National Sections of the L5I:

Brazil: A "coup" against the working class

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In June 2013, the masses took to the streets of Brazil to protest at increases in fares on public transport. Before long, however, their demands broadened to include improvements in the health services, education, housing, public services and against corruption. The protests spread to the whole country.

Right Influence
However, sectors of the extreme right were able to exploit the situation and to incite hatred of political parties, above all against the PT (Partido dos Trabalhadores, "Workers' Party") and the parties of the left. They succeeded in inciting protests against demonstrators who carried red flags or left wing party banners. Right-wing mobs could be seen attacking Leftist militants with the banners of parties like the United Socialist Workers' Party, PSTU, or the Party of the Working Class Cause, PCO being ripped down and even burnt.

Despite the justified demands of the movement, the Left did not gain from it and was unable to give it a revolutionary direction. Although the main trade union confederations did try to launch a united front to give some direction to the working class, it is significant that they were not able to mobilise on the scale of the memberships they claim to represent.

The presidential election of 2014 also saw a sharp polarisation. On the one hand, there was the candidate of the PT, the incumbent President, Dilma Rousseff, claiming to defend the rights of the working class and, on the other, there was Aécio Neves, the candidate of the Social Democratic Party, PSDB which, despite the name is an openly neo-liberal party, who repeatedly attacked the corruption which is a great stain on the record of the PT government. In the second ballot, the situation became even sharper, with street demonstrations and many clashes between the two sides, including on social media like Facebook.

For the first time, the right wing was able to mobilise mass actions on the streets and not just bring out paid up party members. This was a movement of people full of hatred for the PT and socialism and it was as big and as strong as the PT's followers and supporters of the government.

Even after the re-election of Dilma Rouseff, the movement of the right has not declined but continued with demonstrations whose themes ranged from the denunciation of corruption, through petitions for the impeachment of the president all the way to demands for a military intervention.

In the Senate, Aécio Neves' support for the petition for impeachment of the president, revealed a split in the PSDB with the old party establishment around Serra and Alckmin against the impeachment.

The Left saw the need to position itself against the possibility of a coup, recognising similarities with past events in Brazil's history such as when the government of Joao Goulart (known as “Jango”) was deposed by a military coup in 1964.

The government and trade union response
This was the reason why the PT, the PCdoB (formerly the Maoist wing of the Brazilian Communist Party, now part of the ruling coalition) and the party of Socialism and Liberty, PSOL, as well as the CUT and CTB (two trade union confederations) UNE (Students' Organisation), Consulta Popular, Pastorias Sociais, Pastoral da Terra (Catholic community-based organisations) the MST (movement of landless rural workers) MTST (movement of people with precarious housing situation) and other social movements called a nationwide day of protest under the slogan "In defence of democracy, against the coup".

Because it was a united front, the various components of the protest raised their own particular demands. So we saw the MTST with the demand for a programme of public housing and the MST calling for agrarian reform. The majority were against the "Ajuste Fiscal" (a new tax “reform” that will hit the incomes of the masses) which itself marks a further retreat to the right by the Dilma government now that she has won her second mandate, adopting a policy which, as a candidate, she had condemned Aécio Neves for intending to introduce if he won the election.

Many workers took to the streets because of both the danger from the right and in opposition to this “tax reform” by Dilma's government. However, there were also many who primarily wanted to defend the Dilma government and these were under the leadership of CUT, CTB, TP and PCdoB. Indeed, these treacherous leaders used the "coup threat" to defend the government as if it were a workers' government. On the other hand, the entrepreneurs, landowners, agro-capitalists and, above all, the bankers, used the situation to demand greater concessions from the government. Meanwhile, the Dilma government hopes that it can use the threat of a possible impeachment as a justification for a "dialogue" with the bourgeoisie.

This is the real "coup”, and it is against the working class. Now the bourgeoisie has the advantage because the government has lost much of its credibility and support. It is sinking in a swamp of corruption and scandals and is now willing to save its own head by serving up "the head of the working class on a silver platter”.

New attacks
On September 7, the day of the "excluded", the demos were dominated by slogans against the coup and against the tax reform. On September 14, however, the government adopted another austerity package that was directed above all against the working class. Budget cuts of 26 billion reals were announced (some €4.5 billion) together with the freezing of public sector salaries and of the funding of "Minha Casa, Minha Vida", a housing programme for the poor which is one of the few social achievements of the PT government, and a reduction in the health budget by 3.8 billion.

The national coordination of MTST is right when it says that "the solution to the budgetary problems must be found among those who have raked in the money more than ever before in recent years". They say that they will "defend on the streets the taxation of major assets, dividends and profits and, above all, will call for a progressive taxation of income. The rich, the bankers and the entrepreneurs have to pay the bill”.

For the working class, the task of the day is to organise and mobilise on the streets in a united front that calls for the end to the policy of attacks on our rights and achievements. This is how the class can force its leaders to act or unmask and replace them in order to advance toward a general strike, which is both necessary and urgent if we are to force the Dilma government to change its policy.

But we also have to recognise that the general strike and the construction of a left-wing opposition is still a long way from guaranteeing the end of austerity policies. The example of Greece, where a new opposition "Left" came to power after many general strikes, only to then impose an austerity package itself, is a clear warning: ultimately, only a complete break from capital, with a socialist perspective and the construction of a revolutionary party of the working class can ensure even the defence of the class against the oppression of capital.

This does not mean that we would not participate in a broad left opposition movement, as might arise around the MTST or MST. On the contrary, we would take this step together with the militant workers, but we would insist from the outset on the need for a revolutionary socialist perspective and explain that this is the only guarantee that a new left-wing opposition does not end up like the PT or Syriza.