National Sections of the L5I:

Brazil: the right wing threat and how to fight it

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On September 7, Brazil’s national Independence Day, far-right president Jair Bolsonaro called his supporters onto the streets. Hundreds of thousands marched in 15 or more cities, including mass demonstrations of tens of thousands. Some claimed 100,000 in Sao Paolo alone.

Whilst the numbers may have declined compared to previous demonstrations, they are still alarming. In Brasilia and Sao Paolo, they clearly outnumbered the counter demonstrators. Even more important is the greater radicalisation and transformation of Bolsonaro and his supporters. On the far right, members of the army and the military police marched in uniform, carrying their guns.

Bolsonaro and his government face many threats; a severe economic crisis, a pandemic which has cost 580,000 lives, corruption charges, declining support in the polls, even sections of the ruling elite distancing themselves from him. Nonetheless, he and his supporters will not simply leave the scene, even if they lose the presidential election next year or if he is removed by the Supreme Court.

What is clear is that they are gelling into a reactionary petit-bourgeois movement of a fascist type, closely connected to paramilitary forces and sections of the repressive apparatus in both the army and, in particular, the 500,000 strong military police.

Whilst sections of the ruling class and the traditional bourgeois parties have distanced themselves from Bolsonaro, the core of the ruling class does not want to risk ousting him and sections even continue to support him, since he promises to complete the social and economic goals of the parliamentary coup of 2016 that removed Dilma Rousseff of the Workers' Party, PT, from the Presidency. To understand what is at stake today, one needs to understand the political developments since then.

The evolution of the fascist threat

Although Rousseff was replaced by her vice-president, Michel Temer of the Brazilian Democratic Movement, MDB, who had orchestrated the coup, this brought an unexpected consequence for reputations of the main parties of the bourgeoisie, MDB and the Social Democratic Party, PSDB. This became very clear in the subsequent elections both for the presidency and for mayors and governors.

The chaotic atmosphere around the coup created serious problems for the bourgeois democratic system as political parties began to be questioned by the population. Growing distrust of bourgeois institutions found its expression in Bolsonaro. In his demagogic speeches, filled with racist prejudice and hate against the corrupt political elite, he denounced all the "old politics" and claimed that he would not play the game of compromising with the Congress.

What encouraged his followers most was his claim to fight against corruption and public servants who, according to him, had high salaries and were partisans of the PT and communists.

Thus, while he attacked the left, he also moved away from the traditional right, placing himself above everyone and presenting himself as a solution for the country. With this combination of hatred and radicalism, Bolsonaro soared in the polls, acquiring more supporters with the support of fundamentalist neo-Pentecostal evangelical groups, the military, militiamen and landowners.

In the second round of presidential elections in 2018, the race was between PT’s Haddad and Bolsonaro. Lula, who would have been the natural candidate of the PT, was removed from the race by decision of the Supreme Federal Court. The PSDB and MDB realised that the only way to maintain the aims of the 2016 coup was to support the candidacy of Bolsonaro, thus preventing the PT returning to power. In a close contest, with many spoiled and blank votes, Bolsonaro won the 2018 elections and brought into Congress many new parliamentarians from small right-wing parties prepared to sell their votes.

Once in power, Bolsonaro advanced his politics of hate against social movements, leftists, public servants and teachers, in addition to attacks against women, LGBT+, blacks and indigenous people. When he was criticised by the liberals, mainly through the bourgeois press and TV, he responded with attacks on the media, trying to link it to the left and calling on his supporters to take action in his support.
Important positions in the government and state apparatus were quickly filled with military personnel, of whom there are now more than 6,000, including in the top ranks. Therefore, we can say that we are facing a civic-military Bonapartist regime. In addition, Bolsonaro, who already had a strong influence over the militias, also increased his influence over the police (military, civilian and federal). He exonerated the head of the federal police and prevented further investigation of alleged corruption by his sons by appointing a figure of his own choosing.

With the growth of support from armed sectors, Bolsonaro began to attack Congress and the Supreme Court when they issued decisions contrary to his interests. With financial influence over deputies and senators, he managed to elect his allies to the presidency of both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. For this, he made agreements with the parties of the "Centre" that were willing to sell themselves, releasing funds and offering positions in the government, contrary to his campaign promises.

Thus, Bolsonaro negotiated a truce with Congress and increased the attacks on the Supreme Court, making constant threats to close it, even making the request for impeachment of its members. His followers adopted the idea of closing the Court, claiming that its judges were communists and against the country.

The demonstrations on September 7 this year, were another rallying point in his campaign. During the Brasilia action, in his speech to the crowd, Bolsonaro said he will not comply with any sentence of the Supreme Court judge Alexandre de Morais, making clear his total disrespect for the judge, the Court and the Federal Constitution.

After this, the traditional parties of the bourgeoisie began to react to Bolsonaro's attacks. Whilst the president of the House, Arthur Lira, backed down when faced with Bolsonaro's attacks, Pacheco, president of the Senate, distanced himself publicly from Bolsonaro. Two members of the Supreme Court, Luiz Fux and Luis Roberto Barroso, condemned Bolsonaro's attacks on the Court and the Federal Constitution, without, however, taking any action against him.

Truckers who support Bolsonaro tried to continue their actions after September 7. According to G1 (Globo news portal), on September 9, there were blockades on highways in at least 16 states, with only small cars, emergency vehicles and perishable food loads allowed through. The following day, there were still roadblocks in Bahia, Mato Grosso, Pará and Rondônia as well as demonstrations in Rio Grande do Sul, Mato Grosso do Sul and Paraná.

Those actions then ebbed away but the economic, social and political crisis will continue and indeed get worse.

There have been more than 580,000 deaths from Covid-19 and the vaccination campaign has only reached just over 30 percent of the population. As if that were not enough, Bolsonaro reduced the 2022 vaccine budget by 85 percent as compared to 2021.

With all these problems, however, Bolsonaro still guarantees the bankers, big businessmen, agribusiness and landowners immense profits and that is why he remains in government, despite more than 150 requests for impeachment presented to the president of the Chamber of Deputies.

Bolsonaro increasingly positions himself as the "great leader" who does not obey any institutional power and is prepared to deepen the coup even if this requires a violent military intervention, bringing the Armed Forces into government and putting the paramilitary police and militias on the streets. Thus, there is a clear threat that his next step will be a coup, this time clearly fascist, based on armed mass mobilisation and destruction of constitutional, parliamentary and judicial institutions.

It is the continuing crisis of the country; the political paralysis between its different institutions as well as different class forces, that provides the social basis for cohering Bolsonaro's supporters into a movement of enraged petit-bourgeois together with sections of the armed forces. It is this crisis and paralysis that is pushing the petit-bourgeoisie and even backward, racist sections of the working class to the right. Ironically, it is the chaos and instability, the threatening militarised marches, which Bolsonaro himself is fomenting, that is deepening the tensions in the country, creating the demand for a “strong man” to assume full dictatorial powers. This would allow Bolsonaro to destroy the remaining defensive strongholds of the workers' movement, the trade unions and working class parties, within crisis-ridden Brazilian capitalism.

Popular Front
How is the working class and its leading organisations responding to the radicalisation of the counter-revolution, the real threat that a fascist movement will develop further and even seize power in alliance with sections of the military and police forces?

The PT, the largest leftist party in the country, and the most important for the working class, has been working to build a “broad front”. In this, they would even include the parties of the right which plotted the 2016 coup and supported the candidacy of Bolsonaro to prevent the PT from returning to the helm of the country. We can see this both in the efforts of Lula, its main leader, talking to the "old bosses" of the traditional right and the announcements of many other party leaders.

This broad front is nothing more than the historic popular front such as we saw in Spain and France in the 1930s and in Chile in the 1970s, a strategy which has always led to the defeat of the working class. Lula and the other PT leaders should know this very well, it was such an alliance that led the party further to the right, took several of its leaders to prison and culminated in the coup of 2016 and the unjust imprisonment of Lula himself.

The strategy of looking for an alliance with the “anti-Bolsonaro” section of the ruling class has been developed by the PT, but also supported by the Communist Party, PCdoB, and recently by a declaration of Guilherme Boulos, of the Socialism and Liberty Party, PSOL. Fortunately, sectors of the PT, the PCdoB, and PSOL have already come out against this popular front. These are important sectors involving both leaders and the rank and file of these parties. At the same time, we also observe that the PCdoB is about to merge with the Brazilian Socialist Party, PSB, a “socialist” party that long ago became a party of the right, for the construction of a new party, certainly larger and further to the right. A merger between these two parties has even been labelled “Movement 65”.

Historically, the popular front proved fatal for the working class. It not only failed to meet its demands but on many occasions was a prelude to the fascists taking power. Since the popular front is only possible if the working class organisations subordinate the interests of their class and of the progressive petit-bourgeoisie and middle strata of society to the interest of the bourgeoisie, it necessarily disappoints, disorients and frustrates the workers. It also pushes away the petit-bourgeoisie from the working class and towards reactionary right wing populist or even fascist forces, who present themselves as the more “radical” solution of the crisis.

The struggle against fascism is intrinsically linked to the struggle against capitalism. The fascist threat emerges currently, as in the past, from the severe crisis of capitalism and bourgeois parliamentary forms of rule. On the basis of desperate parts of the middle classes, fascist rule tries to resolve the crisis by a destruction of any resistance from the working class or other oppressed against the programmes for saving the interests of big capital. The popular front may look like a short term solution against the imminent threat of a fascist takeover but, because it is incapable of solving the crisis situation either in favour of the working and middle classes, or in the long-term interests of the capitalists, it can only be a highly unstable and temporary solution. The underlying crisis must be resolved in one of these two directions. As the popular front is an obstacle to the full mobilisation of the working class, it is a benefit to the bourgeoisie, which can prepare the next, fascist attack, as soon as the popular front has disillusioned the workers and radicalised the fascist mob.

Besides this main trend toward the “broad front” we have the smaller leftist organisations, PCB, Workers' Cause Party, PCO, and the United Socialist Workers Party, PSTU, that are entirely against the popular front. The PCB and PSTU, however, take a sectarian position in workers' struggles, refusing to include the PT within a united front or to tactically relate to it. The same applies in the elections; it is a political position that does not bring any gain for the working class and leaves the PT leadership free to seek alliances with the right wing, making it easier for that leadership to continue its control over the mass of the organised working class.

Positioning of the left
In the present situation, we need a major mobilisation of the working class to confront any advance of fascism and against a whole range of social attacks. However, especially in the first phase of the pandemic, the main parties of the Brazilian left and the central trade unions largely stopped political and trade union activity. This meant that many trade unionists and leftists remained passive, while the mass of the working class continued to work and use overcrowded public transport, with many laid off at the time when the right attacked. This mistake made it difficult to mobilise to counter the attacks of the governments and businessmen during the pandemic.

Furthermore, although they denounce the crazy and fascist character of Bolsonaro and his followers, big sections of the left underestimate the present danger; Bolsonaro, his fascist followers, and many in top positions in the armed apparatus of the bourgeois state, are now steering towards a takeover. The left should not deceive itself with regard to this danger, but neither should it regard all as lost, the numbers of Bolsonaristas on the streets on the September 7 was not so big and there are parts of the bourgeoisie that are now more directly opposed to him. Powerful and united working class action on the streets and in the workplaces can still defeat and scatter his movement.

The weak response of the left to this unbelievable provocation, however, will embolden the fascists, making them believe that they will not meet a lot of resistance from the legalist left and the traditional parties of the right when they erect their dictatorship. In contrast to this, we have to ring the alarm bells. The working class, its parties, the trade unions and the rank and file organisations have to prepare a fight that really can beat fascism, when it attacks. This will include the most powerful weapons of the proletariat, from the general strike up to armed resistance.

The leaderships of the left and of the trade union movement are slowly and belatedly starting to promote mobilisations. In order to speed up this process, direct action by the leaderships and the rank and file is necessary. For this, they need to define a unified objective nationally. The CUT and the PT, the largest working class organisations in the country, should clearly define the general strike as this concrete objective. For this, the PT leaderships, including Lula, need to stop making alliances with the right wing and call on the working class. We need to demand that the national leadership of the CUT call for a general strike and organise self-defence units, if the right wing Bolsonarists try to take over by means of a putsch. This struggle requires breaking with all bourgeois parties and alliances. Instead, we need to promote a united front of the working class and all oppressed strata of society, the PT, the CUT, all other unions and left wing unions, the MST and MTST, the women’s, LGBTIAQ and student movements.

In order to build such a front, we need to unite the struggles against the capitalist crisis, against the Pandemic and against the rise of the right.

Action Programme for Brazil

The coup of 2016 and the rise of Bolsonaro have plunged the country into chaos. More than 580,000 dead from Covid-19; unemployment reaching more than 20 percent, taking into account the unemployed (14.6 percent) and those who have given up looking for work (5.7 percent); food prices have skyrocketed in the markets; butchers' shops are already starting to sell bones, as an option for those who can no longer buy meat; fuel has reached exorbitant prices and many are already using wood and alcohol stoves to replace cooking gas.

The economic, health and political crisis has forced many unemployed people into completely unregulated work. These are the fast food delivery workers, who work more than 10 hours a day, with no fixed salary, no paid rest, no social security, no vacations and, since they have no boss, they end up being their own executioners.

A popular front will not bring solutions for the working class. Its main role will be to throw the bill for the crisis, once again, onto the backs of the workers and to guarantee their profits from investment in the private sector.

Neither can we wait for institutional solutions from the Supreme Court or Congress. Our only way out is the struggle against the rise of the right, the making of the next coup and the social-economic attacks. It is clear that this needs to culminate in the overthrow of the Bolsonaro government, posing itself the question of political power and the creation of a working class government.

In order to achieve this, we need a united front of the entire left, involving all the parties of the left (PT, PCdoB, PSOL, PCB, PCO and PSTU) and the social and trade union movements. This must be built on the key demands to stop the crisis, on an emergency programme that meets the immediate needs of the working class and the impoverished masses.

Such a government, composed of the PT, the PSOL, the CUT and other left and trade union organisations, needs to be based on organs of struggle, on resistance committees in neighbourhoods, workplaces, schools and universities. These should be the basis for the actions of the left front and a step towards the construction of workers' and peasants' councils.

Such a government can only come about as result of struggle, it is not just a parliamentary combination. Whilst it will not yet be a government of a new, socialist society, it can be a step towards it. Therefore, we demand the existing working class organisations bring this struggle forward, break with all popular frontist politics and fight for a workers' and peasants' government. We will support such a movement against any attack by the right, the ruling class and imperialism. At the same time, we need to fight for a genuine programme of transitional demands to bring the struggle forward to the creation of a workers' state, based on a democratically planned economy and on workers' and peasants' councils.

In order to rally a united workers' struggle, we propose the following emergency plan to satisfy the needs of the workers and oppressed!

Repeal all reactionary legislations since the coup!

Repeal the Labour Reform and all laws that have attacked workers' rights since the coup of 2016.

Repeal all laws and legal decisions that have legalised and regulated outsourcing.

Repeal the Social Security Reforms of the Bolsonaro government and of the Lula and FHC governments.

Health care and social security for all

Free, quality public health care for all. Expansion and strengthening of the SUS, increasing investment in public health. Expropriation of all health units in the private sector and an end to health plans.

Free vaccination against Covid for all! Full compensation for all in quarantine or if workplaces need to close to contain the pandemic.

Free, quality, public education for all. Expropriation of all private schools and increased investment in education.

Prohibition of work for children under 16. A child's place is at school!

For a minimum wage decided by the unions and indexed against inflation! Unemployment benefits and pensions to be raised to the level of the minimum wage.

Full employment and wages for all

Equal pay for equal work for all workers, regardless of gender, race, age or country of origin.

Reduction of the workday to 36 hours per week, generating more jobs and providing more rest and leisure time for workers.

No more precarious jobs! Every worker has the right to paid and regulated work!

For a programme of socially and environmentally useful public works, financed by taxation of the rich and under workers' control

Fight oppression of women and the sexually oppressed!

Equal pay for women and oppressed in all spheres of the economy!

Defend the right to abortion! Self-determination of women over their body.

Socialise domestic work: free childcare, kindergartens for all
Build women's and LGBT-refuges to provide shelter for victims of violence

Self-defence training for women against domestic and public violence

Fight racism, defend indigenous people!

Equal pay and full access to social services, education and health for all!

Police and state forces out of the communities of oppressed and of the indigenous people!

Right of indigenous communities over their land

Self-defence, organised by the communities and the labour movement, against racist attacks and murder!

Agrarian reform now!

Expropriation of all large estates and agribusiness lands. Creation of collective farms and cooperatives of small rural producers, entitled to credit from the federal government.

Cancellation of all debts of small rural producers and an immediate end to all legal actions on these debts.

Effective protection of all forests and native peoples. Expropriation of all burned areas. Revitalisation of all rivers and forests.

For a plan to fight environmental catastrophe!
Nationalise Petrobras under workers' control.
A plan to phase out fossil fuels! Investment in development and research into clean energy production.

Make the capitalists and the rich pay!

Taxes on great wealth and profits!

Expropriation of all the key companies and those that make mass layoffs and disrespect workers' rights. That they be nationalised, without compensation and under workers' control.

Re-Nationalisation of privatised companies without any kind of compensation.

Financial incentive from the federal government for all nationalised companies to generate more jobs.

Emergency plan
Expropriate the big banks, financial institutions, the large monopolies in industry, commerce and trade and the big landowners and agrobusiness!

For an emergency plan to fight the pandemic, poverty, hunger and to renew society according to people's needs and environmental sustainability

Workers' control of such a plan!

For a Unified Constituent Assembly! For a socialist republic!
Down with the presidency and all undemocratic institutions of the state.

For a Constituent Assembly, based on elections convened and controlled by workplace and local assemblies and councils of the workers and peasants!

For the abolition of the police! The police are nothing more than an armed force to defend the private property of the capitalists. For the workers they mean repression and fear. Their actions, in poor neighbourhoods, especially of the Military Police, show exactly what they are a violent, racist force that executes the residents of these neighbourhoods, especially the black residents.

For the creation of workers' and anti-fascist militias! Groups of workers, armed and trained to defend the working class.

Fight for a workers' and peasants' government, based on councils of action and a workers' militia!

Against fascism! For an egalitarian, just and democratic society, a socialist society.

For the internationalisation of the revolution! For a workers' and peasants' republic, as part of the United Socialist States of Latin America!