A breach in social democracy

Kartick Chandra Pyne, Workers, 1965.
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By BRUNO MACHADO*

It is a reality in Brazil that there is a higher incidence of strikes and wage increases and other labor rights in the public sector.

The existence of the Soviet Union and its influence on workers' movements throughout Europe was a fundamental engine for the advancement of social rights, and contributed to the construction of the welfare state in the rich countries of Europe. It can also be said that such social rights had to be ceded by local elites so that they would not become victims of a socialist revolution in their countries. In this way, the construction of the European welfare state was a kind of counterrevolutionary measure of central capitalism.

At the end of the Cold War, around the 80s, economist Hyman Minsky elaborated a new macroeconomic arrangement for capitalist countries to have less intense economic cycles. In addition to all the post-Keneysian theoretical basis that he proposed, the American economist also proposed a zero unemployment program. This measure, entitled “State as an employer of last resort”, which even inspired Bill 5491/19 by Deputy Glauber Braga (Psol-RJ), provides that the federal government employs all non-employed workers. Such a measure would collaterally establish a new effective minimum wage in the economy, which could be raised or lowered as an instrument to control inflation, raising and reducing annual government public spending according to the effective demand observed in the national economy.

A government program that creates a material reality of zero unemployment would, in Marxist terms, result in the end of capitalism's industrial reserve army. In other words, unemployment would cease to be an indoctrinating instrument for the working class, under the power of the property-owning class. This reality would have numerous consequences in the dispute between capital and labor in local capitalism. Without the fear of unemployment, workers could unionize more without fear of reprisals and, most importantly, they could strike more and bigger, including general strikes across the country.

The job guarantee would serve, albeit precariously, as stability for the private sector worker as stability serves for the public sector worker. It is no coincidence that the rate of unionization of workers in the public sector in Brazil is 22%, while in the private sector this rate is only 6%. This discrepancy is due, among other factors, to the fear of reprisals against unionized workers. Furthermore, the need to compete for workers with the state itself would force private companies to not only offer more benefits, but would potentially reduce labor market turnover, which also contributes to less organization of workers in the private sector of the economy.

It is a reality in Brazil that there is a higher incidence of strikes and increases in wages and other labor rights in the public sector, compared to the private sector in the country. A tendency towards the equalization of labor rights between the public and private labor market in Brazil would be expected, as a result of a greater active union movement, after the implementation of a zero unemployment program. In this way, there would be the possibility of a greater frequency of strikes by workers in the private sector, as is already a reality in the public sector.

Greater organization of Brazil's workers in the private sector, as already reasonably exists in the public sector, has the potential to elevate the political power of Brazilian workers in the face of the enormous and illegitimate political power that remains in the hands of the Brazilian owning class. Only through greater workers' organization, more calls for general strikes and greater mass demonstrations will the Brazilian working class be able to effectively exercise its potential political power, which goes far beyond periodic elections. Therefore, the fight for a zero unemployment program, coupled with a compatible macroeconomic policy, is of total interest to Brazilian workers.

*Bruno Machado is an engineer.

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