolsonaro as president. In any fight, if someone attacks and the opponent does not defend himself, he will end up being massacred. When fascism was a real threat in Brazil, the united anti-fascist front, propelled by the Trotskyists, led a street battle that drove away the Integralists (the Brazilian fascists).

This is the character we must give to our resistance, and to the defence of our organisations, in the face of attacks by proto-fascist groups who are encouraged to act in the present situation. The example of the mass response by UNB students, on 29 October, in driving out a 30-strong group of Bolsonaro supporters – who tried to invade UNB to "hunt down Communists" – points the way forward. This is the perspective we should raise in all worker and youth organisations.

Against the action of provocateurs in assemblies of trade unions, students, demonstrations and debates, it is necessary to organise security services from the ranks of our own movement: a tradition forgotten by the left after years of relative democratic freedom. It is worth remembering that the CUT [the main trade union confederation] was only founded because its organisers distinguished themselves at CONCLAT [the Congress of the Working Class in 1981, at which the CUT was founded]. Otherwise, the PCdoB [Communist Party of Brazil], PCB [Brazilian Communist Party] allied with the pelegos [employers’ unions], would have forcibly prevented its constitution.

Trade unions and trade union confederations

Trade unions can and should play a very important role in the fight against this government. The main problem is that most of the trade union leaders are committed to the continuation of capitalism. They are deeply linked to the bourgeois state apparatus and guided by a policy of class collaboration.

As you can see in Argentina, the government is on the offensive, but the trade union leaders are holding back workers’ struggles and are instead waiting for the 2019 presidential elections in which Cristina Kirchner will be running. Here in Brazil, the key phrase given by Haddad in his speech after the second round was "we prepare for four years from now", and the slogan "Happy 2022". Those who expect a turn to the left by the union leadership should dispense with this illusion. They have become an obstacle to the struggles of the workers and want to help save capitalism. This does not exempt us from pointing out the enormous responsibility they have in setting the direction of trade union organisations, starting with the CUT. We must open the discussion in all unions about the need to prepare for the CUT congress, and discuss how to organise, unify and centralise the fight in defence of the working class and against the government.

CP Operator on train
Thousands took to the streets against Bolsonaro on 29 October / Image: Ricardo Stuckert

The national and international political situation must be faced with energy and resoluteness by revolutionaries. There are undoubtedly difficulties: in particular, the absence of a party to represent and organise the proletariat. The working class retains its strength, despite the fact that most of its leaders have betrayed it in an attempt to maintain class peace. In this situation, where youth in particular are seeking a way out, there is a possibility of building a strong Marxist organisation. It is time to study, write, organise, and raise the low political and theoretical level that pervades in our time, as well as combat the widespread hopelessness in society, and build a force capable of transforming the situation.

Organise to face Bolsonaro and the capitalist system he represents! And struggle for socialist revolution: the only force that can avert the course towards barbarism!

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