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One month of Lula’s government: balance-sheet and perspectives

Joana Berwanger/Sul21

Never in Brazil’s history has a coup attempt been perpetrated against a government that had taken office seven days before. The bolsonarista invasion of the Three Powers Square (1) is a symbol of the dangerous historical moment through which Brazil and the world are undergoing, while neofascism emerges as a relevant political and social force.

Lula has defeated Bolsonaro in the last November elections. The removal of the genocidal President from office, although by a narrow margin of votes, was a gigantic political victory for the working people and democracy.

But as it turned out on January 8, fascism is alive and organized. It shouldn’t be underestimated. If bolsonarism keeps mass influence and penetration into state institutions, particularly in the armed forces and the police, the danger will remain in force.

While sounding the alarm bells, the failure of the bolsonarista insurrection paves the way for a democratic counteroffensive, which should be relentless. The task is to impose a substantive defeat on fascism. To this end, two combined movements are needed: applying a very harsh repression to the putschists and carrying out economic and social measures to improve the lives of working people.

The first month of the new government was marked by major events. There will be important challenges and dangers in the subsequent period, as well as possibilities. In this editorial, we present an overview about the beginning of Lula’s third term in office.

The people came to the inauguration and shouted “no to amnesty”

On the evening of October 30, as soon as Lula’s victory was confirmed, the streets of hundreds of cities across the country were occupied by huge demonstrations. It was an exciting and unforgettable night of mass celebration.

The second moment of relevant popular mobilization was the journey to Brasilia for Lula’s inauguration. According to a survey of the site Poder360, more than 150,000 people were in the demonstration on January 1. Also, according to the site, Lula’s investiture in 2023 was bigger than his previous one in 2002 and Bolsonaro’s in 2018, and was bigger than the bolsonarista demonstration on September 7 (2), 2022.

Workers and students from all regions of the country came in convoys organized by social movements and left parties. But these people did not go to the federal capital just to celebrate Lula’s victory. They traveled great distances also to shout loudly: “no to amnesty” for the crimes of bolsonarism.

A Broad-Front Government and a Conservative National Congress

The appointment of ministers confirmed the broad front character of the new government, which was already evident since the nomination of Alckmin’s(3), a trusted name of the ruling class, as vice-president in the presidential ticket of last year’s election. It is, in Marxist terms, a class-collaboration government, formed by representatives of the Left and the social movements and by leaders of the right and people linked to the big capitalists. Within the government, there are several ministers appointed by the PT, PCdoB, Rede (4) and social movements. But there are also several other ministers of MDB, União Brazil, PSD, PSB and PDT (5). Several of these right-wing parties were in the articulation of the coup d’état against the ex-President Dilma Roussef in 2016 and are opposed to several points of Lula’s electoral program, such as the reversal of the labor reform.

Thus, the same cabinet composed by Silvio de Almeida, Sonia Guajajara, and Anielle Franco (6) (left-wing names and models for the anti-racist and indigenous struggles), also includes José Múcio (right-wing politician and friend of coupist generals), Daniela do Waguinho (linked to the Rio de Janeiro’s paramilitary gangs) and Carlos Fávaro (representative of the powerful agribusiness sector).

Due to these marked differences in its composition, the government has been born permeated by clear internal contradictions. While the more progressive wings will try to pull the agenda further to the left, the sectors on the right will do the opposite. They will be an obstacle to the implementation of a leftwing platform, and even to the progress of the democratic struggle. The role of José Múcio, Minister of Defense, endorsed the camps in front of the military barracks days before the coup attempt, what is quite illustrative of this consideration. That is why we support Múcio’s dismissal.

It is also important to highlight the fact that the National Congress has a conservative majority, besides having an expressive bolsonarista bench. Due to agreements with right-wing parties and negotiations about high responsibility positions in office, the government is likely to establish a majority in Congress, both in the Senate and in the House. But this majority tends to be unstable and precarious, given the treacherous character of these “allies”.

The fascist party and the coup-ism of the military barracks

Although having been defeated at the polls, Bolsonaro came out of the elections with 58 million votes. More than that. Candidates supported by the former president became governors in several states, such as São Paulo, Minas Gerais, and Rio de Janeiro. The bolsonarista bench in Congress is numerous and noisy.

And the strength of the far-right goes beyond elections. As observed in the coup attempt of January 8, bolsonarism has support in bourgeois sectors (especially in the agribusiness) and broad influence among the military and the police.

But that’s not all. There is a fascist network that organizes tens of thousands of people, especially small and medium-sized businessmen, besides police officers, and military personnel. That’s why it can organize roadblocks, camps across the country, and the wide spread of fake news, among other actions.

There is no formal and legalized far-right party, but there is a large clandestine fascist party, composed of various groups and wings led by the Bolsonaro family. It has corporate financing and sophisticated mechanisms for the organization of followers and mass communication, besides an international articulation.

It is worth mentioning the special role of the military. Without the protection and encouragement of the Army, the camps in front of military barracks could not have existed for two months. Without the facilitation of the top military command, the invasion of the Three Powers Square in Brasilia could have not happened.

The dismissal of the army commander, General Arruda, was an important and correct measure of Lula (7). It represented a first step to reverse the coup plots among the military milieus. But there’s still a lot to be done to eradicate bolsonarism among the military.

For these reasons, it should be considered that bolsonarism, despite the setback suffered in the coup failure, will remain active and influential. Its political objective is to create conditions for the overthrowing of Lula by the forces of the extreme right. Its strategic bet is to implement an authoritarian regime with fascist characteristics in the country.

It is necessary to deepen the offensive against the coupists, reaching their leadership

The January 8th insurrection failed. Without international and internal conditions for a victorious coup, the military command did not move its troops for the seizure of power. The military know that the U.S., the European Union, China, Russia, and most of the great national bourgeoisie did not support, for now, a coup in Brazil. The Lula government managed to expel the invaders from the palaces, by decreeing a federal intervention in the security apparatus of the Federal District (Brasilia). The images of savagery in the city provoked a widespread popular outrage. The Supreme Court and the presidents of the House and the Senate firmly repudiated the coupist action. The mainstream media vocalized the rejection of the ruling layers of the bourgeoisie to an institutional rupture. The Left went out to the streets against the coup. The overwhelming majority of the people rejected the forceful shake-up.

After the defeat of the coup attempt, the coupists are in a defensive position. The far-right camps have been broken down and more than 1,000 fascists were arrested, including former Minister of Justice Anderson Torres (he was in office when Bolsonaro left power). The danger, however, is that the repression of coupists does not reach the top of the chain of command, namely, Bolsonaro and his sons, the generals, great businessmen, and top politicians. It is mandatory to confiscate their assets and to put them all in jail.

Complying with campaign promises is critical

It is an illusion to believe that bolsonarism will be crushed only by using repression. It is necessary to improve the lives of the people, deliver to the working class, to the poorest and to the middle classes the promises made by Lula during his campaign. This is the most effective way for the government to dehydrate the bolsonarist influence in the masses of the people. In this sense, Lula did well to ensure, by means of the Transition PEC (a project of constitutional amendment), the Bolsa Família (8) of R$ 600 with an additional R$ 150 per child. But he’s been wrong not to guarantee a real increase in the minimum wage from January onwards.

Workers want more jobs and rights, and a significant increase in their wages, to face the accumulating inflation. Small business owners and farmers claim cheaper financing to produce and sell. Our children and young people demand quality public education at all levels. The people want a SUS (Unified Health System) with adequate structure and resources, as well as cheaper gas, energy, and food. The black population demand concrete breakthroughs against racism in all areas, starting with the end of the genocide of the black youth in the country’s outskirts and slums. Poor families want the access to quality housing and relief from their bank debts. Women demand equality in the labor market and the fight against sexist violence. LGBT People demand betterment in public policies to address violence and discrimination. Workers and the middle class want to pay less taxes. Indigenous people require full rights to their lands and the preservation of the environment.

None of this will be possible, however, without facing the privileges of the elites. The big capitalists want to continue paying almost nothing in terms of taxes on their wealth, income, and profits. They do not accept the increase in the minimum wage and more resources for social areas. They want more privatizations. They intend to continue hiring workers in the most precarious possible ways and with low wages. They aim to continue using racism and machismo to maintain the high level of exploitation. They want to keep making money from activities that destroy the environment. And they insist on keeping the autonomy of the Central Bank from the government and absurdly high interest rates, which makes the bankers happy but strangles economic growth.

The bourgeoisie presses the government, both from within and outside, to go rightward. The financial market blackmails and criticizes everyday any leftward statement of Lula. The ruling class, including the sector that opposes Bolsonaro’s coupism, demands the maintenance of the neoliberal economic policy. In short: they do not want Lula to keep his social promises.

Lula is by nature a conciliator — he always seeks to please both sides. However, in the current situation of the country, it seems unlikely that this is feasible, besides being dangerous. The country’s economy has been walking sideways for years and the social crisis is intense. GDP growth is projected at only 1% this year and there is a threat of a slowdown in the international economy. Therefore, the government will have to make tough choices.

To deliver his promises to the working people, Lula will have to face up to, and displease, the bourgeoisie. If he does not deliver them, yielding to the pressure from the powerful, he will disappoint the working and poor masses. He will frustrate the people, especially the poor families who elected him, losing popularity. In this case, there will be a political winner: bolsonarism, which will profit from the wear and tear of the government to carry out a new coupist offensive. By upholding his promises, Lula will increase his popular strength, decreasing the political influence of the extreme right on the working masses. This is the way to defeat bolsonarism.

Mobilization and popular organization to win

Fascism, historically, has never been defeated just by institutional and electoral means. The struggle and organization of the masses by the Left are strategic for victory. In two ways: both to crush the extreme-right coupists in the streets, and to pave the way for deeper social, economic and democratic changes, removing the objective social conditions that foster fascism.

The Lula government, due to its broad-front character, even if it advances in some points and measures, will necessarily have limits, contradictions, and errors. So that it would be a mistake for the Left, the social movements and trade unions to have a passive stance. We shouldn’t just sit and wait. It is necessary to organize the struggle in the rank and file and carry out a process of ideological dispute of the conscience of hardworking and oppressed people, starting from their most felt demands.

The more the Left organizes social struggles and organize the rank and file, the more strength it will have to confront fascism and to work for leftward changes in the country. The bourgeoisie is effectively organized to pressure the government to meet its agenda. The organizations of the working class and oppressed sectors must do the same in the opposite side.

In this sense, the construction of powerful demonstrations on March 8th, International women’s day, is even more relevant to defend the feminist agendas and the anti-fascist struggle, as well as the preservation of, and increase in, labor and social rights.

The role of the PSOL (Partido Socialismo e Liberdade – Socialism and Liberty Party) and the defense of an anti-capitalist program

The PSOL, which helped to elect Lula, reaffirmed its commitment to fight the bolsonarista opposition and for the implementation of a program of progressive measures. To accomplish this in the best and autonomous way, the party decided, correctly, not to integrate the government, prioritizing the fight in the streets and in Parliament. In this sense, we consider wrong that any member of PSOL take office in any position in the federal government in the name of, or by indication, of the PSOL or of any of its internal tendencies. The party will fight each and every coupism against Lula, but it will preserve its independence to fight for the agendas of the people.

We, the Resistance, an internal tendency of the PSOL, consider that the consequent fight against fascism also involves the defense of the socialist program. The extreme right feeds on the crisis of the capitalist system and relies on sectors of the bourgeoisie to consolidate its strength. The strategic way out, to crush fascism and change the country structurally, involves the building of the organization and mobilization of the masses of hardworking and oppressed people, to support a leftist government without any alliances with the bourgeoisie and the right. This government should rule based on the strength of the people.


1 In this square, in Brasília, are situated the headquarters of the Judiciary, the National Congress and the Presidential Palace.

In September 7, Brazil comemorates its Independence from Portugal, which occurred in 1822

Geraldo Alckmin is a bourgeois politician, who had been elected four times as governor of the state of São Paulo- the economic center of the country-, running in the ticket of the conservative party PSDB.

 Respectively the Partido dos Trabalhadores, the Communist Party of Brazil and the Rede Sustentabilidade 

Respectively, Movimento Democratico Brasileiro, Partido Social-Democrático, Partido Socialista Brasileiro and Partido Democratico Trabalhista, all center-right (even openly right-wing ones) or, at most, center-left parties 

6 Silvio Luiz de Almeida is a lawyer and university professor, notable as an antiracist activist theoretician, and is in charge of the Ministry of Human Rights and Citizenship.
Anielle Franco, who took office as Minister of Racial Equality, is a journalist and feminist activist, sister of Marielle Franco, a councilor of PSOL in the city of Rio de Janeiro, who was brutally murdered in 2018. Up to now, the intellectual instigators of this crime were not appointed by the police investigation.
Sonia Guajajara, an indigenous person, is a nurse and has graduated in Arts & Humanities. She is an activist and leader of the Articulation of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB). She took office in the newly formed Ministry of Indigenous Peoples.

The general Julio Arruda, a 4-star general, the highest rank on the Army, was dismissed by Lula on January, 21. According to the information available, he opposed the arrest of the coupists in the same evening of January, 8th, openl confronting openly the Minister of Justice. Beyond this, he also had links to more radical officers, such as the colonel Mauro Cid, a former personal helper to Bolsonaro, who was  appointed by the General Arruda to lead the crucial Command Batalion of the city of Goiania, the closest state capital to Brasilia. This should be taken as the surface of an extensive network of cumplicity and/or identification of high-rank officers to the extreme-right.  

The Programa Bolsa Família was a program of income transferences to the poor launched by the Federal Government during Lula’s first term in office.