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Brazil at crossroads: Bolsonaro means subordination and deindustrialization, Lula means independence and development

Sunday 16 October 2022, by siawi3


Latin America
Brazil at crossroads: Bolsonaro means subordination and deindustrialization, Lula means independence and development

By Elias Khalil Jabbour

October 8, 2022

Bolsonaro means subordination and deindustrialization, Lula means independence and development.

Round two of Brazil’s presidential election offers deeply opposing visions: Bolsonaro would mean more subordination and deindustrialization. Lula would mean independence, economic nationalism, and multipolarity.

The first round of the general elections in Brazil was held on October 2, and the results show that the country is at a crossroads.

Former President Lula da Silva of the Workers’ Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores, or PT) did not achieve victory in round one, and will face current far-right President Jair Bolsonaro in a run-off on October 30.

Lula da Silva obtained 48.4% of the valid votes, while Bolsonaro reached 43.2%. The other candidates combined did not get 9% of the valid votes.

The results of the elections point to a great paradox: despite being ahead of Bolsonaro, the Brazilian left did not obtain a significant vote for state governments and did not even win a third of the seats in the two chambers of the Congress, the Federal Senate and the Chamber of Deputies.

The far right has consolidated itself as a real political force with a mass base. It elected a majority of federal deputies, and has candidates for governor in very competitive states in the second round.

The explanation for this is not simple.

Lula da Silva, at 76 years old, is the greatest popular leader in the country’s history. He managed to demonstrate his own power, but he is up against an adversary who has gathered many of the fundamental tools needed for a competitive electoral campaign.

Bolsonaro’s political patronage and the role of religion

Bolsonaro’s strength lies in the economic power of large business sectors, combined with the use of ample public resources to guarantee a majority in Congress during his administration.

Bolsonaro has also created a so-called “secret budget,” a corrupt structure of patronage to maintain the political support of a great part of Brazilian congressmen.

But it is not just that. The Brazilian far right has created roots in the Brazilian population, and the reasons are not few.

Most notable is the systematic campaign attacking “communism,” as a way of mobilizing a broad social base highly influenced by Protestant churches.

The phenomenon of the growth of Protestant churches in Brazil is something to be studied. It is not strictly internal; it has great external support. The United States has played a role in disrupting entire societies by exporting far-right ideologies based on a strong religious base.

Lawfare against the left

The extreme right is advancing in Brazil also as a result of a systematic campaign against “corruption.”

For over a decade, the right has been very successful in spreading a false image that links the political left to the practice of government corruption.

The media was fundamental in this campaign to weaken the left, turning politicized judges and public prosecutors into true “superheroes” in the fight against corruption.

This systematic campaign against alleged corruption, heavily supported by the US Department of Justice, has not only weakened the left; the liberal right itself was made politically unfeasible.

Thus, the fight against “corruption” was a form of hybrid war, or lawfare. And it has destroyed the Brazilian political system.

Bolsonaro is a product of this process.

International spread of the far right

The result of the first round of the Brazilian presidential election cannot be disconnected from the international reality either.

The advance of the far right has been a worldwide phenomenon since the 2008 international financial crisis. It has made significant advances in Europe and, especially, in the United States – the main disseminator of far-right sects around the world.

The big contradiction is that, in a world where the struggle for multipolarity is gaining strength, with countries like China and Russia taking confrontational positions against imperialist militarism, the consolidation of the extreme right in Brazil is a bad sign for global politics.

On the other hand, some questions remain open and should be investigated.

What do Lula da Silva and Jair Bolsonaro represent in terms of economic policy and foreign relations, especially in relation to countries like China?

Bolsonaro is the face of a very peculiar extreme right. He combines an ultra-conservative view on questions of cultural customs, and preaches “nationalism” against “communism,” but represents a radical neoliberal economic agenda.

In his government, Bolsonaro has very strongly continued the process of deindustrialization and expanded Brazil’s dependence on commodity exports, mainly to China.

This deindustrialization was accelerated by the Lava Jato (“Car Wash”) operation that destroyed the country’s most important economic and industrial sectors, along with the slow dismantling of the largest Brazilian company, Petrobras.

This has unleashed a disaster that is unprecedented in the history of Brazil. Currently, about 100 million Brazilians live in a state of food insecurity caused by this ultra-liberalism.

Lula’s alternative vision of economic nationalism

Lula da Silva represents an alternative vision, one that combines economic nationalism with the promise of resumption of industrial jobs and an active role for large public banks.

Lula tries to represent the promise of a national project based on the reindustrialization of the country, while Bolsonaro bets on a subordinate position of Brazil in global value chains.

Both perspectives have impacts on foreign relations. Certainly Lula would have a relationship with countries like China based not only on common global interests such as multipolarity, but also guided by Brazilian strategic interests.

Lula’s government could review the economic terms of our relations with China, recognizing that Beijing and its experience could help strengthen the industrialization process.

With Bolsonaro, the trend is toward deeper alignment with the United States – especially if Donald Trump’s team wins the 2024 elections – as well as greater dependence on commodity exports to China. This would only continue accelerating the process of deindustrialization.

But hope can overcome fear in Brazil. The second round of elections will take place on October 30.

The probability of Lula da Silva’s victory is great. But the fact is that the political strength shown by Jair Bolsonaro cannot be underestimated.

Brazil, a young nation of 523 years of age, is experiencing a true paradox. Either it consolidates itself as a great emerging power, capable of being an actor of global relevance, and capable of taking its place in a multipolar world; or it will have a destiny committed to the civilizational setback that the consolidation of the extreme right represents in our country.

The Brazilian extreme right is unpatriotic and relies on a racist and anti-popular elite. Its aesthetic does not match the beauty of the Brazilian people.

On October 30, we will be facing another chapter of a real battle for the Brazilian nation. Lula da Silva and Brazil could emerge victorious. That is what the progressives of the world expect.