2000s >> 2002 >> no-1180-december-2002

World View – Brazil: no victory for the workers

The October 27 presidential election victory in Brazil of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, popularly called Lula, is a perfect example of how leftwing governments are no threat to capitalism. Lula’s so-called Workers’ Party emerged from the rank-and-file union movement but, according to 1992 Nobel Laureate in Economy, Gary Becker, “has moved toward the center and accepts many of the tenets of free-market liberalism” (“Long Live Free Markets,” Brazil magazine, Politics section, October 2002).

As long as society is divided into owners and non-owners of the means of producing life, different sectors of the capitalist class will support different types of governments, including rightwing ones, leftwing ones, centrist ones, or the more free-market models, depending upon their needs for more or less governmental intervention. Corruption among sections of their class, wishful thinking that a stronger state may guide the economy out of serious recession, friendlier taxation policies, or the needs for improved state subsidies, are just a few of many variables influencing the owning class to at times support leftwing brands of government.

The capitalist class are not able to sustain any form of government to operate their plundering ventures in the money trick that gives some those rations called wages and others those riches called profits, not even dictatorships, without the support of the wealth-producing working class. Besides producing socially necessary wealth, the working class operates the administration of the state, carries its guns, and provides at times its direct support in the form of votes in open elections. Workers therefore need to be hoodwinked.

In the case of Brazil, the working class is stifled with an unemployment rate in excess of 8 percent, and the shantytown poverty that millions must endure in the big cities forces a great many into the murky economic underground, where theft, drug abuse, muggings, and murders are frequent daily occurrences in Rio de Janeiro. Thus the masses, who marched the streets waving their red flags after the election, were struggling to improve their existence, in a land in which, according to ActionAid Brazil, 80 million of the 160 million Brazilians live in poverty, 32 million of these under the official poverty line.

Decent housing, sanitation, education, access to health care, and employment, have evaded the vast majority of this poorest sector of the working class. The population is therefore understandably desperate for a change.

However, according to Cristovam Buarque, former governor of the Federal District of Brasilia:

“The rich have gotten richer far quicker than the poor have been lifted above the official poverty line, and improved state services will be needed to curtail the extremes of poverty, but not just because of the ethical considerations, but also because of the influence upon further economic growth that such welfare programs could generate from a healthier working population. A Keynesian trickle-down policy was once believed to solve our country’s problems. For fifty years, the Brazilian poor believed in the logic that the needs of the poor could be met by catering to the demands of the rich. But growth does not generate employment for everybody, nor does it pay enough wages to meet the needs of the poor. The workers built the hotels and the houses for the rich, they produced the cars and other products for the rich, but when they went home, there was no running water, sewerage, or garbage collection. Their children had no schools, or attended low-quality ones; their families went without a satisfactory healthcare system. Brazil became wealthy in proportions unimagined by even the most optimistic, but poverty persisted because the wealth has not been distributed, and because the ticket out of poverty is not an increase of income but, rather, a change in the availability of essential goods and services” (“Incentivos Sociais,” Revista República, January, 2002, translated into English).

Such are among the considerations that fueled the massive support for the Workers Party by not only the unemployed and poorest of the poor, but also by the higher paid educated workers and even sections of the capitalist class itself in Brazil. Significant supporters from the industrial section of the Brazilian capitalist class, eager to join the big players in the world economy (Brazil is itself the largest country in South America), have supported the Workers Party’s subduing of their state capitalist policies that its founders originally had drafted, though a few of these Trotskyists will be sitting in the lower house, presumably supporting social reforms while the big boys in the upper house look after Big Business.

The Brazilian industrialists panicked as their country received a massive bailout from the IMF earlier in the year to the tune of $20 billion (ironically the same amount that the banks Fleet Boston and Citibank have themselves invested), suffered a loss of the worth of its currency, the real, by one third, faced enormous international debts (that newly elected President Lula promised to pay), while many of their fellow rich spent most of their time living abroad (especially in Miami, Florida) evading taxes and investing and spending its money in the United States. The industrial sector experienced such increases in lending rates that Brazilian entrepreneurship was seriously crushed while of course the banking sector of the capitalist class benefited enormously.

The industrial sector of the owning class in Brazil, then, has strong economic reasons to support the policies of the Workers Party, which promises to reverse these worrisome trends (trends that of course never cease to worry the starving beggar children of Rio de Janeiro). As for the workers themselves, the Workers Party does not promise to deliver them much more than a few additional crumbs, such as increasing the minimum wage to roughly £45 pounds sterling per month over a three-year period by taxing imports. However, whether Lula will be able to live up to even that paltry promise to the working poor after trying to honor the considerable IMF loan payback agreements remains to be seen.

The Workers Party, then, is really no such thing, any more than the Labour Party in the UK was ever one, or any more than the Democrats in the US have ever wanted to bring economic democracy to the land of corporate greed. After all, the Brazilian version of this linguistic fraud promised to boost the nation’s exports, pay back the IMF loans, and reduce skyrocketing interest rates – doesn’t that sound just like a platform that will really make a difference in the lives of the employed let alone of the inner city prostitutes, the homeless, and the addicted teenage gangs of Sao Paulo? Like Cardoso, his predecessor, Lula will feign control over a recession he has no more control over than does any other national leader of the world, and will likely even assure the US capitalist class, who in the local press in the days following the election results expressed its concern over how this new government might threaten investments and US-Brazilian relations, that Brazil’s mixed economy will remain mixed.

However, the US generally likes to keep its Latin American business neighbors firmly in its pockets, like the well NAFTA-ized Mexico. It is quite possible that Lula will become the new voice of South America, to replace Mexico’s Vicente Fox, especially since his leftist origins may well lead to the formation of alliances with other leftist leaders of that continent, such as Cuba’s Castro, and Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez. Indeed, the most likely general reason for the support by a large section of the Brazilian ruling class for the Workers Party may well have been its representation as a potential continental leader who could better unify the South American capitalist class politically, strategically, and economically in the world economy.

To workers in Brazil
To the Brazilian working class who suffers in its extreme poverty to such an extent, the answer lies in joining with workers from other countries in building a world that will finally end poverty once and for all, a world in which the community owns and democratically controls the means of production – the farms (presently controlled to a large extent by the wealthy landowners of the Northeast), the factories, the railroads, the hospitals, the offices, the buildings, and so on. Such a world would be moneyless, meaning that wealth would be produced to meet all needs (food, clothes, housing, medical care, etc) absolutely free. The citizens of a non-market economy would voluntarily work to produce the wealth that they require.

Would it not be vastly preferable to opt for a non-market economy that offers a life of abundance and freedom, with life the joy that is unimaginable in these days of war and want? But to achieve this very realizable dream the workers of Brazil—and indeed for all of the world’s workers—must first establish a real “workers party”, one without leaders that is committed to only one thing, not the running of the capitalist economy like the Workers Party that won the election on October 27, but the realization of a system in which the production of wealth will be in our hands.

Fellow workers in Brazil, replace the lies of the politicians with the trust in your own power. Unite with the workers of all lands to take over the planet for all. We celebrate your successful and courageous unionization efforts over the past few decades, despite the oppression of years of dictatorship, and we now urge you to go one step further in organizing for a world without employment that will no longer require unions at all, as the industries will be democratically run by the entire community for the entire community.

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