On October 2, the Brazilian people have before them a challenge with enormous implications. On that day the population will decide a large part of its immediate future at the ballot box, electing in the executive branch those who will occupy the posts of president and vice-president of the federative republic and those who will be the governors and vice-governors of the 27 states (including the federal district of Brasilia).

No less important is the legislative aspect of the election, in which one-third of the 81 members of the federal senate and all 513 members of the chamber of deputies will be renewed. The entire composition of the State Legislative Assemblies and the Legislative Chamber of the Federal District will also be modified.

Far away in time and space, another October 2, but in 1869, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was born in the coastal city of Porbandar, in the state of Gujarat, who would lead the non-violent movement that would allow the emancipation of India from the British Empire.

In tribute to the struggle of what is considered the “father of the Indian nation”, the United Nations has instituted this day as the International Day of Non-Violence.

By now, readers may wonder whether it is possible to compare the figure of the Mahatma (Great Soul or Great Soul in Sanskrit) with that of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the current progressive candidate for the presidency of Brazil.

Comparisons are always odious, according to popular wisdom. Especially those that attempt to connect such different historical times and cultures. However, it is possible to establish certain symbolic parallels between the two situations.

Parallel Lives

In his book “Parallel Lives”, Plutarch reviews the biographies of famous figures from the Greek and Roman world, comparing those characteristics in which he finds similarities. This work was a source of inspiration for Renaissance humanists, who sought individual models of virtue in Greco-Latin antiquity, before the millennium of medieval ecclesiastical obscurantism in the West.

It is therefore permissible for a humanist of this era to try to find some slight connection, temporally and spatially situated, between Gandhi and Lula, each in his own relevant historical context.

Gandhi, the son of a relatively well-to-do civil servant, emigrated from his native place early to study law in London. Although from a very different social background, coming from the very poor Northeast of Brazil, Lula also had to migrate, like millions of his fellow countrymen, to the industrial belt of São Paulo and acquired metalworking skills in an auto parts factory.

Both began to display a strong social sensitivity in the early years of their professional practice. Gandhi, who after a brief stay in his native country, settled in South Africa and, horrified by the discrimination suffered by the Indian community, began his collective struggle for equal rights there. Lula was an early leader in the struggle for workers’ rights in the metalworkers’ union.

Both Gandhi and Lula suffered the fierce repression of the established regime. While the Mahatma and his people suffered the violent severity of British imperialism against the decolonisation movement, the workers’ leader defied the fierce dictatorship installed in Brazil in 1964 by organising mass strikes, and both were imprisoned for their activities.

While on his return to India, Gandhi began his active militancy in the Congress Party, leading it from 1920 onwards, Lula moved into political action by joining the founding of the Workers’ Party in February 1980. In both cases in resistance, one to persistent British colonialism, the other to the Brazilian military dictatorship.

Both Lula and Gandhi advocated mass popular organisation as a response to the armed violence of oppressive regimes.

Despite the dissimilar ideologies with which they were imbued, equal rights, the narrowing of class and caste gaps, resolute action against racism, the assertion of national sovereignty and a strong sense of compassion for their fellow human beings were driving forces in their struggles.

While Lula and the PT would organise the massive Diretas Já! campaign in 1984, demanding direct popular vote in the next elections, Gandhi would push the Satyagraha with non-violent methods until achieving, three decades later, the national emancipation of India. In Brazil, the successful campaign for direct elections came in 1989, after 29 years of impediments to the will of the people.

After two electoral defeats, Luiz Inácio would become president in 2006, beating – in a curious historical parable – his current vice-presidential candidate, Geraldo Alckmin. Lula’s PT would rule Brazil for 10 years, achieving significant improvements in the lives of millions of people, with his constitutional successor, Dilma Rousseff, being ousted by a parliamentary coup in 2016.

Gandhi would fail in his pioneering intention of a united, peaceful, tolerant and multi-confessional India, seeing the spread of religious violence and the secession of Pakistan shortly before he was assassinated in 1948. Some partial failure would also be evident in the progressive process of the left-wing government in Brazil. The regression would return with the proscription of Lula and the rise to political power of the former army captain Bolsonaro, with whom the uniformed would once again take power, in a repetition of democracy under the tutelage of the military, the main power groups and the fundamentalist neo-Pentecostal current.

Possible Future Scenarios

While India continues to be governed by the fundamentalist and right-wing nationalism that will be ten years old in the next prime ministerial election in 2024, Brazil also arrives at this election exhibiting as head of state a retrograde and violent exponent, who aspires with his re-election to the reiteration of the cycle of enormous social regression.

In India, a powerful peasant uprising in 2020-2021, numerous women’s marches, a series of national strikes by the central labour cen and protests against the government’s mistreatment of Muslim believers, succeeded in giving voice to the clamour of broad sections of the people against the policies of the government and parliament. However, Modi’s party still seems to retain a strong support, perhaps due to the strongly discredited and lack of consistent leadership in the once invincible Congress Party.

In Brazil, the scene looks favourable for a change of course. According to the prediction of the main pollsters, Lula is ahead of his rival in voting intentions by around 10 points, and is very close to victory in the first round with more than half of the valid votes.

If this result is confirmed in the South American country, it would be a great relief for the millions of Brazilians plagued by hunger, unemployment, discrimination and growing violence.

In geopolitical terms, Lula’s victory will help Brazil regain its fundamental place in the heart of Latin America, strengthen the course towards regional integration, while reinforcing the essential position of the BRICS bloc as a pillar of the new scheme of multilateralism and multipolarity at the global level.

It is therefore to be hoped that Nonviolence can be celebrated this October 2 with this triumph and mark the continuity of a turning point that will help to leave behind the wave of conservative irrationalism that today sweeps the planet.

But beyond the conjuncture, in order for a New Humanism to assert itself on the vital horizon of the peoples, an important internal transformation within them will be necessary, which will place the overcoming of all forms of social and individual violence as the main paradigm of a new time.