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On Sunday, October 2, Brazilians will head to the polls for a general election. Incumbent president Jair Bolsonaro is running for a second term, and is currently polling behind former president Luís Inácio Lula da Silva. Already, Bolsonaro and his supporters are laying the groundwork for disputing the results.
Bolsonaro’s presidency has been absolutely disastrous for workers, Brazil’s poorest sectors, oppressed people, Indigenous people, and the environment. He is a long-time Trump ally, and is openly racist, misogynistic, and homophobic. He also openly supports the former Brazilian dictatorship. Bolsonaro has overseen austerity and wide-scale privatization — in short, policies that are highly favorable to imperialists and to Brazilian capital, and which force the working class to pay for the mounting social and economic crises. His policies have also been devastating for the environment, particularly for the Amazon, which has seen record forest fires and deforestation.
And as a result of his covid denial and vaccine skepticism, his pandemic management has led to nearly 700,000 deaths — the highest death toll after the United States.
What’s behind the rise of Bolsonaro and the Brazilian Right? Bolsonaro clearly benefited from an institutional coup that toppled former president Dilma Rousseff, and maneuvers that led to Lula’s imprisonment in 2018. But even beyond these undemocratic moves, Bolsonaro’s rise must be seen in the context of a right-wing wave in Latin America that followed the progressive “Pink Tide” governments of the 2000s. In Brazil, it’s clear that the “progressive” governments of the Workers Party — the PT — helped pave the way for the rise of the Right through their neoliberal policies, attacks on workers, and repression. These governments, like those in neighboring countries, did not fundamentally challenge the pillars of capitalism or imperialism.
Far from representing a break with Bolsonaro, Lula’s cabinet picks and his commitments not to roll back many of Bolsonaro’s policies, such as privatization, demonstrate that a new PT government won’t provide a way forward for the working class. Despite this, many on the international Left are misguidedly placing their hopes in Lula and the PT, and painting the party’s legacy in a positive light.
In this episode of All That’s Left, Left Voice member Rob Belano discusses Jair Bolsonaro’s legacy, as well as the legacy of Lula and the PT. He also discusses what a Lula presidency would look like, and what the tasks are for the Brazilian and international Left going forward.
Listen to the episode on Spotify on Apple Podcasts.
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