The Government and Bosses attack with the Collaboration of Treacherous Leaders
The mass demonstrations which erupted in Brazil in June – the ‘Jornadas de Junho‘ (‘Days of June’) – showed that the global economic crisis, which started in 2008, has reached the country beyond doubt. This was definitely not a “small wave” as former president Lula da Silva commented shortly after the crisis erupted. The people expressed with these demonstrations their anger about the return of inflation, the government’s neglect of the public transport system, education and health as well as their disgust for the corruption of the elite and the waste of money for the World Cup 2014. Brazil has entered the global wave of popular uprisings that had already happened in the U.S. (Occupy Movement), Spain (Indignados), the uprising in Turkey (around the issue of the Gezi-Park), etc. The uprising in Brazil – as well as in the other countries – was limited to immediate and democratic goals. It was also dominated by petty-bourgeois populism, nationalism and libertarian “anti-party” ideologies. The middle-class played a strong role in the movement. (1)
The most immediate result of these demonstrations was the reduction or even cancellation of the announced price increases in public transportation for some cities. At the same time the federal government of Dilma Rousseff (PT) responded to the streets with the promise of political reforms, which however has been virtually frozen in the National Congress after the end of the street protests.
The only exception is the government’s health program ‘Mais Médicos’ (‘More Doctors’). This program was designed to ensure the presence of doctors in the periphery of the big cities, and especially in the interior areas of the country. This project is very similar to that of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela. Ii includes hundreds of Cuban doctors that came to Brazil as well as doctors from Argentina, Spain, etc. This reform faced great hostility and xenophoby from Brazil’s Regional Council of Medicine, but was welcomed with great sympathy by the poor people.
However, the structural problems that afflict most Brazilians remain unresolved. Public transport is still bad, the public health care remains poor, the wages low, etc.
Wave of Strikes in the last few months
In this second half of this year we saw again several demonstrations and strikes. Many people returned to the streets, but this time the social composition and the demands were more specific and more dominated by the working class. In Brazil the second half-year is the season in which various sectors of public workers have their wage campaigns. It was within by the influence and the context of the ‘Days of June’ that these campaigns were more radical than in the past.
As a result there a number of important strikes took place in the last few months. The bank workers (both public and private) were on strike for 23 days, which was the largest national strike since 2004. The postal workers were on strike for over 20 days.
The workers in the oil industry (Petrobras) stopped refineries, terminals, power plants, biodiesel plants and platforms throughout the country. This was a very strong and powerful strike, one of the largest since 1995. This strike was particularly important because it also had a political agenda: it opposed the auction of the oil field “Libra” (see below).
Furthermore several unions of public teachers of various cities and federal states also went on strike. The highlight was the teachers' strike in the city of Rio de Janeiro. It lasted for two months, from August 8 to October 25, and had a massive national impact. The regional governor, Eduardo Paes (PMDB) repeatedly sent strong police forces to attack the striking teachers. (2)
Treacherous Trade Union Leaderships
While the level of radicalization and duration of these strikes were higher than in previous years, the concrete results were similar. The wage increases were only slightly larger than in the past and they got the promise of the bosses to pay them the days of strike as working days and that there will be no punishment for the strike activists.
So why did the workers not get any better results despite the higher level of militancy? The key responsibility for this outcome is the role of the leaders of the trade unions. The treacherous leaders had been forced by the rank and file workers to go on strike. But all the time they just waited for the best opportunity to demobilize them. These leaderships have connections with almost all the so-called “left” parties that support or are part of the federal PT-led government of Dilma Rousseff as well as several state governments. It is impossible to serve two masters at the same time!
The experience of the past few months has demonstrated again that one of the most important tasks of the workers vanguard is to build a mass rank and file movement in the unions against the bureaucrats. We can only transform the unions in real instruments of the working class if the workers free the unions from the bureaucracy. Such a perspective has to be combined with a strategy which combines the defensive struggle against the bosses’ attacks with the struggle for the overthrow of capitalism. Such a perspective has also to focus on bringing together the trade union militants with the unorganized workers, the urban poor in the Favelas, the poor and landless peasants and the youth which showed their militancy in the June Days.
Repression against Black Bloc Youth
Against the background of the radicalization of the protests we have seen also another important development: the growth of the youth group called ‘black blocs’, which is strongly influenced by anarchism and which usually uses demonstrations to loot banks, luxury shops and public buildings. The presence of black bloc youth does not please the leaders of trade unions and social movements since they have a pacifist position. Worse, they even support the repression of these youth by the police!
The local governments of São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro wanted to prosecute the black bloc youth by utilizing the notorious “Lei de segurança Nacional” ("National Security Law"). This is a reactionary law with which the military dictatorship between 1964 and 1985 persecuted numerous resistance fighters. This caused wide-spread outrage which forced the governments to retreat and now they are persecuting black bloc youth “only” on charges of “formation of gangs” and “destruction of public property”.
Privatization under Cover of Left-Wing Rhetoric
Meanwhile, the federal government of Roussef, with the collaboration of the trade union leaderships, promoted the largest privatization since the PSDB-led government of Fernando Henrique Cardozo. It privatized the first part of the pre-salt Libra Oil Field which is a gigantic oil field with reserves estimated between 3.7 to 15 billion barrels.
The auction was won by the sole bidder consortium which consisted of the companies Petrobras (Brazil), Shell (UK/NL), Total (France) and the two Chinese state-owned CNPC and CNOOC. The other foreign investors dropped out, claiming that the alleged government interference was a hindrance to profits. It is increasingly evident that the Chinese imperialism is gaining ground in Latin America which was before traditionally reserved for the “old” imperialist countries, especially U.S. imperialism. Brazil is increasingly transforming from a semi-colonial country which was chiefly exploited by US imperialism into a semi-colony which – in addition to the US and EU – is also exploited by Chinese monopolies.
One of the main issues in the election campaign of Dilma Rousseff (PT) in 2005 was her attacks against the former governments of the PSDB because of their large-scale privatization programs. Both Lula da Silva and Dilma accused these governments that they had delivered the national wealth for crumbs. For example Vale do Rio Doce, one of the three biggest global mining companies, was sold for modest US$ 3 billion and today worth more than US$ 45 billion!
However, the PT’s campaign has been proven as hypocrisy. Former president Lula (PT) had privatized federal roads and his successor, the Dilma government, soon initiated the privatization of the airports. But this is little compared with the privatization of the pre-salt oil fields!
Of course, the government promises now to invest the money, received via the auction of Libra, into the education system. Leaving aside that the government has already broken so many promises, there is no guarantee that these funds will be used to improve wages and working conditions of teachers and educators. More likely this money, if it comes, will be used to fund NGOs working in education, to purchase textbooks from private companies or to private companies that are employed by the government as “consultancies” to elaborate performance evaluations of teachers and students. We must remind ourselves that these public-private partnerships in education are a major source of channeling public money to the capitalists.
Furthermore the PT government it utilizing the auction of the Libra oil fields to justify the increase of fuel prices. They claim that Petrobrás – as a major shareholder after the auction – needs more money to invest in the exploitation of the Libra fields. This expected increase in fuel prices has led to a rise in the share price of Petrobras at the Stock Exchange (Bovespa). In short, after the government of semi-colonial Brazil sold a significant part of its oil reserves to European and Chinese imperialists, it is now demanding from the working people in Brazil to pay higher bills for gasoline! What an example of capitalist logic!
Rising gasoline prices will immediately lead to a rise in inflation. The few victories which we gained after the ‘Jornadas de Junho‘ will be lost. This makes the case for new militant mass mobilization even bigger!
The struggle against the privatization program of the government must be combined with the perspective of a workers government fighting for a program of socialist revolution in Brazil. The struggle for such a perspective requires the formation of a revolutionary workers party. Corrente Comunista Revolucionária and the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency are dedicating their forces to contribute to this goal.
(1) See on this our statements: The Fight for the Right to Public Transportation - Free and With Quality - Under Control of Workers in Brazil, 14.6.2013, El Mundo Socialista,http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/latin-america/brazil-fight-for-public-transportation/; Brazil: Solidarity with the Popular Uprising! Statement of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT) and Blog El Mundo Socialista (Brazil), 19.6.2013, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/latin-america/brazil-solidarity-with-popular-uprising/; Brazil: Before the General Strike on 11th July, Report from El Mundo Socialista, http://elmundosocialista.blogspot.com.br, 2.7.2013, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/latin-america/brazil-general-strike-on-11-7/
(2) See on these strikes our articles Brazil: Indefinite Nationwide Strike of Bank Workers! by El Mundo Socialista (fraternal group of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency), 20.9.2013, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/latin-america/brazil-bank-workers-strike/; Brazil: Trade Union Bureaucracy limits Workers’ Resistance to symbolic Actions. A report on the National Day of Struggle on 30 August, by El Mundo Socialista (fraternal group of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency), 2.9.2013, http://www.thecommunists.net/worldwide/latin-america/brasil-national-day-of-struggle-on-30-8/