As Brazil goes to the polls Orlando Hill argues that despite the problems of the PT governments, the task now is to defeat the right's Aécio Neves
This Saturday Brazilians will go to the polls to decide who will be their next president. On the right there is Aécio Neves from the Brazilian Social Democracy Party (PSDB); on the left Dilma Rouseff from the Workers Party (PT) is seeking re-election. This is an historical election. Never has the election been so close. According to the latest opinion polls Dilma has 54% of the votes and Aécio 46%.
These are the most disputed elections Brazil has seen for years. Brazilians are being asked if they wish to continue with the neo-developmentalism project initiated by Lula’s election in 2003 and represented by Dilma Rouseff or to return to neoliberalism under the candidacy of Aécio Neves.
Over the last 12 years the governments of Worker’s Party have undisputedly made enormous strides. For the first time in its history, all Brazilians can afford to eat three meals a day. Brazil is recognised by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) as one of the countries that has made most progress in alleviating poverty and hunger. It is officially off the World Hunger Map. This is mainly due to the social programmes put in place. The Bolsa Familia programme alone benefits over 50 million people. In 2013, 16.8% of the GDP was spent on social programme.
The minimum wage has nearly doubled its purchasing power. In 2002, it was R$ 200 and could buy 1.42 baskets of basic goods. Today it is R$ 724 and buys 2.24 baskets.
Despite slow economic growth, unemployment is at an historic low level of 4.9% in September. Dilma’s government has generated 5.3 million new jobs.
Investment in education has risen from 4.8% to 6.8% of GDP. The government programme PROUNI, which offers scholarships to students on low income has enabled 1.2 million students to go on to further education. The number of Brazilians flying has risen by 70% between 2007 and 2013. GDP per capita has shot from US$2.8 thousand to US$ 11.7 thousand. One million social houses were built in 2009 and a further 2.75 million will have been handed over by the end of this year.
Aécio Neves represents a return of neoliberal policies under the hegemony of financial capital and agribusiness. Although he promises to carry on with PT’s social programmes, his defence of a minimal state makes it impossible. According to Arminio Fraga, his would-be finance minister, inflation is the reason for the slow economic growth and that the minimal wage is too high. Inflation is at around 6% p.a., half of what Lula inherited from the last PSDB government. He is also in favour of weakening the role of state banks, which would reduce funding for the social programmes. Similar to the Tories, Aécio Neves has promised to take some unpopular measures to cut public spending and public sector wages. Under his government we could expect a clamp down on trade unions and social movements similar to what they did in the past.
In international terms a PSDB government would realign Brazil under the subordination of the USA. They have defended signing bilateral free-trade agreements with the USA, leaving Mercosur and breaking regional integration agreements.
According to João Pedro Stedile, leader of Landless Workers’ Moviment, in defence of the interests of the working class in Brazil and the rest of Latin America, it is essential that Aécio Neves is beaten in this election.
It is true that due to a weak correlation of forces PT has made concessions to the financial sector (by keeping interest rates high) and to the agribusiness sector. The dependency on international capital has prevented the government from reducing the interest rates (although they have fallen from what they were under PSDB) and controlling the exchange rate and carrying out a more progressive tax reform. However, part of bourgeois has abandoned Dilma in favour of Aécio Neves. This has shifted the correlation of social forces to the left, making it possible for the social movements to win reforms that will further improve the lives of the Brazilian people. The second round of the campaign has seen mass rallies in favour of Dilma. The militants of PT have returned to the streets and have made a door-to-door campaign fighting for every vote.
Some parties on the left do not see any difference between Aécio Neves and Dilma Rouseff’s policies. For them they are both bourgeois candidates, defenders of neoliberal policies. These include the Brazilian Communist Party, PPL (Free Fatherland Party) and PSTU (Unified Workers’ Socialist Party). They campaign for spoiling the vote. In a time when there are massive rallies in favour of Dima with supporters wearing red, this ultra-left policy has left these parties isolated. Furthermore, it has shown in their results in the elections for state and federal congresses. None of these parties obtained significant number of votes.
Meanwhile, the Communist Party of Brazil (PC do B) won the elections for the Governor of the State of Maranhão, a poor state in the north-east. This is the first time that a communist party wins a state government. PC do B has always worked along PT and supported Dilma from the beginning.
PSOL (Socialism and Liberty Party) ran a very good campaign for president in the first round with their candidate Luciana Genro finishing in fourth place and doubling the number of votes from the 2010 elections. They increased the number of representatives in the federal congress from three to five and in the state congresses they doubled the number of representatives from six to twelve. In the televised debates Luciana Genro managed to introduce some important issues that were being overlooked by the other candidates such as taxes on wealth and civil rights for LGBTs and women. She was the first candidate to utter words such as homophobia and to defend same sex marriages and criminalization of homophobia. PSOL’s official position in the second round is that “Aécio Neves, PSDB and its allies are the direct representatives of the interests of the ruling class and imperialism in Latin America.”
A weakness in their position is that they do not identify that the only way to defeat Aécio Neves is to vote for Dilma. However, they have freed their members to make their own decision in regards to voting for Dilma as long as they follow the party’s main position of “no votes for Aécio”.
A more radical and consistent position is that of Jean Wyllys, federal representative for PSOL Rio de Janeiro. In an article published in Carta Capital he informs us that he has never liked fences. He prefers bridges and open doors and windows. However, when fences are built he will never attempt to balance on them. It is the duty of revolutionaries to make up their mind what side of the fence they are on. Despite his criticism towards the PT governments, he understands that the task now is to defeat Aécio Neves and guarantee a second term for Dilma Rouseff.
Orlando was born in Brazil and was involved in the successful struggle for democracy in the late 1970s and 80s in that country. He teaches A level Economics. He is a member of the NEU, Counterfire and Stop the War.
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