Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of the Workers’ Party emerged victorious in the historic elections held in Brazil on October 30. With almost 50.9% of the vote, Lula, a trade unionist who was also president from 2003 to 2010, defeated incumbent Jair Bolsonaro of the Liberal Party who got around 49.1% in the second round. His campaign for this election was promoted by the left, popular movements, unions, and radical and progressive forces across the country. In this two-part series of interviews, we speak with Joao Pedro Stedile of the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST) about the implications of Lula’s victory for Brazil and the world, and the challenges he will have to overcome to fulfill his electoral promises. .
– What is your main conclusion from Lula da Silva’s victory in the October 30 elections?
Joao Pedro Stedile: The electoral victory was very tight. But that does not reflect the correlation of forces in society. In recent months, the crisis has deepened significantly, both in the economic and social fields, as well as with environmental crimes and the political crisis itself. This led the social classes to take different positions in relation to the elections. The main one was the change in the bourgeoisie, because the bourgeoisie had put Bolsonaro in the government. Bolsonaro has no strength of his own. He has a group of fanatics, but he does not have an organized social force, because there is no fascist mass movement. He is the result of the crisis and in 2018 the bourgeoisie put him in the government. Now the bourgeoisie changed its position. Only a small part supported Bolsonaro. Even the biggest support for him in terms of resources, was from the extreme right of the United States, from the Republicans, from Bannon. It is said that they sent 40 million dollars [a la campaña de Bolsonaro], in addition to equipment and people to manipulate social networks. Much of the bourgeoisie wanted a third way: neither Lula nor Bolsonaro. But they failed to make it a viable option. And a growing part of the bourgeoisie opted for Lula. This changed the balance of forces in society. The same thing happened with the middle class, the petty bourgeoisie. 90% had supported Bolsonaro. Now 90% support Lula. And in the working class, the same in 2018, even among the spaces of the working class, such as unions, union centrals and left-wing parties, we were divided. And now we are united by Lula. Although the poorer part of the working class that lives in the periphery, which is influenced by the Pentecostals, also voted for Bolsonaro. That is why I wanted to convey to you that, despite the hard-fought electoral victory, in Brazilian society there is a broad spectrum of social and popular forces that support Lula. And that is why his victory is more than electoral. His victory is a political and social victory that gives us the strength to start making the necessary changes in the country.
-What is your perspective on the pro-Bolsonaro blockades that occurred throughout the country?
JP: Well, Bolsonaro managed to become a leader using all possible resources in those four years of [gobierno] far right. But who are these far-right militants? They are a fraction of the 10% right-wing reactionary white middle class that follows their leader Bolsonaro. But they’re not even a majority in the middle class, overall. What happened? They are greatly influenced by that international coordination that exists worldwide of the extreme right. That is the great novelty of the last six years that the extreme right in the world began to work together in various countries and help each other. And they have the same characteristics and that is why they adopt the same tactics. [Los bolsonaristas] they lost the election, and guided by that international block, they applied here what they had applied in Bolivia and what they had applied in the United States with the defeat of Trump. What happened both in Bolivia and in the United States? Its leaders are in jail and they did not win the support of the majority of the people. The same thing happened here. Immediately after the defeat, these radicalized sectors, which are a minority, tried to block the roads with the support of sectors of the police, which was the same thing that happened in Bolivia and the United States. But the main forces of Brazilian society and the business community itself, for the most part, were against it. And that created even more isolation from Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro did not know how to take advantage of the 58 million votes [que ganó]. They basically threw those votes away because in two days public opinion all over Brazil turned against them because of the road closures. To the point that Bolsonaro had to go on television and ask them to stop. So, small groups of them went to the barracks. Saying that?
Saying that? Shouting to the military to stage a coup to prevent Lula from taking office. But these are all acts of desperation by a far right that really has no social force. Because if they were an organized social force, they would have carried out the coup before the elections and not now, when they are increasingly isolated.
– What will be the main challenges that the popular movements will have to face with the incoming Lula government?
JP: There are many challenges. The first challenge is that the popular forces have to maintain unity, like the one we built in the “Get out Bolsonaro” campaign. We have also built it with an organizational process that we call Popular Committees, and we have managed to organize around 7,000 Popular Committees throughout the country. Our intention is that these committees are not only electoral, but that they are permanent committees and that from there the ideological struggle is carried out in society, with action on social networks. And the first task now is to try to discuss with our base an emergency plan that Lula must implement in the first four months of his government, from January to April. This emergency plan has to address the key problems that people face, with concrete measures that help solve their needs. And above all, show the people that there have been changes, not only in the president, but also in policy in the country. We believe that it is necessary to have concrete, immediate measures to face hunger, [que requerirá] rapid food production, and there the peasantry will have an important role. It is necessary to have measures to tackle unemployment, which affects 70 million people and for that, the construction of houses for people must be restarted, because it is a way to recover industry and employment. And we have to invest and put a lot of money into education so that young people can go back to school and especially to university. Throughout this crisis, 3 million young people dropped out of school and withdrew from university because they had no way to survive. So we have to bring back those young people who want to study but have no resources. And we have to invest a lot in the Single Public Health System, called SUS, because with more investment in public health we can hire more health professionals, deliver more medicines to people and in this way also solve the serious health problems that we currently have. facing in the country. So, in general, these are some concrete measures and in these next few weeks we will be discussing and coordinating so that the popular committees discuss them and at some point in December we can present these proposals to the incoming president Lula.
PS: How do you think Lula will handle international relations with the countries of the Global South, especially with Latin America?
JP: Personally, I think that the easiest and most visible changes that the new president or the new Lula government can make will be in the international arena, because Lula has an internationalist vision. He can become a great international leader and join the efforts of President Xi of China, of Pope Francis, who is a leader for Europe and the Western Christian world. And Lula emerges here in Latin America, also as a leader. In his previous governments he visited 88 countries, and opened the doors of relations with Africa, with Asia, with the Arab world. So I think that Lula’s policy towards the Global South will be very effective in two directions. First, in relation to Latin America. We have a new correlation of forces. Large countries are ruled by progressive governments like Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Argentina and Brazil. And that allows for a correlation of forces with which we can resume the unitary processes that had begun before and that slowed down in the last four years. I am referring to CELAC, which may be a necessary alternative to the OAS, which, despite the changes in government, continues to be manipulated by the United States. Transform UNASUR into a great South American bloc. Mercosur, I believe that more than being from the Southern Cone, it has to become an economic block in South America. And also to promote other initiatives such as the Bank of the South and Latin American integration projects. At the level of the Global South, I believe that the main instrument for which Lula is going to work and recover is the BRICS. BRICS now consists of five countries, but the Chinese and Russians have the political will to expand the BRICS and hopefully become a powerful economic bloc to confront decaying US imperialism and not go with what the US thinks. Europeans. Argentina has already expressed its willingness to join, [así como] Saudi Arabia, Nigeria. So I think that Lula is going to work so that many governments can participate in the BRICS and broaden participation. and from here to there