Brazil: Towards a General Strike to Halt the Attacks of Michel Temer against the Workers and Oppressed
By Corrente Comunista Revolucionária (CCR, Brazil Section of the RCIT), 24 September 2016, http://elmundosocialista.blogspot.com
By a vote of 61 to 20 in the Brazilian senate, on August 31, 2016 the long process to impeach the now former President Dilma Rousseff of the workers’ Party (PT) came to an end with her removal from power and the taking of office, as president, of the vice president, Michel Temer (from the PMDB). Temer served as an interim president since May of this year, when the Senate voted for Rousseff’s removal.
In his first public statement after taking office, Temer declared that he would no longer tolerate being called a golpist (putschist) and insisted that the government would have to be “very firm” with its critics.
Even before becoming president, in fact, the political and economic agenda of Michel Temer has been marked by a turn to right the likes of which have not being seen since the end of the government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso (1995-2003) which was known for its extensive policy of privatization. The new government of Temer augers a series of attacks on social and democratic rights that, if achieved, will send Brazil back to the beginning of the 20th century.
The Reactionary Goals of Temer
Let’s see some examples of these attacks in the form of proposed bills. Among others, they include: one that would rescind a change to the Constitution adopted in 1988 in which the workweek and workday were reduced from six 12-hour days, totaling up to 72 hours per week (today the work week is 44 hours); the making of social rights achieved by workers via struggles throughout the 20th century “more flexible,” including the right to 30 days of annual paid vacation; abandoning the mandatory Christmas salary bonus paid at the end of each year (the so-called thirteenth salary); a shortening of the recognized length of maternity leave; eliminating the FGTS (Fund for Guaranteed Time of Service), which is a kind of negative incentive to discourage employers from dismissing employees; the end of employee participation in company profits; the elimination of public tenders which would consequently end stability in the public sector; an end of mandatory career advancement of civil servants; setting 65 as the universal minimum age for the retirement, while today, in the private sector, the retirement is variable because it depends on each individual case and, for public servants, there is a differentiated arrangement which makes it possible to retire at the age of 50.
One of Temer’s proposals calls for the privatization of Brazil’s entire energy sector, including the giant state-owned Petrobras and the pre-salt petroleum deposits, which is obviously in accordance with demands made by the oil multinationals and US and European imperialism for their supporting the coup. Another project calls for a 20-year freeze on any investment in education and health that would exceed the rate of inflation. Currently, Brazilian law obliges the mandatory investment by the government in these areas, and the federal government and the municipalities must invest between 18% and 25% of their respective budgets on education and between 12% and 15% on health. In addition to making far worse what is already a very bad situation in terms of the quality of services provided to the public, such a measure will mean that all employees in these areas will in all reality face having their wages frozen during the same 20 year period.
In foreign policy, the new Minister of Foreign Affairs, former senator Jose Serra, the PSDB candidate defeated for the presidency in 2010, is playing an even greater role in undermining the status of the Maduro government in Venezuela, this clearly under the guidance of American imperialism. Foreign Minister Serra announced that he would not accept the government of Venezuela’s being assigned the next presidency of the Mercosur block because of its “lack of democracy.” Verra’s proposal was accepted this week by the governments of Paraguay and Argentina, with an abstention by Uruguay. The hypocrisy in this case is outrageous: Under the guise of supposed legality, the Brazilian Parliament, with the cooperation of the media, the judiciary, and the help of organs of repression like the federal police, fomented an institutionalized coup, essentially disenfranchising 54,000,000 Brazilian voters who had cast their ballots for Dilma Rousseff in the last presidential election and, as the victors in this coup they have the temerity to accuse the Bolivarian bourgeois nationalist government of Venezula with a lack of democracy!
In a recent meeting in Washington with the Brazilian ambassador there, Sergio Amaral, Foreign Minister Serra discussed resumption of negotiations with the US for America’s use of Brazil’s Alcântara Launch Center in the state of Maranhão. Due to the center’s proximity to the equator, fuel consumption for satellite launches from Alcântara is less than that from bases situated at greater latitudes. Within the market of international space missions, the Brazilian center will probably become the only real competition for the Kourou Space Centre in French Guiana. According to a report by the journalist Tereza Cruvinel from the Brasil247 website, such an agreement was already made with the American Government during the tenure of former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso in 2000, but observers viewed that agreement as having given overly “broad powers to the US” and was denounced as submissive and harmful to Brazilian national sovereignty. When he took taking office in 2003, former president Lula withdrew the agreement for ratification by congress and put it aside as a dead issue. The return of this issue to the bilateral agenda, under Michel Temer and José Serra, concerns many including Brazilian military sectors who fear the addition of new clauses which will further diminish Brazil’s national sovereignty. ”
Shortly after taking over as president, in fact, Michel Temer hastily set off to the G-20 meeting in Hangzhou in China, and among his other commitments there held a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The whole process of impeachment of Dilma Rousseff was not seen favorably by the Chinese Government, as Beijing had established a good working relationship with Brasilia during PT governments, including the creation of the BRICS group of large emerging nations in which Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa are members, and the strengthening of the BRICS group in the G20 during Lula’s tenure. A professor of international law from Fundação Getúlio Vargas School, Evandro de Carvalho, said that “the change of government, as is happened, worried the Chinese Government and in some ways negatively impacted Brazilian-Chinese bilateral relations (…) There is a geopolitical issue involving Chinese apprehension, and the need to understand how the change of governments will affect Brazil’s relations with the United States, and how this will possibly impair Chinese interests (…) and whether Chinese businesses will be harmed as a result of the greater proximity between the US and Brazil under the government of Temer.”
What the Leaders of Mass Movements Propose
Long before the removal of Dilma Rousseff was finalized, the Brazil Popular Front, the Brazilian Front without Fear (a coalition composed of the Landless Workers’ Movement [MST], the Movement of Homeless Workers [MTST], the Unified Workers’ Central [CUT], the Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB), the National Union of Students [UNE], and several parties) called upon the masses to participate in large demonstrations encompassing thousands of people, first against the ongoing coup as well as against the governmental measures and attacks on workers and social movements. However, now, with the final impeachment of Dilma Rousseff, the main slogan of the social movements is the demand for “Eleições Diretas Já!” (Direct Elections for president Now!). The only exception is the Workers’ Cause Party (PCO) that calls for the convening of a constituent assembly. Most recently, September 22 was designated by social movements as a day of general strikes throughout the country to make this demand.
The Character of the Protests since 2013
Throughout the international arena, not just in Brazil, we are witness in the last few years to a rise of the conservative right, even bordering on fascist tendencies, manifested, for example, in reactionary offensives like: the coup d’état in Egypt; the election of the rightist Macri in Argentina and the advance of the right wing in Venezuela; the 2014 coup d’état in Thailand; the 2012 coup in Paraguay; the increase of Islamophobia and racism against migrants and refugees in Europe; the explosive success of the candidacy of Donald Trump in the US; the neoliberal reform attacks on workers in Mexico, etc. What has happened in Brazil is very much consistent with this trend.
The June 2013 demonstrations in Brazil began as a form of protest against the high cost of public transport, in which young people played a dominant role. The spread of demonstrations shook the country as hundreds of thousands took to the streets questioning the entire political system, from both the left and the right. Because of the lack of revolutionary leadership, this social ferment ended up being dominated by the conservative right and fascist sectors. The announcement on 21 June 2013 by the governor of the state of São Paulo (PSDB) and the mayor of São Paulo (PT) that they were relinquishing the increased public transport fares represented a huge unprecedented victory. On the very same day a great demonstration to celebrate the victory was held. Suddenly, armed gangs attacked groups of left-wing participants (PCO, PCR, PSTU, PT and other smaller groups) knocking them down and burning their flags, attacking them with pepper spray, stun grenades and metal tubes, and ultimately causing the demonstrators to flee in fear. To make clear that this attack in São Paulo was not some isolated incident, but rather an action organized by fascist gangs with help of rabid members of the petty bourgeoisie, the same thing occurred yet again in Rio de Janeiro and in a number of other cities, attesting to a well-organized campaign, doubtless coordinated with the military police.
These rightist forces began to steer the of policy of the leaders of protests away from the fight for social equality, chanting the slogan “No parties!” and instead denounced political corruption, high taxes and a high rate of crime. For the first time since the end of military dictatorship in 1985, the fascists open returned to the streets.
This evolving process of reactionary conservatism was accelerated during the 2014 presidential elections when Brazil was split between those voting for the popular front of the PT-PMDB and the other side identified with the Western imperialism (USA-Europe and Japan). The PT (Workers’ Party) governments of Lula and Rousseff (in power from 2003 to 2016) tried to keep their balance between the demands of Western imperialism while, at the same time, maintaining commercial and political agreements with Bolivarianism and BRICs (Brazil, Russia between India, China and South Africa). The global economic crisis that exploded in 2008, and which caused the prices of commodities (raw materials) to drop, seriously impacted Brazil. At this, point the tacit agreement that had allowed the rise of the Popular Front could no longer be tolerated by Western imperialism and the Brazilian bourgeoisie. Rather, it was necessary that the bourgeoisie get rid of the PT, despite the latter’s having followed neoliberal policies, such as: the pension reform of 2003;, some privatizations like in the road transport and airport sectors; sending troops to Haiti at the behest of the US; non-implementation of agrarian reform; their agreement to host the soccer World Cup and the Olympics, generating many millions of dollars in profits to the bourgeoisie; and other policies that attempt to maintain equilibrium while meeting the demands of the wealthy elite by exacerbating the poverty of the masses. But because of its own proletarian origins, PT was unable to intensify attacks against workers to the extent that the putschist government of Michel Temer now does. This is what lies behind the parliamentary coup d’état that took place in Brazil in August of this year.
What the CCR Defends
We in the CCR believe that direct elections for president, or even general elections including those for seats in the National Congress, are an electoral trap. While the mass movements are unanimous in denouncing the coup d’état, in practice they still trust the bourgeois democratic process. All elections within a bourgeois democracy are in essence a farce, but one that only gets worse and becomes more visible when such elections are totally controlled by the bourgeoisie, resulting in the ascent of conservative agendas like those we are now witnessing, the path to which was cleared by a coup d’etat. It is for this reason that we in the CCR reject the slogan calling for “direct elections now!”
At the same time, we call for mobilizing resistance against the coup carried out by the Temer government and against its attacks on the workers and the oppressed. It is necessary to create action committees in the neighborhoods and factories to fight against the coup; to organize mass demonstrations; to prepare for an indefinite general strike against the measures of the new government. To do so, a genuinely serious resistance against the coup must consider breaking with the old leaders who sold us policies of reconciliation with the bourgeoisie, policies which resulted in the current political disaster and the coup d’état. It is necessary to found a truly revolutionary movement controlled by the workers themselves and by the oppressed, along with the youth and women. And in this process of broad mobilization we need to call for the convening of a national constituent assembly, called and elected by the workers themselves and which will deal with a workers agenda.
Furthermore, the CCR advocates breaking the working class and the oppressed away from the popular front. Thus, we call upon the CUT, the MST and MTST and all other mass organization of the working class and the oppressed to break all alliances with bourgeois forces. Likewise, we call upon the PT and the PCdoB to break their alliances and electoral blocs with openly bourgeois forces (sectors of the PMDB and others) and to stand alone at the elections.
Such an application of the united front tactic is predicated on the understanding that these workers’ and popular organizations still represent the class conscious sectors of the proletariat. The strategic goal of a united front tactic is to entirely break the subordination of the workers and oppressed to the bourgeoisie, while at the same time breaking these sectors of the proletariat away from the reformist bureaucracy which unfortunately still dominates the trade unions and other popular organizations. In this way advanced workers will be able to build a revolutionary workers’ party as an alternative to the PT whose leadership is thoroughly corrupt and bound to the capitalist class.
* For the mobilization of autonomous worker resistance and the convening of a national constituent assembly!
* For an unlimited general strike against the regime of ptuchists! For mass mobilization against the offensive pro-austerity policies of the extreme right! For the setting up of action committees in factories, unions, neighborhoods, slums and outlying regions in defense of our rights and against the government of puchists!
* For a national conference of delegates of all mass anti-putchist organizations to discuss and adopt a plan against the new regime!
* For a working class government in alliance with the peasants, urban poor and the landless! We can only guarantee our future and our rights if we bring down capitalism, the source of our misery!
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