“The Workers’ Party (PT), to which we gave the best years of our lives, is dead. Its very raison d’etre lies buried.”
Brazilian senator and leader of the Party of Socialism and Liberty (P-Sol)
Brazil is going through massive changes in the wake of a corruption scandal which reaches to the heart of the ruling PT and President Lula’s government. The accusations are piling up.
No one knows just how much money is involved in a series of kickbacks to MPs, corrupt payments and undeclared slush funds run by the PT and its allies, but it is thought to be millions of pounds.
On top of this comes the siphoning off by PT leaders of the state employees’ pension funds. The figures already known to the public are causing widespread indignation.
They underline the vast gap between a tiny and corrupt minority and millions of excluded Brazilians. The relationships between the political parties and big business, and the mechanisms they use to dominate the country, have been laid bare.
The political bankruptcy of the PT is also the last nail in the coffin for the project of those capitalists who looked to strengthen the economy by developing Brazil’s industry and internal market. The crisis shows how these sectors, once supported by the PT, have completely failed to lead any such national project.
The PT leadership has ended up as the tool of finance capital, which has brought them into line and uses them as mere instruments.
Brazil goes Latin American
With this crisis, Brazil has fallen in with the rest of Latin America. The same crisis of democracy and political representation is now evident in Brazil as in the other countries of the continent.
The application of neo-liberal policies by every government in Latin America — with the exception of Venezuela — made political parties into electoral commodities, serving the imperialist plans dictated by the International Monetary Fund and the multinationals.
The PT was once the most important party across the continent to have won the confidence of the masses and the respect of workers. It is striking that this party has now lurched even further to the right than other similar parties.
The situation therefore has serious consequences both inside Brazil and for the whole continent. Brazil is now a country playing a major role in the stabilisation of capitalism in the region, as is shown by Brazilian troops’ involvement in the invasion of Haiti and the PT government’s opposition to the recent uprisings in Bolivia.
There is also a structural crisis in Brazil, as there is in other Latin American countries. The economy and the ruling class are relatively strong in
Brazil, but the inequality in society is even more obvious. The social crisis is immense and worsening, with a potential for huge explosions.
There is no prospect of economic development and no possibility, as long as the current patterns of imperialist domination are accepted, of any meaningful redistribution of wealth. So it is impossible to resuscitate the PT and bring it back to its previous life. The crisis will continue. That’s what the Latin Americanisation of Brazil means in practice.
There isn’t the same relation of class forces in Brazil as in Bolivia, Venezuela or Argentina. The mass movement hasn’t burst onto the political scene with the same strength. It isn’t yet playing a key role in the unfolding crisis. But there have already been important and revealing mobilisations.
A march on the capital, Brasilia, by the CUT trade union federation and the national union of students was intended as a gesture of support for Lula. Organised and financed by the PT machine, it mobilised, according to police figures, 8,000 people.
A march under the slogan “Out with all the corrupt politicians”, organised by an independent left trade union grouping and the left parties P-Sol and PSTU had double that number, according to the police. P-Sol estimates that 25,000 took part.
A positive way forward
Although many people on the left are disillusioned and feel deceived by the wrecking of their hopes in the PT, the crisis does have a positive outlook. The PT never was the party that thousands of honest members and supporters believed it to be.
It was playing a crucial role in sustaining the government and with it the neo-liberal economic policies and pro-US foreign policy in the region. The crisis in the PT weakens both of these projects.
A new political space is opening up. The PT experience is over, and the way is open to move on. There are two aspects to the crisis of politicians and parties. On the one hand there can be disillusion and scepticism, a loss of hope and the complete rejection of any form of participation and of politics in general.
On the other hand there can be a new seed, the possibility of constructing something new.
At the centre of this debate is a minority, small but linked to the masses, which sympathises with the project represented by P-Sol.
Social and political reorganisation
In this new space we are creating a political alternative which breaks with the parties of the current regime, and which is anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist.
P-Sol has grown stronger in the current crisis. An important minority of people now understands why the P-Sol leaders were expelled from the PT. The current scandal has shown that they were right and will strengthen the links between P-Sol and the people.
These are already becoming obvious in the World Social Forum, in the anti-corruption mobilisations, in marches of state employees and in the actions of our members in parliament and in the Parliamentary Investigation Commission.
Opinion polls put P-Sol’s presidential candidate, Heloisa Helena, on 7 percent. New groups have defected from the PT to P-Sol.
This development is not a straightforward process. It is linked to wider development of the social movements and the class struggle, which has all kinds of twists and turns. It will depend also on the performance of P-Sol and how it responds to the various challenges.
In any event, the process of replacing the PT has begun. A new alternative is under construction and it represents an advance in the recomposition and reorganisation of a section of the mass movement.
This is being done on a new basis, recovering the tradition of political independence which the PT once had, but overcoming the limitations which its project had and which brought it to bankruptcy.
For more information about Lula’s crisis and the growth the new left in Brazil go to:
- The website for P-Sol (in Portuguese) www.psol.org.br
- A recent article in International Socialism by economist Claudio Katz discussed the left governments in Latin America: www.isj.org.uk/index.php4?id=124&issue=107
- An article in last quarter’s New Left Review by Emir Sader gives an alternative view on Lula’s Brazil: www.newleftreview.net/NLR26706.shtml