There is an impasse in the political situation. At this moment, Bolsonaro is not strong enough to advance his ‘golpista’ (coup) strategy, but neither is he weak enough to be threatened by impeachment.
The vast majority of working people oppose the government, but there has been no mass ‘Fora Bolsonaro’ (Bolsonaro Out) uprising to date. The majority of the ruling class does not support Bolsonaro’s dictatorial plans, but to maintain ongoing (counter)reforms and privatization, but it would prefer that the government (and its current economic policies) remain in place until the elections. The middle class is divided: a significant part of this class makes up the most active base of Bolsonarismo, while another part no longer supports the government but is not willing to mobilize against Bolsonaro.
In short: a social majority against the government has taken shape, and dislocation has occurred among all social classes, but this majority has not turned into a movement of millions of people taking to the streets. Rejection of the government has risen considerably throughout the year, but Bolsonaro preserves the capacity to mobilize his social base, as the events of 7 September demonstrated.
The government has seen a dynamic of political and social weakening take place over 2021, expressed on the streets in six major ‘Fora Bolsonaro’ demonstrations. However, there has been no radical social explosion like that in Chile in 2019 or the anti-racist uprising in the United States in 2020. Bolsonaro has lost strength, but has also shown resilience.
The formation of a social majority against the government is explained primarily by the tragic experience that most people have lived through during the pandemic. Because of structural racism and machismo, those worst affected are the most oppressed sectors of the working class – blacks and women. The painful experience of losing loved ones, and the terrible effects of the social crisis (unemployment, hunger, poverty, and famine) are the fundamental reasons for the rise in Bolsonaro’s rejection rate, particularly among the poorest of people.
This advance in working people’s consciousness does however have its objective and subjective limits. The pandemic, unemployment, and the precarization and fragmentation of the working class have all made workplace struggles of resistance difficult. The political defeats and ideological setbacks accumulated in the years after the 2016 coup have also had a negative impact. But popular consciousness has advanced, albeit partially. At this moment, majority popular opinion is against Bolsonaro, and blames his government to a greater or lesser extent for the tragedy experienced during the pandemic.
As the initiation of impeachment proceedings seems unlikely (for various reasons, including the shielding that the ‘centrão’ (center parties) provides in Congress), a significant sector of the working class and the youth do not believe it is possible to overthrow Bolsonaro at this time. This makes it harder to encourage more people to join the demonstrations. Thus, the prevailing expectation is that the future of the Bolsonaro government will be decided at the 2022 elections.
Workers’ Party (PT) leader Lula da Silva is ahead in the polls by a large margin, and this fact reinforces the electoral perspective in the consciousness of millions. The ‘petista’ (PT) leader is working to consolidate this favorable situation for his candidacy, as he seeks to expand his arc of alliances, including with representatives of the Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB) and the ‘centrão’ parties in the Northeast. Lula has met with right-wing leaders several times, but has not yet held discussions with the social movements and left-wing parties around a program to confront the ultraliberal economic project that took root after the 2016 coup. But not only that. Lula did not go to or call for any of the ‘Fora Bolsonaro’ demonstrations, a clear signal to the big bourgeoisie of his commitment to political and economic stability.
The centrality of the struggle in the streets
If the Bolsonaro government were a “normal” administration, the tendency would be towards a peaceful resolution of this political impasse at the elections. But we are not faced with a “normal” bourgeois government, we are up against a neo-fascist president. Bolsonaro made a tactical retreat after the 7 September demonstrations. But his ‘golpista’ strategy remains intact – and it will make a return to the political scene sooner or later.
If he loses at the polls, will Bolsonaro accept the result? Will he attempt some form of ‘golpista’ action before or during the electoral process if he is certain of losing to Lula? Will he act to mobilize his millions of followers to challenge either the electoral process or the outcome? He may not have the strength to impose a coup, but who doubts that he will try if he has the minimum conditions to do so?
The biggest problem with Lula’s strategy, which pushes popular mobilization into the background, is its underestimation of the neo-fascist danger. To defeat Bolsonaro, or even just ensure the outcome of the elections, will take more than having a majority of votes. It will take mass force in the streets.
The social crisis, now intensified by inflation, is not about to let up in the coming period. The rising cost of living is a bitter reality for the majority of Brazilian people. There is still a lot that can happen between now and the October 2022 elections. The fight for jobs, food, wages, housing, social rights, health, and education cannot wait. The ‘Fora Bolsonaro’ struggle must not wait for the elections.
In a situation of economic stagnation and social crisis, who can guarantee that everything will remain as it is without major dangers or explosions before next October? The fascist enemy is active: it has been weakened, but it is not dead. The principal task continues to be the building of the ‘frente única da esquerda’ (united left front), in both the struggles and the elections, for the defeat of Bolsonaro and the defense of the demands of the working class majority.
Strengthen and unify the ongoing struggles: take to the streets on Black Consciousness Day! (20 November)
There are several ongoing struggles now underway. Civil service workers are mobilizing against Constitutional Amendment Proposal 32 (PEC 32), the government’s administrative reform that moves towards the destruction of the public service. Several sectors are involved in this campaign and are fighting for the restitution of salaries that have fallen in the face of escalating inflation. The 5,000 metalworkers at the General Motors (GM) plant in São Caetano do Sul (in the greater Metropolitan Region of São Paulo) have conducted a strong nine-day strike. App delivery drivers and riders are organizing strikes in several cities as part of the so-called ‘Breque dos APPs’ (Brake the Apps). There are also mobilizations for housing like those carried out by the Homeless Workers’ Movement (MTST). The women’s movement is engaged in the struggle to overthrow Bolsonaro’s veto on the distribution of sanitary pads to poor women. We feel that it is essential for the united front gathered in the Fora Bolsonaro Campaign to strengthen these ongoing struggles and seek to unify them whenever possible.
Important black movement demonstrations are scheduled for 20 November, Black Consciousness Day. Black men and women were the worst affected by the social crisis and by deaths from COVID-19. The genocide of young black men in the peripheries and the favelas has surged during the pandemic with a rise in police killings. But also of note are the anti-racist mobilizations that occurred both in June last year, and this year after the Jacarezinho police massacre that saw at least 28 people shot dead in Rio de Janeiro’s blackest favela. The black movement has consolidated around the leadership of the Black Coalition for Rights (CND) and has demonstrated the power of the anti-racist struggle in the country. It is absolutely fundamental for all working class organizations to take part in building the 20 November demonstrations. ‘Vamos à luta!’ (Let’s come out fighting!)
Translation: Bobby Sparks
Editorial em português: Nem golpe, nem impeachment? [https://esquerdaonline.com.
Editorial en español: ¿Ni golpe, ni impeachment? [https://esquerdaonline.com.