World in View: Brazilians resist return to neoliberalism

From the January-February 2017 issue of News & Letters

In the six months since a neoliberal legislative coup by the Brazilian Congress removed President Dilma Rousseff of the Workers’ Party (PT) from office, there has been a campaign to reverse many of the social gains that had been implemented during the PT administrations of Luiz Inacio “Lula” da Silva and Rousseff.

Riot police cracked down and fired tear gas on thousands of protesters in central Rio de Janeiro on October 17 as marches flooded the streets to reject unelected President Michel Temer’s proposed 20-year freeze on public spending. Photo: www.greenleft.org.au

Under coup-imposed President Michel Temer, the Senate passed an extreme austerity constitutional amendment. If it becomes law, it will limit federal spending for 20 years. Healthcare and education would be particularly affected. In response, protests took place in major cities. The headquarters of the Federation of Industries in Sao Paulo was attacked. Protesting students occupied hundreds of high schools. Mounted military police, tear gas, and billy clubs were the State’s response.

STEALING LIFE FROM THE POOR

Temer proposed changing the pension system to require a minimum retirement age of 65, and 25 years of contributions to the social security system. This amounts to a neoliberal attack against workers, whose life-span is considerably less than the well-off in a country with one of the world’s highest rates of inequality.

A proposed anti-labor bill would allow “agreements” between employers and trade unions to override existing labor laws, permit a working day of 12 hours, and loosen rules on employing temporary workers. Added to this is an “outsourcing” bill awaiting action that would allow work to be sent to third party companies, where workers would not have the rights and benefits of “essential” workers in the principle enterprise.

Finally, members of Congress, involved in wide-scale corruption, bribery, kickbacks, etc., voted in the middle of the night to gut an anti-corruption bill, thus seeking to protect themselves from the judiciary and prosecutors. Thousands of Brazilians took to the streets once again in protest.

The contradictory history of the PT in power (see “Polarization in Brazil,” July-Aug. 2016 N&L) has opened the door for extreme right wing and military “solutions,” and not alone to demands for an authentic socialist alternative.

—Eugene Walker

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