Brazil: Regarding the Annulment of Lula’s Conviction

By the United Socialist Workers’ Party of Brazil (PSTU), translated to English by Carlos Jara
Minister Edson Fachin, anticipating a judgment from the Supreme Federal Tribunal (SFT) regarding the suspension of ex-judge Sérgio Moro, has decided to rule that the 13th Court of Curitiba was incompetent with respect to its rulings regarding ex-president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of the Workers’ Party (PT) during the Operation Car Wash (Lava Jato) scandal that had led to his imprisonment, resulting in the annulment of all charges and convictions against Lula. The court cases have further been transferred to the Federal Judiciary of the Federal District. This decision restores Lula’s political rights, giving him a clean slate and allowing him to run as a presidential candidate once more in 2022.
Fachin’s decision validates what Lula’s lawyers have been saying since the beginning. It seems that this decision was made now, by surprise, in order to avoid the conclusion of a trial regarding ex-judge Moro’s suspension, which has been on hold in the Second Class Court since December 2018 following a request from Minister Gilmar Mendes.
Fachin’s decision, however, appears to have had the opposite effect, prompting the Second Class Court to resume their trial on March 9th. A vote on a verdict was once again interrupted, this time by Minister Kássio Nune Marques, recently appointed bay President Bolsonaro. The court session was paused with votes tied at 2 to 2. Two votes against Moro’s suspension, which had been lodged before the first delay in 2018, and two votes in favor of suspension which were registered on the 9th. It appears that Carmem Lúcia, who previously voted against suspension in 2018, intends to reverse their vote once the session is resumed. This example is a case study in bourgeois justice.
A vote resulting in Moro’s suspension, together with the annulment of Lula’s conviction, would also invalidate the evidence collected as part of Operation Car Wash. Instead, the court of Brasilia will decide whether or not to use the evidence.

Selective enforcement, corruption, and general impunity: two faces of the same system

In June 2019, The Intercept Brazil published compromising information regarding the actions of ex-judge Sérgio Moro, at that time Minister of Justice in Bolsonaro’s government, and Deltan Dallagnol, federal prosecutor during the Operation Car Wash case.
The documents published by The Intercept Brazil included an extensive record of messages between federal prosecutors and Sérgio Moro, revealing that the judge and prosecutors collaborated throughout the Car Wash investigations, and particularly during Lula’s trial. From a legal standpoint, this is a very serious crime. In theory, judges are supposed to be impartial throughout their cases, and the published materials are evidence of extreme bias with both political and financial motives, including the conscious decision to prosecute about 30% of those implicated in Operation Car Wash while ignoring evidence regarding the other 70%.
The judge focused narrowly on investigating allegations regarding Lula and the Workers’ Party, ignoring the investigation of other suspects, such as Aécio Neves and the Brazilian Social-Democratic Party (PSDB). For example, they set out to investigate businesses that were involved in the scandal, but ignored the banks. According to the released messages, this was to avoid a systemic crisis, that is to say, in order not to threaten the capitalist system. They decided to block a court statement by Eduardo Cunha to avoid having to investigate a whole slew of banks, judges, members of parliament, governors, ex-president Michel Temer and who knows who else. The court also saved current Minister of the Economy Paulo Guedes from investigation, as he was acting as an intermediary between Moro and Bolsonaro.
All told, the battlecry of anticorruption, a democratic demand that is massively popular in Brazil, was deployed to advance the personal careers, financial interests, and political standings of Sérgio Moro and his allies. It is now clear that Moro and Operation Car Wash had their own set of cronies.
In the published conversations, Sérgio Moro laid out the objectives of Operation Car Wash. The goal was never to kick out corrupt officials. Rather, according to Moro, the goal was to implement a “gradual” change, to avoid mass disillusionment in the political system, and to rehabilitate the PSDB.
Later on in the process, once Bolsonaro’s campaign was underway, Moro interfered in the elections, and was rewarded with a ministry position in a government full of militiamen and apologists for the dictatorship and its torture, a government reeking of corruption from day one, but which was perfectly fine as far as Moro was concerned. Examples of corruption, ranging from the “box 2” case of former Minister Ônix Lorenzomi to scandals involving the Social-Liberal Party (PSL) and Bolsonaro’s family, are too numerous to list here. Moro only resigned from Bolsonaro’s cabinet when it became clear that he would not be nominated by Bolsonaro to serve on the Supreme Federal Tribunal, a move which humiliated Moro and cut short his political influence.
As we said when The Intercept’s article was first published, the published records do not prove that Lula was innocent. Rather, they show that the investigations and his resulting conviction were skewed, which merits him the right to a retrial.
We are in favor of the imprisonment of ALL corrupt people, as well their expropriation and the nationalization of their property to be put under the control of the working class. We have always said that we cannot trust Operation Car Wash or bourgeois justice, and that we had no reason to believe that they would investigate all who were implicated.
In this case, it is clear that Car Wash was a corrupt operation and an enforcement of selective justice. The same judge who rose to fame thanks to the operation gleefully entered a government that was not just corrupt but authoritarian to boot. This government is taking steps towards eliminating the independence of the Public Federal Ministry, as well as intervening in the Revenue Services ad Federal Police in order to shut down investigations of Bolsonaro’s family and their connections with right-wing militias. Bolsonaro’s eldest son’s recent purchase of a R$6 million mansion (~USD$1.06 million) is a show of confidence regarding his impunity.

The other side of the coin: impunity and hypocrisy

If Lula’s trial was conducted in an illegal, irregular, and corrupt fashion, and if it is Lula’s civil right to have a retrial (as it should be for anyone in the country), then we can say that it is not justice and civil rights that rule our bourgeois judicial system (which today is controlled by Bolsonaro, and yesterday by the PT, PMDB, and PSDB), but rather impunity.
The intention for Operation Car Wash was to selectively promote one corrupt faction of the bourgeoisie over another, to promote a government that is not only corrupt but also authoritarian. In doing so, it provides further evidence that Brazil continues to be a country where the rich and powerful never pay for their crimes.
If corruption is intrinsic to capitalism, and even more so in semi-colonial and decadent countries like Brazil, where the assault and robbery of public institutions is part of big business’s daily regimen, aided by a criminal lumpen-bourgeoisie that reigns of the “informal economy” of organized crime.
And that, after all, is the root of the never-ending scandals involving politicians, judges, policemen and soldiers. One glance at the evidence regarding the markup of condensed milk and chloroquine prices is enough to determine that the military is at the center of these problems (and that’s even before we consider what happened during the 20 years of dictatorship).
The governments run by PMDB, PSDB, PT and Bolsonaro (as well as their allies in the DEM, PP, and other bourgeois parties) will continue to govern on behalf of the rich and the multinational corporations. They have already been bought and paid for.
This generalized corruption which has been practiced by every government of Brazil, by the dictatorship and the New Republic, includes no shortage of crimes by Mr. Jair Messias Bolsonaro, a liar, authoritarian, genocidaire and friend of the militias, which are themselves an armed and corrupt mafia, death squads that diversify into robbery and other crimes.
The corruption spills out from there. And the bourgeois “justice system”, which hurries to cover up the crimes of the most powerful, to protect the bankers and their favorite politicians, is the same “justice system” that imprisons a pregnant domestic worker for swiping a can of green beans from her boss’s pantry.
And in this we see the hypocrisy of the bourgeoisie (to say nothing of the military) that celebrated Lula’s imprisonment and declared that the PT was the root of all corruption in Brazil. Just the same, the PT is equally hypocritical for playing the role of a victim of the bourgeoisie, when it was the prime defender of bourgeois interests when it was in government. It is totally false to claim that the PT has been made the victim due to its supposed “defense of the poor against the ravages of the market”.
A whole generation of workers participated in the construction of the PT, working together in hopes of building a new society. But the leadership of the PT betrayed this dream many years ago when it decided to continue to maintain the same political system, by the bourgeoisie and for the bourgeoisie. It has been a long time since the PT has done anything other than to rule on behalf of the rich on the backs of the poor.
The leadership of the PT switched sides in order to join forces with the bosses. José Alencar, a businessman who was Lula’s vice president and close friend, was not such a close friend of the workers in his factory at Coteminas, who he exploited mercliessly. Bumlai, another friend of Lula’s, a cattle magnate in Mato Grosso do Sul, ran his business like a slave driver from the 19th century. Odebrecht’s father, Angola’s dictator, and so many other close friends of Lula and the PT demonstrate that the PT has led governments that have been entirely bourgeois and pro-imperialist, full of corrupt officials. Corruption is part and parcel of capitalism, and thus bourgeois governments are corrupt governments. The PT has made its decision to govern capitalism on behalf of the capitalists.
In the same sense, it would remiss to not mention Dilma’s government, which saw its popularity fall like a dead weight following its sharp betrayal of the working class when it implemented anti-working class bank reform, privatization and outsourcing, governing on behalf of bankers and big business in the middle of an economic crisis. We also remember that Dilma’s vice president was none other than Temer of the PMDB, another corrupt politician, whose government was challenged by a general strike only for the strike movement’s energy to be redirected by the PT back into the electoral campaign and party politics in parliament.
Clearly, authoritarianism, imprisonment without trial, and any other infringement of civil rights are indefensible. For this reason, Lula deserves a retrial. Nevertheless, the imprisonment and expropriation of corrupt officials is a democratic demand that is supported by workers and the majority of the public, and which will never be fulfilled by the bourgeoisie because it would require confronting their own vested interests. Even the PT abandoned its working class base in order to collaborate with the bourgeoisie and reduce its program to “ethics in politics” and “capitalism with redistributive policies”, to eventually adopt the right wing position that fighting corruption is a moralistic distraction.

A history poorly retold

The whole situation regarding Lula has been a fight between two bourgeois factions during a crisis of the bourgeois democratic system. In June 2013, there was a spike in the economic crisis and popular discontentment with the PT’s social-liberal policies, which not only enacted repression against protests but also signed into effect innumerable new repressive laws.
Thus, it is inaccurate to repeat the narrative that the 2016 Car Wash scandal was a “coup”, and it is the highest hypocrisy for the PT to denounce the “state of exception” on the basis of the arrest of a few politicians and businessmen, revealing clearly that the PT’s idea of democracy is a democracy of the rich alone. Black people and poor people in Brazil are experiencing a genocide (556 thousand people have been murdered over the past 12 years). Brazil has enacted policies of mass incarceration, with more than 600 thousand in prison and 300 thousand held without trial. The majority of this population is young, Black, and poor, without histories of criminality. These repressive policies were massively expanded by the PT government. So, why is it that the PT says that under the PT we had “the rule of law”, whereas only starting in 2016 we have lived under a “state of exception”?
In 2018, Brazil elected an authoritarian government that considers the old dictatorship to be its role model, and which would jump at the possibility of conducting a coup to stay in power if it thought it would be successful. Bolsonaro’s government would gladly put an end to all of our civil liberties, and to bourgeois democracy writ large. It is a government against which we must join forces and fight, because Bolsonaro’s government truly could result in a “coup” and a “state of exception”.
Bolsonaro’s election, as well as the general advance of far-right factions, is the product of the crises of capitalism, the New Republic’s exhaustion, and the country’s descent into deindustrialization and decadence, itself the political product of the country’s recolonization by imperialism which has been the project of all past governments, PT’s included. The PT’s betrayal of its working class base has led to an enormous wave of demoralization, which has paved the way for Bolsonaro to take power.
When the PT, the leadership of the PSOL, and a large portion of the left abandon class-conscious analysis and discourse and transform themselves into a “progressive” faction of the bourgeoisie, they give up any hope of being able to organize and leverage the power of the working class in order to reshape society. Instead, they paralyze the working class, claiming to rule on its behalf while only giving it a few crumbs here or there, when possible. As we have learned from history, this sort of leadership always results in the ascent of the likes of Bolsonaro.
On top of this betrayal, the PT and the rest of the establishment Left demonstrate their continued unaccountability when they recite an alternative historical narrative that covers up the various failures of Dilma and other PT governments, ignoring that it was their government’s own policies that led to the loss of the people’s trust.

The current situation

From a political perspective, the annulment of Lula’s conviction reflects a major crisis within Bolsonaro’s government, augmented by the ongoing social, health, and economic crises in the country.
The health situation has spiraled completely out of control, tallying 2000 new deaths per day and bringing the health system to the point of collapse across the entire country. Unemployment is reaching new heights and stimulus packages are nowhere to be seen, leading to starvation. Bolsonaro, who is at this point responsible for a genocide, has done nothing other than to organize his 2022 reelection campaign and to agitate against the use of face masks and vaccines. The government’s disfunction is so severe that factions within the bourgeoisie are pulling their support, leading to a further political crisis and faction fight among the bourgeoisie.
Some factions within the ruling class are glancing at the situation in Paraguay next door, and feel the need to do something in order to avoid a similar uprising. Others are concerned by the actions of military officials such as Eduardo Villas Bôas and Daniel Silveira, who have not-so-subtly called for the restoration of the dictatorship.
The claim that Lula and Bolsonaro are identical, or two opposed extremes, is untrue and the bourgeoisie knows this quite well. Bolsonaro’s government is a government that would gladly turn the clock back to 1964 and instigate a reactionary coup. We cannot tolerate any attack on civil liberties, and must confront such authoritarian discourse.
We repeat once more that we need to fight together to kick out Bolsonaro and Mourão now, not to wait until 2022.
Lula, on the other hand, will likely become the PT’s candidate, under very different circumstances than in 2018. Today, anti-Bolsonarism is the name of the game. For the bourgeoisie, he is an ace up their sleeve, a potential brake on the political crisis.

“Peace and Love” or “Bolsonaro Out!”?

Speaking to the press, Lula has presented himself as a centrist national unity candidate, even as he says that it is too soon to talk about 2022. For Lula, a “broad front” doesn’t mean a union of left forces, but rather a coalition that includes centrist and conservative forces. “We can build a program that includes conservative sectors [including] for example provisions for a vaccine, for emergency financial aid” said Lula.
“If you talk about elections first, you block off any possibility of political evolution. But if you put the problems of the Brazilian people first when you speak to conservatives, you can achieve extraordinary things” he stated. “I see many people talking about a broad united front, with PCdoB, PT, PPSOL, PSB. This is a left front, there’s nothing broad about it. This is what people have been doing since 1989. A broad front needs to have the ability to engage with people outside of the left’s bubble. This is something that is possible”, he said. He says that he has stated a broad united front movement for 2022, reminding people of his alliance with businessmen José Alencar, which he called “the most promising development in the country’s democratic history”.
But when it comes to their program and their discourse, Lula and the PT want to repeat the same strategy from the 14 years that they were in government: collaboration with the bourgeoisie and its parties, perhaps swapping José Alencar for a Luiza Trajano or another bourgeois figurehead, promising as he always does that he will be the “Little Lula of Peace and Love”. But this path, which Lula is so eager to walk down once more, is the exact same path that brought us to the current situation with Bolsonaro.
It is necessary to build a revolutionary socialist alternative
The repetition of the PT’s strategy reignites the need for the construction of a revolutionary and socialist alternative, so that we can fight to end inequality, and against this terrible system that creates poverty, misery, unemployment, violence, racism, sexism and so many other oppressions, making the rich richer and the poor poorer. A system where exploitation reigns king, beset by corruption and impunity.
Brazil needs a socialist workers’ government, that fights against the bourgeoisie, and that is supported by people’s councils.
The original article can be found in Portuguese here.

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