The decision by Federal Supreme Court (STF) Justice Edson Fachin to annul Lula da Silva’s ‘Lava Jato’ (Car Wash) convictions and restore his political rights is a major democratic victory, undoubtedly the most important in recent years. Lula’s conviction and imprisonment, in defiance of the due process of law, was a key factor in the rise of Jair Bolsonaro to the presidential Planalto Palace. Fachin’s bombastic order is most likely aimed at preserving Operation ‘Lava Jato’ from the trial for suspicion* of former judge Sérgio Moro, which should be heard by the Second Panel of the Federal Supreme Court on 9 March, and which could, depending on the result, completely demoralize the ‘Republic of Curitiba’**. In any case, Fachin’s decision, which must be confirmed by the Full Bench of the STF, produces a turnaround in the political situation, by placing Lula back on center stage.
To understand the exact scale of what is at stake, one must take into account the significance of Operation ‘Lava Jato’ to national life over the last six years. As is known, this operation of persecution was fundamental to the destabilization and impeachment of former Workers’ Party (PT) President Dilma Rousseff. With the consecration of the parliamentary coup, Michel Temer set in motion a program for the destruction of social and labor rights. It was during this period that the ‘Reforma Trabalhista’ (Labor Reform), the ‘Emenda do Teto dos Gastos’ (Spending Ceiling Amendment), several privatizations, and military intervention in Rio de Janeiro were all approved.
Despite this reactionary offensive, Lula was in first place in the polls for the presidential race in 2018. Lula’s arrest, preceded and accompanied by a brutal and frenzied media campaign to criminalize the PT and the left as a whole, opened the door to the rise of Jair Bolsonaro. In the second round of the presidential elections, the fascist captain was embraced by ‘Lava Jato’ and the Brazilian bourgeoisie. The judge who had convicted Lula in a rigged trial became Bolsonaro’s Minister of Justice.
Bolsonaro assumed the presidency with Lula in prison. In the last two years, the country has been living with a genocidal, authoritarian, neoliberal, and perversely destructive government. Bolsonaro’s list of crimes fills countless pages, but it is enough to note here that the policy of the current government is producing an enormous loss of life across the country. With the pandemic continuing and vaccination occurring at a snail’s pace, over 266,000 Brazilians have already died of COVID-19, and that’s according to official statistics. Sérgio Moro and ‘Lava Jato’ may have broken with the Bolsonaro government in the middle of last year, but they will forever carry the responsibility of having helped bring this genocidal president to power.
Our position of opposition to Lula’s convictions and for the restoration of his political rights stems from an assessment – confirmed by material evidence revealed in the criminal discussions between Moro and prosecutors on the Telegram app – that ‘Lava Jato’ has always served the reactionary offensive of the ruling class and US imperialism against the working class and the Brazilian left.
This opinion does not erase the criticisms from the left that must be made of Lula and the PT. The choice to form governments in alliance with sections of the bourgeoisie has taken its toll, with the preservation of a corrupt political regime controlled by the right and the exclusion of the active role of popular mobilizations. The social-liberal program applied by PT governments has guaranteed high profits for the big capitalists and granted some concessions to the workers, but without fundamental reforms, it has maintained the deeply unequal capitalist social and economic structure. The decision, straight after the victory over right-wing challenger Aécio Neves in 2014, to apply a liberal austerity plan against the workers with former IMF economist Joaquim Levy as Finance Minister, demoralized the Rousseff government’s social support base and left the PT unable to confront the coup offensive that was unfolding.
If Fachin’s decision is confirmed by the Full Bench of the STF, Lula and the PT will return with force to the center of the national political contest. This return will bring with it enormous responsibility. What will be the strategy of Lula and the PT from now on? To invest in the mobilization and organization of the working people to defeat the genocidal Bolsonaro government? To build the project of a government of the left, one without alliances with the right and the bourgeoisie, and one that makes structural changes anchored in the strength of popular mobilization, the only thing capable of neutralizing conservative reaction? Or will Lula and the PT try to repeat its alliances with sectors of the right, to please the financial market and, once again, be hostage to the deeply reactionary Brazilian bourgeoisie? We believe that the Party of Socialism and Freedom (PSOL), an emerging force of the Brazilian left, is absolutely right when it affirms that it is necessary to fight for a government of the workers and oppressed, one without alliances with the right-wing and one that is sustained by the mobilization of the people, in order to realize profound changes for the benefit of the great majority of our people.
* ‘Suspeição’ (Suspicion): A legal process that challenges the independence and impartiality of a judge or other legal arbitrator, in particular their subjectivity and state of mind to preside over a matter. Only a relative presumption of partiality (juris tantum) is required for a ruling of ‘suspeição’.
** Curitiba, the capital of the southern state of Paraná, is where Operation “Lava Jato” was based.
This article is an English translation of “Uma grande vitória democrática”, Esquerda Online (EOL), 09/03/2021.
Translation: Bobby Sparks