Brizola

*Folha de Sao Paulo*, 20th april 1999:

Brizola crticizes Lula and sees coalition to be "blownout".

Brasilia- The re-elected president of the PDT [Labour Democratic Party], Leonel Brizola, criticized yesterday the PT and its main leader Luiz Inacio "Lula" da Silva. Brizola said that the PT is a middle class party and proposed the PDT to become the representative of workers and paupers.

Our CUT [Unique Workers' Central, the Labour Confederacy of trade-unions sympathetic to the PT; the PDT has not an affiliated Labour Federation]has to be a CUT for those without employment booklets [*carteira de trabalho*- the government-issued booklet that functions as an ID card for every formal Brazilian wage-worker and contains information about jobs held, wages, etc, therefore functioning as proof for retirement, value of pensions, complaining before Labour courts, etc], of those who are on the margins of society, those who have not attended school. The PT does not exist in pauper areas", stated Brizola[...]

My comments:

Partly this is only a sordid quarrel for some posts being given the PDT in the government of Rio Grande do Sul, where Brizola's party supports the PT governor. But that's also a very apt remark on differences between the PT and the PDT.

Above all, the PT is a Left Social-Democratic party that has succeeded in receiving people from all kinds of hitertho non-political grassroots movements and official trade-unions that needed a party as a lever to their sectorial reivindications in the early 80s. Although there are still all kinds of Leninists {mainly USEC Trotskysts but also diehard Stalinists), the PT was never a Leninist party, in that *it has never made entry into the party conditional on recognizing party ideology*, which the PT does not have(unless you think of ideology as a simple statement of belief in the necessity of fighting injustice, helping the oppressed, and similar vague claims). Therefore the PT has, in practice, functioned as a *rallying point* to all kinds of previously existing organizations that feel themselves to be wounded by the kind of dependent capitalist development existing an Brazil, but has not provided any kind of ideology that could function as an *organizing factor in itself* for social groups not organized before entry into the party- which means mainly the vast "underdog" layer of precarious wage-workers, street-vendors, autonomous repairing service workers, etc., etc., that provide, BTW, most of the exotic shanty-town scenery for foreign movies located in Rio. Since that gray zone between the lowest layers of a petty-bourgeoisie and an unorganized proletariat is not taken in hand by the PT, it's being presently being taken in tutelage by drug-traffiking mobsters, bourgeois politicians, etc, as a kind of "Street Corner Society", to quote the title of a famous 50s(?) classic of American Social Anthropology.

Brizola, as a heir to the political ways of the Vargas Era populist state, is proposing instead to take those people under tutelage of a state apparatus enlarged enough to include a host of welfare institutions that were mostly dismantled in the last 20 years- while the PT was mostly occupied about "the birth of civil society" in Brazil- Lula having borrowed this horrendous expression from Lech Walesa during the early 80s (when Walesa, was, of course, a very different political animal from today).

In fact, what Brizola proposes is a kind of "petty-bourgeois Leninism", that would organize the underdog from top to down, under a tutelary state apparatus organized around a *political* ideology of real welfare rights granted to all, irrespective of his previous level of social organization. Ultimately,an entirely reactionary goal- or, as Marx would say, a sop to the underdog to grant this sack of potatoes being used as a basis for a Bonapartist project. OK; but, since the PT hasn't, 'til now, presented a rival political project, Brizola's populist project is being prevented from giving up the ghost...

Carlos Rebello


To Sam Pawlett:

Yes, Brizola, as Vargas's political heir, stands undoubtedly to the Right of the PT, but I think that, *on this specific issue* he is more correct than the moderate direction that is now on the ascendancy at the PT and that has followed an "United Front" policy that has lead the PT to support the ticket of the governor of Rio de Janeiro (a member of Brizola's party) that is now seeking an understanding with Cardoso on the question of the state debt to the federal government and refusing to support the governor of Minas Gerais and former president Itamar Franco, who has refused to pay his state debts. Brizola, at age 77, is turning more and more sort of an outcast in his own party.

The issue posed by the banner-proposed by some individuals in the PT- of "presidential elections now"-an step forward compared to the idea of Cardoso's plain resignation posed by Brizola, office being duly taken in this case by the vice-president- is that the Left in Brazil, as all over the world, has always suffered from the idea that it would suffice to pose various *sectional* social problems before the public and that only by exposing such problems would be enough to win the Left the said public. The Left alternative, however, IMHO, must proceed from the Liberal idea of social change being attained by means of *a general change of the political framework of society*- in other words, not just banking on the idea that a socialist psychology will develop from the need of a solution to various problems, but that such specific problems must all be solved into a new framework provided by a comprehensive change of political institutions. The campaign for extraordinary elections would be exactly the starting-board to begin discussing such an agenda of institutional change before a wide public. The MST, in Brazil, e.g., is a powerful special interest movement, but has suffered a lot for being somehow alienated from the rest of a society- in an urbanized country like nowadays Brazil, the struggle for land reform in the countryside being somewhat remote (the struggle for land reform as *housing reform*, in opposition, is a painful everyday issue). Grassroots are of course the roots of everything, but a mature movement must somehow emerge from the ground not as tangle of roots but as a shapely tree canopy...

Carlos Rebello


Sam Pawlett:

Carlos, I have a couple questions about the situation in Brazil. Just how left-wing is Brizola? He runs to the right of Lula, no? What faction of the PT is in the ascendancy? Is there any hope for the radical left electorally or would be better to organize the way Sim Terra does? I would think the latter option would be best at this stage in the game. Maybe the left can take advantage of the financial crisis which has spread to Brazil and hopefully diminished Cardoso's reputation as the saviour of the currency and economy
.

Things are not that easy, Sam. Of course, the opinion of Carlos is basic and though I have not read it now, when I am writing these lines, one should take into account that it is not "left/right" the only cleavage in a semicolonial country. You have the "national/antinational" cleavage also. In fact, both cross and you can have "right antinationals" (the most rancid and putrid gorillas, the oligarchs, the surrogate or direct agents of imperialism), "right nationals" (fractions of the State apparatus, splinters of local bourgeoisies, parts of the Armies), "left nationals" (revolutionary nationalists, socialists who give critical support to national bourgeois regimes, fractions of the labour movement), and "left antinationals" (as a general rule, liberal or leftish middle class groups usually in large ports). This is so schematic, but it is a good and rough rule of thumb.

Lula seems to have been a leftist without a whole understanding of the national question. Brizola has been a centrist (who bandied to the left and the right according to the times) with a clear understanding of the national question. This is absolutely gross and of course can be disputed, and I suppose Carlos will have a lot of comments to do. But in the main, I believe it can help.

In fact, the overlapping of both cleavages is what makes politics in the Third World such a messy thing. Vocal leftists may become actual rightists and vocal rightists may become leftists in political practice. Not easy. Like trekking along a faint path through thick woods in the late evening, with strange animals roaring and croaking queer slogans, all of it amidst the buzzing of imperialist propaganda and cultural pressure. Not easy at all.

Nestor.