This article from a socialist activist in Brazil is republished from www.fifthinternational.org By Eloy Nogueira
After the initiation of the impeachment process against President Dilma Roussef of the Workers' Party, PT, by the House of Representatives on 17 April 2016 and its confirmation by the Senate, which then suspended the President for 180 days, the putschist Michel Temer (PMDB) took office as the Interim President. The putschists were so sure of what the Senate would do next that they immediately began a government reform, summarised in the so-called Medida Provisoria MP 726, that is, Provisional Measures, which made it very clear what a backward step back this will mean for the country.
The MP 726 was the first document of the putschist government, published in a special edition of the government's official gazette, and in it those behind the coup made it clear that they intended to reduce the influence of minorities and social movements on government structures. All institutions associated with social movements were to be dissolved. This is most evident in the abolition of the Ministry of Women's Affairs and the Ministries of Equality for Ethnic Minorities and the Enforcement of Human Rights, all institutions established by the PT government, which at least made the problems publicly visible and thereby facilitated the struggle for the rights of social minorities.
After confirmation of the impeachment by the Senate on 31 August, and the official acceptance of the presidency by Temer, it became clear to the whole world that this was a coup. The most blatant expression of this came from Senator Acir Gurgacz in a TV interview in which he confirmed again that there was no proof of any actual crime by Dilma. He justified the impeachment by saying that "after the ungovernability, we must return to governing". This statement, by a Senator who voted for the impeachment, clearly shows that it was indeed an institutional coup.
It was also clear that this was a coup against the working class, especially after the putschist government announced a pension reform that raised the retirement age for women and men to 65 and a labour market reform, based on the principle that company success should always take precedence over working conditions and extending the insecure conditions of part-time workers to full-time workers. This means that workers in Brazilian factories will no longer be required to have a permanent contract of employment, all employees can have precarious working conditions.
As the protests on the streets against the putschists continued to grow, these reforms were postponed – but only to the beginning of next year.
Impact of the coup on regional elections On October 2, regional elections were held in Brazil for mayors and municipal councils. According to the Folha de Sao Paolo newspaper, where the PT previously had 644 mayoral offices, they now have just 256, a loss of 388, including the most important one, the Prefecture of Sao Paolo itself.
As a result, the PT, which previously had more mayors than any other party, now has only the fifth place in that ranking. In terms of total votes cast, the PT fell from third to tenth place. We have to conclude that the media campaigns against the Left were on the whole successful. Although the Right parties also lost many votes, they still appeared as winners of the elections. However, the votes that the PT lost did not flow in large numbers to other left parties. On the contrary, the large number of abstentions, invalid or blank ballots shows a great dissatisfaction and a discrediting of the political parties as a whole. On the positive side, the votes lost by the PT did not go in any significant numbers to the Right.
The voting figures for Sao Paolo, the largest city in the country, illustrate the situation; there, the Right candidate, Joao Doria of the neo-liberal PSDB, won 3.085 million votes, 53.29 percent, in the first round. Fernando Haddad, PT, the previous runner-up, came second with 16.68 percent. These figures seem to show an overwhelming victory for the candidate of the Neo-Liberals over the PT. However, the number of abstentions, 1,940,454, spoilt ballots, 788,379 and blank ballots, 367,471, combined, was 3.096 million, more than the number of votes with which Doria won.
According to the Folha de Sao Paolo, "the PT presented lists in 19 of the largest cities, with only 7 of them receiving more than 10 percent of the votes”, one of which, Rio Branco, was won in the first round and in another, Recife, they are through to the second round.
On the other hand, the Party of Socialism and Liberation, PSOL, with a much smaller organisation, gained more than 10 percent in 5 of the largest 22 cities in which it stood, going through to the second round in two of them, Belem and Rio de Janeiro. The PSOL has already won two prefectures (Janduis and Jacana, both in Rio Grande do Norte), as in 2012, and has good prospects in Sorocaba, as well as the two major cities mentioned. Therefore, there is a solid prospect of growth for them, especially in the case of the victory in the two large cities.
Regarding the municipal councils, the PSOL has increased from 49 in 2012 to 53 this year. A slight growth, but not insignificant, as it refers mainly to large cities such as Belem, Belo Horizonte and Porto Alegre.
The big increase in abstentions and spoilt ballots throughout the country clearly shows the widespread disillusion with the idea of achieving real change via elections in Brazil.
Consequences from the election result
This election result was so clearly an electoral defeat for the Left, that the putschist government, together with the Congress, despite a temporary difficulty with a school reform before the elections, immediately tabled a constitutional reform, PEC 241, that will freeze public service spending for 20 years, with only adjustments for inflation, this means a freeze on all wages in the public services sector.
In order to gain the approval of Congress, Temer invited more than 200 deputies to a state banquet in the presidential palace, the cost of which is estimated to be 20 million real.
In addition, the Budget Committee introduced into the Senate, without any amendment, a bill (PL 131) which was drafted by the current Secretary of State Jose Serra of the PSDB and allows for the (international) sale of exploration rights for the Pre-Sal oilfields without pre-emption rights for Petrobras. This bill is yet to be adopted by the Plenary Session of the Congress.
According to the online journal Brazil Today, Temer is proposing a reduction of the 11 largest social programmes by an average of 30 percent, a cut of R29.2 billion. Even after the adjustment for inflation, this is still a 14 percent reduction. Many now argue that at the moment this reduction is necessary, because Brazil needs to deal with urgent budget deficits. At the same time, however, tax relief and increases in other spending are to be implemented, so that government expenditures will rise by 4.8 percent, some R158 billion more than was planned by the Dilma government.
When this expenditure is looked at more closely, the budgetary restraint justification becomes even more questionable. While social expenditures are to be cut massively, spending on subsidies for the agro-industrial complex, whose owners, incidentally, are the main financiers of the governing PMDB, is to be increased by R1.47 billion, military spending by R175 million, and spending on buildings and airports by R186 million. In addition, there will be increased spending on the nuclear industry, power plant expansion and external interventions (the latter again under the command of Jose Serra).
Further attacks on the achievements and rights of the working class are to be expected. For the working class, therefore, there is only one answer:
The CUT association has already called for a "general strike" for the 11th November, together with the student union UNE. The latter wants to support the strike day with joint actions by students, professors and university employees at the universities and faculties.
The middle school students are already in the fight, having occupied many schools right across the country in a campaign against the “reform” of middle school examinations, which was also included in the "provisional measures" of the Putschist government. According to "Revista Forum" currently 510 schools are occupied by the students. The national UBES school student association has not yet expressed its opinion on the general strike, but will probably join it.
According to the CUT, the "11 November will be a national day of strikes and stoppages, which will draw the country's attention to the threats faced by the working class through the reform of pension and labour laws".
At the end of a meeting of various trade unions, CUT president Vagner Freitas said: "What the trade unions have decided today is a timetable for fighting against the repeal of the rights of the working class. We will fight against the PEC 241, against the reform of the pensions and the reform of the labour law".
After November 11, the associations will decide how to extend the fighting, in particular regarding the next day of action, set for November 25. However, Freitas explained that what will not change are the objectives for the actions. "It will be an agenda to assemble the forces, on the 11th and 25th, we will be on the streets and on the way to the General Strike, if the rulers do not clearly state that they will drop their attack on the rights of the working class."
A proposal for the left
Today we have a strong movement on the streets, especially by students and social movements like the landless labourers, MST, and the homeless, MTST. All these protest movements of the left, which have occupied the streets in the most important cities of the country, have enough strength to create a new and effective tool for the class struggle of the working class, a new party which is clear in its programme, with a revolutionary perspective. A party that does not adapt to the conditions of the capitalist system and does not focus on civic elections, as the PT and the PCdoB have done for a long time.
Our proposal is aimed at the social movements, the trade union federations, the youth, the racially oppressed, the LGBT, the women, the different parties of the left, the militant pupils and students, ultimately all who are fighting the putschists. We argue the need to organise these resistance movements, to create regional, federal and national organisations, with delegate elections, recallability and rooted in the struggles, as a basis for the creation of such a new workers' party, which we believe must be a revolutionary socialist and internationalist party.