The Party of Socialism and Freedom (PSOL) will hold its 7th National Congress on September 26 and 27. Thousands of members have already participated in the municipal/state round of the congress and thousands more will do so in the coming weeks. Around 30,000 members are expected to vote on the various theses in dispute.
The future of PSOL is in question at a crucial moment in the country’s history, in which a genocidal government with pretensions of carrying out a coup remains in power. Among other things, members will determine whether the party will become a useful tool for the defeat of Bolsonaro in the struggles and elections and defend the construction of a left front, or opt for a line of isolation and the prioritization of differences within the left instead of favoring anti-fascist unity.
Founded in 2004, the PSOL learned how to hold the banner and program of the socialist left high at a time when the PT chose to govern in alliances with sectors of the bourgeoisie and the right and abandoned the project of structural transformation. The party was correct to not join the governments of Lula and Dilma, and throughout this period it preserved a coherent and combative stance in defense of the interests of the exploited and the oppressed.
But when the right and the bourgeoisie decided to overthrow Dilma Rousseff and apply their program to destroy working class social and democratic gains, the PSOL did not waver, it closed ranks to fight the parliamentary coup and the reactionary process that began in 2015. The party confronted the coup in the streets and Congress, and warned the people about its dangerous objectives and its instruments of authoritarianism, such as Operation Lava Jato led by former judge Sérgio Moro.
By confronting the Bolsonaro government while not abandoning an anti-capitalist program and defending the immediate interests of the working class in all its expressions – anti-racist, feminist, LGBTQIA+, indigenous, trade union, environmentalist, struggles for housing and land – the Party of Socialism and Freedom has grown and consolidated. In this battle against neo-fascism, the party lost councilor Marielle Franco, executed by militiamen in Rio de Janeiro in 2018.
More recently, along with winning new parliamentary posts, the party has significantly increased its number of members and organic militants. In this period, the PSOL has also had a significant political win with the entry of Homeless Workers’ Movement (MTST) leader Guilherme Boulos, one of the main leaders of the Brazilian left today, along with many other militants from the MTST, one of the most important and combative social movements in the country.
The PSOL has moved forward through both its active participation in the main social struggles, such as the battle against welfare and labor reform, the ‘Ele Não’ (Not Him) campaign, the ‘Vira Voto’ (Flip the Vote) campaign in the second round of the 2018 elections, the Education Tsunami, the anti-racist demonstrations, and the ‘Fora Bolsonaro’ (Bolsonaro Out) campaign, and also by putting itself forward as a left-wing alternative in the elections. The party, which brings together various internal currents and independents, with their programs, policies, and strategies that do not always coincide, has its limits and its problems that need to be overcome. But as we can see, the general political assessment is positive.
The decisive battle: the united left front for the struggles and the elections
It is important to stress that the PSOL is in itself not sufficient. Despite its growth, it is still only a minor party on the Brazilian left and among the working class. In this dangerous moment in Brazilian history, in which a fascist president openly declares his plans for a coup, nothing is more important than the defeat of Bolsonaro in the streets and at the elections. For this, the building of the unity of the left is key, a unity that is embodied in the front of parties – PSOL, Workers’ Party (PT), Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB), Brazilian Communist Party (PCB), Popular Unity (UP), United Socialist Workers’ Party (PSTU) – and the social movements (trade union, black, feminist, LGBTQI, homeless, landless, indigenous, environmentalist, student, and others).
This United Left Front, which has organized the Fora Bolsonaro Campaign, has been fundamental to the last four major national rounds of demonstrations against the genocidal government. Faced with Bolsonaro’s current campaign for a coup, the battle in the streets must be kept up and advanced, and Bolsonarismo must not be allowed to regain its prominence. On 7 September, it is necessary to return to the streets with force and demonstrate that the majority of people want an end to this government of death and reject its threats of a coup.
However, the unity of the left cannot be limited to organizing the fight for ‘Fora Bolsonaro’. An alternative power must also be built, one which puts forward a project for the social transformation of the country and stands for the exploited and oppressed. Therefore, we feel that PSOL must also argue for the unity of the left and the social movements in the elections.
Because Lula has such strong support among the working class and the poor, he is the most suitable presidential candidate for a left front. The former president is seen by the majority of working people as the alternative that can defeat Bolsonaro, so much so that he is leading in all the electoral polls. We recognize and appreciate this, but we do not agree with the PT leader’s policy of alliances, which once again aims to stitch together agreements with sectors of the center and the traditional right. We know that these same alliances within ‘petista’ (PT) governments blocked structural change and opened the door to the right-wing coup. Just remember that Michel Temer was Dilma Rousseff’s vice-president.
On account of these factors, we feel that PSOL must at its Congress approve and adopt the fight for a Left Front for the struggles and the elections, one without alliances with the right, and with a program to reverse the legacy of the coup and for structural social and economic transformation. To opt for isolation, as some sectors of the party want, who argue that PSOL should launch its own presidential candidate, will very likely lead to a serious setback for the party. To prioritize criticism of the PT now, instead of focusing on the united struggle against neo-fascism, will see the party isolated from the most conscious sectors of the working class and youth that want to put an end to the Bolsonaro government. Criticism of Lula’s alliance policies and the limits of his program can and must be made, but they need to be linked to the sincere and active struggle for the unity of the left needed to defeat Bolsonaro.
At this moment, PSOL’s biggest challenge is to continue to be a useful part of the struggle against Bolsonaro in this situation of worsening political and social crisis. By building the Left Front, the PSOL will expand its space for dialogue with workers and youth, including the presentation of its program of socialist transformation for the country, and move the construction of the party forward.
Therefore, the internal PSOL current Resistência (Resistance) and its news portal Esquerda Online (Left Online) invites all members of the party to sign the ‘PSOL de Todas as Lutas’ (PSOL of all the struggles) manifesto, to acquaint themselves with the PSOL Semente (PSOL Seed) Thesis , and to talk to Resistência members and ask them to vote for this thesis. Rejecting the path of isolation, making PSOL a useful tool to defeat Bolsonaro, and battling for the unity of the left without giving up its independence and program, are the biggest challenges faced by the party at its 7th National Congress.
 PSOL Semente / Seed: The full name of this Thesis is “Fazer do PSOL semente para um novo projeto para a esquerda brasileira” (Make PSOL the seed for a new project for the Brazilian left). ‘Seed’ is in part a reference to the slain Afro-Brazilian PSOL councilor Marielle Franco, whose murder in 2018 led to increasing numbers of black women entering politics, referred to as the “seeds of Marielle”.
This article is an English translation of “O futuro do PSOL em jogo”, Esquerda Online (EOL), 18/08/2021.
Translation: Bobby Sparks