Brazilian social leader: 'We defeated the military dictatorship, we'll defeat Bolsonaro'

Issue 
MST leader Alexandre Conceição.

Shockwaves were sent around the world when fascist candidate Jair Bolsonaro won 55% in the second round in Brazil’s presidential elections on October 28, defeating Fernando Haddad of the Workers’ Party (PT).

Infamous for his support for torture and military dictatorship as well as extreme bigotry towards  women, the LGBTI community and indigenous peoples, millions in Brazil and globally were horrified and frightened. Not so investors, with Brazil’s stock market soaring to new highs on the news of the win by a candidate who has pledged to open up all of Brazil — including ecologically crucial sections of the Amazon — for corporate exploitation.

Bolsonaro’s election benefited from a scare campaign by Brazil’s overwhelmingly right-wing media, as well as a nasty social media campaign. He also had the advantage of the most popular politician — the PT’s Lula — being barred from running by a court order.

Brazil’s poor and oppressed are not taking the election of Bolsonaro lying down, with social movements and left groups united to initiate a resistance to his anti-people-and-planet agenda. Brazil’s Landless Workers’ Movement (MST), which fights for land reform, is the continent’s largest social movement. Green Left Weekly’s Federico Fuentes spoke with MST leader Alexandre Conceição the day after Bolsonaro’s win about what it means — and how Brazilians plan to resist. 

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Can you tell us about the political climate in the country right now?

The climate after the result is a mixture of sadness, but also of wanting to rebel, to resist, and knowing that the alternative for the working class is unity.

Unity was critical to getting Fernando Haddad into the second round. But it was also very important in the second round, because together, the different left tendencies, the progressive middle classes and sections of the working class helped Haddad win 16 million more votes than he won in the first round.

This unity of the left had an important impact on the election results. But it was not enough to win, in large part because these elections were controlled, politically and ideologically, by [the right], particularly through the media campaign and the cyber-war they waged.

Beyond the sadness, we remain very firm. We’re seeking unity and are organising mobilisations behind a broad united front against fascism.

There will be resistance, there will be struggle, but we will win.

How did we end up with a Bolsonaro victory? What will this result mean for Brazil?

We got here because, with the crisis of capitalism that began in the United States in 2008, the economies of the North decided that they were going to put the burden of the crisis on the shoulders of the workers of Latin America, Africa and Europe.

Their solution to the crisis was austerity packages that not only took away the rights of the working class, but also destabilised democracies.

They took over the sovereignty of other countries to continue exploiting the environment and natural and energy resources.

Bolsonaro has come to power with this mission [for Brazil]. Bolsonaro’s project is the project of big capital, particularly US capital, who want to benefit from the privatisation of our state companies, our resources. They manipulated our democracy and destabilised governments, all of which led to the election of a fascist aligned with their project.

He won space on the extreme right because the Brazilian right was unable to carry out the reforms that capitalism needed. Even Michel Temer [who was imposed as president after the parliamentary coup against the PT’s Dilma Rousseff in 2016] was unable to impose his pension reform due to resistance from popular movements.

The capitalists came behind Bolsonaro’s campaign of lies. And he was able to convince a part of the working class on the issues of corruption of crime.

This was the context in which a fascist was able to gain enough votes to win.

But it’s not a political victory because if we look at the numbers, 57.8 million voted for Bolsonaro against 47 million for Haddad. Another 41 million either voted blank, null or abstained.

That means almost 90 million voters, much more than 50%, said “No to Bolsonaro”.

Bolsonaro won the presidential elections, but the left remains strong in parliament: the PT has 56 deputies, PSOL [Socialism and Freedom Party] has 10, the Communist Party of Brazil has nine. There is a strong left presence in the parliament.

The left also held on to some states, particularly in the north-east, where we elected left governors.

So there will be social resistance and there will be institutional resistance as well.

How are social movements preparing for a Bolsonaro government?

Bolsonaro has strongly attacked the MST, the MTST [Workers Without Roofs Movement] and indigenous groups, because he knows these are the organised social movements that will be behind the resistance to a fascist government.

We’ve already been through a military dictatorship and we defeated the military dictatorship.

Then we had neoliberal governments and, one-by-one, we defeated them.

Then we had the US’ proposal for a Free Trade of the Americas Agreement (FTAA), which included Brazil, and we mobilised and defeated that proposal — not just in Brazil but across the continent.

So our people will not accept neoliberalism because neoliberalism is not a project for social, human development that will guarantee peoples’ rights.

They want to carry out a cleanup of organised social movements so as to not face resistance.

But they are mistaken: our minds, our hearts and our bodies will be there in the resistance, no matter what.

We cannot allow fascism to advance, we cannot allow for the risk of fascism — which is based on hatred and intolerance — infecting not just our country but this continent and the world.

We will be very careful with our organisation and our activists, but we are already preparing big marches and protest camps. We are working with the people, above all with the Popular Brazil Front and People Without Fear, so that together, we can gain strength and build on what we’ve already built in the past three years with regards to the Congress of the People.

This project took off with the work of brigades that have been working in the capital, in cities in the interior, in the countryside; brigades of agitation and propaganda, of political education for the Congress.

We need to build on this grassroots work so that we can defeat this coup government that has consolidated itself in Brazil.

We are preparing ourselves for this great battle. Brazil is facing an economic and politic crisis, this is the fundamental reason why fascist ideas have re-emerged today. But, as I said, they do not have the majority of Brazilian people.

We need to go back to the grassroots, rebuild and continue to struggle to defeat fascism.

We have a lot of struggles ahead, anti-fascist, anti-imperialist, anti-neoliberal struggles, of popular struggles based on the unity of the working class.

In all this, we know we can always count on international solidarity. This solidarity will be fundamental for us and to getting Brazil out of this darkness that has been cast over our country by the election result.

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