From Consortium News
He's back. With a bang.
Only two days after his release from a federal prison in Curitiba, southern Brazil, following a narrow 6×5 decision by the Supreme Court, former President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva delivered a fiery, 45-minute-long speech in front of the Metal Workers Union in Sao Bernardo, outside of Sao Paulo, and drawing on his unparalleled political capital, called all Brazilians to stage nothing short of a social revolution.
When my colleagues Mauro Lopes, Paulo Leite and I interviewed Lula at the federal prison, it was his Day 502 in a cell. By August, it was impossible to predict that release would happen on Day 580, in early November.
His first speech to the nation after the prison saga -- which is far from over -- could never be solemn; in fact he promised a detailed address for the near future. What he did, in his trademark conversationalist style, was to immediately go on the offensive, taking down a long list of every possible enemy in the book: those who have mired Brazil into an "anti-people agenda." In terms of a fully improvised, passionate political address, this is already anthology material.
Lula detailed the current "terrible conditions" for Brazilian workers. He ripped to pieces the economic program basically a monster sell-out of Finance Minister Paulo Guedes, a Chicago boy and Pinochetist who's applying the same failed hardcore neoliberal prescriptions now being denounced and scorned every day in the streets of Chile.
He detailed how the Brazilian right wing openly bet on neo-fascism, which is the form that neoliberalism recently took in Brazil. He blasted mainstream media, in the form of the so far all-powerful, ultra-reactionary Globo empire. In a stance of semiotic genius, Lula pointed to Globo's helicopter hovering over the masses gathered for the speech, implying the organization is too cowardly to get close to him on ground level.
And, significantly, he got right into the heart of the Bolsonaro question: the militias. It's no secret to informed Brazilians that the Bolsonaro clan, with its origins in the Veneto, is behaving as a sort of cheap, crude, eschatological carbon copy of the Sopranos, running a system heavy on militias and supported by the Brazilian military. Lula described the president of one of the top nations in the Global South as no less than a militia leader. That will stick all around the world.
So much for "Lula peace and love," which used to be one of his cherished mottos. No more conciliation. Bolsonaro now has to face real, fierce, solid opposition, and cannot run away from public debate any more.
Lula's prison journey has been an extraordinary liberating experience turning a previously wounded statesman into a fearless warrior mixing the Tao with Steppenwolf (as sketched in Herman Hesse's book). He's free like he's never been before and he said so, explicitly. The question is how he will be able to muster the organizational work, the method and have enough time to change the dire conditions for democratic opposition in Brazil. The whole Global South is watching.
At least now the die is cast and crystal clear: It's social democracy against neo-fascism. Socially inclusive programs, civil society involved in setting public policy, the fight for equality versus autocracy, state institutions linked to militias, racism and hate against all minorities. Bernie Sanders and Jeremy Corbyn, to their credit, have offered Lula their unconditional support. In contrast, Steve Bannon is losing sleep, qualifying Lula as "the poster boy of the globalist Left" across the world.
This all goes way beyond Left Populism as Slavoj Zizek and Chantal Mouffe, among others, have been trying to conceptualize it. Lula, assuming he remains free, is now ready to be the supreme catalyst of an integrated, progressive, "pro-people" New Global Left.
Now for the really nasty bits.
I saw Lula's speech deep into the night in snow stormed Nur-Sultan, Kazakhstan's capital, in the heart of the steppes, a land trespassed against by the greatest nomad empires in history. The temptation was to picture Lula as a fearless snow leopard roaming the devastated steppes of urban wastelands.