Brazil, the reaction in the country’s veins

Contrary to expectations, the second round – ballot of the Brazilian presidential elections of October 30, 2022 was won by only two million votes by Lula. The news was also widely disseminated by the Western media. The exponent of the PT (workers’ party) supported by a “broad front” made up of organizations and parties of the right, center and left and the international press expected a victory with wider margins. The most disruptive news was therefore not Lula’s victory, but the non-explosive electoral defeat of Jair Bolsonaro (PL), an exponent of the reactionary far right, already in government of the country from 1 January 2019 to today.

A president who has exacerbated the social fractures in the country by basing his personal affirmation on strongly identity and class aspects. A political cycle characterized by leadership, with the figure of the strong man in power surrounded by obedient figures belonging to the leader’s clan.

In the days following the announcement of the election results, tens of thousands of people protested for alleged fraud in the counting of votes. Bolsonaro himself, after two days of silence, did not accept defeat but allowed the transfer of power to Lula. Against the electoral outcome, demonstrations across the country supported the highway blockades made by truck drivers in at least 25 states in the country, many companies have suspended their activity to block the country. In the Bolsonariste capitals, thousands of people demonstrated in front of the barracks demanding military intervention and dictatorship. Dressed in Brazilian flags, they chanted Bolsonaro’s campaign slogan “Brasil acima de tudo, deus acima de todos”. Conversely, there have been numerous demonstrations and response initiatives, born from below, from social movements and political organizations to face these reactionary squares.

“With the elections at the end of 2018 and those of today, 2022, the organized and active presence of conservatives and fascists in Brazil has crystallized” reports a Brazilian comrade “But we must remember that we are not facing a new phenomenon. Just a quick look at the history of republican Brazil and it can be seen that conservatives and fascists have always been present and active in both institutional and extra-institutional politics.

The transition to democracy wanted by the military towards the end of the dictatorship in Brazil in 1988 imposed a pact of silence and impunity against the crimes of the dictatorship whose effects reverberate today in these forms.

In recent years Bolsonaro has been able to aggregate and compact the most reactionary social components and guarantee them political legitimacy. The minority that contested the electoral result in the streets is the most active and visible part of a much broader transversal social component that identifies itself with the values ​​of the homeland and of order, which relies on the role of the armed forces to maintain social peace, and looks with confidence at the presence of army members in top government positions and at the presence of the armed forces in civil society (in the streets, as well as in schools and services).

To date, 40% of the Brazilian population lives on informal work while it is estimated that there are currently thirty million people below the poverty line. The reactionary political message was able to involve transversal segments of the population despite the economic policies of marginalization of the lowest social segments, the concentration of most of the wealth in the 5% of the population, land grabbing policies in favor of the interests of agribusiness and support for large private enterprises. The use of fake news, the ability to influence public debate through social media and to use digital platforms, the use and dissemination of conspiracy theories, the support of a large part of the evangelical and Pentecostal churches, have guaranteed the amplification of Bolsonaro’s false “anti-system” message and at the same time the reassuring vision based on the domination, control and security of the patriarchal social model so deeply rooted in Brazilian society as well.

The drug trafficking control actions carried out by police and para-military forces in the favelas led, according to data collected by the NGO Brazilian Forum on Public Security, to the killing of 6,400 people in 2020 alone, numbers growing in the following years. Civil war numbers that in truth arise from the networks of coexistence between state apparatuses, paramilitias and drug traffickers in an ongoing client relationship that moves figures exceeding three billion dollars a year in the country according to estimates by the Gabinete de Segurança Institucional da Presidência da República del 2019

Mahu of the Aurora Negra collective in Sao Paulo says the colonization process has never stopped. “What we live now is a mirror of the values ​​and fear that the middle and upper class, white, are experiencing. Fear of the most disadvantaged social components, of the original populations, of the possibility of losing purchasing power and spending power. We experience forms of racism, patriarchy and homophobia on a daily basis even in interpersonal relationships, if applied on a larger scale it partly explains what we are facing“.

Lula came out victorious in the poorest Brazilian states, in the northeast that still lives on subsidies and state aid and in some big cities like Sao Paulo. It was defeated in the states where industrial production is more advanced and where there is a higher middle class presence such as the southern states, the state of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo.

But, adds Samis a comrade from Rio de Janeiro, it is important to frame this phenomenon also on an international level: “The identification and use of social enemies within the country as well as external enemies transversally characterizes messages conveyed by Trump, by Meloni in Italy as well as in most of both South American and European countries by reactionary and protectionist parties. The appearance of actors such as China and the Arab states in globalization is causing the same states promoters of globalization to withdraw. It is a conflict in the neoliberal world that occurs due to the affirmation of different market logics and interest groups, to the detriment of the exploited classes.

And Lula? In this campaign mainly focused on the two candidate figures, on the two competing leaders, the programmatic contents have taken a back seat.

Lula now places himself as an interlocutor who reunites the anti-Bolsonarist forces on a national level. He proposes himself as a peacemaker of social conflict. It is the cornerstone of a large Brazilian populist political center that will try to be the interlocutor of the entire nation. Samis says that if Bolsonaro is the guarantor of the reactionary forces, Lula has assumed the role of guarantor of the conservative forces.

Many basic components hope in Lula for a change in environmental policies, support for the weakest social groups, the fight against hunger and social inequalities, and the reopening of the issue of rights. On the other hand, the Marco Temporal was part of the pre-election debate and commitments on the preservation of environmental resources and respect for native populations were at the top of the new president’s promises. But at the same time historically conservative components such as the Rete Globo or parties such as the Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira, part of the coalition that supported Lula’s candidacy, and which will find its prominent representative in the vice president Geraldo Alckmin in the government.

A doubly difficult task because Lula’s coalition is in the minority in the chamber of deputies and many state governors elected even in the last electoral round are Bolsonarists.

Furthermore, unlike Lula’s first and second mandates (this is the third), the Brazilian economy is creaking and international relations see a third of exports going to China, and solid relations with Russia for the import of hydrocarbons and fertilizers . These reports will neither be modified nor questioned by Lula.

Finally, the difficulty of the basic component in the current phase must be recorded. The economic and social processes of the last 15 years, the covid and finally the different readings of the Ukrainian conflict, have weakened the social movements independent of political parties and state structures.

In this phase, anti-fascist groups, environmentalist and transfeminist groups come to light, resist and continue to ferment, new projects are born of independent grassroots unions. However, the class and social conflict fails to bind itself to the discontent of the suburbs and to become a broad and shared political project. For the moment.

Bolsonaro will reappear in 2024 as mayor of Rio de Janeiro. Bolsonarismo lives on. Change will not come from Lula.


Brazil, the reaction in the country’s veins –