The Main Immediate Challenge For The Anti-Capitalist Left

… Is To Contribute To The Development Of The Movement – Excerpt of an Interview with João Machado, published on International Viewpoint, by Juan Tortosa, June 23 and 27, 2013.

… Which are the social sectors that dominate the economy? Has the economic growth of Brazil benefitted society as a whole?

  • The Brazilian economy is dominated by an alliance between financial capital, big industrial capital and agro business (the big rural bourgeoisie), in all cases both national and foreign, with some contradictions among them. For industrial capital, for example, the policy of over-valuation of the real creates problems, because it makes it difficult to compete with imports. But as this capital accepts the neoliberal general framework of the economic policy of the government, it does not have much margin to make pressure for changes in the policy.  
  • The economic growth of Brazil in the last years – which exists, although it is much less significant than is claimed by the propaganda of the government and the praise they have received from the international bourgeoisie – has benefitted mainly financial capital and agro business. But something has been distributed also to the poorest layers of the society, mainly by the big growth in social assistance (most important at this level is the well known “Bolsa Familia” programme) and also by the significant growth of the minimum wage (what also has implications for which those who receive pensions, which are indexed to the minimum wage). That is the big reason for the greater support the federal government has among the poorest layers.
  • In addition, although the situation of public education is in no way good, the federal government has expanded federal university public education and has a policy of bursaries that has extended the access of more popular sectors to private university education.
  • Intermediate wage-earners and those that receive higher wages have lost out, especially public employees. That is one of it reasons why those in what can be classified as average layers (this includes a part of the proletariat, including workers) have a much more negative opinion of the government.
  • Sectors like farmers and indigenous peoples (who are not numerous in Brazil) have also lost out as the government favours agro business, and not peasant agriculture. The federal government has allowed a real genocide of indigenous people – there are many murders of natives carried out by the great rural proprietors, and the federal government tolerates it as the big rural proprietors (agro business) are an important part of the political alliances made to guarantee so-called “governability”.

What balance sheet do you make of the PT in power?

  • I believe that it is possible to summarize the line followed by the PT governments as follows: to give something for “those at the bottom”, on condition of not entering into any clash with the dominant classes, which implies not making any fundamental change of direction in the neoliberal policy supported by those classes. It is a fundamentally conservative orientation. The economic situation is feasible enough to allow, with the growth of the economy, giving something to those at the bottom without taking anything from those above, and the strength of Lula, the PT and the organizations it leads was able to contain the demands of the workers and oppressed layers of society.
  • Lula seems to believe, and the PT seems to be convinced by him of this, that is possible to govern (more or less) for all, replacing the class struggle by negotiation (mainly with those at the top) and control (for those at the bottom, when negotiation is not sufficient).
  • At some time – as seems to be beginning to occur – that line will have to exhaust itself. In the end, the PT governments have not eliminated the violent contradictions of Brazilian society, nor the dependency of imperialism, nor the contradictions of capitalism. And the control on the part of the PT and of their allies, and the organizations directed by them, over the demands of those at the bottom, cannot be eternal.
  • This line has debilitated the workers and popular movement – which will remain the case for at least a few years, until they can be reorganized. To the PT that seemed until now secondary, because it relied on electoral strength, extended by the broad alliances with the right that it has been making.
  • There are other aspects of the government line that are very negative. One that should be emphasized is the contempt for environmental questions, reinforced by the alliances with the agro business sectors. Another is the opening of space for the religious fundamentalist right, also reinforced by the importance that it has in its apparatus of alliances.

When and how were the protests born? What are the demands? … //

… What has happened in the past few days? Anything new?

  • In addition to the continuity of the mobilizations, a very rich process of extension of the political discussion is underway, of meetings of different sectors (youth, inhabitants of the peripheries, movements for public transport, movements for education and so on) by far more people than before, to discuss what to do and what to demand in particular. The unions, not very active until now, have announced (with even the more right wing federations participating) a general strike and a day of protests for July 11, with a very progressive basis. Most of the social movements, even those nearest to the government, have supported this call by the unions and present their own demands – also very progressive. Ex-president Lula has met with some social sectors close to him and says that it is time “to go for the streets” to face the right and to push the government towards the left. Evidently, that position of Lula has some fairly comedic elements to it, but it is an expressive sign of what is happening in the country.
  • The threat from the right, which seemed significant at the end of last week, is much more limited. Some mobilizations with clearly rightist orientations that have been tried were clearly a total defeat.
  • We do not know if all the popular and union mobilizations announced will really happen, nor their strength. After the last ten years, it is difficult to think that the very bureaucratized CUT will really flex its muscles, not to speak the more rightwing federations. The same can be said of an organization like the highly bureaucratized UNE (National Union of Students), one of the organizations which has met with Lula. The sectors of the socialist left in the different movements, which are being strengthened, for sure, with the present process, are still very much in the minority.
  • But something we can say with great certainty is that the political participation of the people has taken a qualitative leap; let’s hope that its consciousness does the same. Brazil is no longer the same, that’s for sure.

(full long interview text).

(João Machado’s articles on International Viewpoint).


Some Datapoints on Global Political Risk, on naked capitalism, by Lambert Strether of Corrente , June 30, 2013;

English unemployment: decreasingly defying gravity? on Real-World Economics Review Blog, by merijnknibbe, June 29, 2013;

James Galbraith: Europe’s house is on fire. No time for complacency, on Real-World Economics Review Blog, by merijnknibbe, June 28, 2013;

Niall Ferguson: More mistaken musings from the land of the Excel spreadsheet error, on Real-World Economics Review Blog, by Dean Baker, June 28, 2013.

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