Working and retirement in Latin America

To list members:

The translation below is verbatim:

*O Globo*, 8th april 1999:

Fernado Henrique [Cardoso] blames Brazilian obsession about ceasing to work.

Brasilia- During a ceremony when the government announced measures to better health services for the elderly, president FHC said that there is an obsession from people about ceasing to work at a set age, thereby creating problems for the social security: [...]

"We have to understand that work is good for the elderly, since they have conditions to keep working. Work is good. This obssession about retiring at a set age will create problems for the social security that already exist and create financial problems. Those who cease working lost their natural connections with the rest of society"

[Only to dot the ii: the recent restructuring of the Brazilian social security allows people to retire after 35 years of *proven payment of social security dues* (not of actual work) having as a consequence that people who begin to work in informal jobs (a very common occurrence in Brazil)who work without the employer paying the legal dues to the social security, have no right whatsoever to earning a pension. Also, people in such circumstances, working since their teens in back-breaking jobs, generally count- ie, counted- on their future pensions to supplement the meager earnings they can get, in their late 40s, in some lighter menial task. Cardoso, BTW, receives a pension since age 38, when he was forcibly retired by the military, some 40% of his salary as full professor. However, at the 1979 amnesty, he began receiving a full pension at age 47, without a minute of additional work. that perhaps explain the following outburst: ]

"The newspapers put my age at 68. That's a mistake: I'm 58[...] What counts is vitality...What age do I have? What I seem to be...Taken from this vantage point, I'm in my early 50s[...] I feel today like a *vieux gate'*[spoilt old man]"

Well, I thought that this light note could perhaps distract me from the tragedy in Yugoslavia, but now I do not feel so sure about that...

Carlos Rebello

Thank you, Carlos.

Cardoso's cynical opinions are twice as important if we think that he is the equivalent to the Argentinian "center-left" opposition of the Alianza (Collor having been the Brazilian Menem, perhaps the relative strengths of Brazilian and Argentinian bourgeoisies explain why Collor was ousted and Menem was not). Here in Argentina the social security system was destroyed systematically from 1955 onwards, and the strongest blows were given after 1966 and particularly after 1976. Under Menem a system of private companies was set up. Originally the idea was to replace the large system of social security as a whole, but popular opposition made the Gov't step back a little, and leave this system of Pension Funds together with the old one.

Retirement age was consistently raised once and again, minimal retirement salaries lowered mercilessly, the payments to the funds systematically robbed by the employers (in the old system, the percentage that the employee had to pay to the Caja de Jubilaciones was retained by the employer, who was legally obliged to deposit these funds, but increasingly began to rob the workers of their own money), the health system for retired people was transformed into a killing device, and so on.

Now, a new schema is devised to provide forceful early retirements to senior employees (but the money they will have after they are retired will be still less than they have now), and the IMF-backed Ministry of Economics is trying to force a law that will rule out the guaranteed minimum pension (this pension is already unbelievably low!).

The important thing with the mail by Carlos is that it puts a strong light on the "hopes" of the "centre-left" Alianza. They will be more of the same, or worse.

Once I get out of some family problems, will try to send more consistent postings.


Nestor's reply to my post allows me to try to make a short comment on the foundations of a Marxist comparison of the making and maintenance of the bourgeois state in Brazil and Argentina that can be of some importance.

I do not think that Cardoso could be the exact equivalent of the "Center-Left" alternative in Argentina. Cardoso is, of course, a middle-class upstart that was accepted in the amalgam of bourgeois factions -old ones and emerging ones- that has been governing Brazil since the Vargas Era. The regressive character of this amalgam's policies since the demise of the military dictatorship is due to the fact that, in the present conditions of the World economy, the Brazilian bourgeoisie has lost command of internal capital accumulation and cannot anymore lead an inclusive policy of the non-bourgeois element in the population such as put in practice-with different emphasis, and more or less leeway to the open expression of dissent- by Vargas, the various governments between the end of the Vargas dictatorship (1945) and the military coup of 1964, and by the military.

In Argentina, what we have, due to the centralizing nature of the old Buenos Aires oligarchy, seem to be *two* alternative bourgeois factions - the old oligarchy and the peronist party (in a loose meaning) apparatus- that have been competing- murderously- against each other for control of a very centralized and exclusive state apparatus (that is a tentative statement open to contention, first of all by Nestor). The fact that the Argentinian bourgeoisie could not, since the independent, organize itself as an unified interest means that any tentative of a more inclusive, "Center-Left" policy, today, will have even lesser prospective support than in Brazil- where Cardoso limits his "social concerns" to empty outbursts that sound more and more as what they really are- practical jokes.

As to Collor, I do believe that he was the closer that Brazil, during a major hyperinflation crisis, got until now to a fascist (*strictu sensu* speaking) regime, since he headed a bunch of *declasses* from all classes that, in Trotsky's words about the social foundations of the Nazis, had been thrown in frenzy and despeis by finance capital. However, the fact that Collor's gang did not pursue its looting of Brazil alone, but instead tried to find support in the oligarchy they were looting - as Hitler, during the Beer-Hall Putsch of 1923, sought General Luddendorf's support- meant that Collor was eventually ousted. However, a major crisis in Brazil (something that could now happen at any moment, quite unexpectedly- the recent stabilization has thin foundations) would mean that the Collor's para-fascist gamble could again play- and a returning Collor would behave more ruthlessly towards his former erstwhile allies. That would mean that, since Brazililian history - in the words of the 30s Trotskyist Mario Pedrosa- is fond of aping Prussian history in the Tropic- what happened 1st. as tragedy would now be repeated as *grand guignol*

Carlos Rebello