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IW 04

Latin America

Brazil: The crisis is over, it is just the beginning

A series of facts seem to reveal the consummation of a political agreement to rescue the capitalist government presided over by Lula: Ricardo Berzoini's victory (candidate of the “Lulaist” party leadership) at the PT internal elections; Aldo Rebelo's election (PC do B, Lula's Agent) to the presidency of the Congress; the melancholic burial of the CPI's (Parliamentary Commission of Investigation) dedicated to investigating the corruption schemes and, in particular, the former strong man of the party and the government, the former minister and deputy Jose Dirceu; the confirmation of the economic policy and its minister, Antonio Palocci -backed even by the right-wing opposition-, also accused of leading several corruption schemes at the city where he had been mayor, Ribeirao Preto.

This agreement is not only due to the fear that the investigations into the corruption could also reach the “opposition”, as has already started happening with the PSDB. US imperialism's hands are also dirty: “The problems faced by president Lula bring negative perspectives for the advance of the free market in Latin America, and for US interests in the region”, warned The Wall Street Journal (August 12). Behind the scenes, in October and November the US Treasury representative (John Snow) and Bush himself visited Brazil and clearly declared their defense of Lula's government. The main newspapers did the same.

With such a chorus, the official “Marxist” (?) philosopher of the PT, Marilena Chaui, thought that the moment had arrived to “bravely” (?) break the criticized “silence of the intellectuals” and declare six months after the beginning of the crisis that this was no more than an acted out farce (Folha de Sao Paulo, November 15). The emeritus professor finally managed to transform Marxism into toilet paper.

During the last two years, Lula-Palocci have paid almost 300 billion Brazilian reales to the holders of the public debt (while they applied less than one billion to agrarian reform, or five billion to the public universities), which did not even achieve a reduction in the debt itself, which stood at 900 billion Brazilian reales in December, 2003, and currently reaches the amount of 1000 billion Brazilian reales. Lula's government has strengthened its alliance with the international financial speculators.

The bond holders' fiesta, first among them the “national” banks, is orgiastic. The Itau announced, by mid-2005, the biggest profits in national banking history for a six-month period: almost 2.5 billion Brazilian reales. And the industry lords? Vale do Rio Doce (CVRD), the most important private company, announced, over the same period, earnings for... 5.1 billion Brazilian reales. The “state owned” Petrobras, actually controlled by the Stock Market,... 9.9 billion Brazilian reales. The State's “revenue sacrifice” in favor of the capitalists will grow 12% in 2005, reaching the historic record of 27 billion Brazilian reales.

End of the Comedy? The problem is that there has been no comedy at all. The “new” PT leadership, an agreement between members of both the majority and the “leftist” opposition, pretends to be against the budgetary adjustment and the economic policy. The new political coordinator of the government, Dilma Rousseff, said Palocci's “long term budgetary adjustment” was “rudimentary and suicidal”, without creating a crisis in the government by demanding Palocci's dismissal by Lula. They intend to show that within the PT today there is a chance of change or reform, with the aim of keeping it united for the 2006 elections.

The disintegration of the PT, as consequence of the denunciations of corruption has become irreversible. The result of the party infighting caused the massive exodus of numerous cadre, including more than ten deputies and senators, most of whom have gone to swell the ranks of the recently legalized PSOL. Charged with non-payable debts, acquired in order to finance “from the left” the party campaigns and its leaders' pockets, it is probable that the PT will end as any company gone bust, with the formation of a new party name and the assignation of the liabilities to a residual PT. The PT has been an opportunistic creation built around Lula's figure, not around a program and cadres formed by that program.

The PT has been for a long time now a group of created interests: more than 400 mayors, three governors, 90 national deputies and more than 150 state deputies, each with their clique of assessors and secretaries, without mentioning the Federal Government's apparatus (Lula) and thousands of “positions of confidence”. The trade union apparatus (CUT) has more than 100 thousand “liberated” people (“liberated” from work) and more than 20 thousand directly employed. The PT party machine, in its turn, employs more than 50 thousand officials. A real army of “dependents”.

The PT's disintegration has not produced a modification of the ideological and programmatic framework that the party established in Brazil some time after its being founded and, particularly, when the reflux of the popular struggles deepened. The crisis has opened a period of effervescence among the politicized sectors of the intellectuals and among the most advanced workers, that will rapidly confirm the limits of the improvised answers to the agony of the PT.

The criticism of the left that the PT abandoned in the face of Lula's government is based on imposing a turn in the economic policy (not the anti-capitalist rupture), which in practice would mean devaluation and default, a catastrophe for the masses. It is limited to criticizing the budgetary surplus and the high interest rates and calling for a broader social pact. On the political level, they ask for Lula's impeachment even by means of a plebiscite.

The left of the PT, the CUT's bureaucracy and the MST (peasants) have thrown themselves into reinforcing Lula's support, with the pretext that a right-wing coup d'etat was on its way. The President of the CUT entered the Employment Ministry. As for the PT's “left”, with links to the direct and indirect administration of the State, positions and parliamentary privileges, it has opted for the defense of the government with the aim of getting into a better position for the electoral dispute of 2006. On its document directed to the National Executive Commision of the PT, signed jointly by all the leftist tendencies of the party, it is said even that “paradoxically, never did a government do so much against corruption” (“Proposta de Resoluçao para a CEN do PT” / Proposed Resolution for the Executive National Committee of the PT ).

The Socialism and Liberty Party (PSOL) was formed by deputies and a senator who were expelled from the PT when they refused to vote a privatization reform of the pension regime. Until that moment, they had supported the PT-Liberal Party Alliance and kept discipline when the cabinet with the Federation of Industries, The Rural Society and the Bank of Boston was formed. The PSOL, that defines itself as a party of “democratic rupture with the current order” raised, during the current crisis, the slogan of “unifying the struggles in course at this moment with the necessary struggle for the careful investigation of the denunciations and the punishment of the guilty”. It has also begun to collect signatures in order to call a referendum that would depose Lula and bring forward the elections.

The PSOL is willing to gain electoral credit from the crisis: its patrimony is the charisma of its main leader, Heloisa Helena, to whom the polls give 5% of the voter intention for president, in 2006. The PSOL calls for a return to the original positions of the PT. They recently won over new legislators affected by the political and moral collapse of the PT, including a senator that had to resign immediately, after his own participation in Marcos Valerio's corruption schemes was proven. This made the internal struggles inside the PSOL more acute, sounding the alarm among some of the more advanced sectors, that do not want to limit themselves to a farcical replay of the PT's tragedy.

The PSTU (LIT), in its turn, presented an appeal before the State Attorney in order to investigate the government's corruption with the prospect of producing an impeachment against Lula. The PSTU said that “we must create consciousness of the fact that Lula is the one responsible for the corruption”: this put the PSTU behind the offensive of the capitalist pole for taking over the government and favored the demagogy of the conspiracy in Congress for a coup-d'etat.

In June, the PSTU defended the position of “installation of the CPI now, against the maneuvres of the government in order to avoid it”. Afterwards, they defended the “prison and expropriation of the goods of those corrupted and of corrupting influences”, and “an independent investigation, parallel to the one of the CPI”. After that, they started to raise the slogan “Out with all of them!” (Opiniao Socialista Nº 230, September 7), ignoring its former characterization that “the youth and the workers still believe in Lula”. In this framework, the activity of the PSTU has been simultaneously centered, for quite a while, on proposing a rupture with the CUT and the UNE, and creating new organizations, trying also to advance with the addition of new spin-offs of the PT and the government, which they consider “finished”.

None of the two main fractions of the left outside the PT managed to go beyond the rhetoric of corruption and the “developmentalist” critique of the “adjustment”.

In reality, Brazil faces a perspective of capitalist bankruptcy that will make the episodes seen up till now appear to be small, like the one that took place in 1992 when all the bank deposits were frozen producing the most intense recession in its history; or like the inflation leading up to the “Plan Real”, in 1996, or the devaluation of the Real at the beginning of 2001. A cease in international speculation in the Brazilian debt would cause a collapse like the one in Argentina in December, 2001. That is why, what is presented as a criticism from a “developmentalism” or “social equality” point of view is, objectively, an attempt at repeating the “success” of the Argentine devaluation. But as the current international prices, very high, and the international interest rates, which remain low, still offer the chance of gaining extraordinary profits, the tendency towards devaluation and “developmentalism” has not won strength yet among the capitalist class. The scandal of the “super-salaries” inside the Brazilian Congress has as much “moral” value as the one that took place with the ATM card labor law in the Argentine Senate, which produced the resignation of Carlos Alvarez, then Vice President, that is, a powerful symptom of the tendency in course towards capitalist bankruptcy and a political explosion. This is the characterization that the Brazilian left should adopt in order to systematically prepare the masses for anti-capitalist action, not for a “Duhaldist — Kirchnerist” changeover.

By Osvaldo Coggiola