PSOL 7th Congress: polemics and a step forward in the fight against Bolsonaro

by Deborah Cavalcante*, published in

PSOL’s 7th Congress held on 26 and 27 September 2021 saw 402 delegates gather and meet online. A total of 51,000 people voted at PSOL State and National Congresses, which was double the previous congress. This means that part of the best of Brazilian activism voted on the theses debated at Congress.

There are two large blocs within the party. On one side, there is the ‘PSOL de Todas as Lutas’ (PSOL of All Struggles) bloc, formed by two camps: ‘PSOL Semente’ (PSOL Seed), formed by Resistência [1], Insurgência [2], Subverta [3], Maloka Socialista [4], Viva o PSOL [5], Carmen Portinho [6], and independent militants [7]; and the ‘PSOL Popular’, formed by Primavera Socialista, [8] the largest current that nominated new PSOL President Juliano Medeiros, and Revolução Solidária [9], the current around Guilherme Boulos. The PSOL de Todas as Lutas bloc had 228 delegates, 61 from PSOL Semente and 167 from PSOL Popular.

On the other side, there is the self-styled “left opposition” bloc, which brought together the Movimento Esquerda Socialista (MES) [10] of Luciana Genro, the Comuna [11] group led by João Machado, Ação Popular Socialista (APS) [12], Fortalecer o PSOL [13], Corrente Socialista dos Trabalhadores (CST) [14], Luta Socialista (LS) [15], as well as local currents. Altogether this bloc had 173 delegates. The Liberdade, Socialismo e Revolução (LSR) [16] group, which remained independent of these two blocs, had a single delegate and did not present its own slate or candidate for the national leadership.

The two blocs formed around three particular moments: 1) In 2016, during the massive right-wing mobilizations in favor of the institutional coup against the Workers’ Party (PT), when the PSOL majority stood against the coup and denounced Operation ‘Lava Jato’ (Car Wash) (as opposed to the minority); 2) In 2018, when the majority invested in its relationship with two social movements of weight, the Homeless Workers’ Movement (MTST) and the Articulation of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (APIB), and as part of a process of reorganizing the left ran the PSOL presidential slate of MTST leader Guilherme Boulos and APIB leader Sonia Guajajara. The Boulos / Guajajara campaign saw the PSOL accumulate forces for intervening in the “Ele Não” (Not Him) demonstrations, double the size of its parliamentary caucus, and support the “vira-voto” (turn the vote) movement in the second round that called for a vote for PT against Bolsonaro; 3) After Bolsonaro’s victory, the assassination of Marielle Franco, and the threats of imprisonment and even death made to social movement leaders such as the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) leader João Stédile and Guilherme Boulos, we were in favor of the United Front. This was expressed in two large unified impeachment petitions (one from left parties and one based on unity in action), in the Education Tsunami mobilizations (the first big demonstration against the government), in support for the first protest called by the Black Coalition (CND) after the pandemic began, and then the formation the National ‘Fora Bolsonaro’ (Bolsonaro Out) Campaign which called the big demonstrations that the left built for Fora Bolsonaro. There were also the huge solidarity campaigns against hunger organized during the pandemic through the MTST’s Solidarity Kitchens and the “Tem Gente com Fome” (There are Hungry people) campaign that saw over 20 tons of food distributed and which Resistência was part of.

A new majority was formed at this Congress by PSOL de Todas as Lutas. This majority is a plural one and will have great responsibilities. The National Thesis of PSOL Semente [17] played a decisive role. With 61 delegates (15% of the total), we presented an internationalist vision, one consistent with Brazilian reality, and this decisively influenced the victories achieved at Congress.

The principle political policy of Congress is unambiguous and immediate: the reaffirmation that the PSOL will not wait for the 2022 elections to rid Brazil of Bolsonaro. We will fight so that Bolsonaro does not make it politically alive to the 2022 elections. Defeating him through the strength of the streets, to which we currently devote our energies, would open the door to a qualitative change in the relation of forces.

But the PSOL is not enough. It is a minor party within the working class (even if it is on the rise). It has no way of operating within the proletarian struggles of Brazil on its own. The entrance of the Homeless Workers’ Movement (MTST) into the PSOL is an enormous victory because it is one of the most important social movements in Brazil in terms of the size of its base, its capacity to organize a precarized working mass, and the radical nature of its action. In the week before the PSOL Congress, the MTST occupied the São Paulo stock exchange to denounce hunger and inflation.

Let’s now move to the polemics that took place at Congress and their results.

First polemic: Bolsonaro has not melted away

There was a polemic at Congress concerning Bolsonaro’s strength and his capacity for action and reaction. The opposition bloc held diverse views which ranged from seeing Bolsonaro as out of the game and leading a government that has already melted away, to the position that the far-right and Bolsonarism will definitely be defeated in the second round of the 2022 elections, that the PSOL will only play a minor role in the government’s “already announced” defeat, and that therefore the party should preference its self-construction.

The PSOL Semente defended another view that, through the unity of the PSOL de Todas as Lutas bloc, was victorious. The centrality of Fora Bolsonaro and the fight in the streets for impeachment was approved with 57% of the votes (against 42% of the minority).

We do not feel that Bolsonaro has already melted away, or that there is a predetermined natural path for his political and electoral defeat. Bolsonaro brought hundreds of thousands of people into the streets in his pro-government and ‘golpista’ (pro-coup) demonstrations on 7 September. Even if only limited to his most loyal base, these demonstrations were larger than those of the opposition. These demonstrations were not just for survival, but for making it to the 2022 elections in a competitive state, for if Bolsonaro cannot win the elections, he intends to accumulate forces and launch a ‘golpista’ adventure like the invasion of the Capitol in the United States.

Bolsonaro has already let it be known that he will not peacefully accept an electoral defeat, and is using the same script as Trump’s fraudulent discourse. The conditions for a classic coup do not exist at this moment, as neither the Armed Forces nor a majority of the Military Police has signaled support for a coup or a provocation like the occupation of the Federal Supreme Court (STF). However, we do not rule out the scenario that Bolsonaro will attempt a coup further down the line – before, during, or after the elections – should he be able to bring together the conditions to do so. This possibility in itself represents a very serious element in the current situation.

Second polemic: United Front and unity of action

Resistência and PSOL Semente remained firm in their defense of the United Front as the primary tactic for confronting the far-right, because without unity it is not possible to overthrow the government. We are committed to building the National ‘Fora Bolsonaro’ Campaign with the trade union centrals, the popular movements, and the youth, and that brings together the PSOL, the Workers’ Party (PT), the Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB), the United Socialist Workers’ Party (PSTU), and the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB). All the left’s big national demonstrations for impeachment were called and became mass events on this basis. Guilherme Boulos was unquestionably one of the main spokespersons that called for these mobilizations.

The right-wing opposition to the government has already organized a national day of demonstrations, and these were the smallest of all. They have been squeezed and are suffering from the consequences of previously adopting a ‘golpista’ posture which allowed for Bolsonaro’s election. Nevertheless, we defend initiatives for unity in action with them for expanding the fight for impeachment.

The PSOL’s opposition bloc is against this vision of the United Front, and has built its own “Povo na Rua” (People in the Street) front with the PSOL minority, Popular Unity (UP), and the support of the PCB, on the basis of being outside the Fora Bolsonaro campaign to influence unity of action with the bourgeoisie for impeachment.

The PSOL Congress approved the prioritization of the Fora Bolsonaro campaign and the People without Fear Front (FPSM) within it. Within the United Front, we fight against ‘quietismo’ (passivity) and divisionism. We will fight to broaden the mobilizations based on unity in action. This is the fundamental response to the stage of retreat at all levels: economic, social, and political, which was worsened by the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Third polemic: the ‘frente de esquerda’ (left front) in 2022

Should Bolsonaro remain a vector of political polarization (the most likely scenario today), Resistência argues that the PSOL should form a left front, without the bourgeoisie, in which the PSOL has its own profile and articulates its role as the wing of the radical left. This is because a situation in which the PSOL is not an active component of Bolsonaro’s defeat (in the streets or even in electoral terms) would be a complete disaster. Elections are a tactic (not just any tactic, but a tactic), and the existence of a far-right with mass weight cannot go unpunished by the PSOL.

In this regard, Congress (with 56% of the vote) authorized its leadership to begin formal discussions with others on the left regarding a possible national electoral front in 2022. The final decision on PSOL’s electoral tactics will be made in April next year at the Electoral Conference. There is still a long way to go.

Such discussion must be based on program and cannot be a one-way street. The Congress adopted the programmatic starting points of reversing of post-2016 coup measures and counter-reforms, advocating a change in the economic model, restoring labor and social security rights, protecting public companies and the civil service, the expansion of investment in social areas, the resumption of environmental protection policies, the end of deforestation, and the demarcation of indigenous lands.

Therefore, the PSOL will not launch a presidential pre-candidate. If the minority continues to move forward with pre-candidate activities, it will not be with the endorsement of Congress.

The minority claims that it is possible to support Lula and the PT in a second round. Once again, the minority neglects the role that Bolsonaro can play. Even though the government’s disapproval has achieved a social majority, this majority has not yet been translated into a popular rebellion strong enough to force impeachment through. Everything indicates that he will go to the elections as the strongest name on the right, as part of a government that still unifies portions of capital, middle class owners, fundamentalist churches, and military apparatuses, and has the support of a precarious mass base.

This is of course possible, but we believe that the political space for presenting a campaign outside of the campaign that the broad masses understand to be left-wing, which will most likely take the form of a campaign-movement, with broad mobilization of the activism that wants to overthrow Bolsonaro, would put the PSOL on a collision course with the best of Brazilian society. We will have several candidates across the country that highlight PSOL’s profile, and we will need a public movement of pressure and demands on Lula, the PT, and the entire left, around the composition and program of the Front.

The unity of an electoral front does not merely signify ‘adesismo’ (tail ending). The unity we propose comes with a program that denounces the deaths of over 600,000 people and presents anti-capitalist measures to the more than 14 million unemployed and 15 million starving people. This is a left front with anti-capitalist measures, one in which the PSOL raises its own profile within it. Nor does it mean taking part in forming governments. If Lula is elected and, if he invites the PSOL to participate in his government, it is the National Directorate that will decide on the matter. In this case, there is no doubt regarding the position of Resistência or PSOL Semente: we do not participate in governments with the bourgeoisie.

Fourth polemic: defense of class independence

The strength of PSOL Semente, with support from PSOL Popular, saw the congress approve two decisive measures to preserve its class nature. The first dealt with not participating in governments of class conciliation:

“To reaffirm the position of not participating in and not orienting towards participation in governments of right-wing parties or those that promote attacks on working men and women and reproduce the liberal/conservative agenda and/or aspects of authoritarianism” (excerpt from the approved resolution).

Not everyone agreed with this resolution, because the minority presented a resolution that dealt exclusively with an “eventual Lula government” that as everyone knows, has not been launched and has not announced its vice-president or its arc of alliances, much less taken office. In this sense, the minority chose to demarcate itself from a government that has not yet taken office, instead of approving a resolution based on political criteria that could even support the debate in municipalities where the PSOL is called to participate in city halls with a right-wing or even far-right presence.

Furthermore, the PSOL approved a resolution against receiving private campaign funding from bankers, contractors, agribusiness, mining companies, and multinationals. This was a unanimous resolution and a great step forward for the PSOL.

There are unacceptable methods in the debate

We do not tolerate the methods of blackmail, intimidation, falsification of positions, or the mocking of cadres and militants. We repudiate these methods as practiced by the Socialist Left Movement (MES) – which no longer seems to know the difference between revolutionaries and class enemies in the struggle of ideas.

The information that there are secret negotiations between the PSOL majority, including Resistência, and Lula and the PT, to draw up positions in an eventual government, is serious political slander. Straw person arguments and lies in political debate are harmful. We hope that after the Congress these comrades bring this to an end.


The PSOL continues to be a party of the working class. Wherever there are attacks on our class, the PSOL flag must be planted in opposition. Standing firm in the face of pressure will be decisive and this is the role of the PSOL Semente camp.

The PSOL is a democratic party in which public factions coexist.  This does not diminish the PSOL. On the contrary, the radical left needs plurality and political flexibility, as indicated by the times in which we live.

Resistência, an organization with hundreds of militants active in the union, youth, feminist, black and LGBTQIA+ movements, has won a major victory. Its first experience in a PSOL Congress has seen it become the fourth largest political force with the election of 31 delegates (7.5%) and its assumption of the PSOL presidency in the southeastern state of Minas Gerais and over ten other cities.

The PSOL continues to be one of the world’s main anti-capitalist parties. It has just seen the consolidation of a new plural, majority, in which the PSOL Semente and Trotskyist currents have real influence.

The future of the Brazilian left and the role of the PSOL in its reorganization means being a useful political organization in the defeat of Bolsonaro. The 7th Congress of the PSOL took an important step in this direction.


[1] Resistencia [] (Resistance) includes intellectual Valério Arcary, and councilors Silvia Ferraro, Paula Nunes, Dafne Sena, Carolina Iara, Matheus Gomes, Talia Sobral, and Iza Lourença as members. It is the publisher of the Esquerda Online (Left Online) news portal.

[2] Insurgência [] (Insurgence) is the organization of Fernando Silva (known as “Tostão”, meaning penny or dime), Ana Cristina Carvalhaes, and state deputies Renato Roseno and Dani Monteiro. It is a section of the “Mandelista” United Secretariat of the Fourth International (USFI).

[3] Subverta [] is an “ecosocialist and libertarian collective” that includes federal deputy Talíria Petrone and state deputy Flávio Serafini as members. It is also part of the “Mandelista” USFI.

[4] Maloka Socialista (Socialist Maloka) is an organization in São Paulo and Minas Gerais which includes Erick Ovelha, co-councilor of the “Quilombo Periférico” collective mandate (a maloca is an ancestral long house used by the indigenous peoples of the Amazon).

[5] The Movimento Viva o PSOL (Long Live the PSOL Movement) is a local group in the northeastern state of Pernambuco and includes councilor Ivan Moraes.

[6] The Carmen Portinho Collective [] is a local group in Rio de Janeiro that is named after a pioneering feminist and engineer.

[7] This thesis was also defended by state deputies Mônica Francisco and Érika Malunguinho, and councilor Tarcísio Motta.

[8] Primavera Socialista [] (Socialist Spring) is PSOL’s largest current and nominated new PSOL President Juliano Medeiros.
[9] Revolução Solidária [] (Solidarity Revolution) is the current of Guilherme Boulos and the Homeless Workers’ Movement (MTST)).

[10] Movimento Esquerda Socialista (MES, Socialist Left Movement) split from the Corrente Socialista dos Trabalhadores (CST) in 1999 [see note 14 below]. It went on to become one of the founding organizations of the PSOL. Despite its ‘Morenista’ origins, the MES has held observer status with the ‘Mandelista’ USFI since 2011, and became a USFI sympathising section in 2018. [See:]

[11] The Comuna [] (Commune) group led by João Machado is, like Insurgência and Subverta, also linked to the “Mandelista” USFI.

[12] Ação Popular Socialista [] (APS) joined the PSOL in 2005 and defends the Popular Democratic Program (PDP) adopted by the PT in 1987.

[13] Fortalecer o PSOL [] is the result of the fusion of two groups in the early 2000s. The first was a split from the PT, the second a split from the MES [see 10 above].

[14] Corrente Socialista dos Trabalhadores [] (CST, Socialist Workers’ Current) traces its origins to the Convergência Socialista (Socialist Convergence) current that worked with the PT and was linked to Argentine Trotskyist Nahuel Moreno. The CST split from Convergência Socialista in 1992 in order to remain in the PT. The organization one of the founding members of the PSOL, and is the Brazilian section of International Workers’ Unity – Fourth International (UIT-QI).

[15] Luta Socialista [] (LS, Socialist Struggle) is a 2015 split from the CST [see note 14 above] and is primarily located mainly in the northern state of Pará. It also belongs to the UIT-QI.

[16] Liberdade, Socialismo e Revolução [] (LSR, Freedom, Socialism and Revolution) is the Brazilian section of International Socialist Alternative (ISA), which was formed in 2019 by a majority of the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) of Peter Taaffe.

[17] The complete thesis (in Portuguese) can be read at

This article is an English translation of “7º Congresso do PSOL: as polêmicas e um passo à frente na luta contra Bolsonaro”Esquerda Online (EOL), 28/09/2021.

*Lawyer from the city of São Paulo. Master’s Degree in Political Science from the University of Campinas (UNICAMP). Member of Resistência/PSOL national leadership.

Recent Articles