Last year, left-wing veteran Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva defeated right-wing Jair Bolsonaro in an historic election for Brazil. The victory was slim—Lula amassed 50.9% to Bolsonaro’s 49.1%. Bolsonarismo—the term used to describe adherence to Bolsonaro’s crackpot ideology which blends neofascism, evangelical Christianity, and neoliberalism—was far from repudiated. And, lo and behold, a week after Lula’s inauguration (for which Bolsonaro was absent, on top of failing to concede defeat in the first place), on the 8th of January Bolsonaristas stormed the country’s main federal buildings in the capital Brasilia, in what many are calling a coup attempt akin to the US Capitol riots.
Bolsonaro, for now, remains in self-imposed exile in Florida, while Lula’s government proceeds with arrests of those who bear responsibility for the failed putsch. Just how much of a threat to Brazil’s democracy is Bolsonarismo, and how can its wide, cross-class appeal be explained? And will Lula be able to govern in spite of the country’s ongoing legitimation crisis, the contradictions of his own, broad coalition, and the pressing challenges the country faces such as food insecurity and climate change? As Sabrina Fernandes wrote before Lula’s victory in Africa Is A Country, “The challenge, then, is at least threefold: to elect a progressive government and maintain power, to fix recent losses in a short amount of time, and to propose more ambitious politics that can win the people over.” Sabrina joins will to discuss the prospects and challenges for Lula’s third term, and whether Lula can lead a strengthened effort for progressive, Third World internationalism.
Sabrina Fernandes is a sociologist, ecosocialist organizer and communicator from Brazil. She is currently a postdoctoral fellow with CALAS at the University of Guadalajara working on just transitions from the margins, and is also the person behind the radical left education project Tese Onze.