Brazil: Bolsonaro on the edge. How do we push him over?

By Verónica O’Kelly, Alternativa Socialista – ISL/Brazil

As of this Sunday, Brazil has 15,368 deaths from a total of 229,204 confirmed cases of Covid-19, according to data from the State Health Secretary. These numbers, while high, do not express the real magnitude of the situation, due to the high levels of under-reporting mainly because of limited or complete lack of tests. The stories in the mass media or reports from social organizations and by health workers themselves, are frightening. Bolsonaro’s criminal policy seems to have no limits and every day it offers us new episodes of brutality and contempt for the lives of millions.

The country is ruled by a far-right militiaman who promised to discipline the working masses to secure profits for domestic and foreign capitalists. But he did not achieve this goal and in the midst of an upward political crisis, Jair Bolsonaro’s government is facing the pandemic and the consequent deepening of the already ongoing economic crisis. Since the coronavirus crisis began, two health ministers have resigned as a result of the pressure on them to act against the health recommendations that are being developed worldwide. The denialist Bolsonaro calls on his ministers and state governors to take “vertical” social distancing measures (i.e., to quarantine some people deemed at risk, as those over 60 or with previous conditions) and to return to normal to avoid economic paralysis. It also lobbys for the use of Chloroquine and Hydroxychloroquine, both medications that not only haven´t been proven to attack Covid-19 but which also pose a high risk due to their contraindications. Bolsonaro has also called for rallies in front of the government house or the Armed Forces building, he talks about closing parliament and many other outrageous statements. All these actions reflect the desperate hopes of a president clinging to the ropes of a rapidly collapsing government.

A fascist government?

It is clear that Bolsonaro can be labeled a fascist or genocidal (as millions call him on social media popularizing #BolsonaroGenocida), but those are his personal characteristics and, of course, attempts to impose defeats and roll back rights conquered by the working class. This imprint was not enough to build a fascist-type government in Brazil, not even a bonapartist[1] one, and the reason for that is the rise in the mobilization of the exploited masses that has not stopped and has deepened at present. Last night, as Bolsonaro spoke on a nationwide broadcast, the rejection of his government was once again felt all over the country with a new “panelaço” protest under a single slogan: Fora Bolsonaro!

It is a weak government that is a product of the ongoing political crisis, that hasn´t been resolved by the capitalist ruling class, since the massive mobilizations led by the youth in 2013. That was the turning point of the rupture between the popular sectors and the PT, Lula and Dilma. From then on, the Workers’ Party, which had once represented and impassioned large sections of the working class, the youth, social and popular movements, crystallized as the head of austerity policies, neoliberal reforms and the corrupt manager of the profits of big business and corporations.

Dilma´s impeachment in 2016 was a reactionary maneuver of right-wing sectors (both inside and outside the government) to remove the PT from the presidency because it was no longer able to lead attacks against the people as it had lost much of its social base and popular support. Through this maneuver the bourgeoisie placed Vice-President Temer in the presidency, installing a weak, illegitimate and repudiable government. Temer was tasked with completing the neoliberal austerity measures that Dilma began but could not guarantee. That was the role of his government, which could hold on to power only because of the consent given to it by the Brazilian bourgeoisie to do the dirty work that the PT did not complete, and because of the absence of a left-wing political alternative with enough influence to contest and govern. But there was a strong response of the masses and “Fora Temer” became the main slogan of crowds mobilizing and leading the struggle up to the great General Strike of April 28, 2017 that tore down the plans of the right against the people.

Unfortunately, despite the great strength that the working class, women, youth and popular sectors expressed throughout this period, there was a new betrayal of the PT and the trade union bureaucracy under the leadership of major trade union federations such as the CUT. They cancelled the call for a new General Strike and pursued a policy in favor of sustaining the bourgeois democratic regime and focused on running Lula again for the 2018 elections. This emboldened the right in the face of the growing weakness of the PT and Lula. Taking advantage of the treacherous policy of the leadership of the PT and the trade union bureaucracy, the right launched a new anti-democratic maneuver using the addicted to power judiciary to imprison Lula and put an end to the possibility of the PT to return to power.

As stated above, the break between the masses and the PT was beyond return at this point, but in the absence of an alternative to the antipopular and illegitimate government of Temer, “the lesser evil” of Lula was the choice of millions, making him the candidate that was polling highest at that moment. When Judge Moro (later Minister of Justice of Bolsonaro´s government, which he now opposes) dictated Lula´s prison sentence, an act of political proscription was consummated, which we repudiate and that is why we demand his freedom. Fernando Haddad, unknown to the vast majority of the population, was the poor and unmotivating electoral option that the PT managed to nominate as Presidential candidate, achieving a lean electoral result far from the high polling numbers of the candidacy of former President Lula.

That is how Bolsonaro came to be the president of Brazil. The Latin American Trump made every effort to fulfill the mandate of austerity, neoliberal reforms and deepening the state’s repressive character by cutting democratic freedoms, but failed to break the mobilization process that has put him it on the edge of the cliff.

So how do we bring down Bolsonaro and his government?

The former captain no longer enjoys the support of right-wing parties (today he is a partyless president) and has lost the fleeting electoral support he received in the last election just a year and a half ago. The bourgeoisie itself rehearses possible ways out, but does not seem to have a presidential replacement yet and they know that in times of uprisings, rebellions and crises around the world, and in Latin America in particular, it is best not to play with fire. So, for now, the President of the Senate, Rodrigo Maia, continues to file away impeachment requests, while the bourgeoise searches for a way out and attempts to sustain the weakened regime through parliament and state governments.

The PT and Lula are trying to fill the void and that is why their policy is once again to strengthen themselves as an electoral alternative, this time for 2022, and proposing a large Broad Anti-Fascist Front. Unfortunately, this political orientation is accompanied by left-wing currents and even within the PSOL itself. The federal congress member of Rio de Janeiro, Marcelo Freixo reported in an interview with O Globo, that he is deregistering his candidacy for Mayor of Rio de Janeiro because there is no such wide front. Nothing new or good can come from an old pseudo-progressive recipe that relies on class conciliation and confidence in the rotten regime. That is why, far from “passionate” crowds, the PT attempts to weave alliances that put it back into government and speak of the fascist government to justify and cover up their own responsibilities.

We cannot keep hesitating as the pandemic advances over the health and lives of thousands, and the economic crisis threatens millions with hunger, poverty, and destitution. We need to form front of all the left that has been fighting to throw this government away. Some have done so through an impeachment request that does not represent a way forward in this conjuncture as it would place the retired army captain and defender of the Brazilian military dictatorship, Hamilton Mourao, in power. We need to develop mobilization to force the whole government out. The trade union federations must stop betraying and call for a general strike. Direct elections must be called for a free and sovereign Constituent Assembly so that it is 99% of brazilians who decide our future, not a group of bandits who favor capitalist gains over our lives. It is time for a government of those who have never governed, a government of workers. Bolsonaro and Mourao Out!

[1] A category that refers to governments that concentrate power on the presidency to the detriment of the weakening parliament.