A Revolutionary Perspective on the Pandemic in Brazil: An Interview with the Editorial Staff of “A Nova Democracia”

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to spread and its consequences on the oppressed classes are the most dire. In Brazil, the government lead by the fascist Bolsonaro has used the opportunity to increase repression as the masses have become increasingly emboldened to act. To learn more about this situation, we conducted the following interview with the Editorial Staff of A Nova Democracia,” newspaper of the Brazilian revolutionary movement.

Before we began, our comrades at A Nova Democracia welcomed our interview with these kind words.

First, in the name of the Leadership and the Editorial Staff of A Nova Democracia, we want to present our internationalist greetings to the comrades of Redspark, affirming our willingness for the interchange of experiences and sharing journalistic activity, serving the cause of the proletariat and other people’s masses of the whole world.

Redspark: Comrades, could you help us understand the context in Brazil leading up to the pandemic?

The world is shaken by the fierce general crisis of imperialism strengthened by the COVID-19 pandemic and, in the midst of the chaos of social isolation, the first explosions of people’s revolts have emerged, which, like a powder keg, has crossed throughout the whole world. The cowardly murder of George Floyd, a black worker in Minneapolis-USA, by the police was the trigger for the flammable environment in the whole world generated by this crisis. Within this it is necessary to contextualize the political situation of our country four months ago, when the COVID-19 pandemic arrived. Our country is marked by the radicalization of the strife between the power groups that represent the fractions of the local ruling classes, the big bourgeois and landholder servants of imperialism, principally north-American, strife for the hegemony on the apparatus of the Old State. At the same time, they unite to impose the most brutal measures against the people, through the “reforms”; in truth they are adjustments that restrict rights and “austerity” policies, all dictated by the international agencies of imperialism.

Brazil is passing through the decomposing general crisis of its outdated bureaucratic capitalism within the general crisis of imperialism, deepening the political crisis that has existed since 2014. The election of the fascist Bolsonaro for the country’s president in 2018 has only sharpened and potentiated the general crisis of the country. It is no longer possible for the local ruling classes and Yankee imperialism to maintain their outdated system of exploitation and oppression as it had until 2014, with an apparently normal operation of the political system based on the electoral sham. All this has crumbled through economic crisis and unrestrained corruption; the official political world is demoralized and discredited by the people. The election of Bolsonaro, which was praised as democratic and clean by the press monopolies, had a minority of the votes from the electorate. The boycott to the electoral sham had more than a third of the electors who could vote. The popular revolts of 2013/14 had already expressed the rejection of broad sectors of the people’s masses to this whole old democracy that is corrupt and legitimates the system of semi-colonial and semi-feudal exploitation and oppression that has existed for a century and a half in the country. The failure of the governments of social-democrat opportunism (PT) supported by senile revisionism (PCdoB and other so-called “left”)—from 2003 to 2016—has provided a stage for anticommunism to raise its head and take the offensive. The massiveness and violence of the uprising in 2013 surprised the reaction, and the Yankees, together with the High Command of the Armed Forces, planned and unchained a preventive counterrevolutionary offensive to the uprising of the masses that is fermenting throughout the whole country.

The State is linked to the Yankee plans of deepening the militarization of Latin America, especially South America, to save its system of exploitation and oppression that is pointing towards collapse. Such a plan has the aim of carrying out the three reactionary tasks of restructuring the old State to impose a regime with maximum centralization on the Executive Power, taking the economy out of crisis, urging on its bureaucratic capitalism and preventing the danger of revolution, smashing popular rebellion and the annihilation of the revolutionary movement. However, the division among the local ruling classes is expressed in the insuperable political crisis that, with the election of Bolsonaro, throws the military to its center, thus constructing a military government which in fact tends to fascism, and increases the war against the people, foretelling a civil war.

Redspark: How did the situation evolve when the cases of COVID-19 began to skyrocket?

In this context, the pandemic advances with more than a thousand dead per day in the official data, but everyone knows that both the numbers of infection and deaths are far higher. This is due to the abandonment of the people by the historically genocidal Brazilian State. Not even when faced with such an alarming and even frightening event for the majority of our people like this pandemic, did governors move to take emergency measures to provide the population with preventive measures, application of tests and expand the health network. They do not make the necessary and urgent investment in health to supply the public hospitals to face the pandemic or various other infectious diseases that attack the poor people, such as tuberculosis. To give an idea of this framework, in one of the biggest favelas of Rio de Janeiro city called “Rocinha,” the current rate of tuberculosis is five times higher than the national rate of the disease. This is not to speak of other endemics that attack the impoverished people every year, as Dengue, Zika, Chikungunya, influenza, yellow fever, measles and others.

And the disregard is such, that the State is destroying the public system that was built decades ago to benefit the private health sector that increasingly grows and gets richer. As the heritage of the populist governments in the 1950s and 1960s and a strong reformist mass movement, a public health system was founded for state workers and another for the private workers. This was maintained and expanded by the fascist military regime of 1964. With the end of the military regime during the 80s, the Single Health System (SUS), for free and universal care, was instituted by the Constituent Assembly of 1988. It included the peasants who had no rights to public health services back then. However, due to the low budget endowment for health, the public network lacks medical staff, equipment, medication and other hospital supplies. This difficult situation was already aggravated year after year, benefiting the private network that grew at the same rate that the public network was growing precarious. Then the pandemic came. What was predicted has happened: the SUS collapsed. Before the great incidence of the virus in the country, enormous sections of the poor people had no access to an adequate health treatment.

Today, the situation is far worse and almost all the public hospitals of the country have their wards and UTIs (Intensive Treatment Units) at full capacity. They lack vacant wards and mechanical respirators and the infection seems to be far from reaching its peak. In this extreme situation, the government refuses to demand the private network to make their wards and UTIs available for the general care of the impoverished population. Today, three months after the pandemics, more than a thousand people die every day, the majority of them dying while waiting for a vacancy, treated in the passageways and doors of public hospitals. In the city of Rio de Janeiro, as an example, the waiting queue for treatment reached 400 people, which, consequently, raises the number of deaths. In the north and northeast of the country, the situation is even worse. Despite being the last regions to be afflicted with the pandemic, the poorest layers of the population were quickly infected due to the lack of minimal structure of health services, and the precarious state of the existing public hospitals is frightening. In the majority of the states of these regions, the mechanical respirators that are indispensable for treating the grave acute cases exist only in small quantities in their capitals. Only one of the twenty cities of the country with greatest mortality per 100 thousand inhabitants is not in these regions, which is Rio de Janeiro in the southeast. In the cities of the states of these regions there are rates of more than 100 deaths per 100 thousand inhabitants.

As if this situation was not enough, Bolsonaro, who, since the beginning, has declared that COVID-19 was no more than a “little flu,” has not only stood against “social isolation” but himself refused any of the orientations of distancing and using masks. “Social isolation” was established by the governments of the states and cities by decree, following the guidelines of the WHO (World Health Organization), under the pressure of the parliament and the supreme court. Bolsonaro attacks the isolation measures every day, contrary to the recommendations of the Ministry of Health of his own government, which already changed ministers twice. He attacks governors and mayors, disorienting the population. This is in increasingly open conflict with the big bourgeoisie and landholders, who up to now make intense propaganda about the “isolation” through the press monopolies, not only appealing to the population, but through real campaigns of media terrorism to frighten and intimidate. All this due to the fear that a greater mortality toll could generate commotion and explosions of revolt. Why does Bolsonaro, a declared fascist, go against “social isolation,” when his government could benefit from it to demobilize the masses? The reason for this is very simple: the struggle among the ruling classes was also carried to the handling of the pandemic by the State.

When the governors of the states (the majority of whom oppose Bolsonaro) and the overwhelming majority of the 5,600 mayors established the “isolation” by decree, Bolsonaro saw this measure as a machination to ruin the economy, cause greater unemployment and misery, wear out his government and overthrow it. Furthermore, in many regions of the country, very few tests for COVID-19 are being administered. The cause of death is not even being identified many times, and are registered in the death registry as “unknown deaths” and not death by COVID-19. The under-notification of the infected and dead by COVID-19 mask the real extent of the health crisis in Brazil in official data. At the moment, Brazil is already the second country in the world in number of deaths caused by the disease, behind the United States. Together with the most brutal measures of a “war economy” against the rights and lives of the workers, similar to the ones adopted in many countries like reduction of working hours with reduction of wages, and “temporary” suspension of contracts, the government and the parliament approved an “emergency aid” of 600 reais (120 USD), in three monthly payment for the “informal” workers, micro-enterprisers, and unemployed, whose family income is no greater that three minimum wages (627 USD). More than 100 million people applied in long queues to receive this money, however, only a few more than 40 million received the first payment; another million, among who there are people who have nothing to eat, had their applications denied. Even worse, now the government wants to reduce the value to 300 reais. Revolts are increasing in the immense queues. This is a scenario that becomes even more frightening as whole families are on the streets of the big cities, mainly asking for help, charity, food, despite the already numerous homeless population.

Even though, aiming at the next elections, which nobody knows if they will take place, the president, governors and other politicians pile strife on top of the heap of corpses, exchanging accusations. All of them call themselves democrats and accuse to other of fascism. It would be comical if it was not that tragic for the people’s situation. It is pathetic and a crime against humanity, the filthy verbal diarrhea that overflows every day from the press monopolies, as our people get sick without adequate treatment and die unassisted.

Facing this announced tragedy, Bolsonaro, an anticommunist and visceral americanophile, given his project of fascist dictator and for the interests of the big bourgeoisie and landholders, insists on opposing any social distancing, showing an abject scorn towards the people, who continue without the minimal healthcare. The majority of the Temporary Hospitals announced by the government have not been built yet. Others had their installation paralyzed because of judicial embargo due to accusations and even proof of corruption. Bolsonaro, and his demagogic ambition, incites groups of followers who demand closing the parliament and the supreme court with “Military Intervention with Bolsonaro in Power.” In these demonstrations, he appears without a mask, greets the people with bare hands, holds and kisses children and coldly reaffirms that he mourns the dead, but “We are all going to die someday anyway!”

Redspark: We see worldwide that the pandemic is affecting people not only on the level of health, but also economically. What response did the oppressed people have in Brazil?

The current and very serious crisis of imperialism deepened the crisis of bureaucratic capitalism in Brazil, which is still continuing as decomposing general crisis. Millions of people are being launched into complete misery. The official data indicates that, only during the months of February, March and April this year, the number of unemployed in the country, which was already 12% rose to 12.6%, meaning more 12,000,800 people unemployed. The Brazilian GDP fell 1.5% in the first trimester relative to the same last year, but there is a consensus among the economists that a true “bump” will take place now during the second trimester, indicating an unprecedented recession in Brazil with irreversible results for certain sectors of the country’s economy.

The old Brazilian state provides generous “compensatory packages” of billions of reais to some dozens of economic and financial corporations, but promises to the medium, small and micro companies remained promises, within a frightening situation of bankruptcies of those who employ the majority of the labor force. And for the unemployed masses, low-wage employees and informal workers, they offer the aforementioned “charity” of only monthly 600 reais (120 USD) for three months, now reduced to 300 reais.

The poor people of the cities and the countryside are mobilizing and protesting. Moreover, from the revolts that have invariably taken place in the last fifty years throughout the country against all kinds of afflictions of this system, only after two months of isolation—within which recently are mostly protests of mainly health workers due to the precarious working conditions, lack of equipment and protection materials for their professional activities in aiding front-line workers of COVID-19—increasingly massive demonstrations have been initiated against the government, against coup-ism and fascism, potentiated by the events of rejecting crimes of racism in the US. For three consecutive weekends, demonstrations in the capitals of the states and in many other cities have been taking place.

On May 31, when the streets of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Belo Horizonte (the biggest cities of the country located in the Southeast region) were taken by organizations of young “antifascist” football fans, together with the combative youth who were protagonists in the uprisings in 2013/14, expelled the militants of the phony opportunist electioneering left from the demonstrations. The antifascists have struggled against the scoundrel groups of fascists, who are followers of Bolsonaro, scum that is forming organizations like the brown vests of Hitler. Wearing green and yellow clothes (the colors of the official Brazilian flag) in their militarized demonstrations, the bolsonarist fascists always carry the flags of Brazil, of the US and sometimes from Israel, and the flag of the fascists in Ukraine and other neo-Nazi symbols. These demonstrations ask for a “Military Intervention with Bolsonaro in Power,” and closing the National Parliament and the supreme court (Federal Superior Court). In the last confrontations between the antifascist youth and the bolsonarists, the police forces intervened in the name of assuring order and avoiding violence, but they attacked only the antifascists, who were not intimidated and retaliated with sticks, stones and bottles, promising to return another day. This tendency is increasing the demonstrations as they were repeated on Sundays, June 7 and 14. At the same day of the May 31st protest, another protest took place in front of Rio de Janeiro governor’s “palace” against the death of a black adolescent, 14 years old, whose house was invaded by a police command. The police, with the pretext of being in an encounter with drug-dealers, fired 70 rifle shots, cowardly murdering the young boy. The demonstrators were violently repressed by the same murderous police, but they resisted denouncing the criminal action of those who every day kill black and poor youth and children in the favelas of the big cities of the country.

In the same month, May, peasants have faced the repression forces of Bolsonaro in the State of Rondônia (Northwest of the country). The government have started an operation of the reactionary Armed Forces called “Green Brazil” with the pretext of combating burning in the Amazon forest. Under the command of the vice-president, General Mourão, this operation is carrying out the reactionary war against the people, particularly the poor peasants, small and medium proprietors, indigenous and quilombola peoples.

Such an operation is part of the plan of the ongoing preventive counterrevolutionary coup in the country, that is led by the High Command of the Armed Forces. Through the decrees of the GLO (Law and Order Guarantee) they started to install special troops of the reactionary armed forces in various points of Legal Amazon that corresponds to the states of Mato Grosso, Rondônia, Acre, Amazonas, Roraima, Amapá, Pará, Tocantins and part of Maranhão.

However, the pandemic did not impede the peasants from continuing forward with their struggle and combative resistance. On May 19, in Jacinópolis area, a district of Nova Mamoré, State of Rondônia, the people repelled the repressive forces. Tired of so much abuse, humiliation, persecution and repression, the inhabitants mobilized themselves and prevented a family from being arrested. The peasants blocked the road in different points using trees and destroying bridges. This has forced the policemen to take shelter in the woods, where they were forced to spend the night. Other similar cases have taken place in the Amazon region. Thus, the masses are understanding better, day by day, the contradictions between them and the ruling classes in Brazil, serving the interests of imperialism, principally Yankee. And more, they are noticing that the virus is not a common enemy, as said by the press monopoly. The virus lethally affects mainly the elderly, the ill and the poor people in general, because they only have precarious health access or none. In Brazil, the life of the rich worth much more than of the poor. This is why we work to show the masses the struggle is not against the virus as preached by the reaction in their campaigns, but that they should organize themselves to protect themselves from it, because the struggle is against this old State and the system of exploitation and oppression that it guards.

The revolutionary movement has not become indifferent nor passive in facing so much suffering, injustice and increased abuse with the pandemic. Duty calls, with full lungs, the true democrats and revolutionary to act. Despite the many difficulties, the number of activists from the masses is growing quickly and with enthusiasm. We are seeing that this indicates that the struggle will develop a lot in the next months and years; there is a herculean and protracted struggle coming.

Redspark: What was the response of the people and of the revolutionary movement?

Within this world framework, if one depends on imperialism, both in one’s own country and in all others, the masses are hopeless victims of the virus and capital super-exploitation, with layoffs at a rate rarely seen (never seen in absolute terms), reduction of wages, “temporary” suspension of contract and all kind of cuts of rights. As for the monopolist corporations, they are having their losses reimbursed with generous help from the public treasury, just as it happens in many countries, including Brazil.

Just like in almost the whole world, here in Brazil the reactionary authorities defined the crisis of coronavirus as a “State of Public Calamity” necessitating a “War Economy,” seizing the opportunity of the seriousness of the situation to impose social isolation for the majority of the people, with increasing restrictions to circulation in the cities, between them and between states; closing borders, making communication difficult even through the internet by restricting public use. It happened that Bolsonaro, together with Trump, initially, was contrary to the recommendations of social isolation adopted by health authorities. This was because the social isolation in the country was presented as a serious problem for his maintenance in the government, because the struggle for power among the fractions of the ruling classes moved towards removing him from the government, based on his inability to stabilize the situation of the country. Bolsonaro is a permanent source of conflict and political and judicial instability, frightening companies and repelling foreign “investors.” So he needed to mobilize his hordes of supporters with demonstrations every Sunday and started violating the isolation measures defined by the state governors and mayors of the cities.

Regardless, the different police forces patrol grows every day in the streets and the army has been launched in the amazon region, which represents 60% of the national territory, with the pretext of combating fire and illegal wood cutting. They are actually acting to carry out the “Law and Order Guarantee,” to prevent the seizure of lands, displace the peasant masses from the lands conquered in struggle, and surrounding and attacking the revolutionary peasant movement. Which means, to try to prevent the people’s rebellion in the countryside and in the cities, the government is launching the repressive forces of the old State, claiming that because of health measures, gathering and demonstrations are forbidden. Police-military forces are authorized to act to enforce a “curfew” like it was in a “State of Siege.” The campaign for social isolation through the monopolized media means, brought, in a few days, the weakened national economy to the bottom. This appears to be incoherent but it is not, because the greater fear of important sectors of the ruling classes is of a people’s rebellion if the killings at the super-populous urban zones, as well as the peasant masses inflate an avalanche of protests. It is a terrible situation, and the masses are completely unassisted in minimal conditions for treatment in a collapsing health system.

It is not even possible to apply social isolation in poor neighborhoods and favelas, where the small houses shelter numerous people of the workers’ families. Misery is brought over the masses; they cannot even cry near the body of their beloved relatives in collective burrows. Struck by unemployment and the loss of customers of the services by the informal workers, as well as the goods that wandering merchants depend upon to earn the everyday bread, these masses chased by hunger and misery will not stay imprisoned in their shacks. The majority will and is going out seeking bread for their children, getting infected or not; they are moving—they will not die of hunger without doing anything, this is certain, and we are seeing it in the daily life in our activity among the masses.

All this, on the one hand, made the development of the objective revolutionary situation take a leap. On the other, we see that the revolutionary movement has not blinked facing this situation. On the contrary, we have witnessed their activity. In the midst of the curfew in many cities in all regions, communist red flags celebrating the 98 years of the founding of the Communist Party were registered, a party that is clandestine and called the popular masses to mobilize to take equipment for their protection from the pandemic infection, medicine for the chronically ill, conditions for treatment, internment, expansion of wards and UTIs, respirators, seize the private health network, emergency allowance for all workers, annulment of the water and electricity bills from the government, but also organizing themselves to gather the self-supply of food and necessities, affirming that only “the people save the people” and calling for the resistance against fascism.

In our case, as a democratic people’s press, we mobilize the committees to support the newspaper that are spread around the country to strive for the mobilization to organize themselves in groups to defend themselves from the pandemic. At the same time, health committees of defense of the people emerged and are still multiplying in many places, wherever the deepest masses of the proletariat are, as well as in the countryside where the struggles for land and armed conflicts are increasing. We see that the high levels of unemployment will not give alternatives for many masses in the cities, leading to going back to the countryside to struggle for a piece of land, where at least they could have a roof and ease the hunger of their families. The struggle in the countryside will grow measure by measure. This is what the committees of the newspaper and popular classist organizations from the rural zones inform us. We are seeing that these health committees are people’s organizations of the United Front that emerge from people’s assemblies in these zones of excessive poverty. There are other initiatives of solidarity composed of good-willed people, actions of religious people in solidarity, as well as opportunists, electioneering people, NGOs, etc. However, for the masses, it becomes clear from their interests in daily life, the masses are done with electioneering people. Just as it was said before, parallel to all this capillary mobilization that are being organized on the streets, rows, favelas, housing lots, both the struggle for land and the demonstrations suddenly emerge and resound, attracting even more masses.

We are very optimistic, despite all the horrors that surround us. The way the demonstrations against the murderous brutality of the US police against the black people has spread throughout the world is something shocking, a revolution is like that, if it is true: crisis, misery, diseases, unprecedented disgraces, events from which the increasing struggling masses emerge and seek a leadership with their willpower to make the whole old order of exploitation and oppression succumb. It is the duty of the revolutionaries to unite with those masses, mobilize them, politicize them and organize them for their most urgent demands, pointing toward the revolutionary struggle against the current regime of exploitation and oppression, imperialism, principally north-American, and the opportunism that deceives the masses and for Power.

In the particular case of the shift in government in Brazil, the serious political, economic and social crisis that has existed since 2014, deepens in leaps. There is a struggle each day more fiercely between the groups of power of the fractions of the local ruling classes, principally the palatial struggle between the far-right of Bolsonaro and the military right (High Command of the Armed Forces) for the hegemony and leadership of the counterrevolutionary state coup that was set in motion since 2015. This struggle has now modified, approaching a union of these two currents, due to the fear of a serious fracture within the armed forces with the break in hierarchy and uprisings in the barracks. This military unity points towards the phase of culminating the state coup with the rupture of the constitutional order and installment of the fascist military regime, which signals the division in the core of the establishment. The press monopolies at this moment are openly against Bolsonaro, daily accusing him of conspiring for the rupture of institutional order.

The struggle that is shown in the press of the executive power with the so-called other powers—judiciary and legislative—is a smoke screen that hides the struggle of the fractions of the big bourgeoisie for the form of applying the three reactionary tasks imposed by the Yankees of saving the system of exploitation and oppression that is threatening to collapse. In other words, restructuring the old State for the maximum centralization of power in the executive, taking the economy out of crisis to fortify bureaucratic capitalism and prevent the danger of revolution by smashing the people’s revolt and annihilate the growing revolutionary movement. The palatial struggle is incessant, the high commands of the reactionary armed forces that opposed Bolsonaro as a military government in fact occupies the main operative posts of the government, with the purpose of making the coup the smoothest possible under constitutional cover, through reforms of the current constitution, without rupture of the institutions, but centralizing power absolutely on the Executive. Bolsonaro preaches and acts to establish an open and declared military regime. The generals see that as a great danger because it would form a broad anti-armed forces front. In the last 40 days, the situation has been aggravated with the fall of many ministers and division among the generals, and Bolsonaro going on the offensive, wielding article 142 of the Constitution, which defines the role of the armed forces and the president of the republic as their supreme commander. As said before, the country is in a slide of sharpening of class struggle. Since the revolts of 2013/14, the class struggle in our country has entered a new cycle of increasingly bloody struggles, and reaction is increasing repression to the masses that are reacting with more bellicosity. The fascists are arming themselves, threatening and provoking. Rebellions are fermenting throughout the whole country.

Redspark: Thank you comrades. Red Salute!

C. Kistler

Also editor of Nouvelle Turquie.