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After Bolsonaro workers self-defence

Vera Gracia PSTU
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A Socialist Voice interview with Brazilian PSTU leader Vera Garcia. Vera was the first Black woman to stand for president (2018 and 2022), a candidate of the PSTU in 2018, and of the PSTU and revolutionary and socialist pole in 2022.

PSTU, United Workers Socialist Party, is a Trotskyist party that is part of the International Workers League Fourth International.

1. What is the employment and wage situation of the working class. Are there Brazilians living below the poverty line?

Unemployment in Brazil is alarming. According to research by ILAESE (Latin American Institute of Socio-Economic Studies), there are 47,271 million employed workers in the formal market; 49,235 million unemployed; and 38,968 million underemployed (precarious, street vendors, and the so-called odd jobs).

Wages are very low. According to the IBGE (Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics), 37% of workers receive a minimum wage, which is R$1,212.00 per month (one pound is equivalent to six R$). This reality results in 62,525 million Brazilians condemned to live below the poverty line, that is, people who survive on less than R$16.20 per day, according to the same institute.

2. Is unemployment and job insecurity due to deindustrialisation or the increase in company productivity?

In the last 10 years, 9,579 factories were closed, laying off a million direct workers. And for each directly employed worker there are at least seven or eight outsourced workers that were laid off with the closure of these industries. This has a domino effect.

In 2021, 1,410 million companies were closed according to the Ministry of Economy. Between May and August 2022, 600,000 companies were closed. Many more are opened, they are micro and small businesses, which employ the most. They cannot sustain themselves with inflation and the heavy tax burden. Governments only exempt large companies and multinationals from paying taxes.

There is a policy of dismantling industry and privatising state-owned companies, that shifts towards an economic centrality in the production of food and minerals for export. This is the new location of Brazil in the world market with the backing of the national bourgeoisie at the service of American, European and Chinese imperialisms.

With the technological advance and with the arrival of Industry 4.0, even if delayed, productivity has increased, while unemployment has increased. This explains, for example, the record profits of the agribusiness companies, Petrobras, the mining companies and, obviously, the banks.

The high concentration of wealth on one side leads to the high concentration of misery on the other. Brazil has one of the world’s greatest social inequalities.

3. Why do activists denounce black and poor youth genocide?

Brazil has the largest black population in the world outside of Africa and was the last country to abolish slavery in the Americas, without any reparation for the black men and women who left the slave quarters.

Consequently, black people are the majority of the unemployed and receive the lowest wages, they are underemployed, they suffer most from hunger (currently 33 million people suffer from hunger), they are below the poverty line, and suffer from a lack of housing (there is a housing deficit of more than 6 million). Black people, in the vast majority, live in the most distant neighbourhoods, without basic sanitation, without crËches, with open sewage  and without access to leisure.

To justify the condition of enslavement of black people, the bourgeoisie, especially European, disseminated a whole ideology against this part of humanity. The ideological propaganda said that we black men and women were not people, had no soul, were less intelligent, etc. The force of this ideological propaganda was so great that even today it reverberates with great force.

During slavery, it was very common for black people to be beaten, tortured, murdered and humiliated. Today, this continues, now in the outskirts of the cities and in prisons. Everything that is bad is associated with black people.

Black youth are victims of a true extermination. In 2021, 47,503 murders were registered. This is the lowest number since 2011.  In 2012 there were 56,337 murders.

All this shows the extent of racism in the country. This is what the social movements denounce. Every day, we fight against racism and for reparations for black men and women who are marginalised, discriminated against and violated.

4. What about the situation of violence against women and the LGBTQ+ population? Will the future Lula government defend the legalisation of abortion in Brazil?

Brazil is a sexist and LGBTQphobic country, occupying the 5th place in murder of women and the first in murder of LGBTI people in world ranking. This largely explains the support for President Jair Bolsonaro who lost the election to Lula. Bolsonaro is a moralistic ultra-right conservative. Lula, of the Workers’ Party (PT) is against abortion. But in his two previous terms, this agenda did not advance, nor did it advance under former PT president Dilma, in exchange for votes she pledged the evangelical and Catholic authorities not to advance.

Now, with new PT government that begins in January 2023 but in coalition with parties of the great Brazilian bourgeoisie,  the fight against machismo and LGBTQphobia will be fought on the streets. The right to legalise abortion is part of this battle.

5. In the general election you made the presidential slate with Raquel TremembÈ, from an indigenous ethnic group. What is the situation of indigenous peoples?

We can sum up the situation of indigenous peoples in Brazil in one word: degrading. The original peoples have been robbed since the first European colonisers set foot here. The ‘Temporal Framework’ is the most recent project of expropriation of indigenous lands by the Brazilian State, in order to hand them over to the private domination of miners, loggers and ruralists.

Indigenous peoples, quilombolas and riverine populations are persecuted and killed. The survivors live, for the most part, in conditions of penury.

Having a black, worker and indigenous women’s slate represented the majority of the oppressed and exploited people and working class of our country. With Raquel, from the TremembÈ ethnic group, as my running partner, it highlighted that the fact that more than 300 peoples and 150 languages resist and fight every day for their territories and their lives.

6. Bolsonaro lost the election. Was this positive for the working class? Is it the end of Bolsonarism?

The fact that President Bolsonaro lost the elections was a very important victory for the working class, because this gives us better conditions for organisation, mobilisation and demonstrations, which would be seriously threatened if he had won the elections, or if he had harden the regime from within, along the lines of the Hungarian Orban government.

Losing the election weakens but does not end Bolsonarism, which is an ultra-right movement and has within it advocates of a military coup and fascist groups. This kind of movement can only be destroyed by working class and  youth organised struggle on the streets.

7. Is Lula forming an anti-capitalist government or will he seek alliance with capitalist groups?

The Lula government is a coalition government, as the PT say. Within it are parties of the conservative right, democratic, neo-liberal and the most mercenary and corrupt parties of Brazilian politics, called the centrons, which together with the parties of the left, PSOL and the Stalinist PCdoB and UP  form the Lula government.

His vice-president, Geraldo Alckmin, is a conservative and religious right politician, who was a member of Opus Dei and was in the front line of privatisations. As governor of S„o Paulo, he was extremely violent with social movements, as in the eviction of the Pinheirinho neighbourhood occupation, violent attacks on students in the 2013 street demonstrations, and against secondary school students. He was also part of various corruption schemes, involving school lunches and the construction of tube lines.

The Lula government includes the bankers of Ita˙ and Bradesco, representatives of agribusiness, businessmen from mining companies like Vale and CSN, and almost all the social movements and trade unions. This is the Lula government. A capitalist government that integrates the right and the left.

8. Is it in the interest of capitalist groups and the future Lula government to combat or preserve Bolsonarism?

The fight against the Bolsonarist ultra-right is part of the fight for the needs of the working class, starting with the poorest and most oppressed. But for this, it is necessary to revoke the labour and social security reforms; end the spending cap; demarcate and ratify all indigenous and quilombola lands; revoke the anti-terror and anti-drug laws; restart privatised companies; suspend payment of the public debt; build a plan to generate jobs; increase salaries; end the Tax Price Parity that dollarises the economy; put an end to tax exemptions for big national companies and multinationals.

The Lula government will not do this. These are exactly the bases of support for Bolsonarism: misery, unemployment and violence, which stimulate all kinds of prejudices in face of competition for jobs within the working class.

On the other hand, the existence of Bolsonarism will be the main element of blackmail used by reformist leaderships,  and government members, to guarantee PT governability, while Lula attacks the workers to guarantee the interests of the capitalists, with the argument that if he does not the ultra-right will return.

The PT government will not put an end to Bolsonarism, because its existence is the guarantee of permanence of its government. The task of combating Bolsonarism and PTism is for the working class in a unified and organised way.

9. The trade union and popular central CSP-Conlutas, of which you are one of the founders, is discussing the issue of workers’ and popular self-defence. Do you believe this is necessary? How will it happen?

Self-defence is a vital necessity for the exploited and oppressed. It is in this way that we will maintain and build the organisations we need to defend ourselves from the Bolsonarists and the ultra-right, from the attacks of the new government and from police, macho, racist, LGBTQphobic and xenophobic violence.

CSP-Conlutas had the initiative to organise self-defence committees, first in S„o Paulo, and encouraging the debate throughout the country about this need. First, because self-defence is an act of the masses to protect themselves from all forms of violence. This debate and its organisation must take place in schools, universities, factories, neighbourhoods, public and private offices, in such a way that all the oppressed and exploited collectively decide on the best way to protect themselves from all forms of violence perpetrated against them.

For example, an assembly in the factory, in the school or in the neighbourhood can debate and deliberate how they will defend themselves from Bolsonarist groups, and inside these places, how men will behave towards women, whites towards blacks, cis and hetero people towards LGBTI people and towards immigrants. This will stimulate class solidarity, so that we can support each other, to protect ourselves from the onslaughts against our lives and for our survival.

10. There is a wave of strikes in the UK. Do you want to leave a message for the strikers?

We, from PSTU Brazil, are in solidarity with all strikers and their just demands. We understand that we need many more strikes by categories and national and international general strikes, in a globalised economy and with the globalised working class, too.

Those who condemn us to a life of suffering are our common enemies, who do all this to us to protect their privileges and their large private estates. That is why we need a project for a society where we have full employment, but where work is not a burden for us, where all of society can enjoy work, without appropriating in a private way the work of others as it is in capitalism. Thus, we need to build, organise and develop revolutionary socialist and internationalist parties. It is for this reason that we have built the PSTU in Brazil, and a sister party of our comrades in the ISL. And together we build the Workers International League-Fourth International (IWL-FI).

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