The municipal elections, held in two rounds (Oct. 3 and Oct. 30) were a warning for the government of Luiz Ignacio da Silva (“Lula”) and the leadership of his party, the Workers Party (PT).
Since taking office as the head of a regime based on an alliance of the PT with capitalist parties, Lula has followed an economic policy basically little different from that of his openly neoliberal predecessor.
In the country’s largest working-class metropolis, Sao Paulo, right-wing PT Mayor Marta Suplicy lost to the main capitalist candidate that Lula had defeated in the 2002 presidential elections, Jose Serra. In fact, Serra has even floated trial balloons about fusing his bourgeois party with the PT to form a new “center left” party. The PT did manage to win the city halls in some of the industrial suburbs of Sao Paulo, but it lost Sao Bernardo, the birthplace of the party.
The PT also lost the mayoralty of Porto Alegre, the capital of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, where the party’s candidate was Raul Pont, a member of Democracia Socialista (DS), the left caucus in the PT associated with the Fourth International. The DS is divided between a majority that is trying to function as a loyal opposition in the PT and a revolutionary wing that rejects the Lula government as a bourgeois coalition regime.
In the November-December double issue of Socialist Resistance, a paper supported by the British section of the Fourth International, Stuart Piper wrote: “the fact is that the PT in Porto Alegre, traditionally the main stronghold of the DS, did not mount a combative campaign against the policies of the PT government in Brasilia [the national capital]. While criticizing the orientation of Lula’s economic policy and the ‘slow pace’ of change, it continued to refer to the administration as ‘our government.’”
Piper noted: “Other DS members, such as Senator Ana Julia and MP Tarciscio Zimmerman, both of whom repeatedly voted for [Piper’s emphasis] the Lula reforms, failed to get elected as mayors in the state capital of Belem in the Amazon and in the small industrial city of Novo Hamburgo near Porto Alegre.” On the other hand, a left Workers Party candidate and member of the DS, Luizianne Lins, who was disowned by the PT leadership, won a stunning victory in the key northern city of Fortaleza.
The national leadership of the PT backed Lins’s opponent in the election, Ignacio Aruda, a member of the Communist Party of Brazil (PcdoB), a formerly dogmatic Maoist-Stalinist party that is now one of the most reliable conservative pillars of the Lula government. The PT wanted to give the mayoralty of Fortaleza to the PC do B as a reward for its support of Lula’s procapitalist policies.
At the beginning of the campaign, the polls showed Lins with only 3 percent support, while Aruda had 30 percent. But in the end, she managed to beat him. She was supported by the left-wing PT members of parliament who had been expelled from the party for failing to support Lula’s neoliberal policies. Lins’s triumph was a stunning victory for the left critics of Lula’s government, a dazzling contrast with the dismal results of the right-wing and conciliationist PT candidates.