A rise of fascism?
The radical and middle-class left in Brazil and beyond see Bolsonaro’s election as part of what they claim is a rise of fascist and reactionary currents worldwide. They point to the support he received among more conservative middle-class layers, former military officers, and of millions of followers of the growing evangelical church as proof. They fail to mention the fact that evangelical church members and large sections of the middle class also voted for Lula and Rousseff when they were elected.
In the absence of a fighting working-class leadership, millions of workers in Brazil look to bourgeois elections for a way out of the crisis of capitalism. They voted first and foremost in hopes something will be done against the breakdown of the social order — the crime epidemic, corruption and political privilege. So millions held their noses and voted for Bolsonaro. But they won’t get any relief from him, or any other politician seeking to represent the capitalist class.
Until working people end the economic and social system that breeds the conditions for crime — capitalism — bourgeois politicians will take turns trying to convince workers they are the best ones to address the problems.
The victims of the rulers’ “anti-crime” offensive are the workers themselves. Between 2000 and 2015 Brazil’s prison population more than doubled to 725,000, with the main cause of imprisonment being minor drug offenses.
Workers’ Party’s ‘economic miracle’
Brazilian bosses and politicians benefited from a commodity exports boom that marked the country’s economy until 2013. The expansion was part of a surge in some of the biggest so-called emerging markets — what Goldman Sachs dubbed the BRICS: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — for much of the time the Workers’ Party was in office.
Goldman Sachs promoted “investment” in the BRICS, whose growth, they said, would make them leaders in world capitalist expansion and boost profits for bosses and bankers.
Much of the hype was centered on Brazil, the fifth most populous country in the world, with 209 million people compared to Russia’s 157 million. And Brazil’s gross domestic product is $2.14 trillion, while Russia’s is $1.72 trillion.
But demand dried up in 2013, especially from capitalist enterprises in China, the Brazilian capitalists’ main market, and commodity prices plummeted there. Goldman Sachs closed its BRICS fund in 2015.
The collapse hit workers hardest.
Lula’s 2003 election was one of several electoral victories by bourgeois politicians in Latin America who campaigned as representatives of the poor.
His election was met with great expectations, especially from workers and peasants who had fought against government cuts in social spending and attacks on wages and living conditions in the 1990s. Lula, however, had pledged to work with business owners and enact austerity measures to meet IMF fiscal targets. Imperialist and national capitalist investors were the main beneficiaries of the Brazilian “economic miracle.”
The Workers’ Party government’s program for “inclusion of the poor” — known as “Bolsa Familia” — involved a monthly cash handout that’s credited with lifting 36 million people “from extreme poverty.” It also included programs granting more access to education and health services.
But when Brazil’s economy plunged into a recession in 2014, it wiped out earlier gains. Unemployment has risen and tens of thousands of working people have been devastated. More than 1.5 million families were removed from Bolsa Familia benefits under Rousseff and accelerated after her impeachment.
The Workers’ Party’s subservience to the capitalist rulers was shown in its refusal to meet the demands of tens of thousands of peasant families for land. The party gave priority to assuring profits for agribusiness giants, both Brazilian companies and international monopolies. Ten percent of the biggest landlords in Brazil control 85 percent of agricultural production.
Discontent among working people and middle-class layers built up as conditions deteriorated. This was the backdrop to Bolsonaro’s election.