This year, 2018, is the 30th anniversary of the Brazilian federal constitution, which marked the end of a long period of military dictatorship (From 1964-85) and the reestablishment of democracy, writes Tomaz Mefano. However, in this same year, Brazilian democracy has been under intense attack. Marielle Franco, local councillor and member of the Socialist and Liberty Party (PSOL), was executed in the centre of Rio de Janeiro, along with her driver Anderson on March 14. Less than two months later, the candidate ahead in the polls for October’s presidential election, former president Lula, was arrested on April 7 corruption charges – with no proof. It’s clear that this is a blatant attempt by Lula’s opponents to prevent his return to power.
These setbacks were partially caused by the contradictions of the Brazilian democracy itself. The regime that prevailed during the last 30 years has become more and more detached from people’s life. It has been marked by increasing social inequality and the plundering of public services by private interests.
Even the last decade of Worker’s Party (PT) government did not reverse this scenario. Since 2003, when the PT was first elected, political activism in Brazil stagnated as social movements were not mobilized to fight for real social reforms. Instead, the government stimulated them to work together with the elite for a very moderate (and liberal) version of national development. Although some social improvements were accomplished, such some reduction in poverty, this was done in a way that didn’t threaten the privileges of the Brazilian elites.
During more than a decade of PT governments (led by Lula 2003-11 and Dilma 2011-2016, respectively), agribusiness grew vigorously, private banks had their highest profits in Brazilian history, pension reform which benefitted national and international corporations and lost public control. The Amazon forest has been increasingly devastated by agro/mineral extractivism with state support, while poor communities were segregated and persecuted under an aggressive policy of public security in the main cities. While the economic interests of the elites were preserved, conservative lobby groups consolidated their influence in the parliament. As a result of all this, an increasing number of people became disillusioned with politics.
However, with the first signs of economic crisis in Brazil, the elites that had been enriched by the PT government started to demand further liberal reforms. Although Dilma`s centre-left government wanted to oblige; proposing a fiscal squeeze and approving laws to controlling social movements, such as the “anti-terrorism law”, it seems that these attempts were not enough. The elites then sought a political force that could better represent and protect its interests. Therefore, Brazilian right wing political parties, with the help of the mainstream media, took advantage of people`s discomfort over the economic crisis and the weakness of PT’s social base – after long years putting social movements aside from the political game – and launched a “judicial coup”, effectively replacing Dilma with the then vice president, Michel Temer. Temer comes from the Brazilian Democratic movement, (MDB) which had been in coalition with the PT until March 2016 when it started accusing both Dilma and Lula of corruption.
Since his first day in office, Temer has taken several unpopular measures and has involved in numberous cases of corruption. The new government approved the freezing of public expenditure until 2046, labour reform that eliminates most basic rights at work, reduced state control over primary resources, among other things. At the same time, the army has been called to control the public security in Rio de Janeiro and other states of Brazil have conducted a repressive “war against crime”, which instead of reducing crime increased the persecution of black people from poor communities.
In order to resist these setbacks, part of the Brazilian left has begun to construct a united front against the coup and its reforms, working with those who still see Lula as their representative. But Left wing parties and social movements also face the challenge of building independent projects that can really change things for the majority; different from the conciliation project of the PT. Marielle Franco represented this attempt. She was a strong voice from Rio de Janeiro’ favelas, incessantly resisting violence (economic as well as direct) against black people, against women, against the LGBTQ community, against all the poor.
By murdering Marielle, the state expected to silence that fight. However, as the crowd who attended her funeral said, it did not bury a corpse, but a seed. Since then, an alliance have been made between PSOL (Marielle’s political party), and two of the most important social movements in Brazil, the homeless movement, MTST (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Teto), and the Articulation of the Indigenous Peoples of Brazil (Articulação dos Povos Indígenas do Brasil). This alliance has called all people to fight for social rights and the democracy in Brazil, as well as putting forward Guilherme Boulos for President from the homeless movement and Sonia Guajajara to advocate an alternative project in this year’s elections.
In Britain, the Brazilian community has contributed to this fight by organizing a series of demonstrations and debates. Socialist Resistance has supported their organisation Further demonstrations are being called and a local committee of Boulos’ campaign is being launched. Get involved!
For further information about what Brazilians in Britain are planning contact firstname.lastname@example.org by email or message Tomaz Mefano Fares on fbk