Thursday, December 24, 2015

Brazilian Workers: Break with the Popular Front! Neither Impeachment Nor Coup are the Answer!

Members of MTST march in support of President Dilma Rousseff against impeachment in Sao Paulo, August 20, 2015
Contrary to what the bourgeoisie and the media would have us think, the Brazilian crisis is part of the world crisis of capitalism, which has caused political instability in the entire world, from dictatorships to Popular Front governments. The bourgeoisie has no way out apart from attacking the workers. Mass movements and revolutionary processes such as in the Middle East and North Africa have shown that workers are not willing to pay for the crisis. On the other hand, a sharpening of the inter-imperialist dispute between the U.S.A./EU and China/Russia blocs, who need war for their survival, is a counterrevolutionary force that must be fought on a class basis with independence from both imperialist blocs.

In Brazil the political situation is degenerating rapidly, with the economic recession and the government's austerity policies. On the 2nd of December, the president of the Congress, Eduardo Cunha, began a process of impeachment against Dilma in the Congress. Cunha belongs to the PMDB (Brazilian Democratic Movement Party,) the PT (Workers Party’s) main ally in the Popular Front government. It is a bourgeois party known for having various wings led by oligarchs, the so-called “colonels” from various states and regions of the country. The main movers and shakers behind a coup are within the Government ranks. The PT, allied to the bourgeoisie through the Popular Front, ties workers to the bourgeoisie and has abandoned class independence, weakening the workers and opening the way for fascism. To stop any coup it is necessary that workers break with the Popular Front.

One day after the commencement of the process of impeachment was announced, the Minister of Civil Aviation, right arm of the vice-President Michel Temer (PMDB), resigned for allegedly personal reasons. In relation to the movements of “allies”, Dilma said she had no reason not to trust her vice-President. By way of reply, the vice-President wrote a challenging letter that was announced in the media as a break with Dilma. While Dilma implicitly trusts her government “allies” to approve the austerity measures, the PT and CUT (Unified Workers Central labor federation) stop workers' strikes, shut down the battles and demobilize the class, leaving the road to an actual coup open.

On the 29th of October 2015 the PMDB released a programmatic statement called “A bridge to the future”, the motives for which became clear after the announcement of the impeachment process. The program says:

“All the initiatives announced here constitute a necessity, and almost a consensus, throughout the country. Political inertia and immobility have prevented them from being realized. The present crisis, of revenue but principally economic, with a fall of the GDP, high inflation, extremely high interest rates, increasing unemployment, the paralyzation of productive investment, and the complete absence of a positive outlook, is forcing society to confront its destiny. In this hour of truth, in which nothing less than the future of the nation is at stake, we need to form a political majority, even if transitory or circumstantial, capable in the short term of making all these decisions both in society and in the National Congress. There is no other way than obtaining the understanding and cooperation of all. The nation has already shown itself capable of confronting and overcoming great challenges. We will submit it to a new and decisive test.”

The program, after noting “inertia and political immobility”, outlines the effects of the capitalist crisis on the country and says it is necessary to “form a political majority, even if transitory or circumstantial”. Taking into account a possible impeachment of Dilma, this proposal serves as a call for a coalition government, including the right that has been in opposition, such as the PSDB (Brazilian Social Democratic Party) and DEM (Democrats), as well as the right that has been “allied” to the PT for the last 12 years.

Later on, remembering the political and economic situation of the country, the program states “Modern popular democracies do not appear to be capable of surviving passively with the end of economic growth and opportunities, nor with limitations on the growth of government spending. Even in the developed world, with generous social welfare systems, the interruption of economic growth and a pause in the expansion of money transfers and state services are generating a weakening of political authority and a profound social dissatisfaction.”

The bourgeoisie is right to concern itself with social dissatisfaction. Brazilian workers and youth, as in the entire world, have demonstrated their willingness to fight against paying the price of capitalist crisis. The marches of June 2013, when millions went to the street in answer to the calls of the youth movement that fought against increases in the price of public transport and for better health and education, marked an upswing of struggles in Brazil. This movement was preceded by strikes involving teachers nationwide, federal public servants, and construction workers both private and governmental. Their worksites included huge government projects such as the Belo Monte, Santo Antonio, and Jirau dams and hydroelectric stations that are destroying indigenous communities and the Amazon rain forest. In 2014 we saw a movement against the World Cup, numerous strikes such as teachers and sanitation workers in Rio de Janeiro, metro workers in São Paulo, and bus drivers in Rio Grande do Sul. In 2015 there were various strikes with metal and petroleum workers, the struggle of public servants in Paraná, public service strikes in Rio Grande do Sul, and student occupations of secondary schools in São Paulo.

In all these struggles, the CUT, CTB (Confederation of the Workers of Brazil), and other bureaucratic union organizations have intervened to isolate the participating workers, keep the emphasis on economic matters, and demobilize the workers. In the public service strike against the time-payment of salaries in Rio Grande do Sul, which united a record of more than 30 thousand workers in one meeting, the CUT united with the Police Union and the right wing bureaucrats of the “Unified Movement”, arguing for a limited 4 day strike and putting off a general strike for an undetermined time. In the teachers' union, the largest and strongest, the CUT-aligned leadership closed the meeting and declared the end of the strike against a majority vote. The Rio Grande do Sul state government is run by the PMDB. The PT and the CUT know that the financial crisis in Rio Grande do Sul is the same as that affecting the federal government and act to defeat the working class, all in the name of governability.

With regard to the austerity project, the PMDB program says “The solution will be harsh on the entire population; it will require emergency measures, and most importantly, structural reforms.” The austerity program has had costs for the government, with the political crisis a sign of the difficulty of proceeding with the changes and advancing the structural reforms. In reality, these are just attacks on health, education, workers' rights, and pensions that the bourgeoisie needs as its way out of the crisis.

“...we will have to change laws and even some of the Constitution, so that the fiscal crisis doesn't keep returning, each time harder to solve, until we finally end up in a type of collapse”....”The other question of equal importance is government superannuation.” (PMDB program)

Further on: “For this the first thing necessary is that we do away with established constitutional links such as requirements for spending on health and education”....”Another part of the new budget will have to be the end of indexation, whether of salaries, pensions, or anything else.”

The PT united with the bourgeoisie to form a government, and over the last 13 years has applied imperialist policies, with privatizations, superannuation reforms, concessions, PPPs, restructurings, and attacks on workers' rights like the PPE (Employment Protection Program). While bankers and business people are making more money than ever before in the history of the country (like the owners of construction businesses who profit enormously from government programs like Minha casa Minha vida - My house, My life) while living conditions, health, education, transport, workers' rights, youth, and the poor are under attack due to the “reforms”, “restructurings”, and “reorganizations” which are part of the structural “reforms” that the bourgeoisie claims are necessary to go forward.

Education is a great example of an area being attacked by the government and the bourgeoisie. It has been suffering through reforms insisted on by imperialism and the World Bank and implanted through the PNE (National Education Program), and which transform education into a market commodity. These affect everything from primary to tertiary education, implementing salaries related to teacher evaluations, destroying career progression, opening public education to the private sector, shutting schools, etc. The PNE was approved by the federal Congress in 2014, but its implantation had begun long before this. In Rio Grande do Sul we saw overcrowded classrooms, reform of secondary education, private foundations in the schools, etc. In São Paulo, pay dependent on evaluations is already a reality and workers have had part of their salary transformed into a “bonus”. The recent reorganization measure, shutting schools and only allowing for student evaluations every three years in São Paulo, is just another facet of the World Bank's reform of education in Brazil, the PNE.

The government's main weapon in discussing and approving the PNE was the National Education Conference, set up to legitimize the attacks on public education and widely supported by the CUT, the National Union of Students, and various leftish organizations. Whilst the PNE signifies a structural reform in national education, the “left” wants to “improve” things by having 10% of the GDP spent on public education.

Education is a great example of resistance and workers' struggle and also of how the government bureaucracy acts to defeat the struggles in a way that defends the government. Since 2010, strikes and worker mobilizations have increased throughout the country and the union bureaucracy has acted to keep strikes isolated and focused on economic issues, impeding national mobilization and the fight against the PNE. In the school occupation movement in São Paulo against the “restructuring” of basic education by the PSDB government, the organizations aligned to the federal government tried to negotiate an agreement with the state government on behalf of the students, and end the occupations. The students, organized in more than 200 occupied schools in a genuine United Front, resisted the bureaucratic maneuvers, maintaining the occupations and winning an annulment of the government privatization decree. The students know that the fight goes on and restructuring is still a threat. The struggle needs to advance until students and workers from the whole country are occupying schools and workplaces to combat the educational reform of the PNE (applied by all municipal, state, and federal governments), the coup, and capitalism itself.

Later still, the proposed PMDB program explains why the austerity program and structural reforms are necessary: “The main objective is a policy of fiscal responsibility to interrupt the growth of government debt, to start with, so that we can to begin reducing debt as a percentage of GDP. The normal means of achieving this is by achieving a budget surplus high enough to cover interest payments. In third place it is up to the State, run by a majority in agreement with the objectives of this growth, based on free enterprise, free competition, and the desire for integration with external markets, to achieve legislative change in critical areas.”

The government tirelessly proclaims that it is committed to the austerity program and the objective of reaching a budget surplus are openly defended by the Minister of the Economy. The PT is compromised by imperialist policies and even with the economic crisis and the threat of a coup, continues to defend the bourgeois attacks on workers as the solution for the economy. It's worth remembering that the request for the impeachment of Dilma isn't because of corruption, but because she has broken the Law of Fiscal Responsibility, a law passed by the PSDB government to guarantee the payment of public debt before investing in health, education, housing, etc. The PT defends the existence of this law. The government aligned movements such as the CUT, UNE and MST (a rural proletarian movement) are against austerity and, along with various social movements and bourgeois elements, have formed the Frente Brasil Popular (Brazilian People's Front) against any coup and in favor of a new political economy, although they support the government and act within the working class movement to demobilize true united fronts and their struggles, even though these are the only force capable of fighting a coup.

"We will carry out this program in the name of peace, of harmony, and of hope, that are still among us. We will obey the institutions of the democratic state, strictly follow the law and protect order, without which progress would be impossible. The country needs all Brazilians. Our promise is to reconstruct a modern, prosperous, democratic, and just state.” (PMDB program)

It is possible that the PMDB would lead a coalition government if Dilma and the PT were defeated and the “Bridge to the Future” program seems designed for this. Despite their intentions and the promise of a democratic state, the PMDB and other right wing parties are involved in corruption scandals and would need to apply the same austerity measures that are making Dilma and the PT lose support. The absence of a left wing alternative and the deepening of the economic crisis cause the growth of extreme right wing reactionaries who have their own intentions and are a threat to the working class.

In this way, the Popular Front ties workers to parliament and opens the way for fascism. There is no way out for workers inside the bourgeois parliament. Workers must break from the Popular Front and fight both the coup and fascism with their own methods, the general strike, workers' committees, and self-defense organizations. The main necessity is a revolutionary party to give a perspective of working class victory against capitalism, and for socialism.

A large part of the left sees the rise of the imperialist China/Russia bloc as progressive compared to American imperialism and defends the Popular Front in Brazil and the Bolivarian governments as a “lesser evil” with respect to the traditional right. In a dispute among imperialists, no matter who wins, the working class pays the price with their jobs and their lives. Workers must maintain class independence and fight against both imperialist blocs and their agents in the semi-colonies, such as the Popular Front and the “Bolivarians” in Latin America.


Left groups:

PSOL: mostly defends the government

PSTU: calls for new elections (a PSDB senator also defended this idea in an interview)

MRT (PTS Argentina): calls for a Free and Sovereign Constituent Assembly (the PMDB program insists on the necessity of constitutional changes)

MTST : Movement of Workers without Fear

“Uma ponte para o Futuro”:

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