Brazil: a divided bourgeoisie faces the rising workers' struggle

Michel Temer's government, which was sworn in after Dilma Roussef's impeachment trial last year, is a government without a social base of support (with only 4 percent support) and has faced massive popular demonstrations against it over the last period.

The Marxist Left, the Brazilian section of the International Marxist Tendency, reaffirmed its analysis of Dilma's impeachment process in the resolution passed by our National Conference of April 2017:

"... [Dilma’s] impeachment was not the option favoured by the imperialists’, which feared the situation getting out of control. The imperialists realized that they did not have a reliable base of support against the masses and were scared of opening up a vacuum and the possibility of revolution. All the main pro-imperialist media made this position clear throughout the process of impeachment and even later.

"Initially the native bourgeoisie and their organizations also objected to that and made their opposition public through statements and manifestos by the FIESP, FIRJAM and CNI [Industrial Associations – Editor’s Note] and banks like Itau and Bradesco, including prominent bourgeois media like O Globo, Folha and others. However, the adventurist and short-sighted political representatives that the bourgeoisie had financed for years and to whom they had given control of the National Congress, were able to gain a certain degree of independence from their own patrons by relying on desperate petty-bourgeois sectors. They decided to go on the offensive, feeling the possibility of taking revenge for being forced to put up with the PT (Workers’ Party of Dilma and Lula) in government, and its allies of the PCdoB (Communist party of Brazil), the CUT (Trade Union Confederation), the MST (Landless Peasants’ Movement). The bourgeoisie was forced to follow their own mad dogs in order not to find themselves in a position of defending the Dilma/Lula government (a bourgeois government by a bourgeois-workers’ party) against most of the bourgeois parties. Thus, the Temer government was formed after Dilma’s impeachment. It is important to note that to this day Temer and his government are treated internationally like pariahs that have to be received and accepted formally, but without any enthusiasm and without exchanging visits and invitations."

Over the past few months the mobilizations against this hated government have grown and have become massive, after the approval of austerity measures that Dilma herself tried, but was not able to pass because of the boycott by the right-wing parliamentarians against her government.

At this year's Carnival, huge crowds in the streets chanted the slogan “Temer Out” spontaneously. On March 8, the International Working Women's Day, the same slogan became prominent in demonstrations throughout the country. On March 15, massive rallies in different cities and strikes of several workers’ categories were called against the government and the Pension and Labour Law Reforms.

The Pension Reform, rejected by 71% of the population, intends to establish a minimum age (which does not exist today) of 65 before people are eligible for retirement, alongside with changes in the calculation criteria that would cause the reduction of pension levels. On the other hand, the Labour Law Reform seeks to make some points of the general law more flexible, by allowing individual contracts between employee and employer to overrule what is in the law, thus leaving the worker as hostage to the pressure of their employer in the workplace.

The trade union confederations, pressured by their ranks, called for a general strike on April 28. It resulted in the largest General Strike in Brazil's history with about 40 million striking workers. The whole country was paralysed on that day, as teachers, public servants, railway, subway and bus workers, metal, banking, post office workers, and many more went on strike. Large cities were emptier than on a national holiday. Although the trade union confederations, such as the CUT, had instructed workers to stay at home, mass demonstrations also occurred on this day. In São Paulo, for example, about 70 thousand took to the streets.

Corruption, "Operation Car Wash" and the Temer government

Faced with such a situation, a wing of the bourgeoisie, aligned with US imperialism and their line of launching a general "anti-corruption clean up" in order to save the system and open up the Brazilian civil construction market, etc., decided to try and put an end to the government before the masses could do it on their own.

O Globo, the country's largest communications company, on May 17, launched a scathing attack on President Temer, with broad coverage on their TV channel, Rede Globo.

According to O Globo, the owners of JBS (a food company, which received a lot of money from the state to finance its national and international expansion) who were being investigated in the course of “Operation Car Wash” by the Federal Police, made a deal to expose (in exchange for protection) several corruption schemes they had with the government and other politicians and parties. One of these businessmen recorded a conversation with Temer, in which the president proves/appears to be supportive of his criminal requests, including transferring money to Eduardo Cunha, the former president of the National Congress who was arrested for corruption, so that he would keep silent and not incriminate others involved.

The widespread revelation of these denunciations "leaked" by the Federal Supreme Court and announced by the mainstream press, shows that a section of the bourgeoisie, even reluctantly, decided to make another step in the path of a "general clean up" demanded by imperialism.

The so-called “Operation Car Wash”, as already explained by the Marxist Left, with its abuses and totalitarian measures by the judiciary, increasingly arrogates to itself a Bonapartist role, with the central political task of sweeping aside the politicians and parties most hated by the masses, thus seeking to save the bourgeois institutions from complete demoralization and popular anger. “Operation Car Wash” is the product of the crisis of this regime. The overall result of this situation is the growing and accelerating terminal crisis of the “New Republic” regime arising from the 1988 Constitution.

“Operation Car Wash” obviously has nothing to do with fighting corruption; it is part of the political decision of sectors of the bourgeoisie and imperialists that this regime and this government have become unsustainable. On the other hand, to go down this road also deepens political instability.

A divided bourgeoisie

The capitalists are divided. They are running out of options for the future. There is no unifying figure to replace Temer and stabilize the situation. This has caused deep divisions in the ruling class. One wing defends the immediate termination of the Temer government. Another wing is in favour of dragging this government on, as the lesser evil, up until 2018 when new elections will take place. In addition, a new government coming from indirect elections in the congress, which is what the Constitution prescribes in this case, elected by secret ballot by the deputies of a demoralized National Congress, cannot solve the deep political crisis of the country.

The main bourgeois newspapers cannot agree with each other. While one (O Estado de São Paulo) criticizes the abuses of “Operation Car Wash” and advocates greater scrutiny over the Public Prosecutor's Office, another (O Globo) clearly demands the resignation of the president.

Temer tries to balance between these wings, declaring he will not resign and trying to accelerate the approval of counter-reforms to show how useful he could be to his capitalist masters. But the fact is that this government is politically paralysed. Even before the media bomb exploded, he faced difficulties in securing the necessary votes of approval for the National Pension Reform. Now ministers are abandoning the government and parties are discussing a withdrawal of support.

A way out considered "less traumatic" by bourgeois analysts would be the disqualification of the slate that won the 2014 elections (Dilma president and Temer vice-president), accused of abusing economic power, including misusing money for the campaign coming from state-owned Petrobras. This process has been on a slow track in the High Electoral Court since 2014, but new developments can speed it up. Such a way out would remove Temer without a demoralizing resignation, and without going through an exhausting new process of impeachment.

The role of reformist leaderships

Sections of the left are raising the slogan "Elections Now!" – that is, new presidential elections now. This would require a change in the Constitution. The PT defends the position of "Elections Now", but just for president. The reformist leadership of the CUT is proposing elections for president and for the National Congress, and to convene a Constituent Assembly, with the obvious objective of reforming the system and ensuring its survival.

The reformists cannot see any way out that goes beyond the limits of the capitalist order, beyond bourgeois democracy. At a time when institutions, traditional parties, politicians, and the electoral system itself are profoundly discredited, they demand more elections.

In the case of the PT there is a clear objective. Former President Lula, today, is leading the polls. Before, they were presenting Lula’s candidacy in 2018 as a way out for the popular struggles against Temer. Now that Temer is in an unstable position, the slogan is for Lula 2017. Lula, incidentally, had to reappear on the political scene in the face of the threat of arrest, because he is being investigated in “Operation Car Wash” for having received "favours" from large national constructors.

A possible Lula government in 2017 or 2018 can only have the effect of burying the PT politically and Lula as leader of the workers’ movement. There is no other way out for the reformists, facing the brutal crisis of capitalism, except for directly attacking the workers. Dilma’s impeachment, in fact, gave a lifeline to the PT. Had it not been removed from power, it would be completely destroyed by the further application of austerity measures required by capital.

The position of the Marxists

Marxist revolutionaries are looking beyond the boundaries of bourgeois democracy and point the way towards the abolition of the capitalist regime and towards socialism. The way out right now is not to fight for elections. After all, they can only give a new government greater legitimacy in order to continue attacking the working people.

The Marxist Left argues that in the face of the brutal bankruptcy of bourgeois institutions, the role of the leadership of the labour movement should be to explain that only the self-organization of the masses can give a positive outlet to the working class.

It is only through the united struggle against welfare and labour law reforms, against the government and the National Congress, for a genuine workers’ government that the working class can take advantage of the divisions in the ruling class and advance its struggle.

This is what expressed the demonstration of May 24 in the capital of the country, Brasilia. More than 100,000 youth and workers marched through federal government buildings, pushing back the police barriers, facing gas bombs, rubber bullets, low-flying helicopters and even rounds of gunfire with lethal ammunition. The result of such repression was more than 50 demonstrators injured, one of them by gunshot.

The Marxist Left and the youth organization “Libertade e Luta” were present in this march with a lively bloc, explaining the current situation and defending the need for a National Gathering of Workers, to join the forces of the trade union, the student and the popular movements, giving a voice and a vote to the ranks, to overcome the obstacle of the reformist leadership. We also point out the need to build for an open-ended General Strike until the withdrawal of all the counter-reforms and the fall of the Temer government.

The Trade Union Confederations’ leaders met after this mobilization and called for a new general strike in June. But a one-day strike is insufficient for the situation. The example of Greece, with more than 30 general strikes of 24 or 48 hours in recent years, has shown that they served only to ease the pressure on the conciliating trade union leadership and to tire the ranks. What is needed is an open-ended general strike.

The instability is becoming deeper, the bourgeoisie is at a standstill and the class struggle is heating up. In this situation the Marxist Left defends the self-organization of the workers and their independent mobilization from the bourgeoisie. We are campaigning to oust Temer and the National Congress, defending a Workers' Government and explaining the need for a National Popular Constituent Assembly to pave the way for a revolution against the capitalist system, its institutions, its parties and its lackeys.

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