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Lula’s victory shows progressive politics are far superior to bland centrism in combatting the right

PROGRESSIVES all over the world will hail the return of Lula to the Brazilian presidency. He prevailed in Sunday’s run-off over far-right incumbent Jair Bolsonaro in an election in which Brazilian democracy was at stake.

Lula, leader of the Workers Party, has served two previous terms as president in which he made great strides in tackling the country’s endemic poverty and inequality. The ruling class fought back, however — his successor Dilma Rousseff, also of the Workers Party, was removed from office by constitutional sleight-of-hand and Lula himself was imprisoned on corruption charges, later thrown out.

Even on polling day there were concerns, as police loyal to Bolsonaro obstructed Lula supporters seeking to vote, before they were ordered to desist.  

However, the result appears to have been accepted — though the right, having strengthened its electoral position in Brazil’s congress and in several key states, may still seek to obstruct Lula institutionally instead.

His victory aligns Brazil with most other Latin American states in having resumed the turn to the left across the continent which began at the turn of the century. Undoubtedly, the main drivers of this are internal political factors — Brazil still suffers from multiple crises, including poverty, housing shortages and state violence.

However, Lula’s win is also replete with international significance in at least three major respects.

First, his presidency offers the hope of arresting the deforestation of the Amazon, critical for the fight against climate change. This deforestation accelerated rapidly under Bolsonaro, who governed as the instrument of the big businesses which profit from opening the territory up to unbridled exploitation.

Halting this is a priority for the whole of humanity. Lula stands for an alternative development perspective alive to the immense dangers of the destruction of the Amazonian environment.

Second, Lula stands out against the drive to dragoon the whole world into a new cold war at Washington’s behest. The largest country in Latin America will join the largest in Asia and Africa in refusing to line up with the US against China.

Even Bolsonaro was reluctant to see Brazil bullied into line with Washington in its confrontation with Russia. Lula will stand still stronger for a multipolar world and will consolidate the developing international front against imperialism.

Warmongering social democrats in Britain and across Europe might pause to reflect on why the progressive politician with the largest elected mandate in the world opposes their policy of inter-bloc confrontation.

Third, the result in Brazil offers the clearest evidence that the authoritarian populism of the Bolsonaros can best be defeated by a committed progressive agenda. The candidates and parties of centrism were nowhere to be seen in the presidential election.

We are in an age of growing mass discontent with the world order, which has been unravelling since 2008 at least. The parties which cling to the wreckage of neoliberalism have little to offer and no long-term prospects.

The far right in Brazil, as elsewhere, seeks to assemble a new pro-capitalist coalition based around a mixture of big business, religion, ethnic-based populism and strident disdain for democracy. With local variations, that is the playbook of Donald Trump, Victor Orban, Narendra Modi, Recep Tayyip Erdogan and, in a diluted form, Boris Johnson.

It is not an accident that Jeremy Corbyn was greeted as a hero by Workers Party leaders on his visit to Brazil to observe the elections, as he is on journeys elsewhere in Latin America.

A radicalism which challengers the power of capital and places socialism on the political agenda is the most potent alternative to the far right. Lula faces many challenges in advancing that cause in Brazil, but the left everywhere will be cheering him on.

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