Brazil: PSOL leadership paves the way for joining Lula-Alckmin government

At a meeting of the National Board of PSOL (‘Party of Socialism and Liberty’), on Saturday 17 December, resolutions were discussed and passed drawing a balance sheet of the party’s 2022 election campaign, and on the relationship between the party and its parliamentary faction with the new Lula government.

Read original in Portuguese |

On 22 November, Esquerda Marxista (‘Marxist Left’, the Brazilian section of the IMT) published an open letter to the National Leadership of PSOL. In it, we characterised the decision of the majority of the party’s National Executive to take part in the transitional government as a mistake. We called on the national leadership of PSOL to correct this mistake, and for the non-participation of PSOL in the Lula-Alckmin government, which is in fact a government of national unity with the bourgeoisie. Rather, we argued it must preserve its independence so as to become a fighting pole of attraction for the workers and youth in their resistance against the inevitable attacks that the future government will launch, while also forming a united front to fight the attacks that the government faces from extreme right wing coup-plotters (read the open letter in Portuguese here).

The largest of the blocs comprising the leadership of the party is called PSOL Popular, and it is in turn composed of the tendencies Primavera Socialista (‘Socialist Spring’, to which the current president of the party, Juliano Medeiros, belongs) and Revolução Solidária (‘Solidarity Revolution’, to which leading PSOL politician, Guilherme Boulos, belongs). These groups defend the total entrance of PSOL into the Lula-Alckmin government. Another bloc, PSOL Semente, composed of the organisations ResistênciaInsurgência and Subverta,initially opposed the party’s entry into the government. By combining its votes with those of other opposition currents, a majority existed in the party leadership blocking the entrance of PSOL into the Lula-Alckmin government.

Guilherme Boulos Image Radis Comunicacao e SaudeLeading PSOL politicians such as Guilherme Boulos defend the total entrance of PSOL into the Lula-Alckmin government / Image: Radis Comunicação e Saúde

Facing defeat, PSOL Popular used verbal trickery, and presented a resolution titled, ‘PSOL with Lula against Bolsonarism and for the rights of the Brazilian people’ (the full resolution can be read in Portuguese here). In practice, this resolution allows for the entry of party members into the Lula-Alckmin government, up to the point of taking ministries, while simultaneously saying that “PSOL will not have positions in the incoming administration”. This manoeuvre gave PSOL Semente sufficient room to retreat. PSOL Popular then joined them in defending and voting on this resolution, which does not, in fact, guarantee the independence of the PSOL from the Lula-Alckmin government – quite the contrary.

In the course of his election campaign, Lula promised to create a Ministry of Native Peoples, and he has already given indication that he intends for this Ministry to be occupied by a PSOL representative in the new government. The same resolution of the National Board of PSOL stating that the party will not take up positions in the new government, goes on to say:

“Still, we understand that the appointment of Sonia Guajajara, as a leader of the indigenous movement, to the ministry of indigenous peoples is an extremely important achievement for a struggle so attacked by Bolsonaro, and must be respected by the party.”

Therefore, we are told, the position of Sonia Guajajara – federal deputy of PSOL elected in São Paulo, and PSOL vice-presidential candidate in 2018 – is an exception that must be “respected”. The National Board resolution continues:

“We emphasise that PSOL preserves its organisational autonomy and, therefore, members who, when invited, choose to occupy positions in the federal government, must resign from positions of party leadership. Any presence in these positions does not represent participation of the PSOL.”

In theory, PSOL does not appoint militants to positions in the government, but its members can be invited... With this ambiguous resolution, the bloc led by Boulos and Juliano Medeiros managed to get a text passed allowing PSOL members to participate in the government, albeit they will no longer “represent the party”, despite not having a majority for PSOL’s participation in the government.

But they intend to go further. In defence of the resolution, Juliano Medeiros admitted:

“I must first point out our position, the position of the PSOL Popular, of Primavera Socialista, of the Revolução Solidária, of leaders like Toninho Vespoli, Gianazzi and other comrades who defend the position of entering the government. We know that this position is not a majority one, and that is why we retreated in the name of the unity of PSOL. We are aware that this is not the majority position of PSOL, but I need to register a fundamental difference, we do not think that the entrance of the PSOL in the government would represent a risk to PSOL. Those who think this mistrust the qualities of PSOL. We are not afraid to govern. PSOL Popular will continue to govern, to govern with PSOL governors, and to govern in unity with the left whenever possible.”

And further on, he informs us:

“But this is a dispute that we are going to face, there is Congress next year and we will wage a struggle over this conception of PSOL.”

At the meeting of the national leadership, a resolution against this one was presented, which positioned itself for the independence of PSOL and against any participation of party affiliates in the Lula-Alckmin government. This resolution received six votes from members of the leadership (from the Luta SocialistaComuna and APS currents). Federal Deputy Glauber Braga and the Esquerda Marxista supported this resolution too. In the resolution approved by the majority, with 53 votes, an amendment was put forth proposing that members holding positions in the government must not only resign from the leadership, but also from the party itself. The amendment received 29 votes, against 32 votes for maintaining the original text.

Lula Alckmin Image PSB Nacional 40A resolution against any participation of party affiliates in the Lula-Alckmin government was also presented / Image: PSB Nacional 40

From PSOL Semente, members of Insurgência voted together with the left of the Leadership Board, whilst the other two components of PSOL SementeResistência and Subverta, cast their votes to give a majority to PSOL Popular. Indeed, the Resistência tendency were the ones who actively came to the defence of maintaining the original text.

The National Board also approved by a majority (of 31 against 26, with 4 abstentions), a resolution on the relationship of PSOL’s parliamentary bench with the future government. According to the text of the resolution: “[The strength of Bolsonarismo in the institutions and on the streets] requires the party to publicly place itself in support of the Lula government in the National Congress” (see the full resolution in Portuguese here). This time Insurgência voted together with the PSOL Popular, whilst the four abstentions came from the Resistência.

In our open letter to the national leadership of PSOL, we explained:

“We must learn from the lessons of history. In Italy, after the mass party of the working class, the old Communist Party, was transformed into the Democratic Party, those who resisted this capitulation launched Rifondazione Comunista (PRC), which was proportionally larger than PSOL is in Brazil today. But the leadership of the PRC made the mistake of participating in the government headed by the Democratic Party in coalition with the bourgeoisie. The result was the total demoralisation of this party, which today is not even capable of electing deputies.”

PSOL is no longer able to attract young militants to join it because of its adaptation to the institutions of bourgeois rule, its class collaboration, and its reformist politics. It took a step towards erasing its class character as a party by forming a federation with the Rede, a petty-bourgeois party, which applies bourgeois politics. It ceased presenting itself as a revolutionary leftist alternative to Bolsonarismo by failing to launch its own candidate in the elections, instead supporting Lula from round one. The decisions of this meeting of the national leadership of PSOL in practice will mean that the party will be perceived as part of the Lula-Alckmin government by young people and workers, even if the resolution elsewhere says otherwise. PSOL has taken another step towards burying the possibility of being an instrument for the reorganisation of the Brazilian working class.

But this fight will still be had at the PSOL Congress next year. Until then, each bill against the interests of the working class that the government bench will be called to vote for will be placed before the parliamentarians of PSOL. They will be faced with the responsibility of voting against these bills, whilst the ranks of the party take to the streets against the government. When faced with attacks on the government from the extreme right, it is obvious that PSOL must stand in a united front against them. But at this moment, it is the right wing inside the government that is best placed to attack the working class. It is against this right wing that PSOL must help the workers and the youth in their fight – even when Lula himself is the one launching the attack.

It will be developments within this equation that will define the directions of the PSOL. The Esquerda Marxista will continue its fight for the class independence of the party in the run up to the party congress of 2023. The unity of all those who defend a PSOL independent of the bourgeoisie, and the government coalition with the bourgeoisie, is now necessary in the struggle to ensure the party congress does not approve the entrance of PSOL into the Lula-Alckmin government.

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