...while far too little changed in the Brazilian Workers' Party
Last week, a Brazilian federal court upheld the conviction of former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Lula, who was in power from 2003 to 2011, and at the time was the most popular leader in the country's history, now faces up to twelve years in prison. The sentence comes two years after a de facto legislative coup against his successor, Dilma Rousseff, and effectively disbars him from the presidential elections this autumn. (Polls have consistently put him in the lead.) The decision has rocked the Brazilian left, leaving an enormous vacuum in its wake.
We have translated a piece from Pedro Marin, the editor-in-chief of left-wing publication Revista Opera, in reaction both to the decision as well the response from Lula's Workers' Party, the PT.
On 24 August 1954, the course of Brazil’s history was effectively altered—or perhaps thrown into disarray—by the suicide of President Getúlio Vargas. The masses took to the streets, Rede Globo’s television trucks were tipped over, and Carlos Lacerda [a journalist turned anti-communist politician who would go on to support a military coup ten years later - Ed.] fled. The bullet which the ‘old man’ fired into his chest delayed the coup for a decade.
The day before yesterday [24 January 2018 - Ed.] former President Lula da Silva was unanimously condemned by the Regional Federal Court of the Fourth district (TRF-4) for the crimes of corruption and money laundering in the much-discussed triplex case. Nothing changed in Brazil save for the rise in the stock market, which greatly pleased the vultures in the financial markets.
In February, Lula will conduct a tour through the south of the country, starting at the grave of Getúlio Vargas in São Borja, to the delight of those who wish to make such comparisons. Lula is not Getúlio, however—it’s not a matter of ideological distance, or of differing projects, or anything else. Lula isn’t Getúlio because he doesn’t have the courage or political virtue that ‘the old man’ had. The former president gave some choice examples of this the other day, during a meeting of the national leadership of the PT. He said: “It won’t be an easy task. This party spent a long time insisting that there wouldn’t be a coup and there was coup”. At another point he said: “It was only yesterday that I understood what a Cartel was. I could even send the case to CADE [the Brazilian anti-trust agency - Ed.],” in reference to the judges of the TRF-4.
João Pedro Stedile of the Landless Workers’ Movement, or MST, said:
“Those of us from the popular movements won’t accept in any way the arrest of comrade Lula. The Judicial System gave us proof that they are the bourgeoisie. They gave an extensive explanation of how the Judicial Branch in this country is anti-democratic and biased.”
Vagner Freitas from the Unified Workers’ Central declared that as far as he was concerned, the popular movements would “confront and disavow the TRF-4 by taking to the streets,” promising to organize strikes against the reversals made by “capitalist bosses, the engineers of the coup,” denouncing at last those “who financed the coup, the Brazilian bourgeoisie” and promising “the biggest general strike in our history” on 19 February.
The addition of Marxist vocabulary (though crude) and the promises of radicalisation could offer us some hope. At last, reality is finally knocking at the door and clarifying matters. And the Workers’ Party appears to have finally understood, nearly two years after the coup, that reaction has arrived. But this is merely an illusion—though their vision may improve, they will not draw practical lessons from it.
In short, the Workers’ Party is gradually learning what they should have understood two years ago, and even now continue adjusting reality to their desires. They can finally give the right answer to the question, “what has happened in the last two years?” but are mistaken when the question becomes, “what can we do to reverse the process?”
Despite the coup against the elected president and the conviction against their most important figure, the party could only put forth a proposal for a “broad front” in the upcoming elections at its meeting . They don’t seem to believe, as I said a few months ago, in their own thesis—that what happened was a coup—and they continue believing in “democracy”, ethics and institutionality. They haven't realized that reaction has already smashed the gods held sacred by the “republican left” (if they ever believed in them at all).
The PT plans to embark on a game in which it has already been defeated, despite having had the illusion of victory. Those who join them will similarly fail. In the event of another illusion of victory, they would once again face the press, Congress, the Judiciary, the financial markets, and now General Mourão [who has called for a "military intervention" to stem corruption - Ed.], if necessary. Defeat is certain.
To win, the popular classes must recognize that it is not enough to understand the situation, or to denounce it, but to combat it. More to the point, they must recognize that repeating a formula theorized at the tail-end of the 1970s, which found its climax with the election of Lula in 2002, is no solution.
You can find the original Portuguese version of this article on Revista Opera's website here.
Revista Opera is an independent publication founded in 2012 producing counter-hegemonic and left-wing journalism that sheds light on the day's most important events. As with Konkret Media, Revista Opera is an independent initiative, which means that we do not have the support of NGOs, institutes, think tanks, companies or parties. They depend on the contribution of their readers to maintain their publication going. You can find ways to support their work here.
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