Israel Dutra is general secretary of the Socialism and Freedom Party (PSOL) — Brazil’s largest radical anti-capitalist party — and a leader of the Socialist Left Movement (MES) tendency within it. He spoke to Green Left’s Federico Fuentes about the increasingly dangerous political situation in Brazil leading up to the country’s national elections on October 2.
Far-right president Jair Bolsonaro is standing for re-election and Brazilian politics seems to be dominated by rumours of coups, allegations of electoral fraud — much like we saw with Donald Trump’s campaign in 2020 — and the assassination of leftist activists. Can you give an idea of the current situation? How serious a threat is the rise in fascist violence and the possibility of a coup?
The political situation is escalating.
Bolsonaro has just spoken at a meeting with ambassadors [on July 18], where he stated he did not trust the electoral system or the electronic voting machines, essentially signalling that he will not accept the election results.
Political violence is on the rise, such as through the actions of organised militias in the Brazilian countryside that have assassinated environmental activists in the Amazon, including the well-known cases of [British journalist] Dom Phillips and [indigenous rights defender] Bruno Pereira.
The murder of a PT [Workers’ Party] leader, brutally assassinated at his birthday party, is another event worth noting. Contrary to the distortions propagated by [Vice-President Hamilton] Mourão and shameless Bolsonaro supporters, Marcelo Arruda’s assassination was a typical act of fascist political violence.
Bolsonaro and Brazil’s fascists have a strategy to destroy the workers’ movement and the left, attack the institutions of bourgeois democracy and impose an authoritarian coup.
While the objective conditions do not exist to impose their agenda, they are implementing “successive approximations” by threatening the Supreme Federal Court and allowing the most radicalised sectors to carry out acts of right-wing terrorism that have taken the lives of activists such as Marcelo.
Bolsonaro does not have the necessary force to consolidate a coup, but he undoubtedly wants to create “institutional turbulence”; in some ways, he is acting like Trump did at the Capitol [on January 6], albeit in a preemptive fashion.
It is worth recalling that Bolsonaro is coming second in the polls, while [PT candidate Luiz Inácio] Lula [da Silva] is leading by a good margin.
Without a strong response from the mass movement, the risks will increase, because the only way to halt fascism — now and historically — is by fighting to win control of the streets.
What has been the response of the left in general, and PSOL in particular, to this situation? Are there signs of popular mobilisations against this threat?
We are focusing all our efforts, as PSOL and as MES, on defeating Bolsonaro at the ballot box, but above all on the streets. Our public figures, such as our parliamentarians and union, student and popular leaders, have put themselves at the service of this battle.
Unfortunately, a section of the left tied to the PT continues to focus on its election campaign devoid of mobilisations, preferring instead to seek pacts and agreements with sectors of the elite, as we saw, for example, with the selection of Geraldo Alckmin [a centrist politician and former Sao Paulo governor with strong ties to the financial sector] as Lula’s vice presidential candidate.
We know that we can only obtain a genuine political-electoral victory by winning a social majority to the position of defeating Bolsonaro. We have called for united fronts and want to organise a national day of protests to coincide with student mobilisations set for when classes return on August 11.
We need to put anti-fascist unity into practice. International solidarity, as is Green Left’s tradition, will be fundamental to isolating Bolsonaro and his coup plans.
Almost the entire left, including PSOL, have resolved to support Lula in the first round of the elections. Can you tell us a bit about the PSOL’s campaign?
The PSOL voted to not run a presidential candidate for the first time in its history. It was a contested vote, with almost 45% of the party supporting the need to present a candidate in the first round and cast a critical vote for Lula in the second round.
Nevertheless, reality has imposed itself. What is needed now is to build a left space that can intervene in the election campaign, calling for a vote for Lula to defeat Bolsonaro and halt the hand of fascism. We are fighting to make sure this victory is obtained in the first round.
There will also be elections for National Congress, governors and regional parliaments. In this context, a debate has opened up within PSOL regarding the tactic of electoral alliances with the PT, in some cases with the hope of entering into a coalition government at the federal or regional level. What can you tell us about these debates?
MES and the Left Bloc within PSOL, which represents almost half of the party’s membership, have proposed the need to defeat fascism together with other tasks: present regional candidates to intervene in the debate on political programs and re-elect sitting PSOL parliamentarians. MES is fighting to re-elect our three federal deputies and expand our number of regional deputies.
We also want to construct a more left-wing program, focused on taxing large fortunes, defending environmental justice and debating the problem of foreign debt. To overcome hunger, we need to build a new economic model, which will require deep reforms.
PSOL needs to maintain its independence and not enter a Lula government, even as we fight on the frontline against the extreme right coup plotters that Bolsonaro continues to encourage.
This political struggle is important and will define the future course of the party.