Is the Workers Party (PT) to be blamed for the rise of the Far-right in Brazil?
A political earthquake has hit Brazil; the coming into power of a far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro in the last election has rocked the nation and the world at large. Bolsonaro is the first Far-right President elected to lead Brazil since its military dictatorship ended in over three decades ago. His victory as president of Brazil is one of a growing number of far-right and racist governments advancement globally. Others include Italy’s racist interior minister Matteo Salvini who has issued a decree that makes it easier to deport migrants and strip them of citizenship.
Hungary’s anti-Semitic prime minister Viktor Orban, Austria’s Nazi coalition and USA’s Trump administration which can be summarised as being anti-immigrant. The rise of the far-right globally and in Brazil has been fuelled by state-sponsored racism against people of colour, Islam, migrants, social democracy and refugees.
His astonishing victory came at a huge cost, ending the thirteen years (13 years) rule of the Workers Party (PT) which had governed Brazil. The PT’s prominent leader, Lula da Silva is languishing in jail for corruption and his successor Dilma Rousseff impeached as the president of Brazil in 2016. This attack and overthrow of the PT was instigated by an alliance of right-wing parliamentarians and the ruling class of Brazil which eventually produced a massive crisis for the entire Brazilian left.
How could the combination of far-right conservatism and neoliberalism win in a country such as Brazil? And, did the working class of Brazil lose confidence in the PT and instead opted for Bolsonaro? These are the questions that looms in the heads of millions of socialist globally. The most important thing to note is that Bolsonaro’s success was due to the direct stance he took of an accumulated rejection of the PT. Opposing the party in almost everything, which made him an anti-PT candidate. Whereas PT was culturally liberal, Bolsonaro is conservative; whereas PT is social democracy, Bolsonaro is neoliberalism, whereas PT is corrupt, Bolsonaro presents himself as a crusader that is going to wipe out corruption.
The rise of conservatism and neoliberalism did not run parallel in Brazil. Therefore, it is worth noting that, the anti-PT hostility has been instigated in the Brazilian population for many years, much before the ascension of Bolsonaro. This has been made primarily by agents of neoliberalism operating within the public and private sphere. The convergence of critiques of the PT rule became a new political stance, with passionate supporters from the ruling class of Brazil that then resulted in the formation of a new bloc of conservatism and neoliberalism in the Brazilian politics to elevate false enlightenment of far-right conservatism.
However, this new bloc also took advantage of the economic downturn during Dilma’s second term and the largest corruption scandals to be ever investigated in the history of Brazil known as the “Carwash”, carefully explored by those interested in the fall of the PT, manoeuvring inside the population of Brazil and opening the way for an extreme variant of the neoliberalism agenda. The alliance of conservatism and neoliberalism, albeit disparate in their rhetoric perfectly matched. Whereas the neoliberal ideas reduce humanity into a matter of economic calculation. On the contrary, conservatism rejects all values that do not correspond to its own image. The crisis and common interests to overthrow the PT just united them.
Bolsonaro’s cabinet appointment gives evidence of his intentions to roll-out radical neoliberal policies. The appointment of Paulo Guedes, a trained Chicago Boy economist to the position of minister of finance is a clear indication of strong versions of neoliberalism that are expected to promote severe cuts in the already meagre social benefits of the working class in Brazil. The Pre-Bolsonaro presidency, the PT played a pivotal role in terms of developing a strategy of social services during its governance, expanding the education system, social security and closing gap of inequality.
The PT enjoyed support from the majority of Brazil’s bourgeoisie however, after the global economic crisis of 2008 and massive mobilisations of June 2013, the bourgeoisie jumped ships. In this regard, the bourgeoisie felt the pinch of the economic crisis. The “state is too big; the state is too expensive” rhetoric emerged in Brazil of the neoliberal advocates all over the world. Coming back to the appointment of Guedes, post-Workers Party governance, highlights that his task is to slash state expenditure and generally pushing towards deregulation so in order to free up private enterprise. All of which can be translated into free-market capitalist outlook, complemented with a shift towards the abolition of workers’ rights and social democracy. The ruling elite and the middle class turned to Bolsonaro’s base with the working class in the urban parts of the south-east (Rio, São-Paulo and Minas Gerais) which accounted for 60-65 percent of votes, which is higher than his overall share of 55 percent.
This indicates that some large sections of the working class voted for Bolsonaro. however, this does not imply that it is the Workers Party fault that the working class voted for him as argued by some, therefore, such narratives must be taken with a pinch of salt as it is fallacious and untrue. At prima-facie, this is a short-sighted and superficial statement because victory is based on the ruthless attacks onto the Workers Party which was instigated by the Brazil elite, judiciary, parliament and media.
In short, this shows that Lenin was correct that, “Marx ideas are that working class must break up, smash the ready-made state machinery, and not confine itself merely to laying hold of it”. Therefore, the current state machinery is of the ruling class and the ruling class will use the state apparatus or coercion if necessary to advance its interests and smash those who oppose it. In the meanwhile, the revolutionary party of the working class must participate in the parliament for the purpose of educating the backward strata of its own class to develop class confidence and expose the true nature of bourgeoisie parliament. Hence, the working class is the only revolutionary class that can stand face to face with the ruling class to overthrow its rule.