The illusions in “Lulismo” and the challenge facing the socialist left
In the Brazilian general elections on 3rd of October, the candidate of the PT (Partido de los Trabajadores), Dilma Rousseff, with the backing of out going President Lula, maintained a consistent lead throughout the first round of the campaign. However, she failed to win an overall majority in the first round. The second round will be between Dilma and the former Governor of Sao Paulo, José Serra, and member of the Brazilian Social Democratic Party, PSDB. In the closing stages of the campaign the growth in support of the Green Party (PV) candidate, Marina Silva, who came third forced the election into a second round.
The elections in Brazil were marked by massive illusions and expectations in the economic stability of the country and the hope that this growth will continue following the crisis in 2008/9. The growth in Brazilian GDP this year will be more than 7%. Together with the growth of consumer spending in the recent period (fuelled by public subsidies and the growth of credit), there is the sensation of a better life for millions of Brazilians.
The contradictions and uncertainties about the future of the international economy formed no part of the election debates in Brazil. It is as though the country is immune from the international turbulence in the economy under the out going government and the new one when it takes office. This election was marked by the most superficial and dirty political electoral debate since the end of the military government in 1985.
The total consensus between the three main candidates – Dilma, Marina and Serra, in almost every aspect of policy, especially economic policy effectively destroyed the prospects of s serious debate about the problems and possible solutions facing the country. All three candidates agreed with the neoliberal economic policy Lula inherited from his predecessor Fernando Enrique Cardoso.
The negative consequences flowing from the loss of the PT as a party that was formally linked to the struggles of the working class were most clearly demonstrated in this election. The task of building a socialist left alternative, taken on by P-SOL and other smaller forces on the left, despite weaknesses and deficiencies and mistakes, encountered big obstacles especially the illusions which have developed in “Lulismo” and the “left” policies he has followed which has favoured big finance capital.
In these elections, “continuity” won the vote, especially in relation to the federal government, which shows the electoral strength of appeal of Lula – a development which goes beyond the appeal of the PT. The capitalist parties which were allies of Lula were re-elected in the first round in the most important states such as Rio De Janeiro (PMDB), Bahia (PT), Ceará (PSB) and Pernambuco (PSB). Apart from this the PT has also retaken control of the important state of Rio Grande do Sul. In the second round, the Pt even has the possibility of taking the Federal District and other parties in the governmental alliance are competing to win various state governments.
The triumph of “continuity” was also reflected in states were the opposition had governed such as Sao Paulo and Minas Gerais – the largest electoral districts of Brazil. In these areas the PSDB maintained its majority in the first round. On the other hand the PSDB and its allies widened their base and won the governments in the state of Paraná. They also have other possibilities in other states as well.
In the National Congress the parliamentary block linked to Lula has also broadened its base. 402 Deputies were elected which will now support Dilma – including some parties traditionally on the right-wing of politics as compared to 380 which were elected from parties which were formally in alliance with Lula prior to the election. One of the main gains for Dilma/Lula was winning a majority in the Senate were parties supporting Lula increased from 39 to 59 Senators.
The appeal of “Lulismo” was also evident in the transformed position of Dilma. Traditionally an unknown “technocrat” with no tradition even in the PT (she was only around the antechambers in Lula’s first victory in 2002) she went from almost 0% percent in the polls to winning 47% of the vote or 47 million votes. This vote has a direct relation to the support for Lula who leaves office with 80% approval ratings. At the outset of the campaign 40% of those polled said they would vote for whoever was backed by Lula.
Surprisingly, however, Dilma fell 3% short of winning 50% of the vote to give her victory on the first round. This left a taste of defeat in the Lula camp. José Serra, of the PSDB, won 33% of the votes and will go into the second round against Dilma on October 31st. Significantly, blank and spoilt votes (voting is obligatory) reached 27.72% of the total electorate.
Marina Silva, Green (PV) candidate
The role of Marina Silva and the Greens
The main factor which has resulted in a second round was the growth in the election of the candidate of the PV, Marina Silva, a former member of the PT and ex-Minister for the Environment in Lula’s government. She won just over 19% of the national vote.
Marina was able to capture more votes by winning support of voters who had intended to support Dilma but switched following accusations of corruption involving Erenice Guerra, Minister in Chief of the Cabinet who was considered Dilma’s right arm. There was clear evidence involving the granting of public licenses that directly implicated sons of Erenice utilising the resources of a government ministry – the government Minister was eventually forced to resign.
Another factor which influenced a switch in voter intentions away from Dilma was the launching of a conservative offensive, launched by the religious right (especially Evangelical churches but also involving the Catholic Church) which promoted Serra in the campaign. They accused Dilma of being pro-abortion. Despite the massive efforts of Dilma to negate this, by utilising Evangelical leaders linked to the government. However, this campaign had some impact on the outcome of the first round.
The real winner in the first round was Marina silver, whose is an Evangelist and who is characterised by defending conservative ideas on such things as abortion and creationism.
Marina began her election campaign without a clear political identity, criticising both Lula’s government and his predecessor Fernando Cardoso. At the beginning of her campaign she was under threat from Plinio de Arruda Sampaio, the candidate of PSOL, who presented a left alternative to the false polarization which developed between the PT and the PSDB.
However, without offering a real alternative, Marina little by little adopted a more and more offensive campaign. The rejection of the polarization between the PT and the PSDB, and the search for something new, concern over the environmental questions, allowed her to build on her initial support of between 8% and 10% in the opinion polls during the major period of her campaign. At this stage of the campaign Marina occupied the space that Heloisa Helena, in the 2006 campaign, heading the ‘Left Front’ of PSOL, PSTU, PCB.
With the exposures of corruption, Marina was then able to increase support for her campaign. The anti-abortion campaign against Dilma re-enforced the switch in voting intentions from the PT to Marina and forced a second round in the election.
The PV (Green Party) of Marina Silva is a typical Brazilian “fiesta” with little ideological base, programme or real functioning as a party but acts as a vehicle for those who wish to advance their careers in the state machine. The PV is in coalition government with the right-wing in Sao Paulo (headed by the PSDB.
The leadership of the PV are still negotiating which candidate they will support in the second round of the election. However, Marina Silva is trying to get the party to adopt a neutral position in order to maintain her independence in preparation for the election in 2014.
One of the consequences of Dilma having to go to a second round is that the campaign for the second round will begin with a very strong conservative element for both candidates who are both attempting to win the sympathy if the majority of the religious sectors of the population.
Dilma prefers to discuss the the balance sheet of the Lula and Cardoso governments. Yet from the beginning of her campaign for the second round she is trying to head off the attacks from the conservative religious right. She begins her TV programmes by “Thanking God”, speaking of the defence of the “Brazilian family” saying: “I respect life” a euphemism against abortion. She has also met with Catholic Priests and Evangelical Pastors that support her and is attempting to use the birth of her grandson as a symbol against abortion. Serra has done the same in his television programme, showing pictures of thousands of pregnant women arguing he has always opposed abortion and defends Christian values.
Illegal abortions account for 25% of deaths during pregnancy in Brazil and one in every five Brazilian women under 40 years of age has had an abortion even though it remains illegal. This is issue is not being discussed as a problem of public health and the rights of women but is being used in an opportunist manner by both candidates.
In total contrast was the attitude adopted by Plinio Sampaio the PSOL candidate. Plinio has had strong links through-out his life with the Catholic left (one of the major social movements in Brazil which played a part ion developing the PT and the CUT). He did not raise the questions like the legalisation of abortion as moral questions but of public policy and social rights. He defended abortion as a matter of public sexual education, prevention of unwanted pregnancies and protection of public health services.
Despite enjoying big advantages and being favourite to win in the second round, the fact that Dilma did not win in the first round represents a set back for the Lula project. The taste of a defeat despite winning a majority was inevitable and the result has weakened what could have been a massacre of the traditional right-wing opposition and has allowed it to survive.
Despite the conservative tendencies on questions like abortion in Dilma’s campaign, it is possible in the second round she will adopt a more radical rhetoric as Lula did in 2006.
This time it will not be so easy though. When Serra was accused of supporting privatisation all he did was list the privatisations carried out by Lula’s government including two state private banks and other important sectors of the economy.
"Clean Record" and the clown Tiririca
Even given the feeling of economic stability that favoured sitting governments, the precarious state of the political regime in Brazil was also shown in these elections. Corruption continues to be an important issue manipulated by different political actors.
Just before the election campaign, the National Congress, under strong public pressure, ended up approving a new law, known as "Clean Record Law" that prevents the registration of any candidate who has been sentenced by the courts.
However, the Supreme Federal Court, the final court of appeal for an excluded candidate under this law, has not ruled if this law should be applicable in these elections. This has resulted in an uncertain judicial situation that continued throughout the election campaign and still exists. Consequently, some results remain provisional until the final decision of the Supreme Federal Court.
With this new law, many notoriously corrupt bourgeois politicians preferred not to stand. However, there were cases of manoeuvre by politicians who attempted to get around this. In the Federal District (Brasilia), for example, the candidate that led in the opinion polls, Joaquim Roriz, decided to abandon the contest and instead stood his wife, to keep his surname on the ballot paper.
While many other notoriously corrupt politicians managed to maintain their candidature, the new law was also used, in a distorted way, against the socialist left, in the context of criminalization of the social struggles in the country.
PSOL’s candidate for vice governor in São Paulo, Aldo Santos, for example, had his candidature denied because of a sentence against him from his period as a councillor in the city of São Bernardo do Campo. During that period Aldo was sentenced for, correctly, using the resources of his mandate in favour of the homeless movement in massive land occupation on land owned by Volkswagen.
On the other hand, PSOL also managed to elect a senator, Marinor Brito, for the state of Pará. This arose as a consequence of the rejection as candidates of two strong bourgeois candidates in the state.
The dissatisfaction with the corrupt political system in Brazil, together with the general low political level of the election campaign, was also reflected in the enormous amount of votes that a TV comedian known as Tiririca received. This clown was the candidate for federal deputy in São Paulo and ended up as the candidate that got the most votes in the country 1,35 million, using the slogan: "it can’t get worse". In his TV-programme, he asked ironically: "What does a federal deputy do? Actually, I don’t know. But vote on me and I’ll tell you!"
Tiririca is still under investigation, suspected for fraud in the declaration proving that he is not illiterate – which is a qualification to stand for public office in Brazil. He was elected for PR (Republican Party, ex-Liberal Party, a right wing party in Lula’s alliance) and will, if he takes his seat, be part of the parliamentary group supporting the PT and Dilma. Because of the proportional system in place in Brazil, his high vote helped elect three other MPs for the pro-Lula coalition, including one for PT and one for PCdoB (Communist Party of Brazil). The third was from PRB, the party of the current vice president that was founded on the initiative of the biggest evangelic church in Brazil, that also owns one of the big TV broadcasting companies.
Dilma Rouseff with Lula
The meaning of "Lulismo"
The huge support for Lula is the direct result of an apparently more favourable situation in the country. After years of hyperinflation, followed by years of semi-stagnation, the conjuncture of relative low inflation and growth had its effects on political consciousness.
According to the World Bank, if the current growth forecasts are realised, Brazil will become the fifth largest economy in the world by 2014. If you add the discovery of huge oil and gas reserves, the increased international relevance of the country, the coming Football World Cup (2014) and Olympic Games (2016) then the background for the whipping up of a “patriotic” mood can be seen which the government has used very skilfully.
However, the country still faces some social conditions worthy of the XIX century. Still, 35 % of the population go hungry sometimes or all the time. Slave-like conditions have not been extinguished yet and racism is still strong. The black population accounts for 60 % of the poor and 70 % of the very poor. About 50 % of blacks are considered poor (while only 25 % of the whites are in the same situation). Over 65 % of those in jail are black, and 95 % of them are poor.
During Lula’s government (the statistics are from 2003-2008), extreme poverty (with an average family income per family member up to 1/4 of a minimum wage) was reduced from 15 % to 10 % of the population. In the same period, absolute poverty (up to 1/2 of a minimum wage) fell to 23 % of the population. During Fernando Henrique Cardoso, half of the population lived below the poverty line. Under Lula, this proportion fell to 1/3 of the population, but is still shameful.
In Brazil, just 5 thousand families have a combined wealth equivalent to 40 % of the GDP and the richest 1 % have a combined wealth equivalent to poorest 50 %. Even if the income gap between wage earners fell relatively, the capital income of the richest grew enormously. At the height of the crisis in 2009, with GDP growth close to zero, the biggest private bank (Itaú-Unibanco) increased its profits by 29%. The bank profited 10 billion ‘reales’, equivalent to the cost of the "family allowance" programme for an entire year year.
During Lula’s second term there was a growth in the domestic market as a result of the increased value of the minimum wage, low level of unemployment, lower prices of some products through lower taxes and credit incentives, together with social programmes like "family allowance", which increased consumption even in poor areas. This was financed by an in-flow of capital (especially from China) attracted by the high interest rates and a confidence of the financial market in Lula.
However, in spite of the sense of a better situation with the growth of credit, the conditions for the majority of Brazilians remain precarious. Lower taxes that permit lower prices and growth of consumption also withdraw resources that should be used on education and health. In Brazil, 41 % of households (including those with larger families) do not have sanitation and 43 % of the houses are considered inadequate.
Despite that, if asked about their evaluation of Lula’s government, the majority of workers will answer that no other government has done so much for the poorest. This evaluation reflects concrete facts, even if limited, and identification with the personal history of Lula, his poor origin, the dramas of his life and his record as a trade unionist and left militant.
The PT’s traditional base of support has always been the organised working class and more political radical middle layers, in particular the youth. The party has increasingly adapted to the official institutions of the state and capitalism, and a strengthened bureaucracy (with its origin in the trade union movement and the state apparatus itself) that seized control of the party.
The experience of Lula’s government since 2003 fomented the transformation of this bureaucracy into direct defenders of capitalism, be it as administrators of big pension funds with influence in many Brazilian companies, or as representatives of the capitalist state.
If you look at the electoral base of support, the first term saw an enormous growth in the importance of the unorganised masses through the social programmes. The allegations of corruption alienated layers of the middle class. The neoliberal measures (like the counter-reform over pensions in 2003) also alienated a large part of public sector workers and other organised workers. With the growth of the economy during the second term the government regained electoral support amongst all layers.
From the point of view of the Brazilian ruling class, the electoral campaign in 2010 didn’t threaten their interests. The big capitalists supported and financed Serra’s and Dilma’s campaign. Even Marina standing for the PV (Greens) had as vice-presidential candidate a rich businessman and held a well financed campaign.
The state intervention in the economy (investments, public credit, tax incentives, etc.) during the crisis in 2008-2009 followed the international trend. The difference is that Brazil hasn’t yet experienced a deep crisis in the finance sector due in part to this state intervention. The elections were an important factor to postpone harsh measures in public expenditure. Lula wanted to win the elections first, fiscal adjustment could come later.
The Brazilian economic model is dominated by finance capital and exports of commodities. This makes Brazil dependent on the world major economic power. This was maintained and to certain extent strengthened by Lula. A new downturn in the world economy is certain to hit Brazil. There is also a concrete risk of a growing deindustrialisation because of the increased value of the real. Further international financial crisis will also have repercussion in the country.
"Lulismo" is a relatively new political phenomenon in Brazil and will still have an important impact after Lula. He can elect Dilma Rousseff as president and will play an important role to try to hold back the social movements in a more critical situation. He can also try and be a “guarantee of stability” and be an ace card up the sleeve for the ruling class to play again in a more critical situation in 2014, when ha can run as candidate.
Even so, the future of "Lulismo" is not predetermined and is not unstoppable as a force. It will depend on the economic situation and the forces that the working class can build against a system and an economic model that doesn’t serve its interests, even if it has created temporary illusions in it. The rebuilding of a mass socialist left in Brazil is a necessary task for this.
The socialist left marked its presence in this election mainly through the candidature of Plínio de Arruda Sampaio of PSOL. Plínio got 887,000 votes (0,87 % of the valid votes) in the presidential run. In spite of relatively low vote compared to the results in 2006 (Heloísa Helena got 6,5 million votes, equivalent to 6,8 %), Plínio’s campaign played an important political role.
At various stages in the campaign, especially during the debates on TV, Plínio drew a lot of attention to a left platform and was the only dissenting voice. The main plank in his campaign was the struggle against social inequality. He talked about workers’ demands, about land reform, the right to decent housing, defended public health and education, reduction of the working-week and a minimum wage of 2 thousand real. He also spoke of renationalisation of the privatised companies and defended the social movements.
As a counterpoint to the idea that Lula was the “father of the poor”, because of the "family allowance" social program, Plínio denounced what he called the "banker’s allowance". This is a payment of 36 % of the federal budget in 2009 to the banks as interest and debt service of the public debt. At the same time this was paid health and education was allocated a mere 7 % of the federal budget. Even the "family allowance" programme, that covers 40 million people, gets less than 1 % of the federal budget!
In total, 380 billion real of the public money was transferred mainly to 20 thousand speculators that hold 80 % of the state bonds.
With this political programme, PSOL’s campaign in 2010, was more radical than the 2006 campaign. Then the main emphasis of Heloísa Helena was to denounce corruption, not necessarily linking it to the capitalist state and the system.
However, beside the difficulties flowing from the illusions in the government and hopes that things are improving, the socialist left also made important mistakes. After its 2nd Congress in 2009, PSOL experienced a deep internal crisis over the question of election tactics.
Heloísa Helena, the “natural” presidential candidate, opted to stand for the Senate in her state, Alagoas. She also supported worked for PSOL to form an alliance with Marina Silva and the PV. The majority of the National Executive of the party was initially willing to follow that policy.
However, a revolt took place amongst the rank-and-file of the party, including amongst its largest groupings, against this policy. Then Marina Silva showed her true face and blocked the possibility of and alliance with PV. The last straw in the fiasco surrounding the negotiations with Marina was when PV decided to make an alliance at state level with PSDB and the "Democrats", i.e., the right-wing, in Rio de Janeiro.
Without the possibility of making an alliance with the PV, the proposal to launch Plínio as candidate gained support inside PSOL. In spite of the respect Plínio has amongst the most advanced workers, the larger currents didn’t easily accept his nomination because of the more left leaning positions he defends.
A part of the leadership of the party, including Heloísa Helena, decided to launch Martiniano Cavalcante, as a pre-candidate for president. The internal debate in the party was extremely polarised and hard. At the end of the process, Martiniano’s supporters committed innumerable irregularities in the elections of delegates to the conference and ended up in a minority. They decided not to take part in the conference and threatened to split the party.
Plínio was elected candidate, but the party was divided. After some time, part of the pró-Martiano currents joined Plínio’s campaign. But that was not the case for Heloísa Helena. She continued to praise Marina, and also Martiniano, who tried to get elected as state deputy in Goiás. Both were defeated in their home states.
Heloísa was the favourite in the Senate election in her state and her defeat was a surprise. She had to confront a regional oligarchy which launched a dirty campaign against her. Lula himself was actively helping Heloísa’s opponents. In his struggle to assure a majority in the Senate for the future government of Dilma, he put all his efforts to defeating Heloísa.
The defeat for Heloísa was an important loss for PSOL and the socialist left, but also made clear the political mistakes she made the last period. Heloísa is still a councillor in Maceió (capital of Alagoas), but her political future is now uncertain.
Plínio’s campaign opened up a large space for PSOL amongst a layer of the most politically active and conscious workers and especially amongst the youth and sectors of the social movements. Notwithstanding the fact that, due to the pressure of the bigger currents, Plínio toned down the explicit mentioning of socialism when he became the official party candidate, his campaign opened up space for a more radical programme in a anti-capitalist and socialist direction.
PSOL’s electoral results
PSOL managed to hold on to a parliamentary group with three federal deputies. Both Chico Alencar (Rio de Janeiro) and Ivan Valente were re-elected with more than double the votes they received in 2006 (240, 000 for Chico and 189,000 for Ivan). PSOL elected a new federal deputy for Rio, Jean Willys, as a consequence of Chico Alencar’s excellent result.
The current federal deputy for Rio Grande do Sul, Luciana Genro, in spite a good vote (almost 130,000 votes), didn’t manage to get re-elected. The leadership of the party in that state adopted a profoundly mistaken position in the middle of the campaign, giving up one candidate for Senate to support PT’s candidate for Senate, Paulo Paim, whose re-election was under threat. They thought they could win the sympathy of the PT’s supporters. This meant the not only failed to re-elect Luciana but they also created more confusion in relation to the real role of PT.
In Rio, PSOL re-elected its state deputy Marcelo Freixo with an excellent vote because of the repercussion of his struggle against the "militias", – the death squads that exists in the state. With his votes, PSOL got yet another state deputy, Janira Rocha. In São Paulo, PSOL re-elected one state deputy, Carlos Gianazzi, but didn’t manage to re-elect the state deputy more to the left in the party, Raul Marcelo. The party also managed to get a new state deputy elected in the state of Pará.
In spite of Heloísa not getting elected to the Senate, PSOL managed to elect two new senators. Marinor was elected in Pará due to the two bourgeois candidatures that weren’t approved because of the "Clean Record Law". In Amapá, Randolfe Rodrigues was elected after one of the favourites in the dispute for Senate, the ex-governor of the state, was jailed for involvement in a large corruption scheme in the state, together with the current governor and other capitalist politicians.
The problem is that Randolfe’s political positions are in conflict with the position of the party nationally. Before the election campaign, the state leadership of PSOL in Amapá was supporting a coalition, with a right-wing populist party- the PTB (Brazilian Labour Party), and supported its candidate for governor. The National Executive of PSOL, after pressure from the left and parts of the bigger currents, rejected this and prohibited the coalition.
However, the party in Amapá didn’t present its own candidate and Randolfe gave informal, but explicit, support to PTB. Now Randolfe has taken on the coordination of the right-winger Lucas Barreto’s campaign for the second round. Because of that, the future of Randolfe in PSOL is uncertain. The national leadership will need to step in with firm hand.
The future of PSOL will be marked by an intense internal debate in the next period. A party congress will probably be called next year. The victory of the sections to the left which opposed an alliance with PV and the election of Plínio as presidential candidate will be at stake.
A repetition of the internal fratricidal dispute between the bigger currents for control of the party (as during the 2nd Congress) can’t be ruled out. But, there is also the possibility that the larger groups will agree a pact based on a more moderate programme for the party. In either of these scenarios, it’s necessary to strengthen a left revolutionary block in PSOL capable of offering a coherent course to the party and to the whole process of reorganisation of the socialist left in Brazil.
CWI in Brazil
LSR and BRS in the elections
That is what the current Liberade, Socialismo e Revolução (LSR), CWI’s Brazilian section, is working for, together with other currents and independent activists in the Bloc of Socialist Resistance (BRS). In the elections, LSR put forward four candidates in the state of São Paulo (one federal deputy, Marzeni Pereira, and three state deputies, Raquel Guzzo, Joaquim Aristeu e CD Júnior).
In total those four got 3,064 votes and helped to build support in the areas where we are active. For example this was the case in the popular movement for housing and urban reform in Jardim Pantanal (east zone of São Paulo), in a student movement in several universities in the state, amongst workers of SABESP (the biggest water and sanitation company in Brazil), workers in food and beverage sector in Vale do Paraíba, teachers, and other layers.
The campaign also helped to establish relations with social movements, like Roof-Less Workers’ Movement (MTST) and sectors of independent activists in PSOL that supported our candidates. Our campaign was strongest in the metropolitan region of São Paulo, in the region of Campinas, Vale do Paraíba and Baixada Santista.
In Rio de Janeiro, members of LSR, besides campaigning for Marcelo Freixo (who was re-elected), played an important role in the candidature of Paulo Eduardo Gomes, an ex-councillor in Niterói (second biggest city in the state of Rio de Janeiro) and a member of the grouping "Socialist Response", which participates in the Socialist Resistance Bloc together with LSR.
Paulo Eduardo’s campaign was strong and was amongst the more important one in Rio. However, because of mistakes committed be the leadership of PSOL in Rio (the more moderate wing linked to Martiniano), the registration of his candidature was not completed and could be invalidated, which will affect the results. In spite of this the campaign helped to build the LSR and to strengthen the more significant sectors of the left in PSOL in Rio.
In Rio Grande do Norte, LSR actively took part in the campaign of Sônia Godeiro, who was candidate for state deputy who got the most votes for PSOL (3,036 votes). Sônia is a leader of the trade unions for health workers and member of Socialist Action Group (GAS), which is also part of the BRS.
Socialist left divided
The absence of a Left Front in the election which could have unified PSOL, PSTU (Unified Socialist Workers Party) and PCB (Brazilian Communist Party), as in 2006, was an important setback for the socialist left. Even with a delay, as soon as PSOL decided to stand Plínio, an appeal was made to the other parties. Both, however, had plans to launch their own candidates.
The public justification used by the PSTU and PCB not to join a Left Front with PSOL in support of Plínio does not hold water. In reality both parties unfortunately adopted a sectarian policy. There are programmatic differences, but they are smaller than in 2006 when, despite them, there was a Left Front headed by Heloísa. The PSTU’s candidate, Zé Maria, got ten times fewer votes than Plínio, with 0,08 % of the votes (84,600 votes). Ivan Pinheiro of PCB managed to get 0,04 % (39,100 votes). Rui Pimenta of the PCO (Workers’ Cause Party) also stood and won 0,01 % (12,100 thousand votes).
The lack of a Left Front added to the setback represented by the split that took place in the Congress of the Working Class (CONCLAT) held in June. This was intended to found a Trade Union and Popular Centre that would unify trade unions and social movements that are in opposition to the government. The congress ended up splitting. A majority founded the Trade Union and Popular Centre – Conlutas.
For a blank vote on the second round and prepare for struggles
The central task for the socialist left in 2010 should be to build forces and prepare for the battles that will take place following the inevitable attacks that will eventually come against the working class. The split during the election campaign, and in the popular and trade union movement was a set back which now needs to be over come.
A significant section of the working class in Brazil took advantage of the relative economic growth and went into struggle for wages and other demands. In a complex situation, workers in the public sector waged important struggles in the last period. Workers of the state judiciary in São Paulo, for example, were out on strike that lasted 127 days and managed to get an increase in wages that broke the restrictions of the wage freeze of recent years. Teachers, university staff and other categories of the public sector also waged important struggles.
The potential of struggle by the youth have also been evident this year. Members of LSR are currently helping to lead and an important struggle, with demonstrations and strikes, for social assistance for students in the federal university in Baixada Santista. This struggle reflects the contradictions of the government policies, which expanded the federal universities, but with poor quality education that cannot meet the needs of students from a working class background. This example of struggle is being brought to a national conference of students that are meeting in Uberlândia (Minas Gerais) to discuss the formation of a National Forum of Mobilisation of students.
Some of the heavy battalions of the working class have also gone out on strike winning some important concessions. In the car industry workers in the state of São Paulo and workers in the oil industry are also engaged in a struggle. At this moment, hundreds of thousands bank workers are out on strike, with good chance of getting a substantial wage increase.
Even with all illusions in the government, the potential strength of the working class remains. The experience of the next government, regardless if it is headed by Dilma or Serra , will rapidly help to raise political consciousness. A scenario with a certain growth together with attacks from the government may help to generalise the struggle and consequently help to raise class consciousness. However, for that to be possible, it’s fundamental that the left faces up to its historic tasks.
To be able to lead the future struggles against the next government, the left cannot re-enforce any illusions in either of the two candidates in the second round. The idea of voting for Dilma to stop the right will be attractive for a wide layer of workers that fears the return of PSDB to power. But the role of the socialist left and PSOL in particular is to explain that the right is already present in the candidature of Dilma and will be part of her next government.
To defeat the right it is necessary to cast a blank vote in the second round, raise an alternative socialist programme and prepare for the struggles that will come in the next period. Any other position from PSOL will only increase the confusion and weaken the socialist alternative towards the false polarisation between PT and PSDB.
The unity of workers in struggle, rebuilding the basis for a unified trade union and popular centre, together with the construction of a Left Front, with an important role for PSOL and based on a socialist programme, are fundamental to overcome the difficulties that the left confronted in 2010.