Brazil: Marxist Candidates Against the System in the 2016 Municipal Elections

The Brazilian political situation parallels the international situation, marked by instability and unpredictability.

Opening with the popular protests of June 2013, the political situation developed continuously through the beginning of mass strikes of workers in 2014 and 2015, followed by school occupations by high school youth at the end of 2015 and in 2016, and then through the big protests against Dilma’s impeachment, and now, against the new government of Michel Temer, massing around the watchword “Fora Temer!” (“Temer Out!”). (See the declaration of Marxist Left after the impeachment here.)

Into this convulsive situation comes Brazil’s municipal elections, with the first round slated for 2 October. City mayors and city council aldermen will be chosen in these elections.

The Marxist Left (Esquerda Marxista), Brazilian section of the International Marxist Tendency, is taking part in these elections with 21 city council candidates and 2 for vice-mayor, following communist methods and goals for intervention in a bourgeois electoral process.

The participation of the Marxist Left in these elections is in alliance with the Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL—Partido Socialismo e Liberdade), a party which is attracting sectors of a left vanguard—especially the youth—after the political failure of the Workers’ Party (PT—Partido dos Trabalhadores), which over 13 years, led by Lula and Dilma, has ruled in coalition with the bourgeois parties and has put in place a number of attacks on workers’ rights with austerity measures.

The Workers’ Party, by the way, follows the same politics of class collaboration which prepared this whole situation. In this year’s elections the PT continues its alliance with Michel Temer’s PMDB in hundreds of cities, and with PSDB and DEM, two right-wing opposition parties to the PT government that strongly supported the impeachment. It is no coincidence that the PT’s candidates are hiding the star, the symbol of the party, and instead put forward the images of Lula and Dilma.

The PSOL, besides, even though lacking social roots, can achieve good results in important political centers in these elections and increase its spread. The party has a chance of reaching the second round of the elections in Porto Alegre (capital of Rio Grande do Sul), Cuiabá (capital of Mato Grosso), Belém (capital of Pará), and in the city of Rio de Janeiro. This prospect signifies the search, by large sections of the population, for a left alternative, against the view put forward by some of a supposed “conservative wave” in society. Moreover, widespread disbelief in the political system continues to grow in the country. Blank ballots, invalid votes, and abstentions will keep increasing, as happened in the last elections.

The intervention of the communists in the electoral process.

Already in 1850, Marx and Engels, in the “Address of the Central Committee to the Communist League” explained:

“that workers’ candidates are nominated everywhere in opposition to bourgeois-democratic candidates. As far as possible they should be League members and their election should be pursued by all possible means. Even where there is no prospect of achieving their election the workers must put up their own candidates to preserve their independence, to gauge their own strength and to bring their revolutionary position and party standpoint to public attention.”

They were directing their words to German revolutionaries, positioning themselves against an alliance with the democratic petty bourgeois, defending the independence of the class and the construction of the proletariat’s own organization, and using the elections to that end.

This goal makes impossible feeding any illusion in the electoral process. Historically, what guides Marxist interventions on this terrain, as in the bourgeois parliament, is always the reinforcement of the struggle for socialism and the independent organization of the proletariat. These are interventions into the enemy’s home ground which have the goal of enhancing the fight to demolish all structures of the capitalist state, including parliament itself.

In his pamphlet Left-Wing Communism, an Infantile Disorder, Lenin struggled against sectarian positions which had emerged in the recently founded Third International, among those of the “left-wing” communists who preached boycott of parliamentary elections, considering participation in bourgeois parliaments an old method which had expired historically and politically.

Lenin argued, “Parliamentarianism is of course “politically obsolete” to the Communists in Germany; but—and that is the whole point—we must not regard what is obsolete to us as something obsolete to a class, to the masses. Here again we find that the “Lefts” do not know how to reason, do not know how to act as the party of a class, as the party of the masses. You must not sink to the level of the masses, to the level of the backward strata of the class. That is incontestable. You must tell them the bitter truth. You are in duty bound to call their bourgeois-democratic and parliamentary prejudices what they are—prejudices. But at the same time you must soberly follow the actual state of the class-consciousness and preparedness of the entire class (not only of its communist vanguard), and of all the working people (not only of their advanced elements).”

In a situation where masses still retain illusions in capitalist institutions, the task of Marxists is to use elections and the parliamentary tribune to educate the class, exposing the true character of the bourgeois state and organizing the battles to be fought in the living terrain of the class struggle, outside parliament.

At the same time, it is not a principle, for revolutionaries, to participate in all elections. In 1905, in Russia, the Bolsheviks argued, correctly, for the active boycott of the Duma (National Assembly) elections convened by the tsar. However, it is important to note that this occurred in a particular situation. The context was of increasing revolutionary action of the masses. There was the emergence of dual power bodies, the Soviets; the Social Democratic Party (both Bolsheviks and Mensheviks) was outlawed; and the Duma would have had a purely advisory capacity, being used by the tsar to manoeuvre, to contain the revolutionary mood and maintain the autocratic regime. Later on, in other circumstances, the Bolsheviks took part in the elections and elected deputies to the Duma, using it as a platform to denounce tsarism and to strengthen the organization of the proletariat.

The Communists do not bring to parliament an “organic” performance; i.e., they do not behave as legislators, like the others. This path was what led the Second International to bankruptcy.

Marxists use their work in parliament for revolutionary agitation—as did Karl Liebknecht, Socialist deputy in the Reichstag (German parliament), who, defending the principles of proletarian internationalism, voted alone against the additional credits for the German army in 1914, and made his vote a declaration against the imperialist war.

The role of a revolutionary MP is controlled collectively by the revolutionary party and subordinated to the struggle for the emancipation of the working class.

As mentions the resolution of the 2nd Congress of the Communist International, led by Lenin and Trotsky:

“11. Communist members of parliament must utilise the parliamentary rostrum to expose not just the bourgeoisie and its open accomplices but also the social patriots, the reformists, the half measures of the politicians of the Centre and other opponents of communism, and to publicise widely the ideas of the Communist International.

“12. Even when the Communist deputies number only one or two in the entire parliament, they must, in their entire conduct, display a defiant attitude toward capitalism. They must never forget that the only ones deserving the name Communist are those who are archenemies of bourgeois society and its social-patriotic accomplices—not only in words but also in deeds.”

The platform of the Marxist candidates

libertade e luta copyPhoto: Libertade e LutaThe 21 candidates for councils put forward by the Marxist Left in the municipal elections this year in Brazil, in alliance with the PSOL, are presented as “candidates against the system,” speaking in a situation of growing demoralization towards the bourgeois institutions and their politicians.

In a recent survey (IBOPE), institutions with least credibility are the presidency (30% confidence), Congress (22%), and political parties (18%).

This year, only municipal elections will take place (national and state elections will take place in 2018). However, the Marxist candidates connect the city’s problems with an analysis of the national and international political situations. They explain that the problems of workers and the youth will not be solved by just a regional election, and therefore present a general platform with transitional demands.

Some of these demands are:

  • “Transport, Health and Education: public, free and for all!”;

  • Readjust wages according to inflation!;

  • Job security and nationalization of all companies that lay off in mass!;

  • Reduction of hours of work without loss of pay!;

  • Agrarian reform now!;

  • The oil has to be ours! Monopoly and Petrobras 100% state owned!;

  • Renationalisation of all privatized companies!;

  • Public welfare for all!;

  • No to repression and the criminalization of social movements!;

  • No to Payment of Internal and External Debts!, etc.

Adding to these demands are the central slogans indicating an outlook for the current national political situation:

  • Out with Temer and the National Congress!

  • For a Popular National Constituent Assembly!

  • For a Government of Workers!

By intervening in bourgeois elections and with parliamentary seats won in these elections, the central goal is to continue building the ideas of Marxism and the revolutionary organization, combining this intervention with our priority: action in the concrete class struggle.

The political situation in Brazil and worldwide is extremely unstable. The crisis of capitalism keeps unraveling. We can envision revolutionary events on a global scale. Marxists must prepare and use every opportunity to strengthen and build a force capable of gaining the confidence of the masses and lead the movement, in each country, towards the seizure of power by the proletariat. That is our task.

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