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The Internationalist
  October 2018

Brazil Elections:
On the Second Round...

The following article is translated from Vanguarda Operária No. 14, October-November 2018, published by the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil, section of the League for the Fourth International.

... the urgent task facing class-conscious workers and revolutionaries continues to be to mobilize powerful workers actions against the election fraud, the militarist danger and the attacks of the entire bourgeoisie against the exploited and the oppressed. Calls to form a “democratic front” and to vote for Fernando Haddad of the Workers Party (PT – Partido dos Trabalhdores), the candidate of the bourgeois popular front, only serve to undermine the necessary proletarian and revolutionary response to the danger posed by Jair Bolsonaro and his supporters who want to impose a militarist solution to the Brazilian crisis.

Bolsonaro takes aim, at the LAAD International Defense and Security Fair in Rio de Janeiro, April 2017. During the election campaign, the ex-captain threatened “we're going to shoot the petralhada [PT membership].” A “joke,” as the election court ruled?  (Photo: Flickr)

As soon as the first round of the elections ended, showing the heavy vote for the ultra-rightist congressman running for president, a general panic engulfed the ranks of the left in all its varieties. The former army captain, a defender of torture and the military dictatorship, who did not hide from the electorate his homophobia, machismo and prejudice against indigenous peoples and blacks, took 46% of the votes. The PT candidate, Haddad, received only 29%. In opposition to both bourgeois candidacies, we call for casting a blank ballot on the second round of voting. 

Bolsonaro’s precinct captains wear green/yellow shirts with the colors of Brazil’s flag and the national soccer team as a uniform, recalling Italian fascist Benito Mussolini’s black shirts and the brown shirts of Hitler’s Nazis. The xenophobic and racist nationalism of the candidate of the “bullet caucus” (military and police members of the Brazilian Congress) and his vice-presidential running mate, General Hamilton Mourão, has already sparked deadly violence. On the day of the first round vote, Mestre Moa de Katendê (Romualdo Rosário da Costa) was assassinated in the city of Salvador, Bahia. Mestre Moa, the founder of the Afoxé Badauê Carnival troupe and one of the greatest masters of capoeira in Brazil, was stabbed 12 times by a supporter of the militarist candidate for having criticized Bolsonaro and defended Haddad.

The attacks are continuing. The Agência Pública (October 10) counted at least 50 cases of physical assaults by Bolsonaro supporters during the first ten days of October. Nor is the danger limited to personal safety. A large-scale military intervention in the country is underway. On the eve of the first round of voting, some 94 armored combat vehicles arrived in the port of Paranaguá, donated (!) by the U.S. Pentagon (infodefesa.com, 5 October). What is their purpose? To attack Venezuela? Defense of the “Republic of Curitiba” (the seat of the Lava Jato judicial “investigation”)? In any case, we can be sure that they will be used for internal repression. A previous delivery, in 2015, included 50 M113 armored personnel carriers, several of which were used when the military assaulted the Complexo do Salgueiro neighborhood in São Gonçalo, in the state of Rio de Janeiro.

Militarization underway: 94 armored combat vehicles donated by the Pentagon arrived in the port of Paranaguá at the beginning of October. In April, the Brazilian Army received another 52 tanks donated by the U.S. For what purpose?  (Photo: Brazilian Army)

The reality is that we are witnessing an international drive for militarization. To confront and defeat this onslaught, it is necessary to mobilize a superior force: that of the international working class. The workers are the real targets of this capitalist attack, as was also the case in the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff. The fundamental focus of the political events of recent years is to impose by force the free-market “reforms” that the Bovespa (São Paulo stock exchange) and the imperialist bankers are demanding. To claim that one can stand up to this by making nice with sectors of the “centrão” (the rightist block that dominated the country for a decade and a half after 1988) and by voting for an ever more moderate PT candidate is a dangerous illusion.

Haddad is heading a “popular front” alliance, as was the case previously with Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff: a coalition of class collaboration that chains workers, the left, blacks, indigenous people, women, gay, lesbian and transgender people, and all of the oppressed to a section of the ruling class. The purpose of this two-headed front (the Frente Brasil Popular and Frente do Povo Sem Medo [Front of the Fearless People]) is to prevent radicalization of the opposition to the capitalist assault and to divert the justified fear caused by the forward march of the militarized ultra-right into electoral channels, which already showed themselves in the first round to be a dead end.

A Haddad victory at the ballot box? To be sure, the numbers of blank ballots and abstentions add up to millions. But after going to all the trouble of ousting the PT president from the Palácio do Planalto [Brazil’s White House] and ensuring that the historic leader of the PT would not be a candidate in 2018, do you think that the masters of this country are about to let a PT candidate win the presidency again? The only way to combat and defeat the threat of a bonapartist “strong state” based on the repressive apparatus (military, police and judiciary) is with hard-hitting class-struggle action.

Key sectors of the bourgeoisie are out to crush the Workers Party precisely because it is a reformist workers party, no matter how right-wing, sellout and class-collaborationist. However, the leadership of this party also wants to drain its class content. Haddad is the candidate of the bourgeois popular front, as he is confirming every day. In his television presentation (October 12), he said his campaign “is not of a party, it’s of everyone who wants to change the country.”

And this “everyone” encompasses a whole range of bourgeois sectors and politicians who only yesterday were denounced as “coup plotters.” Already before the first round Haddad conjured up support from the [mainline conservative] PSDB for his second round candidacy on a “republican agenda.” After the October 7 vote, he dropped the proposal for a constituent assembly. He no longer speaks of repealing the anti-worker “reforms” of “President” Temer. If elected, he would attack workers’ rights, as did Lula and Dilma.

Today the panicked Brazilian left is calling, almost in unison, to vote for Haddad. In addition to PCdoB and PCB, the PSOL in its entirety (Unidade Socialista, Resistência, INsurgência, MES, CST, LSR, EM, etc.), several Trotskyoid grouplets, and even the “coxinha left” of the PSTU (which made common cause with the right-wing in the impeachment battle), are calling to vote for the PT on the second round.

Particular mention should be made of the Movimento Revolucionário de Trabalhadores (MRT – Revolutionary Movement of Workers), which previously insisted that it never voted for the PT but is now “critically voting for Haddad” (“Declaration of the MRT, October 10). Even more revealing is the justification put forward by these centrists: they say that in voting for the PT candidate “we are accompanying the hatred and will to fight against Bolsonaro.” This is pure tailism. They even claim that they give “no political support to the policies of the PT,” while giving political support to the PT itself, and to the popular front it is leading. It shows that, in distress, all the talk of class independence spouted by these pseudo-Trotskyists goes up in smoke.

It’s not an isolated case. When the stabbing of Bolsonaro occurred, the MRT’s main candidate declared, in a matter of minutes, that “We repudiate the attack on the candidate Bolsonaro” because, despite political differences, “we are against atentados [assasinations or attempted assassinations] as a method of political struggle.” Even though in the following days they published a long article quoting Trotsky on terrorism, with that repudiation the MRT joined the rest of the left candidates in pledging obedience to the bourgeois state.

For a workers and peasants government.

Revolutionary Trotskyists are against violence within the left and we do not support the method of atentados, among other reasons because it is no answer to the violent oppression perpetrated by the whole system of exploitation, and moreover is often counterproductive, as in this case; but we give no solidarity to this criminal (Bolsonaro) nor do we salute the bourgeois “democracy” that condemns millions to poverty imposed at police and military gunpoint.

Even when the MRT, like other opportunist groups, speaks of organizing “self-defense committees” to “deal with the advance of authoritarianism and the extreme right,” it does not indicate their class character: they could be the core of committees of the popular front, bringing together various political forces including bourgeois forces. Revolutionary Trotskyists, in contrast, call for the formation of workers self-defense groups, based on mass organizations of working people, mainly the trade unions.

History teaches that one cannot defeat bonapartist and even fascist forces by making alliances with supposed “democratic” sectors of the bourgeoisie. Experience from the Spanish Civil War of the 1930s to the Unidad Popular of Salvador Allende in Chile in the early 1970s provides more than enough proof that the popular front leads to defeat, one way or another. The urgent task in defending the oppressed is to break with the bourgeoisie, form organisms of workers power, and build the nucleus of a revolutionary – Leninist and Trotskyist – workers party.

– Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil, 14 October 2018