Lula is back to energise the global South and its fightback
Brazilian president-elect will once again put socialism on the agenda
In less than four weeks, Lula da Silva will officially take the office of the president in Brazil and begin the difficult journey of recovery from the socioeconomic mess left by fascist Jair Bolsonaro.
Lula’s victory is historic and unprecedented, one of the greatest political comebacks in world history. Just three years ago, Brazil’s Supreme Federal Court ruled that he be released from jail after finding his incarceration unlawful. Since then, a cloud of corruption has been hanging over his head with many political analysts predicting he would lose the 2022 election. Others believed Bolsonaro’s conservative rhetoric would appeal and win the day. The outcome was the total opposite. Lula’s credentials as a worldrenowned socialist leader came through much stronger.
Bolsonaro’s racist, misogynist and pro-market politics were pushed out and people’s power returned to the progressive leader of human rights, international working class solidarity and socialism.
Lula has been here before, having been president of Brazil from 2003 to 2010. During this period, he led the most prosperous period of Brazilian national life.
Millions of poor people and workers were pushed to better living standards by his transformative programmes such as Bolsa Familia.
This was a conditional cash transfer programme which saw workers receive aboveinflation minimum wages, free public health care, skills development, social housing, grants for the poor and elderly and good education for underprivileged children.
These gains coupled with a growing industrial economy reduced poverty and inequality by a huge margin. European Central Bank president Christine Lagarde acknowledged the Bolsa Familia programme “made remarkable social gains over the past decade and a half, lifting millions of families from extreme poverty”.
On the international stage, Lula emerged as an antiimperialist leader of the global South who opposed the destruction of the environment by the capitalist markets of the West, opposed fossil fuel industries responsible for climate change, deforestation, and exploitation of the Amazon and its indigenous communities.
He supported the formation of Brics against the imperialist rule of the US-EU powerhouse. Without doubt, the coming together of Brazil, Russia, India, China and SA presented new opportunities for the working class.
The geopolitical landscape expected a new type of politics from these nation states – a politics of peace, equality, human development, fair trade, economic growth and progressive diplomatic relations.
This envisaged Brics framework began with promising developments, especially between 2009 and 2013. This was after the global recession that delegitimised the logic behind the economics of the West, and it surfaced strategic opportunities for the global South to come up with an alternative market embedded on industrialisation, working-class power and anti-imperialist foreign diplomatic relations and governance.
China and Russia were leading this type of international approach. India and Brazil were slowly gaining ground in a similar direction while SA was still at the planning stages to follow suit. However, domestic changes of political leadership in Brazil and India including the internal weaknesses of the SA state weakened Brics – and the recent war waged by Russia in Ukraine has reversed many working-class gains secured after the 2009 recession.
Today, the West has recovered, regained ground in global markets and consolidated neoliberalism over SA, India and Brazil. It has used this rhythm to delegitimise the global standing of Russia – and the working class across the globe is feeling the effects of the conflict through rising living costs and declining wages.
Only China has remained stable after Covid-19 in political and economic terms. The rest are in shreds. Lula returns to this uneven Brics geopolitics and he has to take the global stage in 2023 in an international environment in which he has less allies.
To rebuild Brics power and consolidate the global South, Lula must ensure that his own domestic government is stable, transformative and efficient – and it must drive an astute programme of working-class power across all his platforms.