PRISM Editor’s note: This statement by the International League of People’s Struggle, originally circulated on 2 November 2018, was reissued by the Office of the ILPS Chairperson on 4 November with slight revisions. We are posting this reissued version.
Fascist comeback in Brazil due to reformist failures and persistence of US imperialism and local oligarchy
Re-Issued by the Office of the Chairperson
International League of People’s Struggle
November 4, 2018
We, the International League of Peoples’ Struggle join the people of Brazil in their growing unity and continuing militancy to confront and oppose the incoming US-backed fascist regime of Jair Bolsonaro. We warn the US and its imperialist allies that their scaled-up meddling in Brazil and other countries in Latin America will only reap broader and more intense anti-imperialist and democratic struggles all across the continent.
On Bolsonaro’s electoral win and PT’s loss
Bolsonaro of the Social Liberal Party, after a brazenly ultra-rightist political rise and electoral campaign, won the recent run-off presidential election with 55.6% of the votes, defeating Fernando Haddad of the Workers’ Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores or PT) with 44.4%. Bolsonaro will replace outgoing President Michel Temer on 1 January 2019, for a four-year term.
The claim that Bolsonaro won in a “democratic” election is belied by widespread intimidation of opposition forces, leading almost 29% of the electorate to annul or not cast their vote. The reactionary media (both in the imperialist countries and in Brazil) and other institutions controlled by the Brazilian big bourgeoisie and landlord class built up a fake “public opinion” against progressive parties (including the PT), workers’ unions, and other mass movements that supported them.
The original PT candidate, former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, was widely expected to win the elections had not the reactionary courts convicted, jailed and barred him from running for the presidency on flimsy charges of bribery. With Lula out of the picture, Bolsonaro’s promise to “change the destiny of Brazil” appealed to Brazilians reeling from two years of recession – the deepest in the country’s history — high unemployment, rising criminality and sprawling corruption scandals that have implicated many of the country’s traditional politicians, including some from the PT.
The imperialists and local reactionaries harped on both real and imagined social problems of the Brazilian people and had Bolsonaro cast as a political outsider capable of restoring peace and order in the oligarchy-controlled media, which blamed all the problems on the PT, the Left-leaning former president Dilma Rousseff (who was ousted via impeachment for alleged misuse of public funds) and Lula (her mentor).
They played the anti-communist card to the fullest, blaming the trade unions, communists, academic Marxists, and sectoral movements of marginalized peoples such as LGBTQs and indigenous communities. They also blamed formal democratic processes and hankered for the stability of the long years of military dictatorship.
Thus, Bolsonaro, his running-mate (a retired army general), their imperialist backers, and a formidable array of reactionary forces supporting his campaign with its lies and misinformation, were able to whip up a fascist wind among the politically backward section of the electorate, fabricating surveys to show that 55% of Brazilians will go along with a dictatorship if it “solved problems.” He used his open alignment with big business interests and police-state proposals to attract the middle-class vote with promises of solutions to the economic crisis and criminality. They presented a seeming populist but essentially fascist and pro-imperialist platform of governance.
The recent electoral win of Bolsonaro is a clear-cut indication that US imperialism and its allies are behind the “soft coup” type of regime change in Brazil. They are in fact hellbent on cutting short the trend of Bolivarian or progressive-leaning governments and on setting the stage for a new wave of fascist dictatorships all over Latin America.
Bolsonaro’s domestic agenda
A former Army paratroop captain, Bolsonaro has an ultra- reactionary mindset of being aggressively authoritarian and repressive. Now as the newest chief representative of Brazil’s ruling classes (big bourgeoisie, big landlord class and big bureaucrats) and regional junior partner if not outright puppet of US imperialism, Bolsonaro is deadset on undoing the significant welfare and democratic advances made by the people of Brazil under the administrations of Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff.
Bolsonaro plans to give free rein to neoliberal planners such as Paulo Guedes (a right-wing University of Chicago-trained economist) and Nabhan Garcia to craft an economic agenda more tightly aligned to the neoliberal imperialist agenda and Brazilian reactionary interests. He has promised to further open up Brazil (including the Amazon’s rich natural resources) to foreign investment, slash corporate taxes, cut social spending including Bolsa Família, privatize almost all state-run companies including public services, freeze wages, raise the retirement age and lift environmental restrictions especially on the expansion of farmland in the Amazon.
Despite some improvements in the Brazilian people’s living standards over the past years, the Lula and Dilma Rousseff governments cannot claim credit for making some dents on the huge problems of poverty and inequality, and on the flourishing of people’s movements (especially among the workers and peasants). In fact, they implemented policies that proved eventually self-defeating.
Social programs like PRONAF, Bolsa Família, and infrastructure projects that created temporary jobs could be financed only due to huge trade windfalls from China’s big demand for Brazilian raw materials and cash crops in the late 2000s. However, Lula pursued neoliberal policies that favored finance capital and Western TNC’s (such as high interest rates and tax exemptions) while eroding the masses’ standard of living.
Similarly, Dilma enabled Joaquim Levy, another University of Chicago boy, to push for more anti-national and anti-people policies such as opening up Banco do Brasil and the vast Libra oil field to foreign investors, cutting off more than 1 million beneficiaries from the Bolsa Família social program, and tightening the screws on unemployment insurance. All these neoliberal measures greatly contributed to the economic crisis which began in 2014 on top of the stagnation in previous years.
While the Brazilian mass movements had more possibilities of open political work during the PT’s rule, assassinations of peasant, indigenous and union leaders began to skyrocket after 2014, during Dilma’s presidency. In 2008, the PT’s Pará state governor waged a “Peace in the Countryside” operation that killed dozens of organized peasants and tortured and arrested hundreds of others, in an attempt to prevent peasant land occupations in Pará.
Dilma’s government also issued an “anti-terrorist law” to further intensify the repression of mass protests in Brazil’s main urban centers in 2013. Thus, it was easier for Temer’s government to persecute more political activists using the same law; Bolsonaro will keep doing the same.
Bolsonaro is definitely on a track to reestablish an extremely fascist regime in one form or another, along similar lines as the hated military dictatorship that ruled Brazil for 21 years (1964-1985). He is expected to harp on issues of public security and use uncontrolled killings as alibi (nearly 64,000 people killed in Brazil in 2017 alone) as well as “leftist extremism”, as pretext to assume authoritarian powers and give an expanded role for the police and the military, giving them more leeway and militarized approaches (including carte blanche for EJKs), build more prisons, authorize torture, and expand military-controlled schools, to “control criminality” and “make streets safer” along similar lines as Duterte in the Philippines.
Bolsonaro will probably include in his cabinet former military officials with backgrounds tied to past military juntas supported by the CIA. Expressing admiration for Hitler as “a great strategist,” he is expected to whip up and unleash the worst kind of fascist, racist, misogynist, and anti-communist views and all-out right-wing fanaticism in order to mobilize not just the entire Brazilian elite and armed forces but a “mass movement” supporting his authoritarian regime and to justify violence against trade unionists, black people, indigenous people, women, LGBTQ, and other types of democratic opposition.