This is a funny story, I think, because, well, there’s something here to annoy just about every “side” on the various great issues of our time.
Lula on Ukraine:
“Putin shouldn’t have invaded Ukraine. But it’s not just Putin who is guilty.
The US and EU are also guilty. What was the reason for the Ukraine invasion? NATO? Then the US and EU should have said: 'Ukraine won’t join NATO.' That would have solved the problem" pic.twitter.com/X2jmkzVu8Z
— Visegrád 24 (@visegrad24) November 1, 2022
Zelensky "is as responsible as Putin for the war", Brazil's incoming president, Lula, tells Time.
— Kristina Jovanovski (@kjovano) October 31, 2022
Let’s run through the people who might be annoyed.
We’ll start with the sensible middle ground European Progressives who dominate Irish and EU politics, culture, and media: They desperately wanted Lula to win over his opponent, Jair Bolsonaro, on the basis that Bolsonaro is one of those people. Far right. A lunatic.
He was part of the nightly litany of devils: God save us from Boris, Trump, Brexit, and Bolsonaro.
Lula, to these people, is the anti-Bolsonaro: He’s proof positive of their wildest, and most beloved dream – that a bearded left wing professor, and man of the left, armed with nothing but positive uplifting arguments, can defeat the hard-right populists and deliver a better world. He’s everything they wish Keir Starmer or Ivana Bacik could be.
Lula winning in Brazil is supposed to be one of those planet-saving election results that comes along every now and then, like when Obama, in 2008, declared that his election was the moment the rise of the oceans began to stop and the planet began to heal. Lula will save the Amazon, and so on.
But of course, Lula’s comments on Ukraine are a reminder to his cheering section in the western press that he isn’t, really, one of them, despite those wild dreams.
He’s got much more in common with outcasts like Mick Wallace and Clare Daly than he does with the people who write the foreign coverage at the Irish Times or set Climate Policy in Brussels. In worldview, he’s much closer to Putin himself, or President Xi of China, than he is to the west. Lula’s an old-style lefty: the kind who believes that the only true imperialism is western imperialism, and that a strong Russia is a necessary counterweight to the Americans, whatever the cost in Ukrainian lives. What matters Kherson or Kharkov, at the end of the day, when set against the sight of Putin striking a blow against the decadent and capitalist west?
That’s precisely, by the way, why these comments will get downplayed in other western outlets, or flat out ignored.
There’s one story in Brazil, and one only, as far as the western and Irish media are concerned: That the far-right guy lost, and that the left-wing guy who likes the planet won. Keep it simple, stupid: No need to complicate it by reminding your readers that this fellow isn’t sound on the Ukrainian question, which is as close as we come in 2022 to being a litmus test for decency.
But there are other groups who have to wrestle with contradictions here, too: What do you do if you’re a patriotic western dissenter in good standing who loves Bolsonaro, and Trump, and Brexit, and desperately wanted Lula to lose the election and Bolsonaro to win? That, as we all know, would have been one of the great lib-owning, salty tears moments since 2016. Many devoutly wished for it.
Many in that group, these days, are Putin sneaking regarders themselves, for very similar reasons to those on the left: They see NATO and the EU and the American “Empire” as sort of a bulwark for the stifling progressive global consensus, responsible for mandatory vaccines and teaching kids that they are transgender and implementing hate speech laws and all the rest of it. The enemy of my enemy is Putin, in other words.
Well now, if you’re such a person, one of your biggest allies on the global stage is Lula: A guy who not that long ago, nominated an actual bona-fide anti-free-speech authoritarian communist to be Vice President of Brazil.
About the only group, in truth, for which this result is a win-win is the tankie left: The Paul Murphys and Richard Boyd Barretts of the world. He’s one of their own, is Lula. In Brazil, at least, the revolution has finally come.
Anyway, Lula’s election is going to be fascinating in the context of the other big election, in six days: The US midterms. It is vanishingly unlikely that those elections will produce anything other than a big win for the Republicans, giving them control of at least one house of Congress. And that might be worse news for Ukraine than Lula’s win is.
Republicans, these days, are a bit of a divided bunch: On the one hand, you’ve got people like me – old fashioned pro-western right wingers who like low taxes and limiting or banning abortions and supporting western civilisation against the Russians. On the other hand, though, you have the new breed of Republican: The kind who seems to want to burn western civilisation down and start again and sees in Putin an ally. If the Republicans get control of the purse strings, aid to Ukraine might well start to dry up, next year. In fact, that’s one of the reasons Putin’s hanging in there – it’s close to his last hope.
But that’s the odd new alliance we have, now, in the culture wars: On some issues, it’s not Trump and Bolsonaro. It’s Trump and Lula – hard left and hard right aligned against the centre ground consensus. That’s a great pity for the Ukrainians, who increasingly find themselves as much at the mercy of the west’s endless culture war as they are at the mercy of the Russians.