Elections in Brazil in light of the anti-populist history
There is nothing better than viewing the present elections in light of the Brazilian history of tension between the elites and the people. I will avail myself of the contribution of a serious historian, educated in Rome, Louvain, and in the USP of Sao Paulo, father Jose Oscar Beozzo, one of the most brilliant minds of our clergy.
Says Beozzo: «the basic question in our society is the right of the marginalized to life, which is always threatened by the abysmal inequality of access to life’s necessities and by the meager opportunities open to the great majority of the lower strata.
As Caio Prado Junior teaches us, our unequal society rests on four pillars that are hard to dislodge: a) that ownership of the land is concentrated in the hands of the few, such that there is no “free” or “available” land for those who work it, or for those who were its original owners, the indigenous peoples; b) the predominance of monoculture; c) that production is focused on the foreign market (sugar, tobacco, cotton, coffee, cocoa, and now soy); d) the regime of slave labor.
Independence from Portugal did not alter any of those pillars. Those who at that time dreamed of a different Brazil proposed a change from ownership of large tracts, to ownership of small plots, in the hands of those who worked the land; from monoculture to polyculture, from production for the international market to production geared towards local consumption and supply for the domestic market; from slave labor to free family work. This could be done in small regions peripheral to tropical monocultures, in the Gaucha and Catarinense mountain ranges, with German, Italian and Polish colonists, in a more democratic form of property ownership.
The large slave owners were strongly opposed to all those measures, and they crushed by fire and sword the popular uprisings that in any way looked towards democratization of the economy, politics, and above all, of labor relations. Suffice it to recall some of those revolts: the insurrections of the Males slaves in Bahia, the Balayada in Maranhao, the Cabanagem in the Amazon, the Playera revolt in Pernambuco, and the Farroupilha in the South.
The Revolution of the 30, with its nationalist tendencies, moved, if only partially, the country’s axis from foreign markets towards the domestic; from a model of agrarian exports towards one of substitution of imports; from the dominance of the coffee exporting elites of the Minas/Sao Paulo pact towards new leaders in the zones of production for the domestic market, such as those of rice and jerky of Rio Grande del Sur; from the restricted vote to the “universal” vote (except for the illiterate, still the great majority of adults at that time), from the exclusively male vote to women’s suffrage; from labor relations dictated only by the power of the masters towards regulation, at least in the industrial sphere, with the creation of the Secretary of Labor and of labor laws focused on the working class.The unavoidable dominance of the landowners within their properties could not be touched by labor regulations, which only occurred after 1964 with the Rural Labor Statute.
Getulio established a policy of appeasement between the classes, and of “cooperation” between capital and labor, the workers and the captains of industry, aimed at industrialization and the defense of national interests.
In the current electoral campaign, certain media have created the slogan: “Out PT”. They seek to end the dictatorship of the PT and to restore the “dictatorship of the financial market”. What really bothers them? Corruption and the “mensalon”?
As I see it, what bothers them are the democratizing measures, notwithstanding all their limitations, such as the Pro-Uni, the quotas in the universities for students coming from public schools rather than from particular colleges; the quotas for those whose grandparents came from the warehouses of slavery; agrarian reform, still inadequate to the task; the demarcation and official sanctioning of continuous areas of Yanomami land, opposed by a half dozen rice producers, backed by agro-business and a unanimous chorus of landowners, and all the social programs such as Bolsa Familiar, Light for all, My House, my Life, More Doctors, and more.
These critics never were annoyed when the State paid the tuition of young students from rich families whose children received a good education in private schools, making it easier for them to access free education in the public universities, which deepened the inequality of opportunity. For courses of medicine, those studies cost the state from six to seven thousand reales a month. Those families never protested the “handouts” given the rich, which they considered to be their “right” based on their merit, rather than a pure, and scandalous, privilege. They are the same doctors who refuse to practice in the interior of the country, or the favelas that lack even a single physician.
Those who raise their voices, saying that everything is going bad in the country, in spite of improvements in the minimum wage, the creation of millions of jobs, the widening of social policies geared to the poorest, the creation of More Physicians, oppose the policies of the PT that seek to assure citizens’ rights, to widen the democratization of society, to struggle against privilege and above all, to put some limits (insufficient in my point of view) on profits and the dictatorship of financial capital and of the “market”.
This is the reason for my vote for another project of country, that attends to the demands always denied to the great majorities. For that reason, I voted for Dilma in the first round and will do so again in the second, with respect for the other options».
I join in this interpretation, and in the vote for Dilma Rousseff.