Opinion from a Libertarian ViewPoint

Values and Character v. Political Identity: Some Personal Reflections

Posted by M. C. on October 3, 2022

The Brazilian firefighter, union leader, evangelical and ex-Congressman Cabo Daciolo was once embraced by the left, but is now vilified by them as a “hater” of LGBTs. Many vital lessons are here.

Former firefighter, union leader and Brazilian presidential candidate Cabo Daciolo gestures during the presidential debate ahead of the October 7, 2018 general election, on September 26, 2018. This year Daciolo is a candidate for the Brazllian Senate for the Democratic Labor Party (PDT) (Photo by NELSON ALMEIDA/AFP via Getty Images)

I published a short essay this week in Portuguese about an evangelical pastor, firefighter, union leader, and former Congressman in Brazil named Cabo Daciolo. The reaction to it in Brazil made me conclude it would be quite worthwhile to translate it into English and publish it here, as the lessons I believe it conveys — about the growing problems faced by left-wing political movements, how politics is often used as a substitute for more meaningful connections to community and to one another, and how we judge one another as human beings — are universal or, at the very least, just as applicable to the context of American and Western politics as they are to Brazilian politics. First, some context is necessary for non-Brazilian readers to understand the essay:

Cabo Daciolo became a nationally famous figure in Brazil in 2011 when, at the age of 35, he led a strike by the firefighters union of Rio de Janeiro. The striking workers demanded better pay, benefits and other worker protections (at the time, the minimum salary was the equivalent of US$ 190/month; the union was demanding an increase to US$ 400/month). He was one of the leaders of his union and attracted a great deal of media attention because he is telegenic, handsome, quite charismatic, and a naturally skilled orator who cut an impressive figure both on the street and in interviews. The strike ended up soliciting a great deal of public sympathy in support of firefighters. He spent nine days in jail for having led a union occupation of the Rio State Legislature.

Daciolo, 2011, leading a firefighters’ strike (Photo: Guto Maia/Agência Estado)

All of this, for obvious reasons, catapulted Daciolo into overnight political stardom: someone who denounced with great force and charisma the exploitation of workers by the corporate and oligarchical elite, not as an academic theorist like so many leftist leaders, but someone who lived that exploitation. The Brazilian left was delirious with glee over the potential to recruit as a political leader not yet another of their endless horde of highly educated, effete college professors who speak eloquently about “workers” as an abstraction, but an actual worker who naturally exudes a working-class posture and speech because that is what he is. Daciolo is not someone play-acting as a defender of the “working class” but someone whose entire life was and is shaped by a working-class life. And he often expressed his defense of workers’ rights in religious terms, citing with great conviction the Gospels and other religious principles to justify the need to provide workers with a minimally decent standard of living. Imagining a more valuable gift to the left than he was virtually impossible.

Daciolo, for obvious reasons, was recruited by many political parties to run for office. He ended up joining PSOL, a left-wing party that was founded in 2004 by disgruntled members of Lula’s Workers Party (PT) who complained that PT had become both corrupt and neoliberal: doing business with the very establishment forces it claimed to oppose. PSOL was, in essence, a left-wing party designed to oppose the hegemony of PT and Lula from the working-class left (as it happens, today is Election Day in Brazil, and most polls show Lula with a large lead to regain the presidency from Bolsonaro after being term-limited out of office in 2010; during the 2018 campaign, Lula was barred from running due to his 2017 imprisonment on corruption charges as he was preparing to run against Bolsonaro, but those convictions were reversed in 2020 when our reporting showed that Lula’s conviction was the by-product of judicial and prosecutorial corruption, enabling Lula to seek the presidency this year).

In 2014, Daciolo — still riding high on his national fame from having led the firefighter strike — ran for a seat in the national Congress on the PSOL line and was easily elected. But soon after his election, serious tensions began to arise between him and the leftist party he had joined, largely over social issues. Daciolo, like millions of workers throughout Brazil, is deeply religious. Though Brazil is still the country with the world’s largest Catholic population, Daciolo is entrenched in the rapidly growing evangelical sector. He is so devoted to his religious practice that he became an evangelical pastor. And that led him to embrace a wide range of views that were not only in conflict with the left-wing party he had joined but made him deeply anathema to it.

At the time when social justice issues began to assume much greater importance among the Brazilian left at the expense of working-class politics (following in the footsteps of the American left), Daciolo remained steadfastly opposed to same-sex marriage and the legalization of abortion. The animus toward Daciolo from the left over those heresies was intensified when Daciolo began supporting police officers in controversies where much of the left was denouncing the police as racist and genocidal; one case in particular, which resulted in the torture and death of a resident of one of Rio’s favelas, split Daciolo and the left with great hostility. But the final straw occurred in 2015, just one year after he was elected with PSOL, when the party voted overwhelmingly to expel him due to Daciolo’s support for a Constitutional amendment that would include in the Constitution the phrase that “all power emanates from God.”

See the rest here

Be seeing you

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: