Brazil: Nine months of Lula's government (International Viewpoint) - Part II

Richard Fidler rfidler at
Mon Nov 10 11:21:41 MST 2003

Resolving the agrarian question, integrating it into a project of
development supported by the domestic market involves, therefore, 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 and deprive of legitimacy the
movements and disqualify the settlements of the landless by 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, the CONTAG and the many movements that fulfill
a democratic and civilizing role, to strengthen 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 area 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
world-wide resistance to neoliberal globalization,. These have 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 Centres of
the Southern Cone. The reinforcement of these international initiatives,
bringing to the national plane the world-wide dimension of these
challenges, and connecting national struggles with regional and
world-wide 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.

The perspectives of the PT and the 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 programme for the transformation of Brazilian society in the
direction of the socialism. The initial period of government throws up a
sober question mark over this quest.

The conception of government that prevails implies a conflictual
relationship with the social base of the PT. The alliances made are in
contradiction with the programme 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 conflictual
process is developing in the PT, its deputies and its social base.
Support for defense of the party programme 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

The government does not suffocate the possibilities of the party. The
roots of the movement that constructed the PT over these 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

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 of 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
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 are 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 surpass it, taking support from
the PT and 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 *8 could not constitute an alternative - this possibility
would not correspond minimally to the historical meaning of the PT since
its creation.

At the moment, what is necessary is to bring the forces of the left
together to intervene in the same direction, knowing that the process is
conflictual 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 underway, address the whole social movement around the PT and
the experience of the government, opposing their 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 on the basis of the programme 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, *9 and in particular the struggle
against the threats of expulsion of parliamentarians. * 10 The
punishment cannot be considered legitimate on the basis of votes for
positions long defended by the party, including in the last electoral
campaign, that had been modified by the majority of the leadership
without a broad and democratic debate.

Moreover, 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 central
reference. 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).

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 mobilizations, the conjuncture cannot be considered as

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.


* João Machado is an economics lecturer at the Catholic University of
Sao Paulo, is a member of the coordination 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 party's national executive. This article is
based on a draft resolution presented by the coordination of the
Socialist Democracy Tendency for debate at its next conference.

1. See João Machado, 'The two souls of the Lula government', IV 348,
March 2003.

2. The budgetary surplus before interest payments on the public debt.

3 The draft can still be modified on the basis of discussion in the
Senate, but no great changes are anticipated.

4. The Ministry of Agrarian Development, also known as the Ministry of
Agrarian Reform is headed by Miguel Rosseto, 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 a pro-latifundist. The Brazilian
government, which is not responsible to parliament, does not hold
cabinet meetings - ministers are directly responsible to the President.

5. The legislation inherited from preceding governments envisages 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 agreement with the
IMF which stipulates that the primary fiscal surplus should not be lower
than 4.25% of the GDP and the method of calculation of this latter,
which includes these bonds as a debit from this surplus, reduces the
capacity of the Ministry of Rural Development and protects the

6. 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 of 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 anew 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.

7. 'Folha de São Paulo' 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.

8. The United Socialist Workers Party (PSTU) originated from a split in
the PT from the Socialist Convergence tendency (a Trotskyist current
identified with 'Morenism') in 1992 - after the first PT Congress at
which a settlement of the internal tendencies in 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), 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.

9. The government succeeded in that the majority of the PT's
parliamentary group voted in favour of pensions reform in the Chamber,
though only through the imposition of a 'block vote' and threats against
deputies opposed to the plans. Twenty four PT federal deputies voted for
the proposals, but made a public declaration that they did so solely to
respect the 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.

10. 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 pensions 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 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 will also be voted on.

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