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With Lula in the lead, Brazilians can't wait for the first major socialist party in the country's history

On October 6, Brazil will vote for a new president. Leading in the polls is Luiz Inácio da Silva, known far and wide as “Lula” — the charismatic presidential candidate of the Workers Party (PT). In government at the municipal and state level, the Workers Party has instituted a new kind of participatory democracy that is providing a model for the left around the world.

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rabble interviewed João Pedro Stedile, the national leader of Brazil’s Sem Terra Movement (Landless Workers Movement), by e-mail in the week before the election.

rabble: We know that Lula is leading in the polls. In 1988 voters were intimidated into not voting for Lula or the Workers Party (PT). Is that happening now? And if so, why isn’t it working?

João Pedro Stedile: After eight years of disastrous neo-liberal policy [under President Fernando Henrique Cardoso’s current government], the Brazilian people are willing to vote for the opposition. The government’s candidate only has fifteen per cent in the polls. There is a general climate to vote for the opposition. And this ensures the right won’t be able to carry off a new electoral terrorism against Lula. We are all confident that he is in fact going to win the election.

rabble: If Lula wins what will be the impact in Latin America and the rest of the world?

Stedile: If Lula wins this would represent a change in the relationship of political forces throughout the continent. The United States knows that it would not then have a servile government — that this government will negotiate, but it won’t bow down. And above all, our victory would inspire a resurgence of the mass movement in Brazil and in other countries of Latin America. That’s what we expect or hope will happen.

rabble: We know that Lula is making alliances with centre-right candidates. Do you think this will diminish the importance of his election should he win?

Stedile: The PT adopted an electoral tactic that is not left. It is a centre tactic. It had its reasons. But I believe that Lula’s victory, more than the alliances, will represent a symbol for de-politicized people who will find they have come into their own and will rise up. Hence, a victory for Lula could stimulate a new rise of the mass movement in Brazil that has been in retreat for more than ten years. If this happens we will have a government that promotes social change. If the people stay apathetic and do not mobilize, we will have a failed government because Lula won’t have sufficient forces to make any change. It would be a disaster, just as were other reformist governments in Latin America.

Hence the success of a future Lula government depends now much more on people organizing, than on political will or party alliances made during the campaign.

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Translation by Phil Stuart Courneyeur

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