Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva: "Full democracy requires social justice"

Fred Feldman ffeldman at bellatlantic.net
Mon Jul 21 20:30:23 MDT 2003


    Political realism doesn't mean we ditch our dreams: Brazil's
experiment
    shows full democracy requires social justice

    by Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva

    Saturday July 12, 2003 The Guardian

    Even though it grew at very high rates in the past, Brazil still
has one of the most unequal distributions of income in the world. This
situation must be reversed. A lack of economic and social democracy
threatens democracy as a whole. The values of social solidarity are in
decline. State institutions, politics and politicians are viewed with
increasing hostility.

    This state of affairs has become more acute over the past two
decades as a result of recession or stagnation. Since 1990, Brazil -
as with other Latin American countries - has been made into a
laboratory for disastrous economic recipes that damaged its productive
capacity, dismantled the fabric of society, weakened the state's
ability to regulate and increased its vulnerability to outside
pressures.

    The Brazilian Workers' party (PT), in alliance with others, is now
putting in place a project that combines economic growth with income
redistribution, deepens political democracy and asserts the
sovereignty of our country in the world.

    We inherited a heavy burden. The currency suffered a sharp
devaluation against the dollar and international credit dried up. The
new government managed to overcome this situation and confound
forecasts of economic collapse. Fiscal discipline, high interest rates
in the short term, an aggressive export policy and tax, and social
security reform have helped revive both the economy and national and
international confidence.

    A broad social and political coalition was formed, bringing
together state governors, parliament, the trade unions, the business
community and other sectors. There are times when only a major coming
together of wills can overcome situations of dire crisis.

    As a result, the exchange rate has stabilised, inflation has
dropped below 9%, the country's credit rating has improved, the debt
burden has fallen. Export credits have been re-established and this
year the balance of trade will run a $20bn surplus. In six months,
conditions for a return to growth and a boost to employment have been
achieved.

    The commitment to fashion a new economic model calls for forceful
policies, such as our Hunger Zero and First Job programmes. Fighting
hunger includes both structural measures - in support of small
farmers, education, health, housing, water and sewage treatment - and
emergency relief to those suffering from malnutrition.

    The social and political conditions are now in place to launch a
sustainable cycle of development. That will require the enlargement of
the internal market, particularly for mass consumer goods, by
integrating into it millions of excluded citizens. Agrarian reform is
also fundamental if the Brazilian economy is to be rebuilt. And it
will play a crucial role in making the country fully democratic.

    The state must also act decisively to carry out its regulatory
role in the economy. The loudly proclaimed achievements of
globalisation have failed to materialise, made worse by the climate of
recession throughout the world. The advice offered by international
organisations, and slavishly followed by many, has brought about the
deindustrialisation of vast expanses of our planet.

    The rhetoric of free trade contradicts the protectionist practices
of the rich countries. The uncontrolled flows of financial capital can
destabilise a country in a matter of hours. Hunger, unemployment and
social exclusion have reached alarming proportions in developing
countries. Indeed, there are huge pockets of poverty even in wealthy
societies.

    This state of affairs demands a new kind of foreign policy to help
build a new world order that is both fairer and more democratic. An
end must be put to international financial anarchy and the pressures
it exerts on developing economies. It is essential that both overt and
covert protectionism which marginalises poor countries be done away
with.

    We are committed to the peaceful settlement of conflicts, defence
of multilateralism and a world order that respects both human rights
and international law. That demands reform of multilateral bodies,
including the UN and its security council; indeed, Brazil has claimed
the right to a seat as a permanent member of the council.

    The main flashpoints of international tension result from
inequalities that prevail in the world, with its billions of
unemployed and hundreds of millions that go hungry and ill, with its
unfair trade regime. Against this background, South America has become
the top priority of the new Brazilian foreign policy, with an agenda
for a customs union, economic integration and a future common currency
- as well as to pave the way for an elected regional parliament and a
common regional foreign policy.

    Brazil, the country with the world's second largest black
population, has also reinvigorated its ties to Africa and re-engaged
with the Arab world. The creation of the G3 group by Brazil, India and
South Africa represents a decisive step in strengthening south-south
relations, while we have forged a mature relationship with the US and
Europe.

    The Brazilian experiment is not intended as a model. The Workers'
party that currently governs the country was forged around a specific
social and political alliance. This young leftwing party rose out of
the working classes during the declining years of the military regime.
Its appearance in 1980 coincided with the predicaments faced by social
democracy and the decline of the USSR and the countries of the
communist bloc. It also coincided with the conservative wave that
swept the world and even contaminated segments of the left.

    Its programme blended economic and social demands with calls for
political freedom. It had the support of broad segments of the middle
class, of youth and of new social movements. The PT defines itself as
a mass leftwing socialist party that is democratic in its internal
organisation. The party helped rebuild the trade union movement and
has given an impetus to social struggles throughout the country, as
well as playing an important role at local government level, where it
has pursued anti-corruption policies.

    The experience of government has now renewed the PT. And the ties
between state and society have been revisited by the adoption of
initiatives, such as the participatory budgets, that allow citizens'
oversight of public policies.

    Courage is needed to implement an ambitious reform programme that
can immediately improve the living conditions of the majority of the
population. However, such changes must be understood as only one
aspect of a broader process of social transformation. Political
realism must not be taken as a justification to abandon the dreams
that lie at the foundation of the thinking of the left. Neither can it
mean disenfranchising the votes of more than 52 million Brazilians.

    . Luiz Ignacio Lula da Silva is president of Brazil and honorary
president of the Workers' party. A longer version of this article will
be published on www.brazil.org.uk


    Guardian Unlimited (c) Guardian Newspapers Limited 2003





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