FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Lula is Free: Can Socialism Be Restored?

Just before 5 p.m. on Friday the 8th of November, Brazil’s former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva walked out of his prison in Curitiba, Brazil. Lula went to prison in April last year on a 12-year sentence. Five-hundred and eighty days of prison are now over, as the Federal Supreme Court ruled that inmates who have not yet exhausted their appeals should not be held in prison.

In addition to Lula, about 5,000 Brazilians—mostly poor and black—can be released based on the Supreme Court’s decision. Many of them have not been previously afforded the presumption of innocence, and large numbers of them have been in prison without proper legal defense.

The Supreme Court verdict was not directed at Lula, but at the undemocratic nature of the judicial system that had held people in prison before they had exhausted their appeals. Lula’s situation mirrored that of these thousands of other prisoners. It was as part of a judicial criticism of the unjust system that Lula was able to be free.

But as Lula walked out of his cell and into the Free Lula encampment across the road from the prison, he signaled the importance of the Free Lula (Lula Livre) campaign of international solidarity that went from Curitiba across Latin America, and indeed across the world. From the Free Lula encampment across from his prison, comrades would hold vigils and wish him thrice a day greetings of “good morning,” “good afternoon,” and “good evening.” On November 8, Lula was able to be greeted not by shouts of solidarity, but in person.

The solidarity campaign drew in jurists and intellectuals, politicians and celebrities, a range of people who felt that the imprisonment of Lula was unjust. What had become very clear was that the legal mechanisms had become a political instrument of the elite to attack the left politicians and left movements. The collaboration between the government prosecutor and Judge Sérgio Moro indicates that there was a weaponization of the law—what is known as lawfare—to prevent the Workers’ Party from winning elections, and to make sure that the Brazilian elites hold power. What “Free Lula” meant was not only the freedom of Lula, but also an end to lawfare as an instrument against the people.

Lula walked out of his cell, but the case against him—a case with little evidence—remains. Popular pressure will continue to completely annul this persecution of Lula. There is little doubt the Free Lula campaign will continue to mobilize support so that the courts declare that Lula is innocent and allow him his full political rights. The Operation Lava Jato (Operation Car Wash) was not just used to put Lula in prison, but to make sure that he—who is supremely popular in Brazil—cannot run for office again.

Lula’s popularity comes both from the positive aspects of his presidency (when his government abolished poverty and expanded educational opportunities) and from his leadership against the neoliberal and neofascist governments of Michel Temer and Jair Bolsonaro. Out of prison, Lula’s voice will once more sharply turn on the hideous politics of Bolsonaro.

Lula is expected to make a statement to the nation from the office of a trade union in São Paulo. This is where he belongs, inside a workers’ office, among the people. Lula emerged as a central figure of the Brazilian people during the historic strikes of 1978 and 1979, which played a key role in ending the military dictatorship in Brazil. It is from the workers’ land that he will make his stand. Over the course of the Free Lula struggle, it became clear that Lula was bigger than his political party—the Workers’ Party (PT)—and even bigger than Brazil’s left. He represents the Brazilian people—the people who are now struggling to maintain their homes in the favelas and in the encampments and in the settlements, struggling to hold onto the Amazon, struggling to study and heal, eat, and smile.

It must be chilling for Bolsonaro to watch the television and see Lula walk   confidently out of his prison and into the political domain. Elections have brought the left back to power in Argentina, with the left retaining power in Bolivia. Even in Colombia, the left has made significant gains. Mass protests in Chile and Ecuador suggest the tide has turned in those two countries. Bolsonaro must know that the turn to the left in Brazil is imminent. The left now has its champion out on the streets.

This article was produced by Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

Ana Paula Vargas works at the Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. Vijay Prashad is an Indian historian, editor and journalist. He is a writing fellow and chief correspondent at Globetrotter, a project of the Independent Media Institute. He is the chief editor of LeftWord Books and the director of Tricontinental: Institute for Social Research. He has written more than twenty books, including The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World (The New Press, 2007), The Poorer Nations: A Possible History of the Global South (Verso, 2013), The Death of the Nation and the Future of the Arab Revolution (University of California Press, 2016) and Red Star Over the Third World (LeftWord, 2017). He writes regularly for Frontline, the Hindu, Newsclick, AlterNet and BirGün.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
January 24, 2020
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
A Letter From Iowa
Jim Kavanagh
Aftermath: The Iran War After the Soleimani Assassination
Jeffrey St. Clair
The Camp by the Lake
Chuck Churchill
The Long History of Elite Rule: What Will It Take To End It?
Robert Hunziker
A Climate Time Bomb With Trump’s Name Inscribed
Andrew Levine
Trump: The King
Jess Franklin
Globalizing the War on Indigenous People: Bolsonaro and Modi
James Graham
From Paris, With Tear Gas…
Rob Urie
Why the Primaries Matter
Dan Bacher
Will the Extinction of Delta Smelt Be Governor Gavin Newsom’s Environmental Legacy?
Ramzy Baroud
In the Name of “Israel’s Security”: Retreating US Gives Israel Billions More in Military Funding
Vijay Prashad
What the Right Wing in Latin America Means by Democracy Is Violence
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Biden’s Shameful Foreign Policy Record Extends Well Beyond Iraq
Louis Proyect
Isabel dos Santos and Africa’s Lumpen-Bourgeoisie
Nick Pemberton
AK-46: The Case Against Amy Klobuchar
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Promtheus’ Fire: Climate Change in the Time of Willful Ignorance
Linn Washington Jr.
Waiting for Justice in New Jersey
Ralph Nader
Pelosi’s Choice: Enough for Trump’s Impeachment but not going All Out for Removal
Mike Garrity – Jason Christensen
Don’t Kill 72 Grizzly Bears So Cattle Can Graze on Public Lands
Joseph Natoli
Who’s Speaking?
Kavaljit Singh
The US-China Trade Deal is Mostly Symbolic
Cesar Chelala
The Coronavirus Serious Public Health Threat in China
Nino Pagliccia
Venezuela Must Remain Vigilant and on Guard Against US Hybrid Warfare
Robert Fantina
Impeachment as a Distraction
Courtney Bourgoin
What We Lose When We Lose Wildlife
Mark Ashwill
Why Constructive Criticism of the US is Not Anti-American
Daniel Warner
Charlie Chaplin and Truly Modern Times
Manuel Perez-Rocha
How NAFTA 2.0 Boosts Fossil Fuel Polluters, Particularly in Mexico
Dean Baker
What the Minimum Wage Would Be If It Kept Pace With Productivity
Mel Gurtov
India’s Failed Democracy
Thomas Knapp
US v. Sineneng-Smith: Does Immigration Law Trump Free Speech?
Winslow Myers
Turning Point: The new documentary “Coup 53”
Jeff Mackler
U.S. vs. Iran: Which Side are You On?
Sam Pizzigati
Braggadocio in the White House, Carcinogens in Our Neighborhoods
Christopher Brauchli
The Company Trump Keeps
Julian Vigo
Why Student Debt is a Human Rights Issue
Ramzy Baroud
These Chains Will Be Broken
Chris Wright
A Modest Proposal for Socialist Revolution
Thomas Barker
The Slow Death of European Social Democracy: How Corbynism Bucked the Trend
Nicky Reid
It’s Time to Bring the War Home Again
Michelle Valadez
Amy Klobuchar isn’t Green
David Swanson
CNN Poll: Sanders Is The Most Electable
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Our Dire Need for “Creative Extremists”—MLK’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”
Jill Richardson
‘Little Women’ and the American Attitude Toward Poverty
David Yearsley
Watching Star Wars in Berlin
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail