The fall out from the financial collapse of 2007-8 continues. Its latest tremor is in Brazil. The commodities boom before 2007 allowed the Brazilian Workers' Party [PT] to claim that it was redistributing income but in reality it did little. Once the commodity prices fell (and especially that of oil in 2014) the state finances were in a mess. And just about every major political figure from Lula to Temer has been tainted with corruption. Enter Jair Bolsonaro.
Aged 63, Jair Bolsonaro was stabbed this September and was unable to participate in the campaigning, yet this October 7 scored a huge victory in the first round of voting for Brazil’s Presidency, taking 18 million more votes than his closest rival, Fernando Haddad of PT. Bolsonaro, an ex-army captain, took slightly over 46% of the vote, clearly ahead of the under 30% of Haddad.
He has not held any high position in the Brazilian State, but his 30 year parliamentary career makes clear his controversial racist, homophobic, misogynist perspectives which have generated an important oppositional reaction. For example, the country’s largest mobilisation of women took place on 29th of September under the slogan “Not him”. According to polls, if the vote had been restricted to females only, he would not have won.
He is known to be an advocate of loosening gun controls and a strictly anti-abortion stance. He has defended the use of torture and the death penalty. Regarding the military regime which governed the country between 1960-85, he said in 1993 “I am in favor of dictatorship” adding “We will never resolve the serious national problems with this irresponsible democracy”.
In 2011, in an interview published by Playboy magazine, he stated he would be “incapable of loving a homosexual son” that he preferred that such a son “die in an accident”. In 2015 Bolsonaro was fined for saying to a newspaper that Congress woman, Maria do Rosario "does not deserve to be raped: she is very ugly". In 2017 he said he would get rid of native reservations, and "quilombolas", settlements created by rebel slaves today inhabited by their descendants. Bolsonaro said “they are not fit even to breed”.
The final round of voting takes place on 28th October but in the meantime we have translated the analysis of the Spanish language blog Nuevo Curso which gives a good picture of what Brazilian society and the Brazilian working class is today going through.
Why did Bolsonaro win in Brazil?
The materialization of the capitalist crisis in Mercosur, evidenced and multiplied by the trade war, is not only hitting Argentina. The real has suffered the same exchange rate pressures since May with the first US tariffs on steel and despite the greater diversification of the Brazilian economy, it has faced a devaluation that, month after month, has eroded national capital no less than in Argentina, putting Brazilian capital in its worst crisis in a century.
This crisis does not cause, but follows and accompanies, the crisis of the political apparatus of the Brazilian bourgeoisie. The fall of the Workers’ Party [PT] of Lula and Dilma Roussef in the midst of a soap opera of scandalous corruption trials, the self-indulgence of their successor, Temer, the advances and reverses as regards the legalisation of the hacienda system ... over two centuries, the police strikes ... speak to us of a bourgeoisie incapable of comfortably accommodating itself in the political system, incapable of reinventing its political legitimacy, without precipitating bloody internal wars over state income.
The crisis of the Brazilian bourgeoisie's political apparatus multiplies with the lumpenisation of entire social sectors and the consolidation of the mafias and "commandos", which are inserted into the state through the control of elections in the disintegrating neighborhoods. It goes without saying that this control occurs through terror and violence1 against the workers who live in them, many of whom take refuge in the Evangelical and Pentecostal churches. The new churches have been, for years, the last element of social cohesion in many places and are integrated with honour - as in so many countries- into the state and the bourgeoisie. The daily defeat of many workers in the face of this decomposition and the organised lumpen commandos explains their inability to unite. Brazilian capitalism has few illusions to sell, even football nationalism is difficult to mass produce after the Lulista "redistribution" resulted in an income distribution in which 1% of the population receives 23% of income. For the workers, nothing has remained of the "optimism" and "miracles" of Brazilian capital, but a massive pauperisation, which the growth of unemployment alongside a disastrous social assistance system can only feed.
In this context of crisis, pauperisation and violence so brutal and diffuse, the handing over of Rio de Janeiro to the army by President Temer is yet another symbol of the incompetence of the state to face its own decomposition and "cleanse" its most disgusting adhesions ... and one more reason for the desperation of the petty bourgeoisie, whose children flee the country escaping the daily fear. Because, as in Europe, the Brazilian petty bourgeoisie has been, for a decade, caught up in a real catalogue of political nonsense.
The truckers' strike last May against rising fuel prices, however, served as a catalyst for what we are now living through. The government's response of militarising the supply routes of Sao Paulo increased the image of chaos and lack of control caused by shortages. Temer had to give way, making the truckers, the epitome of the fusion between a petty bourgeoisie against the ropes and the atomized proletariat, into national heroes. Who made the political gains? Bolsonaro.
Because, despite what the Anglo-Saxon press says, Bolsonaro is no "Trump." His campaign and his positioning have not been based on advocating an impossible job-creating protectionism. On the contrary, it is as globalist and neoliberal as the Brazilian bourgeoisie can be. Bolsonaro is a Duterte who promises a true "lumpen holocaust" and to bring down a similar storm on the Brazilian political apparatus, openly vindicating the years of military dictatorship. He connects with the desperation of a very large part of the petty bourgeoisie and grows without real opposition by breaking the weaker sectors of the Brazilian proletariat.
As a result, he has destroyed Lula's successor in the first round. His ability to gather the evangelical vote was an important factor in the result. What is being proposed, an exponential development of authoritarianism, militarism and social control of the churches is really sinister. An example of how massive lumpenisation can disorient the proletariat leaving the way clear to the rearming of the state under the worst dystopian delusions of the petty bourgeoisie.
Due to its repercussions on the imperialist balance, it is not surprising that even governments like Macri's2 are disturbed. Not so much for the current rivalries, an agonizing duel between two declining giants. But because the triumph of authoritarian nationalism means that in the region, and for the first time since the beginning of the eighties, there are once again present the conditions for an imperialist war.