18 January 2008

Why Brazil's Lula Is No Radical

Ricardo Gebrim, a lawyer and activist of the Movimiento de los Sin Tierra (MST), Brazil, told Mexicans late last year why President Lula was proving such a disappointment for those who had invested hope in him:

“He (Lula) thinks he can effect changes without getting into a confrontation with the dominant sectors, as if it were possible to break free of economic subordination without touching on the essentials. But the current situation no longer allows that. He then offers compensatory measures, social programmes for the poorest. Bankers and industrialists have gained even more than with the past governments. The bourgeois is very happy but the popular sectors are frustrated.

“Here (in Brazil) capitalism is much more developed; our bourgeois has a history of domination, an enormous capacity for appropriation. The power that the media and the political parties have does not allow for a political figure to challenge the bases which sustain the dominant project.

“The PT (Workers Party) was the grand political instrument in Brazil shaped during the rise of the popular struggle toward the end of the Seventies and the Eighties. Lula had great talent, as leader of the metallurgical workers who started a big fight with a great force of attraction. The imagining of hopes around a government of Lula persisted for 20-25 years; a full political generation that grew up thinking structural transformation would start the day Lula won.

“But in those years the leadership of the PT also changed and the ideas of radical transformation were substituted by more immediate ideas. Lula’s government thus kept the same political economy as that of Fernando Henrique Cardoso’s: no changes were effected on the agrarian questions, the right of the workers, and it even maintained policies which took away the rights and derecognised groups engaged in struggles. That was where the great disappointment came for the popular sectors in popular struggle.

“Workers live in the same condition as in the rest of the world: precarious work, loss of union organisation, divisions. One part is in Lula’s government… others have broken the CUT (trade union centre)… Organisations keep growing (in the agricultural sector)… But the fight for land is every time more difficult and Lula’s government has not taken a single significant step for agrarian reform… all right, one has to say that Lula’s government is not repressive.

“As with every trauma, the disappointment with Lula set in a certain paralysis among the Left. One section went on as if it nothing were the matter and lowered their expectations, considering the rest as utopians. With others love for Lula changed to hate. We are not in the extremes. We understand we are not going to achieve our objectives choosing a candidate. We need an autonomous organisation, fighting with greater intensity each time, united not around a leader or an electoral platform but around a political programme, with conscience, with clear ideas. A popular project for Brazil.

“The MST’s political expression is the Consulta Electoral, a political organisation drawn from popular struggle, principally urban, with peasant activists as well, with a clear principle: that it is not a hegemonic political management, that it preserves the autonomy of the movements, with a common strategy, with a common movement.

“At this moment, when the Brazilians are feeling disappointed, we are not going on the electoral path. But the conquest of the state is certainly in our sights. Only before that, we want to construct popular power, the structure. We have to generate strength, advertise, agitate, construct conditions for other moments in history.”

Published in La Jornada, Mexico, on Dec 19, 2007 Link:

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