The Struggle Inside Brazilís Workers Party (PT)
ďPT Radical, Heloisa Helena, Stays and FightsĒ
The following message was posted October 13, 2003, by the information service of the Bureau of the United Secretariat of the Fourth International (FI), a worldwide organization of labor and socialist activists. The FI Bureau translation has been edited for Labor Standard.
At the very end of September 2003, Heloisa Helena, the senator at the forefront of opposition to the Brazilian governmentís right-wing economic policies, announced she had no intention of walking out of the governing Workers Party (PT). If the leadership really wanted to silence her, they would have to pay the price of expelling her.
Heloisa Helena is a member of the Socialist Democracy Tendency, which organizes supporters of the Fourth International inside the PT. She has been under pressure to stand in next yearís local elections for mayor of Maceio, the capital of her home state of Alagoas. The PT leadership postponed until the end of October the meeting that was to decide whether to expel Heloisa and three other members of parliament. This would be after the deadline for registering as a candidate in those elections and was widely seen as a maneuver to persuade Heloisa to leave the PT of her own accord in time to register under the name of another party. At least two other parties on the left had offered her their ticket. But this former teachersí union leader, whose term as senator is now coming to its end, has decided to stay and fight within the PT.
In the following interview, Heloisa spoke to Brazilís biggest daily newspaper, the Folha de S„o Paulo, about her decision.
Folha: By staying in the PT, have you given up on running for mayor of Maceio?
Heloisa Helena: I am not going to be dictated to by the electoral calendar. Iím putting my name down for the PT primaries, I want to run for mayor, but Iím not going to do what they want. As a girl growing up in a poor family, I often had to enter by the back door. Iíve no intention of leaving by it. Itís not my style. If they want me to leave, theyíll have to go through with their show trial and point their totalitarian, neo-Stalinist finger at me.
Folha: Arenít you afraid of expulsion?
Heloisa: I was brought up out in the drought-ridden backlands of the Northeast, where you learn to live with solitude and hunger. The presidential palace cannot punish me for voting in favor of the positions weíve defended for so long in the PT, and which have now been changed without any democratic debate. Those positions were decided by our last national conference.
Folha: Do you still believe in Lulaís government?
Heloisa: In the first nine months the economic policy has been conservative and subservient to the markets, continuing that of the previous government. This could change. Not because the government itself decides to change, but because of the pressure of objective reality, because of pressure from the social movements and from many of the partyís members. It may be forced to change.
Folha: What are you most disappointed about in the Lula government?
Heloisa: Being submitted to a process of expulsion while the government licks the boots of some of the biggest crooks in Brazilian politics. That really hurts. And Iím depressed by the huge chasm that has opened up between what we [the PT] promised people when we were in opposition and what we are doing now in government.