It has been 40 years since former trade-union leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva founded the Workers’ Party, the most successful Brazilian political group in recent democratic history. It is hard to overstate the importance of the party to Brazilian politics—of the country’s eight democratic presidential elections since the end of the military dictatorship, the Workers’ Party won half of them, and was the runner-up in all the rest. It ruled Latin America’s biggest country during its most prosperous decade—but it also oversaw failed economic policies that helped push Brazil into its worst recession on record.
For many, the Workers’ Party—and Lula, its leading figure—is the only major political force in the country which has looked to the country’s poorest people, giving scale to social policies and lifting millions out of poverty. For many more, it is the representation of some of the country’s worst vices, with the party accused of using its progressive banners as a cover for pillaging the Brazilian state, a view corroborated by the uncovering of a series of corruption scandals.