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Brazil: Growing crisis over Lula government's corruption scandal
Opportunities for new workers' party, P-SOL
André Ferrari of Socialismo Revolucionario (CWI, Brazil) and a leading activist on the Executive Committee of P-SOL - the country's new left-wing party - recently spoke to Socialist Party members in London.
Extracts of his speech, below, reflect on the developing political crisis in Brazil and the prospects for growth of P-SOL.
TWO DAYS ago the congressman José Dirceu, who was until June one of the main government ministers, was impeached. This individual was the key figure in a group who organised the monthly payment of political bribes to MPs to buy their parliamentary votes.
This provoked a massive political crisis. But it is really a comment on the evolution of the Workers' Party (PT) to the right.
Dirceu was one of the main left-wing leaders of the student movement in Brazil. He was an active militant in the underground during the military dictatorship [1976-85] and was one of the main founding members of the PT in 1980. He was number two in the PT after "Lula" [president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva].
This process of political degeneration and decay of many of the PT leaders and activists has to be seen in conjunction with the party's incorporation into and acceptance of the capitalist system..
More than 20 years after the fall of the military dictatorship in Brazil the political regime in Brazil is marked by corruption. This has resulted in a general disillusionment in the so-called 'democratic' political process. But the accusations against the PT at this particular time have had a much greater impact because of the enormous hostility and opposition of the working class to the 'neo-liberal' policies of the government.
The PT has got elected to positions in the regions and the states and used public money from these posts to finance the party. Two mayors in the districts of Santo Andre and Campinas in the state of Sao Paulo were assassinated because they were beginning to expose corruption. The former president of the cabinet has now been accused of having a direct hand in one of the assassinations.
And with the arrival of the PT into the central government, the central banks and major companies went so far as to finance some of the activities of the PT. One of the key elements in this is the pension funds. They got money from the pension funds and in government the PT carried through so-called 'pension reform' which benefited the private pension funds... "
"THE PT, founded in 1980, emerged from the working-class struggles under the military dictatorship and was led by the then militant workers' leader, Lula. It stood for a radical socialist policies to solve poverty and inequality.
The political evolution to the right of the PT was due to the impact of the collapse of former Stalinist regimes, a worldwide capitalist ideological offensive, and the defeat of the Sandinistas in Nicaragua. Bit by bit the PT accommodated itself to capitalism.
After a series of presidential electoral defeats Lula drew the false conclusion that it was necessary to change the party and accept the system. In 2002 his candidate for the vice-president was Jose Alencar a millionaire industrialist and a member of the Liberal Party.
A few weeks before the election a meeting took place with the International Monetary Fund, Cardoso and Lula. Lula convinced them that a PT victory would not threaten the interests of capitalism.
Many PT supporters assumed that after the party's election victory radical policies would follow. However, Lula, immediately following the election, met with George Bush and agreed to send Brazilian troops to Haiti because the US forces were overstretched in Iraq. [The US had forcibly removed Haiti's president Aristide from office]
He also assured Bush that he would 'Lularise' other radical leaders in the continent such as Venezuela's Chávez. After the attempted coup in Venezuela in April 2002, Lula tried to prevent Chávez from moving in a more radical direction.
Lula has given political asylum to Ecuador's former president Lucio Gutierrez ["El Loco"] who was driven from office by a insurrectionary movement of workers and the poor after pursuing punitive neo-liberal policies.
In Bolivia, key elections are due in December. Evo Morales of the reformist 'Movement to Socialism' (MAS) will probably win the first round of the presidential election but because the Congress finally elects the president. Lula has despatched political advisors to persuade Morales to adopt a 'moderate' political programme to be acceptable to the right.
Brazil has a foreign debt of $70 billion. Under Lula the debt repayments are made more punctually than the previous bourgeois government of Cardoso! This has been accompanied by a policy of cutting public spending, attacks on social services etc.
The first substantial action of the Lula government was the pensions 'reform' [ie attacks on pensions]. Previously, under Cardoso, such an attack was not possible because of the PT and trade union opposition. This clash was the first significant struggle by the working class against the PT government.
The Lula government has carried out less agrarian reform than the previous right-wing government. The landless movement MST has also accused the government of failure, even though its leaders still have some illusions in the PT government.
The government was hoping for moderate growth this year which would afford it some political stability. But annual growth will be minimal. This will only lead to more dissatisfaction with the government and more struggles. The only thing in Lula's favour is that many workers and poor people still hate the parties of the right...
Rise of P-SOL
THERE IS a massive space that exists to the left of the PT which P-SOL [The Socialism and Liberty Party] can exploit in next year's elections.
P-SOL represented a fundamental break with the PT and the coming together of socialist, left-wing groups and four expelled PT congress representatives.
In June 2004 there was a national meeting to formally establish P-SOL. There was then a major struggle undertaken to legalise the party. At the end of this, P-SOL managed to achieve 800,000 signatures supporting the party's formation, far more than was legally required. This support illustrates P-SOLs potential.
From its formation P-SOL allowed the right of internal groupings to exist. Given the experience of the PT, PSOL members attach great store on internal party democracy. Of course, at the same time, there has to be agreement on a set of fundamental principles for the party.
The provisional political programme agreed is anti-capitalist and supports the establishment of socialism. It supports the idea of a workers' government. It supports the nationalisation of all the major companies under democratic workers' control.
But this is not enough! It's necessary to openly discuss what happened to the PT.
In meetings of P-SOL where new members are present you can expect someone to ask; 'will what happened to PT also happen in P-SOL?' In particular, 'how can the party exert control over its public representatives?'
There is also a debate over what is the best way to fight capitalism, and a debate over the relationship between the members and leaders of the party and its parliamentary representatives.
P-SOL is having a congress in March 2006 but even this conference will not resolve all the party questions. What is crucial is that the party rejects the pressures, which are already developing, for the party to water down its programme.
During 2005 there has been a new wave of splits from the PT. Many PT members are looking to join P-SOL. There is also a layer who are disillusioned with PT but are sceptical about P-SOL.
This year, five more deputies have come over to P-SOL. Some of them have a 'semi-detached' relationship with P-SOL because political differences between them and P-SOL remain. For example, one of these MPs voted to support Lula's candidate as the president of the parliament.
These people argue that: 'the PT is not our principle enemy there are parties farther to the right who are our main enemy'. However, the reality is that we have a government that is attacking the working class and it has to be fought. We're against the right but we're also against Lula's government.
The key thing to emphasise is that the whole process of reconstructing of the Brazilian Left is taking place outside of the PT. Some groups, naively, are still arguing to remain in the PT in order to recapture it for the left.
We have a optimistic perspective for the 2006 elections, particularly for P-SOL's presidential candidate Helo’sa Helena. Already she is enjoying 5%-6% support nationally in the polls. And amongst the youth she is receiving 12%-14% support.
Helena has a reputation of being a fighter for working-class people. P-SOL also has opportunities for growth in the local and parliamentary elections.
Socialismo Revolucionario is an important part of the process of building a new workers' party, to maintain democracy within P-SOL and to fight for a revolutionary socialist programme.
Brazil, as well as being the world football champions, also has the dubious record of being the world champions in terms of social inequalites. If we work correctly Brazil can be changed to become the world champions of struggle to end the nightmare conditions of capitalism."
THE IMPEACHMENT of Workers' Party (PT) deputy Jose Dirceau (president Lula's right-hand man), as part of the unravelling cash-for-votes scandal, has intensified the most severe political crisis in Brazil since president Collor de Mello was forced to resign in 1992, after mass protests against corruption..
As a minority party in Congress which rules through a parliamentary coalition, the PT paid monthly bribes of $12,000 to deputies from other parties and manipulated the system of appointments to state-run companies.
Lula has attempted to distance himself from the scandal stating ignorance of the affair and disingenuously claiming that it is a right-wing plot to undermine him!
So far 18 congressmen, including the PT's president José Geonoino, treasurer Delœbio Soares and general secretary Silvio Pereira, have all stepped down.
Political corruption is no stranger to Brazil's political system. The president before Lula, Fernando Cardoso, was able to be re-elected for a second mandate by buying votes. Eduardo Azevedo the president of the PSDB (Social Democratic Party, Brazil) - the party of the former president - has also been forced to resign because of the corruption scandals.
In The Socialist 8 December 2005: