Brazil: What was missing for the PT to win outright in the first round?

In the elections in Brazil on Sunday [October 3, 2010] the PT, the Workers’ Party, won more seats in the Senate, and also increased its Members of Parliament. However, Dilma Rousseff, (the candidate of the PT for President) narrowly failed to win in the first round. How do we explain this?

Brazil: What was missing for the PT to win outright in the first round?The overall numbers

Most political "analysts" say it was the "green wave" that pushed up the vote for Marina [Marina Silva who came in third with 19.6 per cent of the votes, standing as a Green, PV] which is the reason as to why the election has had to go to a second round. Many PT activists have highlighted the "media" campaign, and the mainstream press coming out against the PT. Others will raise the question of abstentions and spoilt ballots. But what is the truth behind all this?

Let us first remove what may be an obstacle to our analysis: the number of valid votes remains virtually the same as in the last election. Let us consider the data:

The percentage of valid votes was reduced somewhat, but is fully in line with the 2006 election. There is no surprise here, and neither is the small increase in invalid votes and spoilt ballots a surprise. The increase in the level of abstention is not so big. In other words, it is not here that we find the explanation that we seek. We will return to the question of the total number of valid votes in analysing the "Tiririca phenomenon" later in this article. [Note: Tiririca is a famous clown who was elected MP in Sao Paulo on the lists of the PR, Partido da República, winning 1.3 million votes, making him the most voted MP in the country.]

So why did Marina rise and Dilma fall? Where do these votes come from? Yes, there was a last-minute campaign against Dilma and in favour of Marina in the evangelical churches. Yes, there was a media campaign against Dilma - but this is nothing new.

In a certain sense, the candidature of Marina bears some resemblances to the phenomenon of Heloisa Helena (of the PSOL, Partido Socialismo y Libertad, Socialism and Freedom Party) in past elections – a vote that is given to a candidate as a "warning" to the PT. Only that this time the number of votes received by a candidate who also had left the PT was much higher. Let us remember once again, this is a seeking of an alternative that cannot find a solid foothold. Marina’s programme is much more to the right than that of Dilma and all the simplistic talk of morality serves to hide what Marina actually stands for – a worsening in workers’ rights, cuts in welfare, etc. Moreover, when she was in government she was directly responsible for the privatisation of the Amazon forests and the legalisation of land "occupations" by ranchers. [Note: Much of the Amazon forest is vanishing at a fast rate, mostly due to the illegal logging of timber by Brazilian ranchers, “grileiros” who “occupy” Amazonian Land used by local peasants for sustainable agriculture and residence]. Now she poses as being "clean" because she left the PT and that is how she is presented by the bourgeois press.

The PSOL, as such, has shrunk to the size of the party itself (which only had three deputies elected last time and this time continues with the same number), while the protest votes against the PT (who do not want to vote for the right wing) increased three times, expressed in support for Marina Silva. Again, let us look at the figures:

Note that in 2006, Cristovam Buarque (of the PDT, Partido Democrático Trabalhista, Democratic Workers’ Party, that is now part of Dilma’s coalition) won 2,538,844 votes, with a percentage of 2.65%. The number of parties in coalition with the PT increased between 2006 and 2010. Thus, the coalition was significantly increased in terms of the number of parties that made it up, including within it the biggest bourgeois party, the PMDB (Partido do Movimento Democrático Brasileiro, Brazilian Democratic Movement Party) and yet even with all this... its overall percentage of votes fell by almost 2%!

We have to also consider that in 2006 the PMDB put forward no candidate of its own. The PDT which did have its own candidate then, who received a strong vote, this time round, was part of the PT coalition. And with all this the PT has lost votes (in percentage terms). If we add up the votes of Cristovam and Lula in 2006, we get 51.25%, and yet in a coalition together in 2010 we get 46.91%. It would seem that the idea of forming a coalition has not worked very well.

Some will say: "That if we had swapped Lula for Dilma, Lula would have won a lot more votes." Probably. And that's where the problems start. The PT should have opened up a discussion about who should be the candidate, opening a registering of likely candidates, including Marina if she wanted to stand, and held free and democratic discussion on who would be its best candidate. The votes that some candidates for governor received – like Tarso Genro and Jaques Vagner – permit us to say that the PT could have had a better candidate. But this was only the beginning of the problem.

The logic behind the formation of such a broad coalition is to treat politics as elementary mathematics – two plus two equals four. An old revolutionary (Leon Trotsky) once commented on this type of coalition and explained that in politics a higher form of mathematics should be applied, where we have the sum of vectors and not the arithmetic sum. In other words, two plus two can give any number between zero and four. And in most cases, gives a much smaller number than four, when the vectors point in opposite directions, as was shown by the vote in the states.

Only in a few states did the vote of the PT candidates or those supported by the PT – coincide with the vote of our presidential candidate. On the other hand, in many states where the vote of the PT or its "coalition partner" was very good, Dilma's vote was very bad. The cases that stand out the most are three states - Distrito Federal, Acre and Rio de Janeiro.

If Rio has importance because of its large population, Acre and Distrito Federal are important because of the strong roots and weight of the PT in these two states. On the other hand, there is Minas Gerais, where Dilma won more votes than the PMDB candidate supported by the PT. In Sao Paulo, Bahia and Rio Grande do Sul, where the PT had its own candidate for governor, the votes it won were very close to those of Dilma. Let us look at the figures (in percentages):

This result is surprising. If in certain states Bahia (“BA”), Sao Paulo (“SP”) and Rio Grande do Sul (“RS”), for example the national vote for the PT is practically equal (statistically speaking) to that of its state candidate (“Candidato ao Governo da coligação do PT”) in other states the situation is very different. The much vaunted "alliance" with the PMDB in some cases resulted in the exact opposite – in Rio de Janeiro (“RJ”), a state with a left-wing tradition, where two coalitions campaigned for the PT (the PMDB and PR, which elected a senator), the PT candidate, Dilma, won a number of votes in line with the national average – 23 percentage points behind the PMDB candidate for governor, in coalition with the PT! In other states the situation is more complex.

In Distrito Federal (“DF”) the PT has traditionally been the biggest opponent of the PMDB. Roriz was always elected by the PMDB. And now, in the name of the national alliance, the PT united with the PMDB. We see the result of all this: a general mishmash where much of the traditional PT vote shifted to the candidate of the PSOL, Toninho, an old cadre of the PT, but these votes were not replicated in the votes for the parliamentary candidates of the same party (the PSOL did not elect anyone to Parliament from the Distrito Federal). But the "leftist" verve in this state also appeared in the national poll – Serra came third and the votes that the PT lost did not go to Plinio (of the PSOL), but to Marina.

In Acre (“AC”), the much vaunted grand alliance, that was later replicated at national level, which elected several governors of the PT, led to a situation where the PT nearly lost the election – having to count on Marina’s votes who did not stand anyone as candidate for governor and led to a situation where Dilma won only half the votes of the candidate for governor!

Let's be frank about it: the politics of alliances destroys any desire to be politically active. So where will we find a Manoel da Conceição? [Note: a founder of the PT and a popular left-wing figure who this year organised a public protest against the PT’s decision to support Roseana Sarney of the PMDB as candidate in Maranhão]. Where will we find those that looked to him for a struggle, when we then form alliances with Sarney in Maranhão? [Note: Roseana Sarney is the governor of Maranhão and the daughter of former right-wing President José Sarney].Where will the activists and the votes of those who believed in the PT go when we form an alliance with the governor of Rio, Sergio Cabral? This is a man whose main slogan is that of "security" based on the idea of dealing with crime through the military occupation of the favelas [slums] - the very opposite of the policy that the PT has always defended.

We saw the opposite to these situations in other states, as in Alagoas, Amazonas, Amapá, Goiás, Maranhão, Piauí, Rio Grande do Norte and Minas Gerais, where Dilma won a lot of votes and the candidate for governor of a bourgeois party, supported by Dilma and Lula, won far fewer votes. In Minas Gerais, for example, the PT had been stitching together an alliance "under the table" that "nobody knew of" since the 2008 municipal elections, where the PT left the prefecture of Belo Horizonte to the PSDB (Partido da Social Democracia Brasileira, a right-wing party), with a cadre of the latter that disguised himself as PSB (Partido Socialista Brasileiro, another right-wing party). Now, in the elections, first the National Executive of the PT forced down the throats of the rank and file the PMDB candidate. Then, in the first interview she gave in Minas, Dilma revealed what was an open secret - that she was for a "Dilmasia” vote (Dilma+Anastasia), the PT for President and the PSDB for governor. And she gave no other indication of who to vote for and not only that, but the candidate of the PMDB, as well as the senatorial candidate of the PT, were “raffled”. Nice manoeuvre... one wonders what will happen in the second round and also what will go on at the top. Far more than what Marina will do, the PT tops must be hoping that the fortunes of Aecio Neves (who only increased his support by so much because the PT supported him, as was evident in the election of mayor) would prevent him from mounting a strong campaign in favour of Sierra in the second round. Or that this could at least be an excuse to cover the agreements that were made with the tops of the PT. [Note: Aecio Neves, governor of the state of Minas Gerais from 2003 to 2010, representing the PSDB]

In simple language: this policy misled the party activists; it removed from the streets the activists and put in their place the paid canvassers, who have nothing to do with the PT. Thus, unlike in past elections where the PT was down but the ranks rallied towards the end, this time all that was left was a bitter taste in their mouths. Will any plans be drawn up for the rank and file in the second round? Will there be a response such as the one we saw when Lula faced Alckmin in the previous elections?

Politics runs the show

We often hear it said that candidates forget everything they promised during the election. In fact, candidates make promises the most generic possible and then the problem arises when it comes to acting on those promises. Jose Serra, in a discussion with retired employees, said that he would be in favour of a full pension... on condition that the age of retirement be increased, as "the age of 60 is too early to retire."

Dilma, on the other hand, scrupulously stuck to what had been approved by the "coalition" in terms of programme. If the PT programme had already been watered down, it became even worse after the "revision" made on the basis of the criticisms of the bourgeois press and of the PMDB and the result was seen in the last debate on the Globo TV network, when she literally fled, like the devil would run away from the Crucifix, when she was asked about the issue of reducing working hours to 40 hours per week and on the limit of land ownership (on the PT government programme see this article in Portuguese).

It is true that she did this after the PT congress had rejected the proposal to re-nationalise the Vale mining company and to struggle for a 100% state-owned Petrobras. Yes, the party rejected proposals that were aimed at reversing privatisation, but the party did approve the proposal to fight for a 40-hour week. The CUT [Confederation of Brazilian Trade Unions] has adopted this slogan as a central plank in its propaganda, and the MST [Movement of Landless Peasants] has at the heart of its propaganda the struggle for land ownership. And Dilma refused to commit herself to supporting either of these two demands! Result: discouragement, lack of will, and the idea that being politically active does not pay.

Clearly, in this campaign where no one wanted to talk politics, where all that the party wanted to say was "Vote Dilma because she is the candidate of Lula", the result was that she fell into every trap that the bourgeoisie had prepared for her, without having the courage to say what her position was on key issues. That is why she declared she was a “card-carrying” Catholic and that to be "against" the right to abortion is no longer a question of public health. Thus, she lost the votes she had and gained nothing in return, only the right to be attacked.

Finally, the coalition with the bourgeoisie has brought together all the rot of corruption. To get funding, to get their share of privatisation, companies invest enormous sums. And the top officials of the bourgeois state are accustomed to listening to and taking care of the "needs" of these companies. In other words, corruption is endemic throughout the capitalist system, since the state concentrates in its hands resources that are not available elsewhere and these are not distributed equitably. By adopting a bourgeois policy, together with the old bourgeois politicians, we end up by bringing into the party all the dirt that the moralists of the day beat their chests about wanting to uproot. The case of Erenice is one clear example, but not the only one, that has served to destroy the confidence that much of the population had in the PT. [Note: Erenice Alves Guerra was the 41st Chief of Staff of Brazil, taking over from Dilam Rousseff in April of this year, but after being accused of participating in a scheme where her son was involved in taking bribes for public works contracts, Lula forced her to resign].

It is clear that in this situation the PT can only limit itself to "protesting" against the major newspapers, and only proposes a vague "social control over the press" instead of doing what it should have done – give access to radio and TV channels to the trade unions and organisations of the working class, build up its own daily newspaper to counter the Folha de Sao Paulo and other bourgeois newspapers, and put an end to the official propaganda that these newspapers put forward, etc... Unless it bases itself on the working class and without taking steps towards socialism, the party’s flanks will always be exposed.

The PT’s parliamentary group

In 2002 the PT won largest number of seats in its history, 91. This fell to 83 in 2006 and now it has gone up to 88. It has recovered somewhat from the previous loss but did not manage to reach the 91 of 2002. Where does the problem lie? The problem is the same as before – the coalition with bourgeois parties. The PT could have won many more MPs had it stood its own candidates for governor in most of the states (or in all the states) and if it had stood firmly on the idea of winning the elections at the national level with the largest possible number of governors and deputies.

We have already analysed the impact of the present party policy on Dilma’s results. It is impossible – given the size of this article – to outline all the coalitions and local situations that led the PT to maintain roughly the same number of deputies and senators as before (also in the Senate, it increased from 10 to 14 senators). We have the biggest group in Parliament (there was a scattering of votes to several parties, most of them "allied" to the PT and who won votes on the back of the PT) and the second largest in the Senate (behind the PMDB). But this is no consolation because if Dilma remains in government (if she wins in the second round), she will continue to sing the same song, i.e. that we cannot meet the demands of working people because we are not the majority.

Yes, all the press is pointing out that the "opposition" (the DEM, Democrats, and the PSDB) has lost many of its cadres in the Senate. This is true. But their replacement by PMDB figures does not change the class balance of forces. With these people the majority of those elected to parliament still continue to represent the bourgeoisie, even if the names have changed. It is worth noting that the PSOL continues with its three MPs, but surprisingly increased its number of senators from one to two (Heloisa Helena lost). The PCO (Partido da Causa Operária, Workers’ Cause Party) and the PSTU (Partido Socialist dos Trabalhadores Unificado, United Socialist Workers’ Party) continue to have no parliamentary representation, as does the PCB (Partido Comunista Brasileiro, Brazilian Communist Party).

The Tiririca phenomenon

The mainstream media have compared the vote for Tiririca with that of Eneas, as if the two were both clowns who had stood and received a protest vote and were elected along with a lot of other MPs who did not get a good vote. Nothing could be further from the truth. [Note: Enéas Ferreira Carneiro is a founder and leader of PRONA, Party of the Reconstruction of the National Order, on the extreme right].

First of all the vote for Eneas was not just any old "protest". It was a right-wing petty-bourgeois nationalist vote with a fascist bias. And those who were elected along with him won hardly any votes at all – less than 10,000 votes. Although the party of Tiririca, the PR, was born from a merger of the former PL (Liberal Party) and the PRONE (Eneas’ party), the vote for Tiririca represents more of an angry reaction against the traditional political parties that do not fulfil their promises and therefore the message of these voters was "we will elect a clown to show them that they are the clowns, not us." Apart from this the votes cast for Tiririca served to elect MPs who received sizeable votes - over 100 thousand. Thus we see how nothing can be more mistaken than to make simplistic and hasty comparisons.

But the question has to be asked as to why there was this huge vote for Tiririca? The answer is to be found in the fact that the PT in government ruled in the same way as all the others, and formed a bourgeois government. Yes, it is true that the party benefited from the economic situation, from its declared intention to "help" the poor, that it extended the “bolsa familia” [a state subsidy given to the poorest families] and slightly increased the minimum wage. It also slowed down the pace of privatisation. But it did not put and end to it (the National Commission for Privatisation continues to exist) – Banco do Brasil shares have been put up for sale on the New York Stock Exchange, several roads have been privatised, none of the previous privatisations were reversed and now there is talk of privatising more roads and airports.

Contrary to what many think, the people have a memory and they voted in a clown to show it. What traditionally was a protest vote – and which in the past benefited the PT – this time went elsewhere. This also explains the dispersion of votes – instead of these votes going to the party, to the PT, to the perspective of socialism, they went to individuals, reflecting depoliticisation and lack of confidence in the organised power of the working class and the power of its organisation. The other way one can see this, as we have already analysed, is in the difference between the votes won by the candidates for governor supported by the PT and the votes for the presidential candidate of the PT.

The candidates of the Marxist Left

We had candidates in Santa Catarina (Mariano to the state assembly and Airton to the national parliament) and São Paulo (Miranda to the state assembly and Roque to the national parliament). Mariano was the candidate of the PT to the local state assembly who received the highest number of votes in the city of Joinville, in spite of all the anger of the population against the PT because of the way the current PT mayor has been running the town. One of the councillors who was backed by mayor spent more than one million Reals and won 14,000 votes. Mariano spent less than 50 thousand Reals and won more than 17,000 votes.

Comrade Miranda (with 9892 votes) was the PT candidate with the most votes in Caieiras. Roque tripled his vote (to 16,749) compared to the last time he stood (for the state assembly) and was the most voted candidate of the PT in town. The vice-mayor of Bauru who is also of the PT, with millions of Reals spent on his campaign received fewer votes than Roque, barely 13,000.

What was even more remarkable about all this was that it was achieved with a rank and file campaign, with almost no money at all, and was based on the support of activists and members of the party. It is an example of how the PT can and must build.

Next Steps

Now the tops of the PT are meeting and, after the missed celebrations, they are thinking about what to do. Will they make a turn to the left in the campaign as they did in the second round in 2006? Maybe. Will they make a turn to the right and seek out more and more the bourgeoisie? Maybe. Will they be paralysed, not knowing what to do? This is also possible. The Marxist Left [Esquerda Marxista] and its activists know the direction they are marching in and they have their own struggle – in the second round we will vote PT to defeat the bourgeoisie. We vote because we want socialism and the fastest road to achieving this is through the defeat of the direct representative of the bourgeoisie, José Serra.

October 4, 2010