Marcelo Arruda Marcelo Arruda. Photo: Marcelo Arruda

The assassination of Marcel Arruda, a Lula supporter and trade unionist, is the latest incident of political violence being waged against the left in Brazil, writes Orlando Hill

Richard Burgon (Labour MP for Leeds East) has submitted an early motion calling on the UK government “to raise concerns with the Brazilian government about…reports of violence and intimidation and to call for the coming elections to be free and fair.” This comes after the asasssination of Marcelo Arruda, a municipal guard, member of the executive committee of the local Public Servants Union (Sismufi) and treasurer of the Workers’ Party (PT) in Foz de Iguaçu, Paraná on 9 July. 

Mr Arruda was celebrating his 50th birthday with his comrades, friends and family. He had chosen Lula and PT as the theme for his party. The federal police Jorge José da Rocha Guaranho invaded the hall firing his gun while shouting “here is Bolsonaro!” Recorded on CCTV, the scenes of the crime were quickly shared on electronic screens, from prime time news to family groups on WhatsApp.

The executive committee of the Sismufi published a statement describing Mr Arruda as “a tireless fighter for the causes of municipal servants…always willing and brave in the struggles for workers’ rights.”

The early motion notes that this is not an isolated incident and that “President Jair Bolsonaro and his cabinet ministers, nearly half of whom are military generals, have made repeated threats against the integrity of this year’s upcoming elections” which have worsened as Lula’s lead in the opinion polls increases. 

President Bolsonaro was reminded at a press conference of remarks he made during his campaign four years ago when he threatened to machine gun all PT supporters in the northern state of Acre. Did he in any way feel responsible for inciting violence? 

His reply was that it was a “figure of speech” and questioned the reporters’ university qualifications.

Brazilian journalist Eugênio Bucci disagrees. Bolsonaro “is not directly responsible for the shootings in Foz do Iguaçu, but he is the biggest stimulator of the increasing tension which tends to lead to acts of physical aggression.”

Marcelo Arruda’s death adds to a long list of people killed for defending workers and the oppressed, Marielle Franco, Anderson Gomes, Bruno Pereira, and Dom Phillips. According to a recent research by the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro (Unirio), from 1 April to 30 June 2022 there have been 101 violent cases against political leaders of which 24 were killings. 

In the most recent polls, Lula leads with 45 percent against Bolsonaro’s 34 percent. Despite the climate of fear and insecurity, activists and campaigners are determined to remain in the streets. Lula has asked his supporters not to respond to provocation and to avoid confrontations. 

How can violence and hate crimes be eradicated?

According to Pedro del Castro, a PT activist for over 23 years, there is no simple answer. “We have to resist and confront. First, we have to defeat Bolsonaro and then we have to defeat Bolsonarism because violence, no matter how much Lula wins, will persist. So, those are the two enemies.”

We can show our solidarity by sharing Burgon’s early day motion, and getting our MPs to sign and support the motion. If they have already signed it, thank them for doing so. We can also get our branch unions to approve a similar motion. You can read the full motion and check to see if your MP has already signed it here.

Counterfire has also sent a message of condolence and solidarity to Sismufi. You, your trade union branch or organisation can send solidarity messages to [email protected], feel free to replicate and amend our message, printed below.

In English:

Comrades, sisters and brothers,

We would like to send our deepest condolences to Marcelo’s wife and children, to his family, friends and comrades.  

Although we never had the chance to meet Marcelo,and that hundreds of kilometres separate us, we are sure that Marcelo’s struggle was our struggle. 

We are a socialist organisation who believes in building the biggest possible movements against austerity, war and racism. We believe that change happens when working people get organised and fight for it. Politics is not only or mainly about what happens in parliament.

We are sure Marcelo would agree with us for he was in the movement and that is why he was tragically taken from us. 

In Brazil you have Bolsonaro. In Britain we have the Tories (Conservatives). They both represent the same neoliberal economic policies,i.e, austerity, cuts to public services and low wages. They want the rich to get richer while the working class gets poorer. 

In Britain railway workers, health workers, teachers and civil servants are organising and balloting for strikes for better wages after years of pay cuts. Railways workers have already gone on strike.

In Brazil, you are close to defeating Bolsonaro and electing Lula. We stand in solidarity. We will do what we can in Britain to help achieve Marcelo’s dream. But that is the first step. Bolsonarism with its neoliberal policies will still need to be defeated. You can be sure that we will be by your side to the final victory. 

Marcelo Arruda presente. Solidarity. 

In Portuguese:

Companheiros, irmãs e irmãos,

Gostaríamos de enviar as nossas mais profundas condolências à esposa e filhos, familiares, companheiros e amigos do Marcelo Arruda. 

Embora não tenhamos tido a oportunidade de conhecer Marcelo, e que centenas de quilômetros nos separam, temos certeza de que a luta de Marcelo foi e continua sendo a nossa luta.

Somos uma organização socialista que acredita na construção de movimentos do povo contra a austeridade, a guerra e o racismo. Acreditamos que mudanças acontecem quando os trabalhadores se organizam e lutam. A política não é apenas, nem principalmente, sobre o que acontece no parlamento ou no congresso. 

Temos certeza de que Marcelo concordaria. Justamente por isso ele foi tragicamente afastado de nós.

No Brasil vocês têm Bolsonaro. Na Grã-Bretanha temos os Tories (Conservadores). Ambos representam as mesmas políticas econômicas neoliberais, ou seja, austeridade, cortes nos serviços públicos e baixos salários. Eles querem que os ricos fiquem mais ricos enquanto a classe trabalhadora empobrece.

Na Grã-Bretanha, ferroviários, profissionais de saúde, professores e funcionários públicos estão organizando e votando em favor de greves por melhores salários após anos de cortes salariais. Os ferroviários já entraram em greve.

No Brasil, vocês estão perto de derrotar Bolsonaro e eleger Lula. Estamos solidários. Faremos o que pudermos na Grã-Bretanha para ajudar a realizar o sonho de Marcelo. Mas esse é o primeiro passo. O bolsonarismo com suas políticas neoliberais ainda precisará ser derrotado. Pode ter certeza que estaremos ao seu lado até a vitória final.

Solidariedade. Marcelo Arruda presente.

Before you go

If you liked this article, please consider getting involved. Counterfire is a revolutionary socialist organisation working to build the movements of resistance and socialist ideas. Please join us and help make change happen.

Orlando Hill

Orlando was born in Brazil and was involved in the successful struggle for democracy in the late 1970s and 80s in that country. He teaches A level Economics. He is a member of the NEU, Counterfire and Stop the War.

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