Brazil: How Capitalist Institutions Undermined a Populist Regime

Editor’s Note: This article shows how near impossible it is to sustain a populist regime without dismantling the institutions of global capitalist society. In sober and careful analysis of what happened in Brazil, the author shows how the compromises and being “realistic” with existing power relations in capitalist society finally undermined the very noble intentions of seemingly radical reformers.

Before the Coup: 13 Years Under Lula, Dilma and the PT (Partido dos Trabalhadores), 2003–2015

 

MATTHEW J. MEDRANO·TUESDAY, MAY 24, 2016

 

The following is meant to serve as an exhaustive overview and analysis of what transpired under the PT (Workers’ Party) administrations of Luís Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-06 and 2007-10) and Dilma Rousseff (2011-14 and 2015-2016) prior to the May 2016 parliamentary “soft” coup that removed Dilma from office (the fallout will be covered at the end with updates). With regard to the data included below, one cannot stress enough the fact that both achievements and contradictions should not be underestimated (nor, in the former’s case, exaggerated either). Romanticization is antithetical to properly grasping things at the root. What I precisely mean is one may fall prey to glossing over the negatives associated with the PT’s accommodation of neoliberalism in favor of idealizing the impressive gains, when in reality they are both irrevocably intertwined, for under the PT’s very centrist, class collaborationist model, the latter (i.e. gains) was destined to be inevitably confronted (if not threatened and dismantled) by contradictions rooted in systemic pressures and the sacrifice upon the altar of neoliberalism committed by the PT. Such are the pressures of capital and its insatiable need for maximization of profit, which, when left too stagnant during the first administration of Dilma Rousseff as the global recession made belated landfall in Brazil as commodity prices plummeted, took matters into its own hands and issued its checkmate to the PT: austerity or bust. What followed was no longer mere accommodation but a completion of the tragicomic betrayal that contributed to the mass disillusionment felt by millions of Brazilian working masses toward the PT as its about-face was gradually cemented (the lead-up itself is rooted in the principles sacrificed in order to get Lula elected in 2002). Yet another bold experiment in neo-populist social democracy, after having had its brief, glorious (or inglorious) moment basking in the sun (in which all thrived, including the profoundly wealthy, to paraphrase Lula), found itself unable to cope with impatient capitalists, opportunist reactionaries, and their collective savage appetite for profiteering and power, aided and abetted by the cancerous vestiges of the military dictatorship years (1964-1985) left virtually untouched by the PT administrations.

For over a decade, the continuity of stable economic policy allowed the Brazilian economy to comfortably surf the commodity boom yielded by China and gave rise to significant progress made toward the consolidation of a social democratic welfare state, or rather a well-orchestrated articulation of a colorblind “national capitalism” driven by an alliance between the national bourgeoisie, certain popular organizations, the informal and rural sector workers, and the State. Despite the incremental democratization of a deeply elitist society steeped in pathological racism, anti-indigenism and patriarchal machismo, segments of the Left struggled for a radicalization of this ambitious project for years, ultimately to little to no avail. The PT took a deliberate, calculated sidestep to the right to get to power, almost immediately capitulated to the tenets of neoliberalism (embodied by the preceding Cardoso administration) and thus never aimed to break from the globalized market and capitalism in any way, shape or form, sacrificing itself to a broad, tenuous coalition to pursue its agenda. There was virtually nothing concretely radical offered beyond welfare liberalism and class collaborationism. Unlike the Peronist phenomenon of Kirchnerismo in Argentina that began just prior to Lula’s first triumph, which eventually saw several nationalizations enacted by the government, Brazil under the PT saw nothing of the sort. The negotiated coalition, or rather gentleman’s agreement, was class conciliation. This strategy is inherent to Brazil’s parliamentary system in which dozens of parties seem to exist, vying for power and influence, with majorities nearly impossible to come by to enact an agenda (such as state planning), even despite the will of the majority of the population voting in favor of the PT platform since 2002, a platform the party would betray time and time again.

This is a complex story of limitations and of idealistic Third Way politics irreconcilable with the capitalist mode of production and globalization, regardless of the BRICS alternative. Put differently, the foremost intentions here are to present a corrective to the common misconceptions that have surrounded the apparent aura of the PT idealized and promoted by those outside of Brazil. Here, I seek to validate the PT since Lula’s ascendance as representing the absolute limits of center-left populism and the dangers of its manipulation of masses whilst abiding by processes of capital accumulation. Redistribution may impact tens of millions for the better, but in the long-term, if the model (or in this case coalition government) remains attached to perpetuating neoliberal capitalism, all beneficiaries are at risk of gains being stripped away. The PT served a purpose after two decades to international critics of capitalism seeking an alternative, socialist or otherwise: it is impossible to reform or contain the cancers of capitalism. The following were strategies cleverly utilized by the PT (some with good intentions, no doubt) but unable to endure: accommodation, state paternalism, class collaboration, clientelism, efficiency, individualism, technocratic education. In essence, the centrist-populist PT (as a coalition or, one may presume, a ruling party with a majority) is/was the epitome of an inherently flawed alternative that served to perpetuate neoliberal capitalism despite benefiting tens of millions in the short-term.

BACKGROUND

According to its 1988 Constitution (following the 1964-1985 military dictatorship), Brazil is a federal republic with separation of powers between a popularly elected President, a bicameral legislature, the judiciary, and the states (Brazil is composed of 26 states and a federal district). The PT shifted a long way towards the center of the political spectrum to win the presidential election of 2002. On the labor front, in a very emblematic way, the PT is the perfect neo-populist party. By establishing a kind of class peace through its control of the leadership of the union movement, PT governments managed to redistribute at least part of the wealth to popular sectors through cash transfer programs and fiscal incentives without infringing upon the interests of national and transnational capital. The PT is, in this sense, the perfect instrument for a neo-corporatist class compromise that, under neoliberalism, is restricted by its subservient need to facilitate market competition. It served this role dutifully.

Economically, growth was sustained under Lula in large part due to the following: the Brazilian inflation-targeting system requires that the monetary authority pursue a single objective, the control of inflation, which must remain inside a pre-defined range within a calendar year. Since 2004, the government was successful in keeping inflation within the target range every single year. Inflation in Brazil is driven by cost-push pressures and not by changes in aggregate demand; and so it is the reduction in import and export prices, due to appreciation (and overvaluation) of the Brazilian Real, that essentially allowed Brazil to maintain its inflation target during the Lula administration. When the Central Bank raises policy rates, this attracts capital inflows, thus appreciating the national currency and reducing inflation by reducing import and export prices. Therefore, the Brazilian inflation-targeting system, in which the interest rate is used to control inflation, actually works directly through the exchange-rate cost channel. The resumption of large capital inflows allowed the government to quickly repay in full – and eliminate – IMF loans and conditionalities in late 2005, reduce the overall external debt, and accumulate a staggering amount of reserves. The ratio of short-term external debt to foreign exchange reserves, which had reached more than 90% on the eve of the 1999 exchange-rate crisis, fell to about 20% by 2008. Brazil’s vast expansion was initially led by a boom in exports, commodities, but from 2006 on, export growth lost steam and the internal market began to grow faster, thanks to a more expansionary macroeconomic policy. The lower interest rates in the high-income “First World” countries, and reduced interest-rate spread between “emerging market” and high-income countries, also had the favorable effect of allowing the Brazilian Central Bank to achieve its inflation target with lower real interest rates than previously.

However, there were limitations, and their impact was felt not long after Lula left office. To avoid reliance on exchange rate appreciation to fight inflation, it was argued to reduce the degree of excessive profit margins of privatized public utilities and to make more use of fiscal instruments to fight external commodity cost-push inflation. Brazil needed to have more public investment in infrastructure to improve the logistics and reduce the costs of exports, and to practice a more substantial industrial policy of technological upgrading in some sectors. The sharp fall in international commodity prices eventually made landfall in Brazil.

The bourgeoisie, or class of capitalists, owns the means of production, including productive and interest-bearing capital, the bulk of the titles of ownership to fictitious capital, large-scale commercial capital and large landed property. This class directly or indirectly employs the wage workers, controls the allocation and performance of labor and the level and composition of output and investment, and claims the surplus value produced. The Brazilian bourgeoisie includes two contentious fractions, distinguished by their relationship with the form of the process of accumulation and, specifically, with neoliberalism, international integration and financialization. The neoliberal bourgeoisie is closely aligned with the interests of transnational foreign capital and globalized finance. It includes, primarily, the owners of financial capital (banks, insurance companies, large consultancies and accountancy firms), transnational and internationally-integrated manufacturing capital, and the media. This latter fraction was politically dominant during the administrations led by Fernando Collor and Fernando Henrique Cardoso. The neoliberal bourgeoisie rejects a ‘national’ development strategy; instead, its unabashed priority remains the financialization and further international integration of the Brazilian economy. This project is anchored institutionally by policies of inflation targeting, central bank independence, the liberalization of international capital flows, privatizations and market liberalization, the dismantling of state capacity to allocate resources and steer the process of development, and the outright rejection of state-led structures of redistribution. This group has tended to support the Brazilian Social Democratic Party (PSDB) and its allies (most notably the Partido do Movimento Democrático Brasileiro, or PMDB).

In his second administration, Lula cleverly maintained the existing neoliberal macroeconomic policy framework, but introduced – in addition to it – elements of a neo-developmentalist strategy (to be later prioritized by Dilma Rousseff) which privileged the interests of the internal bourgeoisie. The neo-developmentalist policy inflection and the favorable global environment (commodity boom) in the mid-2000s led to a marked uplift in macroeconomic performance and in employment creation, whilst supporting an unprecedented reduction of inequality (in simplest terms, all shared in the plentiful increase of distributed wealth). Overall, the conflict between the two fractions of the bourgeoisie expanded the political space available to the opportunistic PT enormously at the precise moment its traditional base in the industrial working class, the unionized civil service (among formal service sector workers) had been wholly eroded by the neoliberal reforms. In this sense, the neo-developmentalist policy inflection of the PT brought together the interests of the internal bourgeoisie and those of the broad working class, under the hegemony of the former. This was simply impossible to sustain in the long-term and a farcical prospect at best.

The working class does not own or control the main productive and financial assets in the economy, and does not control the process of labor or the conditions under which it is performed. This class reproduces itself primarily through the regular sale of its labor power for a wage, regardless of the structure of the labor markets, the content of the labor performed and the use value of its product, and whether or not their work is directly productive of surplus value. The neoliberal reforms under the PT significantly increased the heterogeneity of the Brazilian working class. While the working class created in the past was based on a fast-expanding manufacturing sector, today’s workers have a much more diversified employment pattern centered in urban services. The contemporary working class also includes a large proportion of young, low-paid, poorly educated, badly trained subcontracted workers, who have difficulty accessing stable and well-paid jobs both because there are fewer of these jobs available, and because those workers are ill-prepared to apply for the available posts. Even when they are employed in the formal sector, today’s workers have less job security than their predecessors had in the 1970s. They also routinely rely on state benefits which were unavailable to the ‘old’ working class under the import-substituting industrialization model. In the absence of any realistic prospect of socialist transformation, the working class shares with the informal proletariat a material interest in policies leading to the reduction of poverty and inequality, and with the internal bourgeoisie an interest in expansionary macroeconomic policies and domestically-centered capital accumulation. These ambitions can best be secured through a democratic and pro-poor development (redistributionist) strategy, including activist industrial policies, low interest rates, exchange rate management and controls on finance and on international capital flows.

From the point of view of the broad working class, these policies should be supported by, first, labor-market measures, including employment and wage growth, the formalization and regulation of the labor markets, improvements in working conditions and the limitation of working hours. Second, the consolidation of the civic rights included in the Constitution, among them the provision of quality public health, education, transport, housing, sanitation and security, and the expansion of federal income transfer programs. Evidently, these progressive goals are completely incompatible with the project of the neoliberal bourgeoisie, for whom ‘social cohesion’ and the construction of any diversified, integrated and technologically advanced economy with a strong manufacturing sector would be either superfluous or undesirable. There is, however, a significant divide within the ‘national developmentalist bloc’ concerning the sources of funding for their economic strategy. The broad working class would benefit from a more progressive tax system, including a wealth tax and higher property taxes, while the elite strongly objects to any additional taxation. The contradiction in the political program of the internal bourgeoisie and fractions of the middle class was temporarily resolved, in part, through the use of the country’s natural resource rents to finance the provision of infrastructure and the expansion of the domestic market. Since the working class is not limited by the political contradictions of the internal bourgeoisie and the middle class, or by the dispersion of the informal proletariat, it could become the most dependable source of support for a pro-poor and democratic development strategy. This is what would transform the experience of the second Lula and the first Dilma Rousseff (2011-14) administrations, when the neo-developmentalist compact was led by the internal bourgeoisie.

This political project of the working class was irrevocably limited at two levels. First, although the working class as a whole would benefit from the implementation of a pro-poor development strategy, its most organized and better-off segments (São Paulo metalworkers, employees in the oil and bank sectors, middle-level civil servants) could choose individualism as a personal preference (a matter of prioritizing one’s self interest), betting that a ‘market-led’ economic and industrial relations strategy might benefit them more abundantly at the expense of weaker categories of workers and the informal proletariat. Second, there were emerging divisions within the working class, and between them, the informal proletariat and the middle classes, around the provision of public services. For example, as incomes rose and formal employment expanded since the mid-2000s, the demand for private healthcare and education boomed, because they are perceived to have better quality than the (free) public services. According to Wladimir Pomar (2013), in 2010, the number of buyers of private health plans increased by 9% (twice the rate of growth in the 2000s), and reached 24% of the population. It is similar in education; in 2003, 11% of children in basic and secondary education attended private schools, but this proportion recently reached 16%. The choice between finding market alternatives to immediate problems or investing in improvements in public provision cuts across classes and fractions, and the dilemma becomes especially significant politically when incomes rise enough to make the choice of ‘going private’ realistic, for the first time, for millions of relatively poor people, especially in Brazil.

Difficulties of a different order concern the inexperience of the ‘new’ working class in social struggles, given the long interval that has passed since the previous peak in mobilizations, which took place between the mid-1970s and the late 1980s. Trade union activity declined sharply in the 1990s, measured by the number of strikes, the fragmentation of collective bargaining and the decline in trade union-led agreements. Nevertheless, trade union membership rose from 11 million in 1992 to 16 million in 2009, largely because of the impressive expansion of the labor force. Union membership declined marginally between 1992 and 1999, from 16.7% of the workforce to 16.1%, possibly because of the neoliberal transition. It subsequently increased to 18.6% in 2006, as economic and political conditions became more favorable, but fell slightly to 17.2% in 2011. There has also been a tentative recovery of strike action in recent years. In the second half of the 1980s, there were around 2,200 strikes per year in Brazil. Strike numbers fell below 1,000 between 1991-97, and declined further afterwards. Numbers started climbing again in the mid-2000s, under the Workers’ Party, ironically, from 300 strikes per year between 2004 and 2007 to nearly 900 in 2012. The myth of protests only being staged by conservatives and the wealthy is thus easily disproved – many are legitimate. These strikes involved a rising share of private sector workers, leading to gains in real wages and working conditions, rather than merely defending existing agreements. Despite these achievements, the number of strikers has fluctuated between 1.2 million and 2 million per year, with no discernible trend, and most strikes remain concentrated in the ‘traditional’ sectors (metal-mechanic, oil, construction, banks, education, health and the civil service), where pay and working conditions are already better, the workers are more experienced, and the trade unions are stronger.

Although the working class seemed to be recovering its traditions of struggle, this remains a very different working class from that which led the previous cycle of mobilizations. First, this class is more atomized and relatively inexperienced in collective action. Second, there is an observable narrowing of ambition and a rejection of aspirations to change society and the economy. Most young workers grew up under a heavily anti-state, anti-political and anti-collective action discourse which has been propagated relentlessly by the neoliberal media. Their aspirations are shaped by individualism and consumerism, and they tend to conform to the limitations imposed by neoliberalism. Third, there is no evidence that the ‘new’ working class (“Class C” as indicated below in graphics) has found either the strength or the interest to organize through trade unions or radical left parties, or that it has identified alternative forms of representation and channels of mobilization supporting socially transformative goals.

HISTORICAL CONTEXT

According to research conducted by respected leftist Brazilian scholar Alfredo Saad-Filho, probing the evolution of Brazil from an import-substitution state-led strategy of conservative modernization in the early 20th century to the neoliberalism ushered in come the 90s:

“Rapid manufacturing-led development generated a high demand for labour, leading to a marked increase in formal employment. At the same time, income inequality also increased, especially during the military dictatorship (1964-85). The real minimum wage declined, on average, by 1.6% per annum between 1960 and 1980; at the end of this period, the richest 10% of the population captured around 50% of the national income, while the top 20% captured two-thirds. The oil shocks, in the 1970s, and the international debt crisis, in the 1980s, created significant macroeconomic difficulties for the country. Brazil’s balance of payments, fiscal and exchange rate troubles culminated in a gradual slide towards hyperinflation which peaked only in the 1990s. Social conflicts and political instability increased in tandem, and a large campaign for democracy eventually led to the transfer of power to a civilian president in 1985. The political transition to democracy was followed by an economic transition from ISI to neoliberalism, which was completed in the administrations led by Fernando Collor (1990-1992) and Fernando Henrique Cardoso (1994-2002). Successive ‘economic reforms’ led to the liberalization of trade, finance and capital flows, introduced contractionary fiscal and monetary policies, imposed central bank independence and inflation targeting, and enacted a large programme of privatizations leading to the dismissal of half a million workers. The neoliberal reforms were accompanied by the ‘flexibilization’ of labour law and by the promotion of alliances between foreign and domestic capital. These reforms dismantled many production chains established under ISI, and they transformed the country’s social structures and patterns of employment through the growth of open unemployment and the diffusion of precarious forms of employment.”

THE PT UNDER LULA

Among the finest critical voices is that of Saad-Filho, whose analyses I will make use of for the purpose of detailing the PT in all its complexity. While the inability of the PT to really secure a deep hegemony in parliament as witnessed in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador for years is a pertinent point worth making, it also doesn’t define the PT and its trajectory in absolutes. Regarding the romanticized Lula Era, he described its evolution at length as such:

“Lula’s power was limited by a powerful Congress that is also fragmented across two dozen raucous and unreliable parties. The PT has consistently elected only around 15 per cent of Deputies and Senators, and the ‘reliable’ left (including the PT) rarely exceeded one-third of seats. Consequently, Lula and Dilma have had to cobble together unwieldy coalitions prone to corruption – both from government [including the infamous Mensalão scandal, a vote-buying case of corruption committed by the PT], through pork-barrel politics, or from capitalists buying votes and funding rival parties fighting elections every other year. The PT had to manage this ungainly Congress under the gaze of an unfriendly judiciary, a hostile media [6 families in Brazil own or control 90% of all mass media conglomerations], an autonomous Federal Prosecution and a corporatist Federal Police often working in cahoots.

The first Lula administration introduced moderate distributional policies, including the formalization of labour contracts, rising minimum wages and new transfer programmes. However, broader social and economic gains were limited by the government’s determination to buy ‘market credibility’ through the dogged implementation of the neoliberal macroeconomic Policy Tripod [prioritizing substantial primary surplus, inflation targeting and a floating exchange rate]. The ensuing policies constrained transfers, public investment and industrial restructuring, and promoted the overvaluation of the currency and the reprimarization of the economy. Low GDP growth rates in the first Lula years frustrated everyone, especially the PT’s traditional base. They felt that their concerns were being ignored and their support was taken for granted, while government officials schmoozed with bankers and industrialists. Although this apparent sell-out was insufficient to remove the political resistance against Lula, the political divide worsened over time. The opposition crystallized around a ‘Neoliberal Alliance’ led by the financial bourgeoisie (suffering economic losses and dwindling control of State policy), and populated by the middle class (tormented by job losses and its dislocation from the outer circle of power, and jealous of the economic and social rise of the broad working class), and scattered segments of the informal workers.

Accelerating economic growth because of the global commodity boom and Lula’s political talent supported his elevation to spectacular heights. He balanced the demands of rival groups through his legendary shrewdness and the judicious distribution of resources through state investment, development funds, wages, benefits and labour law. The economy picked up speed, and taxation, investment, employment and incomes increased in a virtuous circle. The dynamics was sufficiently strong to support bold expansionary policies in the wake of the global crisis. By the end of his second administration, Lula’s approval rates touched on 90 per cent. Yet, the ‘Lula Moment’ was limited. Even though the neoliberal policy framework had been diluted, the government remained only weakly committed to the rearticulation of the systems of provision hollowed out by the neoliberal transition, and it was unable to diversify exports and raise the technological content of manufacturing production. Brazil created millions of jobs but they were mostly precarious, poorly paid and unskilled; urban services were neglected, manufacturing shrank, and there was alarming underinvestment in infrastructure.”

Lula’s policies were guided by principles of social justice other than those of traditional working-class leaders or socialist parties. Instead of nationalizing industries, reducing interest rates, and ensuring job protections, Lula fought hunger and poverty, decreased patronage-based interference in welfare, and extended pensions to unorganized informal workers. He was never invested in seeking to upset the neoliberal foundation of Brazil’s economy and state itself, and inevitably proved himself to be a genuinely left-wing centrist neoliberal. In another essay, prior to the second Lula administration, Saad-Filho was even more blunt regarding Lula’s rise, role, and cunningly calculated betrayals on behalf of the PT:

“Lula was elected by a losers’ alliance: a loose coalition of social groups having in common only the experience of losses under neoliberalism. This was not a Gramscian historical bloc. The ‘losers’ alliance’ was not a strategic alliance, it did not have a hegemonic power project, and it never challenged the state. The alliance was purely tactical; these groups were essentially attempting to limit the costs of neoliberalism. The ‘losers’ had very modest and possibly mutually incompatible objectives, centred on a relative improvement of their economic and social position and an increase of their political influence.

However, Lula’s radical image deeply worried the Brazilian and international financiers and the neoliberal élite. They feared the loss of political and economic leverage in an administration led by the PT, and they were especially concerned that the new administration might default or compulsorily reschedule the domestic public debt and Brazil’s foreign debt. Because of these concerns, several financial institutions refused to buy government securities maturing after 31 December 2002 (the last day of Cardoso’s presidency). The resources released by the brokers’ refusal to purchase government securities were transferred either to the foreign-exchange market (devaluing the real) or to the open market. In 2002, US$9.1 billion were transferred abroad in this way, devaluing the real from R$2.32 to the dollar in March to R$3.42 in July, and R$3.80 in October (inflation was only 4 per cent during the entire period). The country’s net international reserves tumbled, from US$28.8 billion in March to only US$16.3 billion in December. The devaluation of the currency and the brokers’ loud complaints about the ‘lack of policy clarity’ after the elections led to the downgrading of Brazilian bonds and foreign-debt certificates abroad which, in turn, triggered the recall of short-term loans and commercial credit lines by foreign banks. Half of the country’s commercial credit lines were lost in a few weeks. The Brazilian balance of payments was on the verge of collapse.

There is no question that the Cardoso administration was complicit in the meltdown of the Brazilian balance of payments, the evaporation of the government’s capacity to sell medium- and long-term securities and the Central Bank’s loss of control over the open market. In mid-2002, the Brazilian economy tottered on the brink of collapse. It is surely right to claim that the neoliberal shift of the PT predated the crisis, and was largely independent from it. It is, however, a serious mistake to conclude that the crisis itself was entirely irrelevant – as if it had been merely a smokescreen. Out of this crisis came the infamous Letter to the Brazilian People’ stating that his government would respect contracts (that is, service the domestic and foreign debts on schedule) and enforce the economic programme agreed with the IMF.

Realising that Lula was poised to win, the neoliberal camp now demanded institutional guarantees of the continuity of neoliberalism, especially an independent Central Bank committed to a ‘responsible’ monetary policy and a new IMF agreement spanning well into the new administration. Lula acquiesced, and the wheels turned extraordinarily rapidly in Brasília and Washington. The new IMF agreement was signed in record time, on 4 September 2002. It involved a loan of US$30 billion, of which only US$6 billion would be available immediately. The rest would be available to the new government, if its policies were approved by the Fund. Lula’s consent opened to the PT the doors of financial institutions and conservative governments around the world. Lula’s pact with neoliberalism virtually ensured his election. The 2002 economic crisis, and its political resolution – Lula’s complete capitulation to neoliberalism – illustrated the growing power of finance in Brazil.

The outcome of the crisis proved the Lula administration is limited in three important ways. First, Lula was elected by an unstable coalition of incompatible social and political forces attempting to shed the stagnationist bias of the neoliberal policies imposed in 1990. Beyond this, the ‘losers’ have only a limited range of short-term objectives in common, and their alliance is unable to offer consistent support to the government. Second, the capitulation of the PT leadership to the power of finance enserfed the government to the interests that the PT had hoped to defeat since its foundation, more than two decades ago. Finally, the losers’ alliance – and the forces supporting the new administration in Congress and at State level – does not generally aim to shift policy away from neoliberalism. The disparity between Lula’s impressive victory, the distribution of seats in Congress, where the PT and its dependable allies hold less than one-third of the seats, and the Left’s negligible influence on the judiciary shows that radical changes are not unambiguously popular, and they may be unenforceable. In sum, although Lula’s election created the expectation of changes, the President does not have a mandate for radical change, and he was not unambiguously committed to specific outcomes or even processes of change.

Various political and economic constraints have obliterated the social-democratic aspirations of the PT. In addition to its unambiguously neoliberal macro-economic management, the new administration implemented four important policy initiatives. First, it rammed through Congress a wide-ranging reform of public-sector pensions that had eluded Cardoso for a whole decade. The government’s bill was virtually indistinguishable from the one that the PT had previously defeated. Second, the new administration approved in Congress a neoliberal tax reform, also inspired by one of Cardoso’s initiatives. The reform preserved the high taxation required to service the public-sector debt. Third, the government approved a constitutional amendment separating the regulation of the Central Bank from the regulation of the financial system as a whole, and simplified enormously the legal process of granting independence to the Central Bank. Fourth, the administration proposed a reform of labour law that, under the guise of promoting free association and free negotiations between workers and their employers, curtailed existing rights and undermined the financial position of many trade unions.

The current administration seems to be able to impose neoliberal policies more consistently and successfully than any other government, however right-wing or ideologically committed to neoliberal interests. It seems that Brazilian neoliberalism has achieved the perfect coup: after the corrupt maverick (Fernando Collor) and the aristocratic ex-Marxist sociologist (Cardoso), it is now the former trade-union leader’s turn to impose the policies favoured by the financial interests and the new élite consensus. There really seems to be no alternative to neoliberalism. The government has shown that it can incorporate virtually any policy initiative of the right-wing opposition, including fiscal orthodoxy, privatisation, the concession of privileges for finance or the rich and neoliberal reform of pensions, labour law, the financial system and social security. At the same time, the administration has also been able to occupy the political space of the Left, through its popular appeal, the capture or paralysis of the most important social movements in the country (including, in particular, CUT and, to a lesser extent, the MST), and through the government’s activist foreign policy. These simmering tensions can also be explained in another way. Lula’s election and the neoliberal about-turn of the PT have shown how difficult it is to ‘vote away’ neoliberalism or, more generally, how difficult it is to shift economic policy by constitutional means. The disconnection between political and economic democracy, expressed by the inability of the majority to influence economic policy to any significant degree, is the most important challenge to the Brazilian constitutional order since the restoration of democracy in the mid-1980s.”

THE PT UNDER DILMA ROUSSEFF

“Dilma’s first administration shifted macroeconomic policies further toward neo-developmentalism. Interest rates fell, fiscal policy became more expansionary and new investment programmes were introduced. The government intervened widely to reduce costs and expand infrastructure. Some capital controls were introduced, and the government expanded its social programmes aiming to eliminate extreme poverty. The strategic goal was to shift the engine of growth away from a faltering external sector and toward domestic investment and consumption. This strategy failed. The international crisis tightened up the fiscal and balance of payments constraints; quantitative easing in the USA and UK destabilized the real, and global uncertainty and strident critiques of ‘interventionism’ limited investment. The public finances deteriorated, inflation crept up and GDP growth sagged.

Government perceptions that the economic strategy was not working, that its credibility was declining and that the external environment was unlikely to improve led to a policy zigzag in 2012, when Dilma’s economic team leaned back toward the neoliberal Policy Tripod. Fiscal austerity returned, and the inflation target became increasingly important. This about-turn came too late to be effective, and too hesitantly to restore faith in the government. Dilma’s administration had to confront not only a worsening economy but also mounting political turmoil. Since Lula stepped down, the political hegemony of the PT depended on perceptions of ‘managerial competence’, the absence of corruption scandals, continuing growth and distribution, and stable political alliances. None was easily achievable under adverse economic circumstances; worse still, Dilma Rousseff never had Lula’s political talent. She is allegedly impatient with her allies, intolerant with self-interested entrepreneurs and uninterested in social movements; she also intimidates her own staff. A vacuum emerged around the President just as the economy tanked. The media ratcheted up the pressure and started scaremongering about an impending ‘economic disaster’; the government’s base of support buckled and it became difficult to pass legislation. The judiciary tightened the screws around the PT, and successive corruption scandals [most notably the Lava Jato corruption scandal, focusing on a network of firms channeling vast sums to individuals and political parties through the state-owned oil company Petrobras] came to light.

Come June 2013, vast demonstrations erupted (*). They exposed the tensions due to the economic slowdown, the government’s isolation and its failure to improve public service provision in line with rising incomes and expectations. The middle classes also vented their fury against the widening of citizenship, changes in the State, transfer programmes, university quotas for blacks and state school pupils, labour rights for domestic servants, and so on. As the economy halted, the government reverted more and more fully to the Policy Tripod: once pinned to the corner, the PT abandoned their own social and political base in order to try to please domestic, international, industrial, financial and agrarian capital. This was still insufficient. The government never had the support of the financial bourgeoisie, and was not about to gain it now. It lost the middle class because of its distributional and citizenship initiatives. It alienated the organized workers because of the worsening economic situation, corruption scandals and the policy turnaround. It distanced the informal workers for those same reasons and the limitation of the transfer policies. And it lost the internal bourgeoisie because of the economic slowdown, lack of influence over the President and erratic public policies.”

(*) It must be remembered that this wave of protests lasted until mid-July, and included well over one million people in several hundred cities. At an immediate level, the demonstrations spread in rapid response to savage police repression against legitimate left-wing demands for the reversal of a recent increase in public transport fares in the city of São Paulo (fares had risen from R$3 to R$3.20 earlier that month), governed at the time by the right-wing PSDB, symptomatic of the social implications of the PT’s neoliberal transition. Repeated street clashes in São Paulo sent shockwaves throughout Brazil. The federal government was stunned, and as the demonstrations grew in size, their social composition, political demands and sources of support abruptly shifted. The movement departed from its radical left-wing platform, including demands for free public transport and improvements in the provision of public services, overwhelmed and overrun by the entry of a disparate mass of middle class (mostly white) demonstrators supported by Globo and the mainstream media. The movement’s agenda shifted to the right, but it began with legitimate demands that again proved the government being out of touch with those it claimed and relied on as its base.

“Dilma Rousseff was re-elected in 2014 by the narrowest margin in recent Brazilian history. Her victory was achieved through a last-minute mass mobilization triggered by left perceptions that the opposition would impose harsh neoliberal economic policies and reverse the social and economic achievements of the PT. In the first weeks of her second administration Dilma faced converging crises leading to the collapse of the two axes of PT rule: the economic model and the political alliances supporting the administration. The government’s earlier unwillingness to remove the Policy Tripod, the long global crisis and the insufficiency of the country’s industrial policies fed the overvaluation of the currency, deindustrialization and a rising current account deficit. Balance of payments and fiscal constraints weakened the labour markets and induced inflation, and this vicious circle eliminated the scope for distribution and growth. Rising incomes in the previous period and insufficient investment in urban infrastructure led to an intolerable deterioration in service provision, symbolized by transport, in 2013, and water scarcity, in 2014-15. In both cases, the fulcrum was São Paulo, the country’s largest metropolitan area, its economic powerhouse and – crucially – the bedrock of the political right as well as the birthplace of the PT. Dilma’s desperate response to these crises was to invite a representative of Brazil’s largest private bank to the Ministry of Finance, and charge him with the implementation of a ‘credible’ adjustment programme. The government’s weakness and its adoption of the macroeconomic programme of the opposition triggered an escalation of the political crisis. Another corruption scandal captured the headlines. The Lava Jato operation led by the Federal Police unveiled a large corruption network centred on Petrobras and including cartels, fraud, robbery and illegal funding for several political parties, among them the PT. This scandal catalyzed a mass opposition movement demanding the ‘end of corruption’ and ‘Dilma’s impeachment,’ ultimately succeeding despite there being no legal, moral or political justification for it.”

That being said, the tragicomic undoing of Dilma’s administration signaled the exhaustion of the Third Way political project of the PT: a historical cycle of the Brazilian left has come to the end. As Lula himself has suggested, this wasn’t a crisis of the state or even the political system, but a crisis of the hegemony of the PT. Judicial authority was given free reign to continue to operate independently with enormous power – it helped dig the grave of the PT as it existed to this point. The institutional coup was not, despite interference from abroad, an imperialist conspiracy, but an implosion of contradictions that simply convulsed under pressures too long exacerbated by an impossible alliance. If the PT were the heart mediating between the hands (working masses, middle class, etc.) and the head (various bourgeois interests – capitalists – and reactionary opportunists), it was bound to suffer a fatal stroke (after those it survived), as it now has, incapacitating it to the point of near-paralysis (that is, unless Lula can resuscitate the party by way of a miraculous united front to triumph – highly unlikely). One must be brutally honest and HOLD THE PT ACCOUNTABLE: While the PT administrations managed to reduce the income gap between the middle class and the working class, the political distance between them increased dramatically. This chasm yielded only political instability in the short-term. Thus, as Saad-Filho aptly put it: “The very experience of the PT suggests that ambitious policy changes were needed in order to break with neoliberalism and secure gains in distribution and poverty reduction. They included changes in the country’s economic base, international integration, employment patterns, public service provision, structures of political representation and the media. These were never contemplated by the PT, and those limitations have now returned to destroy the Party and its leaders. In Brazilian politics, self-imposed weakness is rarely rewarded; instead, it elicits escalating attacks targeting the jugular.”

The limitations of the PT ideal, grandiose as it doubtlessly seemed given the population of Brazil (200 million), was adequately summed up by Saad-Filho in March 2015:

The PT “led a partial economic and social break with neoliberalism that has delivered significant gains in employment and distribution, but also entrenched poor economic performance and left Brazil vulnerable to the global downturn. In the political domain, the PT has transformed the social character of the Brazilian state, while simultaneously accepting a fragile hold on power as a condition of power itself. There has been no meaningful attempt to reform the Constitution or the political system, challenge the ideological hegemony of neoliberalism, neutralize the mainstream media or transform the country’s economic structure or international integration. The PT also maintained (with limited flexibility in implementation) the neoliberal macroeconomic ‘Policy Tripod’ imposed by the preceding administration, including inflation-targeting and central bank independence, free capital movements, floating exchange rates, and tight fiscal policies. The PT administrations were limited by the ‘reformism line’ allowed by their unwieldy political alliances. This strategy alienated the party’s base and provoked the opposition.”

Lula set it all in motion after being elected by a coalition of social groups that had in common only the embarrassing experience of losses under neoliberalism: the organized working-class, the domestic bourgeoisie, large sections of the traditional oligarchy and sections of the middle-class and the informal proletariat. These disparate supporters had very few objectives in common beyond more expansionary macroeconomic policies and some redistribution of income, and they certainly didn’t support a radical break with neoliberalism. The first Lula administration preserved the macroeconomic policies introduced by the previous administration, but raised the minimum wage rapidly, and expanded the federal programmes of social assistance. However, GDP growth rates remained patchy, and most social and employment indicators failed to improve significantly. After his re-election, as mentioned above, Lula introduced a strategy of ‘national economic development,’ based on the co-existence of the previous macroeconomic policy framework with neo-developmentalist (heterodox) policies. Given the highly favorable external environment created by the commodity boom, the government’s expansionary and redistributive fiscal and financial policies supported the rapid growth of domestic demand and investment. These policies were intensified in the wake of the global financial crisis, which the country weathered quite brilliantly (GDP growth in 2010 reached 7.5%), and continued for a brief spell under Dilma.

The pattern of growth in the Lula and Dilma administrations was undeniably pro-poor. Under Lula, 21 million jobs were created in the 2000s alone, in contrast with 11 million in the 1990s; the Gini coefficient fell from 0.57 in 1995 to 0.53 in 2013; the incomes of the bottom decile rose by 91% between 2001-09, while the incomes of the top decile increased by 16%. Incomes rose by 42% in the poorer Northeast against 16% in the richer Southeast, and thus more in rural than in urban areas. Female income rose by 38% against 16% for men, and the income of Afro-Brazilians rose 43% against 20% for Whites, and the population below the poverty line fell from 36% in 2003 to 23% in 2008.

 

Correlation between Brazilian GDP (horizontal axis) and inequality (vertical axis) between 1981 and 2010. As Cardoso’s administration ended, the commodities boom took off, allowing the economy to greatly expand while inequality was reduced as a result of redistribution

Despite these achievements, at the time Lula left office in 2011, at least 8.5% of Brazil’s population was still living on less than 70 reais per month, equivalent to $1.50 a day. Meanwhile, the Brazilian economy came to a grinding half for three primary reasons. First, government policies failed to ignite self-sustaining growth driven by private investment. Second, the balance of payments totally deteriorated due to the slowdown in Brazil’s main markets (China, the EU and the U.S.), sluggish commodity prices, currency devaluations and export-led strategies in several large economies. Lastly, the domestic currency proved too vulnerable to shifts in capital flows due to economic policy shifts in the advanced economies. All three were exacerbated by the inherent contradictions of the PT alternative, now a foregone conclusion. As an aside, in late Fall 2015, Brazilian oil workers were forced to go on strike in efforts to stop the whole privatization of state oil company Petrobras (already partly privatized under the PT), arguably the most significant strike at the company in 20 years. Moreover, in Brazil, heavy taxes remain built into consumer prices, including high taxes on foods, burdening the poor. Settlements for the landless, often touted as great successes (a process begun under the Cardoso administration), have been found to occur where a large concentration of land ownership still exists.

At the political level, democracy was established as the political form of neoliberalism in Brazil. The tenuous symbiosis between neoliberalism and political democracy operates at three levels. First, the economic transition to neoliberalism was achieved through, and validated by, democratic means. Second, neoliberal policies supported the democratic regime because they overwhelmingly fragmented the working-class through higher unemployment, faster labor turnover, the repression of trade union activity by economic means, and the rise of economic insecurity. Third, liberal democracy is by far the best political regime for neoliberalism to thrive simply because it guarantees the stability and predictability of the rules of the game, making it more easily managed by the dominant elite, even as it also gives birth to inevitable crises. Despite these structural limitations they both perpetuated and protected, the Lula and Dilma administrations achieved significant gains for the workers and the poor now in need of preservation. What follows is their legacy.

 

Charting inequality (GINI index) in various Latin American nations from 1981 to 2012 (Brazil in dark green)

POVERTY & THE SOCIAL SAFETY NET

An estimated 20 million Brazilians were lifted out of poverty under the administration of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (2003–10). Overall, extreme poverty in Brazil decreased from 12% in 2003 to 4.8% in 2008. Much of the credit for this achievement goes to vital social policies of Lula’s administration, most significantly (conditional) cash-transfer programs to the poor. Most prominent among them was the cash-grant program, Bolsa Família (Family Stipend), which expanded an already existing welfare system established by Lula’s predecessor, Fernando Henrique Cardoso. The Lula government also created stronger mechanisms for promoting transparency and accountability in the distribution of these grants in areas such as the Northeast, where traditions of clientelism in the distribution of benefits were strong.

Because of the redistributive policies of Lula and Dilma, Brazil is no longer on the global hunger map for the first time in its history (at the time prior to the coup). According to the report, “The State of Food Insecurity in the World – 2014,” published by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Brazil reduced the population suffering from malnutrition between 2002 and 2012 by 82%. The report also showed that, according to the Prevalence of Malnutrition indicator, as used by the FAO for 50 years to measure and track hunger internationally, Brazil achieved an historical milestone of 1.7%. When this indicator drops to under 5%, the organization considers that a country has overcome the problem of hunger. Among the policies that have made Brazil an example to be followed by other countries in the world, the FAO emphasized generating 21 million jobs, real growth of the minimum wage by 71.5%, higher food production, school meals delivered daily to 43 million children and youth, equivalent to the population of Argentina fed every day, and, of course, the world’s largest income transfer program: Bolsa Família.

 

Achievements of the PT’s Bolsa Família (MDS, 2003-2013)

Without diminishing the importance of such programs to Brazil’s poor majority, one must nonetheless recognize that they function within a manipulative neoliberal framework established before Lula came to power. The cash-transfer programs, for example, embody the neoliberal values of efficiency, privatization, and individualization. Social policy experts classify them as “targeted” policies because they take aim at specific segments of the population. Lula’s policies targeted people living in extreme poverty, indigenous and rural Afro-Brazilian communities, farmers faced with drought, urban people who live by rifling through trash, and other afflicted groups. In this way, they intriguingly differ from policies that reach all citizens, as seen in Cuba and Venezuela, like price controls on foods, national food production and distribution programs, universal health care, and so on. Targeting is “efficient” in the sense that it maximizes poverty reduction by excluding anyone who is not poor – the downside is the paternalism that accompanies such initiatives that fails to empower or offer sweeping guarantees to rights, instead trying to nudge (by way of conditionalities) such segmented populations into formal or informal employment that, over time, results in disposable employment in the form of an enlarged reserve army of labor.

 

Achievements of the PT’s Bolsa Família (MDS, 2003-2013)

With Bolsa Família, 36 million Brazilians emerged from extreme poverty. Brazil today is undoubtedly a more developed and less unequal country, very different than the Brazil of 12 years ago, when millions of Brazilians did not have enough to eat and poor children were obliged to leave school to help feed their families. Without an education, these children grew up poor and had poor children condemned to growing up without a future. Hunger was inherited: extreme poverty was passed on from generation to generation. At the beginning of his administration, Lula reaffirmed that every Brazilian had the right to a minimum of three meals per day and set up the largest income transfer program in the world that was expanded and deepened by the government of Dilma Rousseff, providing benefits to 14 million families (50 million people). The Bolsa Família promoted both inclusion and citizenship, generated higher employment, benefited the economy, increased the level of education, and reduced infant mortality. The truth is that no beneficiary lives a life of ease: each family receives, on average, R$167.00 per month – not much but enough to provide food security and to guarantee – or rather, require – regular health checkups and school attendance.

The programme allows the children to miss about 15% of classes. But if a child gets caught missing more than that, payment is suspended for the whole family. By common consent, the conditional cash-transfer programme (CCT) has been a stunning success and is wildly popular. It is, in the words of a former World Bank president, a “model of effective social policy” and has been exported around the world. According to the Fundaçao Getulio Vargas (FGV), a university, the number of Brazilians with incomes below 800 reais ($440) a month fell more than 8% every year since 2003. By 2011, according to FGV, about one-sixth of the poverty reduction could be attributed to Bolsa Família, the same share as attributed to the increase in state pensions—but at far lower cost. Bolsa Família payments are tiny, around 22 reais ($12) per month per child, with a maximum payment of 200 reais. According to a survey by Brazil’s Institute of Applied Economic Research, the social welfare program contributed to a 28 percent decrease in total poverty, and by 2013, about 1.7 million beneficiaries of Bolsa Família were able to rescind their membership, since they no longer met the criteria. That being said, while the program decreased income inequality by about 15-20%, the remaining decrease may be attributable to rising work wages. Studies produced by the University of São Paulo showed that shifts in labor income “accounted for 55-60 percent of the decrease in income inequality in the country.”

Bold initiatives such as Bolsa Família, the globally-known conditional cash transfer program for poor families, and Fome Zero (Zero Hunger), an anti-hunger campaign, significantly reduced absolute poverty in Brazil, notably in the very poor North and Northeast regions. Especially in the sertão — the semi-arid rural interior of Northeast Brazil — Bolsa Família payments can mean the difference between life and death for the millions of small farmers already struggling with the big soy farmers (largely thanks to Cargill’s role), quilombolas (communities of descendants of escaped slaves), and itinerant agrarian workers that live in the region. That being said, cash-transfer programs still support privatization because they channel capital in its most liquid form (cash) and thus require far less bureaucracy than federal development institutions. These programs emphasize individual choice by increasing consumers’ buying power, rather than offering them cheap, price-controlled government-subsidized foods. In fact, even framing social justice in terms of “poverty alleviation,” rather than the achievement of economic equality, already takes a page from the playbooks of neoliberalism and its promoters. It is telling that in 2004 alone, one quarter of Lula’s funding for his main cash-transfer program came from the World Bank and Inter-American Development Bank. Yet, even though his cash-transfer programs were paradigmatically neoliberal, they have succeeded in reducing poverty and inequality. He certainly did a better job with these policies than did his predecessor, Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

 

Poverty reduction under Bolsa Família (MDS, 2013)

During Cardoso’s second term in office (1999–2002), he initiated several targeted cash grants. The Bolsa Escola (School Benefit) program was his most important; it promoted school attendance by sending parents about $8–$10 in 2000 each month for every child who attended school. This compensated parents for the loss of their children’s labor during the day. Three smaller cash grants aimed to subsidize food and gas purchases, and to increase the income of families hit hard by natural calamities. Cardoso could hardly be called “right-wing.” When Lula took office, he retained and supplemented these grants with a new cash program called Food Card, which his administration conceptualized as part of a broader food security initiative, Zero Hunger. The Food Card gave indigent families about $17 per month in 2003. This essentially doubled the amount of federal money that a family could have received from all of Cardoso’s grants combined. The following year, Lula merged all the cash grants into Bolsa Família, and then slowly increased the allowance throughout his two terms. By 2009, families in extreme poverty received up to about $116 each month.

 

Expansion of Bolsa Família (2003-2013)

Bolsa Família reached far more people than any of Cardoso’s grants. When Cardoso left office in 2002, Bolsa Escola, his largest cash grant program, benefited only 4.6 million families. The difference was due to two factors: First, Cardoso’s Bolsa Escola worked through a quota system, limiting the number of families that could receive the grant, whereas Bolsa Família goes to all households with a combined income of less than $60 (90 reais) per month per resident. This technical distinction is important for understanding how cash grants are distributed at the municipal level (more on this below). Second, Bolsa Família targeted not only “extremely poor” families, but also “moderately poor” families (though the amount was adjusted). This meant that Lula’s cash grant included a broader swath of the working poor than those of his predecessor. As a result of these changes, by 2006, Bolsa Família had already reduced extreme poverty in Brazil by 19% and moderate poverty by 12%. Up until the economic crisis landed ashore in 2014, Bolsa Família was found to generate a greater increase in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) than any other social transfer program – and at a very low cost by international standards. Every R $1 invested in the program was stimulating the growth of R$1.78 in economic activity and increased the consumption of families by R$2.40. The overall cost was very little: 0.5% of total GDP. For the sake of comparison, in 2012, the United States spent 2% of their GDP in income transfer programs, yet the number of North Americans needing government assistance increased by 60% over a four-year span (2009-2012).

 

Families living in extreme poverty receiving Bolsa Família benefits (2011-2014)

Thanks to the “Active Search” strategy of the Brazil Without Poverty Plan, since 2011, 1.2 million extremely poor families were located and included in the Single Registry and can now count on an extensive network of social services. The Active Search strategy inverts the old logic: instead of waiting for the poorest of the population to come knocking on the door, the State ventures out to where poverty is found, on foot, by car or by boat, on the peripheries of the large cities or in isolated communities, like the Quilombo settlements and Indian villages, bringing social inclusion and citizenship.

Lula, who, as a bygone radical, once led Brazil’s labor movement, passed legislation that enshrined some protections for the CUT, curtailed the power of the labor courts to declare strikes illegal, and squashed Cardoso’s proposal to allow collective bargaining to undermine the protections enshrined in labor legislation. He also raised the monthly minimum wage (used to calculate all salaries) from 200 to 540 reais throughout his two terms in office (inflation during that same period has generally remained less than 10%). But his legislation created barriers to collective bargaining for small unions, angering a combative sector of the workforce that previously supported him. Moreover, Lula did not reverse Carodoso’s basic flexibilization measures. Thus, many in both the working class and the professional middle class blame Lula for their heightened experience of job insecurity.

 

Bolsa Família and its impact on combating prejudice (MDS, June 2014)

A 2013 study by the Institute for Applied Economic Research (IPEA) showed that in the 500 municipalities where the greatest concentration of beneficiaries of the Bolsa Família are located, the increase in jobs in the formal labor market (jobs with employee benefits) was 69.3%. In the poor Northeast, the region which has the largest number of beneficiaries of the program, the growth in formal employment was 64.8%. In other words, contrary to what some critics insisted on saying, Bolsa Família proved to be a powerful tool for promoting employment. Over a ten-year span (2003-2013), 1.7 million families voluntarily gave up their benefits because they managed to improve their standard of living, achieving an income per capita of more than R$140. In addition to these families, 1 million families did not re-register for the program. 1.3 million individuals from low income families were also enrolled in Pronatec to learn a profession (trade) and seek a higher paying job.

Women (Brasileiras) hold no less than 93% of the Bolsa Família cards. This shows the recognition by the public authorities that they are the ones who perform the domestic labor care for their children and know how to best organize their spending to assure the well-being of their families. Especially in the poorest regions, when there are few options for work, even for men, the majority of the women now have a fixed income for the first time. Without having to depend financially on their husbands, they gain at least semi-independence not just to choose what to buy, but also to decide if they want to have children or not, if they prefer to work, take care of the children in the home or both, if they wish to remain married or ask for separation. One of the many myths overturned by the 10 years of the Bolsa Família program was that benefits would encourage women to have more children. On the contrary: the number of beneficiaries using birth control methods vastly increased. Through 2010, the fecundity rate for women fell in all social classes, but the women and the poorest group showed a reduction of 30% in the average number of children, while the national average was 20.17%.

For a revealing, outstanding critique of the patriarchal neoliberal state paternalism inherent to Bolsa Família, this article is highly recommended and superbly details why such programs, no matter the number of beneficiaries, are incapable of overcoming historical issues such as patriarchal relations, oppression, unpaid domestic labor, and so on.

 

Brasileiras under Bolsa Família (MDS, 2013)

Under Dilma, the income transfer policies begun under Lula went through two significant changes in order to approach the goal of the eradication of extreme poverty with the incorporation of activities for productive inclusion and access to public services: the Brasil Sem Miséria (Brazil Without Poverty) and the Brasil Carinhoso (Brazil Caring) programs. The Brasil Sem Miséria program, introduced in 2011, provides more resources for those who most need them and strengthens productive inclusion. With Brasil Sem Miséria, Bolsa Família received additional resources to be used for the poorest of the poor: the lower the per capita income of the family, the greater the amount they receive, guaranteeing that each member of the family will have an income of at least R$77 (US$35) per month. This program provided benefits to 22 million Brazilians that were still living in extreme poverty. Beneficiaries saw a real average increase of 44%; for the poorest of the poor, the interest was 84%. In addition to the transfer of income, the beneficiaries were provided access to various policies for productive inclusion. In just a single decade, with the Bolsa Família and the Brasil Sem Miséria programs, extreme poverty in Brazil declined by 89%.

According to Tereza Campello, Minister of Social Development (ministra do Desenvolvimento Social e Combate à Fome), because of the the Brasil Sem Miséria programme, in just four years, 22 million Brazilians were lifted out of extreme poverty. In Bahia alone, there were about 3.5 million people that escaped the condition of extreme poverty. The active search strategy located almost 129,000 extremely poor families in the state. Another accomplishment was the enrollment of 55,000 children 0-48 months of age in early childhood education due to Bolsa Família. In urban areas, 126,400 low-income people visited professional training courses by way of Pronatec; 58,000 poor entrepreneurs were formalized as individual micro-entrepreneurs; and more than 437,000 were granted productive microcredits. In the Bahia countryside, 250,000 water tanks for consumption were delivered and 51,000 families received assistance. This is a direct result of the federal pact that united 22 ministries of the federal government, 26 states, the Federal District, municipalities and organized civil society.

 

Expanded health coverage under Bolsa Família (MDS, 2013)

One of the cruelest facts of poverty in Brazil: as recently as 2013, 42% of Brazilians that were living under conditions of extreme poverty were less than 15 years of age. To meet the needs of the most vulnerable portion of this group – children six years of age or less – the Dilma administration established the Brazil Cares program (Brasil Carinhoso). Nearly 600,000 child beneficiaries now attend child care centers everyday. The distribution of vitamin A, iron sulfate, and vaccinations free of charge protects against illnesses that are detrimental to child development. The funding distributed for school lunch programs for children enrolled in the public school system was increased by 66%. 39% of Brazilians that emerged from extreme poverty over the span of a decade were less than 14 years old. With the Bolsa Família and the Brasil sem Miséria programs, the percentage of children and adolescents living in conditions of extreme poverty declined from 10.5% in 2003 to 0.3% in 2013. Many people criticize the Bolsa Família, but very few of them know the reality of life in the Northeast of Brazil.

 

Gains in children’s health under Bolsa Família (2013)

The Bolsa Família program reduced mortality in children up to 5 years of age by 19.4%. The reduction was even greater when one considers the mortality rates for causes linked to extreme poverty such as malnutrition (a decline of 58%) and diarrhea (a decline of 47%), according to data published in the British magazine The Lancet. This occurred not only because of the improvement in their diets – thanks to the money from the Bolsa Família – but also due to the conditional commitments required by the Bolsa Família program in the area of health: to receive the benefits, families must keep the vaccination cards for children under 7 up to date and must also have the younger children weighed and measured twice per year. In addition, pre-natal care is required for expectant mothers, infants and nursing mothers. The beneficiaries from the Bolsa Família make 50% more pre-natal care visits than non-beneficiaries. The diet of the expectant mothers improved because of the benefits, and this caused the index of premature births to fall by an impressive 14%. The children are born stronger, with compatible weights and grow up healthier, thanks to vaccines and the obligatory medical visits. In 2013 alone, 99.1% of the children monitored by the program had their vaccines up-to-date. Chronic malnutrition in infants fell by 52% between 2008 and 2012; this is reflected in the reduction in the weight and height deficit for children 5 years of age or less, with a drop of 16.8% to 14.5%.

The infant mortality rate in Brazil was found to have fallen by 73% come 2015 compared to 1990 and exceeded the world average in decline. Data came from the report, “Levels and Trends in Child Mortality Report 2015,” published by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef). During the same period, the global average fell 53%. According to the report, Brazil was one of the countries that have had significant success in reducing child mortality. According to Paul Jannuzzi, Secretary of Evaluation and Management Information of the Ministry of Social Development and Fight against Hunger (MDS), “In a little over ten years, infant mortality in the poor Northeast fell by half. In 2001, 36.7 children per thousand live births died in the region; by 2012, that number had fallen to 17.1 children per thousand live births, according to data from the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics” (IBGE).

 

Students in the public school system that remained in school due to Bolsa Família, 2008-2012 (MDS)

To earn the right to the benefits of the Bolsa Família program, children between the ages of 6 and 17 years must be attending school with an attendance record of at least 85% per month. The program has long since been yielding excellent returns. At the primary school level, performance for students in the Bolsa Família program is similar to that of children that are not in the program. The performance of high school students in the program is higher than that of students at the national average. Truancy is lower in both elementary and secondary education levels. Released from the strenuous obligation to work to help their families, these children now have opportunities that their parents and grandparents did not have, opting for more education. Greater economic security increases the psychological well-being of the parents, who can then dedicate themselves more to the futures of their children. Under Bolsa Família, there was an increase in the participation of the 20% of the population at the lowest income levels in the national school system. In 2001, only 17.3% of young people 16 years of age in this group had completed primary school; in 2011, that percentage had increased to 42.7%. At the high school level, at the 15 to 17 year age group, the increase was from 13.6% to 35.9%. In addition to increasing time spent in school, the poorest 20% also advanced in their studies. In 2002, of the students 15 years of age, only 32.1% were enrolled in the school year appropriate for their age. By 2012, that percentage jumped to 53.8%. Furthermore, educational inequality among social classes fell from 31% to 19.4% in only one decade (2003-2013). The monthly school attendance of more than 15 million students who are beneficiaries of the Bolsa Família program remains monitored. That number is equivalent to 75% of the total student population between the ages of 6 and 15 in all of Western Europe.

 

Neoliberal Paternalism: prioritizing expansion of entrepreneurialism to the working class

THE PENSION REFORMS (2003 & 2007)

Together with these largely conservative labor policies, Lula implemented pension reforms that generally continued Cardoso’s cutbacks, and that turned a specific segment of the government workforce against him. Brazil’s pension system is organized into two main branches, the government-run “public” branch that covers all state employees and most workers in the formal private sector, and the “private” branch that covers mostly high-salaried private-sector workers. Cardoso created new investment opportunities for private pension funds that grew very lucrative under his administration. He reduced the pensions of the public system, which by 1997 was operating at a $2.8 billion deficit because of Brazil’s aging population, fraud, and other problems with employee contributions.23 Lula continued to roll back the public pension system. In 2003, he passed social security reforms that taxed the pensions of retired bureaucrats at the high end of the pay scale. This group of privileged retirees then mobilized opposition among other government workers who aspired to high pensions. Lula also phased in reforms that would readjust the formula for calculating pensions to the detriment of all formal workers, extending the retirement age. In 2007, however, Lula pushed through legislation that extended pension benefits to informal laborers who make up more than half of Brazil’s workforce. Thus, while many formal workers had their pensions reduced and age requirements increased, 28 million informal laborers who previously had no social security are now be entitled to them, largely subsidized by the contributions of their formally employed counterparts.

 

Achievements of the PT’s Minha Casa Minha Vida social program (MCidades, 2014)

The PT’s Minha Casa Minha Vida (My House, My Life) is the largest housing program in Brazil’s history. Considered by the UN to be an example for the world, Minha Casa Minha Vida has already contracted the construction of 3.4 million homes and apartments across the country, of which 1.7 million have been delivered (as of 2014), to the benefit of some 6.8 million Brazilians — the equivalent of the entire population of Brazil’s second largest city (Rio de Janeiro). This is nothing less than the government providing housing for those in need, while at the same time helping drive commerce and industry, generating jobs and income. A housing program as vast and encompassing as Minha Casa Minha Vida, historically one of the most important entreaties of social movements, did not emerge out of thin air. It is the result of dialogue between the PT governments and organizations involved in the fight for decent housing, such as the National Union for Popular Housing (UNMP), Popular Movements Center (CMP), National Housing Struggle Movement (MNLM) and National Residents Confederation (Conam). It admittedly seemed impossible in a country that for many years had not invested a penny in housing programs. And yet Brazil reached the milestone of 1.7 million houses and apartments delivered by 2014, with another 1.7 million under construction, a unique partnership between the federal government, states, municipalities, social movements and the private sector for the right to housing.

 

Achievements of the PT’s Minha Casa Minha Vida social program (MCidades, 2014)

Minha Casa Minha Vida provides funding to families with gross incomes of up to R$5,000. The priority is for those earning up to R$1,600 monthly, who pay 5% of their income for the funding over ten years. In the R$3,275 monthly bracket, the subsidy is up to R$25,000, inversely proportional to income. For families with income of up to R$5,000 a month, the benefit is offered through a reduction in the home financing interest rate, ranging from 5% to 7.16%, depending on family income.

 

Another important innovation is My House, My Life – Entities, created with the goal of enabling families to organize themselves into cooperatives, private nonprofit organizations and urban associations to act as promoters/organizers of social interest housing programs, which strengthens citizenship practices. In this mode, popular organizations reinforce the education and grassroots organization processes, just as important as housing construction per se. Aimed at families with gross monthly income of up to R$1,600, through May 2014 My House, My Life – Entities had contracted 43,175 houses in all regions of Brazil, of which 3,000 have been delivered.

 

Most lived in mud houses with almost no protection from the cold and rain. Thanks to the Minha Casa Minha Vida Rural program, 39,000 families are already living in much greater comfort in brand new or totally renovated houses, with ceramic floors, tiles, water and electricity. The goal was to contract construction of 60,000 homes by the end of 2014, but the program ended in 2013 with 113,000 built in all regions of Brazil, benefiting farmers, agrarian reform settlers, rural workers, fisher folk, foresters, farmers, shellfish gatherers, fish farmers, foresters, “quilombolas” (former slave communities) and indigenous peoples.

 

Minha Casa Minha Vida sets aside 3% of the homes for the elderly. For people with disabilities, the program reserves 3% of the residences and also provides ground-floor houses or apartments equipped with specific disability accessibility kits. In order to offer children greater security, property ownership generally remains in the name of the mother, only going to the father if he has legal custody of the children in the event of separation of the couple.

 

Imagine if you couldn’t watch TV, enjoy the Internet, or had to light a candle to study at night. If you had no way to drink a glass of cold water or take a hot shower. The fact is this was the reality of much of the Brazilian population in the 21st century. With the Luz para Todos (Light for All) program, created in 2003 by the Lula government when Dilma Rousseff was minister of Mines and Energy, 15.2 million Brazilians have gained access to electric power. They are now able to buy refrigerators, televisions, computers; they joined together in cooperatives and, thanks to easy credit, invested in feed grinders, freezers to conserve fish, and irrigation systems. The Light for All program is a kind of time machine – it helped to overcome the past and build the future. The Light for All program helped illuminate not only the country but also shaped the debate about the role of the State. Before the Lula government, it was up to the market to bring — or not — necessities and dignity to those who lived in darkness. Given how the market always charges a lot, the Light in the Countryside program, launched by the PSDB in 1999, did not take off. Unable to afford the high costs of the program, poor rural families remained without electricity. With the Lula government, the State assumed the role of inducing development, generating opportunities and promoting citizenship.

 

An unexpected phenomenon: the cities benefited by the Light for All program began to attract back former residents who had migrated to other regions of the country, in search of better living conditions. It is estimated, through research conducted by the Ministry of Mines and Energy, that 5% of the families served by the program have returned to their birthplaces, which would total 156,716 households and more than 760,000 people. That is, the traditional migration flow — from rural areas to major centers — was reversed. The light that brings development, citizenship and opportunities also brings the children back home. To summarize the views of many Brazilians on the receiving end of light for the first time: “It is a blessing from God for the lives of many Brazilians like me. With electricity, everything gets better. Now the electric pump brings water to the cistern, we no longer need buckets to fetch it at the stream, the water is already inside the house. Moreover, I now have a TV and radio, everything done through electricity. Being without electricity was horrible. Complete darkness … On the day they lit the electric lamps, it was a party. Our life has improved 100% in everything … Today, we have things we didn’t have before. I have a refrigerator, so the food does not spoil. Cold water. So we believe that the light is for all.”

 

As a result of Light for All, schools have multiplied with far fewer vacancies and many night classes added. In warmer regions, fans and cold drinking water have made all the difference in the world. The classes are more interactive and animated, with the addition of electronic aids, such as television, DVD players and computers. Doing homework at night, with electric light instead of candle or lamp, has made learning easier, and the results are evident. One of the challenges of the Light for All program was to bring electric power to indigenous communities without interfering in their culture, traditions, way of being or thinking. An agreement between the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME) with the National Indian Foundation (Funai) allows the beneficiaries to receive instructions on how to use electricity rationally and safely in booklets published in Portuguese and in the native languages of each people in schools in the Terena, Guarani and Kaiowá Kaingang villages. According to data from the Ministry of Mines and Energy (MME), about 35,000 indigenous families (180,000 people) have watched as electricity came to their villages as of 2014. Along with it came refrigerators, which store health vaccines and serum against poisonous animals. Irrigation equipment also arrived, to ensure the production of maize and cassava. Even computers arrived, such as the ones at the Campestre village school in Antônio João (MS), which students use for study and entertainment, laughing and conversing like any children – except it is in the Guaraní language. More than 29,000 families (about 150,000 people) living in communities of descendants of escaped slaves (quilombolas) have also benefited from the Light for All Program, according to the MME. Exit darkness, enter electric light — and with it, the refrigerator, television, fans, and so on.

 

At the time the Luz para Todos program concluded in 2014, serving over 261,000 families in poorer rural areas that still had no electricity, it benefited, according to government indicators, at least 3,374,248 households, 68% more than the original target of 2 million families.

 

Charting the proportion of the population with increasing access to basic goods and services, 1992-2012 (IPEA)

By 2014 (though prior to 2015), the aggregate social investment is approaching 23% of GDP, almost 10 percentage points higher than the figure for 1985 (13.3%), according to an analysis by researcher Marcio Pochman, president of the Perseu Abramo Foundation. That is to say, for every four Brazilian real spent in the country, at least one was directly linked to the social economy to sustain the PT’s model of center-left populist redistributionism.

All in all, Luz para Todos has benefited 228,000 families (more than 1 million people) who live and work on agrarian reform settlements. The electricity generates income and improves their quality of life. In the Colônia 2 settlement in the municipality of Padre Bernardo (GO), for example, irrigated agriculture increased productivity and household incomes. In a settlement in Itamarati, in Ponta Porã (MS), the milk cooling tanks ended product loss and damage, meaning residents no longer had to pick up the milk every day and go knocking from house to house to sell it before it spoiled. Light for All reaches more distant places, as shown by all the light poles marching towards distant settlements in far-off parts of the country.

WAGES, JOBS, INCOME INEQUALITY

 

 

Wages, jobs and unemployment under Lula and Dilma (2014)

Over 20 million formal jobs created, the lowest unemployment rate of all time (4.9% in April 2014 just prior to the economic crisis and onset of recession), a real increase of 72.75% in the minimum wage between April/2002 and January/2014, adjustments above inflation for 84.5% of the wage negotiations for over 300 professional categories, and the upward shift of 48.7 million people to the A, B and C classes make it abundantly clear, for better or worse: never before in the history of Brazil has its workers seen so many achievements as under the governments of Lula and Dilma. Not only were there 20.4 million formal jobs generated in Brazil in 11 years, but there was also a real increase of 42.9% in the average entry-level salary, going from R$772.58 in 2003 to R$1,104.12 in 2013, according to data from the Ministry of Labor. Despite the international crisis, which eliminated 60 million jobs worldwide from 2008 through 2015, Brazil generated 11 million new formal positions (with an employment contract). That being said, the overdue crisis and subsequent recession has cast all this into doubt.

 

Wages, jobs and unemployment under Lula and Dilma (2014)

Average job generation during the eight years in which the PSDB headed the federal government was nearly 630,000 per year. In 11 years of governments led by the PT (2003-2014), the average was in the range of 1.8 million formal jobs created annually. That was almost three times greater than the average under Cardoso’s administration.

 

As respected professor of economics at the University of São Paulo, Fernando Rugitsky, put it in 2015: “Brazil’s recent turn towards austerity has been impressive in its swiftness and severity. Perhaps even more importantly, the reversal shows the privileged position corporations hold in any capitalist democracy, especially amid a crisis in sluggish investment. Even though government policies that boost employment can benefit capital in the short term by guaranteeing demand for their products, in the long term these policies face resistance from capital because they remove a powerful means of shaping government policy — the ability not to invest and create jobs. In the absence of policies to stimulate demand, employment and economic growth depend almost entirely on capitalists’ decision to invest. In order to avoid the heightened unemployment and economic downturns that could jeopardize their political support, governments like the PT develop their policies with the interests of capital in mind. Of course, capitalists can threaten an ‘investment strike’ if governments implement policies that displease them. There are, of course, limits to this dynamic. Owners continually appropriate the surplus produced by workers in order to reproduce themselves as owners, but if their investment strike goes on for too long their capacity to do so can be dangerously reduced. This is more likely seen as in Venezuela, in which an economic war may be waged that more or less brings production to a grinding halt. This may include economic sabotage, a powerful black market, the hoarding and smuggling of goods and necessities, vast devaluation of currency (and thus hyperinflation), artificial shortages and hiked prices, and overt destabilization as witnessed in 1964’s coup.

 

Capital almost never bumps up against this limit, however, leaving corporations wide leverage to shape the basic contours of government policy. The stagnation of investment that occurred in Brazil from 2011 onward demonstrates this political dynamic of accumulation. By changing the interest rate policy, imposing competitive pressure on private banks, and disputing the rate of return on public contracts and in the energy industry, the government antagonized powerful interests. Despite clear incentives to increase investment, business refused to do so.

 

Neoliberalism has transformed the Brazilian industrial base substantially. Brazilian capital is much more closely integrated with foreign capital than at any time since 1930, and the manufacturing sector has been disarticulated and largely integrated into competing transnational value chains (even where they serve primarily the domestic market). The institutional and policy changes imposed by neoliberalism have transferred control of the most important levers of accumulation to a relatively small number of financial institutions. They command most private-sector loans, own the vast majority of the public securities, control large amounts of foreign currency and mediate the flows of foreign investment into the country. They have amassed enormous political influence and can destabilize state policy and social welfare, as was shown in mid-2002. While the PT struggles to stabilize its sources of support and the administration attempts to make neoliberalism deliver according to its promises, the Brazilian Left has very different concerns: building the foundations of a new political movement that will offer concrete and realistic alternatives along the lines of Cuban socialism. Neoliberalism utterly eroded the social, economic and political roots of the working class and demolished its traditional forms of political expression and organization.

 

The PT’s developmentalist policies were not accompanied by social mobilization from below — they consisted of a set of decisions taken without broad public debate from within a political system that works to impose moderation. In this context, Brazilian capitalists could trust that the pressure of an investment strike would effectively undermine and reverse the measures in question, and that sooner or later, conventional economic policies would be readopted. With investment flatlining, austerity was soon back on the agenda. By reducing the growth of economic activity, low investment decelerated tax collection, putting pressure on the fiscal policy. At the same time, the exchange-rate devaluation increased inflation. In the absence of a fiscal crisis, real or imaginary, which forces a change in the rules of access to social benefits and which contains the expansion of public services, the tendency is an increasing tax rate and continuous pressure for the tax burden to be borne by the richest fractions of the population, given the very high level of inequality of income and wealth in Brazil. Austerity, of course, serves to block demands to curb inequality. At the same time, it reestablishes capitalists’ mechanism of control over the government, by curtailing policies to stimulate demand and strengthening the connection between capitalists’ investment decisions and economic growth and employment. For the Left, the lesson of Rousseff’s first term should be clear: a progressive government cannot carry out policies against the interests of capital without challenging the social basis of its domination.

 

In the history of Brazil, the idea that a real increase in the minimum wage (MW) was harmful to the country’s accounts survived longer than it should have. Hence, the timid adjustments above inflation announced in 1990, more as a result of pressure from organized labor than due to government planning. Under Lula and Dilma, this catastrophic vision changed: annual minimum wage increases were institutionalized, becoming state policy. A longstanding demand of major labor unions, recognized by Lula, the policy of raising the value of the minimum wage has become a major tool for income distribution and supporting the newly created internal mass consumption market. In 2014, the salary of R$724.00 (a 72.75% real increase since 2002) will inject no less than R$28.4 billion into the country’s economy, directly benefiting 48.1 million Brazilians who have the MW as a reference for their income. This includes 21.4 million recipients of Social Security, 14.3 million salaried workers, 8 million freelancers and 4.2 million domestic workers. People who will consume and invest more and thus make the economy’s wheels turn, ensuring more jobs and more income in a virtuous circle that benefits all Brazilians. The increases of R$28.4 billion in savings and R$13.8 billion in tax collections show that gains from the upturn in the minimum wage are much more significant to society than supposed costs incurred by Social Security, of R$12.8 billion. The Social Security system, incidentally, did not go broke as supporters of the minimal state had forecast.

 

Not only did the real increase of 72.75% of the minimum wage replace the losses suffered by workers during the lost decade of the 1980s and the 1990s overt neoliberal period — marked by low growth and mass privatization — but also it safeguarded the greatest increase in purchasing power in Brazil’s history. Considering the most expensive basic basket of necessities (goods) as it stood in January 2014 (R$325.26), the worker today has a purchasing power (prior to the economic crisis, again) equivalent to 2.21 baskets — by far the best minimum wage/average food basket ratio recorded annually since 1979. In a study entitled, “A Década Inclusiva (2001-2011): Desigualdade, Pobreza e Políticas de Renda” (“The Inclusive Decade (2001-2011): Inequality, Poverty and Income Policies”), the IPEA (Institute of Applied Economic Research) analyzed data from the PNAD (National Household Sample Survey), and produced a list indicating the source of Brazilian family income: Labor (58%), Social Security (19%), Bolsa Família (13%), Continuous Cash Benefit (4%), and Others, such as rent and interest, (6%). The data showed that a significant part of the decline in inequality was due to the strong expansion of the labor market and the increase in the minimum wage (95% of the jobs created in the last decade were for workers earning up to 1.5 MW). This, according to researchers, made the redistributive process that was adopted sustainable. “Without the redistributive policies sponsored by the Brazilian government, inequality would have fallen 36% less over the decade,” according to the document.

 

Besides a powerful impact on reducing income inequality between rich and poor, the continuing increase in the real minimum wage prior to the recession was a tool for reducing regional inequalities. The lesser developed and most poor regions of the country, the North and Northeast, were those with the most workers with incomes tied to the minimum wage: 58.2% in the Northeast and 42.4% in the North. At the beginning of the Lula government’s second term in 2007, government and unions reached an agreement that became known as the Minimum Wage Valuation Policy: the MW would be adjusted each year based on the variation of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in the previous year (2014 considers 2012’s GDP), plus the previous year’s inflation as measured by the National Consumer Price Index (INPC). During the first Dilma administration, in 2011, approved by the National Congress, the policy became Law No. 12,382, effective 2015. The constantly rising value of the minimum wage sanctioned by the Lula and Dilma governments led Brazil to be highlighted in a study by the ILO (International Labor Organization). The paper reported on the Brazilian experience and its positive impact on recent socio-economic development in the country. It was an initiative different from those put into place by European countries such as Spain, Portugal and Greece to confront the global economic crisis, where higher unemployment rates were accompanied by a cutback of labor and social rights. Of course, austerity was not to be denied.

As a result of these continuous wage adjustments over the past decade, the wage share of GDP in Brazil has increased. That is, workers’ progressively have a greater share in production of the country’s wealth through their earnings. After a downward trend dating from the beginning of the FHC government, the wage/GDP ratio began growing again in the Lula and Dilma governments, going from 46.26% in 2003 to 51.40% in 2009, including social contributions of workers. It is interesting to note that most of Brazilian economic growth in the last 11 years (about 75%) was due to an increase in numbers of employed persons and 25% came about through productivity gains demonstrating the strength of the recovery of wages in the country. Much of this is indicative of why the PT administrations invested so much in expanding the federal technical school network, public-private partnerships for the education and training of millions of youths through the National Program for Access to Technical Education and Employment (Pronatec) and expansion and building of federal public universities outside of state capitals and major cities.

 

As much as 95% of formal jobs made available between 2000 and 2010 benefited those at the base of Brazil’s social pyramid, with compensation of up to 1.5 times the minimum wage, according to the Institute of Applied Economic Research (IPEA). This is precisely the social group that previously worked without a formal employment contract and, therefore, had no guarantee of labor rights, such as a 13 month’s wage, paid vacations, extra pay for working in unhealthy conditions, and maternal and paternal leave, among others. This base of the pyramid is representative, roughly 24.5% of the wages in the country, according to 2009 data presented by research scholar Marcio Pochman in his book, New Middle Class? Work at the base of the Brazilian social pyramid. For each group of ten occupations opened up in the last decade to low-income workers, seven were in formal employment and for every vacancy in informal employment, three others were opened up for formal workers. Half of formal jobs created at the base of the pyramid were located in the Northeast, North and Center-West regions. The boom in formal employment at the base of the pyramid helps one to understand the major transformations that Brazilian society was undergoing during the Lula and Dilma governments: social mobility and continuous reduction of income inequalities.

With 20.4 million formal jobs created in 11 years in office, presidents Lula and Dilma reduced Brazil’s unemployment rate to the lowest levels in Brazil’s history. In 2003, the average annual rate measured by the IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics) was 12.4%. In 2013, it fell to less than half: 5.4%, then finally dropping to 4.9% in April 2014, its lowest point before jumping since the recession. Dilma and Lula bet on inclusive economic development: a domestic mass market, income transfer to poorer households, a higher minimum wage and increased public investment, a policy somewhat different from that which dominated the country in the 1990s, marked by low growth, privatization, flexible labor rights and drying up of the formal employment model. Under Lula and Dilma, formal employment grew at a rate three times higher than the average of the FHC years. In 2002, less than half (45%) of Brazilian workers had formal job contracts. In 2012, this number rose to 57%. The total number of formal workers in Brazil increased from 28.6 million in 2002 to 47.4 million in 2012. In the second quarter of 2013, 76.4% of private sector employees had formal contracts, according to data taken from the Monthly Employment Survey and the National Household Sample Survey.

 

The increase in the value of the minimum wage and real wage gains experienced by workers through inclusive development led to a decline of social, regional and racial inequalities. Between 2002 and 2012 the Northeast’s C class population, for example, increased its share of the total regional population from 28% to 45%. For the first time in history, the northeastern C class exceeds D and E classes: 23.9 compared to 23.7 million people. Neither smaller municipalities nor the Social Security system were bankrupted. Rather, economic growth and income distribution generated a beneficial cycle for the country as a whole. According to Dieese (Inter-Union Department of Statistics and Socioeconomic Studies), the new minimum wage of R$724.00 will inject a significant amount — R$28.4 billion — into the economy in 2014. Of the 48 million Brazilians whose wages are linked to the minimum wage, 21 million are Social Security beneficiaries. The rise of 42 million people into the C class between 2003 and 2013 has also impacted the promotion of racial equality. Today, out of every four people served by the Bolsa Família, three are mixed race or black. In rural areas, the C class doubled in size, going from 21% to 42% of the population.

 

A trip to the airport and shopping malls is enough to observe the social transformation that Brazil has undergone in recent years. For a long time, air travel and shopping at branded stores was restricted to the A and B classes. Today, this privilege is part of the consumption menu of the new C class consumer, the result of more job security and better wages. The numbers are impressive. The Brazilian C class totals some 104 million people and now represents 52% of all Brazilians, according to Serasa Experian. If it were a country, it would be the 12th largest in the world in terms of population — ahead of Germany, Iran and Turkey — and 18th in terms of consumption, ahead of the Netherlands or Switzerland. In 2013, it injected more than R$1.17 trillion into the Brazilian economy, according to the Data Popular research institute and Serasa Experian. In Brazil, these income limits in current monetary values are R$291 and R$1,019 per family member per month. That means members of the lower class are considered those with per capita income below R$291 per month; belonging to the middle class are those with family incomes between R$291 and R$1,019; and , the upper class are those above R$1,019. According to this classification, today, 28% of the population belongs to the lower class; 52% the middle class; and 20% the upper class.

 

More job opportunities and higher wages have benefited segments of Brazilian society that were historically marginalized: blacks, people in the North and Northeast, rural workers. Of every 100 people who joined the C class between 2002 and 2012, 75 were black or mixed race – that is, three out of four people. In the Northeast, the C class has grown from 22% to 42% of total population, according to the Secretariat for Strategic Affairs of the Presidency, in a study entitled Middle Voices of the Middle Class. In rural areas, gains were also impressive: C class doubled from 21% to 42% of the population. The economic and social policies of Lula and Dilma, thus, also contributed to a reduction of inequalities between the countryside and the city. Argentina’s population is about 41 million and Colombia’s is around 47 million. These numbers help us understand the magnitude of the changes observed in Brazil during the last decade. In the Lula and Dilma governments, 42 million Brazilians entered C class, more than all of Argentina.

A path of opportunity opened up for millions of young people during the Lula and Dilma governments, with more spaces in primary and middle schools, public and private universities and technical schools. And young people are taking advantage of the open doors to qualify and be better positioned for the labor market. The Data Popular research institute indicates that 68% of youths in C class studied more than their parents, while this is true for only 10% of the A class. For every R$100.00 that the parents in the C Class earn, the child earns another R$53.00. This is reflected in the purchasing power of these young people (between 18 and 35), which reached R$129.9 billion, according to data collected by Data Popular.

 

Another survey by Data Popular Institute, in partnership with the Central Unica das Favelas (CUFA), of 2,000 residents of 63 Brazilian favelas shows that the C class has doubled in size in these communities over the last decade, similar to the growth seen in the country as a whole. The average salary is R$910.00. Improved employment and higher income boosted consumption: half of households has plasma or LCD TVs, computers and microwaves. Some 99% of residents have refrigerators, 91% have an iron, 20% own a car and 13% a bike.

 

Between 2011 and 2014, economic growth averaged only 2.1 percent annually, compared with 4.4 percent in the 2004-2010 period. The recent downturn must largely be blamed on economic policies implemented by Dilma’s first administration (2010-14). This policy change sought to reduce the state’s role of directly promoting the expansion of aggregate demand through fiscal stimulus and promoting supply side structural change through public investment (done quite successfully until 2010). In an attempt to reduce the rising criticism from firms, banks, part of the Congress, and the media, the government performed its about-face, admitting it was intervening “too much” in the economy. Thus followed a shift in the government’s economic role to provide incentives (generous, unconditional tax cuts to firms) for private investment in the hopes that the business sector would lead (instead of follow) economic growth. This policy utterly failed.

 

Instead of reverting to the previous successful policies of 2005-10, and improving long-term planning (through better technological and infrastructure policies), the second Rousseff administration fully committed itself to the policies proposed by the neoliberal opposition. The underlying purpose is to generate enough unemployment to weaken the bargaining power of workers. This power was, perhaps inadvertently, greatly increased by a tight labor market between 2006 and 2014 and the PT government’s social policies. Unemployment had fallen markedly, and average real wages in the formal sector increased at a steady average of 3 percent per year beginning in 2006. In 2015, the PT government moved to take decisive action against this. The generation of unemployment via austerity policies, and shifts in distribution away from wages, gave rise to a political climate in which it is possible to roll back the size and importance of the Brazilian state in the economy. This sudden and drastic betrayal of the ruling party’s own working class base was a reaction to growing criticism of the first Rousseff administration’s economic policies from the powerful conservative private sector.

 

Immediately following the October 2014 elections, in the wake of Dilma’s victory, the government consented to do whatever the “market” – i.e., big private business, the opposition and the media –wishes. It was the subsequent austerity policies, coupled with the government’s disastrous reaction to the Petrobras scandal – more so than any changes in international economic conditions – that triggered the current deep recession. This puts many of the gains at stake, and lays bare the fact that, although income inequality has fallen, when considering income held by the top 10% compared to the bottom 10%, very little has changed since 2003.

 

Income ratio, top 10% to bottom 10% in Brazil from mid-90s to 2010 (World Bank)

Government spending has been cut in the most arbitrary and unsustainable ways, and the recession provoked by fiscal, monetary, exchange rate and income policies (increasing the monitored prices of public utility services), together with the fall in the value of exports, has predictably cut fiscal revenues drastically, leading to a major currency devaluation and increased public utility prices. Public investment has collapsed.

 

Brazil’s 2010 national census brought a surprise. For the first time, the total number of citizens who self-identified as either black or mixed race represented a majority: 50.7%. In the prior census (2000), most respondents (53.7%) self-identified as white. Far from any increase in the birth rate, the explanation for this phenomenon was no doubt a rise in self-esteem the black population experienced and asserted, perhaps in part a result of affirmative action policies that were introduced during the Lula administration and extended by the Rousseff administration. According to IBGE, between 2003 and 2013, the income of black and mixed-race Brazilians grew 51.4%, while that of the white population increased 27.8%. Nevertheless, black income still stands at only 57.4% of that of the white population – an indication that there is still far more to do on the affirmative action front.

 

Affirmative action policies were introduced in Brazil toward the start of the Lula administration, with the 2003 adoption of Law 10,639, which made compulsory the teaching of Afro-Brazilian history and culture in schools across the country. In 2011, Law 12,519 was enacted by President Rousseff, which established November 20th as National Black Consciousness Day. She later signed into law two more pieces of legislation – the first, establishing quotas for Afro-Brazilian in higher education and the other establishes quotas in the federal civil service positions that are filled via competitive examinations. Lula and Dilma tripled the number of Afro-Brazilian students in higher education. In 2001, only 10.2% of them were attending university. By 2012, that percentage reached 37.4%, thanks to several initiatives, including ProUni, which offers scholarships to private colleges and universities; expansion of the federal higher education system; and increasing the number of vacancies (spaces in Brazilian context) at existing universities through programs such as the Program to Support Restructuring and Expansion Plans at Federal Universities (REUNI).

 

Although Afro-Brazilians are still a minority in higher education, this situation is changing, especially thanks to Law 12,711. Signed into law by Rousseff in August 2012, the law requires that federal universities set aside 50% of their enrollments for students who self-identify as black, mixed race, or indigenous – definitions used by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE) – whose family incomes are at or below 1.5x the national per capita minimum wage, and who have graduated from a public high school. Quotas for black, mixed race, and indigenous persons is set forth as the proportion of these populations in each state, according to the IBGE’s Census 2010. Before the law was passed, 18 of Brazil’s 58 federal universities were resistant to the use of any type of quota policy. As of the 2013 federal university entrance exam, through the force of law and with all institutions participating, the number of spots available to those eligible to take advantage of the quota policy rose from 140,000 to 188,000.

Nonetheless, wealthier, lighter-skinned Brazilians are able to send their children to better private schools expanded under Lula, thus guaranteeing their acceptance into even more prestigious colleges and universities. These children go on to find proper jobs, higher salaries, and greater economic benefits. In 2012 alone, a report by BBC News showed that “the average income of a white worker in Brazil’s six main capitals was 2,237 reais ($712.65 USD) a month; for a person of African descent it was 1,255 reais ($399.81).” For example, on the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro, a slum named Maré houses a population of 140,000 residents. Less than 1 percent of these residents had attended a public university as of 2013, and some estimate only 2.2% of Brazilians of African descent have access to higher education. Dilma Rousseff’s approval of the Lei de Cotas Sociais (Law of Social Quotas) was an attempt to level the playing field regarding more opportunities for darker-skinned Brazilians. Through a new quota system, Brazilian schools are now required to leave at 25% of spots open to students in public schools, most of who are darker-skinned. However, students applying under affirmative action must take an exam and must then submit photo identification, where a panel decides if they are actually black. Although the law is supposed to help give Brazilians of all races equal opportunities, Afro-Brazilians may feel that they are only being accepted to fulfill a quota, and not on their merits.

 

With regard to inequality, since the end of 2011, no less than 15 federal ministries have united around a common goal – to ensure full citizenship for people with disabilities. Living Without Limits: A National Plan for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities fulfills the commitment of Worker’s Party (PT) administrations to ensure that such Brazilians can live their lives free of discrimination, maintaining their rights to personal development and autonomy. Living Without Limits asserts the fundamental fact that, although persons with disabilities exist within all social groups and ages, there is a close relationship between extreme poverty and severity of the conditions of an individual’s disability. Motivated by these indicators, the plan pays particular attention to people living in extreme poverty. With a total budget of R$7.5 billion (US$2.6 billion) through the end of 2014, Living Without Limits was organized into four areas – access to education, health care, social inclusion, and accessibility. Extending the rights to education to disabled persons includes making school transportation accessible, architectural adaptation of schools and federal institutions of higher education, implementation of new multi-functional features and upgrading of existing ones, as well as increasing the number of vacancies available in federal professional training courses and technological programs.

By March 2014, 30,000 schools and 59 universities received federal funds to assist them with architectural adaptation projects, which included the purchase of materials and assistive technology equipment that offer assistance, rehabilitation and improvement in the quality of life of people with disabilities. Meanwhile, the My House, My Life 2 initiative assures that people with disabilities will have the right to housing adapted to their physical, sensory, and intellectual capabilities. The program provides for the construction of 1.2 million adapted units and the supply of 20,000 units adapted according to particular disability types, e.g., hearing, visual, physical, intellectual, and dwarfism. Eligible families may have a monthly family income of up to R$1,600.00 (US$ 561.00) and are selected by municipalities, states, the federal district or private nonprofit organizations authorized by the Ministry of Cities, in urban and rural areas. By mid-July 2014, the program had contracted for the construction of 916,763 adapted units, while 11,380 such units were made available to eligible families.

 

Between 2003 and 2014, the reduction of extreme poverty among the Afro-Brazilian population was nearly 72%, according to data courtesy of the National Survey by Household Sampling (PNAD) in 2014 and published by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE). In 2003, 13 of every 100 blacks lived in extreme poverty. Since then, the trend has been downward, and dramatically so, dropping to 6% in 2008, 4.4% in 2012, and finally 3.6% in 2014. Similarly, the overall poverty rate of the black population dropped significantly too, going from 34.2% in 2004, to 18.8% in 2008, to 11.6% in 2012, and finally just 9.9% in 2014. The Ministry of Social Development and Fight against Hunger (MDS) reported that the Brazilian government has (ironically) worked with the World Bank and the the United Nations (UN) to determine this, both of which consider extreme poverty to constitute one that lives on less than R$1.25 per day in purchasing power parity of discretion. With overall poverty, the figure is R$2.50 per day, per capita. Of all families enrolled in the Single Registry for Social Programs of the Federal Government, coordinated by the Ministry of Social Development and Fight against Hunger (MDS), 67% are headed by Afro-Brazilians. In the Bolsa Família, 10.3 million of beneficiaries are Afro-Brazilian, representing 75% of the total.

 

Afro-Brazilian families now have access to technical assistance and more access to water. 166,300 of the households benefiting are headed by blacks receiving support to increase production and improve incomes. In addition, 66% of all tanks deployed to rainwater capture for human consumption and 84% of delivered irrigation were provided just to black families. Overall, just between 2013 and 2014, 18.1% of Afro-Brazilians overcame extreme poverty.

 

Women (Brasileiras) represent 93% of the 14 million families who receive cash transfer income and make its withdrawal courtesy of the Bolsa Família Program. Of these, 68% are black women. Today, they represent 67% of the 1.7 million jobs provided by the National Program for Access to Technical Education and Employment (Pronatec). With qualification, women occupy positions that previously were exclusively male, such as construction. Overall, of the 22 million Brazilians who have overcome extreme poverty in the last half decade, 12 million are women. Indeed, women represent 54% of the population who overcame extreme poverty between 2011 and 2015.

 

Extreme poverty in Brazil fell to 2.8% of the population in 2014, almost a third of the percentage of the population that was living in this condition in 2004 at the beginning of the Bolsa Família Program. The declining trend of extreme poverty in recent years (prior to the severity of the recession) was confirmed by an analysis of microdata in late 2015 from the National Sample Survey of Households (PNAD) released by the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE). Those considered extremely poor are those with a monthly income of up to R$77, the official line used by the Bolsa Família. In ten years, the decline of extreme poverty was more pronounced among children under 5 years old. The percentage fell from over 14% to around 5% of the population in the age group of early childhood, long defined as a priority. In 2014, poverty only reached 7.3% of the population, which represented an impressive drop of almost 70% compared to 2004. On average, household income per capita grew by 2.4%. The share of the poorest 10% of the population recorded the highest increase in income of 6.2% – almost three times the change in the income of the richest 10%. Access to goods such as televisions, refrigerators and stoves is now practically universal in the country, while, for the first time, the share of people with Internet access rose above 50% of the population (54.4%), with growth of over 11% compared to 2013.

 

Income share held by the highest 10% in Brazil (World Bank) / Note: notice a drop of perhaps just 5% or so since the PT assumed power

EDUCATION

 

A high priority during the Lula and Dilma administrations over the last 12 years, Brazilian education has experienced a leap in quality. The budget grew significantly: from R$18 billion in 2002 to R$115.7 billion in 2014. From daycare centers to postgraduate education, and the introduction of full-day school schedules, the changes have been remarkable: progress in vocational and professional education, expansion and strengthening of federal universities into the interior of Brazil, the admission of low-income students in higher education programs and scholarships to some of the best universities in the world. In only 12 years, the government created 422 technical schools — three times more than all previous governments combined over one century of history (140 schools). They created 18 federal universities, 173 campuses and programs such as ProUni and Fies, which made access to higher education more democratic. Result: the country that took five centuries to have 3.5 million young people attending universities needed only 12 years to reach the current level of 7.1 million Brazilian university students. Under the PT, teachers won a national wage base, which has risen 78.7% since it was created in 2009, with a real gain of 35.5%. The National Basic Education Teacher Training Plan guarantees higher education courses to educators who have not yet obtained college degrees. Dilma Rousseff helped create the Science without Borders program, to send thousands of young people to study abroad and the following year created Pronatec for vocational training.

 

More daycare centers, more children and teens in school, more full-time schools, and more funds for the creation of the Basic Education Maintenance and Development Fund (Fundeb). Such are some of the accomplishments in education under the PT. Fundeb was created during the Lula government, in 2007; thereafter, transfers from the federal government to the fund quintupled: from R$2 billion to R$10 billion. The enrollment rate of children aged 0 to 3, which was 11.7% in 2002, reached 21.2% in 2012; 4-5 years increased from 56.7% to 78.2% in the same period; 6-14 years, from 95.8% to 98.2%; and 15-17 years, from 81.5% to 84.2%. Increasingly, more children and young people are studying in better schools, as evidenced by the elevation of the Basic Education Development Index (Ideb).

 

The investment of the Lula and Dilma governments in education witnessed growth at all levels. Between 2000 and 2014, total investment as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) increased from 4.7% to 6.4% — and was estimated to reach 10% in the next ten years, as called for in the National Education Plan, sanctioned in June 2014 by President Rousseff. During these governments, direct public investment per student, including basic education and higher education, increased from R$970.00 in 2000 to R$4,916.00 in 2011. Discounting inflation, the jump was R$1,962.00 to R$4,916.00 per student at all levels of education, which represents a real increase of 2.5 times.

 

The Lula government greatly increased the funds allocated to basic education and improved its distribution throughout the country, thanks to Fundeb. In force since 2007, it replaced Fundef, which was limited to grade school education and teacher training only. Fundeb, in turn, is for all basic education — day-care centers, kindergarten, elementary school, middle school and youth and adult education — and values education professionals as a whole. Made up of funds from taxes and transfers between states and municipalities, Fundeb received, prior to the recession, an annual federal contribution, which grew from R$2 billion in 2007 to R$10.2 billion in 2013.

 

Despite there being so many former presidents with college degrees, for many years, not a single federal university was built in Brazil. The limited number of vacancies was reserved for the privileged few (more often than not residents of state capitals or large cities). The Lula government broke this drought, spreading 14 new universities and 126 new campuses across the country. This is why Brazil created no less than 18 new federal universities and 173 new campuses in just 12 years. Between 2003 and 2013, the number of municipalities with federal higher education institutions doubled, from 114 to 237. The expansion has widened and democratized access to the university system. Furthermore, ten years after the start of implementation of social and racial quotas in the public university system, the absenteeism rate fell and the quality of education increased. It was so successful that in 2012 it was enacted and signed into law by President Rousseff. The Social Quotas Law reserves 50% of all positions in federal universities for those who graduate from public schools. These slots will be distributed among Afro-Brazilian, mixed race and indigenous candidates, in proportion with the ethnic composition of the population of each state.

With Lula and Dilma, by July 2014, 8,647 daycare centers had been contracted; of these, 2,118 were delivered. In addition, for each space occupied by a child through Bolsa Família in existing public or contracted day-care centers, the federal government supplements by 50% the Fundeb funds for the municipality. In 2013, 463,000 Bolsa Família children were enrolled in day-care centers. There is also the goal of the National Pact for Literacy at the Right Age, introduced in November 2012 by the Rousseff government. A commitment was made by the federal government, municipalities, state governments and the Federal District, accepted by all state education secretariats and more than 5,400 municipal departments. Under the pact, by the age of 8, all children must be able to read, understand and produce written text. The federal government invested R$1.6 billion by the end of 2014 in training, educational materials and scholarships for 314,000 literacy teachers. In the last decade, the Lula and Dilma governments created a strong policy to combat illiteracy, with the support of states and municipalities. The Literate Brazil Program provides additional resources for literacy teachers and acquisition and production of teaching materials, along with student meals and transportation. The result of these and other actions was a reduction in youth and adult illiteracy: from 11.5% in 2004 to 8.7% in 2012. In the 15-19 year old bracket, the rate is currently only 1.2%, below the overall average, which demonstrates the effectiveness of such policies for basic education.

 

Enhance learning and reduce inequality. This is the goal of the More Education Program, which lengthened the school day to at least seven hours daily. There are now nearly 50,000 schools offering full-time education – 32,000 of them with Bolsa Família students, who have limited materials and a family-support structure to do their homework. Besides regular courses, students receive additional help in their studies and tutoring in reading, along with sports and leisure activities, communication, arts, digital culture, environmental education, solidarity and creative economic activities, among others.

 

Created by the Lula Administration in 2007, the Road to School Program takes students to where the schools are, safely and comfortably. In the first five years of the project, the Lula and Dilma administrations delivered 27,000 school buses with special specifications for transporting students. More than 5,400 municipalities have benefited from the program, which also offers boats and bicycles to ensure access and retention of students in the school network. Another important advance: during the Lula administration, day-care, kindergarten and middle school students in rural areas, previously not included, won the right to school transportation.

 

Before the Lula government, public day-care centers for children 0-3 years of age did not receive federal funds for food programs. Lula corrected this injustice at the beginning of his administration, and overcame another in 2009, including high school students (8.3 million students in 2013) in the National School Nutrition Program (PNAE). In 2009, it was made mandatory to purchase 30% of school meal supplies from family farmers, strongly benefiting small local farmers and ensuring healthier food for students. Funds for school meals jumped from R$848.5 million in 2002 to R$3.5 billion in 2013.

 

In 2007, the Lula government created Proinfância: the National Program for Restructuring and Equipment Acquisition for the Early Childhood Education Public School Network, which, as of 2011, the Dilma government included in PAC 2. By May 2014, both governments combined had contracted to build 8,579 day-care centers and pre-schools, of which 2,056 were completed. PAC 2 alone contracted 6,036 units to serve 2,702 municipalities in all states. The investment was R$ 6.6 billion. Of these, 30% are in the construction phase and 592 were completed as of 2015.

 

Another opportunity that came in 2004 was the establishment of the University for All Program (ProUni). Thanks to ProUni, 1.4 million needy youngsters won scholarships in higher education private institutions and are becoming doctors, engineers, lawyers, and so on. Besides ProUni, low-income students have another alternative to attend a private higher education institution: the Student Financing Fund (Fies). As of 2010, Fies changed for the better, with interest rates reduced to 3.4% per year, increasing the qualifying period to 18 months (starting from the completion of the course) and lengthening the payback period. In three years, the number of students with Fies support increased more than ten times and in 2013 reached 1.6 million in total — 83% of them from families with income less than one and a half minimum wage per person. In total, about 40% of private higher education students receive support from the federal government, via ProUni or Fies. Of course, private education also has had a downside in Brazil – benefiting primarily the privileged and instilling an individualist mindset. The danger, then, lies in allowing private education to outpace public education, regardless of opportunities granted. Since 2003, the gap has severely widened between the two, giving rise to a technocratic and rather privileged strata of young adults entering the workforce, whose interests are not likely to align with those of millions of working class Brazilians. The demographics of those in conservative demonstrations is proof of this as fact. The schism has thus been very much fostered by the PT and its passivity as state governments run by conservative factions and parties (including the PT) promote the private model and its entrepreneurial values.

 

The first Brazilian to win the presidency without a university diploma, Lula promoted progress in higher education (although in a paternalistic, individualist manner). True, he built 14 new federal universities. Campuses sprang up across the country. He created Reuni, expanding the range of courses and vacancies in the federal universities that existed. He created ProUni, which guaranteed access of needy students to private colleges. In one decade (2003-2013), Brazil doubled the number of enrollments in higher education institutions: from 3.5 million in 2002 to more than 7.1 million in 2014, and it indeed all started with a president who had only a Senai diploma as a lathe operator.

 

It took almost a century (1909 to 2002) just for Brazil to build a broad network of 140 federal technical schools. Lula dropped the absurd restriction of the Cardoso government, which prevented the expansion of federal technical education and, in only eight years, did more than all previous presidents combined: creating 214 federal institutes of education, science and technology throughout the country. Come the end of 2014, there were 208 newly built schools, creating even more opportunities for young people who would previously have trouble finding good jobs. Those close in proximity to universities cannot imagine how hard it is to leave one’s birthplace, family and friends to study in another city in search of a better future. Many would prefer to go, but for lack of circumstance they wind up abandoning their vocation and their dream. The expansion of the Federal Professional Education and Technology Network transformed this reality by offering young people the opportunity to change their destinies without leaving their homes, or traveling just a few kilometers to the nearest campus.

 

Besides the expansion of the Federal Vocational and Technological Education Network, Brazilians throughout the country now have another great opportunity to change their lives: the National Program for Access to Technical Education and Employment (Pronatec). Created in 2011 by the Rousseff government, Pronatec has received 7.6 million enrollments from 4,145 municipalities — 1.3 million of them low-income earners, beneficiaries of the Brasil sem Miséria program. By the end of 2014, there were 8 million students registered. Pronatec offers two types of courses: technical (up to two years), for those who have concluded or are attending high school; and vocational training (up to six months) for workers who want to grow and learn a new profession. In 2015, the Rousseff government launched the second phase of the program, Pronatec 2, with the goal being to offer 12 million vacancies (spots or seats) in 220 technical courses and 646 training courses for students.

 

Pronatec offers more than 500 courses. Among the long duration courses, the most popular are workplace safety technician, information technology, logistics, nursing and mechanic. Among the professional qualification courses, lasting up to six months, the most popular are administrative assistant, computer operator, human resources assistant, electrician and receptionist. All courses are free and students also have the right to books, uniforms, materials for practical class work, meals and transportation assistance. Pronatec seeks to meet regional manpower training demands. In the Amazon, for example, the most popular is the computer technician course, due to the proximity of the Duty Free Zone. In the rural regions, the courses range from plant and flower nursery careers, organic farming and large farm machinery and irrigation systems operators. Of those benefited by Pronatec, 67% are young people up to 29 years old, 59% are women and 28% of enrollments are in the poorer Northeast.

 

Brazil has admittedly made great strides to complete its Millennium Development Goal on education in 2015, which is to ensure universal basic education. The goal involves not only universal access to basic education, but also to assure that teens complete their basic education at the appropriate age. The results justify the optimism. In 2011, 98.3% of children and teens between 7 and 14 years of age were in school. Among children aged four or five years, 78.2% attended school; a decade earlier, only 55% entered school at this age. Moreover, the age-grade distortion, something that discourages students and causes them to drop out, is decreasing. Moreover, Brazil has already met the target of eliminating gender disparities in education: today, the number of girls enrolled is already higher than that of boys.

 

AGRICULTURE & AGRARIAN REFORM

 

It is worth keeping in mind this extremely disturbing fact: 1 percent of the whole population in Brazil still controls almost half the total arable land. Brazil remains one of the most unequal places in the world in terms of land distribution, with one big reason being colonial-era laws that are still on the books. The system is called enfiteuse, and practically speaking, it means that many in Brazil still have to pay property taxes to former Portuguese royals and nobles. It emulates a kind of feudal system that was popular in many parts of Europe centuries ago. However, unlike the leasehold system in England, enfiteuse grants land rights forever. The system is still in place 500 years later. Furthermore, according to Alex Magalhães, a Rio de Janeiro professor, the government would have to pay billions of dollars in compensation if it did away with the practice wholesale. The only way (barring revolutionary agrarian reform) is to fight each case in the courts. It’s quite symbolic of how difficult it is to change the system in Brazil.

On a lighter note, responsible for 70% of the food reaching the tables of Brazilians, family farming became, with Lula and Dilma, a strategic sector in the country’s development. The situation in rural areas, which during the previous governments was characterized by concentration of land holdings, debt and impoverishment, changed to a certain extent when Lula was elected President. Farmers began to have access to integrated policies for credit, technical assistance, marketing, insurance and price supports. Created by Lula in 2003, the Family Farming Plan each year offers more resources and adds new advances. The National Program for Strengthening Family Agriculture (Pronaf) was already in existence, but 76% of family farms did not have access to it. Lula and Dilma extended Pronaf to all of Brazil and multiplied the volume of credit by more than ten times, increasing from R$2.2 billion in 2002/2003 to R$24.1 billion in 2014/2015. It is important to note that Pronaf’s gains since the first year of Lula’s first term were the result of intense negotiations between the federal government and the organizations that represent the industry, such as the National Confederation of Agricultural Workers (Contag), the Family Agriculture Workers Federation (Fetraf Brasil), Landless Workers Movement (MST), the Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB) and the Small Farmers Movement (MPA).

Symbolic of the democratization of land ownership and more job opportunities and higher incomes in rural areas — but considered taboo by conservatives — agrarian reform gained historic momentum during the Lula and Dilma governments, often to no significant extent (as witnessed elsewhere with other agrarian reforms in Latin America), although the two together promoted a record number of settlements, according to Incra: 771,000 families received land ownership titles in a span of 12 years (2003-2015), more than half of the total benefits in the entire history of land reform in Brazil. No fewer than 3,902 settlements were established in every state in the federation, adding 51 million hectares, equal to the territory of Ceará and Mato Grosso do Sul combined — the equivalent of 56% of all land already previously made available for agrarian reform purposes throughout the history of the country. Rather than abandoning them to fend for themselves as in the past, the settlers enjoy the support of credit, technical assistance, construction and housing reform, roads construction, installation of water and electricity, high genetic quality seeds, guaranteed sale of farm production and expansion of school education levels, among other benefits.

 

Upon entering office, Dilma, as expected, continued Lula’s rather conservative politics in the area of land reform and agriculture. His powerful support for agribusiness, particularly soy and corn, over small farms and landless farmers has been one of his biggest failures as president. Thanks to Lula’s encouragement, multinational agro-industrial corporations—including Monsanto, Archer Daniels Midland, Cargill and Syngenta—have expanded their operations throughout the country, increasing their ties with large landowners and Brazilian politicians. As political scientist Miguel Carter notes, “From 2003 to 2007, state support for the rural elite was seven times larger than that offered to the nation’s family farmers, even though the latter represent 87 percent of Brazil’s rural labor force and produce the bulk of food consumed by its inhabitants.” The result of this imbalance is an endless sea of soy plantations, massive cattle ranches and poisonous industrial farms that displace poor Brazilian families and cut down ever larger swaths of rainforest while enriching a handful of global elites.

Although this trend has empowered certain aspects of the Brazilian economy, it has destroyed the countryside and displaced farmers at an unprecedented rate. In the face of Lula’s policies, Brazil’s Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) continued occupying unused land and settling it. Over the past twenty-five years, the MST has expropriated 35 million acres of land, settling some 370,000 landless families.

According to political scientist Benjamin Dangl, “Not only did Lula refuse to redistribute sufficient land to landless farmers, but he actively supported large landowners’ use of toxic fertilizers, pesticides and mono-crops like sugarcane, soybeans, and coffee for export. On the other hand, the MST always advocated for the protection of small-scale-family and community farms, and called for agriculture without pesticides or the use of GMO seeds. This all ran entirely counter to the country’s massive agro-industry lobby and the Lula administration’s stance. Lula’s powerful support for agribusiness over small farms and landless farmers has been one of his biggest failures. Thanks to his encouragement, multinational agro-industrial corporations including Monsanto, ADM, Cargill and Syngenta have vastly expanded their operations throughout hte country, increasing their ties with large landowners and Brazilian politicians [some of whom became large farmers themselves, bought out, so to speak]. The result of this imbalance is an ever-growing landscape of endless seas of soy plantations, massive cattle ranches and poisonous industrial farms that displace poor Brazilian [indigenous] families and cut down ever-larger swaths of rainforest [under the guise of reforestation] while enriching the pockets of a handful of global capitalists. In 2005, Cargill made $4 billion in income in Brazil alone, ethanol production skyrocketed, and in 2008, sugar cane production expanded by 14 percent, to cover 17 million acres” (Dangl 134).

 

In ten years, 470,000 houses were built in settlements and 150,000 families gained access to water for the first time, according to Incra. Encouraging education is another door that yields opportunities for youth and adults in the land reform regions: 385,000 students have benefited from the National Education Program through the Agrarian Reform/Pronera program, with access to secondary and higher education and specialization courses. In 2013, the Dilma government settled 30,359 families, 31% more than in 2012, on a total of 316,000 hectares. According to Incra, on average, only 22% of these lands had been in use. 50% of expropriated properties lacked any productive activities. Debt repayment became easier with discounts of up to 80%. Executive Decree 2013 allowed the renegotiation of the debts of 947,000 settler families, 200,000 with Pronaf. They were then returned to the production credit system, mobilizing 8 million hectares for food production.

 

 

 

 

To further elaborate on agrarian policies under the PT and land occupation struggles, according to a 2011 essay translated by Max Ajl for the Socialism and Democracy Journal:

“Lula’s campaign for his first term in office (2003-06) had the support of the MST. There was the prospect of a government that would aggressively pursue agrarian reform, as this had been one of Lula’s promises. In 2003, members of the MST participated, alongside a group of specialists coordinated by Plinio de Arruda Sampaio, in drawing up the second National Plan for Agrarian Reform (PNRA II). The first PNRA was formulated in 1985 (the Sarney government) under the management of José Gomes da Silva (1987; 1989). The projects introduced by those two historic defenders of agrarian reform were never implemented. In the 1980s, the main opposition to implementing PNRA I came from the countryside, principally with the creation of the Union of Rural Democracy (UDR). In the beginning of the 21st century, agrarian reform’s main opponent is agribusiness, which defends access to the land under its control “without class struggle and without conflict” (Bruno 2008). Market-based agrarian reform, in all of the various guises this policy assumes, is a form of territorial control through commoditization, or the commercialization of land, removing agrarian reform from the terrain of politics and shifting it to that of the capitalist economy.

This new conjuncture has redefined the correlation of forces and blocks any agrarian reform that would impinge on territories owned by agribusiness. An agrarian reform will take place, but mainly on public lands in the Amazon. This conjuncture presents a fresh challenge for peasant movements. The governments of Fernando Henrique Cardoso (FHC, 1995-2002) and Lula created more settlements than any other government since the 1985]re-democratization of Brazil. About 80% of the settlements, and of the families and area settled, took place during these two governments’ time in office, as can be seen in tables 1 and 2. These two tables make clear that agrarian reform only occurs alongside the organization of peasant movements, through land occupations. A policy of agrarian reform is not only a State action. Before that, it is the work of peasant movements. Without a struggle for land there is no agrarian reform.”

 

According to updated 2014 DATALUTA statistics on agrarian reform, since Lula was elected (2003-2014), there have been at least 4,774 land occupations (officially recorded) by as many as 596,182 families.

 

The essay continues: “The first term of the Lula government began with great expectations for the passage of an agrarian reform. Peasant movements carried out the largest number of occupations – in terms of both land occupied and families participating – in the history of the struggle for land in Brazil. In contrast to the policies of FHC in his second term, which criminalized occupations, the Lula government always talked with peasant movements. Nevertheless, it also created a new agrarian reform policy that, paradoxically, has at once advanced and set back the struggle for land and for agrarian reform. Agribusiness is part of the alliance of interests that supports the Lula administration. President Lula has made clear statements of admiration for agribusiness. As we noted earlier, agribusiness is appropriating the lands of the latifundia and wants to maintain a stock of land in reserve for the near future, principally for the expansion of sugarcane production for biofuels. The Lula government has discreetly refrained from expropriating land in regions of interest to corporations, so as to guarantee agribusiness’s political support. Likewise, in regions where land has been declared to be illegally held (that is, public land controlled by latifundistas or agribusiness), the government has refrained from strong action – i.e. expropriation. Only occupations accompanied by open conflict have persuaded the government to negotiate with agribusiness to cede some fraction of the fought-over territory.

Taking advantage of the experience accumulated in the creation of settlements, the Lula government has invested much more in the regularization of peasant land-holdings in Amazonia than in the expropriation of new lands for the creation of new agrarian reform settlements. The policy choice of the Lula regime – to refrain from carrying out an agrarian reform by expropriation, and instead to do so mainly through the regularization of tenuous land-holdings – has generated a problem for the peasant movements that have contributed most to carrying out land occupations. The MST is responsible for 63% of the families involved in land-occupations between 2000 and 2007 (373,000 families out of a total of 583,000). In 2007, close to 70,000 families occupied land, of which 45,000 were organized by the MST (DATALUTA, 2008). The policy of the Lula government has affected the MST. The predominance of settlement creation through the regularization of tenuous land-holdings has led to a considerable increase in the time families spend in temporary encampments. Without victory, many families abandon the camps, thereby diminishing pressure on the government. The compensation policy of the Bolsa Familia program – a largely insignificant, auxiliary monthly payment – also reduced the potential power of organized movements.”

 

Just looking at settlements alone, themselves more like encampments than anything even resembling agrarian reform, during the first term of Dilma, the number of settlers was lower than that recorded by Lula in his first and his second mandate and Fernando Henrique Cardoso in each of his two governments. From 2011-2014, 107,354 landless families benefited from the federal government, according to the National Institute of Colonization and Agrarian Reform (INCRA). Under the Lula and FHC governments, the number of settlers was never less than 200,000. The Rousseff government, more so than the Lula government, chose the model of neo-development in the agribusiness field. The total area allocated for land reform in the Dilma government was also much smaller than in previous governments. There were just 2.9 million hectares of land allocated in four years. Before, the worst mark was during the second government of FHC (8.6 million hectares). The Rousseff administration’s excuse was that its goal was always to “combine quantity and quality,” converting the settlements into integrated autonomous rural communities, a difference from previous governments. This was no more successful than the pathetic attempt at agrarian reform under the guise of paltry settlements and the meager paternalistic benefits courtesy of Bolsa Família.

 

Using the GINI index to locate rates of inequality by regions in Brazil circa 2014 (INCRA)

According to the Comissão Pastoral da Terra (CPT), 2015 was marked by the dismantling of government agencies and public funding cuts for Agrarian Reform and demarcation of quilombo and indigenous territories. The alliance of the Brazilian State and agribusiness intensified, directly reaching all the peoples of the field. Violence against peasant and indigenous communities was practiced not only by the logic of capitalism, but also by the Brazilian State. The number of murders in the country grew, the destruction of forests has increased, and the use of poison was expanded. Resources were cut and nature is, increasingly, the mother lode of capitalist enterprises. Maintaining a close alliance with agribusiness led to the worsening of the violence experienced by peasant communities fighting for rights. The Northeast was the region where there was more conflict between agribusiness and the landless, representing 35% of cases across the country. Then came the North, with 27% of cases, the Midwest with 17%, the Southeast with 15% and finally the south of the country with 5.5%. The number of murders in the country was the highest since 2004. There were 49 recorded killings of campesino/as, mostly squatters, landless and agrarian reform settlers. Official data from the Federal Government indicated that there was an increase of 16% of the Amazon deforestation between August 2014 and July 2015, compared to the same period in 2014. The states of Amazonas (54%), Rondônia (41%) and Mato Grosso (40%) were the ones who suffered most from the increase, which was more pronounced in the old and well-known arc of deforestation (the border region of soybean expansion and livestock, advancing on the heart of the Amazon). This fact reveals the growing trend of deforestation caused by the capitalist accumulation incentive of the State itself to allow the expansion of such nefarious activities on the forest, including the territories of traditional peoples and communities. That being said, land occupations also gained strength in 2015. According to CPT data, 34% of the occupied estates are located in the Northeast, 26% in the Midwest, 17% in the Southeast, 11.5% in the South and finally 11% North.

 

1.4% of all existing properties hold ownership over 40% of all total rural land as of 2013 (INCRA)

According to research published in January 2013 on rural land by INCRA, this was the situation in the distribution of land in Brazil in 2013: 60% or 5.6 million consolidated rural properties. A republic of latifundio: Of those 5.6 million existing properties, 78,700 (only 1.4%) concentrate (and thus own) about 40% of the total area of rural land. 13% is comprised of Indigenous Peoples, whose lands are 5 times smaller than the total area of rural properties in Brazil. They are made up of about 567,000 people. 27% translates to a country of farms in urban areas. Protected areas and other public areas account for less than half of the area occupied by all the farms in Brazilian territory.

HEALTH CARE

 

Twice during the Lula and Dilma governments conservative forces joined together to overthrow proposals to ensure more funding and expand medical care in underserved areas and cities: the Provisional Contribution on Financial Transactions (CPMF) and the More Doctors program. Defeating the government in the National Congress in late 2007, these conservative forces succeeded in ending the CPMF. From night to day, R$40 billion annually was removed from the Federal Budget. These were the funds the 0.38% tax on checks provided the Single Health System (SUS). The result is that, even without the CPMF, never has there been so much invested in health in Brazil as in these last 12 years: per capita use increased from R$244.80 in 2003 to R$413.00 in 2013. In addition, the More Doctors program has become a reality that benefits 50 million Brazilians. The 14,000 professionals hired through the More Doctors program through May 2014 came to strengthen the basis of primary health care in Brazil: the Family Health Strategy, bringing to over 34,000 the number of teams prepared for the daily monitoring of the health of populations on the peripheries of large and medium cities and in small municipalities in the backlands of the interior.

 

Late 2015 saw a celebration of two years of the Mais Médicos (More Doctors) program introduced by Dilma Rousseff. The poorest Brazilians now have access to improved health services, especially in primary care. Municipalities that have joined Mais Médicos saw an increase of 33% in the number of consultations as opposed to only 15% observed in cities that did not join the program. The expansive presence of professionals has yielded results, with an increase in the number of queries and reduced hospitalizations in municipalities under the program, according to Health Minister Arthur Chioro. Most municipalities that have joined it were of high social vulnerability areas, meaning more pregnant women are being better cared for and babies growing more healthy. In just two years of existence, the Mais Médicos program has already seen the emergence of 18,200 professionals in more than 4,000 cities in need and, perhaps most impressively, in all Brazilian indigenous districts.

 

What good comes from a visit to a doctor without the money to buy medicine, even though one must begin treatment immediately? For millions of Brazilians, the right to health care was limited to a mere consultation at a clinic or with specialists, but was not accompanied by another basic right: access to the items needed to ensure a healthy life and proper treatment. Thus, the government increased subsidies for medicines and, in June 2004, created a distribution network for them, the Popular Pharmacy, which now also distributes free pharmaceuticals for the most common chronic diseases to Brazilians of all social classes, gender and regions. The most benefited, however, were the elderly, who previously lived with the burden of having their quality of life hopelessly compromised by the weight of the cost of drugs on household budgets. Diabetes and hypertension are chronic diseases, manageable and well known both to lay people and experts. Even so, they are the main causes of death in Brazil and worldwide. In 2008, they were related to at least 62% of deaths with known causes in the country. It was necessary to prevent the deaths of more Brazilians.

Created in 2011, the Health Has No Price program requires an investment of R$1.3 billion per year for hypertension and diabetes, and R$59.1 million for asthma. The Program distributes 11 types of medication for hypertension and diabetes, benefiting about 2.3 million diabetics and 11.6 million hypertensive patients who cannot afford medicines or would harm their quality of life if they needed to stay on treatment for long periods. The Ministry of Health believes that, thanks to the program, up to 40% of strokes and 25% of heart attacks can be prevented. In 2012, three drugs against asthma, a disease that is a leading cause of hospitalizations of children, also began to be distributed for free. The result was noticed immediately: the number of children hospitalized with asthma declined 16% after the distribution began. In absolute numbers, 20,000 children did not require hospitalization. Establishments that are part of the Popular Pharmacy network offer free medication for the chronic diseases that most affect Brazilians. Today there are over 800 medications offered for free by the Unified Health System (SUS). In 2014, another 56 new drugs joined this list. Between 2000 and 2011, AIDS mortality rates fell 12%.

 

Currently, the Popular Pharmacy program provides 113 items through its the network maintained by the Ministry of Health. Through the private network, wherever the This Is A Popular Pharmacy seal is displayed, 25 items are subsidized for consumers. The Popular Pharmacy network exists in 4,119 municipalities, but that number continues to grow because, as a result of the Brasil sem Miséria program, pharmacies and drugstores in Brazilian municipalities in extreme poverty have been given priority in the registration process. The list of drugs provided free by the Single Health System for Brazilians who cannot afford treatment increases every two years, when the Ministry of Health updates the list. This was the case prior to the recession and coup, at least. In one decade, the number of medications increased 140%. In 2002, 352 drugs were available to the population; now there are 844, all proven to be effective. With most medications, there are more alternatives available for patients who no longer respond to treatments that had been used before, as well as demonstrate the possibility of cure for rare diseases. Since 2012, 56 drugs have been approved by the Ministry of Health and were offered to the population as of 2014. The list included at least 900 medications. Patients of diseases such as hepatitis C, breast cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, pulmonary arterial hypertension, non-Hodgkin lymphoma of the follicular type, HIV, lung cancer and respiratory infections were to benefit.

 

Among the portion of the population considered most vulnerable, two groups are even more vulnerable to the consequences of poverty: children and women. It was vital to create and execute specific public policies for mothers and their children. Primary care has been expanded and reorganized to assist them as of the pre-natal period, encouraging normal childbirth, breastfeeding and vaccination follow-ups. The Stork Network and modernization of hospitals have doubtlessly made Brazil a healthier place. One indicator not so well known to the public, neonatal mortality, i.e., infants under 27 days old, declined during the Lula government: 15.4 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2002 to 10.2 in 2010.

 

For poor Brazilians over a number of generations, becoming pregnant was to start an adventure with an unpredictable outcome. The Stork Network was created so that mothers and babies are a top priority before, during and just after childbirth. Nearly 5,000 municipalities in the program ensure the quality and humanization of birth, from prenatal care until a child is two years old. By the end of 2014, the Stork Network had invested R$9.4 billion in actions such as Centers for Childbirth and the Pregnancy and Baby Clinics. In 2012, the first year of full operation of the Stork Network, 20,765,796 prenatal consultations were conducted. By the end of 2014, the hospitals of reference for pregnant women considered to be at high risk — with diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, heart disease or infections — rose from 196 to 390, with 3,822 beds, 53% more than existed in the country in late 2013. The hospitals have received more funds for each medical or surgical procedure in high-risk pregnancies.

 

 

To strengthen the prevention of dozens of diseases that can be fatal, in almost every year since 2003, new vaccines have been incorporated by the SUS system into the official vaccination schedule. The new vaccines began to be introduced in 2003. In that year, children began to be protected against chickenpox and hepatitis A. Just as important as is the supply of vaccines is the scope of coverage, which now reaches 95% of all children through 35,000 health care locations.

Five years ahead of schedule, Brazil reduced by half the number of deaths caused by tuberculosis. The Brazilian strategy to combat HIV/AIDS serves as a model for all other countries, while the incidence of vaccine-preventable diseases has fallen sharply in recent years. To cite some examples, between 2001 and 2011, the incidence of diphtheria in children under five dropped by 70%; the number of cases of neonatal tetanus dropped by 85% and congenital rubella was reduced to zero. The target of reducing the maternal mortality ratio (number of deaths per 100,000 live births) is progressing towards its goal: the rate decreased 23% over 10 years. Comprehensive health care of women has not been limited to pregnancy and maternity issues. Attention to heart, vascular disease and cancer — especially breast and cervical cancer — reduced female mortality between 2000 and 2010 by 12%.

 

It would seem obvious in a country with so many cities and so many communities in isolated places that there should be an emergency care system to help those in need of emergency assistance. It was an obvious need, yes, but until 2003, Brazil had nothing similar to the Mobile Emergency Care Service (SAMU). Emergency care depended on the support of the Fire Department. Many people who did not have a private health plan were rescued in vans converted into precarious ambulances or in cars owned by relatives, or they simply had to depend on the solidarity of others. The dire situation began to change in 2003 with the decision of President Lula to create the emergency medical care service, SAMU. By June 2014, 2,926 municipalities had already received 3,182 ambulances. No less than 74.5% of the Brazilian population is now covered by the SAMU service. In 2013, the Ministry of Health increased the funds allocated to municipalities for the maintenance of the SAMU system by 19%. The value increased from R$744 million a year to R$884.2 million.

 

Until recently, poverty and social exclusion seemed like natural phenomena, far removed from a situation that could be transformed by political decisions and populist government programs. After decades of growth without distribution and blind faith in the ability of free markets to provide income balance among Brazilians, the results of the decisive role of state intervention in conducting inclusive economic and social policies are there for all to see (again, albeit with serious limitations). Under the PT, 36 million Brazilians have emerged from extreme poverty, and thanks to Bolsa Família, 42 million rose to the “class C” (i.e., lower middle class).

 

If it is true that all segments of society had earned income in recent years, for the first time in decades, inevitably provoking the ire of the wealthy (culminating in the 2016 coup), the poorest wound up winning in comparison: between 2003 and 2012, the poorest 10% had cumulative growth of real per capita income of 107%, while the richest saw a 37% increase in accumulated income, according to a telling study from the Institute of Applied Economic Research (IPEA). Thus, the real gains were seemingly almost three times higher for Brazilians who were more socially vulnerable. This alone could not be sustained within the limited parameters of a coalition made up of wealthy conservative reactionaries and capitalists forced to bite their tongues conceding such losses in potential profits to the oppressed.

 

The Gini Index is a measure of income inequality that ranges between 0 and 1 – the closer the result is to 0, the more egalitarian supposedly is the society (its accuracy is obviously subject to debate and suspect at best). Nonetheless, the evolution of the index from 2002 to 2012 demonstrates the continued decline of inequality in Brazil. This is quite the opposite of what happened in the 1990s, when the concentration of income increased on at least two occasions. In Russia, China and India, for example, countries that form the “alternative” block of “emerging nations” called BRICS, economic growth has generated more inequality, according to a survey of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Here, the recovery of wages of the poorest workers and income transfer programs from the Lula and Dilma governments were seemingly decisive for the reduction of the social chasm confirmed by this formula used worldwide.

 

Created in 2003 as a strategy for fighting poverty and hunger, the Food Purchasing Program (PAA) has changed the lives of at least 188,000 families. Previously, these family farmers, agrarian reform settlers, indigenous peoples and quilombolas (descendants of escaped slaves) produced only for means of subsistence, or were forced to sell to middlemen, who took most of the profit. Most of the PAA beneficiaries are in the Northeast; family farmers like those in General Sampaio, in the Ceará back-country region known as the “sertão.”

Besides ensuring a market with fair prices for family farmers, the PAA has led to increases in the varieties of foodstuffs produced, encouraging healthy meals using the freshest produce. In ten years, the program reached 3,915 municipalities nationwide. Most farmers enrolled in the PAA are in the Northeast (44%), followed by the South (24%), Southeast (20%), North (8%) and Center-West (4%), according to the MDA. The Family Farm program is responsible for the production of about 70% of the food consumed in Brazil, according to the Agricultural Census (2006) conducted by IBGE, including cassava (87%), beans (70%), swine (59%), milk (58%), poultry (50%), corn (46%), coffee (38%), rice (34%), beef (30%), wheat (21%) and soybeans (16%). In 2009, the Family Farm Program also began providing food for public schools. Law 11,947/09 provides that at least 30% of the funds of the National School Meal Program (PNAE) must be used for the purchase of family farm production, primarily by settlers from land reform and traditional indigenous and quilombola communities.

 

Over the course of 12 years (2003-2015), prior to the coup, millions of Brazilians who had previously had nothing to eat achieved food security by securing formal jobs. They also enjoyed wage increases, access to education, improved health care, decent housing, urban mobility, and greater respect for diversity. Women, Afro-Brazilians, children and adolescents, the elderly, people with disabilities, the LGBT population (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender), as well as victims of exclusion, discrimination, abuse, and violence in general, gained, at the very least, more visibility. Society’s most vulnerable sectors benefited from inclusion, protection, and opportunities. Brazil advanced as never before in human rights, with the creation of two key departments, both with ministerial status – the Department of Policies for Women and the Department for the Promotion of Racial Equality. Some of the other accomplishments worth mentioning are listed below:

• Approval of the Maria da Penha Law on Domestic and Family Violence, a landmark in the struggle of women against domestic abuse.

• Creation of the Truth Commission to investigate and make public human rights violations that occurred between 1946 and 1988.

• Approval of Brazilian Law 12,711/2012, which implemented social and racial quotas for federal universities and institutes.

• Creation of the National Council for Combating Discrimination/LGBT.

• Creation of the National Council for Human Rights (CNDH), which includes broad participation from civil society.

• Holding the 1st National LGBT Conference.

• Approval of an amendment to the federal constitution on slave labor, which empowers the Brazilian government to confiscate rural and urban properties where slave-like working conditions exist.

• Establishment of a toll-free hotline (Dial 180) to receive complaints related to violence against women.

• Introduction of the National Plan for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities: Living Without Limits.

• Expansion of a toll-free hotline (Dial 100), which receives complaints of human rights violations being committed against any citizen(s), especially vulnerable groups such as children and adolescents, LGBT individuals, the elderly, persons with disabilities, and the homeless.

• Enactment of Brazilian Law 10,639/2003, which mandates the teaching of Afro-Brazilian history and culture in schools across the country.

• Approval of Brazilian Law 12,978/2014, which classifies sexual abuse of children and adolescents as a heinous crime.

• Approval of the Anti-Spanking Law, which establishes the right of children and adolescents be educated without the use of corporal punishment.

• Creation of the National System to Prevent and Combat Torture, which sets forth the means to monitor, supervise and control legal establishments and facilities where persons are deprived of their freedom, and promotes protection of the rights and interests of these individuals.

• Signing of the National Commitment to Active Aging, which seeks to value, promote and defend the rights of the elderly, with activities involving 17 ministries, as well as the governments of Brazil’s several states, the federal district and municipalities.

• Establishment of the Special National Office on Indigenous Health, which came about in response to a historic demand from indigenous movements.

THE PERSISTENCE OF SLAVE LABOR

Between 2003 and 2013, over 40,000 workers were rescued from slave-like situations. This was the result of a struggle since the earliest days of the Lula administration, when it established the National Commission for the Eradication of Slave Labor (CONATRAE). A collegial body composed of government representatives, workers, employers and civil society, CONATRAE’s mission is to track and coordinate initiatives set forth in the 1st and 2nd National Plans for the Eradication of Slave Labor (PNETE) – which were implemented in 2003 and 2008, respectively, by the Lula administration – as well as monitor the processing of bills in Congress and technical cooperation projects signed between the Brazilian government and international organizations. As a result of guidelines set forth in the Plans for the Eradication of Slave Labor and CONATRAE proposals, actions have been taken to prevent workers from becoming ensnared in slave labor, stepping up enforcement initiatives and implementing a service program for workers who have been freed from slave-like labor. One of the highlights of these efforts has been the creation of the “Lista Suja,” which is a database available to the general public that lists the names of “dirty” employers that have been convicted at the administrative level for using slave labor. Those on the list are restricted from accessing credit at official banks. The list, which is updated every six months, can be accessed here. In June 2014, Brazil’s Congress approved Constitutional Amendment 81, known as the Proposed Constitutional Amendment (PEC) on Slave Labor, which provides for the confiscation of rural and urban properties on which workers have been subjected to slave-like conditions. Confiscated properties are then repurposed for agrarian reform initiative or public housing programs. Specific regulations pertaining to this PEC remain in need of being drafted, an impossibility now due to the coup.

Journalist and author Greg Grandin’s research on the issue of slavery in Brazil gives another side to the story that puts into perspective the impunity and power slavers have had and used to their advantage:

“Many different class and status interests have allied, using the cudgel of ‘anti-corruption,’ to both deflect away from their own venality and begin the rollback of the mildly redistributionist policies of the PT. When slavery is mentioned, it is usually as legacy. Brazil imported more enslaved Africans than any other American nation, and was the last country in the hemisphere to abolish the institution, in 1888. As is the case of nations historically founded on settler colonialism and slavery, the PT’s federal economic policy directed at alleviating poverty and lessening inequality is racialized. But actually slavery still exists in Brazil, in the Amazon, and increasingly on the interior’s soybean plantations [given free rein to do as they please under the PT]. Modern-day slavery is, as an official with the Ministry of Labor put it, a ‘key part of the globalized, export-oriented economy Brazil thrives on.’ Workers are coerced either through violence or debt to provide uncompensated labor and forced to endure the most inhumane conditions. They forge pig iron that goes into Brazil’s steel industry, harvest soy, clear rainforests, cut sugar cane, and serve as domestic workers. The PT also stepped up efforts to ‘emancipate’ modern slaves: In 2003 a national plan to eradicate slave labor updated the criminal statute and introduced a system of labor prosecutors and judges. Between 2003 and 2015, ‘the government rescued 44,483 workers from what it calls conditions analogous to slavery.

The ‘dirty list,’ along with the other abolitionist initiatives of the PT, provoked a backlash by those economic interests who profit from modern-day slavery. In late 2014, the country’s Supreme Court, which has been steadfast in its support of Dilma’s impeachers, issued an injunction against her Ministry of Labor to suspend the release of a new list of slavers. The ruling was made on behalf of Brazil’s real-estate and developer’s association. And many of those interests, including planter-statesmen such as Beto Mansur, were found among those pushing for Dilma’s ouster and the destruction of the PT. The Brazilian agro-industry’s main lobbying group, the Confederação Nacional da Agricultura e Pecuária, which endorses Dilma’s ouster, has been opposing the “dirty list” for years. An investigation by Repórter Brasil, an NGO that works against forced labor, revealed that the political parties behind the impeachment (including the Partido do Movimento Democrático do Brasil, the party of Eduardo Cunha, the former congressional leader of Brazil’s lower house who organized the impeachment) are the ones that received the most political donations from companies that profited from slave labor.

Many of the politicians [that sought] to oust Dilma got spectacularly rich, or represent others who got spectacularly rich, during the good times of the PT’s first decade in office, roughly from 2003 to 2013, running through Lula’s two terms and Dilma’s first. Yet they never, ever accepted the idea that they should subordinate their particular interests to the larger PT political project—despite the fact that it was that project, including mild redistribution, that boosted domestic consumption and got them spectacularly rich. Soybean export soared under PT rule, giving rise to a whole class of heartland barons, some of whom, including men like Mansur, hold seats in Congress. And despite the PT’s aggressive efforts to eradicate modern slavery, forced labor actually increased under its rule, as the industries that used forced labor—among them soy, ethanol, and sugar—grew.”

 

The fight against drought is a historic fight. The Northeast has access to less than 5% of the country’s water reserves. In addition, the region has the lowest incidence of rainfall in all of Brazil’s territory. There, usually, it rains between December and April; but climate change has altered this routine. Drought kills off vegetation and animals, diminishes farm production, inflicts hunger and poverty. Meanwhile, according to a report titled “Progress on Sanitation and Drinking Water, 2014” (Organização Mundial da Saúde – OMS/UNICEF), at least 4 million Brazilians still didn’t have access to a bathroom in 2014.

 

AUSTERITY UNDER THE PT

It was under Dilma Rousseff’s watch that Law 13,260/16 (formerly Bill 2016/2015) was approved (albeit with reservations and some removed parts). The approval of this anti-terrorism law could prove to be serious blow to Brazil’s now fragile democracy. In countries like Egypt and Tunisia, where similar laws are already in effect, they are used to arbitrarily silence protesters. Thousands of Brazilian citizens, among them renowned activists, academics and relatives of victims of Brazil’s former military dictatorship, sent letters to Rousseff denouncing the law. She has defended it on the grounds that it was only meant to apply to the Olympic Games in Rio and that the dangerous, vague parts of the bill were taken out. The definition of the crime of condoning terrorism was fully removed from the text. Article 4 had established a prison sentence of up to 13 years and four months for anyone encouraging or inciting, on the internet, a demonstration considered a terrorist act. The presidential vetoes also removed the clauses on acts against public and private property or computer systems that are not attacks on life (items II and III of article 2). She also vetoed the increased prison sentence in cases of environmental damage (article 8) – which could include, for example, graffiti – and the clause that extends prison sentences to anyone who harbors people that commit the crime of terrorism (paragraphs 1 and 2 of article 3). Thus, the vetoes correct some critical points of the text, but it remains a completely unnecessary law subject to possible manipulation by the coup government for the sake of repression against social movements.

Furthermore, the end of Kirchnerismo in Argentina has proven the Argentinian Left is more mobilized now against neoliberal Mauricio Macri and less depoliticized than what the PT’s clever maneuvers and buying of time achieved, leading to the current crisis. From pension reforms to the largest body of privatizations through private concessions in Brazilian history (including part of Petrobras, hydrodams, roads, etc), Lula’s bureaucratization of the labour union system by giving more power to the central unions over the individual labour unions, subsidies for corporate media monopolies, worsened access to employment insurance and other employment benefits, and so on, the PT’s contradictions solidify its reputation as a party of betrayal to its founding principles and initial struggles.

As Tatiana Cozzarelli and Leandro Lanfredi recently summarized: “The PT emerged out of working-class struggle. In the early 1980s, metalworker strikes in Sao Paulo marked the end of the dictatorship’s complete control over workers and labor. Lula da Silva, then president of the steelworkers’ union, became a major figure in the labor movement during these strikes. He went on to create the Workers’ Party as well as the CUT (national labor confederation), creating a division between the PT’s political party and their labor organization; in other words, between the political superstructure and labor’s economic struggles. The PT years greatly expanded access to a university education. At the same time, however, the education system was highly privatized; large government loans were handed over to corporate executives. Free public university education has limited spaces and students are selected based on a highly competitive standardized test. Therefore, most spots are taken by students from wealthy families who can afford test prep classes and quality private schools, making free public education inaccessible to the vast majority of Brazil’s working class. During the Lula years, everything seemed in order: he used to say, ‘All sides are winning,’ yet this concealed the underlying contradictions. The working class was scraping by, while the wealthy were profiting. The measures that alleviated the conditions of the working class were minimal compared to the massive profits raked in by the banks, commodity industries and industries in general. Of the 10 million jobs created during Lula’s two terms, over 90 percent paid less than 1,500 reais per month (about $450 USD). Furthermore, the PT implemented pension reforms that obligated public employees to work more years before retirement. Even prior to taking executive office, the PT held local and statewide positions and operated like any other neoliberal party, privatizing industries and betraying strikes.

As the economic crisis deepened, the PT could no longer maintain the social pact that it represented and sold itself to. From December 2015 to April, over one million workers joined the ranks of the unemployed; the unemployment rate jumped from 6 percent to over 10 percent in less than two years. The crisis has made it impossible for all sides to “win” or even maintain the illusion that they are winning. The PT has made clear that they will implement cuts and austerity measures, forcing workers to pay for the economic crisis. Dilma Rousseff was re-elected in October 2014 while campaigning on an anti-austerity platform. However, once in office she implemented harsh austerity. She even cut down many of the education reforms that the PT implemented – in one case, cutting the available seats in the technical college program by half. It is notable that the impeachment was orchestrated by the PT’s political allies. In the past, these right wing figures were not opposed or criticized by the PT government, which used this alliance of convenience to gain the presidency. The PT dug its own grave by allying with these forces to maintain power. Its strategy of class conciliation has proven an utter and complete failure, with its former right wing allies spearheading impeachment efforts and the working class nowhere to be seen. powerful business lobbies and perceived a situation in which the media, the judiciary powers, and sectors of the middle class supported Dilma’s impeachment.

The division between the PT’s political party and its labor organization, CUT, was maintained during the impeachment proceedings. In the past, the Brazilian working class has engaged in strikes and work stoppages against cutoffs and other measures taken by the bosses or the government. The CUT engaged in these struggles only when given great pressure by its base to organize an action. Likewise, the CUT did not put up a real fight against the current right wing coup, largely because the PT did not want them to. The CUT called for inoffensive rallies that were more spectacle than struggle. This is particularly egregious when one considers that the CUT has approximately 25 million workers in its ranks, within strategic sectors of the economy, including metal, oil and banking sector workers. Yet CUT did not call for a single strike, assembly or picket – working class methods of struggle to challenge the impeachment. Why would the PT, a party that emerged from the great metal worker strikes of the 80s refrain from employing all of the weapons in its arsenal to fight the coup? The answer is because the PT is implementing budget cuts and privatization, attacking workers and making them pay for the economic crisis. If the PT were to unleash the power of the working class to fight against the impeachment, who is to say that they won’t fight against the PT and their austerity measures next?

CUT opened the way for the coup by its lack of resistance, showing more fear of working class radicalization than of the right wing coup. Instead of employing the CUT to fight against the impeachment, Lula attempted to form more coalitions by unsuccessfully trying to buy off right-wing representatives. Meanwhile, students have occupied nearly one hundred schools in Rio de Janeiro in support of teachers who have been on a month-long strike demanding increased wages and denouncing constant delays in pension distributions. Throughout the country, university students are fighting against the PT’s cuts to the education budget. The defeat of the PT is not synonymous with the defeat of Brazil’s working class. The essential lesson in Brazil is that one cannot characterize a movement solely by what happens, but rather, by who is the primary subject. Certainly, if the working class were to mobilize and oust the governing party due to its cuts and betrayals, it would signal a major advance in a revolutionary process. However, a victory by the right while the working class passively watches is far from revolutionary, or even progressive.”

The underlying structure of the Brazilian economy has not experienced any substantive transformation. Capital has continued accumulating in Brazil mainly by producting for protected domestic (or regional) markets. Just prior to the PT era beginning, Lula’s electoral manifesto made it obvious he posed no threat unlike Hugo Chávez in Venezuela. Indeed, when in the final stages of the 2002 presidential campaign Lula was blackmailed by the incumbent authorities, mainstream press, and the IMF, to reassert his neoliberal credentials, he not only radically softened his stance on economic policy, but also penned the infamous ‘Letter to the Brazilian People’ claiming he would honor Brazil’s foreign debt commitments and continue the economic legacy left by the Cardoso administration. To reassure the business sector of his intentions, he recreated the populist inter-class alliance of the 1950s by picking businessmen to occupy his cabinet. The fact that openly neoliberal economists formed Lula’s first economic policy-making team, including the incumbent president of the Central Bank, Henrique Meirelles, proved his makeover was far from a simple electoral trick. The painstakingly-described economic details of what followed is found in a sensational essay by Nicolas Grinberg and Guido Starosta: “From Global Capital Accumulation to Varieties of Centre-Leftism in South America: The Cases of Brazil and Argentina.”

The example of the PT since 2002 makes the following clear: one must learn from and study this class collaborationist coalition model of neoliberal populism. It is unsustainable and utterly unable to neutralize the cancers of capitalism without any structural and systemic change. Developmentalism without nationalizations as witnessed in Cuba cannot yield long-term durability and a socialistic model of guaranteed rights. It is a form of state paternalism that numbs millions without necessary collectivism, the essence of the cultural revolution that allowed Cuba to thrive and survive indescribable crises such as the blockade.

THE POST-COUP REALITY (MAY 2016)

Michel Temer, implicated in the Panama Papers, having the support of only 2% of the Brazilian population with over 50% believing he should be either impeached or subject to trial for crimes, is the president of the Brazilian Democratic Movement Party (PMDB), the party with the largest number of lawmakers in government as of 2015. It doesn’t have a clear ideology, but switches sides depending on the political situation of the country. Temer’s party forged a coalition government agreement with Rouseff’s Workers Party (PT) for both of her presidential terms. After working with the PT, Temer announced in 2015 his party would now work under an extreme conservative approach. Since the coup and assumption of power by Temer’s PSDB and other conservative elements, the following has transpired (and at a dizzying pace at that):

Temer appointed the first all white, all male cabinet since 1979 (when Brazil had a dictatorship), including an Israeli to head the Central Bank and the current head of the Sao Paulo stock exchange as CEO of Petrobras. He has stated his intentions to fire at least 4,000 public workers by the end of the calendar year. After only a few days as interim president, Temer has eliminated the Ministries of Culture, Agrarian Development, Human Rights, and Science and Technology, meaning the elimination of the Ministry of Women’s Rights and the Ministry for Racial Equality. His newly appointed foreign minister said he would modify the current framework for offshore oil exploration to benefit the U.S. company Chevron. The laws were previously designed by Lula to favor the state’s interests in oil exploration, which was a popular measure in the country, but deeply unpopular with multinational oil companies. Temer has also suggested eliminating all of Brazil’s affirmative action programs, trampling on Indigenous rights, and cutting deeply into Bolsa Família.

Moreover, moves are underway to soften the definition of slavery in the penal code now courtesy of senators and congressmen either with rape convictions or under investigation for various crimes. While Jonathan Watts of the Guardian has written that “the new environment minister José Sarney Filho has long committed himself to green policies,” he is clearly misguided as to who the Sarneys are, even referring to Temer’s coup government as “centre-right.” Market confidence is not an apolitical thing. This is a coup in order to privatize more Brazilian assets away from heath and education. Watts also claimed that “the new finance minister Henrique Meirelles has said it may be necessary to temporarily raise taxes – which already are among the highest in the world.” Unfortunately, this is totally false. There is a 25% cap on income tax. The wealthy, in fact, pay very little in taxes in Brazil.

Never mind the fact that 11 ministers and the president are (or were) under investigation for corruption and pure robbery, and that the new president of the senate is (or was) also under investigation for murder. The Workers’ Party abandoned socialism in the late 1990s when it decided to win a presidential election at all costs after 4 defeats. Then the party followed a sort of Third Way position, something like the New Labour in Britain, but in a extremely broad coalition. Lula and Dilma Roussef were elected twice only because the Workers’ Party formed a coalition with several traditional right-wing parties, including the new president’s party. Then both Lula and Dilma embraced a liberal agenda, somewhat tamed the social movements, initiated a timid land reform and didn’t do anything to punish those demagogues involved in torture and killings during the military dictatorship. Now the same right-wing politicians who supported the Workers’ Party governments are rallying around the new government. Any rights gained must be preserved and protected by any means necessary.

THE PT’S BELATED SELF-CRITICISM

The following is taken from the PT’s own post-coup self-critical reflections on the coup and the party’s many failures accumulated over the years. As one astute Brazilian leftist told me, PT resolutions are not to be taken seriously, for they are carefully crafted to put out a more radical language than the real politics of the party in order to elicit support, with the predominant priority being to save and salvage the party, likely with the hope of getting Lula elected in 2018. This has proven to be the strategy in the past, and something Lula himself has hinted at long before the coup was even thought possible. It is, however, intriguing to read the PT crucify itself:

“The progress of the pro-coup movement can only be correctly understood if we evaluate, in an self-critical manner, the errors committed by our party and our governments. The fact is that we did not prepare ourselves for the current confrontation; [instead] we prioritized a multi-class pact which allowed for the victory of former President Lula in 2002 and the consolidation of the government in the following years. We did not dedicated ourselves, with the due attention and perseverance, to building a strategic alliance between popular parties and social movements, which could strength the institutional weight of the left. We end up being hostages to tactical agreements, compelled by the need to manage the state, that left progressive forces with little roots in society, while increasing the firepower of the sectors on the right within the framework of these alliances. The maintenance of the political system and the excessive preponderance of institutional action strongly affected the functioning of the PT, which was confined to function almost exclusively as the parliamentary wing of PT governments and restructured into a fundamentally electoral organisation. Party internal life began to wither with the growing influence of parliamentarians and those in executive posts who became increasing autonomous in relation to party structures. The party lost the capacity of elaboration, formation and protagonism in the battle of ideas.

Thousands of new members joined without any link to leftist ideas or our program. We ended becoming involved in the same practices of the traditional political parties, which clearly had a negative effect on our image and opened up flanks which the right-wing controlled judiciary could use to attack us. Faced with the [global economic] crisis, the country was at a crossroads: accelerate the redistributionist program as defended in the [2014] re-election campaign or accept the agenda of big capital. The government went down the second path. More than an instrument for mobilization, the Popular Brazil Front could develop into a strategic space for all progressive forces, based on a common program and plural rules for participation that could open the path to its consolidation. We call on all PT activists to get involved in the Front collectives, promote the creation of committees and branches in their places of living, study and work, always making sure to motivate unity and cooperation of activists from the most distinct currents and movements.”

FURTHER READING:

• Lecio Morais and Alfredo Saad-Filho: Lula and the Continuity of Neoliberalism in Brazil, Strategic Choice, Economic Imperative or Political Schizophrenia? (2005) • Lecio Morais and Alfredo Saad-Filho – Brazil Beyond Lula: Forging Ahead or Pausing for Breath? (March 2011) • Shobhan Saxena: A Coup is in the Air: The Plot to Unsettle Rousseff, Lula and Brazil (March 2016) • Alfredo Saad-Filho: Overthrowing Dilma Rousseff: It’s Class War, and Their Class is Winning (March 2016) • Perry Anderson: Crisis in Brazil (April 2016) • Perry Anderson: Lula’s Brazil (March 2011) • Dan La Botz: Brazil – Lula, Rousseff, and the Workers Party Establishment in Power (Winter 2015) • Meleiza Figueroa: The Workers Party’s Contradictions and the Contours of Crisis in Brazil (Winter 2015) • Patrick de Oliveira: The Paranoid Style in Brazilian Politics (January 2015) • Ian Steinman: Rio’s Student Resistance (July 2015) • Fernando Rugitsky: Austerity Reaches Brazil (September 2015) • Sean Purdy: Rousseff and the Right (October 2015) • Sabrina Fernandes: The Cost of Saving Dilma Rousseff (December 2015) • Valerio Arcary: The Alternative to Lulism (February 2016) • Camila Moreno: The Approaching Coup (April 2016) • Sean Purdy: Hypocrisy Wins the Day (April 2016) • Greg Grandin: A Slavers’ Coup in Brazil? (April 2016) • Gustavo Chapel: The Post-Coup (April 2016) • Jeffrey R. Webber: Life After Dilma (May 2016) • Translated articles issued by the Partido Comunista de Brasil (PCdoB)

SOURCES

Instituto Lula / O Brasil da Mudança Inclusão Produtiva: Brasil Sem MisériaInstituto de Pesquisa Econômica Aplicada(IPEA) Instituto Brasileiro de Geografia e Estatística (IGBE) Instituto Nacional de Colonização e Reforma Agrária (INCRA) Portal Brasil – Brasil Governo Federal Ministério da Agricultura, Pecuária e Abastecimento (MAPA) Ministério das Cidades (MCidades) Ministério da Educação e Cultura (MEC) Ministério do Desenvolvimento Agrário (MDS) Ministério da Fazenda (MF) Ministério de Minas e Energia (MME) Ministério da Saúde (MS) Ministério do Trabalho e Emprego (MTPS) Ministério da Integração Nacional (MI) Ministério das Mulheres, da Igualdade Racial e dos Direitos Humanos (MMIRDH) Departamento Intersindical de Estatística e Estudos Socioeconômicos (DIEESE) Agência Brasil – EBC Instituto Trata Brasil Folha de São Paulo Trading Economics World Bank The Nation The Intercept New Politics Jacobin Magazine TeleSUR NACLA Socialist Action

 

 

 
tags: Global Capitalism   
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