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% percent 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.

On Bolsonaro’s foreign policy agenda; global and regional implications

Presenting himself as the “Latin American Trump,” Bolsonaro is on track to repair, renew and expand the ties with the US, which was frayed to nearly breaking point in the past decade. Right after winning the election, Trump immediately called him and the two strongly committed to “work side by side.” The White House described the US and Brazil “as regional leaders of the Americas.” Mirroring the Trump persona, Bolsonaro has quickly snuggled up to Israel (his planned first state visit), promised to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, and remains critical of the UN system.

Brazil’s expected drastic shift to a pro-US stance is of global and regional significance. After all, it is the world’s 5th most populous country (210 million) and 7th largest economy, the 2nd largest in the Americas, and the largest in all of Latin America. It has major oil reserves, 3rd largest aircraft producer in the world (apart from a major producer of armaments), and top producer in some agricultural products. Thus, its foreign policy directions have potentially huge implications in influencing other Latin American countries.

With Bolsonaro’s foreign policy expectedly aligning with the US especially hand-in-hand with Trump, Brazil has the potential to serve as a comprehensive base for more aggressive US meddling in Latin American , e.g. vs Venezuela and Bolivia. Taken as a whole, his incoming regime represents a Latin American-wide (actually, a global, strategic, and increasingly self-conscious) resurgence of state-fascist forces.

The US is doing all it can to weaken, if not break up, the BRICS by wooing back at least Brazil and India. It appears to succeed in preventing a closer China-India alliance by fueling irritants between the two. Now, with Brazil apparently in its pocket, the US can proceed to engineer a Brazilian break-up with China (which has been Brazil’s principal trade partner and a major investor).

Persistence and Aggravation of the Root Problems of Brazilian society

The incoming US-Bolsonaro regime is a multi-layered reminder for the peoples of Brazil and the wider Latin America that it’s not merely who is in the presidential seat or the party in power that’s the issue, or that Bolsonaro’s victory is somehow a freak accident or miscarriage of the democratic process which needs to be simply undone by parliamentary means.

Despite the reformist PT administrations of Lula and Rousseff, US imperialist interests and control in Brazil and the wider Latin America have persisted. The exploitative class structure of Brazilian society and the need for class struggle by the exploited toiling masses of workers and peasants and the middle social social strata have continued. The fascists exploited the failures and weaknesses of the social democratic PT to make their comeback.

Despite being a member of BRICS, Brazil is hobbled by continuing imperialist intrusion and meddling, greatly uneven development of capitalism in the cities, and persistent semifeudal conditions in the vast countryside. The country’s countless economic and political problems are rooted in these social contradictions.

These are the reasons why extreme poverty and yawning inequality remain most evident. These are the reasons why the working class through its political party and trade unions, and the peasantry (e.g. through Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Terra or MST, Landless Workers’ Movement) with its long-standing demand for land reform, comprise some of the largest social movements in Latin America today.

Even just the terrible killings (nearly 64,000 in 2017 alone) cannot be separated from the decades-long violent rural conflicts between landless peasants and landlords and the resulting displacement of peasant and indigenous communities and mass migration into congested urban slums. Especially in the northeastern region of Brazil, persistent feudal conditions aggravated by famine drove millions of impoverished peasant families to migrate either into the already teeming urban favelas, or into other rural regions such as deforested Amazon areas where they work in export-crop plantations and cattle-raising fazendas under semifeudal or extremely backward capitalist forms of exploitation.

The resultant widespread social ills, combined with government’s anti-drug and anti-criminality campaigns, then become the pretext for the fascist police to implement routine killings victimizing mainly the poor and marginalized.

The PT has not solved the roots of Brazil’s social and economic problems in their over 13 years in power. At the start of Lula’s presidency in 2003, widespread famine in north and northeast Brazil was driving waves of starving villagers into the towns, ransacking stores and markets so they could find something to eat. In that sense, it is true that social programs like Bolsa Família and PRONAF could appear to relieve the worst manifestations of poverty in the countryside and urban favelas.

However, these social programs were not accompanied by national industrialization and comprehensive land reform. They thus became open to attack and began to falter especially after the 2014 recession (during Dilma’s second government). The ruling system simply reasserted its underlying rottenness, with mass famine, starving people, widespread child labor, and other extreme forms of poverty becoming worse than ever.

These systemic factors made Dilma’s other programs, such as her anti-corruption campaign, also susceptible to a reactionary backlash that led to her being ousted via impeachment—actually a US-instigated “soft” coup d’etat. Temer, who replaced Dilma, proceeded to transition to a more pro-US, pro-oligarchic, and pro-fascist stance.

At the same time, the US-backed oligarchy intensified their anti-PT campaign, blaming the PT exclusively for the worsening corruption, economic mismanagement, and criminality. Haddad’s campaign fell into the trap and admitted PT’s role in Brazil’s worsening problems, while the deep roots of these problems—which date back to at least the 1970s at the time of the long fascist dictatorship—were not exposed.

The ILPS stands in solidarity with the people of Brazil who must now confront and fight the fascist US-Bolsonaro regime and defend national sovereignty, democracy and all the people’s rights. It is the sacred duty to themselves that the people of Brazil wage all necessary forms of revolutionary struggle against the scourge of imperialism and fascism.

They must defeat within Brazil the epidemic of fascism in order to contribute to the revolutionary struggle of the world proletariat and people to stop the spread of this malignancy. This is but a manifestation of the disintegrating world capitalist system and is the prelude to the great resurgence of the national liberation movements and the world proletarian-socialist revolution. ###

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