The inauguration ceremony of the new government attempted to bring together the most marginalized sectors of society. In the cowardly absence of Bolsonaro, who flew to Florida, the presidential sash was passed to Lula by a group pretending to represent workers, women, Blacks, Indigenous peoples, people with disabilities and other oppressed sectors.
The public presentation of the Lula-Alckmin government was designed to mark a counterpoint to the ultra-right, obscurantist and criminal management of the country by Bolsonaro. And the images going around the world, in fact, show something different from what we have endured in the last four years. It is understandable the excitement and expectations that these images provoke in the activists and sectors that confronted Bolsonaro’s government.
It is necessary, however, to reflect at this moment on whether the message Lula conveyed is, in reality, what this new government will be. And the answer is: unfortunately not. It is time to acknowledge whom the Lula-Alckmin government will serve, the class character of the project to be implemented, and the challenges posed for the working class, the youth and the oppressed sectors.
The composition of the new government
Lula nominated sectors of the right and ultra-right into the ministries. Some of those nominated even praised Bolsonaro, like the new Minister of Defense José Múcio, or the bolsonarista Union Brazil Party (União Brasil), led by Luciano Bivar, who will have three ministry positions in the Lula-Alckmin administration. The “third way” that the bourgeoisie tried to promote in the elections is also present in the government, most apparently with the Planning Ministry cabinet role given to Simone Tebet from the centrist Brazilian Democratic Movement party.
In other words, the formation of the new government confirms what has been promised since Alckmin, responsible for the Pinheirinho massacre and who headed the Military Police (PM) that killed the most in that period, was announced as vice president: Lula’s will be a government of national unity, with all the sectors that accepted to enter and that opposed, at least for now, the authoritarian outbursts of Bolsonaro’s government and some aspects of its economic policy.
This government encompasses and represents sectors of the financial market, national and international, who are eager for a certain political stability to maintain their business; sectors of the national bourgeoisie increasingly linked and submissive to imperialism; and the multinationals and even large sectors of big agribusiness who are inextricably linked to big finance capital and imperialism, which depend on exports to China and other regions. Hence the explicit support received by leaders like Biden, Macron, Scholz and the European Union, as well as Xi Jinping of China.
Much of the left celebrates names such as Marina Silva in Environment, Silvio Almeida in the Human Rights portfolio or Sônia Guajajara of PSOL as forming part of the government. They are under the impression hat the problem of Lula’s government are the ministers who are not from the left and that the more positions the left has, the better. As if the government did not have a program, did not serve the ruling class, with the support even of the imperialist countries, regardless of how many ministers are from right-wing parties or not. The reality is that it will be a government focused on the interests of sectors of imperialism, multinationals, bankers and farmers. It will not be one, two or three different ministers, or supposedly more left-wing, that would change that.
The problem is that even the various PT ministers who are supposed to be “representatives of the left” will apply a right-wing policy, that is, in defense of the market, capitalism and the interests of the rich. There is no hiding the fact that, for example, Marina Silva built and was the candidate of a party with strong ties to Itaú bank and, in Environment, defends a green capitalism linked to Natura.
Let’s look at the case of the new Minister of Finance who, despite a certain “heterodoxy” that makes the Faria Lima (financial center) hold its nose, actually represents a “counter-cyclical” economic policy that is applied today in the USA with Biden’s trillion-dollar public spending packages. It is no coincidence that Haddad has set as his main task to redesign a fiscal ceiling policy in the coming months. It is not that the neoliberal ceiling policy will end, but rather that the old plan will be replaced by a new ceiling. But the objective remains the same: to guarantee surpluses to remunerate the capitalists through the mechanism of public debt.
There is no internal struggle within this government. There is no progressive sector in the government. What exists is a broad government with several different capitalist currents that combine with each other. It is not that there is no difference, the issue is that, in general, they are in agreement. So much so that they are in the same government.
It is regrettable to note that, whether with high positions, like the PSOL, or without them, like the UP (Popular Unity, or Popular Unity for Socialism) or the PCB (Brazilian Communist Party), all the other leftist organizations support the PT government albeit with diverse degrees, some claiming to be independent and others less so. So much so that they all went to the inauguration and none spoke of building a left opposition against Lula’s bourgeois government and against the Bolsonarist right-wing opposition.
The differences with 2002
In the last 20 years, many things have changed, including the PT. What Lula’s government was in 2002 will be very different from what Lula will be in 2023. Suffice it to say that the current government is much more a government of national unity than of class collaboration. Much less is it a “Popular Front,” because, in essence, Lula’s government is a normal bourgeois government which, although it was not the favored by all sectors, is fully accepted by the bourgeoisie and imperialism.
Nor is it exactly the same as a government of class collaboration like the PT back in 2002. It is good to remember that this was a government that served to stabilize the capitalist system and the bourgeois-democratic regime, and also served to co-opt the workers’ organizations by demobilizing the proletariat, taking workers out of the scene, and deconstructing class consciousness to reinsert bourgeois leadership.
The PT government of today, in a broad front with the bourgeoisie, continues to have important features of class collaboration (since in it are almost all the workers’ organizations, with few honorable exceptions). But it also seeks to be a government of national unity, that is, capable of uniting the bulk of the national and imperialist bourgeoisie, except for the Bolsonarist sector, which today is reasonably in the minority. And, at the same time, to prevent the independent action of the working class, placing it entirely at the mercy of the supposedly “democratic” bourgeois “camp”.
The Lula-Alckmin government will try to unite and represent the unity of the majority of the bourgeoisie and imperialism in defense of the capitalist system, in the first place, and its management by the bourgeois democratic regime, submitting the working class entirely to the designs of class domination and imperialism. That is, of the sector that represents less than the richest 0.5% of the country. Although in a different way than Bolsonaro. Just as Biden, unlike Trump, tries to implement counter-cyclical economic policies, but without effectively changing the system.
It is evident that the majority of the bourgeoisie would prefer to have a party entirely of its own. It looked for a third way; it preferred something that was born from its entrails, as a class. But, although the PT was born of the class and, outside the bourgeois state, it has not been a working class party for a long time. Class collaboration has taken over the party. Since it is a bourgeois party, to represent the working class it would have to break with itself.
The PT, however, as a party, is the product of an uneven and combined development. In 30 years, in a semi-colonial country (a sub-metropolis), it took the path that European social democracy took more than 120 years to follow. This, together with some other characteristics that we do not have space to develop here, allow it a greater degree of deception, illusions and also contradictions.
Certainly, a different government from Bolsonaro’s
Many activists and even journalists from the mainstream press celebrated some of the names of the new government. It is obvious that Silvio Almeida has nothing to do with the fundamentalist Damares Alves. Likewise, Marina Silva is very different from the criminal Ricardo Salles. Actually, the Lula-Alckmin government as a whole is different from the Bolsonaro government. The question is: different in what? Is one government capitalist and the other socialist? Is it be a government of the rich against a government of the workers?
Bolsonaro is the crudest and most violent expression of capitalist barbarism, of the process of recolonization and surrender of the country and the consequent dispossession. All this wrapped in an obscurantist, dictatorial and reactionary discourse. Bolsonaro defends dictatorship to apply the ultraliberalism of Pinochet and Thatcher.
The new government, on the other hand, defends bourgeois democracy, preaches against privatizations, is in defense of the environment and social rights, adopting, however, a liberal or “social-liberal” program for both. That is to say, in practice Lula is allied with and will govern precisely with the same sectors that were at the forefront of privatizations (it should be recalled that Lula appointed to the Executive Secretariat of Finance the pupil of Lara Resende, Gabriel Galípoli, the banker who articulated the privatization of Cesp in São Paulo and Cedae in Rio). He will govern for the sectors that profit from the public debt, and even those responsible for deforestation and the destruction of the environment.
In a social-liberal government, the multimillionaires win in bonanzas and in crises. On the other hand, the working class and the poor, in periods of economic growth, can obtain some very limited concessions. Already in the crisis, they suffer all the attacks, exploitation intensifies and they are called upon to pay the whole bill.
More than that, in the long term, in the midst of the process of the current crisis of capitalism and the relegation of the country to the condition of a mere semi-colony of imperialism, the workers and the poor see their standard of living increasingly lowered, and the signs of barbarism multiply. And this is independent of the economic policy, be it the ultra-liberalism of Guedes, or the “developmentalism” of Mantega. Suffice it to recall that it was precisely during Lula’s first governments that Brazil emerged as a great exporter of commodities, establishing its new role in the international division of labor and its even more subordinate position in the imperialist system.
The program of the PT, and that of the Lula-Alckmin government, does not oppose this tendency, since, for that to happen, it would be necessary to break with imperialism and with the parasitism of the subaltern national bourgeoisie. That is to say, to be willing to change the system, not to protect it. This means that this next government will not reverse this process of degradation, surrender and overexploitation. It will not end, for example, with the precariousness of work or unemployment, it will not reverse the destruction of education or public health, much less solve the historical problem of basic sanitation, which, by the way, it did not do during the 14 years previously in power in coalitions supposedly more to the left than now.
Not even in relation to the environment can a significant change be expected. If it is true that Marina is not Salles, it is also true that, in order to stop the process of destruction of the Amazon, deforestation and the consequent extermination of the indigenous populations and attacks on the quilombolas, it is necessary to confront agriculture, the big mining companies and the big capital associated with them. Something that the government that takes office will not do.
In summary: Lula and Bolsonaro are different in terms of political regime and bourgeois democracy. But the class character of the regime itself is not questioned. Even for that reason, Lula is now trying to calm tempers and not punish the coup plotters nor intervene in the participants from the Armed Forces. In the economic field, although Lula and Bolsonaro have differences, these are also much smaller, since both remain within the framework of the defense of a pro-capitalist economic policy. The debate, including the economic differences that exist between “more liberal” or “more developmentalist” is tactical for the PT, with Haddad himself affirming that he does not have a recipe book and goes through all the “schools of economics.”
Socialist organizations cannot support the new government
It is understandable that the inauguration of the new government provokes some expectations, especially after the Bolsonaro government. However, it is inadmissible for socialist parties and organizations to integrate and support Lula-Alckmin.
Even not positioning themselves as a left-wing opposition, or saying that they defend the progressive measures of the government, is already a form of support. This reinforces the illusion of the working class in this government and in the policy of alliance with the bourgeoisie and imperialism, and disarms the class. For Trotsky, supporting the government from outside is even worse than participating in it, because, according to him, this reinforces illusions, hinders experience and prevents class independence, generating a false illusion of independence.
Sectors such as the PSOL current, the MES (Movimento Esquerda Socialista, Left Socialist Movement), for example, affirm that they will remain independent, supporting only “Lula’s government in the good struggles in favor of the people,” in the words of Deputy Sâmia Bonfim. Any activist who sees this might think that this is a coherent and left-wing position. But it is far from it. In the 1980s there was a major controversy over the position of revolutionaries vis-à-vis the Mitterrand government in France. What did Nahuel Moreno, the main leader of the IWL-FI at that time, defend? Consistent with the history of Trotskyism, he defended that no support be given to the government and fought for the total political independence of the revolutionaries from that government, even against all the illusions of the working class.
In a polemic with the current OCI (Organisation Communiste Internationaliste headed by Pierre Lambert), Moreno criticized the orientation of this organization to give support to supposedly progressive aspects of the government. And, at that time, the OCI did not even say that it supported government measures which it considered correct, such as those proposed today by the MES in relation to Lula-Alckmin, but rather the “steps” indicated by the government in favor of the working class (in practice it was a question of support, but they did not go so far as to say so). Moreno argued that no support should be given to any measure of any bourgeois government, regardless of its color: be it “left”, nationalist, fascist or whatever.
And why should this be so? It is not a question of any kind of “purism” but simply that any measure of a bourgeois government which, even in appearance, is in favor of the workers, at bottom is counterrevolutionary. It appears as a spontaneous concession of a bourgeois government, it strengthens it in front of the population and the class, so that it can attack them more easily.
But what about “fascism”? Many sectors of the left accept the Lula-Alckmin agreements with the right, and even Bolsonarism, arguing that it is necessary to isolate and defeat the ultra-right. Well, in the midst of the Spanish civil war, when the then popular front government (which evidently cannot be compared with the PT) was fighting against Francoism, Trotsky advocated voting against the government’s proposal for a military budget for the war. That is to say, he advocated voting against the government’s proposal to dedicate a part of the budget to militarily confront the fascists.
He said that if the government was willing to give 1 million for the war, the party should oppose and demand 2 million, and that these be given directly to the workers, which, of course, the government would not accept. Faced with this, Trotsky defended, it was necessary to turn to the workers and tell them: do you see? This government does not really want to arm you to fight fascism.
Thus, a government of unity with the bourgeoisie would be unmasked and incapable of carrying the struggle to the end with coherence. Tragically, history has proved Trotsky right, albeit in the negative.
Fight independently of the government, build a left opposition and strengthen a socialist alternative
The task facing the working class at this time is to advance in its organization and independent mobilization, together with the poor, indigenous, quilombolas, LGBTQIA+, women and blacks, to fight against future attacks and for their demands.
To fight for work for all, with full rights and decent wages, increasing wages, starting with the minimum wage itself. Also for the total repeal of the labor reform, and also of Social Welfare, ending outsourcing. Not only to stop privatizations but also to renationalize, under workers’ control, the companies handed over to private and international capital.
Reverse the process of recolonization, breaking with imperialism and the system of indebtedness to the bankers. To invest in health, public education and other public services.
It is necessary, for this, to demand that the organizations of the movement, mainly their leaderships, do not bind themselves to the government and remain independent. Only the independent organization of the class can fight for this, and confront, consequently and to the end, the ultra-right, which will remain organized and mobilized.
But it is not enough to fight; it is necessary to have a political position. The working class has the challenge of building its own project, with class independence, against this current government and also against the right-wing opposition. This is only possible by positioning itself as a left opposition to this government. That not even a millimeter of political support be given to it and that, at the same time, it be capable of facing the attacks of the ultra-right opposition.
Only in this way is it possible to advance in the organization and strengthening of a revolutionary and socialist project, which is crucial to overcome the PT, which limits the class to support a project of government of capitalism in crisis. Thus building the conditions for us to implement a program to overthrow capitalism and build our own party of the working class, without any kind of exploitation or oppression, in which those who produce the wealth of the country through work govern.
Photo: Inauguration ceremony of the President of the Republic, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva at the Planalto Palace
The PSTU (Unified Socialist Workers Party) is the Brazilian section of the International Workers League-FI.