Against all the evils in this world

Elections in Brazil, second ballot for democracy

October 27, 2018 by Gerardo Gamarra

The results of the first round of presidential elections in Brazil ended up creating a political scenario that pits two antagonistic political projects against each other. It is important to examine this scenario and its relevance, both in the region and in the international context. The reality that a candidate with openly fascist policies and discourse could assume power is something that the working class in the country has to confront and work to reverse.

We also need to take into account the discussions around the weakness of the bourgeois republican democratic system, in the face of the new demands of capitalist accumulation in its most predatory phase. It has to be understood that for international capital, democracy, as we know it, no longer serves. While this is a simplified analysis, it nonetheless helps us understand the global dimension of what is happening in different parts of the world. Much of this is missed by omission or is not seen through an intention process of filtering, atomization and disconnectedness that increasingly marks the news these days.

This broader perspective allows us to see what exactly is at stake here. During the years of ‘neo-developmentalism’, identified with the presidencies of Lula and Dilma Rouseff (2003-2016), even during moments of crisis, there were new discussions on democracy and how it could be broadened. These discussions were about how to allow for the participation of the most displaced sectors in the social and political life of the country.

Thus, what is at stake in this second round of elections in Brazil is democracy as we know it. Those participatory spaces that were made possible by struggle, and were built experience by experience in Brazil, were deeply affected by the coup in 2016. Now, everything is at risk. At the same time, in the resistance to that coup, a wide space of political and social unity was built that today grows and unites against fascism.

After the first round

In the aftermath of the first round, the immediate step was to accept the difference. The first round cleared the ground for a direct contest between Fernando Haddad and Jair Bolsonaro with  the latter at an advantage. The challenge here is that the final verdict is going to be the result of a vote by vote fight. It is no easy task if we consider that Bolsonaro’s campaign is built entirely on social networks. These platforms open up another space for people to “go” discuss, organize and draw people into a project that involves them, that makes them a part of it.

But what are the possible scenarios after the second round? What challenges will a progressive government driven by the PT-PCdoB alliance face? And if Bolsonaro wins, what can we expect from a government that would consolidate the coup agenda and strengthen the international agenda that wants the region to be a reservoir of resources for international capital?

When we look at the map which shows where the votes were cast for each candidate, we can clearly see which sectors are going to be the beneficiaries of an eventual victory of Bolsonaro. The areas in green show the votes of Bolsonaro, which are concentrated across the region where the agribusiness is concentrated. Similarly, in the southeast of the country and the Minas Gerais-São Paulo-Río De Janeiro axes, there is a strong anti-PT trend clearly visible.

Beyond this, it is also important to look at the composition of the two houses of parliament – the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies. The dominant conservative block, which comprises the rural caucus, the evangelicals sections aligned to the military, grew the most in the recent Senate elections. They are referred to as the three B’s, which stand for ‘Biblia, Buey y Bala’ [bible, ox and bullet]. In the chamber of the deputies, the Social Liberal Party (PSL) of Bolsonaro became the second biggest party after the Workers Party (PT) winning 52 seats where they had eight before. On the other hand, the PT’s tally fell from 61 to 56 deputies.

In the Senate, while the MDB maintained its majority, it did lose seats while the PT lost half of its representatives. Among those defeated was former president Dilma Rousseff, who contested from Minas Gerais.

Two programs, two projects

With these elements – the candidacy of Bolsonaro, a former army captain, along with his vice-presidential candidate Hamilton Mourão a retired army general, and the clear support of the most conservative sectors of the society and political control of the Congress – there is a strong possibility for the military to access power from the democratic restoration. This time however, it is through elections, and will be with the objective of dismantling the state to its minimum expression, to privatize and modify it in a direction that will not be of benefit to Brazilians.

On the other hand, the PT-PCdoB alliance, represented by the candidacy of Fernando Haddad and Manuela D’Avila seeks recover the democratic path of the nation. They seek to recover what the coup took and move forward through proposals that involve the whole society, which guarantees historical, labor, health and education rights. It is a project of a sovereign nation.

We also need to delve deeper into the point of democracy being at stake. It is clear that the advancement of fascism through the figure of Bolsonaro represents the worst result of a social, political and economic crisis that intentionally weakens the bonds of society and political life. It also creates space for new leaders: “non-political” people, managers, ordinary people. There is also an intention behind this narrative emptiness. Bolsonaro does not go to debates. Besides his few oratorical virtues, talking about his government program is to spoil a foretold tragedy.

On the other hand, the PT-PCdoB coalition’s program, O Brasil Feliz de Novo (Brazil Happy Again) has been designed with the objective of taking short-term measures to recover rights dismantled by the coup, and to tackle the unemployment crisis head on. They also propose a popular consultation on the reversal of the main coup measures, such as the constitutional amendment that limits public spending for twenty years, or the labor reform that directly affected the working conditions and salaries of the people.

Haddad’s program proposes to generate employment by resuming public works, reactivating more than 2,500 projects that have been stopped. The plan also focuses on welfare and social development programs like the housing plan “Minha Casa, Minha Vida” (My house, my life), in addition to generating low-interest credit lines. Haddad and Manuela’s government program proposes to generate social inclusion through the strengthening of a sovereign state that guarantees education and public health with programs that extend benefits achieved with programs such as the “ProUni” scholarship program in higher education; or even meet technological goals within the public health system.

While Bolsonaro’s agenda will clearly benefit the military, rural and evangelical elite of Brazil. It will also be aligned with international policies in a geopolitical reorganization that favors the moves of the US against the regional integration processes of recent years. A Bolsonaro government would consolidate the adjustment measures that began with the coup. Labor reform proposals like eliminating 13 ministries can only come from someone who votes in favor of reducing public spending on education and health. The economic policies proposed by  Paulo Guedes aim to reduce and privatize the state. Thus, oil giant Petrobras or even the Bank of Brazil will be next in line for ‘restructuring’ that will end up handing over the resources and assets of the Brazilian people to private players.

The campaign as resistance to fascism

An hour after the results of the first round emerged, the Haddad campaign was back on the street. The people’s sectors, in an atmosphere of all or nothing, went afresh in search of every single vote, to discuss with the whole population what was at stake, what was proposed. A large section of society is not willing to be governed by fascism, and wants its rights guaranteed by a state. This includes men, women, youth, black people, LGBT people who are determined to protect the sovereign state and its resources.

What they confront is a candidate whose support is built on social networks, who has hardly presented a clear proposal of government, except for his intention to sanction the use of weapons, and attack the PT. Not only did he not go to debates, he built his networks with a huge network of fake news that influences millions. The newspaper newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo,  reported how entrepreneurs who support Bolsonaro illegally paid for mass messaging to the tune of R$12 million. While the judge Rosa Weber of the superior electoral court issued a statement in which they dismissed progress in any action that “generates problems to the electoral process”. They also stated that a further investigation could be advanced subsequently.

Nazis used the radio as a propaganda device in times where it was the massive way of reaching out to the public, the hypodermic needle spreading poison. In times where social networks become the most immediate way, at the distance of any person’s pocket; and where personal data has been consolidated as the commodity of the digital financial economy; it has become very serious to think about the potential threats and damage and crimes already caused with the objective to define an election with tools that act before the vote of a person.

Something that the crisis leaves for the people’s organization, which sometimes closes doors but opens windows is a possibility to agglutinate that necessary unity and build political resistance. The massive mobilizations against fascism have served as this space to build unity in times of elections. The partisan campaigns, the action in the mass media, and now social networks as a place of dispute that is known and is renewed every moment and that puts a challenge in the face of the future of politics and democracy; they are also found again in the mass mobilizations, on streets, their necessary and natural place that is also in dispute. A necessary framework of unity with the people on street defending democracy before a historical enemy.

Two mass mobilizations, led by Brazilian women, who feel the constant threat of being governed by someone who defends rape and torture, and who remain strong and live the struggle for a sovereign and democratic country, called hundreds of thousands of people to take to the streets of Brazil and many other parts of the world also coinciding with the anti-fascist guideline.

The mobilization of September 29, a week before first round, demonstrated the unity of the political forces and of all sectors of society that are not willing to live in a society that prioritizes arms over books; [the sectors] that do not want to live with hatred and violence. After the first round, at least 50 street attacks related to Bolsonaro activists were recorded. The victims are mostly women, LGBTQs and Afro-descendants. One fatal case was the assassination of Moa do Katendê, a historic Capoeira instructor from Bahia (Salvador), who was stabbed during a discussion where he had expressed his vote to the PT. With one week left before the second round and after the acts of violence and disclosure of lies and acts of corruption around Bolsonaro’s campaign, on October 20, the whole country mobilized again in a definitive pattern, [with] #EleNão #HaddadSim.

The international response, the state of general dismay of prominent figures and political and human rights organizations in the world show that the phenomenon of re-emergence of the most radical right-wing is gaining weight on the continent. The impact of the international press and even well known pop-culture personalities that manifested against fascism in the campaign #EleNão also express how unity is generated around values that we know as civilizing, in the face of this barbarism.

Polls on October 28 show a possible victory of Bolsonaro, with a difference that has been reduced after each survey. Sectors of the left and center have already confirmed their support to Fernando Haddad. Each and every possible vote to the candidate of the right must be be fought for, because on the side of democracy there is a program, a project and a will to build it with the people and on the other side there is silence and fake news.