A growing number of rank and file members of Brazil’s ruling Workers Party rejected the rightward drift of the Lula government and the party leadership in internal elections held on Sunday 18 September.
The moves to challenge the leadership came as the Workers Party, known by its Portuguese initials PT, faced a growing corruption scandal.
Leading members of the government have been forced to step down amid allegations of illegal payments to PT members and bribes given to the PT’s coalition partners.
In elections for party president last weekend the right’s candidate, Ricardo Berzoino, won 42 percent of the vote, but a clear majority voted for four other candidates.
In elections for the leadership body most party members also voted for slates of left candidates critical of the neo-liberal policies of the PT leadership.
A second round of elections for party president will be held in October but it is not clear which left candidate will go through to the run-off.
Raul Pont of Socialist Democracy, a current linked to the Trotskyist Fourth International, and Valter Pomar of Left Articulation each won around 15 percent of the vote.
PT members are upset with Lula for adopting many of the same neo-liberal politics as the previous right wing government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso.
Increased investment in social programmes, promised during the elections in October 2002, have been sacrificed to service debt repayment to the World Bank and the IMF.
Unemployment remains high and the divide between rich and poor in Brazil continues to be among the worst in the world.
The corruption scandal has been deeply shocking many ordinary PT members.
Numerous elected officials from the PT, linked to the conservative faction in the party, have been caught funneling dirty money to buy the votes of right wing parties in the congress and senate.
P-Sol, the party of Socialism and Freedom, formed by ex-members of the PT and other militants in June 2004, is rapidly gaining support.
The new party continues to attract former members of the PT as well as a growing layer of previously non-affiliated activists in the social movements and unions.
The challenge for militants in P-Sol will be to turn the party into a real alternative.
Such an alternative would not just focus on parliamentary politics, but would also be able to organise Brazilians in struggle in the workplaces, university campuses and social movements.