Lula attacks workers

The Workers Party (PT) of Brazil is behaving in power in the same way as many older social democratic parties have done in the past. Ian Donovan reports

The Workers Party (PT) of Brazil - headed by Luis ‘Lula’ Inacio da Silva, the Brazilian president and former metalworkers’ leader, and governing the country as part of a ‘realist’ coalition with a small capitalist party - is behaving in power in the same way as many older social democratic parties have done in the past. That is, it is being forced to attack the working class and urban poor. Instead of resisting IMF demands ‘Lula’ is pledged to fulfil them. And he is doing just that - at the expense of his party’s base.

Historically this inevitable self-defeating way of behaving is the price of governing under capitalism in coalition with a section of the capitalists. As Leon Trotsky said somewhere, ‘Much better to resist the temptation of power than turn against the working class’ - not that this stopped the Brazilian affiliate of the so-called United Secretariat of the Fourth International - in Britain represented by the International Socialist Group - from supporting the ‘Lula’ presidency and picking up as a reward one ministerial portfolio.

Now, according to recent reports, the PT leadership is threatening to expel three leftwing MPs for joining trade union protests against the governing coalition’s plans to cut the pensions of civil servants. The three facing expulsion have won wide support in the Workers Party - ie, among the party’s rank and file - for standing up to the austerity plans, which are actually even more far-reaching than the cuts demanded by the IMF.

Apart from the significance of this for the workers and peasants of Brazil, this predictable anti-working class development of Lula’s popular front raises important questions for the World Social Forum, which aims to bring together anti-globalisation/anti-capitalist activists worldwide and provide a focus for the fight against ‘corporate power’. The influence of the PT in the WSF is considerable, not only politically but organisationally: indeed the WSF has been held in Brazil thanks to the PT’s largesse.

More to the point is the influence of the PT in terms of drawing up the rules of the WSF, particularly the pseudo-anarchist ban on the participation of political parties, which the PT manages to neatly sidestep by virtue of its bureaucrats and supporters wearing non-party hats. Meanwhile the rule is used to limit the influence of revolutionary socialists and communists in the WSF, as well as in its offshoots such as the European Social Forum.

Reformism and class collaboration have their own logic: the PT’s entry into government in coalition with a section of the bourgeoisie will inevitably have repercussions in the WSF.

The PT leadership, given the outbreak of conflict with its own left wing, will tend to be more and more hostile and censorious towards leftwing elements in the WSF. It also is likely to be the case that serious opponents of capitalism and IMF-type austerity and ‘structural adjustment’ starvation attacks on the poor in the underdeveloped world will react with gut outrage to this rightwing, anti-working class development of the PT leadership, and ally with the PT left and the workers against Lula. At least one certainly hopes so. If so, this will cause a serious, but possibly fruitful, crisis for the WSF.

In any case, communists and socialists must fight against the baleful influence of the Lula popular front, and as part of that redouble our demands for an end to bans on open socialist and communist political involvement in the WSF. Such ‘anti-party’ bans do not stop the treacherous reformist types from operating in their own interests, but they certainly do act to frustrate any real political development of the WSF and the many radical activists it mobilizes.