Jair Bolsonaro was elected Brazil’s president on Sunday 28th October. This former army officer has been an unknown, second-rate politician for close to 30 years. He recently enjoyed an abrupt rise over a few months, despite his hateful, racist, homophobic and misogynistic speeches, and thanks to nationalist propaganda and illusory promises of bringing back “order and prosperity.”
His catch-all program first attracted a large part of the middle class infuriated by the lack of economic growth since 2008, and by the prevailing corruption for which the leaders of the Workers Party leaders, the leftist party that had been in power, are mostly responsible. Already in 2016, the middle class had mobilised in the street, allowing a coup from the right that led to the deposition of president Dilma Roussef.
The economy has continued to go downward, but never mind! Bolsonaro has a long list of scapegoats for that: left-wing or environmental militants, landless peasants, journalists, homosexuals, women, Indian and black people, etc.
But this crazy program also attracts a fraction of workers, including the poorest, which have the most to lose from the new government. Long abandoned to the violence and misery of the favelas by Lula’s party, which pretended to defend them, they are preyed upon by evangelical and reactionary churches that call to vote for… Bolsonaro.
The bosses’ reign of terror
Economic, political and military elites, all kinds of profiteers, support Bolsonaro because a large part of his program is tailored for them. During the whole campaign, the new president promised he would crush the “red bandits.” He means everyone who opposes, or only criticises, the influence of the bosses and the great landowners. Bolsonaro kept promising complete impunity to all police officers and soldiers tasked with keeping cities “safe” and openly called for armed militia in the countryside in the name of “freedom” to bear arms.
In other words, he intends to give unlimited power to the bosses, to prevent any strike or protest in a country where the working class is large and combative. As a worrisome prefiguration of things to come, murders and attacks against political opponents have recently been carried out by the far right, while police have been raiding universities.
Indeed, Bolsonaro openly claims he is a follower of the military dictatorship, established by a coup supported by the CIA in 1964 and that lasted for 20 years (1964-1985). At the time, the Brazilian conservatives and US corporations that made a lot of money in Brazil wanted to put an end to the wave of strikes that had erupted in 1963-1964 in a country where hyper-inflation was pushing the working class into poverty.
The consequences of decaying capitalism
Beyond the situation in Brazil, Bolsonaro’s victory follows that of other bourgeois reactionaries all over the world, from Trump to Poutine, to Erdogan, Orban, or Salvini. All these demagogues advocate far right ideas, using people’s despair due to the rise in inequalities and the betrayal of the left wing parties, such as Brazil’s Workers Party that faithfully served capitalists interests for 13 years. That being said, the election also showed that half of the Brazilian population hates this dictatorship advocate. And the massive demonstrations of women against him show the high degree of consciousness and the ability to mobilise of millions of people… outside the elections. More than ever, the class struggle is on the agenda.
In Brazil like everywhere else, the far right plague can only be countered if workers organise, fight back and defend their class interests. The game is not over yet.