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Brazil: Fall of Rousseff unleashes offensive against working class
The impeachment process and historic crisis of the Workers' Party
André Ferrari, LSR ('Freedom, Socialism and Revolution' - CWI Brazil)
Brazil is experiencing its deepest economic and social crisis. Alongside this, a massive political crisis has arisen.
This crisis flows from the undemocratic manoeuvres of the right-wing establishment and big business against workers' rights. It is also a product of the total failure of the conciliatory model of 'class collaboration' adopted by the Workers' Party (PT) during its 13 years in government.
President Dilma Rousseff of the PT was removed from her post on 12 May by the Federal Senate. In her place, the former vice president, Michel Temer of the PMDB (the right-wing Brazilian Democratic Movement Party), has taken over.
The removal of Dilma took place a few days after the Chamber of Deputies voted by a clear majority to start impeachment of the president.
At the time of both votes, the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate were being presided over by parliamentarians who are personally implicated in corruption scandals.
Eduardo Cunha (PMDB), president of the Chamber of Deputies, had his mandate as a deputy (MP) removed by the Federal Supreme Tribunal only a few days after the vote to initiate impeachment proceedings against Rousseff!
Under the formal procedure, Rousseff is excluded from office for 180 days before the Senate takes a final decision on her impeachment. The results of the first vote already makes clear that this decision will not be reversed by the conservative, right-wing and extremely corrupt Federal Senate.
The fall of Dilma Rousseff was the result of a change in the political position of some of the traditional right-wing parties, supported and egged on by the most important sections of big business. For years many of these parties gave the PT government its majority in the National Congress.
However, the weakness of Dilma's government proved to be too much given the severity of the situation. The worsening economic crisis, with mass unemployment, together with the adoption of recessionary fiscal adjustment policies and attacks on workers' rights, made Dilma one the most unpopular presidents in the history of Brazil.
The passive dissatisfaction in society allowed the right wing to step in and mobilise big sections of the middle class - the first mass demonstrations the right has been able to organise in decades.
From the beginning of this year, the core of big capital - the largest private banks and the Sao Paulo State Industrial Federation (FIESP) - decided to take to the road of impeachment.
Every conceivable type of undemocratic manoeuvre was used, including totally spurious practices by the corrupt Chamber of Deputies president, to guarantee the right result. The formal charge made against Dilma Rousseff was her involvement in corrupt government schemes, presiding over excessive public costs and hiding these in the accounts.
Up until the last moment, Rousseff tried to convince the big capitalists that her government would be capable of implementing the neoliberal policies they demanded.
These included opening up the economy to foreign companies for oil exploration and renegotiations of the state debts, which meant brutal cuts, privatisations, etc.
Significantly, one of the last decrees of Dilma was to open a hydro-electrical plant in Belo Monte, in Amazonia. This is nothing short of a monument to environmental destruction.
Despite this, big demonstrations against impeachment took place, mainly driven by the view that a state coup was underway - an attack on democracy.
The PT used this and exaggerated its rhetoric to try and compensate for the fact that it was virtually impossible to defend the Rousseff government's record in office.
At the same time, the undemocratic manoeuvres utilised to remove the government creates a serious precedent which can open the road to harsher, anti-democratic attacks on the rights of the working class and oppressed peoples.
When former PT president Lula, the principle leader of the PT and one of the main historic leaders of the workers' movement in Brazil, was threatened with imprisonment there was a certain radicalisation.
However, this only lasted a few days. At a mass demonstration in Sao Paulo, on 18 March, Lula demobilised the movement by announcing he would join Dilma's government as a minister to "re-negotiate a new pact" with the PMDB to stop the impeachment process.
The main obstacle to fight against the right-wing is the character of Dilma's government and the PT leadership.
Sections of the working class that historically backed PT and Lula now see them as incapable of leading a struggle against the right wing. These workers want an end of the policy of class conciliation that has led to a defeat for the working class.
Michel Temer has no social base. The conditions for him to head a stable government are minimal. His name is linked to corruption and he is under investigation.
At the moment, the Brazilian ruling class, along with US imperialism, has put all its cards on Temer's government, hoping it will be able to carry out the deep attacks that it wants.
The first days of the Temer government were marked by an avalanche of policy announcements, ie new attacks against the living conditions of the working class and poor. The Ministry of Health announced that universal access to the public health system as a state obligation will be reviewed, as it was in Greece.
There will be a revision of policies to tackle working conditions that are analogous to slavery, which is something that still exists in parts of Brazil. There will be the opening of a new cycle of privatisations.
The government also announced the cancellation of projects to build 10,000 social houses, which have already begun.
The people's reaction is already explosive. The instability and sharpness of the conflicts will increase in the coming days and weeks.
Such is the seriousness of the situation, it cannot be excluded that the CUT trade union federation and other union federations, after years of doing nothing, will be compelled to call a general strike against Temer's policies.
PSOL and the left
The broad left PSOL (Party of Socialism and Liberty) increased its authority greatly during this crisis. It attacked the policies of Dilma but its members of Congress correctly voted against her impeachment in the chamber of Deputies and Senate.
The building of a socialist left front uniting the parties and social movements that did not participate in the PT governments, is crucial in the struggle for a socialist left alternative.
Other sectors of the socialist left ended up being isolated from the recent processes and struggles. The PSTU, for example, adopted the slogan: "Fuera Todos" ("Out with them all"), including Dilma Rousseff.
In doing so, it failed to differentiate itself from the right that strove for the impeachment of Dilma. The PSTU does not see that the impeachment of Dilma has changed the situation and opened the prospect of even more attacks against the working class.
A new stage of class struggle has opened up. These conflicts will create the opportunities for the building of a new socialist left. The LSR is fighting for the building of such an alternative.
- Full article on www.socialistworld.net
The Committee for a Workers' International (CWI) is the socialist international organisation to which the Socialist Party is affiliated.
The CWI is organised in 45 countries and works to unite the working class and oppressed peoples against global capitalism and to fight for a socialist world.
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