Workers in conditions analogous to slavery

Image: Cottonbro


Modern slavery serves the interests of capital accumulation and becomes an essential condition for the survival of Brazilian capitalism.

A guy who goes by the name of Luiz Philippe de Orleans e Bragança, federal deputy for the PL-SP, and who attributes to himself the condition of crown prince of the Brazilian imperial family, began to collect signatures in the Chamber of Deputies in favor of a Project Constitutional Amendment that substantially alters the Brazilian judicial system. The PEC proposes, for example, to do away with the Superior Electoral Court. Responsibility for elections would be transferred to the National Congress, aided by a so-called National Electoral Authority to be created. Another point of the PEC would be to expand the powers of the Military Justice who would judge, in addition to crimes naturally under its jurisdiction, others that violate national sovereignty, territorial integrity and terrorism.

But, among all the points of this, what called the most attention is simply ending the Labor Court and the Public Ministry of Labor (MPT). It is good to remember that it is incumbent upon the MPT, among other attributions, to investigate allegations of work analogous to slavery. In the context of a capitalism that, in order to guarantee the continuity of the accumulation process, retreats, in labor relations, to increasingly plundering and savage forms of exploitation, the PEC presented by the “crown prince” wants to consummate this project with the extinction of all and any labor protection network, however minimal and inefficient it may be, but which can be activated and impose some limit on unbridled exploitation.

The rule desired by capital and its political operators is to super-exploit the worker without him being able to sue the Labor Court or even the Public Ministry of Labor to claim rights evaded by employers.

The proposal received, so far, the adhesion of 66 federal deputies. Because it is a PEC, it needs 171 signatures to start processing and, if it goes to vote in plenary, 308 votes to be approved. Among its 66 signatories, the majority are deputies from the PL (Liberal Party), a party that has become a stronghold of the Brazilian extreme right. But deputies from Novo and União Brasil also sign it. It stands out regionally among the signatories of federal deputies from Santa Catarina and Rio Grande do Sul.

The strong presence of federal deputies from these regions is not a mere coincidence. As is well known, a task force of the Public Ministry of Labor rescued more than 200 outsourced workers, mostly from Bahia, from conditions analogous to slavery in wineries in Bento Gonçalves (RS). These workers lived in degrading conditions in the barracks and were beaten by security guards if they decided to complain about the degrading conditions in which they worked.

Other accusations followed, that indigenous people of the Guarani-Kaiowá ethnic group, from Mato Grosso do Sul, had been subjected to the same conditions in the apple harvest in the city of Vacaria and in other cities in Santa Catarina for years. Soon after, in Uruguaiana, around 90 outsourced workers who worked in the rice harvest on properties owned by BASF, a multinational company in the grain sector, were rescued in another joint operation by the Ministry of Labor and Employment and the Public Ministry of Labor.

In a short time, new accusations of work analogous to slavery began to pop up in other states. In Goiás, still in March, an operation by the Ministry of Labor found around 200 workers, hired on an outsourced basis by the company SS, to provide sugarcane cutting services to the company BP Bunge Bioenergia. The conditions in which these workers were found repeat the work pattern analogous to slavery: demeaning conditions such as charging rent for living quarters and not providing meals.

A little earlier, in February, also in the state of Goiás, an operation by several federal agencies rescued 139 outsourced workers employed at a sugarcane mill in Acreúna. Even at the super cool Lollapalooza festival, in São Paulo, a symbol of the capitalist cultural industry, the MPT found workers from an outsourced company in conditions analogous to slavery.

These cases show how we are facing a historical context marked by highly regressive forms of labor exploitation, with inevitable impacts on the political and social life of the country. Previously located more frequently in the “fundões”, they spread throughout the national territory. In the case of Rio Grande do Sul, according to data from the Gaucho MPT, the occurrences of workers rescued from conditions analogous to slavery have seen a large increase from 2021, with the registration of 76 workers. Already in 2022 the number jumps to 156 and in 2023 the total of rescued until March 03 reached 208 workers.

The frequent denunciations affected the pride of the southern bourgeoisie, which built for itself the image of a region in which the massive presence of European immigrants would have made it culturally more advanced than the North and Northeast and, therefore, immune to the presence of political-political relations. “archaic” social

This growth of accusations of modern slavery, as a symptom of generalized social regression, serves the interests of capital accumulation and becomes an essential condition for the survival of Brazilian capitalism. Its most apparent external form is manifested through the outsourcing of labor relations, which serves to camouflage modern forms of enslavement. It is important to remember that unrestricted outsourcing was judged as constitutional by the Federal Supreme Court in 2018. The reported cases are not located in backward sectors of agricultural production, but are part of a production chain at the top of which are large multinational companies, such as BASF and Bunge, as well as the Rio Grande do Sul wineries – Salton, Aurora and Garibaldi.

This case shocked the sensibility of some middle sectors a little more, because it was about the use of modern forms of slavery in a production chain, wine, which in the bourgeois ideological universe is associated with good taste and sophistication. Another point that denounces the regressive condition of Brazilian capitalism is found in the regional origin of the rescued workers. Almost all are from the Northeast, which reveals the need for Brazilian capitalist development to still maintain the Northeast as a reservoir and provider of cheap labor.

It is important to emphasize that this project of social regression unifies the entire Brazilian liberal field. It is present, in recent times, in the fascist and reactionary crowd, but it is equally shared by liberals who present themselves with a democratic veneer. This is the case of former congressman Rodrigo Maia, who declared in 2018 that “labor justice should not even exist”.

The reason for the declaration would be that judges and labor judges would be affronting democracy, due to the resistance shown in fully applying the new rules instituted by the labor reform of 2017. The difference between the liberal-fascist and liberal-democratic camps is , more than content. While the former defends an aggressive ultraliberal agenda without moral and humanitarian considerations, the latter advocates some moderation and compensatory policies that allow the construction of a “neoliberalism” with a human face.

Just in passing, it is quite symbolic that, shortly after hundreds of workers were rescued from conditions analogous to slavery, a guy who is proud to carry the title of heir to the Brazilian imperial family, the Orleans and Bragança, takes the initiative to present a PEC that abolishes the Labor Court and the MPT. In the 70th century, for almost XNUMX years, but especially in the Second Reign, this family, through Emperor Dom Pedro II, was a fundamental piece in the creation of a national slave-owning State. The crown prince, with his project that abolishes agencies to combat slave labor, lives up to his family traditions.

The crisis that affects Brazilian society, in which we see “the future repeating the past”, in Cazuza's exact definition, results from the general regressiveness that affects it and that exacerbates what is conventionally called the “original vices” of our social formation : authoritarianism, overexploitation, elitism, racism, patrimonialism, etc. This regressivity is an inevitable result of the hegemony exercised by the primary (export agromining) and parasitic (rentier) forms of capital accumulation.

This structure requires that the Brazilian bourgeoisie has to deepen, since the 2016 coup, the instruments of super-exploitation of labor and break with any form of political-social pact that promotes constant improvements in the well-being of the people. The result is an increase in the frequency of reports of semi-servile relationships analogous to slavery, covered up under “modern” forms of employment such as outsourcing. Not to mention the recent generalization of veiled forms of employment relationships such as that of app workers, or the so-called entrepreneurship, which use cutting-edge technological resources to hide a high dose of precarious work.

This situation puts in the foreground the need to revoke the labor reform as an important step in the struggle of the Brazilian working class in the current historical period. In the same way, efforts must be made to put an end to all forms of outsourcing, whether in core activities or core activities. In the same sense, it is necessary to rescue historical flags of the working class, such as the reduction of the working day without reducing wages.

The bourgeois effort is to normalize overexploitation and erase from the consciousness of the working masses a culture of rights and social progress. This makes it urgent for the working class to react, with the instruments at its disposal, if it does not want to succumb to a project that reduces it to rags, with the aim of keeping intact the privileges of the ruling classes.

*Renato Nucci Jr. is an activist of the communist organization Arma da Crítica.

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