Brazil’s Presidential Elections: Lula Wins Near Majority First Round

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By GERRY FOLEY

Workers Party candidate Luis Ignacio da Silva (Lula) won over 46 percent of the vote in the first round for the Brazilian presidency, while the candidate of the outgoing Cardoso administration, Jose Serra, got only 24 percent.

Two other candidates that criticized the government from the left, Ciro Gomes and Anthony Garotinho, got 29 percent between them. Lula failed to get 51 percent and therefore will have to face Serra in a second round. But it is unlikely at this point that any political maneuver can block Lula’s ascent to the presidency. Nor does it seem sufficiently in the interests of the bourgeois politicians to try to block him.

The Buenos Aires daily La Nacion claimed in its Oct. 2 issue that the U.S. government fully expected Lula to win. La Nacion also said that Washington was reconciled to Lula’s victory and did not anticipate that it would cause big problems for U.S. imperialism in Latin America, although it was somewhat uneasy about the prospects following a crushing defeat of Jose Serra, the standard bearer of the neoliberal Cardoso regime, a close ally of the United States.

The capitalists themselves are even more nervous, as indicated by the preciptous fall in the value of the national currency, foreign investments, and government bonds over the last months as Lula’s victory loomed. But in view of the political and economic situation in Brazil, most of them seem to think now that their best chance is relying on Lula to keep the mass movement under control.

Inevitably, the victory of Lula will open a new political era, despite his pledge to abide by the rules set by the International Monetary Fund. The rout of the Cardoso regime’s heir represents the eclipse of illusions that a “free market” will bring economic development and a better life for the Brazilian people.

In this respect, the Brazilian elections are another step in a process, whose most dramatic moment so far was the mass demonstrations of December that drove the neoliberal government in Argentina out of office, and which is being seen in more and more Latin America countries. This is a historic watershed in which the advance of the Workers Party seems an irresistible tidal wave.

The Workers Party’s origins go back to a wave of strikes in the industrial complex of Greater Sao Paulo, which forced the Brazilian bourgeoisie in 1985 to abandon the military dictatorship established in 1964 and to return to parliamentary rule.

Lula celebrated these roots in the culminating rally of his campaign, which he led in the headquarters of the metalworkers union in San Bernardo, in the Sao Paulo industrial belt. He was cheered by crowds of workers waving flags emblazoned with a red star.

The bourgeoisie’s political representatives have been able to bar Lula’s road to the country’s top political position several times in the past but with the discrediting of their economic model, their ranks are breaking.

One leading bourgeois politician after another, including two ex-presidents, have been abandoning their old ships and trying to clamber abroad Lula’s vessel in hopes that they can ride out the wave. In fact, his campaign has become so broad that the Brazilian politicians been likening it to Noah’s ark, which was supposed to carry all manner of beasts.

The effects of Lula’s move to the right on the rank-and-file and supporters of the Workers Party are not yet evident. For the time being they are probably overshadowed by the euphoria generated by his prospects of winning the presidency at long last.

But once Lula is in charge of the government, they will accelerate, since he will be forced to make concrete choices between the interests of the masses and of the capitalists. And the Brazilian capitalists and their imperialist big brothers have powerful means of putting pressure on a conciliationist reformist government.

The uneasiness of the big money interests, owing both to an uncertain political situation and the deepening world recession, have already reduced the value of the national currency by more than 20 percent against the dollar, while foreign investment has shrunk by nearly a third, 32 percent.

An initial test will be what kind of economic officials Lula appoints. The capitalists and their representatives are saying that these officials will have to have the confidence of the financial community, of the “market.” Lula has been saying that any officials he appoints will have to understand the problems of the people and to “love Brazil.”

In an interview with La Jornada, Workers Party leader Jose Dirceu stressed that Lula was not seeking “an ideological confrontation” with the United States, but he also “recognized that there were differences, as in the case of Iraq … or Cuba, whose isolation and blockade have historically been condemned by his party. However, he pointed out that the WP has demonstrated its capacity on negotiations on various fronts” (La Jornada, Oct. 5).

Dirceu also said with respect to Venezuela, where the U.S. has been supporting a rightist campaign to oust the populist president Hugo Chavez through a military coup, that the WP supports the “right of self-determination and constitutional government.”

The Mexican daily also quoted Marco Aurelio Garcia, until recently the Workers Party international secretary, opposing U.S. intervention in Colombia under the Plan Colombia: “We don’t think that the Plan Colombia is a good solution because it carries a grave risk of Vietnamization.”

Moreover, Lula, paradoxically but symptomatically, has been attacked from the left to some extent by Anthony Garotinho, the candidate of the Brazilian Socialist Party, a populist formation. In particular, Garotinho has mocked Lula for his alliances with businessmen and right-wing capitalist politicians.

In any case, Lula will also be under pressure from the masses in his own country and in other Latin American countries. With all his touting of “reconciliation” and “consensus,” he cannot afford to look as if he is jettisoning all his old principles. In fact, he has been constantly proclaiming the opposite. Thus, his election as president of the decisive country in Latin America is likely to complicate the situation of U.S. imperialism in the region.

The big question is how the mass of activists in the Workers Party who have spent many years or even their lives fighting the capitalists and their goons-and suffered repression for it-will respond to a situation in which their historic leader holds the principal responsibility for the government and is hugging their enemies.

The Workers Party is a multi-tendency party that even includes many revolutionists, such as the Brazilian section of the Fourth International, Socialist Action’s cothinkers in Brazil.

One of the leaders of the Brazilian Fourth Internationalists, Heloisa Helena, was the Workers Party candidate for governor of the state of Alagoas. The polls predicted she would win. But she resigned her candidacy in protest against Lula’s alliances, in particular his acceptance of Jose Alencar, a leader of the right-wing Liberal Party, which claims to represent the interests of Brazilian capital, as his vice-presidential candidate.

In her statement of resignation, Helena pointed to the very concrete problems Lula’s alliances pose for fighters like herself: “We cannot and will not ally ourselves in Alagoas with a group of low-life lackies of the local sugar mill owners, who look down on and insult me and my comrades in the PT [Workers Party ].”

Socialist Action News

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