Dilma’s first six months. There’s nothing to celebrate but the struggles.
|Written by Eduardo Almeida – PSTU|
|Tuesday, 23 August 2011 04:43|
|Dilma’s Rousseff government has recently reached its sixth month. Two important and contradictory features stand out. On one hand a number of strikes and crises, greater than during Lula’s second term (former President). On the other hand, she enjoys the same high popularity rates. On one hand, an important momentum for struggles, on the other, the PT’s (Workers Party, Lula and Dilma’s party) sharp ability to deceive people continues in force, even under Dilma’s administration.
Brazil is part of the international situation
Nowadays, the world accumulates increasing instability and unrest due to the struggles of the proletariat in Europe and the Arab revolution in progress. The economic basis of this instability is the world economic crisis that started in 2007 and goes on endlessly. The way the economic crisis develops is closely linked to the class struggle’s evolution.
In the imperialist countries large companies have been imposing brutal attacks on the proletariat’s wages and their past achievements. The goal is not just to resolve the crisis on the backs of the workers, but also to establish a new exploitation level that allows the imperialist economy to resume its rising growth again. The consequences are brutal, the European youth has been facing an unemployment rate around 40 to 50% in some countries, similar to rates of semi-colonial countries amid a crisis. This can lead to destabilizing the economical basis of the bourgeois democracy in Europe: the expectation of its proletariat’s social climbing is under threat and even the certainty of maintaining its conquests is currently being clearly questioned. The youth is unable to maintain their parents’ standard of living.
The Arab revolution presents similar characteristics, with features deeply worsened. It is not by chance that the impoverished and disillusioned Arab youth has been on the forefront of protests against dictatorships.
The results of the current struggles will strongly influence the economy. There has been already a slowdown in U.S. GDP growth (1.9% annual rate in the first quarter after a 3.1% in the last quarter of 2010), a recession in Japan and stagnation in Europe (0.8% in the first quarter), while China is still growing strongly (9.7% in the first quarter).
Brazil remains as one of the imperialism’s best choices concerning the global labor division; the imperialism invests strongly and directly in the country, about $ 55 billion this year. The sustained and strong Chinese growth maintains economic conditions in Brazil similar to those observed during Lula’s governments.
But the contradictions begin to pile up. The trade surplus dropped and the current account deficit increased (it’s expected to reach a deficit record of $ 67 billion in 2011). Brazil’s GDP continues to grow, but it is decelerating. In the first quarter this year it rose 1.3% over the last quarter of 2010. In April, there was a 2.1% drop compared to March. The forecast expects a growth rate of up to 4.5% in 2011, quite strong, but much lower than the 7.5% obtained in 2010.
The reflections of the international economic and political situation start showing strong evidences in Brazil. On one hand, Dilma’s government intention to attack workers, with a tough stance regarding state workers and the outline of new (and worse) pension plan and labor reforms. On the other hand, some workers sectors start an important political movement following the struggle examples in Europe and the Arab world.
Economic growth in Brazil has been achieved through strongly exploitation of the workers, low wages, speeding up of working pace and deteriorating living conditions. This leads to and favors the existence of fights, once it decreases the workers’ employment concerns.
Brazilian workers are low paid; their purchase power has been even more reduced by the increasing inflation, by the rising prices of food, fuel, rents and taxes. In addition, there has been a rising household debt, which increased from 6% to 15% of GDP during both Lula’s administrations. Offering easy credit to the population’s poorest sectors was the resource used by the government in order to incorporate them in the market. Currently this easy credit is turning to be a reason for a crisis due to the high degree of the families’ indebtedness.
To make matters worse, there is a growing chaos in public services (education, health and transport), increasingly affected by the options of the government’s economic policy.
The result is an important, but scattered, dissatisfaction that can be felt everywhere. This is the background for struggles demanding salary rise and for a major strike wave, the largest since 2006. The unrest is not a byproduct of the crisis, but a result of the economic growth itself due to its overexploitation’s characteristics. Everybody is aware of the Brazilian continuous economic growth, despite the world crisis, so the workers are demanding their share on the resulting wealth.
A conjuncture of struggles
The strikes came roaring back in many workers sectors. This is not a general unrest, but the action of some important sectors, like construction workers, autoworkers, teachers, state servants and drivers. It is a Trade-unionist struggle, showing economist characteristics like fighting for salary increases. But it can generate some political conflicts, as in the case of Rio de Janeiro firemen forces against the governor, Sergio Cabral.
There were strong autoworkers strikes, as those in Paraná State at Volkswagen (37 days), as well as at CAF in Campinas (SP) and at General Motors in São José dos Campos (SP). Or as the construction workers strike, which showed to be very strong and determined. The construction workers of Jirau Power Station at the forefront, then it continued in Fortaleza and other locations. And strikes in public service with emphasis on Education workers.
The mobilization of firefighters in Rio de Janeiro was the most important of this current strikes wave, because it caused a regime crisis in Rio de Janeiro state. Firefighters are a specialized sector of the Armed Forces, which has joined with the civil servants strike and obtained the support of the population. The result of this fight will have an important influence on other military sectors as well as on the movement as a whole.
Current mobilizations have reached some important victories, which help to strength the masses awareness that to fight is worthwhile. Moreover, the workers are embracing radicalized fighting methods either in Jirau or in Fortaleza strikes, the long length strikes like in Volkswagen and CAF and, mainly, the seizing of the firefighters’ headquarter by its own soldiers.
These struggles allow us to forecast a livelier second semester, when the strongest sectors of the Brazilian proletariat, like metallurgical and petroleum sectors, will be on the stage. In case of major attacks on workers (such as the outlined neoliberal reforms), there may be an even greater reaction.
Dilma suffers her first defeat, but her popularity is still on high
The political crisis that ended up with Palocci’s resignation was the first major defeat of Dilma’s administration. It was a crisis typical of the highest political levels. There is no direct relationship between Palocci’s resignation and the workers struggles. These were two simultaneous processes, occurring within the same reality, but unrelated. Pallocci’s drop was caused by the bourgeoisie pressure and not by the workers’ strikes.
This is not a victory of the right-wing bourgeois opposition. The pressure against Palocci emerged from the PMDB and some sectors of PT, supporters of Dilma’s government. Their purpose was to pressure in order to oblige Dilma to change the way she had been ruling, and to oblige her to negotiate with her own allies in Congress using a less imperial way. Palocci was the most important symbol of this imperial attitude and this caused the complaints as well as the PT and PMDB refusal to defend him.
Palocci’s resignation is the first defeat of Dilma’s administration and his resignation weakens her administration. PMDB achieved its goal which was to force the president to resume the public funds’ negotiations as well as the distribution of government jobs – “in the wholesale” and “in the retail” – as it used to happen during Lula’s administration
Among the population, however, even after Palocci’s crisis and inflation rising, in spite of all these facts Dilma’s popularity is still high. The polls show that the level of approval of her administration for the first six months hasn’t changed (indeed, a small rising in the “excellent/good” responses – from 47% to 49%).
Dissatisfaction is increasing but scattered. Workers don’t see the government as an enemy, but, often, only their own boss is identified as the class enemy to be beaten. They do not understand that the government’s economic policy directly supports these employers. Only when they face the government repression against their mobilizations, fights assume a more political character, as is the case of firemen in Rio (and other regional mobilizations of the civil servants, as in Rio Grande do Norte and Alagoas states).
The bourgeois stability has not been shaken
The strikes wave and the fall of Palocci comprise a very different situation from that existing at the beginning of the government. There is, also, a greater quantity of strikes and of political crisis than during Lula’s second term. These elements are very important, because they indicate the possibility that Dilma’s government is going to be weaker than both Lula’s terms.
This, however, is only a possibility yet. It is worth bearing in mind that even these facts haven’t shaken bourgeois stability. The structural elements of the big business domination were not modified. Due to the Chinese development, the economy continues to grow, even in the midst of the European and Arab crisis. The bourgeoisie remains united in its political and economic strategy for the country. The crisis that affected Palocci was only a light friction in order to dispute political spaces, without changing the agreement between the imperialism, the government ruling sector and the bourgeois opposition around the economic policy applied by Dilma. The electoral disputes do not shake this alliance, and even being so, the bourgeois opposition is weakened.
The momentum in social struggles, although very important, is restricted to the union borders and there is no unification of the fights. This important element has to do with the government of Popular Front and its supporters in the mass movement (CUT, Força Sindical, UNE, etc.). These organizations divert the fights and prevent them from being unified.
The current situation should be given a leap forward through the struggles’ unification and their politicization and, furthermore, a deeper bourgeoisie splitting, in order to undermine the current stability.
Against the economic policy and inflation
Let’s demand a worker’s plan from Dilma government
The first challenge for those advocating the cause of socialism is to help unify the struggles. The proposed unification by the CSP-Conlutas is to organize a national protest to be held during one week in August (as from August 17 up to August 24), crowned by a demonstration in Brasilia on the 24th of August. It can be the first major national mobilization against Dilma government.
On the other hand, we must politicize these struggles, and turn that scattered discontent into awareness of the workers against the federal government. We must patiently explain to workers that Dilma’s economic policy favors the bankers and multinationals.
The economy is growing, but who has been benefitted from it? The government intends to fight against inflation by increasing interest rates and driving the salaries and wages down. So, once again, it favors the bankers’ profits and the big bourgeoisie. We want to fight against inflation defending workers’ wages and salaries.
We support a plan to combat inflation that includes wages and salaries increases for workers and the adoption of a sliding wage scale. Along with this, we demand the reduction and the freezing of prices, tariffs and rentals.
We also want the nationalization of banks so that it is possible to reduce the interest rate to 8% a year (the same rate the Bank for Development [BNDES] charges the large companies).
This includes the non-payment of public debts in order to allocate this money to public services (education, health and transport). This year, half the federal budget will be used to pay the public debt installments and interest fees to bankers, while civil servants’ salaries are frozen, and education and health sectors are collapsing.
We are against this economic policy which squeezes the workers’ wages and salaries! We demand that Dilma’s administration adopts an economic plan to meet the workers’ needs!
Wage and salary rise for workers! Sliding wage scale every time inflation reaches 3%!
Reduction and freezing of prices, rates and rentals!
No to internal and external public debt payment, the only way to guarantee that 10% of GDP will be invested in Education and 6% of GDP in Health! Salary rise for civil servants! Against budget cuts in the social services!
Reduction of weekly working hours to a 36 hour-week without pay cut!
Against all forms of oppression of women, of black people and of homosexuals!
Mineral resources are ours! Immediate increase in royalties to 10% of gross sales!
Against the privatization of airports! Re-nationalization of former state ruled companies, such as Vale, CSN and Embraer! No to the reform of the Forestry Code!
Against the criminalization of social movements! In defense of the right to fight!
Immediate investigation and punishment for the murderers of rural workers leaderships!
For the right to Union organization for the military sectors! Demilitarization of the police! End of the current civil and military polices to form a new demilitarized police with elected sheriffs!
Arresting and expropriation the corrupted people as well as the corruptors!
Dilma has been ruling for bankers and multinationals. Let’s fight for a socialist workers government!
 These figures have been revised down by the Bureau of Economic Analysis (U.S. Department of Commerce) to 0.4% and 2.3%, respectively.
 This forecast is also being revised to a lower figure.
 Antonio Palocci: former Chief of Staff under President Dilma Rousseff, was nominated by Lula and resigned under charges of illicit wealth.