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World Social Forum: Lula's betrayal of poor sparks anger
"LULA TRAITOR", "Lula your place is in Davos"*. These were just some of the chants on the 3,000 strong protest which greeted Brazilian president Lula at the fifth World Social Forum (WSF) in Porto Alegre, Brazil.
Christine Thomas, Porto Alegre, Brazil
Speakers from PSOL, (the new socialist party initiated by MPs who were expelled from Lula's party, the PT, for opposing his anti-working class policies) angrily attacked his pension, labour and education 'reforms'. They explained that it is not possible to serve two masters at the same time - the working class and the capitalists. And Lula is ruling on the behalf of international capitalism.
At the 2003 WSF, also in Porto Alegre, Lula, who had just been elected president, was rapturously received. The 53 million Brazilians who voted for him, especially the workers and poor, had enormous hopes that the election of this former worker would transform their lives. Two years on and the nature of Lula's PT government is beginning to become clear.
Inside the Gigantinho stadium, 10,000 Lula supporters, many bussed in, gathered to hear him speak. But the protest outside and the 300 protesters inside the stadium reflected a growing opposition to his policies. He has gone even further than the IMF demanded in balancing the budget and making cuts. His labour reforms attack workers« rights and his education reforms will mean more money for private universities.
When protesters inside the stadium called for more money for public universities Lula called them "a privileged elite" who want to prevent the poor from getting a university education! But it is Lula himself who is governing on behalf of the privileged elite in Brazil and internationally.
Lula's speech mainly concentrated on the major role he sees himself and Brazil playing on the capitalist world stage. In Latin America Lula is pursuing a regional imperialist role. He boasted of his recent attempts to mediate between Colombia and Venezuela and described the Chavez government in Venezuela as a Latin American and not a US "problem".
Although many PT members still have illusions in Lula because of his background as a radical class fighter, others are leaving and joining PSOL. The WSF organisers clearly realise the strength of feeling against Lula which is why they approached the leadership of PSOL and asked them not to organise a protest with loud speakers and anti-government slogans.
As opposition to Lula and the PT grows, the PSOL could potentially develop into a major pole of attraction for workers and youth in Brazil. Socialismo Revolucionario (CWI Brazil) is campaigning to build PSOL as a fighting socialist party that can give a lead to the struggles of workers and poor in Brazil now and in the future.
(*Davos, Switzerland, where the World Economic Forum (WEF) of world capitalist leaders was being held at the same time as the WSF. Immediately after speaking at the WSF rally Lula jetted to the WEF aboard his new $57 million presidential Airbus).
In The Socialist 5 February 2005: