Hundreds of thousands of people all over the country flooded the streets of Brazil in a rejection of the extreme right-wing candidate only a little over a week before the presidential election. They were organized by a website: “Women Against Bolsonaro,” which emerged only a few weeks ago. Jair Bolsonaro is the far-right populist currently leading the polls in Brazil’s ahead of Brazil’s presidential elections, which will take place on October 7. Over a million women joined the Facebook group, and have made the hashtag #EleNao (Not Him) go viral. There were marches is over 60 cities in the country, as well other cities around the world, including New York, Barcelona and Mexico City. At the last moment, it looks like women will be a decisive force in these Presidential elections.
Polls show that at least 49% of women, who represent more than half of the electorate, oppose Bolsonaro. The ultra-reactionary congress member draws most of his support from men: 32% of men plan to vote for Bolsonaro, while only 17% of women plan to do so. However, he is still at the top of the polls, with about 27% support, with Fernando Haddad from the Workers’ party (PT) of jailed former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva coming in second at 21%.
Bolsonaro has been dubbed “Trump of the Tropics”, “the most misogynistic, hateful elected official in the democratic world” and possibly the most repulsive politician on earth. All of these descriptions seem fitting.
Bolsonaro has been a member of Brazil’s Congress since 1990. During the CIA- backed military dictatorship in Brazil known for torture of dissidents, he served in the military. Today, he continues to voice support for the military dictatorship which terrorized Brazil for over two decades. He has also hailed Chile’s Augusto Pinochet whose dictatorship detained, tortured and killed over 40,000 people. He is known for outlandish misogyny, like when he told a the Minister of Human Rights that she didn’t “merit” being raped, implying that she was “not attractive enough” to “deserve” rape. He said that there is no homophobia Brazil (a country with most LGBT hate crimes), declaring that most “homosexuals” die in “drug related situations, prostitution or even killed by their own partners.” He called the Party of Socialism and Liberty a party of “faggots.”
He currently leading the polls, after the PT (Workers’ Party) candidate and former president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, known as Lula, was imprisoned on trumped-up charges, robbing the Brazilian people of their right to vote for their candidate of choice. Although the UN has come out in support of Lula’s right to run in the election, the right-wing courts and the coup-government have kept Lula in jail and unable to run. Haddad, Lula’s vice-presidential candidate, is gaining in the polls.
This comes in the context of the institutional coup of 2016 that ousted then-president Dilma Rousseff, which was led by the courts, the right-wing media and right-wing sectors of the government. Since then, the coup government of Michel Temer has been implementing austerity and attacks against the Brazilian working class, such as freezing the education and health care budget for the next 20 years. Then, in April, Lula was arbitrarily imprisoned, ending any possibility that he would return to the presidential palace this year. All of this strengthened the extreme-right candidacy of Jair Bolsonaro, who calls for tough on crime measures and promises to wipe out corruption.
However, it was the PT itself, which, by governing with the Right, which opened space for the institutional coup, judicial authoritarianism and the strengthening of the extreme right. In fact, current president Michel Temer, who helped orchestrate the coup, was Dilma’s own pick for vice president! Decades of alliances and compromises with the right wing have led Brazil to this moment.
The march in Rio de Janeiro
Most of Brazil’s political parties seek to capitalize on the rejection of Bolsonaro. For example Geraldo Alckmin, the candidate of the neoliberal PSDB (Brazilian Social Democratic Party) recently joined the #EleNão movement against Bolsonaro. Yet, as the governor of Sao Paulo, Alckmin is well known for his brutal tactics against workers and students. A few short years ago, he directed the police to repress and arrest high-school students protesting school closures. So has Katia Abreu, the staunch defender of Brazil’s landed class against indigenous people and workers. Even the right-wing journalist Rachel Sheherazade joined the movement, although she defended Bolsonaro when he implied that a woman was too unattractive to be raped!
These sectors want to use Brazilian women’s hatred of the extreme right to support their own anti-worker agendas. But it is the PT, which is coming in second in the polls, which stands the most to gain. Many within the party are putting forward the slogan of not only #EleNao, but also #HaddadSim (Yes Haddad). This march serves to cover up the conciliatory attitude of the PT with the capitalist class and the parties that supported the coup. And while the PT controls much of the country’s unions and has immense power of mobilization, they have not organized any real fight against the anti-democratic and right-wing measures that have kept Lula in jail. Instead, their strategy has been back-room deals, negotiations and compromises.
Today, the PT is seeking coalitions with the coup government to confront the “extreme right”, and have made clear that the party will support a pension reform and will not oppose the sale of state-owned aerospace company, Embraer. Fernando Haddad is attempting to position himself as a realistic candidate to the capitalist class, willing to cooperate with figures of the coup government and and continue its program of austerity, where women as always, will feel the attacks the hardest.
This conciliation will do nothing for the 28 million unemployed in the country, a majority of whom are women. And though today the PT attempts to paint itself as on the side of women, for the 13 years it held the presidency the party did not take any steps to legalize abortion.
“Are indigenous women and poor peasant women supposed to listen to Katia Abreu, the champion of agro-business, and pretend that she will defend our interests? Are women supposed to listen to Marina Silva, who is backed by the massive bank, Itau, and pretend that she will speak in the name of the working class and oppressed? Why should the PT, who has promoted a policy of conciliation and moderation with the right during these years of attacks get to speak in favor of women and call on us to vote on their candidate, Haddad?” said Diana Assunção, member of the Movement of Revolutionary Workers (MRT) and candidate for city council.
Assunção says, “Our hatred of Jair Bolsonaro has to be class hatred. If it is a class hatred, our allies are workers, youth, women and Black people: the exploited and oppressed. Our allies are not the coup government and capitalists who oppress us, exploit us and attack us. In capitalism there is no lesser evil for women, which is why we fight for a Constituent Assembly. We need to impose the will of the exploited and oppressed majority against the capitalist parasites that govern against our interests. We fight for this with the goal of a government of workers that expropriates the capitalists and socialize the means of production to the service of the great majorities of exploited and oppressed.”