National Sections of the L5I:

Stop Bolsonaro!

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Jair Bolsonaro, a semi-fascist, has gained 55 per cent in the presidential elections in Brazil as against 45 percent for Fernando Haddad, the candidate of the Workers' Party, PT. This victory will give him a "democratic mandate" to complete the onslaught on the Brazilian working class, peasants, black and indigenous people, women and LGBT+ people, as well as on the workers' parties, trade unions and mass organisations of students, homeless and landless workers.

After the declaration of victory, his supporters took to the streets in triumph. It was a carnival of reaction, an overt expression of their class hatred, their racism and sexism. Military and police joined them and drove through the streets of major cities. They were cheered by Bolsonaro’s right wing supporters who used the situation to intimidate inhabitants of the favelas, the urban poor, whom they will target as criminals, now without any legal restraint, under the new president. During his election campaign, his right wing or even fascistic supporters have killed several of his opponents, black people or activists from the LGBT+ movement. On election night, a well-known gay liberation activist was killed in Rio.

The aim of the new presidency is to complete the August 2016 coup started by the current President, Michel Temer, and the judiciary on behalf of the Brazilian bourgeoisie, the big landlords and US imperialism. Bolsonaro’s neo-liberal economic advisor, Paul Guedes, will be in charge of the Brazilian economy and head a “super-ministry”. He has announced another “pension reform”, that is, drastic cuts, a massive privatisation of the largest state owned companies like Petrobras. He and Bolsonaro have announced that they will scrap all social and environmental restrictions to “modernise” the Amazon region, in other words destroy the rain forest in the interests of the extractive industries and agro-business.

No wonder Donald Trump immediately congratulated his fellow right-winger promising or, more precisely, threatening, to “work hand in hand” with him. Clearly, Temer’s coup and now Bolsonaro's victory are also a victory for US imperialism, increasing its influence in Brazil and making the largest state of Latin America once more a firm US-ally. Other imperialist powers are more “concerned” by this reassertion of American hegemony, fearing it might weaken their influence. However, they all recognise the legitimacy of the new president, even though he won on the basis of a parliamentary and judicial coup against the previous PT President Dilma Rousseff, and by pro-coup judges imprisoning Lula and banning him from standing in the elections.

Bolonsaro and his cabinet not only stand for a vicious capitalist offensive. They also represent an authoritarian, bonapartist form of rule. Nobody should be fooled by his oath of loyalty to the constitution. Leaving aside that the constitutional institutions of Brazilian “democracy” were themselves an essential part of the coup against Dilma and the PT, nobody should forget Bolsonaro’s threats to purge the country of the “reds”, that is, the labour movement.

In order to realise these threats, Bolsonaro wants to unleash the full forces of reaction against the workers' movement and the oppressed. At least three ministries will be run be army leaders; not only defence, but also the interior and education! At the moment, he and his government will aim to rely primarily on the state forces to carry out his reactionary tasks. He will give a free hand to the police and the repressive apparatus to kill his opponents in the left parties, in the unions and amongst the poor in the favelas. Already, during the last year, some 5,000 have been killed by police, 80 percent of them people of colour. These “legal” killings are likely to increase.

At the same time, special and militarised police will be used against the peasants, the poor and workers' actions, making use of the anti-union legislation already introduced under Temer. In addition, in particular in their raids against the landless and poor peasants, the state forces and large landowners will also utilise paramilitary gangs, a number of them similar to fascist storm troopers.

The landless movement MST is likely to be one of the first targets of the new regime. During his election campaign, Bolsonaro threatened that it will be outlawed as a “terrorist organisation”. He has called for an end to “flirting with socialism, communism, populism and left extremism”, claiming in a Trump-like manner to “make Brazil great again”.

During the campaign, in which Bolsonaro engaged in his trade mark vile racist, misogynist and homophobic demagogy, he repeatedly threatened the destruction of the workers, landless and indigenous people's movements and to reverse the rights women have won since the end of the military dictatorship in the early 1980s.

He threatened the PT’s leaders and activists: “Either they go overseas, or they go to jail. ….These red outlaws will be banished from our homeland. It will be a cleanup the like of which has never been seen in Brazilian history.” He has also promised to purge and bring to trial the leaders of the PT and the CUT and other mass organisations for “corruption”. In reality, all such charges will just be a pretext to weaken and behead the labour movement, to cut down its organisations like a salami, slice by slice.

Act now!
The rise of the right and the decline of the PT cannot be understood without looking at the fortunes of the Brazilian economy. Lula’s first five years saw twenty million Brazilians lifted out of poverty but then the Great Recession broke in 2008. Scarcely had the country recovered from that when it was catapulted into second slump in 2012, triggered by IMF and US lenders’ demands for austerity. This lasted into 2016, and was the basis for mass mobilisations against Dilma and the PT and, in August of that year, Temer’s coup.

The recovery since then has been weak, not least because the Temer government also tightened the screws on government spending. The social consequences were not only increases in poverty, rampant inequality and mass unemployment, but a rise in violent crime and a three cornered war between drug gangs and the police in the shantytowns. Unemployment, which had fallen to a low of 6.05 million in 2013, now stands at 12.7 million in August 2018. More than fifty million Brazilians, nearly 25 percent of the population, live below the poverty line.

The fact that Dilma was in office when the second crisis hit, and that she gave in to the IMF over austerity, allowed the right wing media, the evangelical churches and right wing demagogues using the social media, to blame it all on the PT. They were identified as corrupt and frittering money away on the undeserving poor. This intensified the feelings of crisis and decline within the middle class and the labour aristocracy. On this basis, a campaign of virulent hatred against the poor, the unions, the black and indigenous parts of the population, gained traction, whilst sections of the PT’s popular base were demoralised by the cuts to the welfare and social services created under Lula.

If Bolsonaro and this government succeed in implementing their programme and in their attacks on the working class, peasants and oppressed, this would constitute a historic defeat for the movement not only in Brazil but internationally. However, such success still lies ahead of him and it is vital that no more time is lost in mobilising to stop him.

Haddad, has announced that he will “defend democracy” but neither he, nor the leaders of the main trade union federation, the CUT, have come up with any plan for action after the election campaign. These reformist leaders fear that any call for mass action might unleash the forces of reaction and smash or illegalise their organisations.
However, passivity in the face of the threats will not soften the hearts of Bolsonaro or his followers, quite the opposite, it will only encourage them to be even more savage.

Therefore, decisive actions are needed now. Clearly, there are millions, not least the 45 million who voted for Haddad, who do not want their organisations or their social gains to be smashed by Bolsonaro and the forces behind him. During the election campaign, a mass women’s movement emerged which rallied millions against Bolsonaro. Guilherme Boulos, a leader of the homeless workers' movement, MTST and the Party of Socialism and Liberty, PSOL, has called for protest actions and the formation of "frente amplia", a broad front, against the deepening of the coup and for mass demonstrations on 30 October as a starting point.

A united front comprising the PT, CUT, MST and all the left, socialist, women's and indigenous organisations is vital. It should not only be based on an agreement for actions between the leaderships, it must be rooted in councils of action in the work places, offices, in the working class districts and the favelas, the schools and universities, in the towns and the countryside. On such a basis, the workers, the peasants, the racially oppressed, women and the youth could respond to the onslaught of Bolsonaro by common, united class struggle. For example, if Bolsonaro actually illegalises the MST, all need to rally in support, not only with mass demonstrations, but with a political general strike.

Such a strike, however, would require the building of self-defence from the first minute to defend the striking workers, the poor in the favelas or the landless against police, paramilitary or fascist gangs. Such a united front would need to appeal to the conscripts in the army not to be misused against the workers and peasants, but to side with the people and form soldiers' committees and councils.

To repel and defeat the counterrevolutionary threat posed by Bolsenaro, the working class and all the oppressed need to use revolutionary means; the general strike, the formation of councils of action and their centralisation, the building of organs of self-defence as a first step towards a workers' and popular militia.

The revolutionary, left wing forces need to recognise this and explain it to the reformist workers. Bolsonaro can only be stopped by decisive action, but that will mean posing the question of power to the working class and the left itself. An indefinite political general strike will itself raise the question of establishing a workers' government based on the organs of the strike, on councils of action and self-defence organs which would be transformed into workers' councils (soviets) and militias in the course of the struggle.

Such a workers' government would need to break up the repressive apparatus of the Brazilian state and disarm the counterrevolutionary, reactionary forces. It would scrap all the reactionary legislation and secure equal rights for the racially oppressed, indigenous people, for women and the sexually oppressed. It would nationalise large-scale capital and land under the control of the working people, it would introduce an emergency plan to address the burning needs of the workers and the poor and reorganise the economy according to human needs and environmental sustainability.

International solidarity now!

Bolsonaro’s victory will hearten and encourage the powerful swing to the right going on in Europe, North America and, indeed, around the globe. The real scale and implications of the potential disaster facing one of the world’s strongest working class movements must be brought home to the international movement of our class.

The trade union, the social-democratic, Labour and all left parties must organise solidarity on the streets. They must demand the release of Lula and other imprisoned PT leaders, protest against all measures against the movement by the new government, and mobilise resources and direct action, such as workers' boycotts, as Bolsonaro’s attacks begin to rain down on our comrades in Brazil.