Summary: Discusses the upcoming Brazilian election and how to defeat Bolsonarism — Editors
Portuguese original here.
On October 30th, the second round of presidential elections will take place in Brazil. The current president, Bolsonaro, from the extreme right is running against a former president (who served from 2003 until 2011), Lula from the Worker´s Party (PT). It is the day when, we hope, the country will decide to put an end to the Bolsonaro government. However, these elections will not only mean the end of an autocrat in gestation, but the consolidation of a new challenge for the Brazilian left: it is what we call « bolsonarism ».
During the last presidential election in 2017, the Bolsonarist movement seemed to still be in formation ; this year it readily presents itself as the expression of the Brazilian extreme right. This movement embodies and represents the conservative, racist and homophobic ideals that echo in this society, excluding and proposing the extermination of those who do not share the same political and religious values. Bolsonarism means the use of discourse and practices that dehumanize LGBT+ populations, women, indigenous people and quilombolas, considering only those who have a certain religion to be “Brazilian people”, who are in accordance with heteronormativity and who are not left-wing. In this sense, using fake news strategies and the government’s resources, Bolsonaro’s campaign is using the discourse of “good against evil”, placing itself in a context of a holy war in which defeating evil means defeating the left and those who do not share and defend the values of the extreme right.
In the balance of four years of this government, we have seen the increase in deforestation in the Amazon, with the extensive fires whose images traveled the world, in addition to the encouraging of illegal miners and extractivists in the process of looting that territory. This practice was not limited to the president’s speech in this sense, but in annihilation and control of inspection policies previously implemented to prevent, hinder and penalize actions of depredation in that area. One of these practices was to weaken the public organization focused on helping and protecting indigenous peoples, who occupy lands in various parts of the country. The lands of traditional peoples in Brazil are coveted because they represent one of the final frontiers of capital, as they are not yet part of the dynamics of agricultural and mineral industrial exploitation. The protection mechanisms of these peoples allow not only the maintenance of their bodies, culture and society, but also the protection of the nature that still exists there. It is the knowledge and technology of the indigenous Amazonians who guard the forest from industrial extraction. In this way, the process of emptying those mechanisms represents not only the exclusion, through a state policy, of part of the population that does not fit in the western ideal of whiteness of the extreme right, but also the degradation of the environment itself.
In addition, we still have more than six hundred thousand deaths from COVID-19 in the country. The pandemic itself brings its challenges, but the poor COVID-19 response by the Bolsonaro government was an essential contribution to the high number of losses. He turned his anti-vaccine opinion into public policy, which led to a delay in the purchase and distribution of immunizations. He did not implement public policies that would help the working class restrict their circulation of the virus and reduce transmission rates. Through the actions of civil society, social movements and the Brazilian Congress, financial assistance was approved and granted to these families months after the beginning of the pandemic. Currently, this is one of the only social actions of the government that transfers income, but it has not been established as a solid and long-term policy.
The attack on democratic institutions and their weakening was the recipe used by Bolsonaro over these four years. With the support and employment of military personnel in high positions in power (by doing that he rescued the ghosts of the military dictatorship that lasted twenty years) and carried out numerous attacks on members of the Brazilian Supreme Court and on the electoral system and court, urging his supporters to distrust democratic institutions. He subverted the presidential logic by instituting a form that challenges the transparency and publicity of the distribution of resources to parliamentarians, who become the great holders and executors of the federal budget. Between 2020 and 2022, more than 44 billion reais in resources have already been reserved to be transferred to senators and deputies without the need to identify who is the parlamentarian responsible for that expense, which makes it easier for them to use these resources to effect overpriced contracts with partner companies . In other words, corruption schemes are facilitated. In the meantime, Brazil remains with an inflation of foodstuffs that overload the poor population who, with the low income they receive, can barely afford the minimum for their survival. The country has returned to the United Nations hunger map, with 61 million Brazilians struggling to eat in the years 2019 and 2021, while between 2014 and 2016 there were less than 4 million .
Despite this scenario of death and disinformation, Bolsonaro got 43.2% of the votes, while Lula got 48.4%. The Workers’ Party (PT), Lula’s party, ruled the country from 2003 to 2016, the year in which then-President Dilma was impeached. Now, with the proposal of a united front to defeat Bolsonaro, Lula allies himself with former opponents from the right and new leaders of this wing to fight the autocracy and rescue the young democratic regime in the country (reimplanted in 1985 after the military dictatorship). Lula’s campaign focuses on hope for better times, recalls the effective improvement of workers’ lives when he ruled the country between 2003 and 2011, and on restoring respect for democratic institutions. He faces the existing anti-PT sentiment in society, but tries to vaccinate himself with it by emphasizing alliances with various left and right fronts (the latter represented by his VP, PT’s opponent in past elections). If Lula’s previous administrations were center-left, then the next one, if he wins the elections, will be very different, perhaps moving towards a center-right stance. The fact is that, at this moment, this path is the only one capable of defeating Bolsonaro.
The point is that defeating Bolsonaro does not mean defeating Bolsonarism. In the first round of the elections, we also voted for senator, federal deputy, and state deputy. At that moment, candidates who mirrored Bolsonarist discourses and practices were able to get elected. The ideals of the extreme right found their representation in the Brazilian Congress. However, if, from the federal perspective, the left’s hope is for a future center-right government, we had important victories for parliament in the first round that exemplify what it means to struggle and resist on the left. The most voted deputy in the city of São Paulo was a leader of the Homeless Movement (Guilherme Boulos), a housing rights organization. For the first time, there will be three trans deputies (Erika Hilton, Duda Salabert and Linda Brasil). We will also have two indigenous women in Parliament (Sônia Guajajara and Célia Xakriabá). All those mentioned here are affiliated with left-wing parties. The extreme right organizes itself, but the diversity of the peripheries is also organized and brings lifelines in this turbulent sea.
On October 30th, we will decide the next four years and the future of this country. It is the day that we will decide if we will dream again and have food on our table again.