Klaus Hart Brasilientexte

Aktuelle Berichte aus Brasilien – Politik, Kultur und Naturschutz

Weltsozialforum 2009 und „Linke“: „The Pasteurization of the Left“, Brasiliens wichtigster Befreiungstheologe Frei Betto.

(Le Monde Diplomatique, Dec. 2008)


At the turn of the 21st century South America experienced a deterioration in social conditions as a result of neo liberal policies adopted during the preceding decades. This strengthened the social movements and political parties which represented alternatives for change and explains the election of Chavez in Venezuela, Lula in Brazil, Morales in Bolivia, Correa in Ecuador and Lugo in Paraguay as president of their respective countries.If the South American left is able to become an alternative government, why is it not able to become an alternative power?

The left in the whole world has suffered an identity crisis ever since the fall of the Berlin Wall (1989). It was left orphan by the implosion of the Soviet Union and the entering of China into a capitalist economy, all of which left it without the support needed to bring about change through revolutionary means.

South America opted for the strengthening of social movements represented by political parties whose roots were in the Christian Base Communities and stimulated by Liberation Theology, by combative unionism, by popular organizations of indigenous, rural workers, blacks, migrants, women and those generally excluded. In the case of Venezuela the contestation became a political force even within the Armed Forces.There was no alternative for the social movement engaged in the search for ”another possible world but to dispute a portion of power with the establishment parties. Although lacking financial resources and international support the political forces of opposition “ the left “ had enough power for popular mobilization acquired during the previous decades at grassroots level to organize popular sectors placed between poverty and indigence such as the CEBs (Christian Base Communities) and the MST (Landless Peasant Movement) had done in Brazil and whose political expression was to be found in the PT (Workers™ Party), in the PCdoB (Brazilian Communist Party) and somewhat in the PDT (Democratic Workers™ Party).

This process was responsible for the change in political character of South American governments.

What we see now is an impasse, and the Brazilian situation is an example of this. There is no way to generate a revolutionary rupture such as occurred in Cuba in 1959. How, then, to promote structural reforms and reduce the brutal inequality within the population? Advances such as these occur today in countries like Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador which are sustained by a new constitutional order.    

In Brazil the Lula government opted to govern through policies of conciliation with the dominant sectors and compensation for the dominated, within neo liberal economic directives. When he became president, Lula could have secured his political sustainability on two legs: the National Congress and the social movements. He chose the former as a partner and discarded the latter which were more natural to him. Thus he became a hostage to the traditional oligarchic political forces which today are part of the great arc of alliances (14 parties) supporting the government.    
Detachment from grassroots constituencies.

On reaching the government, the PT filled a considerable number of administrative posts thanks to the appointment of leaders from social movements. Separated from their home base, these leaders now find themselves perfectly adapted to the advantages of power with no interest in returning to the ”work at the base. When required to speak, they speak for the government to their constituencies and not vice versa.  

The government adopted policies directly with the poorer sectors of the population without the mediation of the social movements, as is the case with the Bolsa Familia (Subsidies to Families) programme which replaced Fome Zero (Zero Hunger) which depended on committees composed of leaders from civil society who controlled and monitored the initiative. Nowadays it is run by town councils. The emancipatory proposition of maintaining families ravaged by poverty in the programme for not more than two years was abandoned in favour of a dependence which favours the government during elections.A measure such as this weakens the movements and at the same time puts the government at risk of falling into neo caudillismo: the governing body, solely interested in their project to remain in power, maintains, via social policies, a direct relationship with the population who would be the beneficiary, with no intervention from the political parties originating from the left. In Brazil the Lula phenomenon (76% of approval), has separated from the PT.  The PT on the other hand, accepted to restrict itself to power play. There are fewer and fewer PT grassroots groups in the country. At present the process for recruiting new members does not follow ideological criteria and there are no longer any political training courses offered.

A power project

What do these changes signify? They point towards the loss of the socialist horizon which guided the PT, the PCdoB and many PDT militants. It is a matter of political survival, combining neo liberal economy with a social democratic policy which is of compensation and not of emancipation. Thus, burning historical questions of the left such as agrarian reform are relegated to an uncertain future. The choice is to abstain from an alternative model of sustainable and liberating development. The Brazil Project is discarded for a project of power where scandals of corruption abound and where alliances are made with parties and social and economic forces which the PT, the PCdoB and the PDT, when they were founded, proposed to confront and defeat.

It was hoped that the Lula effect would show that through progressive strengthening of popular movements it would be possible to gain areas of power and new paradigms would be introduced into the government sphere. If this meant the gradual overcoming of neo liberal policies and the bettering of the quality of life for the population, it would represent advancement. On the contrary, one could not disagree with the political prophetism of Robert Michels who, in 1911, in his classic Political Parties defends the thesis until now confirmed by history, that every leftist party which insists on disputing space with bourgeois institutions ends up being co-opted by them, instead of transforming them.
During the first months of his government Lula had sufficient power to promote agrarian reform and the auditing of the public debt. He was unable to take advantage of this. There are moments when power is with the people (as in the mobilization which defeated the Collor government in 1992) others with the government and others with financial capital or with some national or international sector. The correlation of forces determines who, at a given moment, holds the power.Lula had proved that it was possible to enter a corrupt structure “ unionism “ without allowing oneself to be co-opted by it. Would he be able to achieve this in government? He was not. The State machine, oiled by the interests of the elite, reined in his ideals and aspirations. Economic policy (influenced by the PSDB of Fernando Henrique Cardoso) imposed itself as the priority of priorities, without significant reflexes in the social sphere in spite of the reduction of poverty thanks to Bolsa Familia,

As a union leader, Lula did not expect workers to frequent the union headquarters. He made the union go to the encounter of the workers at the gates and within the factories. As a statesman, he did not manage to repeat this gesture. Therefore he did not implement, as the PT had dreamt, a policy for popular empowerment through the permanent mobilization of organized sectors of civil society.

For Robert Michels, parties of the left legally survive in a bourgeois democracy by abdicating their socialist programme and conspiring with the established order. However the probability of this occurring is only noticed once the party reaches the government. While it is still minority and holds no institutional power, the governing parties pay no heed to its leftist discourse. The danger appears when it surprises and, owing to circumstances which escape the previsions and maneuvers of the elite, it wins the elections. According to the logic of exclusion, the people in their wisdom have the right to give themselves a chance. They vote for the opposition not necessarily convinced that it is better, but because they are tired of sameness.

In order to be successful in the present democratic-bourgeois regime there are leftist political forces which, having abandoned the work of grassroots organization, are convinced that it is necessary to accept the rules of the game. The first thing is to depend on the money of those who possess it, which is not the case of the unemployed, of factory workers or of workers in general. Money in elections means investment and no one invests to lose. All investment supposes a possibility of gain, of profit. One must consider forms of communication which are not reduced to pamphlets printed by small backroom printers, or to hustings where the succession of repetitive speeches bore the public with the exception of the militants who gather to echo and to cause confusion about what is being proclaimed there.On the other hand the good use of means of communication depends on the campaign managers who hold secrets for seducing the voter. Since they are not politicians and in general do not like politics, they apply the same methods they use for marketing products successfully, to the candidates. Thus the dependence on the funds of the elite, of the media, of large corporations and the marketing of advertising agencies results in the progressive mediocrity of election campaigns which, in the case of leftist parties, means abandoning socialist proposals and the progressive ”de-ideologizing of discourse and proposals.

There is a radical difference between left and right: the right acts motivated by interests, especially the increase of wealth concentrated in its hands, the left acts (or should act) according to principles, centred on the right to life of the majority of the population. A politician of the right will very rarely support reforms directed at diminishing social inequality or at reducing the income of those who are better off to allow the poor more access to national wealth. If this happens, it is due to pressure from the conjuncture.

What would the solution be? In the first place restoring the ”work at the base with political training for militants of social movements and strengthening of its organizations and institutions. To this it would be necessary to add political reform, introducing public financing for election campaigns. This would avoid the more wealthy having a better chance of being elected. But while this proposal does not become law the parties should be obliged to divulge the campaign costs of every one of its candidates and to clarify sources of finances. It would be up to Electoral Justice to demand a rendering of accounts and access to the bank accounts of those elected. We are, after all, talking of res publica, a sphere where all clandestinity is suspect, with the exception of the State information services.

If the financing of election campaigns by private initiative is maintained, political reform should make the use of unaccountable funds a criminal offence. All contributions would come from formal accounting, subject to auditing by Electoral Justice and by Federal Revenue.

The electoral pasteurization of the left runs the risk of prolonging the holding onto power. If Caesar™s wife must be honest as well as appear honest, the politician who allows himself to be cosmetically altered for election purposes is in danger of becoming more concerned about appearing efficient than actually being so. He governs with an eye on public polls, abdicating his campaign engagements in order to submit to the ”electoralism syndrome. Remaining in power becomes an obsession and not a concern about the administration for better conditions of life for the majority of the population. This ”de-ideologisation tends to reduce politics to the art of accommodating interests. Strategic perspective and the historical horizon are lost, there is no longer the seeking of ”another possible world and now all is reduced to cultivating a good image for public opinion. Little by little militancy fades giving way to those who work according to a work contract, persons bereft of the enthusiasm which marked campaigns with idealism. Mobilization is supplanted by professionalization.    
Politics were always a factor in the education of citizens. Emptied of their ideological content such as the consistency of ideals they are transformed into mere business for the access to power. Those with more public visibility are elected even though they may be lacking in ethics, principles and projects. It is the victory of the market over humanitarian values. Visibility, power of seduction and vast campaign resources enter in instead of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity.  It is the predominance of marketing over principles. And, as everyone knows, the secret of marketing is not the sale of products, but of the illusions in which they are wrapped, for they nurture the mind with fantasies even though they do not fill the stomach. On the contrary, they feed the revolt of the excluded who, attracted by fantasy, demand reality in their own way making it worse for all of us¦ unless the remainder of the left “ the social movements like the MST, the incipient PSOL (Socialism and Freedom Party), some sectors of the PT and the PCdoB “ work hard to plunge into the world of the excluded to help them give political consistency to their demands and aspirations and manage to implement political reform capable of purifying and improving our democratic process.

*Frei Betto is a writer, author of ”Calendário do Poder (Calendr of Power) (Rocco), he is a Brazilian Dominican with an international reputation as a liberation theologian.
Within Brazil he is equally famous as a writer, with over 52 books to his name.  In 1985 he won Brazil™s most important literary prize, the Jabuti, and was elected Intellectual of the Year by the members of the Brazilian Writers™ Union.

Frei Betto has always been active in Brazilian social movements, and has been an adviser to the Church™s ministry to workers in Sáo Paulo™s industrial belt, to the Church base communities, and to the Landless Rural Workers™ Movement (MST).In 2003-2004, he was Special Adviser to President Lula and Coordinator of Social Mobilisation for the Brazilian Government™s Zero Hunger programme.







Dieser Beitrag wurde am Freitag, 23. Januar 2009 um 16:23 Uhr veröffentlicht und wurde unter der Kategorie Kultur, Politik abgelegt. Du kannst die Kommentare zu diesen Eintrag durch den RSS-Feed verfolgen.

«  –  »

13 Kommentare

Noch keine Kommentare

Die Kommentarfunktion ist zur Zeit leider deaktiviert.

    NEU: Fotoserie Gesichter Brasiliens

    Fotostrecken Wasserfälle Iguacu und Karneval 2008

    23' K23

interessante Links







© Klaus Hart – Powered by WordPress – Design: Vlad (aka Perun)