From the November-December 2014 issue of News & Letters
by Eugene Walker
Brazil’s President, Dilma Rousseff, barely won a runoff election against the conservative free-marketeer Aécio Neves. With her election to a second term, the Workers’ Party, first under Lula Da Silva and now under Rousseff, has won its fourth consecutive presidential election.
A WORKERS’ PARTY?
While Lula’s first election was greeted with great hope for a sweeping change in Brazil’s developmentalist trajectory, Rousseff’s cliffhanger illustrated the grave disappointment that much of Brazil’s masses felt recently. This election was a narrow choice between two forms of capitalism—a neoliberal free market versus a state-assisted form tending toward state-capitalism.
A developmentalist capitalism under the tutelage of the state—especially from a trade union bureaucracy of managers that is the heart of the Workers’ Party, in consort with private and especially state-controlled companies—has been roaring forward. Brazil is now the world’s seventh-largest economy as measured by gross domestic product. Increasing agricultural production for the world market, rapid exploration and production of oil, destructive exploitation of the Amazonian region, have characterized Worker Party administrations.
FROM ‘DEVELOPMENT,’ IMPERIALISM
It is true that during Lula’s two terms, the poverty rate dropped dramatically, as Brazil’s economy grew and significant resources were used to reduce poverty. But this came only in concert with an intensification of destructive capitalist development. The number of those living in extreme poverty has lessened, but this has not significantly changed the gaping inequality at the heart of Brazilian society.
Brazil’s relation with its immediate neighbors, decades ago spoken of as the possibility of a developing sub-imperialism, has now become a type of full-blown imperialism, as Brazilian capitalism gobbles up resources, builds dams for hydroelectric power in other countries but for its own use, and rich Brazilian farmers farm in bordering Paraguayan land.
However, it is at home where the rule of capital, both private and state-directed, is in control, and that the contradictions of the so-called progressive Workers’ Party government can be seen. It is within Brazil where dissatisfaction and resistance are manifest. The massive June 2013 protests in hundreds of cities against an attempt to raise public transportation fares was a crucial indicator of dissatisfaction with the direction undertaken by those governing. (See “Brazil’s Uprising,” July-Aug. 2013 N&L.) The fact that Workers’ Party rule almost fell to a neoliberal form of capitalism puts into question whether it is any genuine alternative to the rule of capital in Brazil.