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Refusing to submit to the market

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The expulsion of four left wing members has created ruptures in the governing Workers Party and increased bitterness against its leader, Lula WHEN LUIS Inacio da Silva, known as Lula, was elected as Brazil's president a year ago it signalled
Issue 1883

‘OUR EXPULSIONS are the result of a process of deep change that the PT has been undergoing. The PT is no longer a left wing party. It has been transformed into a party which attacks the working class.

Instead of opposing or hindering these attacks in government it is pushing them on behalf of the dominant class in Brazil and of imperialism. The party leadership needed to expel us to consolidate this change and to take out people who oppose this change. There was no real democratic discussion in the party over the change.

The specific issue we were expelled for was voting in the congress against the government’s attack on workers’ pensions. At least six times under the previous right wing government of President Cardoso the PT had opposed similar pension attacks, and fought alongside public sector workers to defeat them.

Yet now the PT government and Lula were pushing through the same measures they had opposed, and they insisted all PT representatives in the congress had to vote for them.

We, the four who have been expelled, refused to turn our backs on the people we represented, the working class.

The pensions plan was very like that pushed last year in Europe by right wing governments such as in France. It began opening up public sector pensions to private pension funds and made people work longer for worse pensions.

The changes in pensions are just one example of how the government has acted against the working class. It has changed the laws on bankruptcy, so when a firm goes bust it is not the workers who are owed wages who have first claim on any money. Instead it is the bankers. The government has allowed genetically modified crops into the country, betraying another promise it made.

The PT used to fight against deals with the International Monetary Fund, but now the government has accepted and enforced an IMF deal. That deal means cuts in health and education to pay the bankers. Next year only £1.35 billion will go to public investment, but £22.6 billion to the bankers.

Workers’ living standards are going down under Lula’s government, a government that calls itself the “Workers Party”!

In the last year average wages have gone down by 15 percent. This is due to the combined effects of wages being held down and inflation. There are half a million more unemployed since Lula came to office.

More is to come. In the public universities the government is planning to impose fees on students. It wants to change employment laws.

The government talks about tackling hunger in Brazil, but in reality very little has been done. There is a tiny amount of money for a very few people, and it has had almost no impact on the very real hunger in parts of this country.

It is the same with the land reform that the government promised, to give landless rural workers land. In Lula’s first year it has given less land reform than in the first year of the previous right wing government.

The programme the government has announced for the next three years is the same amount of land reform as that carried out by the Cardoso government.

The change in the PT is not sudden. It has been going on since Lula lost the presidential election back in 1989. The party leadership has watered down its policies and sought broader and broader alliances.

In the election that brought Lula to office this was taken to extremes. As part of the election campaign he published a letter to the Brazilian people. In reality it was a letter to the international bankers, which said he would follow the same economic policies as Cardoso’s government.

Lula has also put representatives of big business and the dominant class inside the government.

You have to choose. Do you confront the dominant class or are you allied to them and work to keep things as they are in society? That is the choice Lula and the PT government have made.

We have received a lot of solidarity against our expulsions. There is a rupture developing in the PT. We have 7,000 people who signed a public declaration saying that we need to build a new party-a party of working class struggle. That was before we were expelled, so I think that will grow in the coming months. It will be a process. Some important intellectuals in the PT have already announced they are leaving the PT after our expulsion.

Of course there are some people, good socialists, who still think they can struggle inside the PT. But I think they will find out that there is no room any more for a socialist left in the PT.

Those who insist on being faithful to the tradition of working class struggle, of socialism, will either be expelled like us or have to leave the party.

This is a very important moment in the history of the left and the workers’ movement in Brazil. We will work to make this current broader and bigger. We have spent 20 years working to build the PT, but now we feel we have to make a break and build something new.

The things we fought for to build the PT-socialism, workers’ struggles, land reform and much more-are still in many people’s heads and they are still valid.

The policies the government is pursuing are provoking resistance, so far mainly in the public sector. We had a big strike last year and big demonstrations over the pensions plan. There is the struggle of the MST landless labourers’ movement, occupying land and demanding real land reform.

I think there will be more struggles in the next year, in the private sector over the low level of wages and perhaps among university students and teachers over the fees plan.

What is happening in Brazil is part of the wider picture in Latin America, where you have seen big revolts against neo-liberalism in countries from Argentina to Bolivia. In Brazil so far we haven’t had the big mobilisations like in those countries, because the existence of the PT has seen things channelled towards elections, and because of Lula’s victory.

But with what the government is doing I believe the tendency will be to develop more towards what we have seen elsewhere in Latin America. People will have to choose whether they support Lula and his government or whether they support those of us trying to build a new party.

It is very important for us to have the support of the left internationally in doing this.

I think the socialist left internationally has to say no to Lula’s government and the path it is going down. It does not represent the left or workers.

We want a real democratic and pluralist left party-one which unites all those who believe in socialism, working class struggle and who refuse to accept the path of submission to the market and imperialism that Lula and the PT are following.’


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