Brazil's liberal right rehearsal of a coup d'état. Part II
The Institutional Coup
In the event of a right-wing coup against Dilma Rousseff, the most convenient way to go would be by institutional, legal and parliamentary means. This could happen, for instance, through the annulment of the elections and that was tried when Justice Gilmar Mendes (Supreme Court), ordered the investigation of the elected coalition's accounts, claiming a possible use of financial resources (for the election campaign) from a corruption scheme – the investigation of those matters came to be known as Operation "Lava Jato"4. The request, however, was rejected by the Electoral Attorney General (Rodrigo Janot), who claimed lack of sufficient evidence. Since then, Mendes has tried other ways to invalidate the election, but so far none has succeeded (Justice Mendes has a reputation of being linked to opposition party PSDB). It is also interesting to note, by the way, that the recent arrest of Brazilian Admiral Othon Luiz Pinheiro da Silva (part of Operation Lava Jato probe into bribing allegations) was based on information the U.S. Department of Justice shared with the Brazilian Federal Prosecution Office. Admiral Silva, by the way, was a key figure behind Brazil's secret nuclear program in the seventies. So, there are geopolitical implications behind all the scandal. But this is topic for another discussion.
Another way of attacking Dilma Rousseff's administration following the institutional route is by an impeachment process, and, as mentioned, Eduardo Cunha (PMDB’s elected deputy and Lower House Speaker) has finally accepted one of the 34 impeachment requests so far filed. The background of this event involves a whole web of accusations and political negotiations that has been developing between the government and its coalition, under opposition pressure. As soon as September, an official congress impeachment motion came about by means of uniting opposition deputies and “rebels” co-opted from the very government coalition. In response to this, the government caucus retaliated starting a campaign against Eduardo Cunha. As a result of that, Cunha himself has been the target of (well-founded) corruption investigations involving money laundering. Dilma Rousseff's PT was the main party behind a motion against Cunha in the Ethics Council requesting his impeachment – an obvious retaliation. The motion against Cunha was not voted (some PT member of parliament themselves boycotted it) and there was talk of a political pact, a cease-fire of some sort involving PT and PMDB “rebels”. Cunha now seems to have broken that supposed pact.
For the impeachment proceedings against the Brazilian President to succeed, however, the whole thing must be analysed by a special parliamentary committee, and then approved in the Congress lower house with more than two thirds of the deputies' votes. If that happens, Dilma Roussef will be suspended from her office for 180 days, and the vice-president Michel Temer (PMDB) would replace her. After this, the process would be headed to the higher house (Brazilian Senate), and if two-thirds of the senators vote “Yes”, Roussef would then be ousted for good. However, those voting majorities are not easy to achieve, as it would require a complete breakup of the government coalition (simple arithmetic). A few things need to be said, then, about the main component of that coalition, the PMDB.
The Party of Brazilian Democratic Movement (PMDB) stars the politically slippery and unpredictable situation in which we find ourselves in Brazil. The acronym PMDB stands for the largest party in the country, which has been essential to the so-called "governability" (governing capacity cannot be taken for granted in Brazil): never having elected a President, that party is deeply rooted in the whole state apparatus; it influences every important decision and is famous for its opportunism (basically demanding government post for its many party members, godsons and protégées in exchange for political cooperation). Dilma Rousseff has thus been negotiating with PMDB constantly: it was favoured in the appointment of ministers, yet the party seems to be little interested in cooperating. No statement of support against the impeachment came so far, not even from Dilma Rousseff's Vice-President himself, Michel Temer, of whom Roussef said to expect "full loyalty". Quite the opposite, an embarrassing letter from him to the President was published in the news media, and Eliseu Padilha, a politician very close to Temer, has just resigned from his post of Minister of Civil Aviation. In October, the PMDB party also launched a document containing criticism of PT's economic policies and emphasising PMDB commitment to economic liberalism.
However, it would surprise no one if this large organization that is PMDB, so ideologically weak and containing so many conflicting interests, would simply split in this issue – which would make the coup plans simply not viable.
The institutional coup is thus a possible scenario, but it lacks support from important sectors. Former Supreme Court Justice Carlos Ayres Britto, amongst other Constitutional Law experts has pointed out that there is no legal basis for an impeachment (the whole thing is of course political). There are also several popular movements and social organizations that are still on the government's side, for their historical connection with the Workers' Party.
PT's ability to appease classist demands of the workers (with half measures and palliatives) has actually been something praised by Brazilian capitalists, but this ability has been gradually eroding. Despite all the dissatisfaction and anti-PT feelings that unpopular measures have brought among PT's leftmost supporters (or simply the most aware of them), in a right-wing coup scenario, such social movements and individuals would probably go to the streets against the coup (defending the “lesser evil”, so to speak) and they would not be easily suppressed. The same combative attitude, however, cannot be expected from opposition supporters among the general population, who do not have a history of mobilizing street demonstrations – it is simply not part of their ethos.
What is happening?
The dispute over control of the state apparatus translates itself (in its basest form) into the PT-PSDB feud which polarises the country. This dispute corresponds to competing political power projects which, in their turn, are actually a win-win situation for the economic actors and a lose-lose situation for the country. One of those projects however stands out as potentially even more harmful to the country than the other: the Atlantist alternative is in fact better represented by the Party of Brazilian Social Democracy (PSDB).
It is clear that the PT government has ceded ground to Big Business and guaranteed its profit at the expense of the country's development (not just economic, but also cultural and moral). PT officials have also been involved in corruption scams, which actually consist in cases of treason and make the state vulnerable to globalist interest attacks. The scandal over Petrobras (the Brazilian Petroleum Corporation), for example, regardless of whether it has become a "scandal" (with a little push from external influence and compliant media, or not), resulted in the devaluation of the main Brazilian state company by means of the sale of its assets to private investors and the opening of negotiations for granting more concessions of Brazilian pre-salter layer oil fields for international giants such as Royal Dutch Shell and Chinese state oil companies. This potential loss is incalculable for Brazil.
So, international capital has advanced on Brazilian goods and, yes, the financial sector has broken successive profit records in Brazil5 under Dilma Roussef's administration and yet we maintain that the financial community (whose greed is never satisfied) knows fully well that they would be in an even better position having PSDB in power. We maintain it based on an analysis of campaign financing in the last elections6. The record shows that, regarding the biggest receivers of corporate donations, PT is ranked, after PMDB, as third place in regard to the amount collected with total revenues of R$385,993,122.54, while PSDB, in its turn, is the funding champion, having a total amount of R$629,323,035.76.
Moreover, when we go through the donations' sources, we find an open preference of banking and financial services for PSDB. Now, anyone who is aware of the importance of geopolitics (to understand the current world and act in it), knows that the banking sector is not just another arm of capitalism7 – it serves in fact as the main tool for placing emerging nations “in their place” within the globalist liberal project (see, for instance, Confessions of an Economic Hit Man by John Perkins). It is when the misdeeds of big banks meet counter-actions in emerging nations, that Atlantism begins to resort to other types of intervention, provoking, for instance, wars and "orange revolutions", as we saw recently in Libya, Syria and a lot of other nations in these times of offensive by the unipolar project.
In Brazil, much less than that was necessary to bother the masters the world: the very presence of state banks in our economy has been annoying the bankers. By providing affordable credit lines, Caixa Economica Federal (Federal Savings Bank), for instance, took an important share of the market from them, and this has resulted in attacks on that institution, to which the government responded signalling privatization8. BNDES (National Bank for Development), in its turn, is even more uncomfortable because it finances the major projects of PAC (Growth Acceleration Plan – a major federal government infrastructure program that translates itself into a bunch of infrastructure concessions auctioned off to private sector companies). So, PAC naturally was the next target: a parliamentary investigation of its finances has started under intense media coverage.
In addition, other PT-administration moves also contributed to exasperate the financiers, such as: plans to no longer operate under the SELIC (Special Clearance and Escrow System) rate. SELIC is the Brazilian Central Bank's system for performing open market operations in execution of monetary policy whereas the SELIC rate is the Central Bank's overnight rate (interest rate in Brazil is reported by its Central Bank. That is, the SELIC rate is the predominant measure of the opportunity or marginal cost of funds in Brazil). Brazil's SELIC rate, in a word, is good for banks. Brazil does still have the world’s highest interest rates, even though they were lowered to some extent during both PT presidencies (Lula, 2003-2011 followed by Dilma Rousseff).
We could also mention the approval of a law that changed Budget Guidelines authorizing the government to change the calculation of the surplus target in a way which favoured contractors at the expense of bankers; a new law project of taxation on bank profits that would extend austerity measures to the richest and increase state revenue in around 3 to 4 billion; and, last, but not least, the effort to reestablish the CPMF (a tax on bank account transactions).
Because every action that leads to national companies disparagement gives more room for international capital, and based also on the campaign financing of PSDB (PT's main rival) and the weakening of state apparatus that PSDB party proposes, we can say that the political dispute between PT and PSDB largely reflects a dispute carried out between internal and external capital, not restricted to the financial sector. So we can see the source, in economic terms, of the incentives to the unfolding coup and there is no doubt that such process is being closely monitored by the US – and American political and ideological intrusion does play a role in the rehearsal for this coup d'état9.
So what are the difficulties encountered in the coup enterprise?
1. The opposition failure to getting enough popular and political support. The political groups directed by American think-tanks that led the anti-PT street demonstrations have weakened; they split over disagreements among its leaders and also because sectors more prone to conservatism, used as useful idiots by [neo]liberals, have begun to resent it10. Even if the population is dissatisfied with the financial crisis and disapproves Dilma Rousseff’s administration, there is no evidence of a pro-impeachment mass movement willing to take to the streets. There have been demonstrations in many cities and towns across the country, but their numbers are not so impressive.
2. Furthermore, the austerity measures imposed by the Finance Minister, Joaquim Levy, ensure that Brazil continues to pay its debts regularly under the usual abusive interest rates; continues with subsidies for agribusiness; the deterioration of labour rights for the benefit of the industrial bourgeoisie (now fuelled by immigration from the countryside to industrial districts). And the rise in dollar exchange rates is known to keep at least the export sector happy. Thus, for the international capital and Atlantist interests, it may be safer to avoid instability now and try to just keep the masses dissatisfaction against Dilma Rousseff as a saving/investment tool to be used to defeat her at the ballot box in 2018 elections. This approach is described, in Brazil, as a manner of letting the President bleed (until 2018, that is, to keep damaging her reputation to wear her down, but with no intent of overthrowing her government yet).
Fearing that Lula could make a come back (in 2018 elections), the opposition even spawned some legislative changes that would throttle the financing of PT campaign, already undermined anyway by the dismantling of arrangements with contractors. In this sense, the opposition suffered a defeat with the recent approval of a law that ends private financing of electoral campaigns. Anyway, the liberal offensive is not defeated and Brazil needs a movement that does not back off when confronted by it, to get rid of the imperialist yoke once and for all. It is very clear to us, however, that this movement will not come from PT.
We want to make it clear that we reject PT for all its indulgence to globalism, not only in economics, but also by the harmful adopting of a political program completely in accordance with the worst of liberal decadence in social and cultural areas, which is a great injury to Brazilian tradition (see, for instance, minister Roberto Unger Pátria Educadora proposal). However, when it comes to politics, neutrality is impossible and to take refuge in it is to support some part, consciously or not. With the political crisis in Brazil this year, we saw both far-left and nationalist circles joining the chorus for the anti-PT coup for diverse reasons. This attitude can be the result of legitimate revolt, but at the moment it does not help Brazil or Brazilian working class and people.
We're not saying, therefore, that PT's administration (Dilma Rousseff's second term specially) is minimally counter-hegemonic. For much of what we said in this text, it is clear that this is not the case. The reason that makes us stand against the overthrow of such government is the lack of any alternative that offers better prospects in short term – the national fiasco that is the current party system will not end without hard revolutionary work, awareness, deconstruction and by “occupying” spaces in society. The rise of PSDB or PMDB, parties that do not even bother to maintain an image of resistance, would represent an even greater victory for finance capital, causing some damages that could not be repaired without much trouble, even if a really dissent alternative were to arise. The PT party, anyhow, is in such situation that its administration tends to gets defensive and therefore it needs to hold some positions (like its stance on the BRICS group) that will be important for Brazil in the future in order for it to pursue a sovereign policy. That is PT's legacy, so to speak. PT does so, because it wants to remain in power and because it knows fully well that it may lose the support of its very militant party base; the party knows as well that it has no trust from Atlantist forces. PT's attitude against the plunder of the state apparatus and state-owned companies is, however, too weak to prevent it, but not even such feeble reluctance would be found in case the opposition seizes power; so the whole process (of Americanization of Brazil) would be accelerated. Perhaps, trying to be optimistic in a situation that's not much favourable at all, we might hope that a strong popular pressure coming from the streets could result in a stronger PT government stance. Leftist fronts were formed with this purpose, although with a bias to which we are very critical11.
We therefore reaffirm our breaking with all modern liberal politics, that is, with the right and with the left, but we do so while never losing our grip on reality. Because we desire a real revolution, it will be necessary to know how to take advantage of everything that can become a resource against the enemy and acting in the world that enemy built to implode it from inside. That’s why we seek in this time of crisis the opportunity to enter the national public debate with an authentic choice guided by the Fourth Political Theory and not by false dichotomies such as “for PT” or “against PT” ‒ dichotomies which are based in the paradigm of modernity (to be surpassed) and which can distract us of the key points about which we should be aware of and from the real power of choice we have.
Amarílis Demartini, Caimmy de Sá (CEM)
1 The theory that PT administrations have been neo-developmentalist is quite arguable. Those administrations lack a number of central features of Celso Furtado’s developmentalism, from which the "neo" version originates. Furtado aimed national sovereignty through the internalization of political and economic decisions, therefore, the current indulgence to foreign instances is a contradiction, hence the irony. For more details, see:
2 We can mention: Itaú, NY Times, Rede Globo and others.
3 Trabalhismo was a Brazilian nationalist movement that arose from the workers union faction of nationalist dictator Getulio Vargas’ supporters. It's main political institution was the Partido Trabalhista Brasileiro (PTB). Some of its roots are to be found in the political thinking of Brazilian leader Julio de Castilhos (1860-1903).
4 The investigation of that corruption scandal deserves yet another articleand is certainly the anteroom of the coup strategy.
6 We must give the credits for this analysis, and other data related to the economic situation, to Pablo Polese's article in the leftist blog Passa Palavra (he is a PhD student in UERJ and UFRJ).
7 Apparently, most Marxists strive to peremptorily ignore this fact.
10 For example, the feuds between [Austrian school] "libertarians" and [classic] "liberals" at the Brazil Mises Institute - and also between Movimento Brasil Livre (Free Brazil Movement) and the followers of Brazilian intellectual Olavo de Carvalho, etc etc.
11 That is the case with Frente Brasil Popular (Popular Brazil Front) and Frente Povo Sem Medo (People Without Fear Front). Although these initiatives have many valid guidelines they unfortunately deviate from the focus and employ a discourse that is liberal in nature, as is common within the left today.