Saturday, August 26, 2006

Our Struggle and Brazil

Our Struggle and Brazil

Understanding Brazil is important to understanding Latin America and the U.S. relationship to Latin America. They have an important election in October. I, as a intense reader of Latin American stuff, dramatically under estimated the size and dynamic nature of the Brazilian economy and society prior to visiting there. It is the major player on South America. Sao Paulo, for example has 20 million people. And the P.T. has often governed that state.

I think we have much to learn from Brazil; and from the PRD in Mexico. They went from a small, dedicated group of socialists to mass parties able to win elections.

Often, the P.T. has faced governing several states and the nation, It is important to see how a left changes when it moves from organizing to governing. We have much to learn.

Note: in judging the P.T., they never had a majority in the Congress. They won the Presidency, but the Congress is divided among over 13 parties with shifting alliances. This explains a great deal about the P.T's ability to implement all of the intended reforms.
One of the most important reforms was in public education.

The piece below is from the conservative magazine The Economist.

"The political system is notable for the fragmentary nature of parties and the efforts that governments must make to forge and to maintain workable congressional coalitions. The PT has a minority in both houses of Congress, but has the support of several centre-left parties. During 2003 it also secured the backing of the elements of the centrist PMDB, support from which strengthened the administration’s position in the Senate.
The opposition comprises the PFL, a conservative party that originated in the north-east, and the PSDB. The PT will be able to count on the support of PSDB for support on legislation such as social security reform only to the extent that it pushes that party’s reform agenda in Congress; the PSDB is already irritated that the PT voted against these measures in opposition. Worried that the PT will usurp its position as the leading party on the centre-left, the PSDB has targeted the PT’s record on social policy for criticism. A more vigorous opposition is likely to emerge if Mr da Silva’s popularity diminishes.
Despite his strong personal mandate and authority within the PT, Mr da Silva will have to work hard to maintain party discipline within the governing coalition. The PT, in power for the first time, traces its origins to trade union struggles against the military regime in the 1970s and early 1980s. The party constitutes a broad political church, embracing individuals whose views range from traditional socialist to more modern social democrat. Mr da Silva himself has undergone a political transformation. Born into a poor family, he worked as a lathe operator before coming to prominence as a radical union leader. Having lost the previous three presidential elections, he moderated his stance, taking the PT to the centre, a policy that paid off in the 2002 election. Part of the modern social democratic wing of the PT, Mr da Silva now espouses a range of pragmatic economic and social policies, and accepts that the market and the private sector have an important role to play in the development of Brazil. These views are not universally accepted within the PT or by some parties in the congressional governing coalition. Consequently, Mr da Silva will have to overcome resistance from his own political supporters to implement his programme of orthodox macroeconomic policy and social reform. At the end of 2003 the government showed its determination to carry through its agenda by expelling from the PT those of its legislators who had voted against the social security reform. Outside Congress, the media, in particular television, play a significant role in forming public opinion. Since the advent of democracy investigative journalism has had a decisive role in politics, notably in the impeachment of Mr Collor in 1992. Elements of the broadcast media have not been well-disposed towards either Mr da Silva or his party in the past, but relations have improved since the election as the president has maintained a prudent policy stance.
Mr da Silva will draw support from another important extra-congressional political constituency, the trade union movement. The main union organisations, the Central Unica dos Trabalhadores and Forca Sindical, have a long history of supporting the PT, and this position is unlikely to change, although the unions are wary about the possibility of the introduction of new labour legislation. Business organisations, notably the Confederacao Nacional das Industrias and the Federacao das Industrias do Estado de Sao Paulo, have usually opposed the PT’s policy platform, but have reassessed this stance since the party gained power and shifted to the centre, and the private sector is working productively alongside the new government. The Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST, the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement) has also traditionally been closely aligned with the PT. It had curtailed direct actions using land invasions during the election campaign to help the PT to win over moderate voters, but has now stepped up direct action again in support of its demands for land distribution."
Duane Campbell

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