Brazil: Lula’s trial

Operation “Car Wash” and the bourgeois justice have no legitimacy, but we shall not forgive the Workers’ Party’s crimes against the working class!

Three judges who decided on Lula’s conviction in second instance (photo by Sylvio Sirangelo)

January 2018

Last January 24th, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, Brazil’s President from 2003 to 2010 and the Workers Party (PT) main figure, was convicted in second instance for crimes of corruption, jeopardizing his intentions to run once more for Presidency in next October 2018 elections (being the almost certain winner according to different polls scenarios). His fate will now depend on the appeals to the Supreme Court and the Supreme Electoral Court, but, according to Brazilian laws, he can already be imprisoned under his 12 years and 1 month sentence.

A working-class party can never delegate to the bourgeois police and justice the task of cleaning up corrupt politicians and businessmen, since this is simply not going to happen. “Operation Car Wash” [“Lava Jato” in Portuguese] has already demonstrated that it will not investigate to the bottom the corrupt politicians and businessmen. Its imprisonments and denunciations seek to create a facade of “fight against corruption”, as well as its being used by a fraction of the ruling class against its political opponents. It will not be “carried to the end” because the organs of the bourgeois state cannot do so – which would mean the state turning against itself and against the powerful capitalists who maintain close ties with the heads of the Executive, Legislative and Judiciary powers.

There is no doubt about the involvement of the PT [Workers Party] government in crimes of corruption. This was part of the political game of building a coalition with the PMDB [Brazilian Democratic Movement Party, currently in the Presidency] and other bourgeois parties. Neither the PT itself can deny this, it only denies Lula’s involvement. But those responsible for the investigation and condemnation of Lula must also be denounced, because it was a partial political judgment, orchestrated in the interests of reactionary sectors of the bourgeoisie.

The investigation of the “triplex case” [which the judges affirm belongs to Lula and was given to him as bribery] has several irregularities: it is based on selective disclosures and leaks, as well as presents weak evidence (especially if compared with many other cases requiring investigation and that already have conclusive evidence, but were ignored, such the ones involving Aécio Neves, one of PSDB’s strongmen [the bourgeois Brazilian Social Democratic Party], and Romero Jucá, an important PMDB senator). The illegal wiring of Lula’s lawyers, the changes in witnesses’ testimonies (which points to an attempt of a frame-up), the speed of the trial (which was “unusual” to say the least) and many other things show that this was not a “legitimate judgment” (even within the standards of bourgeois justice).

It is clear that Lula’s condemnation is not the same as a cassation of the PT’s electoral registration, but it is a way for a fraction of the bourgeoisie to strengthen itself, by using the judiciary and the police to harm its electoral opponent, the PT and its allies, in the approaching elections. Lula is not “one of us” and this is not a typical case of political prisoners. But in the recent context of a tightening of the Brazilian political regime, even if still within the formal limits of the “bourgeois democracy”, care must be taken against opening precedents.

Socialists cannot demand nor “celebrate” Lula’s condemnation, once the ones behind it will get stronger through it – and they are our enemies too! And this is the same reason why this event cannot be ignored. It is necessary, above all, to denounce the Car Wash Operation and the justice of the bourgeois state, which subvert several constitutional guarantees in the search of their vendetta against certain politicians, while protecting others.

The main task of revolutionaries, however, should not be to defend that Lula is “innocent”, but, instead, to even now agitate a working-class denunciation of his government and the PT’s role in restraining and betraying the proletarian struggles, in conducting attacks against us (such as the social security counter-reform made in 2003), the maintenance of the economic policy of favoring national and imperialist banks and large corporations, privatizations of state-owned enterprises, conciliation with the strongmen of traditional Brazilian politics (many of whom betrayed them during the impeachment of Dilma) and so on. The concessions and social improvements implemented by the PT government (especially in the Lula governments) must be defended against the current cuts and counter-reforms. But one should not lose sight of how relatively small they have been in face of an uneven social order which such governments have helped maintain, and of the continuity of political power in the hands of the ruling class.

The slogan “For Lula’s right to be a candidate” (raised by groups that claim to be socialists) places a focus on the electoral arena. This is a priority for the PT and its political allies, but not for the working class. It is not as if his campaign (and the bourgeois elections themselves) are a “refuge” against the ongoing bourgeois offensive – something that such candidacy really isn’t, especially in face of the agreements it already made with bourgeois political parties, and the fact that a new PT government would be a “pro-austerity” bourgeois government. Therefore, the focus should not be the question of Lula’s candidacy, but, rather, the denunciation of Operation Car Wash and the bourgeois justice system – reminding the working class about the political role of the PT throughout the recent historical period (an element sometimes “forgotten” or seconded by many so-called “socialists”).

Lula’s judgment happened on the eve of the vote of the “social security reform” (actually, a counter-reform) and amidst a maelstrom of attacks by the capitalist state against workers’ rights, in its eagerness to provide conditions for increased labor exploitation. The PT-aligned trade union federations have betrayed the recent struggles, such as when they called-off the day of stoppages scheduled for December 5, 2017. The fight against these “austerity” measures (against the workers and the people) should be the focus of our actions, in which the creation of a workers’ united front  – to organize practical actions to defeat these attacks – would be a fundamental step.

The question of corruption

A justice system conducted in the interests of the workers would be much more severe against the bourgeoisie’s crimes of corruption (traffic of influence, bribery, misappropriation of public money, illicit favoritism of companies etc.) than that done by the organs of the capitalist state. And it could effectively be applied to all representatives of the ruling class, without gaining the air of a “factional dispute”, as currently occurs. In the current situation, many politicians will remain unpunished and businessmen will have lessened penalties; other representatives of the ruling class will arrogate themselves as champions of morality and of the “fight against corruption”, only to later reveal their own criminal schemes and actions, as happened with Aécio Neves / PSDB last year, with the leak of an audio in which he demanded the payment of bribes.

As a first step towards ending corruption involving private companies and the state, we advocate that companies involved in corruption scandals be expropriated from their corrupt owners by the people, and managed by the workers, and that the politicians involved have their assets and wealth confiscated. In addition, we also demand the end of all the privileges of politicians and judges, and that their wages be equal to the average salary of a worker. These would be elementary principles in a working-class government – which is the goal for which we fight. Policemen, judges and other state officials should not hover above the people. Those who commit crimes should be removed from their posts by decision of popular commissions, chosen by working-class organizations, charged with conducting investigations independently from the state and the influence of the capitalists.

Let us also not forget that the bourgeois police and justice are constantly disregarding the most basic democratic rights (as through attacks on the right to strike and demonstrate, illegal prisons, invasion of homes in the favelas and peripheries, covered-up murders in the countryside etc.). This shows that they are by no means “neutral”. For years, the PT itself was at least conniving with these acts – and was even the protagonist of soem of them, as in the case of the “Anti-Terrorism Law”, made to benefit FIFA and other companies in the consortiums of the World Cup and the Olympics. The conditions for corruption can only end in a society without exploitation, without exploiters and without brutal inequality – a society radically different from the current one, a society which rationally promotes the interests of the great majority, a socialist society.

ADENDUM: We realized that in our statement about Lula’s conviction by the TRF4 tribunal, our OPPOSITION to Lula’s imprisonment (effectuated on April 7th) was not sufficiently clear. We held this position not because we believe in his innocence, but because of the clear character of political persecution of all this process that culminated in his conviction, which included violations of the own “bourgeois normality”. Had it not been Lula and PT’s own suicidal confidence in the bourgeois institutions, his arrest could have been avoided through the methods of class struggle, since it is the objective interest of the working class to curb this judicial offense, however much Lula and the PT have long since become the “left wing of the party of order”.