Tuesday, October 4, 2022

Brazil: Is social democracy the solution for the people?

By Nikos Mottas.

After four years of far-right Bolsonaro government, the old known social democracy is back in Brazil. Lula da Silva's electoral victory consists the culmination of social democracy's recent resurgence in Latin America, following the rise of Lopez Obrador in Mexico, Gabriel Boric in Chile and Gustavo Petro in Colombia.

Once again, opportunist left-wing forces will celebrate the victory of Lula da Silva, presenting it as a political triumph that will allegedly bring positive developments for the Brazilian working class and the popular strata. Without doubt, Bolsonaro's defeat would be positive news, but the major question that arises is the following: Does social democracy provide a real alternative solution to the dominance of the capital in Brazil? 

In June 2021, after the victory of Gustavo Petro in Colombia, I wrote an article pointing out the historical lessons that must be learned from the so-called “left-wing governments”:

“History provides important lessons. The last two decades are full of examples which clearly demonstrate that no bourgeois government, no matter if it is called “socialist”, “left” or “progressive”, cannot serve and satisfy the people's interests within the conditions of capitalist economy […] Historical experience, both in Europe and Latin America, demonstrate that the so-called “left governments” cultivate and spread illusions about the humanization of capitalism. Nonetheless, the painful reality is that humane capitalism is like Santa Claus; it does not exist. The case of PSUV in Venezuela is an emblematic example of the failure of the opportunist theory of “21st Century Socialism”. The examples of Lula-Rousseff in Brazil and Lopez Obrador in Mexico confirmed that no “left” or “progressive” government, no matter its intentions, can provide actual and radical solutions to the people's problems as long as the means of production remain in the hands of the capital. In the best of cases, these governments adopted some policies against extreme poverty, but even these measures were subsequently retracted as long as they were incompatible with capitalist economy. After all, the prosperity of the working class is by definition incompatible with the profitability of the monopolies” (Gustavo Petro, Jean-Luc Mélenchon and the fairytale of “left governments”).

The left-wing management of the capitalist system was expressed through the social democratic “Workers' Party” (PT) governments in the period 2002-2016. Lula's prominence to the country's presidency in 2002 was accompanied by promises to redistribute wealth, tackle extreme poverty, fight against the deep social inequalities that plagued Brazil after decades of harsh anti-popular measures. It is true that between 2003 and 2010, Lula's administration proceeded to the implementation of some pro-workers reforms which, to a certain extend, reduced the rates of extreme poverty. However, even these reforms, which were adopted within the framework of the capitalist road of development, had a superficial and temporary character, since they didn't challenge, not in the slightest way, the interests of the big capital. Following a social democratic recipe in economy, the PT government provided certain benefits to the workers but, on the other hand, it fed the power of the monopolies in every possible way. It was back then, during Lula's presidency, when important sectors of the Brazilian capital grew significantly, the country became the sixth largest economy in the world and its bourgeois class acquired even stronger influence both regionally and internationally through its participation in capitalist transnational alliances (BRICS, MERCOSUR, UNASUR, etc). It is characteristic that in 2001 the revenues of the Brazilian investment banks amounted to 200 million, while in 2007 they had soared up to 1.6 billion.

Lula da Silva with notorious anti-communist Lech Walesa, 1981.
The social democratic policy implemented by Lula da Silva and his successor, Dilma Rousseff, not only didn't change the miserable living conditions of Brazil's poor masses but, moreover, was proved favorable for the interests of the big capital. In 2011, after eight years of PT's “left-wing government”, 60 million Brazilians were living in poverty, with over 8 million people being in absolute poverty. Social inequalities were intensified, local and international monopoly groups exploited the organization of the World Cup (2014) and the Rio Olympics (2016) to boost their profitability, while corruption within the ruling “Workers' Party” reached epidemic proportions.  The intra-bourgeois conflict that was gradually escalated following the outbreak of the global capitalist crisis, combined with the emergence of governmental scandals, changed the power relations in the country's bourgeois political system. Sections of the bourgeoisie that for almost a decade had linked their interests to the policies of the “Workers' Party”, began to seek other other solutions. The culmination of the political scene's reform was the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff in 2016, after the withdrawal of former allied bourgeois parties from the governmental coalition. This process paved the way for the political rise of far-right demagogue Jair Bolsonaro.

Today, the working class and the popular strata of Brazil are witnessing a similar play. The sinful social democracy comes renewed, with its well-known progressive slogans and false promises, sowing new illusions about a supposed pro-people management of capitalism, tailor-made for the interests of the capital's profitability. Unfortunately, the Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB) bears significant responsibility for supporting the social democratic illusions thus contributing to the entrapment of large working masses in the dangerous notion of bourgeois political management. On that point, we must hail the independent and autonomous policy followed by the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB), which participated in the first round of the elections with its own candidates (Sofia Manzano and Antonio Alves da Silva) and a radical programme, refusing to become a political accessory of PT's social democracy.

The example of Brazil comes to be added to the examples of Chile, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Bolivia and other Latin American countries, which teach that capitalism is neither improved in favor of the working people nor humanized. The management of the exploitative system under “left”, “progressive” or “anti-neoliberal” slogans only cultivates illusions and false expectations in the working class, thus leading, sooner or later, to widespread disillusionment and ideological degeneration.

The real way out for the people's interests does not lie in the old and faded fairytales about “left” governments, but only in the intensification of the organized class struggle against the system of exploitation, capitalism. 

* Nikos Mottas is the Editor-in-Chief of In Defense of Communism.