It is common to hear that Lula’s government is being challenged by the left and that the left should dispute the government’s political course. Guilherme Boulos summed it up well last year when he said: “I defend the position that the PSOL [Socialism and Liberty Party] be integrated into Lula’s base of support. The government will be a broad front, and we have to internally dispute spaces to push the country’s agenda to the left.”
By: Júlio Anselmo
Where does the government’s regressive politics come from?
The fact that the government is a “broad front” means that, in its composition, there are leaders from different political sectors. Currently, this includes names from the traditional right, such as Alckmin, who was from the PSDB (Brazilian Social Democracy Party) for many years, and José Múcio, who praised Bolsonaro, and Daniela Carneiro, who has links to the militias and the right-wing União Brasil (Brazil Union) party. Not to mention the various ministries of the PT (Workers’ Party) and even Sonia Guajajara of the PSOL who are in the coalition
But does this breadth prove that the government could be in dispute? Let’s see if this idea holds water. Lula himself has said that nothing is approved without his endorsement, so there is a common program among all the sectors present in the government, which is demonstrated precisely by their submission to the PT’s project.
If the government is in dispute, how is it possible that the fiscal framework was created by the supposed “left wing”? After all, this project has Lula’s endorsement and was built by Haddad from the PT. One can only conclude that a program to administer capitalism and guarantee the interests of the bourgeoisie comes from Lula and the PT itself.
Who is Lula’s government at the service of?
The PT government has tried to make it appear that it governs “for all” within the framework of the capitalist system it administers. But it is not possible to govern for all because the workers and the bourgeoisie have antagonistic interests. In a factory, even the task of raising wages involves a necessary confrontation with the boss and a fight. In a strike, anyone who attempts to present the boss’s perspective to other workers is quickly identified as a “strikebreaker” or a “fink.” On the level of the country as a whole, it is the same thing only to a much greater degree.
They can respond by saying that this is a bourgeois government, but with a sector of the progressive bourgeoisie. But then they would have to point out which bourgeois sector that is. Is it Lemann, one of the richest people in Brazil and responsible for bankrupting the retail chain Lojas Americanas with fraud? Or what about the Joesley brothers, agribusiness billionaires responsible for all kinds of crimes revealed during Temer’s tenure? Well, these two have ties to the Lula government, in addition to Trabuco from Banco Bradesco, as well as large sectors of world imperialism.
Of course, not all capitalist or bourgeois governments are the same. For example, Lula’s government is very different from Bolsonaro’s. But does this difference mean that the bourgeois sector headed by Lula is progressive and should be supported by the workers? No. It would be more accurate to say that they are two bourgeois sectors: one that supports the dictatorship project with Bolsonaro, and another wing that is on the side of bourgeois democracy via Lula. Neither of them represents an alternative for the workers.
And there is no middle ground. There is no hybrid government “half capitalist and half socialist,” unless it joins the liberal discourse that claims that socialism would be “more State,” while capitalism would be less, which is false.
This is when they resort to the trick of the correlation of forces, which is supposed to explain all evils. They simply forget to ask themselves what defines the correlation of forces. Aren’t the actions of the PT and Lula, the policies they defend, and the actions they carry out, also part of the correlation of forces?
Just to give an example: the far-right continues with its authoritarian project that is protected by Bolsonaro, by the far-right in Congress, and by the military. Lula is not using the State apparatus to defeat this reactionary sector, on the contrary, he is trying to reach a grand bargain. This will have an impact on the correlation of forces from now on.
This is also the case in that governing capitalism in alliance with the bourgeoisie and the center also helps the correlation of forces to go to the right, not to the left. So, this logic of supposedly giving in to everything in the name of governability helps the right and the bourgeoisie, it does not advance the demands of the workers or their organization.
The PSOL and the dispute of a supposedly progressive camp
The problem of the thesis of the “government in dispute” becomes more acute when we see that, in reality, there is no dispute at all. Boulos, who says that his policy of adherence to the government is to “pull the country’s agenda to the left,” said nothing about the new fiscal framework. PSOL president Juliano Medeiros said they will make the decision on April 15.
But given that both celebrated effusively the first 100 days of the government and all its measures without criticism and with everything indicating that they will remain in the government’s base, the question that remains then: what are they actually disputing?
Even if they were to really criticize, this would still happen within the framework of a capitalist government, since it is impossible to contest it for a working-class program, precisely because there is no way to contest a bourgeois government to make it anti-bourgeois.
The contradiction lies in the fact that, if Boulos and the PSOL want to push the government to the left, they will have to confront all of them, including the PT itself. Then, it would become evident that the supposedly progressive wing is responsible for the regressive measures.
One of two things could happen: either the dispute they make is impossible without provoking a rupture of the government due to the incompatibility of the workers’ programs with the bourgeoisie, or the dispute they make is based on another program that is not that of the workers.
The PSOL lives, in truth, prisoner to one of the bourgeois camps and hostage to a capitalist program of alliance with the bourgeoisie. This is proof that being inside the present government does not help to build an alternative camp to the bourgeois camps, nor does it contribute to the organization, mobilization, and consciousness of the workers.
The currents of the PSOL criticize the government.
There are sectors of the PSOL that have a slightly different positions. The MES (Socialist Left Movement) says it defends progressive measures and criticizes regressive ones. While criticizing the fiscal framework, they praise the other measures and describe Lula’s first 100 days as a victory. The Resistance follows a similar path by claiming that not supporting progressive measures is a sectarian mistake.
Defending the measures they consider progressive and criticizing the regressive ones also strengthens the government. It does not help the workers to see the true character and role of the government in preserving the agreements with the right wing and in maintaining the interests of the capitalists. With more or less criticism, this policy, in practice, becomes permanent support for the government’s own project, or the false idea of the possibility of changing the government from within.
The government’s measures do not serve as a starting point for the emancipation of the workers. In fact, it is the opposite, they serve to cater to the bourgeoisie and to set back the consciousness and the level of organization of the people.
The measures announced by the government in these 100 days are very few. We are talking, for example, of R$70 billion for the Bolsa Família and R$ 215 billion in dividends to Petrobras shareholders. What Lula has been doing is in line with what the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) or the Biden administration itself advocates. A sector of imperialism defends a more “anti-cyclical” economic policy, allowing a certain level of public spending to resume growth and compensatory social policies. For this reason, the market welcomes the framework and even the resumption of the PT projects. This is an attempt to recover the level of profitability of capital.
We should rather defend workers’ gains, or even progressive measures when they are attacked by the far-right. But the condition for this is that they are really attacked. And, even there, it is necessary to demand from the government to have more, and to denounce the insufficiencies, since no “progressive measure” in capitalism, by itself, will solve our people’s true problems.
Patiently explaining that Lula’s government is not an ally of the workers.
Another way to capitulate to the government is to have no politics in relation to the government. For example, the PCB and the MES give themselves a way out by saying they seek to organize the immediate struggles of the workers, and they speak of remaining independent from the government. The PCB even goes so far as to advocate for socialism, popular power, etc., but they do not say what their politics should be in relation to the government. Are they in agreement or opposition? Is it necessary to explain to the workers that this government is not theirs, or not? Then, what slogan should we use to help unmask and demonstrate its true class character?
The Resistance, on this point, is more coherent and defends a policy of demanding that the bourgeois government of Lula and the PT break with the bourgeoisie. They say it is a strategic move to dispute the workers’ consciousness. But this position is incomprehensible; after all, if Lula’s government were to break with the bourgeoisie it would continue to be bourgeois, given the present nature of the PT and its project. So, this “tactic” serves more to confuse than to explain the nature of the government, since it would be the same as expecting the PT to break with itself.
The dangers of this third Lula government are greater than in the past because today there is a strong far-right opposition waiting for the government to become demoralized in order to resume its authoritarian project. We need to tell the workers that Lula and the PT, by choosing the path they have chosen, will end up helping the right and the far-right again. At the end of the day, we need to prepare the struggles of the people against this government, calling that their demands be met and, explaining that this is not their government, that it is not possible to trust Lula, and that it is necessary to strengthen a project that confronts capitalism. And that will happen through the strengthening of a political organization of the workers that is socialist and revolutionary.
Article published in www.pstu.org.br, 12/4/2023.