“From trade unionist to President from a prison cell… I am confident you have the candidate to defeat the forces of fascism and to restore hope and build a better future for your country.”Andy McDonald MP
By Patrick Foley, Brazil Solidarity Initiative
In cities in Brazil and across the globe, campaign launch events were held to celebrate former Brazilian President Lula da Silva, the candidate set to beat far-right president Bolsonaro in the October elections.
In London, PT Londres (the Brazilian Workers’ Party in London) hosted Brazilian campaigners, solidarity activists and representatives from across the Labour movement in a joyous show of support for Lula’s candidacy. The meeting heard contributions from Jeremy Corbyn, Christine Blower, Andy McDonald MP, Jess Barnard, academics, trade union leaders and PT activists mobilising ahead of the elections.
Amongst the speakers was John Watts, a member of the legal team who took the case of Lula’s political persecution and jailing ahead of the 2018 election to the UN. He confirmed the uplifting news that the UN had ruled in Lula’s favour, with the former president’s innocence, and the political and bias nature of the proceedings against him, now formally recognised at an international level.
Watts explained the task was now up to activists in Brazil, the UK and internationally to challenge any misreporting of Lula’s innocence in the run up to election: “his name has been cleared, there is not one piece of evidence against him.”
The support of the trade union movement for Lula, a former trade union leader himself, was outlined with messages from Dave Ward, CWU general secretary; Mariela Kohon, senior international officer for the TUC; and others.
Dave Ward explained that from Bolsonaro’s destructive agenda towards the Amazon and the indigenous population to the increasing threat of military action, “this is an election that will be watched by the whole world – not least due to the profound global questions at stake.”
Citing Lula’s imprisonment and removal from the political process during the last election, he called for the trade union movement to be “ready to oppose any attempts at undermining the democratic process from the powerful – be they in Bolsonaro’s office, the military, or the White House.”
Mariela explained how the TUC “supported Lula when he was wrongly convicted and imprisoned” and that in Lula’s absence “Bolsonaro has damaged every section of Brazilian society.” The responsibility of this damage lies not only with the “racist, misogynistic, homophobic, climate denying president” but on “those who smeared Lula so that he couldn’t stand in Bolsonaro’s way.”
She expressed the need for pressure on our own government to ensure “that there will be no trade deals and no military cooperation” if Bolsonaro continues his attacks on Brazilian democracy.
Further shows of solidarity with Lula and the resistance against the far-right in Brazil were given by Christine Blower, Labour representative in the house of Lords; Andy McDonald MP; and Jess Barnard, Young Labour chair.
Christine Blower challenged the contempt shown for the rule of law by the far-right in Brazil, highlighting the comparisons with the Tory government here in the UK – “just wait for the next session of the British parliament, when they will be coming for our human rights in every possible respect.”
She went on to call for activists globally to speak up for “truth, fairness and justice” and brought solidarity greetings from the Socialist Campaign Group of MPs.
Andy McDonald, MP for Middlesbrough, spoke of dark times for Brazil – “from the constitutional coup to the election of Bolsonaro” and the inspiration taken from the daily struggle of Brazilians against “the injustice and exploitation and the oppression that it has entailed.”
Lula, he explained, is a great symbol of the determination of the Brazilian people to keep fighting “from trade unionist to President from a prison cell… I am confident you have the candidate to defeat the forces of fascism and to restore hope and build a better future for your country.”
Jess Barnard, who visited Brazil for the Brazilian Workers’ Party (PT) Youth Congress last year, highlighted the lessons the Labour movement could learn from the resolution of Brazil’s socialists.
While Lula’s jailing is a “reminder of the vicious opposition we have come to know and expect when we threaten the status quo,” his commitment to “education and political debate has uplifted and opened the doors to a generation, where young socialists are armed, ready to communicate and organise in every community.”
She rounded off her contribution by expressing the full support of Young Labour, stating that “this election will change the lives of millions of people and provide the blueprint for building working class wins across the world.”
Former Labour Leader Jeremy Corbyn showed great admiration for Lula, stating that his return can “give hope to the poorest who live in the favelas. Give hope to the landless, to rebuild the great campaigns of the past, when Lula managed to end poverty of so many people through the redistribution of power and wealth in Brazil.”
The celebratory atmosphere was topped off with live Brazilian music, and the event also heard from Brazilian filmmaker Victor Fraga; academics Dr Francisco Dominguez and Dr Alfredo Saad; Marcus Barnett, Tribune Magazine; PT activists Julia Felmanas, Elda Cardoso, Rodrigo Tonato, Beatriz Arruda; and a range of contributions from Labour movement and trade union activists in solidarity with Lula.
With elections due to take place in October this year, Lula’s presidential campaign presents a turning point in Brazilian politics and in the global fight against the far-right.
From building solidarity with the hundreds of thousands organising against Bolsonaro’s administration, to fighting the torrent of mis-information that is key to his campaign, those of us in the international solidarity movement have our work cut out for us. But it is a fight we are proud to be a part of – we stand with you Lula! We stand with you Brazil!
- The pre-campaign Launch for Lula was hosted by the Brazilian Workers’ Party Nucleus in London (PT Londres) and took place in London on May 7th, 2022.
- Patrick Foley is the co-coordinator of the Brazil Solidarity Initiative, you can follow the BSI on Facebook and twitter.
- You can follow PT Londres on Facebook and twitter.