100 Days of Lula Government in the Service of Capitalism
(«Proletarian»; Nr. 20; Autumn-Winter 2023)
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, known as Lula, has just celebrated his first hundred days as President of Brazil with a trip to China accompanied by a hundred or so capitalists: in renewing his ties with this country he went first and foremost to defend the interests of Brazilian capitalism, China being Brazil’s leading economic partner ahead of the United States.
Lula’s election to a third term in the presidency had obviously unleashed the enthusiasm of his PT (Workers’ Party) supporters; it had also been hailed by left and far-left forces in Latin America and elsewhere as a great victory for Brazilian workers and the left worldwide and even an encouragement for workers in other countries.
However, it didn’t take much insight to see that this «historic victory» of «democracy» over the «fascist» Bolsonaro, the incumbent president, was relative: Lula won by a narrow margin (50.9% of the vote against 49.1%), while in the parliamentary elections that took place at the same time, it was the ‘Bolsonarists’ who won with 16.5% of the vote (99 deputies), while the electoral coalition around the PT won just under 14% (80 deputies). The same was true for the senatorial and governors’ elections.
But above all it was certain that Lula’s arrival in power would not bring much to the proletarians; he had chosen Alckmin as his vice-president, a political figure from the big bourgeoisie, a reactionary Catholic, linked to the financial world.
This choice was not made by chance; Lula only succeeded in winning because he was able to convince the most influential capitalist circles, disappointed with Bolsonaro’s mandate, that he was the best able to defend their interests and those of Brazilian capitalism in general, both at home and abroad. He has multiplied his gestures towards the agro-industrial sector (opposition to land occupations by landless peasants, etc.) (1), one of Bolsonaro’s strongest supporters, towards religious circles (by asserting himself to be opposed in particular to abortion and to any modification of the law that prohibits it), and towards the army.
The riots of 8 January, when gangs of supporters of the former far-right president attacked various official buildings in the capital Brasilia with the complicity of some police forces, demonstrated, if it were necessary, that the bourgeoisie as a whole and the state institutions did not see a threat in Lula’s accession to the presidency; the Bolsonarist elected representatives also mostly condemned these incoherent riots à la Trump.
Lula enjoyed a high level of popularity among the working classes thanks to the social measures taken during his previous terms in office, which Bolsonaro had removed or reduced because of their cost to the public purse. These measures conceded to the poor masses were in fact only crumbs from the economic boom of the time; Brazil’s economic situation is very different today in a situation of international crisis and Lula committed himself to the financial world to spend as little as possible on social matters; his government undoubtedly re-established the «bolsa familia» (family benefits, especially for children under 6 years old) for almost 22 million families, and increased the minimum wage. But these measures are little more than window-dressing: the minimum wage has been increased by 1.3% while inflation is officially at 6% and the family benefits of a hundred dollars or so will not be able to respond to the poverty rate which exploded during the covid-19 epidemic (50 million people live on less than 2 dollars a day), causing the spectre of famine to reappear: more than 33 million people are said to be starving and 59% of the population is said to be eating inadequately! The Lula government responded to this situation... by re-establishing CONSEA (National Council for Food and Nutritional Sovereignty), an advisory body responsible for monitoring the issue...
Furthermore, the government has refused to reverse the anti-worker and anti-social «reforms» of the labour code and the social security system made under Bolsonaro.
Neither Bolsonaro nor Lula!
The Brazilian proletarians can therefore expect nothing from Lula and his government, which is at the service of the capitalists - the two «left» ministers of the Communist Party (PC do B) and the PSOL (Socialism and Freedom Party, where several Trotskyist currents are to be found) are only there to try to conceal its totally pro-capitalist orientation. They cannot expect anything from the collaborationist unions like the CUT, linked to the government, which has just sabotaged the wildcat strike of more than 4000 maintenance workers at the Petrobras refinery in Canoas (Rio Grande do Sul).
In the inevitable struggles that await them, they will also have to defy all the false friends who called on them to support Lula, in the name of the struggle against Bolsonaro, and who tomorrow will still try to lead them astray.
Based on their traditions of struggle they will have to find the path of independent class struggle against the capitalists and their governments which, whatever their political colours, administer the bourgeois state to be brought down. This cannot be done overnight, there will be many difficulties to overcome in this path, but there is no alternative.
(1) On 30 March his agriculture minister, Carlos Favaro (an agribusiness man), condemned recent land occupations by the MST («Landless Workers’ Movement», linked to the PT) saying that the occupation of land was an «abominable» act.
April, 20th 2023
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