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Against Bolsonaro’s Coup and Reforms — For Demonstrations and Strikes without Bankers and Businessmen

Left Voice’s co-thinkers in Brazil answer a cynical class-collaborationist effort to channel Brazil’s working-class discontent into the election campaign of Lula’s Broad Front ticket. The latter represents the interests of the bourgeoisie and bosses who are tired of Bolsonaro and his threats of a coup should he lose his reelection bid.

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Brazilan President Jair Bolsonaro, seen in Brasilia, Brazil in April.

Amid threats of a coup from Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro, efforts are underway to channel all opposition to the president into voting for the Lula-Alckmin ticket1Translator’s note: The Broad Front ticket in the upcoming presidential elections includes Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, known as Lula, who was Brazil’s president from 2003 to 2010 and is the leader of the Workers’ Party (PT). His running mate for vice president is Geraldo Alckmin of the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB), who is a former governor of São Paulo State. in the upcoming presidential election. In support of this, two manifestos “in defense of democracy” are slated to be issued on August 11. They involve a broad sector of the political regime, together with the Federation of Industries of the State of São Paulo (FIESP), the Brazilian Federation of Banks (FEBRABAN), and many business executives — not Bolsonaro’s direct allies, but those who have supported his attacks, the 2016 institutional coup that opened up space for the Far Right, and all the reforms and economic attacks since then.2Translator’s note: In December 2015, a process began in Brazil to impeach the president, Dilma Rousseff, for “corruption.” The charges were based on Operação Lava Jato (Operation Car Wash, so named because it was first “uncovered” at a car wash in Brasília, a criminal investigation into corruption by the Brazilian federal police that began in 2014 during Rousseff’s first term as president and initially centered on the Brazilian state oil company, Petrobras. It was later used to jail Lula — part of an effort, aided by U.S. imperialism, to keep the PT from winning the 2018 elections. At the end of August 2016, the Brazilian Senate voted to remove Dilma from office, finding her guilty of violating budget laws — and resulting in a bloodless coup employing the institutions of the state. In contrast to this reformist agenda, we need a plan of struggle, including strikes and demonstrations, to defeat these coup threats and reforms with the power of workers, women, Black people, Indigenous people, youth, and the LGBTQ+ community.

Bolsonaro’s July meeting with foreign diplomats was a high point of his coup threats this year. But the reaction from important sectors of the political regime, the U.S. government, and the press and business community was one of broad rejection. This was part of what compelled Bolsonaro, in his speech officially launching his reelection campaign, to omit any mention of the legitimacy of the elections and the polls — even with his most reactionary base present. It was an expression of the strong pressure he was under and the absence of a relationship of forces that would have made coup efforts effective. That is why, in his speech, he instead spoke demagogically to women, youth, and Northeasterners,3Translator’s note: In Brazil, people from the Northeast of the country have long faced significant racial and regional prejudice. in addition to announcing increased emergency aid in 2023. He was looking to reverse the unfavorable scenario of a possible defeat in the first round of the elections.

The recently announced “Letter to Brazilians in Defense of a Democratic State Based on the Rule of Law,” a manifesto that will be presented on August 11 at the University of São Paulo Law School, is one of the two major documents pretending to respond to Bolsonaro’s coup threats. The manifesto will be read by Celso de Mello, former minister of Brazil’s Supreme Federal Court (STF). It is part of an effort to situate the judiciary — a pillar of the institutional coup, the authoritarian political regime, the ongoing attacks, and the crisis in the country — as a great “defender of democracy” along with big capital, which is now opposed to Bolsonaro politically while praising his entire ultraliberal economic agenda. They require the continuation of that agenda by any government.

Signers of the manifesto include bankers such as Roberto Setubal, Pedro Moreira Salles, and Candido Bracher from Itaú Unibanco; Fabio Barbosa, former president of Santander and FEBRABAN; and José Olympio Pereira, the former president of Credit Suisse in Brazil. They include Horacio Lafer Piva, chair of paper giant Klabin and former president of FIESP. There are leading members of the bourgeoisie such as Guilherme Leal, the chair of Natura Cosmetico, and Suzano CEO Walter Schalka. Neoliberal rightists include economist Pedro Malan, the former minister of finance, and former Central Bank president Arminio Fraga. More than a dozen former ministers of the STF have signed on, as has Miguel Reale Júnior, the former minister of Justice who opened the impeachment process against Dilma Roussef. Aloysio Nunes Ferreira Filho, of the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PDSB), is also a signer.

A second manifesto with the same objective will be launched at the same event on August 11. It has the signatures of institutions, and already has won the support of major sectors of the national bourgeoisie, including FIESP and FEBRABAN.

Broad sectors of the major coup-plotting media are also calling enthusiastically for the launching of the manifesto, including Folha de São Paulo and the historically reactionary Estadão. Increasingly, the Globo Network is indicating its support. In other words, this is a huge movement of the big bourgeoisie, the political regime, and its institutions.

After Bolsonaro’s meeting on July 27, not by chance, there was a statement from the U.S. Embassy. On the same day at the bilateral meeting of U.S. secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin and Brazilian minister of Defense General Paulo Sérgio Nogueira, sources report that Austin expressed that the United States expects fair and transparent elections. That U.S. imperialism and the Democratic Party — the orchestrators of Lava Jato4Translator’s note: See note 1, above, for an explanation of Lava Jato. and the institutional coup in Brazil, and who throughout history have supported military coups all over the world — and now want to pose “in defense of democracy” is the most absurd cynicism.

While we see that the manifesto has been assigned by some in the progressive sector, it is the signatures of these sectors from the bosses and bourgeoisie that sets the tone of the politics being defended. Behind the planned events of August 11 and the manifesto are no less than those responsible for the 2016 institutional coup, which opened space for the Bolsonaro government and the military to occupy enormous weight in the Brazilian political regime. They are the various political agents, the judiciary, and big capital who were responsible for applying all the economic attacks that have flowed from the institutional coup, including all the counter-reforms that have wreaked havoc for the Brazilian working class, which is suffering from unemployment, hunger, and a rising cost of living. The more a Lula-Alckmin victory is seen as a probability, the greater the movement of direct and indirect support for the ticket — all with the goal of taming the future government’s program even more than Lula has already promised. Those who now come to speak “in defense of democracy” are our tormentors, not our allies.

The manifesto is inspired by the “Letter to Brazilians” of 1977, during the military dictatorship, which was read aloud by then minister Goffredo da Silva Telles Júnior.5Translator’s note: In August 1977, a jurist and professor named Goffredo da Silva Telles Júnior famously read a letter denouncing the legitimacy of the military government and what was called the “state of exception” under which Brazilians were ruled. It called for reestablishing the rule of law and the convening of a National Constituent Assembly. The Brazilian bourgeoisie attributes the demise of the dictatorship to this act, ignoring any role of the masses. As we explain here, the reference is aimed at hiding the central role of the working class in the struggle against the dictatorship, as well as that of the student movement, to highlight the role of a “jurist,” “civil society,” and institutions of the regime. What they want is to control things to keep the power of the workers and youth from engaging in class struggle.

The Lula-Alckmin Electoral Campaign Is Behind the “Defense of Democracy” Campaign

Using “defense of democracy” as a cover, these sectors that have now become opponents of Bolsonaro are lending their support to the Lula-Alckmin ticket in a maneuver that is supposed to be “above partisanship.”

In his July 27 interview with Universo Online, Lula made it clear that after a long period without dialogue with the business community, they are now coming to him. This August 11 move is part of this. Lula also gave a nod to the Armed Forces, saying, “The military is more responsible than Bolsonaro.” He repeated that when he was president previously, his government funded the military. Now he is expressing his willingness to come to an agreement with the Armed Forces without challenging their role in the political regime or their enormous privileges.

The Workers’ Party (PT) and Lula continue with their line of channeling all questions and dissatisfactions into voting for the Lula-Alckmin ticket and the Broad Front slates in every state — a front with the traditional Right, including all sectors that led the 2016 institutional coup, that have an openly conservative program, and that are allied with big capital and various other sectors of the Right.

Thanks to its weight in the leaderships of the mass movement, especially the CUT trade union confederation, the PT has been building passivity with this goal for some time. Now, through the “Out with Bolsonaro Front,” it has decided to call August 11 as a “national and international day of united mobilization in defense of democracy, for free elections, and against political violence,” and has already said there will be further mobilizations on September 10 — an effort to forestall militant demonstrations against Bolsonaro from taking place in the streets on September 7.6Translator’s note: September 7 is Brazil’s Independence Day, and Bolsonaro has called on his supporters to take the streets on that day to back his claim that the elections are being rigged by the Electoral Court (TSE) to ensure a Lula-Alckmin victory. Traditionally, the PT holds demonstrations on that day, called Grito dos Excluídos (Cry of the Excluded), and it is those demonstrations it has postponed.

The goal is to make sure any actions are extremely well controlled, with the broadest Broad Front possible, and without raising any economic demands — because for them, the unity they seek is not that of the working class with the poor to fight for our demands. What they want is to reestablish the alliances that Lula made in his previous government with conservative sectors who are assured that their profits and privileges won’t be touched. The objective now, and even in a possible Lula government, is to have the workers continue to pay for the crisis.

For Working-Class Unity and a Plan of Struggle that Excludes the Bourgeoisie and Right

Many say that it is time for the broadest unity to fight the extreme Right, Bolsonaro, and the military. Some on the Left even try to defend some sort of “unity of action” with the bourgeoisie, trying to establish a Marxist basis for such an approach — which we have already debated here. But the only truly broad unity that can actually defeat Bolsonaro, the extreme Right, and any coup threat is the unity of the working class, youth, women, Black people, Indigenous people, and the LGBTQ+ community engaged in the class struggle. And that can happen only by combining the fight against the coup threats with the most deeply felt economic demands, and doing so in a way that is independent of the bourgeoisie and any sector of the bosses.

Lula has already said that his ticket is not of the Left, that it won’t repeal the reforms, and that he is not proposing any structural change in the authoritarian political regime that was degraded by the institutional coup. Lula and Alckmin are not going to open a path to resolving the demands of the working class and the poor, will not open the way to resolve the demands of the working class and the poor, even less so now that the country lacks the economic conditions for granting concessions as was the case in Lula’s second government. Instead, it will be like his first government, with attacks such as the pension reform and other neoliberal measures — as André Singer, a member of the PT, has already spelled out in a book.

It is essential that the Revolutionary Socialist Pole, together with the parties that stand to the Left of the PT and are running their own candidates such as the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB) and Popular Unity (PU), do not fall into this trap of class conciliation and of a supposed “defense of democracy” — which in truth is a campaign of the Lula-Alckmin ticket.

We must join forces to demand from the majority leaderships of the mass movement — first and foremost from the CUT, the CTB trade union confederation, and the National Union of Students (UNE) — that they promote a real plan of struggle against the coup threats and for the revocation of all the counter-reforms and attacks, and that they call for a struggle for the economic demands of the working class against high prices and hunger. Let’s not accept electoral actions that are in step with the big bankers, industrialists, and leaders of the political regime, who will define the program of these actions according to their interests. This is not a “fight against a coup.” Class independence is imperative. We must impose on the bureaucratic leaderships an effective plan of struggle, organized from grassroots assemblies in the workplaces and schools, encouraging self-organization of the rank and file, and place the working class as an active subject on the political stage so that it can take control of the situation.

If we join forces in this political struggle, it is even possible to win over sectors of the vanguard of workers and youth — ones that are outside of organized parties — to this perspective of confronting Bolsonarism, the military, and the Right through class struggle. We are putting Esquerda Diário and all our resources at the service of the political, ideological, and theoretical battles of this moment.

The sectors that make up the Revolutionary Socialist Pole, calling for a vote for the ticket of Vera Lucia and Raquel Tremembé, must be on the front line of this battle. This includes the United Socialist Workers’ Party (PSTU), part of the Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL) and various activists and organizations, such as us from the MRT.

We call on every activist and organization to wage this common political struggle, to fight a common battle in every union, student body, and with the organizations and parties of the Left.

First published in Portuguese on July 29 in Esquerda Diário.

Translation and adaptation by Scott Cooper

Notes

Notes
1 Translator’s note: The Broad Front ticket in the upcoming presidential elections includes Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, known as Lula, who was Brazil’s president from 2003 to 2010 and is the leader of the Workers’ Party (PT). His running mate for vice president is Geraldo Alckmin of the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB), who is a former governor of São Paulo State.
2 Translator’s note: In December 2015, a process began in Brazil to impeach the president, Dilma Rousseff, for “corruption.” The charges were based on Operação Lava Jato (Operation Car Wash, so named because it was first “uncovered” at a car wash in Brasília, a criminal investigation into corruption by the Brazilian federal police that began in 2014 during Rousseff’s first term as president and initially centered on the Brazilian state oil company, Petrobras. It was later used to jail Lula — part of an effort, aided by U.S. imperialism, to keep the PT from winning the 2018 elections. At the end of August 2016, the Brazilian Senate voted to remove Dilma from office, finding her guilty of violating budget laws — and resulting in a bloodless coup employing the institutions of the state.
3 Translator’s note: In Brazil, people from the Northeast of the country have long faced significant racial and regional prejudice.
4 Translator’s note: See note 1, above, for an explanation of Lava Jato.
5 Translator’s note: In August 1977, a jurist and professor named Goffredo da Silva Telles Júnior famously read a letter denouncing the legitimacy of the military government and what was called the “state of exception” under which Brazilians were ruled. It called for reestablishing the rule of law and the convening of a National Constituent Assembly. The Brazilian bourgeoisie attributes the demise of the dictatorship to this act, ignoring any role of the masses.
6 Translator’s note: September 7 is Brazil’s Independence Day, and Bolsonaro has called on his supporters to take the streets on that day to back his claim that the elections are being rigged by the Electoral Court (TSE) to ensure a Lula-Alckmin victory. Traditionally, the PT holds demonstrations on that day, called Grito dos Excluídos (Cry of the Excluded), and it is those demonstrations it has postponed.
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