Brazil: Nine Months of Lula’s Government
by João Machado
This article is from the October-November 2003 issue of International Viewpoint, the publication of the United Secretariat of the Fourth International, a worldwide organization of labor and socialist activists. The article has been edited for Labor Standard.
The author, an economics lecturer at the Catholic University of São Paulo, is a member of the coordinating body of the Socialist Democracy Tendency (composed of members of the PT identifying with the Fourth International). He has been a member of the PT since its foundation and is a former member of the PT’s national executive. This article is based on a draft resolution presented by the coordinating body of the Socialist Democracy Tendency for debate at its next conference.
Readers are also referred to an earlier article by João Machado, “The Two Souls of the Lula Government,” in the March 2003 issue of International Viewpoint (IV); this can be read on the IV web site.
After nine months in office, the government of Luis Inácio (Lula) da Silva has confirmed its contradictory and in many aspects even surprising character.
The biggest surprises are an economic policy that displays great continuity with that of the previous government, which the PT had opposed, and the assembly of a base of parliamentary and political support that incorporates almost all the existing right wing forces in the country. In fact, on the right, only the parties that formed the axis of the government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso (FHC), the Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB) and the Liberal Front Party (PFL), continue in formal opposition; nonetheless, they have been partners of the Lula government in some of its more important initiatives, such as pension reform.
This does not denote incoherence on the part of the PSDB and the PFL, because the pension reform proposal presented by the Lula government followed the general lines of their own earlier proposal, which they had been unable to fully implement, largely because of opposition from the PT. On this question, the Lula government faced opposition from sectors of the social movements and, at the parliamentary level, mainly from the left wing of the PT and some of the other left parties.
On the other hand, the Lula government has maintained coherence with the historical program of the PT in international relations, agrarian reform, and some other areas. There have been important changes in these areas from the policies of the previous government, but they face difficulties, given the more general economic and political choices made by the government so far.
Initial Balance Sheet of the Lula Government
The great contradictions which exist make it difficult to draw a considered balance sheet of this process. In any case, it is important to try. Because of the weight that they have in the definition of the government’s overall policy possibilities, it is best to start the assessment from the general political options and the economic policy which has been adopted. The central core of the government opted to avoid a global confrontation with the dominant classes, whether national or international. More than this, they seek the maintenance of a degree of broad agreement with them. The political axis of the government has been to broaden alliances with the historical political adversaries of the PT, while preaching patience to the people in general and the social movements in particular.
This has led to a distancing from the text approved at the national meeting of the PT in December 2001 defined as the “democratic axis” of the party—to rely on social mobilization to make possible measures that would face resistance from the ruling classes, and to go in the direction of implementing mechanisms of participatory democracy. In fact, even though there are initiatives from the government and the social movements that can represent initial steps in this direction, as well as processes of consultation and debate in some areas that keep open channels of dialogue with society, this is not predominant. In fact, the government has not submitted its central choices—especially its economic policy—to any type of debate with the social movements and with society.
Neoliberal Economic Orientation
Macroeconomic policy has been characterized by continuity, and there are no consistent signs of search for a transition to another policy. The government has concentrated on fiscal austerity, mainly through increasing the “primary fiscal surplus”—the budgetary surplus before interest payments on the public debt. And it is fighting inflation by means of conservative policies (higher interest rates), seeking to win the “confidence” of the financial markets. This orientation helped stop the depreciation of Brazil’s currency, the real, and led to a sharp fall in inflation.
The risk of an immediate currency crisis has been averted. However, this is not essentially due to “confidence” in the Brazilian economy, as the government has proclaimed. It is largely due to the inflow of speculative capital, favored both by the general international trend of the last few months and by high Brazilian interest rates.
These results are then very precarious—in fact, the external dependence of the Brazilian economy has not been reduced at all. On the other hand, it is important to point out the serious negative consequences of these policies: a serious recession (at best, the result by the end of 2003 will be economic stagnation); increased unemployment (reaching an all-time high in August); and a fall in real income for workers and for society as a whole (all these facts are certified by different public statistics).
Moreover, the combination of an increased primary fiscal surplus with high interest rates implies a significant transfer of wealth to the holders of financial assets, in other words the wealthier sectors of society. The income of the overall population has fallen and, to make matters worse, wealth is becoming still more concentrated. Finally, fiscal austerity imposes great restrictions on all government policies.
The negative consequences of the Lula government’s economic policy will be hard to overcome. The maintenance of the increased primary fiscal surplus is foreseen for the entire term of President Lula, and compromises the capacity for public investment. The fall in the income of society inhibits private investment. Thus, even with a reduction of interest rates (which, given the fall in inflation, is part of the logic of the monetarist policies followed and would not indicate, by itself, a change in economic policy), economic recovery will tend to be limited—and will always be threatened by the permanence of external vulnerability.
As a result basically of the economic policy adopted, especially the attempt to win the “confidence” of the markets, pension reform has resulted in a particularly negative experience. The government plan encountered opposition from civil servants and the CUT (the main Brazilian trade union federation)—that is, social forces that had been decisive to Lula’s victory. Inside the PT, and in particular its active social base, the pension reform plan led to great discontent. This resulted in partial alteration of the plan, which reduced the extent of its damage, but it was insufficient to change its character. The draft can still be modified on the basis of discussion in the Senate, but no great changes are expected.
A New Foreign Policy
The most positive aspect of the government’s orientation so far has been its foreign policy. Beyond opposing the U.S. attack on Iraq and steps in the direction of establishing an independent foreign policy, there has been an attempt to construct South American unity, and also a front of the so-called “developing” countries, opposed to the interests of the imperialist centers, as was seen at the World Trade Organization (WTO) conference at Cancún.
Brazil is also opposing the U.S. position on the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). Although the negotiations on this are continuing, the Lula government has sought to reduce the scope of the FTAA, saying that it could eventually accept an “FTAA-lite.” Such a modified version of the FTAA would not apply to matters that go beyond mere trade (such as regulation of government purchases and investments). So the Lula government has demanded important concessions from the U.S. However, given Brazil’s vulnerability to external financial pressure and the existence of divisions inside the government, it is not clear what the outcome of the process will be. Thus, the proposal for a public referendum on the FTAA, made by the Continental Campaign Against the FTAA, with the aim of rejecting the FTAA in its entirety, retains a burning relevance.
In opposition to the policy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, it is necessary to point out that there are aspects of international relations that are conducted by the Ministry of Finance (like relations with the IMF). There, a conservative position prevails. This recently led to a paradoxical situation—when the new Argentine president, Nestor Kirchner, negotiated an agreement that partly opposed the demands of the IMF, he enjoyed support from other Latin American heads of state, and even in the USA, but not from Lula. The press has divulged that Kirchner is dissatisfied with the extreme subservience of the Brazilian government at this level, which seems very likely. Lula has rejected criticism that he has accepted excessive interference from the IMF with the doubtful argument that the more controversial options—like the primary fiscal surplus of 4.25% of GDP—were decided on by the Brazilian government independent of IMF pressure.
In fact, it seems that a significant number of the more dubious decisions in economic policy have not been a result of IMF pressure. For example, there is currently a discussion on whether a new agreement with this institution is useful, and many sectors of the government have said that this would depend on having greater flexibility in the negotiation of conditions. They want to modify the method of calculating the primary fiscal surplus, to allow for greater public investment and more social expenditure (for example, paying for the lands redistributed in the framework of land reform with Agrarian Debt bonds; with the method currently used, this would be counted as an internal debt and would reduce the primary fiscal surplus). In this debate, finance minister Palocci has opposed any significant “flexibilization,” even if this would be accepted by the IMF. The inner group that decides Brazilian economic policy is, therefore, showing itself more orthodox and conservative than the IMF.
The conservatism of economic policy has been a significant obstacle to agrarian reform. On this question, the Ministry of Agrarian Development has, since the early days of the government, established a constructive relationship with the rural social movements and has sought a broad dialogue with society.
The Ministry of Agrarian Development, also known as the Ministry of Agrarian Reform, is headed by Miguel Rossetto, former vice-governor of the state of Rio Grande del Sul and a supporter of the Socialist Democracy Tendency of the PT. This ministry is independent of the Ministry of Agriculture, which is led by an official whose policies favor the large landowners, the “latifundists.” The Brazilian government, which is not responsible to parliament, does not hold cabinet meetings. Ministers are directly responsible to the president.
A new conception of agrarian reform is being developed, as well as of family and cooperative agriculture, integrated with a project of change of the economy and society. Immediately this involves aid to the settlements of landless peasants carried out under the Cardoso government, so as to ensure citizenship rights and overcome disorganization in production. Financing of the harvest for small producers, as well as the construction of alternatives that make the settlements economically viable, are the first concrete results of this process. Moreover, the government has committed itself to urgently settle about 60,000 families who are squatting. Finally, the Ministry of Agrarian Development has shown the determination to face down the criminal armed resistance of the large estate owners, who are organizing militias. It favors immediate and firm action to punish those responsible and prevent them from constituting a “latifundium state” in the Brazilian countryside. (“Latifundium” is a Latin term that means “large landholding; or large landed estate.”)
All these policies, however, come up against the budgetary restrictions imposed by the economic policy that has been chosen. For example, without the funds to pay large landowners for the expropriation of unproductive land, the commitment to settle 60,000 families could not be fulfilled.
Legislation inherited from preceding governments allows the possibility of “expropriating” lands which are “unproductive,” with the landowners being compensated in money or “agricultural debt bonds.” The latter are less profitable for the “latifundists,” the large landowners. The agreement with the IMF stipulates that the “primary fiscal surplus” should not be lower than 4.25% of the GDP, and the method of calculating the GDP includes these bonds as a debit from this surplus. This reduces the capacity of the Ministry of Rural Development and protects the latifundists.
There was also a problem of management. Following the replacement, in early September 2003, of the president of the INCRA (Instituto Nacional de Colonização et Reforma Agrária — the body of the Ministry directly in charge of agrarian reform) there was an acceleration of the establishment of settlements for the beneficiaries of agrarian reform. The figure of 60,000 families could probably be reached at the beginning of 2004. That does not mean that the process of agrarian reform is easy — it is not certain that the Ministry will dispose of the means to establish another 60,000 families in the budgetary year 2004, and even this figure is modest in relation to need. Several hundred thousand families are occupying lands and waiting to be settled.
This example, like others, has shown once more the contradiction between social change and the maintenance of basic aspects of the economic model inherited from FHC.
Retreat on GMOs
Another controversial question opposes the conception that prevails in the economic area to other sectors of the government - the question of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). The more conservative sectors of the government, prominently the Ministry of Agriculture, linked to the big agricultural producers, have defended the use of these organisms (in opposition to the policies previously defended by the PT as a whole). The Ministry of the Environment, the Ministry of Rural Development, the environmentalist movement, the social movements in the countryside (especially the MST—the Landless Workers Movement), the progressive sectors of the Catholic and Evangelical churches, the CUT trade union federation, and the broad majority of the PT are all opposed. The government has finally issued a Provisional Measure allowing the culture of genetically modified soya up to 2004 (repeating a procedure already adopted in the early days of the government, when the marketing of the harvest of illegally planted genetically modified soya was authorized). This measure has helped discredit the government in the eyes of the progressive social movements. It is possible that the vote on this question in Congress will lead to a significant confrontation between the position of the government and that of sectors of the PT.
A Contradictory Dynamic
This initial period of government reveals a “conflictual dynamic,” conflicting processes under way, both inside the government and in the relationship of the government to the social forces responsible for its election. The contradictions have become ever more clear. If the Lula government can in some cases be the partner of progressive movements, as happened at the WTO meeting in Cancún, it can also be clearly opposed to these movements, as in the case of pension reform and the dispute over GMOs. On other questions, such as agrarian reform, the government has had difficulties in fulfilling its commitments due to budgetary restrictions and conservative conceptions of economic policy. As a result, the rural social movements have begun to make their demands more forcibly.
Thus, at the center of these conflicting trends is the economic policy that maintains external vulnerability and imposes policies of adjustment governed by neoliberal logic. So far, it is this policy that has set the general tone of the government.
The Social Movements—A Complex Picture
In this situation, the social movements have been obliged to seriously modify their behavior. The electoral defeat of neoliberalism, with the election of Lula, represented a victory for the trade union and popular movement, and renewed its possibilities of organization and mobilization. On the other hand, adverse social and economic conditions for the movement, above all unemployment, have continued and deepened. The political conditions have changed, but the fact that the Lula government is defending, and putting into practice, significant orientations that clash with the aspirations of the social movements, makes the picture more complex. A phase of expectation in the government is being transformed into another phase, which involves criticism of various policies and processes of unification and mobilization with the objective of pressuring the government and opposing its choices.
The recent establishment of the Coordination of Social Movements (by the CUT, the MST, the World March of Women, the UNE students’ union, and other bodies) is an important step in this direction. It was created on the basis of an understanding that a broad and unified popular mobilization alone can guarantee the conquests of the toiling classes. Most of the participant movements had already worked together in the campaign against the FTAA. This meant they already had a critical vision of the economic policy of the Lula government. A campaign for jobs was defined as the main initial joint action, since this struggle has greater potential for mobilization at this moment and makes greater unity possible. This new coalition, the Coordination of Social Movements, has a broad platform, including agrarian reform, national sovereignty, and recovery of the social role of the state.
There is, therefore, an important politicization of the social movements under way, having as its axis a redefinition of their role in relation to the government. To help develop this process in the direction of affirming the social movements as basic subjects in the conflict of orientation of society and government is one of the main tasks of the Brazilian left today. In fact, the unfavorable correlation of forces inside the government can only be modified by a strong social mobilization, defending an alternative set of policies.
A Platform for Change
The construction of a broader platform presenting society with a programmatic alternative has therefore a central importance at this moment. Some elements of this platform could be:
1/ Understanding that popular participation in political decision-making is a decisive element for the affirmation of a left government (participatory democracy is one of the axes of the “Guidelines of the Program for Government,” approved at the 12th National Meeting of the PT, which took place in late 2001 in Recife).
2/ An alternative economic policy. Since the beginning of the year many economists linked to the PT or the left have criticized the economic orientation of the government and defended an alternative strategy. This strategy also corresponds to ideas presented in the text of the “Guidelines” approved at the meeting of 2001 and in the “Program of Government” of 2002; it also corresponds, partially, to the “Strategic Orientation of the Plurianual Plan” proposed in June 2003 by the Ministry of Planning, which conflicts with the policies of the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank. (However, the “Pluriannual Plan” does not have the same real weight as the concrete measures of economic policy adopted by the Finance Ministry and the Bank.) The central ideas of this alternative are:
a/ An understanding that the biggest problem of the Brazilian economy is its external vulnerability, the most acute aspect of economic dependency. This is the problem that must be faced in the first place, and it cannot be done by seeking to “win confidence” through bigger fiscal adjustments, which only increase dependency on the interests and moods of the financial markets. It is necessary, on the contrary, to establish controls on the movement of capital, among other measures.
Moreover, the question of the foreign debt has returned to the center of discussion. There was a statement made on September 1, 2003, by Celso Furtado, a leading Brazilian economist, in favor of declaring a moratorium on debt repayment and renegotiating the debt. There is the example given by Argentina in its renegotiation; and we have seen the publication of a study by the IMF itself (!) in mid-September, wherein the latter recognizes that “countries that declare a moratorium, like Argentina, have great possibilities of reducing the weight of their debt in relation to GDP and returning to growth in a relatively short period.” (The IMF study was quoted in Brazil’s largest daily paper, Folha de São Paulo, on September 12, 2003. A joke on the left has it that Finance Minster Palocci is about to break with the IMF because it is too left wing.)
b) A return to economic growth, through the reduction of interest rates and abandonment of the concept that gives a place of privilege to the “primary surplus.” This would make possible the reduction of unemployment (which would also require other specific policies) and increased incomes for workers. Therefore, it is the key to the reduction of poverty and social inequality. It must be combined with a bigger emphasis on development through the expansion of the domestic market, a traditional proposal of the PT (which appears in the “Strategic Orientation of the Pluriannual Plan, 2004–2007”). In other words, it is necessary to emphasize the search for a national project of development, as the PT has always done.
c) A national project of development is not counterposed to the deepening of relations with the countries of Latin America and others in a similar condition to Brazil. This aspect of the foreign policy of the Lula government is important, and must be strengthened. On the other hand, any project of development is (by its very nature) counterposed to the FTAA.
3/ Defense of agrarian reform and a new agricultural model as conditions for a democratic and popular project of development.
The agrarian question is a contemporary question that has still not been resolved from the point of view of popular interests. The worsening social, economic, and environmental problems in the countryside show the necessity for a new agricultural model, which must involve a deep modification in the agrarian structure and the development of programs of support for production and the marketing of family agriculture and the settlements established through agrarian reform. The “Harvest Plan for Family Agriculture” presented recently by the federal government represents an important positive measure in the strengthening of a sector that will come to have a still more central role in Brazilian agriculture.
Resolving the agrarian question, integrating it into a project of development supported by the domestic market, therefore involves the implementation of a broad agrarian reform on new bases. This should promote the democratization of access to land, power, and income, the universalization of basic rights for an important part of the population that lives and works in the Brazilian rural milieu, a more balanced occupation of territory, and the preservation of the environment, besides fulfilling a basic role of guaranteeing sovereignty in food and dynamizing the regional economy. The defense of agrarian reform is also a profound challenge to the neoliberal inheritance and the more conservative sectors of Brazilian society. The agrarian counter-reform carried out by FHC sought to criminalize the social movements [among the rural poor] and deprive them of legitimacy, disqualifying land occupations by the landless or localizing them in isolated areas, while policies of support for production and marketing were not developed.
An active commitment to agrarian reform implies a broad militant solidarity with the MST (Movimento Sem Terra—the landless rural workers movement), and the many movements like it, such as CONTAG, which carry out a democratic and civilizing role, and it implies strengthening social pressure to confront the large estate owners and their militias, symbols of backwardness and promoters of violence. Among the tasks necessary to develop this commitment are the construction of a new model of agrarian reform, expropriating land in areas with already existing infrastructure, concentrating settlements, and transforming them into spaces guaranteeing quality of life and production. This model must also integrate family and cooperative agriculture with structures of marketing and agro-industrial processing capable of constituting a new agricultural model that is economically efficient, socially just, and sustainable from the environmental point of view.
4/ A new internationalism
The election of Lula in 2002 was part of a growing rejection of the neoliberal agenda in diverse regions of the world. However, the main measures of economic policy of its first months of government clash, to a large extent, with the expectations and yearnings of the broad worldwide resistance to neoliberal globalization.
This worldwide movement has been expressed in the mobilizations against the multilateral organizations, in the World Social Forum, the World March of Women (which has a strong organization in Brazil), the International Network of Social Movements, the Continental Campaign against the FTAA, the Continental Social Alliance, Via Campesina, and the Coordination of Trade Union Centers of the Southern Cone. The reinforcement of these international initiatives, bringing to the national plane the worldwide dimension of these challenges, and connecting national struggles with regional and worldwide campaigns, constitutes the embryo of a new internationalism that will be able to stimulate struggles throughout the world and to strengthen the popular initiatives of the Brazilian left. In this form, it can strengthen the more progressive positions taken at the international level by the Lula government.
Perspectives of the PT and Politics of the Left
The conquest of the federal government by the PT opened a new stage in the trajectory of the party. Its ability to realize the hopes constructed in struggle and the conquest of the Presidency of the Republic is at stake, as is the ability of the PT to remain faithful to its own program for the transformation of Brazilian society in the direction of the socialism. The initial period of government places a serious question mark over this program.
The conception of government that prevails implies a relationship in conflict with the social base of the PT. The alliances made are in contradiction with the program of government defended in the electoral campaign; we are not witnessing a process of democratization of the public administration, of a popular character. On the other hand, in foreign policy, agrarian reform, and other areas measures are being taken that correspond to the historical positions of the PT. A contradictory process is developing in the PT, among its deputies and in its social base. Support for defense of the party program and its democratic and active functioning is growing.
The “Guidelines” approved at the 12th National Meeting in December 2001, and the “Program of Government” approved in June 2002, constitute an elaboration which is limited, but very important, for they present the official point of view of the party. The left of the PT must make this elaboration a starting point for the debate on the orientation of the government; in this form, it renews the thread of the trajectory of the PT, and rests on the legitimacy of the positions taken in the party’s meetings.
The government, in its present form, does not exhaust the possibilities of the party. The roots of the movement that constructed the PT over the past 23 years are deep, and they lie in the working class and the people. The history of the construction of the PT is a history of social, political, and cultural struggles in Brazilian society, and also a history of internal disputes. There are strong arguments to reaffirm that this process continues:
A/ The trajectory of the PT is that of the social classes and social sectors that the PT seeks to represent and that feel themselves represented by the PT;
B/ the fundamental weight of the left inside the PT;
C/ the tradition of pluralism in the PT, its internal democracy and the right of tendency;
D/ the programmatic references constructed throughout the trajectory of the party.
Thus, it is not correct, on the basis of the orientation of the Lula government in the first nine months, to conclude that the game is over, as if the options taken expressed in a homogenous manner the entire movement and indicated its entire future; as if there were not contradictions and forces which move in relation to them. The PT has just experienced a time of crisis, and it will continue to develop thus for a period that is not possible to predict today. Fundamental confrontations face us, whether questions of government or those relating to party activity (elections in 2004, renewal of the party leadership and meetings in 2005).
Understanding the depth of the current crisis does not have to lead to the conclusion that it is impossible to overcome it, with support from within the PT and from the multiple conflicts that develop in society. It is necessary to critically examine which alternatives are in gestation from this environment. The precipitate exit of small fragments of the PT to join the PSTU could not constitute an alternative. This possibility would not correspond minimally to the historical meaning of the PT since its creation.
The United Socialist Workers Party (PSTU) originated in 1992 with a split from the PT by the Socialist Convergence tendency (a Trotskyist current identified with “Morenism”—that is, a current influenced by the ideas and organizational practices of the eccentric Argentine Trotskyist leader, Nahuel Moreno, now deceased). This split occurred after the first PT Congress, at which a settlement among the internal tendencies of the PT was adopted (which Socialist Convergence did not accept), and before the 8th National Meeting (June 1993), at which the left of the PT for the first time obtained more representatives than the moderate current (led by Lula) in the leadership of the party.
A little after this split some activists (who were among the fiercest partisans of leaving the PT) left the PSTU and formed the CST (Corrente Socialista dos Trabalhadores — a small tendency, primarily present in the states of Rio Grande do Sul and Pará), which returned to the PT. In the course of 2002, the CST split, the wing based in Rio Grande do Sul forming the MES (Movimento de Esquerda Socialista) after fusing with a local trade union current. The MES and CST are best known through the positions of the federal deputies Luciana Genro (MES) and João Batista Babá (CST), who are being threatened by the PT majority. The MES and CST have now begun the construction of a movement to form another party (provisionally called the PTS — Socialist Workers Party), while deciding to establish it only after the expected expulsion of Luciana and Babá. Because of an orientation which had led it to isolate itself from the left of the PT, the MES split in 2003. Whether the new party will be formed in common with the PSTU is not yet settled and divergences seem to exist inside the potential components. For now this process concerns at most a few thousand people, while the PT has more than 100,000 members.
At the moment, what is necessary is to bring the forces of the left together to intervene in the same direction, knowing that the processes going on inside the PT are contradictory and can have more than one outcome. The fight for the PT as a socialist and democratic party is not settled. On the basis of this evaluation, the Socialist Democracy tendency has defended the construction of a broad left current in the PT, with the capacity to formulate programmatic contributions, to intervene in the central conflicts under way, and to address the whole social movement around the PT and the experience of the Lula government, opposing its strategic choices.
A battle against the transformation of the PT into a transmission belt for governmental decisions is necessary; to fight to reestablish a party process based on the program of the party (it is this, and the decisions of the party’s meetings, that must be the basis for party unity) and on internal democracy. A basic aspect of this fight is opposition to the disciplinary measures that are taken or proposed by the majority of the PT leadership, and in particular the struggle against the threats of expulsion of left PT members of parliament. Such punishment cannot be considered legitimate on the basis of votes for positions long defended by the party, including in the last electoral campaign, positions that have been modified by the majority of the leadership without a broad and democratic debate.
The Lula government’s disciplinary measures have succeeded for now, in the sense that the majority of the PT’s parliamentary group voted in favor of pension reform in the Chamber of Deputies, although only as the result of a “block vote” being imposed, along with threats against deputies opposed to the pension reform plans. Twenty-four PT federal deputies voted for the proposals, but made a public declaration that they did so solely to respect the “block vote” decision of the party, while three deputies voted against and eight abstained (which under the rules for approval of a constitutional amendment, was the same as a vote against). During the second vote, the procedure was repeated, with the difference that one of those who previously abstained voted against.
Currently there is the threat of expulsion of Senator Heloísa Helena (a supporter of the Socialist Democracy Tendency) and three federal PT deputies (who voted against pension reform). Also eight federal deputies were recently suspended from the PT’s parliamentary group for 60 days (the seven who abstained during the two votes and the deputy who abstained on the first vote and voted against during the second). This suspension represented a setback for the majority of the PT executive, who had announced before the vote that those who voted against or abstained were heading for expulsion from the party. The suspended deputies appealed against this measure to the National Leadership of the PT, which was to meet on October 25–26. At this meeting the proposals for expulsion were also to be voted on.
Broad Debate Needed
It is important to be clear that the debate on the PT’s orientation cannot today be made only through internal quarrels. This should be a debate in the broad political and social movement for which the PT is a reference. The PT, in the broad sense, brings together what it most expressive of the Brazilian left, the result of more than twenty years of democratic and social struggles, having the PT as a central reference point. It is necessary to participate in the process from inside, with an alternative overall vision to that of the current majority of the leadership, presenting solutions that answer the problems we face.
The arrival in government means that the politics of the party majority are being tested much more quickly, as in the case of the economic policy. The process of debate on orientation has undergone a great acceleration, and has a dynamic of greater interlacing of party issues and social struggles. There is a greater politicization of the movements and more informed social classes (in which a critical vision of the government has grown rapidly).
Outcome of Struggle Not Foreordained
There is more than one possible outcome to all this. The perspective that best orients a left intervention is that of fighting for a socialist reconstruction of the PT. It is also that which best corresponds to the new political situation. Marked by the growth of conflicts and social mobilizations, the situation at the present juncture cannot be considered as decisive.
The construction of the PT as a democratic and socialist party was the strategic element that allowed the growth of the left in Brazil. It is necessary to fight to reconstruct this project. If we were to make the contrary choice, the risk of fragmentation of the left would become dominant, and the way would be opened for other regressions in the political and social struggle. The left of the PT can intervene in the processes of debate on orientation in the party with the legitimacy of those who defend the historical and strategic project of the PT—the project of a democratic and socialist party. This perspective allows the construction of a broad left current as a socialist pole of reference.