International Viewpoint - online socialist magazine
On the nature of the Brazilian crisis and the issues, from the point of view of socialists
Brazil /
Friday, 28 July 2017
/ Ana C. Carvalhaes and José Correa Leite /

Ana Cristina Carvalhaes (journalist, member of the executive of the PSOL-Rio de Janeiro) and José Correa Leite (academic, member of the secretariat and the International Council of the World Social Forum, member of the International Committee of the Fourth International) are part of the leadership of Insurgência, a tendency of the Party of Socialism and Liberty (PSOL) which is part of the Brazilian section of the Fourth International. This article was first published on the website of Insurgência:

"You who walk, the path is the trace of your steps and nothing else: You who walk, there is no path, you make the path as you go..." Antonio Machado, Proverbios and Cantares XXIX, Campos de Castilla

The purpose of this text is not to go into detail on the dumbfounding national situation. It will not develop the consequences of the non-quashing of the Dilma-Temer ticket [1] by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TES) - there was today a demonstration with a funeral wreath not far from the headquarters of this institution in Brasilia - , nor the consequences of the "hold me back or I’ll leave" of the PSB [2], nor the prospects of enlargement of the Diretas Já campaign [3], nor the organization of the second general strike [4] in two months, against the ultraliberal counter-reforms of capital for Brazil [5], which succeed one another in a National Congress that is increasingly discredited.

What we want to do is to attempt an approach to what the current Brazilian crisis means in a broader, more diverse sense (in its economic, social and political dimensions) and also with a longer view in terms of its duration - the crisis we have been experiencing from the beginning of the campaign through which the bourgeoisie united to overthrow Dilma Rousseff through impeachment [6] up until the present. It is therefore an attempt to analyze the period.

A historic crisis

Our hypothesis is that, since the beginning of 2015, we have been experiencing a political crisis of such depth that, in addition to the serious economic and social crises, it is comparable to the crises of 1929-1930 and 1984.

In the case of 1929-1930, the crisis led to a change in the hegemonic power bloc in the country, that is, to the replacement of the oligarchic sector which had previously dominated by another sector, a nascent bourgeoisie. Then, with the movement of 1930, a lasting vacuum of hegemony appeared; Getúlio Vargas [7] consolidated his position from the Paulist revolt [8] of 1932 onwards and he formulated another project for Brazil, basing himself on "tenentism" [9]. This was a national development project based on industry, on the creation of an urban wage-earning working class with a certain type of rights, on a Bonapartist regime until 1937 and leaning towards fascism from then on, despite the maintenance of scraps of concessions to the dispossessed.

In the second case, in 1984, after three years of a profound recession, the end of the "Brazilian miracle," with a third of the people in the streets during the Diretas Já campaign [10], the military regime was replaced, in a process of an indirect election in the Electoral College, by Tancredo Neves [11] and, following the latter’s death, by Sarney [12], both closely linked to the military, but nevertheless civilians. All this without actually destroying the repressive apparatus of the military regime.

It does not seem to us that today there is a change of the power bloc on the horizon; but let us remember, neither was there just before 1929-1930.

Some economists argue, perhaps to justify the need for the reforms they defend, that the present crisis is more serious than the previous ones - which seems to us to be excessive, at least in comparison with the crisis of 1930, the result of the stock market crash in New York and the global recession that began that year.

We are in the third year of recession and there is a complete paralysis of the political system - which clearly shows to bourgeois sectors that the regime (a term used here as a synonym for the political system, that is, a given combination of institutions used for class rule) has become dysfunctional for them. A bourgeoisie with global dimensions and interests (by which we mean business) cannot coexist with so much instability and uncertainty about the future for such a long time that the political crisis deepens the economic crisis and is detrimental to both the direct extraction of surplus value and the profits of rentiers within the financial system.

What Operation Lava Jato is and the role that it plays

Operation Lava Jato [13] started from an investigation into money laundering by petrol stations around Curitiba. It could have been in Manaus, Porto Alegre, São Paulo or Recife. The fuel distribution sector in our country is richly provided with mafias. It was through this investigation that the specialist unit of the Federal Public Prosecutor’s Office in Curitiba got to the currency trader Alberto Youssef and from him to the director of Petrobras [14] Paulo Roberto Costa - who was going to provide the starting point for the series of denunciations of the Petrobras and Workers’ Party (PT) scandal.

Thus, in the context of 12 to 13 years of governments of class collaboration with the PT at their head, with the damage they caused, especially among sectors of the middle class, but more fundamentally with the signs that appeared at the beginning of 2015, that Dilma Rousseff would no longer be able to fulfil her role of containing social movements nor of implementing the neo-liberal agenda, roles she had fulfilled until then, Operation Lava Jato became a key element of the great script written by the elites to force Rousseff and the PT out of government.

Using the clear evidence of corruption in the PT - and in the PP [15] and the PMDB [16] and others - in the Petrobras affair, fundamental sectors of capital took advantage of Lava Jato to unleash a movement in the streets and in the institutions that hatched and executed the institutional coup d’état of April 2016. It was not only the prosecutors and the judge of Curitiba, nor only the deputies of Congress in the pay of the corrupters, nor only Temer, nor just the media, nor even the magistrates of the Supreme Courts. All these agents had a fundamental role in the plot, but without Lava Jato the coup would not have happened.

The 2016 coup d’état was not a fascist coup, with the physical destruction of the militant vanguard and the complete destruction of representative bourgeois-democratic institutions (although in Brazil these institutions are anti-democratic, because they are oligarchic and segregationist).The coup was not Bonapartist; in other words, it did not suspend the existing institutional order or attempt to destroy directly and immediately at the political level the class opposition (although it is now attempting to do so with political reforms). But that does not mean that there was no coup d’état or that it is not fundamental.

What is at stake in the conflict among "those above"

Each phase of contraction of the economic cycle is for capital a phase of fierce conflict for markets and capital. With neo-liberal globalization, the conflict involves mainly transnational companies, and of course also the Brazilian multinationals, the "green and yellow" [17]. But the novelty, the key element of the present framework, which aggravates the crisis and the divisions within the bourgeoisie itself, is the political crisis that is raging.

The diagnosis that the petistas [18] make of the current situation is that there is a conflict between the "national bourgeois