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Global Left Midweek - September 29, 2021

From Brazil: Deep thoughts on electoral politics and fighting fascism

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'The people want the fall of the coup,’ protesters chanted in the centre of Tunis along Habib Bourguiba Avenue. Credit,, AFP
  1. Bharat Bandh! The Biggest Farmers Strike
  2. International Climate Upsurge
  3. Activists Decry the Danger of Anti-China Pacts
  4. In Nisku, Alberta, It’s Teamsters vs Amazon
  5. Thunder in Tunisia
  6. Democratic Rollback and Renewal
  7. International Safe Abortion Day
  8. Parties in Europe
  9. Venezuelan Campesinos Capture Sugar Mill
  10. On the PSOL Congress in Brazil

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Bharat Bandh! The Biggest Farmers Strike

The Hindu (Mumbai)

Farmers blocked highways and rail lines, shut down markets and institutions in some cities and States and held mass rallies across the country in response to Samyukt Kisan Morcha’s nationwide strike call. Trade unions and transport unions also backed the united farmers’ bandh (national shutdown).

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International Climate Upsurge

Kate Abnett / Reuters (London)

“The concentration of CO2 in the sky hasn't been this high for at least 3 million years,” Swedish activist Greta Thunberg told a crowd of thousands of protesters in Berlin. “It is clearer than ever that no political party is doing close to enough.”

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Activists Decry the Danger of Anti-China Pacts

Brett Wilkins / Common Dreams (Portland ME)

“No to military alliances and preparation for catastrophic wars,” anti-war campaigners from over a dozen nations write in a letter decrying the new AUKUS agreement. “Yes to peace, disarmament, justice, and the climate.”

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In Nisku, Alberta, It's Teamsters vs Amazon

Candice Bernd / Truthout (Sacramento)

While many Amazon warehouse workers in Europe have unionized, the company has waged severe union-busting campaigns to fend off union drives across North America.

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Thunder in Tunisia

In the Streets  Erin Clare Brown / The National (Abu Dhabi)

Labor and Parties Defy President Saied  / Peoples Dispatch (New Delhi)

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Democratic Rollback and Renewal

Richard Youngs / The Guardian (London)

Small-scale democracy initiatives are taking shape across Europe, and the grassroots momentum behind them is exciting. But these initiatives have yet to cohere into a really powerful and radical reform agenda. Different forms of democratic renewal need to start working hand in hand. 

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Safe Abortion Day

Women’s Group of the International Peoples’ Assembly / Peoples Dispatch

On the occasion of International Safe Abortion Day, women around the world reflect on the different obstacles to obtaining this fundamental right and autonomy over their bodies.

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Parties in Europe

Norway’s Rødt Moving Up  Marie Sneve Martinussen and Seher Aydar / Jacobin (New York)

Die Linke On the Rocks  Horst Kahrs / Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung (Berlin)

UK Labour in Freefall  James Butler / London Review of Books

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Venezuelan Campesinos Capture Sugar Mill

Ricardo Vaz / Venezuelanalysis (Caracas)

Sugar cane growers have occupied the Santa Elena mill in Majaguas, Portuguesa state. The mill was one of several assets moved to private sector management in 2019. At the time, the Venezuelan government transferred a series of state enterprises to governorships which then signed concessions to private businesses. 

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On the PSOL Congress in Brazil

Valerio Arcary / Forum (Santos, São Paulo)

[Note: The writer is a widely published commentator and active member of PSOL. This column appeared just before the Partido Socialismo e Liberdade congress on September 25-26. Translated by Portside. Read the original column in Portuguese here.]

1. No Drama Needed

The 2021 PSOL (Socialism and Liberty Party) Congress, this last weekend of September, must confirm the party’s political strategy, which is not the same as defining the presidential electoral tactic of 2022. The strategy has been the struggle for the Left United Front to defeat Bolsonaro, polemicising with the quietist strategy of the Broad Front: to broaden “until it hurts” (as expressed in PSOL by Marcelo Freixo [a former PSOL deputy]), as well as with the strategy of the permanent offensive until the general strike. 

The line of the United Front was deployed in the denunciation of the institutional coup, the Fuera Temer campaign, the integration into the Free Lula campaign, the Vamos initiative to expand the discussion of a program, the formation of the Alliance with the MST (Movement of Landless Workers) and the campaign of (PSOL candidate) Guilherme Boulos to the presidency in 2018 and, most importantly, the strengthening of unity with the PT (Lula’s Workers Party) in the Bolsonaro Out campaign, which allowed us, since May, to bring about the actions that changed the conjuncture. This strategy was a necessary repositioning in the face of a defensive situation, after the impeachment, after twelve years in the left-wing opposition to the coalition governments led by the PT.

This turn was not made without harsh controversies that resurface in the face of each important new development in the situation. But excesses, exaggerations, the “dramatization” of differences do not help. Catastrophic analyses on the future of PSOL are false and therefore dishonest. PSOL, which remains a minority party on the left, has never been stronger. They will decide, in 2022, the tactic for that year. What position should PSOL stand for? To be useful in the fight against Bolsonaro and in the reorganization of the left, contending for mass influence. There is no project linking PSOL to the PT. The accusations of a “project subordinate to the PT” are a straw man created to snare those not paying attention.

2. Running a candidate for São Paulo State governor

This is one of the central decisions of the PSOL Congress in São Paulo. The challenge facing the Brazilian left is immense, enormous, gigantic: defeating Bolsonaro. There is still time to try to pave the way for impeachment at the end of 2021. Therefore, the militancy of all struggles, flags and currents must focus on the preparation for Election Day, October 2, 2022. We have less than two weeks ahead of us (before the congress). But if Bolsonaro is not dismissed this year, he will be a candidate for reelection in 2022. We cannot fail to consider a plan B. The greatest victory of the Brazilian left since the impeachment was the formation of the United Front in the streets, but it is threatened in the elections.  They are two different terrains, but it is good to be sensible, because Bolsonaro’s coup project is to crush the left. There are two obstacles on the horizon. The insistence of a majority PT camp on presenting Fernando Haddad for governor in São Paulo against Boulos, and the insistence of a PSOL minority camp on presenting its own presidential candidate competing with Lula, despite Bolsonaro’s threat. Between these two dangers, the first is the greatest. Because the PT should not ignore that it is unreasonable for PSOL to forgo a candidacy for president, without a gesture of compensation. Most PT leaders underestimated PSOL in the 2020 São Paulo mayoral elections. Boulos won a place in the second round. Don’t make the same mistake twice in a row. The promise of support for the 2024 municipal elections is a friendly gesture, but it is not reasonable. No one knows which country Brazil will be in 2024, if Bolsonaro is not defeated. We can be in exile, for example. The tactic of running Boulos for governor of the state of São Paulo is a legitimate and intelligent decision, taking into account the rejection rate of the PT.

3. Bolsonaro’s strategy: a coup 

Bolsonaro’s crazy, delirious and amazing speech at the UN was clear. Neither the differences with the PT, nor the opinion polls should be the compass of the Marxist left. There is a dangerous “prophetic” mania in our midst. Marxism is a science when it comes to analysis, but it’s an art in politics, because it is about winning the conscience of millions of people. The objective of revolutionary organizations is not to be right in the abstract, but to win in the class struggle. Those who want to be right in the abstract must abandon the struggle for power and stand for the Nobel Prize. Our electoral tactics cannot rest on our will, nor on the results of momentary surveys, but on the evaluation of the social and political relationship of forces. The focus must be a clear positioning in the fight against Bolsonaro, and everything else is irrelevant. If Bolsonaro is not defeated in 2021, that is, if from today until December the mobilizations do not pave the way for impeachment, Bolsonaro will be a candidate for reelection. But, at the same time, it is frivolous to consider Bolsonaro only as a folk expression of an “electoral” neofascism, and to reduce the risks of the coup strategy to a series of bluffs and phony ultimatums. Unfortunately, underestimating Bolsonaro could be fatal. This tension will bring forward the “useful” voting polls in the second round [when the candidate with the best chance of beating Bolsonaro is evident]. The “useful” vote is a harm reduction calculation in defense of class interests.

4. The danger of a historic defeat

A lucid analysis of the political situation in 2021 suggests that the general elections of 2022 will not resemble anything that the Brazilian left has experienced in the last forty years. The decisive issue is that there is an extreme right-wing government led by a neo-fascist current that is in conflict with the liberal-democratic regime and rocking institutions. Their strategy is to impose a historic defeat on social movements: the working class and unions, the feminist, black and LGBTI struggle, indigenous people and movements for housing and agrarian reform, environmentalists and student youth – the left as a whole. Keep in mind that the presidential election, even if it is simultaneous with the state elections, will be qualitatively different from the dispute over the governors. It will be different because what will be at stake is something much more serious than alternation of government. Bolsonaro is a Bonapartist danger incompatible with the liberal-democratic regime.

5. Three simple lessons

The experience of the masses with lulismo remains incomplete. It is true that there are regional, generational and social inequalities. But the most likely hypothesis is that Lula’s candidacy will occupy all the political space of the left opposition as an all-encompassing net. He is the only one with a viable chance of defeating Bolsonaro. Anyone who imagines that there is an electoral space on the left for the affirmation of PSOL on the basis of “neither Bolsonaro nor Lula”, mimicking the speech of Ciro Gomes (a well-known social democrat), has not learned the most essential lessons of the last five years. They are three and very simple: (a) The situation remains defensive, it has not been reversed, because we have taken hard defeats; (b) It is not possible to defeat Bolsonaro without the PT, the organizations and the working and youth masses under Lulist influence; (c) In the face of an enemy that wants to crush us all, the unity of the left is a necessity, not a trap.

6. Strategic firmness, tactical flexibility

It is curious that the internal opposition bloc that insists on referring to itself, lovingly, as “the most anti-capitalist” prefers to reduce the controversy of strategy to the definition of electoral tactics, forgetting that: (a) electoral tactics are not defined a year in advance; (b) if a tactic is always the same, it is no longer a tactic, but a permanent strategy; (c) tactics must rest on the objective investigation of the social and political relation of forces. This analysis is just a calculation. But calculations are hypotheses, a study of probabilities, and they change. Those who fall in love with hypotheses are wrong. What if Bolsonaro is defeated and cannot be a candidate? It is not necessary to define, in 2021, the presentation of a candidacy for the presidency or what the tactic should be in 2023, if Lula wins the elections in 2022. There is no relationship between a possible call to vote for Lula in the first round and participation in a center-left government in coalition with bourgeois parties. PSOL can ask for the vote for the PT and, eventually, not subscribe to the program that defines the PT. The vote, in advance, is just a response to the factional need for demarcation in order to arouse distrust. It is essential to make serious calculations to measure risks and dangers and, consequently, make decisions, not take action based on our preferences, wishes or desires. No one on the socialist left faces the possibility of campaigning for Lula, after what happened between 2003 and 2016, without a bitter taste in the mouth. The story was cruel. Sometimes we have to choose a “bad” tactic, while respecting principles, because the other options are horrible.

7. The danger of the abyss

The launch of a [2022] PSOL candidacy, at this point, ignores that Bolsonaro is not defeated beforehand, because he scores less than Lula, and underestimates the immense dread among leftists that he will hold on to power. Opinion polls are important information, but they are not the only indicator to evaluate when it comes to calibrating the political relationship of forces. There are countless electoral processes in which candidates who very late, less than six months before the date of the elections, managed to win them. There are still many imponderables on the horizon. If a minimally consistent third-way candidacy does not come forth, it is reasonable to predict that a part of the bourgeoisie dissatisfied with Bolsonaro’s role in managing the pandemic will regroup. Bolsonaro has already shown that he has a majority in the middle classes, and is trying to increase his audience among poor people in the cities and the countryside with Auxílio Brasil [an income transfer program]. An independent candidacy signals an equal distancing from the two main candidates, even if every effort is made to focus the fight against Bolsonaro during the campaign.  But if you don’t make a programmatic differentiation by criticizing Lula, what’s the point of having a candidate of your own? This electoral tactic involves the risk of walking to the edge of the abyss. An invisible, testimonial and sterile candidacy of PSOL will not strengthen the socialist left, on the contrary, it will demoralize it by divisionism before an enemy, perceived by the most advanced sector of the masses of people and youth, rightly, as terrifying. If PSOL positions itself in the campaign critical of Lula, for the balance of the errors of the PT governments of a decade ago, it could be punished hopelessly in the elections for deputies, even threatening to invoke the barrier clause (excluding smaller parties), which would be fatal.