Between Fascism and Bonapartism



Reflections on the genesis of the current Brazilian political regime

The peculiarities of Brazilian political development were distinctly captured by Mário Pedrosa, in texts from the 1930s published in the newspapers of the Trotskyist organizations to which he belonged. He found that the first Brazilian political parties of national scope and action were the PCB and integralist fascism. What in Europe (and partly in the USA as well) was the culmination of a long political development, which had passed through the liberal and radical clubs of the French Revolution, Jacobinism, liberalism (English in the first place), restorative conservatism, the universalizing and democratic nationalism of the 1840s, the exclusivist and elitist (and racist/anti-Semitic) nationalism of the final phase of the XNUMXth century, was, in Brazil, not the culmination of a secular process, but the first step towards a policy of national scope. Brazilian political history progressed per saltum. The regionalist policy of the Empire and the Old Republic had passed, without intermediate scales, to the extreme and “final” expressions of the historical/world political arc.

The country's working class was no exception. The first and difficult steps of the Brazilian labor movement (which rarely included newly freed slaves) were unable to overcome the state or even regional level, both in its union and political expressions. Anarchism was the dominant trend, with reformist socialism reduced to a marginal expression. Industry was underdeveloped, with a small number of large factories and many small workshops, especially in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. In the other states, industry was more rickety, and the trade union and labor movement did not go beyond a molecular life. To the extent that the “socialist parties” proposed progress in the electoral sphere, they could not overcome the geographical fragmentation of Brazilian political life by themselves. The establishment of the Republic aggravated this problem.

As a whole, the Brazilian civil regime had an authoritarian character, with a strong military presence, since the beginning of republican life. The economic process in the last decades of the Empire was characterized by the gradual penetration of capitalist relations, which, however, did not break the framework of traditional activities (primary production in large plantations with a view to export). This process, however, ended up generating an incompatibility with the current social (slavery) and political (centralized monarchical) system. Its effects were the growth of cities and a progressive dissolution of the old agrarian relations, as well as the emergence of a middle class and an urban proletariat. The transition from Monarchy to Republic took place in the form of a military coup, which "cleaned" the top of the State, preserving the interests of the dominant classes, and the dominance of their political representatives, who continued to control the States as private fiefdoms, with great autonomy.

The abolition of slavery, together with the great immigration, poured into the labor market a symbolically paid labor force (sometimes not even formally salaried) that maintained the profitability of the large plantations in the conditions of the so-called “great world depression”, at the same time in which it provided the human basis for a nascent, backward, artisanal industry with low organic composition, and for a semi-slave domestic workforce. The super-exploitation of labor was closely intertwined with the ethnic oppression of the black population. The oligarchic republic (called “Old”) guaranteed three decades of relative political stability, in which the interests of large landowners allied with foreign capital flourished.

The political-institutional crisis that ended the Old Republic reflected the contradiction between the aspirations to political democracy and the oligarchic roots of the State: between 1922 and 1938 all Brazilian political factions took up arms to appropriate or pressure the State (tenente revolts in 1922-24, “revolution” of 1930, “constitutionalist” revolt of 1932, ANL putsch in 1935, Vargas coup of 1937, integralist putsch of 1938), which underwent a process of disintegration that the dictatorship of the Estado Novo contained. In the 1920s, although waging a “revolutionary war”, the lieutenants maintained the idea that they constituted a vanguard that could and should replace the Brazilian people. During the Prestes Column, on the other hand, the lieutenants continued to be allied with civil opposition sectors, dissent from the oligarchy itself. In Maranhão they allied themselves with the Republican Party, and in Rio Grande do Sul they tried a new revolution, in 1926, with the “Libertadores” of Assis Brasil, a “dissident” oligarch who remained since 1924 as the civil leader of the “revolution”.

Certainly, Integralism, with its motto of “God, Fatherland and Family” became known as “Brazilian fascism” by association, as it did not present itself as revolutionary (as did fascism or Nazism, although they also relied on a mythification of the past ) but as a traditionalist: the divine figure occupied the summit of the hierarchical structure, with the homeland defined as “our home”, the unit of the Brazilian population as opposed to the division of society into classes. Integralists intended to achieve this unity through the constitution of an “Integral State”, with the family as the basic unit of social organization. Integralism was a nationalist movement in the most retrograde (anti-socialist) sense, authoritarian and traditionalist, similar, however, to fascism in its political proposal.

At the time, Leon Trotsky noted, with regard to Latin American regimes, that “the governments of backward countries, colonial and semi-colonial, assume a Bonapartist character, and differ from one another in the fact that some try to orient themselves in a more democratic and try to seek support from the workers and peasants, while others establish a form of military and police dictatorship”. The revolutionary strategy in Brazil had as its starting point the proof of the historical incapacity of the national bourgeoisie to solve historical tasks: independence and national unity, agrarian question, equality before the law and eradication of explicit racism.

The 1930 revolution was the expression of the crisis of the “oligarchic state”, in the framework of the world economic crisis. The “revolution”, which began as a movement of national unity against oligarchic federalism, ended up in a Bonapartist dictatorship that bureaucratically centralized the State, without striking the roots of the oligarchy, and harnessing the masses through political regimentation. The Varguista period demarcated the exhaustion of the national bourgeoisie as a class with intentions of structuring an independent and democratic State, thus making possible its hegemony over the oppressed masses.

The nationalist economic mirage, however, took hold in Brazil, due to its late starting point and the push provided by a nationwide market: the country's industrial production increased, between 1907 and 1943, 43 times, going from a value from US$ 35 million in 1907 to US$ 1,4 billion in 1950. Even so, primary exports (in the first place, coffee) still represented, under Vargas, more than 75% of the total export basket, in in relation to industry and services. Only in the 1980s did these percentages reverse.

In the XNUMXth century, Brazil's economic growth surpassed that of the rest of Latin American countries, reaching one of the highest growth rates in the world. But this “development” aggravated financial and technological dependence, accentuated regional disparities, lowered or made the population's standard of living more difficult.

The late development of Brazilian capitalism was thought of as a model, according to João Manuel Cardoso de Mello, “of the economic history of Latin American countries as the history of the birth and development of late capitalisms”. The regimes most identified, in the history of Brazil, with the “representation of the nation”, Vargas, Kubitschek and Goulart, did not touch the agrarian landholding structure, and adopted nationalist measures of a limited nature, even when compared with those of other Latino nationalist governments. Americans. On their side, within the framework of the oligarchic Republic, the socialists presented themselves less as the bearers of a class interest, and more as defenders of modernity and public morality.

The PCB, founded in 1922, was considered the first national political party, not only for the working class, but for the whole country. The first Brazilian Trotskyists found, as already mentioned, that there were only two nationally structured political parties: communism and integralist fascism. In Europe, these trends were the ultimate result of preceding political development: in Brazil, they were its starting point. Between 1932 and 1937, numerous parties were formed to compete in the elections for the 1934 Constituent Assembly, almost all regional and without national expression, with the exception of Ação Integralista Brasileira – AIB, and Aliança Nacional Libertadora – ANL, under the guidance of the PCB. The ANL was dissolved and its members repressed in late 1935, shortly after the uprisings in Natal and Rio de Janeiro, and the AIB was closed in 1938 after an attempted coup d'état. Nationally speaking bourgeois parties were organized from within the State during the Vargas dictatorship (1937-1945).

The ANL was considered a Brazilian variant of the international policy of Popular Fronts promoted by the Communist International. In the CPDOC news about it, it reads: “In reaction to the growth of the Brazilian Integralist Action (AIB), small anti-fascist fronts were formed that brought together communists, socialists and former “lieutenants” dissatisfied with the rapprochement between the government of Getúlio Vargas and the oligarchic groups removed from power in 1930. In the second half of 1934, a small number of intellectuals and the military began to promote meetings in Rio de Janeiro with the aim of creating a political organization capable of giving national support to the popular struggles that then took place. they crashed.

From these meetings emerged the ANL, whose first public manifesto was read in the Federal Chamber in January 1935. The organization's basic program had as its main points the suspension of payment of the country's foreign debt, the nationalization of foreign companies, agrarian reform and the protection of small and medium-sized landowners, the guarantee of broad democratic freedoms and the establishment of a popular government…

“In March, the provisional national directory of the ANL was constituted… At the end of the month, the ANL was officially launched in a ceremony in the federal capital, which was attended by thousands of people. At the time, Luís Carlos Prestes, who was in the Soviet Union, was acclaimed honorary president of the organization. Prestes, who at that time had already adhered to communism, enjoyed enormous prestige due to his role as leader of the Prestes Column... has never been known. Several personalities, even without being affiliated, were sympathetic to the Alliance... The entity promoted well-attended rallies and public demonstrations in several cities and had its activities publicized by two daily newspapers directly linked to it, one in Rio de Janeiro and the other in São Paulo ”.[I] The ANL appeared more like a nationalist front with the leading participation of the PCB, an “armed Popular Front”.

After defeating the insurrectionary (1935) or putschist (1938) attempts of the PCB and Integralism, Varguista Bonapartism appeared as the expression of a “political stalemate” and as a translation of the historical impasse of the constitution of a representative State in Brazil. The configuration of a union bureaucracy in the Vargas period completed the structuring of the Bonapartist regime. The institutional structure that gave rise to its existence, with the integration of unions into the State, remained basically unchanged. The “labor” bureaucracy was forced to admit, however, in the 1950s, the existence of union leaders linked to the PCB. The material basis of the labor bureaucracy was the Trade Union Tax, created by the Varguista regime, to which are added other compulsory fees (assistance, business, federative, confederative tax) charged from all employees, and received by more than ten thousand unions, half of them "stamp" (constituted to receive these taxes and fees), with thousands of "unionists" with a "heated portfolio", who "represent" categories in which they have never worked, and which sometimes they do not even know personally.

In addition, a post-union “career” was set up in the administration of the FAT, the FGTS and other state funds taken from workers' salaries, without forgetting the flourishing business of private pension funds, favored by the social security reforms of FHC and Squid,[ii] on top of which a “managing” trade union bureaucracy was set up, headed by sectors of the CUT bureaucracy. In 1981, 5.030 union activists, at the 1st National Conference of the Working Classes (Conclat), considered the embryo of the “new unionism”, Lula and the “new unionists” defended the need for the unions to detach themselves economically from the State. They promised to fight to break the backbone of the “pelegas” entities, closing the tap of compulsory financial resources, which later, in the government, they maintained, consolidated and increased.

The Lula government, whose past political base repudiated the Union Tax, finally perfected this instrument of regimentation, reformulating it. By the new law,[iii] the centrals that prove “representativeness” can capture 10% of the total collected with the union tax. By decree, Lula granted the Ministry of Labor the power to act as a conciliation body in case of conflict between entities disputing the representation of the same category of workers or economic activity. The mechanism of bureaucratic regimentation of the working class in Brazil takes to its last consequences the tendencies towards the integration of trade unions to the State, characteristic of monopoly capital. The mountain of money pouring over the union bureaucracy constituted one of the axes for maintaining the subordination of the Brazilian working class.

It was not a random result, but the product of history. The post-war “redemocratization” resulted from pressure from imperialism, given the crisis indices of the Varguista State: “populist democracy” (1945/64) expressed the disaggregation of the forces that it had compulsorily unified, and was based, not on the democratic representation of the different classes in the institutions, but in the political proscription (of the PCB and even of certain Vargas sectors) and in the collaboration of the trade union bureaucracy. This “democracy” was the parliamentary façade of an oligarchic and bureaucratic composition. The regime was based on two parties (PSD and PTB) that represented, the first, the governors and their traditional cliques in the states; the second, the trade union scoundrels of the Ministry of Labor and part of the state bureaucracy. It was the peak period of imperialist capital investments.

The military dictatorship that succeeded it was not a simple regime of bloody repression and denial of democratic freedoms against all exploited classes. The 1964 counterrevolution was the punishment the Brazilian nation had to go through as a result of the exhaustion of nationalism.[iv] The military dictatorship, far from signifying a return to the oligarchic regime, was an instrument of the centralizing tendencies of big national and imperialist capital, to deepen the submission of the national economy to imperialism (world domination of financial capital), and the disciplining of the various States to Unity. The authoritarian centralization of the military boot took to extremes the unequal economic and political development of the nation and its states, which manifested itself in the appearance of centrifugal tendencies.

The lasting result of the military dictatorship was to intertwine, on a much larger scale, the national bourgeoisie with imperialism, and the state oligarchies with the bureaucracy of the national state. This deepened the economic dependence and subordination of state economies to the national budget. The militarized State acted directly as an agent of capital against labor: in 1964, of the total income tax collected at source, 18% referred to labor income and 60% to capital income. In 1970, the same percentages were around 50% and 17% respectively.

The bargaining power of the unions was drastically reduced, subject to the standard of wages and readjustments (tightened) by the military government, in accordance with the dictates of its economic policy; labor legislation, of which the replacement of job stability by the Severance Indemnity Fund (FGTS) was the prototype, benefited from the accelerated accumulation of capital, accelerating the turnover of employees and the expulsion of those over 40 from the workforce, contributing to an increase in the rate of exploitation.

But, with the crisis in which the world economy entered and the exhaustion of the expansionary cycle of the national economy, in the second half of the 1970s, the nation as a whole and each state in particular walked towards bankruptcy. The external debt and the growing budget deficit were the expressions of this bankruptcy.[v] The victory of the opposition (MDB) in the state elections of 1974, the convening of the First Metallurgical Congress of the ABC region of São Paulo (1975), by the “authentic” trade union leadership, posing the issue of the fight against the wage squeeze. highlighted the crisis of the military regime and the beginning of overcoming the political atomization of the working class, which would be followed, four years later, by the beginning of a powerful agrarian movement in the south of the country, which was the base of the MST.

The interests of the military caste had grown in the shadow of the historical inability of the bourgeoisie to structure its rule based on representative institutions. The crisis in this process took place under the double pressure of the world economic crisis and the recomposition of the mass movement, of which the electoral defeat of ARENA in 1974 was an expression. The political regime, which emerged from the serious political defeats of the proletariat and the masses, began to come into contradiction with a political stage marked by new power relations between the classes.

The contradiction broke out openly when, in 1978, the proletariat, through its direct action, occupied a prominent place in the national situation. The military government, with Geisel, had taken the initiative to trigger a process of “political opening”, seeking to modify certain methods of domination of the dictatorship, with the purpose of opening escape valves for the regime.

The objective of the opening was to open a space in the state apparatus for bourgeois fractions removed from power, and to inaugurate a period of political maneuvers, to maintain a regime that could no longer sustain itself with repression alone. The facts demonstrated that the change in the methods of domination could not be carried out without serious clashes and frictions. The first manifestation was the closure of Congress (April 1977) and the launch of the April Package, which annulled direct elections for governors and instituted parliamentary bionicity, aiming to maintain the majority of the government in the Senate.

In this context, the MDB launched the flag of the Constituent Assembly. This had a preventive character: it was also the reaction of bourgeois sectors who feared that the opening plan would be aborted, since for those who were removed from power, the opening was not only an attempt to control the masses, but also a resource to divide the costs of the economic crisis among the various capitalist factions.

In this context, and unlike what is disclosed by historiographical hagiography, the PT was not born from a natural or linear evolution of the working class, but from a set of contradictions and political processes encompassing different social classes. In the stage opened in 1978-79, the proletariat was not willing to re-edit the old conciliation experiences, nor the bourgeoisie to try a broad period of class conciliation, because its dependence on imperialism had been accentuated, and the proletariat was stronger and concentrated than in the past. With these trends, the crisis of the military regime was combined, especially the crisis of the system of linking the unions, which gave rise, in the linked structure itself, to the “new unionism”, providing the political basis for the launch of the PT's proposal.

A historical factor that contributed to this crisis being expressed more strongly in São Paulo, in addition to the fact that the region has the most numerous and concentrated proletariat, was the fact that the PTB, historical expression of the political alignment of the unions, not only did not thrive in São Paulo, but also going through phases in which it almost disappeared in this state, as it had the potential to become a very strong faction: in a state where trade unionism was powerful and the electorate decisive, the national party leaders sought to discourage its growth.

The tendency towards class independence was present throughout the history of the Brazilian working class. She continued in the struggles against the military regime. The creation of the PT expressed it in a deformed way, as it arose from a political agreement that had a sector of linked unionism at its center, which confiscated and even excluded the sectors that most directly expressed classist development, the “union oppositions”. At the XI Congress of Metallurgists of São Paulo, in January 1979 in Lins, in which the decision was taken to launch the formation of the PT, an agreement was reached between “authentic” (“new unionism”) and “union unity” (pelegos and PCB) that the representatives of the “union oppositions” would not participate. The “authentics” who gave rise to the PT were situated on an unstable political front with trade unionism attached.

The later authentic/pelegos split (which defended subordination to the MDB), which was also projected at the union level (CUT/CONCLAT split), and even the alliance with the class opposition, does not change the fact that the original features of the PT it was given by a political alliance centered on a sector originating in the structure of subordination of workers' organizations. The PT did not emerge “from within the unions”, but from a process of political recomposition, not only within the working class, but also from the left wing of the petty bourgeoisie (with reversals in the positions of all sectors of the left between 1977 and 1981 ). Lula was not opposed to forming a party with the emedebista left, but he was not willing to give up the hegemony of the party formation process, since it was the leadership of the working class that was mobilized.

A good part of the intelligentsia, the PCB and the PC do B, stayed in the MDB, which was better structured; on the other hand, a series of smaller groups, many linked to the Church, joined the PT, which was led by Lulista unionists. If, on the one hand, the PT proposal had practical effect since its origin, thanks to the rise of the labor movement, to which the PT leaderships were linked, on the other hand, the proposal of the authentic trade unionists was realized thanks to the failure of negotiations with the emedebista left.

In fact, the trade union leadership, not having any kind of political representation in the existing or new parties, and faced with the party reformulation, launched the PT as a means of seeking a place in the new political arrangement. It was, however, a leadership located above the movement of the masses, subject and sensitive to the pressure of the bourgeoisie.

The expression of the PT's character was its programmatic definition. A workers' party would inscribe in its program that the satisfaction of the elementary aspirations of the working population would be impossible within the framework of capitalist society and the bourgeois State, that is, it would proclaim the need for the abolition of capitalist private property. The PT assumed a democratizing program, which was not consequently democratic, proposing “the disassociation of state companies from monopolies”; “the nationalization of unproductive latifundia”, and not agrarian reform through the expropriation of agrarian capital, culminating in the “democratization of the State”, which should be “submitted to the control of social organizations and the people”. As for “socialism”, it was initially rejected, and later admitted (1981) as “the socialism that will be defined by the daily struggle of the Brazilian people”, which rejected a definition of socialism as a class political regime based on the expropriation of capital.

On these political and organizational bases, the PT developed, spreading nationally, obtaining its electoral legalization (1981) and its first expressive electoral result (11% of the votes in the elections for governor in São Paulo, in 1982), which gave the basis for his future projection, based mainly on the working class vote, which was expressed by the slogan he presided over in the campaign (“vote for three, the rest is bourgeois”).

The PT enjoyed wide sympathy among the masses. But the active militants were recruited from the petty bourgeoisie and were supplied by leftist organizations. During the 1982 election campaign, a significant number of workers' militants were not recruited; the PT was configured as a party of the radical petty bourgeoisie and the fringe of union and neighborhood activists. A single front of left-wing tendencies, union leaders and Catholic activists, with the presence of university intellectuals, united in the perspective of political progress following a shortcut, that of the prestige of union leaders, a conglomerate unified by the perspective of a quick success, guaranteed by the presence of Lula (transformed at that moment, with Lech Walesa, into a world figure from the democratizing perspective promoted by the USA).[vi]

The global economic crisis of the 1970s, which led to the crisis of the “Brazilian miracle”, presented two basic capitalist options: redeeming a part of the fixed assets in the hands of the State or the national bourgeoisie to pay foreign creditors, or imposing discipline on the big imperialist capital and state interventionism. Delfim Netto's policy, in 1979, expressed an intermediate course, when trying to resolve the impasse with old methods: export subsidies, devaluations, limited price controls, reduction of the budget of state companies. The result of this, in the conditions of the 1980/82 recession, was the worsening of the social crisis (increase in the cost of living) and the progressive ruin of the financial system (black market, capital flight, out of control inflation). While average annual GDP growth reached 7,1% in the period 1947/1980, this rate dropped to 1,6% in the 1980s.

Under the conditions of crisis, the political continuity of the dictatorship until the mid-1980s was made possible by the existence of a fundamental agreement with the bourgeois opposition, which limited their divergences to the question of the opening calendar dates, avoiding formulating any measure of rupture with big international finance (at the most it suggested, as Celso Furtado did, a governmental renegotiation of Brazil's debt with the governments of creditor countries). The irruption of the masses, present on the political scene after the ABCD strikes in 1978-79, questioned this agreement to the point of putting it in crisis, a crisis whose expression was the campaign for “Diretas-Já” (1984).

This year, the labor movement resumed the path started in the ABCD, in the face of salary expropriation. Launched by the PT, the campaign, which took millions to the streets, could have been the political projection of the struggle against exploitation, spearheaded by the working class. This was not the case, because its leadership – accepted by the PT – limited its projection to pressure on existing institutions (Dante de Oliveira amendment) that emerged in the womb of the military dictatorship.

To get around the crisis, the regime had to pay the price of splitting the former ARENA (PDS, from which the PFL was spun off, representing northeastern oligarchic sectors) and transferring the government to the civil coalition resulting from that split, the Democratic Alliance (PFL/ PMDB), structured around the consensus candidate Tancredo Neves. This evidenced the continuation of the trend towards a Bonapartist departure, above representative institutions, but now with a civil center. Tancredo's death seemed to crown the operation, obliquely carrying out Geisel-Golbery's plans (transfer of government to a civilian from ARENA), co-opting the bourgeois opposition within the framework of a tutored regime, by bringing the former president of ARENA to the presidency. ARENA, José Sarney. But ten years of crisis and popular struggles had not passed in vain, and Sarneyzista personalism was a kind of Bonapartism in reverse.

It was to face the rise of the masses (in 1985 the strikes broke historic records, a feat repeated in the first months of 1986), as well as to condition the elections of governors and the Constituent Assembly process, that Sarney launched an initiative by way of decree, the Cruzado Plan to “combat inflation”. The initiative – with “Sarney inspectors” and the hypothetical “president's party” – aimed to postpone a political class confrontation, intervening in the party crisis.

Workers should accept reduced wages, to avoid an increase in the wage bill, also setting a limit for wage expropriation, resulting from freezing prices at the peak and wages at the average. This attempt to structure an arbiter power between the classes was short-lived, due to the very magnitude of the economic crisis, but served, together with the PNRA (Agrarian Reform), to largely model the subsequent electoral process, relying on the constraints anti-democratic military regime.

Thus, the PMDB was the great victor in November 1986 (winning in 22 of the 23 states) and the Constituent Assembly, initiated in 1987, concluded in 1988 only placing formal restrictions on the penetration of foreign capital in strategic sectors. The “labor conquests” incorporated into the text (40 hours a week, maternity/paternity leave, the right to strike for civil servants) aimed to reconcile with already existing rights in fact, awaiting a regulation that would annul them in practice.

The Constituent Assembly did not end the political crisis, nor did it create a democratic political regime: the country continued to be governed through decrees. However, in the second half of 1988, Sarney's attempt to subordinate the constituent process to his own power failed. The failure of Plano Cruzado reflected the government's inability to structure an arbitration between classes.

The democratizing tendency, imposed by the deepening of the class struggle, however, would be exhausted only when this deepening reached a point incompatible with the stability of the State. In Brazil, as in all of Latin America, the political transition to civilian regimes was motivated by the economic and political exhaustion of the military regimes, in the context of a global economic crisis (the “debt crisis”, in 1982, showed the inability to continue paying the external debt),[vii] growing international crises (civil and international wars in Central America, the Ecuador-Peru war, and the Falklands War in 1982) and unprecedented popular mobilizations (guerrilla warfare throughout Central America and Colombia, mobilizations in the Cone countries South, mass strikes and mobilization for “Diretas Já” in Brazil).

Amid acute disputes and political crises, democratizing regimes emerged under the preserved hegemony of international financial capital, and the associated local bourgeoisie, preserving the interests of military cliques. The means used were, first of all, the economic and military blackmail of North American and European imperialism (as in the Malvinas war, or in the organization of the “contra” in Central America).

At the same time, the democratizing policy was directly driven by US imperialism, arising in the wake of the problems created by the political crisis as a whole: it was driven by the Reagan government (1980-1988), with the explicit aim of reversing international political trends. , characterized by the worldwide retreat of Yankee imperialism, after the defeats in the wars in Vietnam and Southeast Asia. This policy capitalized on the unprecedented interweaving of national bourgeoisie with international finance capital and the crisis of the Kremlin bureaucracy and its world policy. Imperialism and the national bourgeoisie looked to democratic regimes as an emergency preventive resource.

Imperialism supported the Latin American “democratic processes”: in all the military crises in Argentina, where right-wing militaries entered into a deep conflict with the Alfonsín government, the Reagan government and the European governments supported the civil power, believing that, under the conditions world crisis, only governments that co-opted popular opposition within a constitutional framework could sustain the State and continue to pay the foreign debt. None of these regimes was a genuine democratic development.

In the Brazilian Constituent Assembly, Sarney's five-year mandate was torn off by pressure organized by businessmen linked to the military dictatorship and by the military themselves. In no case did the change from the military regime to a civilian one mean the implantation of a political democracy, but a constitutional façade for institutions originating from the military dictatorship. International commitments, the axis of the process of international exploitation of Latin America, made by the military regimes, were respected, especially the external debt.

It was a continental feature. The conditionality of Latin American democratizing regimes with previous military regimes was clear: in Brazil, the military guaranteed their direct participation in power through military ministries; in Chile, the opposition agreed to govern on the basis of the 1980 Pinochet Constitution, and guarantee eight years of troop command to the dictator's commanders; in Peru, the Constituent Assembly legislated under the military government of Morales Bermúdez; in Uruguay, the civil regime was based on the “Pact of the Clube Naval”, which guaranteed military impunity, reinforced in a plebiscite; in Argentina, military crises were taken advantage of by the “democrats” to institutionalize military power in the National Security Council, and to exonerate the genocidal military through the “full stop” and “due obedience”; in Paraguay, civil government did not even transcend family boundaries, as General Andrés Rodriguez was related to the dictator Stroessner.

The democratizing policy, on the other hand, was not the opposite of external military interventionism: it was the Bolivian democrats who admitted the intervention of Yankee troops, under the pretext of combating drug trafficking; the same pretext was used for the naval blockade of Colombia; the military siege of Cuba was reinforced, and the island of Grenada was invaded; Central America was militarized, through the Nicaraguan “contra” and the sending of US troops to Honduras and El Salvador and, in an extreme but exemplary case, Panama was invaded to impose a “democratic” government.

In Brazil, this was favored by the conduct of the “authentic” union leadership, headed by Lula, which limited the ABC strike process, adapting it to the conciliatory strategy of the opposition (MDB) with the “openness” sponsored by the military dictatorship. The youth, inexperience and scarce political development of the labor movement, somehow, made this the most likely result of the “PT dream”. The “workers'” or labor parties, unlike the social democrats, are not constituted on the basis of a program, but on the basis of the spontaneous movement of the workers. For this reason, union leaders play an important role in them. This characteristic, in which political positions are accommodated to practical needs, ends up making these parties unfeasible as entities for real political or ideological debate.

According to PT intellectuals, a program should be designed “from the bottom up”, an absurdity that led to a program of liberal vulgarities. The legalization of the PT, within the framework of the military regime, had two aspects: a political defeat of the bourgeoisie, as well as the evidence that the proletariat continued to be politically subjected to bastard variants. The legalization of the PT, under the terms in which it occurred, reflected the ebb of the mass movement, after the strikes at the end of the 1970s,[viii] as well as its scarce political differentiation. This PT legalization ratified, however, that, for a good period, this party would be the main political framework for the left currents.

It was, therefore, for political reasons, and not due to a “natural consequence”, that in the “democratic transitions” the political co-option, direct or indirect, of the democratic, workers and popular leaders occupied a central place, including those that, until a recent past, claimed to belong to the field of revolution, which they renounced in the name of “adhesion to democracy” (which found an ideological elaboration in the theories of “democracy as a universal value”). This factor was decisive in limiting and emasculating the scope of the revolution in Nicaragua and El Salvador (Fidel Castro indicated, at that moment, that “the socialist revolution did not solve the problems”, at the same time that he launched the proposal of a “New International Economic Order”. ” – proposing the “forgiveness” of external debts – as a way out of the Latin American and world crisis).

It was in the context of a rampant political crisis (the collapse of the Sarney government, the collapse of candidacies and parties from the bourgeois opposition to the military dictatorship) that the PT experienced spectacular electoral development, until it obtained 32 million votes in the second round of the 1989 presidential elections. , accrediting itself as an alternative and decisive political factor in the country. The basis for this development was also provided by the historical turn of the proletariat, which had its first national workers' center in the CUT (created in 1983).

This was in contradiction with the democratizing policy of the PT leadership, and even with the participation of the PT in important instances of the State (in 1989, the PT already headed three of the most important city halls in the country). To resolve this contradiction, the PT launched Lula's presidential candidacy, in 1989, not as an independent candidate of the workers, but as a front of class collaboration (adopted at the VI National Meeting of the PT, in 1989), in a political front that PT leadership intended to extend to the representatives of the São Paulo bourgeoisie and to the political survivors of Varguismo.

Lula's defeat in the second round by Collor's adventurous candidacy was due to the latter's political exploitation of the contradictions of the Popular Front; it did little good for the FBP to declare the intangibility of private property and the big banks, as well as the public debt, which by then had already reached 300 billion dollars. A victory for Lula, even so, would have meant a defeat for the bourgeoisie.

The precarious political solution found by the bourgeoisie when defeating Lula by a negligible margin (the 14 million abstentions and blank or null votes almost four times surpassed the difference of 4 million votes in favor of Collor) did not hide the political defeat suffered by the working class. Saying that there was a “political victory” because Lula and the PT reached unprecedented levels of voting for the left and workers' candidacies in Brazil means forgetting that in the week prior to the second round, polls pointed to Lula's possible victory. The price to pay for the precarious bourgeois victory was the monumental political crisis that led to the overthrow of Collor in 1992.

The party's relative electoral success (measured by the number of votes), however, allowed the PT to be the engine of the left across the continent: the Foro de São Paulo, created in 1990 (through an agreement with the Cuban PC). , began the political preparation of the continental left as an alternative government, projecting the front-populist policy internationally. The PT took the initiative and brought together almost the entire Latin American left at the meeting, inviting not only leftist parties but also smaller bourgeois parties.

At that meeting, the international situation was debated, an in-depth discussion at a second meeting in Mexico, then in Nicaragua, in 1993, and finally in Cuba in 1994. The demand for democracy against the previous “left coup” (guerrillas included) and integration in capitalist world market were the strategic conclusions with which the Latin American left, with the PT at its head, prepared its candidacy for government in the 1990s.

After the Latin American moratoriums, determined by financial exhaustion, debt payments were resumed through the Baker and Brady Plans, which included the privatization “at a bargain price” (with rotten public bonds) of state assets. The plans aimed to eliminate any kind of “sovereign renegotiation” and, above all, suspension of debt payments; according to the “economists” it was no longer possible to renegotiate, because if in the past there was a limited number of creditor banks, with “Brady” the external debt was transformed into public securities (the “bradies”) sold by the banks in the international market, without that the identity of the owners of these titles, which began to hover around the world, be known.

In other words, the Brady Plan was less an economic plan than a political maneuver (the Argentine default of 2001 made the owners of these bonds appear in the most unimaginable places, including the agrarian outbacks of Italy, and the Tyrolean mountains of Austria…). This operation of national surrender and social exploitation was given the pompous name of “neoliberalism”, attributing an ideological character to an economic fraud lacking any other “ideology”, in addition to the looting of state finances and peripheral national economies.

The Sarney government, the product of indirect elections, had fallen in the midst of a resounding economic failure, with galloping hyperinflation (which reached 53.000% per year, leading to several currency changes), caused by financial speculation with government bonds. The Collor government, which emerged from the 1989 elections, as well as other Latin American “democratic” governments (whose economic content was not to oppose limited resistance to imperialism, but to deepen national commitment, taking it to unprecedented levels , even when compared to military dictatorships) accepted the principle of paying interest,[ix] as a guarantee for the renegotiation of the payment of the unpayable debt, and the principle of “debt capitalization”, liquidating the national productive apparatus, delivering it in exchange for devalued debt securities, accepted at their nominal value.

Collor ended the historical market reserve for strategic sectors (informatics and petrochemicals), and elaborated the first economic plan in which the privatization of state-owned companies became the axis of State policy. Later vituperations against the “thief-president” (who exacted his price for having rid the bourgeoisie of the “bearded frog” by setting up a robbery based on a scheme of looting, commissions and embezzlement) did not change the strategic north of his economic policy.

The federal program of privatizations, monetary sanitation and regressive taxation demanded by imperialism was incompatible with governments (such as those of Sarney, Collor, later Itamar Franco) supported by parties that were too committed to the regional oligarchies, with their disparate interests and their own systems of fraud. The PSDB thus emerged (also supported by fractions of other parties), in which, despite the role of traditional regional politicians (such as Franco Montoro or Mário Covas, from São Paulo, or Tasso Jereissatti, from Ceará) the hegemony Politics remained in the hands of representatives of the “leftist” São Paulo intelligentsia (Fernando Henrique Cardoso, José Serra, and his first generation of disciples-aggregates of Cebrap), who proposed themselves as a “modern” substitute for the bankrupt oligarchic politics.

Until then, the political participation of this sector had been peripheral (and not very successful, as demonstrated by the failure of FHC's candidacy for mayor of São Paulo, defeated by Jânio Quadros). To give stability to the political regime, the old oligarchic representatives (scalded and weakened after the support given to the Alagoan adventurer) had to give up their political hegemony, almost without having exercised it, in favor of the intellectuality once persecuted by the military dictatorship.

In November 1991, the PT finally held its First National Congress (between its foundation, in 1980, and that date, almost twelve years later, eight “National Meetings” took place, not destined, by their very nature, to discuss political programs. and statutes). After the adoption of the front-populist policy, Congress adopted its organizational counterpart, the “regulation of internal tendencies”. The PT was already, at that point, a federation of leftist tendencies (functioning on the basis of consensus), but with the tendencies themselves strengthened by the strong class recovery movement that took place in a significant number of unions during the 1980s, a movement that it had not been hegemonized by the “Articulação”, the “Lulista” tendency of the PT (and the CUT).

The Congress was preceded by a “Manifesto” by Lula (launched outside any party instance), with a programmatic content (for “redistribution of income”; the State should only conserve “strategic sectors for national development”) and, above all, , of organizational content: “Concluded the cycle of the party organized in trends”, said the document.

This was the result of the “grass-out program”. Without the “normalization” of the PT, the Popular Front policy would not qualify it as an alternative government, even expanding ad infinitum alliance policy. The complete elimination of internal trends was, however, impossible, due to the precariousness of the political agreement between the majority trends and the strength of the left tendencies, a reflection of the radicalization and growing politicization of workers and youth. The PT “left” defended the “right of tendency”, but on purely organizational grounds.

Under these conditions, the “normalization” of the PT advanced by leaps and bounds, in stages, and with “pilot experiences” (it was impossible to exclude the “left” en bloc without provoking a serious crisis and, probably, a new political regrouping of the left. , a competitor of PT itself). Trotskyist currents were not excluded from the PT because they represented a threat of hegemony in its leadership, but as proof of the party's ability to discipline the party within a policy situated within the regime. social valid.

Throughout this process, in less than a decade, the nation's chronic problems have worsened. “Modernity” and poverty, technical progress and social fragmentation, unproductive landholdings and the soy futures market have reciprocally strengthened each other in an apparently endless paradox, an expression of the uneven and combined development of national productive forces. With the “fiscal war” between the states, destined to create better conditions for investments (foreign, mainly), a tax chaos originated that questioned the federative pact itself.

The fiscal war, on the other hand, was and is paid for by the working and poor population with increasing cuts in social spending and in the public budget, a product of tax exemptions (“tax waiver”) competitively and compulsorily offered by the states to big capital, which was earning increasing profits in Brazil, especially in the financial sector, whose benefits were among the highest on the planet (the average profit of banks in Brazil is 26% per year, while in the US it varies between 10% and 15%), sector that also suffered an accelerated process of concentration.

The political axis, however, was shifting to the left, with the victories and governments of the former outsider “Marxist” Fernando Henrique Cardoso and, above all, the electoral victory of Lula and the coalition assembled by the PT in late 2002, which began almost fourteen years of uninterrupted government by, or tutored by, the once reviled “metalworker incapable of governing”. Presidentialism, with its own or “coalition” majority, maintained the Bonapartist foundations of the political regime. The central economic axis remained unchanged: plans prior to the Real were marked by price and wage freezes (Cruzado, 1986; Bresser, 1987; Verão, 1989; Collor I and Collor II), their failure was credited to the “lack of credibility ”, that is, the loss of regulatory and arbitration capacity of the State.

The turn of the 1980s and 1990s was marked by the crisis of these “stabilization models”, by the outbreak of hyperinflation and, at the same time, by the emergence of another “model”, based on the introduction of an exchange rate anchor. Mexico (1989), Chile (1990), Argentina (1991) and Brazil (1994), as well as several other Latin American, Asian and Eastern European countries, introduced this modality of stabilization.

The basis for the implementation of this model was the surplus of money capital in the world economy, resulting from several sources: the fall in interest rates in the United States; the large volume of resources coming from organized crime; the renegotiation of the external debt through the Brady Plan, which revitalized a large volume of resources in the form of government bonds, starting to serve as a basis for new credits; and the resources that came from the growing immobilized capital, passed to the financial sphere acting in the public securities market and in the exchange market, added to the large financial profits that could not be productively reinvested, in addition to the expansion of pension funds. The left ended up accepting (and, in the case of the PT, finally administering) plans that were a rescue of capital in crisis.[X]

Plans that also prepared an even bigger crisis in the future, when the capitalist periphery was (and was) hit by the international financial crisis. The wide-open right, reduced to marginal political expression over three and a half decades of Brazilian civil rule, taking refuge in unknown electoral acronyms for hire and with little weight, re-emerged within the framework of this crisis, resuming, with a much larger social base, and in a certainly unconscious, ignorant and degraded, the traditionalist themes of the old fascistoid right of almost a century ago, which had survived “culturally” underground and silently, for decades. Along with it, the never-eradicated trend towards the militarization of the State and social life, supported and based on the specific interests and privileges of the military caste, never submitted to democratic scrutiny (the widows and daughters of deceased officers that say so) also reemerged.

The victorious Bolsonarism in 2018 was not the random product of a combination of circumstances, without deep historical roots. History repeats itself (as tragedy, farce, or whatever), but never on the basis of the preceding starting point. The current political polarization certainly obeys a logic dictated by the peculiarities of the country's historical development. It does not, however, herald a return to a normalcy that was never “normal”.

The agony of the Bolsonaro government overlaps with the crisis of an entire political regime. Its departure does not derive only from an independent political logic, but also from the increasingly less underground existence of class confrontations.

*Osvaldo Coggiola He is a professor at the Department of History at USP. Author, among other books, of History and Revolution (Shaman).



[ii] Constitutional Amendment No. 20/98, which FHC had approved in the National Congress, included provisions in the Federal Constitution that helped to make the transfer of social security systems to the private sector feasible.

[iii] In 2003/2004, the Lula government tried to approve, with the endorsement of the CUT, a trade union reform that was not implemented due to its rejection by most of the unions. However, in 2008, key items of that proposal were implemented through Law nº 11648/08, called Lei das Centrales, which verticalized the union structure and removed the autonomy of base unions.

[iv] Made in the name of the “revolution by stages”: “In order to defeat the common enemy, the united front of the various forces interested in the emancipation and progress of Brazil is necessary. The alliance of these forces results from demands of the objective situation itself. As US imperialism and its internal agents constitute the main enemy, the united front is very broad from the point of view of its class composition. Due to the content of the changes that it proposes to introduce in Brazilian society and due to the nature of the forces that integrate it, it is a nationalist and democratic front”, said the PCB. The “national and democratic bourgeoisie”, summoned by the PCB, gave birth and supported the military coup of 1964, and the consequent persecution of the communists.

[v] The increase in foreign debt, “taking advantage of the great international liquidity of capital”, that is, the global over-accumulation of capital, occurred at the end of the 1960s. In 1969, the Brazilian debt exceeded US$ 4 billion, after remaining little above US$ 3 billion during the entire decade. Debt rose from $3,3 billion in 1967 to $12,6 billion, growing at an average rate of 25,1% per year. In addition, the debt structure has changed. During this period, the share of public debt over the total increased. The net debt jumped from US$ 6,2 billion in 1973 to US$ 31,6 billion in 1978, growing at a rate of 38,7% per year, financing the trade and services balance deficits. The weight of the state's share in debt rose from 51,7% in 1973 to 63,3% in 1978. In addition, loans began to be made at variable interest rates, which would become increasingly higher. The increase in the gross debt, at increasingly high interest rates, made external indebtedness a self-sustaining process and, in 1977/1978, interest payments already represented almost 50% of the current account deficit. The transfer of resources abroad, measured as the difference between exports and imports of goods and services, increased from 0,4% of GDP in 1980 to around 3% of GDP in 1981/1982, and reached 5% of GDP in 1983.

[vi] In one of the PT's first National Meetings, the US consular representative was invited, who accepted the invitation.

[vii] Despite the short declaration of the moratorium on the Brazilian external debt, it reached 115,5 billion dollars. The Sarney government paid 67,2 billion dollars in interest on the foreign debt, that is, 58,2% of the total amount owed: the moratorium only expressed the country's financial bankruptcy.

[viii] In 1979, strikes affected 2,5 million workers; the metallurgical strike in São Paulo, Osasco and Guarulhos ended this phase of the strike movement. In 1980, the number of strikers dropped to 750, a number swelled by the strike of 250 sugarcane workers in Pernambuco.

[ix] The payment of the external debt service reached the limit of consuming the entire balance of trade. Between 1970 and 1990, Brazil paid US$ 122,77 billion in interest, more than the total external debt stock (US$ 111,91 billion). The country's decapitalization reached the point where, between 1985 and 1989, Brazil paid US$56,65 billion and received US$16,74 billion from abroad: a net transfer of US$40 billion, or 15% of national production. In just six years, the debt rose from 26% of GDP (1978), representing 53% of GDP in 1984.

[X] José Menezes Gomes. Capital Accumulation and Stabilization Plan. A study based on the exchange rate anchor experience in Latin America in the 90s. 2005. Doctoral Thesis in Economic History, University of São Paulo (FFLCH), 2005.

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