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Exit, Stage ‘Left’ — How Brazil invited impeachment into its parliament

Dilma Rousseff's impeachment shows how a political movement that aspires to socialism in Latin America can never achieve its objectives by practising liberal reformism.

On 31st August 2016 the ‘B’ in BRICS finally succumbed to a 14 year-long battle with opportunism.  

Following Lower House Speaker Jose Eduardo Cardozo’s annulment of its majority vote, head of Senate Renan Calheiros defiantly continued the impeachment process. As Sputnik reported 

“Following a three day debate, a majority of 61 senators voted definitively to remove Rousseff from the presidency. 20 senators voted against; there were no abstentions.”

Responding to the impeachment, Rousseff dejectedly addressed her supporters.

“The will of 61 senators has replaced that of 54,5 million people who voted for me.”

The bitter irony is that these ’54.5 million Brazilians’—many whom depend on former president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva’s Borsa Familia conditional cash transfer (CCT) programmes—could only watch as Brazilian Democratic Party Movement (PMDB) leader, Michel Temer, was officially sworn in on 1st September 2016.

Shortly after receiving the news, three countries—Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia—recalled their embassies and denounced the new leadership.  As Ecuadorian President Rafael Correa explained

“Never will we condone these practices, which recall the darkest hours of our America.”

Unsurprisingly, the United States, the godfather of colour revolutions, hurriedly expressed its solidarity with Temer.   In the well-crafted Duckspeak of US State Department spokesman James Kirby declared

“[…] the Brazilian Senate in accordance with Brazil’s constitutional framework has voted to remove President Rousseff from office.  We’re confident that we will continue the strong bilateral relationship that exists between our two countries as the two largest democracies and economies in the hemisphere.”

Latin America’s far-right parroted the State Department. Argentina’s Foreign Ministry, in banal political jargon, declared

“[The] Argentine government expresses its respect for the institutional process [and] its willingness to continue on the path of a real and effective integration in the framework of absolute respect for Human rights, democratic institutions and International Law.”

Latin America is no stranger to Western contortions of ‘human rights, democratic institutions, and international law’, where in November 2015, acting Argentinian President Mauricio Macri beta tested Temer’s privatisation scheme after defeating leftist Daniel Scioli in elections, and like a despotic oncologist, followed up with a cocktail of media blackouts, budget cuts, privatisations and deepening ties to the US State Department to remove as many traces of Kirchnerismo as possible.

As expected, Pro-Rousseff demonstrators flooded the streets across Brazil. RT reported

“The greatest act of civil disobedience took place in Sao Paulo, where protesters clashed with police on Agenda Paulista, in the downtown area; in Rio de Janeiro, where activists gathered in Cinelandia square; and in Brasilia, where activists rallied in the Praca dos Tres Poderes square.”

Despite the public’s legitimate concerns, the Worker’s Party has squandered its ‘revolution’.  Nevertheless, hindsight is 20-20, but Brazil’s future stands at 50-50, and the chagrin of Rousseff’s adamant supporters may not be enough to reinstate her in power due to an uncomfortable truth: the Worker’s Party’s immature understanding of socialism was its primary shortcoming.

Several prominent member states of the Boliviarian Alliance for the Peoples of our Americas (ALBA) such as Venezuela, Cuba, Ecuador, and Bolivia, have struggled almost unabatedly with foreign interference and have won, at least temporarily, by uniting under a common framework which is politically, economically, and socially Marxist in nature.

Since its foundation in 2004, when United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV) founder Hugo Chavez increased bilateral agreements with Cuba, the ALBA has expanded from 2 to 11 countries, serving as a model for Latin American self-determination and not simply an Economist quick fix of common market and trade associations.   Brazil however was only partially involved.

A Latin American Bureau article highlighted this

“[…] the most serious disappointment of all was the PT’s failure to develop a strategy for political reform, the only way of breaking the right’s stranglehold over the country’s political institutions, particularly Congress, and of curbing the insidious impact of massive electoral financing by the country’s economic elite.”

Yet, even this only flaccidly represents the truth. Brazil needed political revolution, not reforms, in order to purge the very opportunists now in power.

Secondly, Lulism, the theory behind Lula da Silva’s politics, was impossible under its coalition-based parliamentary system.  Furthermore, Lula wrongly assumed that creating an ‘alternative’ to Latin America’s Boliviarian and Chavism movements, instead of fully integrating with them, would yield better results. Dan La Botz asserts that

“during [Lula’s] first term, rather than leading the working class forward in struggle against the country’s capitalists and politicians as many expected, he made peace with them.”

The PT simply pandered to Brazil’s class contradictions instead of dissolving them.  For example, the PT relied on Petrobras oil sales and government coffers, but forged partnerships with the World Bank to monitor payouts.

Dubbed the “Quiet Revolution”, Brazil’s Borsa Familia programme created a welfare state dependent on capital from the Washington-funded InterAmerican Development Bank (IADB). Brazil even initiated the IADB partnership and sought financing for its pacing of disbursements programme (SWAp components).  As a World Bank report highlighted

“[They] requested the World Bank to partner the BFP in the context of longstanding Bank support for its social agenda under the Policy Sector Reform framework.  The Bank’s four-year project loan, excluding counterpart funds, is expected to be US$572.2 million.”

The World Bank is the economic muscle of US imperialism, created to financially restructure post-War (and coup) countries, ensuring US dollar dominance.   When Rousseff challenged this by shifting to Iran to trade in Brazilian Reals, this infuriated the State Department, which later commanded its ‘assets’ to overthrow Rousseff and privatise Brazil’s pre-salt oil deposits.

Conversely, Brazil’s neighbours remained vigilant. President Nicholas Maduro, although not as politically graceful as Chavez, still defended socialism by expanding it across South America in defiance of US-led sanctions, colour revolutions, falling oil prices, and ongoing parliamentary coup.

In fact, Boliviarianism, the unifying ideology of the ALBA nations, is to combat Western imperialism and liberal democracy.   As a FRIDE report puts it

“[…] the emergence of Chavism and other populist leaders can be explained by the limited results of liberal democracy and the neo-liberal politics designed in Europe and Washington.”

In international relations, Brazil and Venezuela both see the Islamic Republic of Iran as a strategically; however, Venezuela has expanded ties since the Ahmedinejad administration as a measure of solidarity, not trade.  As FRIDE says

“Both [Iran and Venezuela] are strongly committed to creating a bilateral alliance based on common oil interests, military cooperation, ideological affinities between the presidents and open hostility against the United States and its allies.”

Going against public ‘opinion’, former MERCOSUR leader Rodolfo Nin Novoa (Uruguay) chose Venezuela as the bloc’s new leader, ignoring protests from Argentina, Paraguay, and Brazil’s reactionary leadership.

To combat these advancements, the State Department currently uses neoliberal parliaments and colour revolutions as weapons against the ruling party.  However, where Venezuela has preserved its autonomy as the centrepiece of ALBA and MERCOSUR, Argentina and Brazil succumbed to their American creditors via regime change, failing to counteract them.  

One such example—rather than becoming victimised by bogus indictments and legislative skullduggery, Maduro wielded them both to crush the colour revolutions of Popular Will leaders Leopolo Lopez and Lester Toledo; well-documented State Department assets.  As reported by Venezuela Analysis

“Minister of Domestic Affairs, Justice and Peace, General Néstor Reverol […] has issued an arrest warrant for opposition leader Lester Toledo of the Popular Will Party (VP) in Zulia state for allegedly ‘financing terrorism’. This comes after President Nicolás Maduro also said on Tuesday that he will consider stripping all Venezuelan politicians of immunity in order to permit courtprosecutions for suspected coup-plotters.”

ALBA members fully understand that the ‘moderate opposition’, just like Islamic State, is a loose confederation of dog-eat-dog extremists used to overthrow democratic governments.   The CEPR think-tank outlines

“The U.S. government has been funding the Venezuelan opposition for at least 12 years, including, […] some of the people and organisations involved in the 2002 military coup [to] get rid of the Chávez government and replace it with something more to their liking.  The outside pressure for unity […] has been a serious problem for the Venezuelan opposition. The cables also show that this is a serious concern for the U.S. government.”

Rousseff could have followed Venezuela’s example by creating an executive order, citing threats to the public ownership (privatisation) by any foreign government assets as an act of treason, jailing all congressmen—59% whom are suspected of corruption—and preemptively ending their chicanery.

Other self-proclaimed ‘democracies’ love executive orders; especially the United States.  

Instead, the PT crawled into bed with every single opponent to its democracy, and even the US intelligentsia noted this.  As even a 2011 Brookings Institute report explained

“Contrary to the consensus among scholars and political analysts, unified government in the multiparty [coalition]-based presidential regime might not necessarily lead to an easier life for the newly-elected Brazilian president, Dilma Rousseff-PT, in regard to her relations with the Brazilian Congress.” 

The report continues, predicting her demise:

“With regard to power sharing, she will also be tempted to follow the same path of her political “guru” given that she will be under great pressure to preserve several PT internal factions in power.  […] Thus, disproportionally treating the PMDB and other coalition partners (like PL and PSB) with a small number of cabinet positions and other coalition currencies, as did Lula, might generate growing dissatisfaction within an already fragmented and regionally based key coalition partner.”

These predictions were evident in Temer’s 2015 letter to Rousseff.  Rousseff’s ‘socialist’ government only succeeded in forming a coalition with hardcore capitalists devoid of any profit (and power) motive.

It goes without saying that members of the ALBA rightfully denounced the coup, which mirrored the one that ousted then-President João Goulart in 1964, after his Basic Reforms Plan socialised corporate profits, provoking the anger of US assets within the Brazilian military.

Any amateur socialist who has fumbled through a copy of The State and Revolution understands that the state apparatus, in every government, is used to repress those hostile to it, and Brazil’s true state power wielded that authority on 31st August 2016.

Brazil created a welfare state similar to the British Labour Party, where former PM Clement Attlee attempted to build socialism in the vacuum of capitalism; there is nothing revolutionary about that.

Without ownership of the means of production, a common ideology, strong international  friendships, an effective defence of public capital, and worker representation, there can be no socialism.

Simply put, revolutions have no business in bourgeois hands.  With Rousseff gone and protesters at the mercy of unbridled privatisation, Brazil should recall former Uruguayan president Jose Murcia’s words as he entrusted Venezuela with MERCOSUR:

“Politics must prevail over law and legality”.

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Haneul Na'avi
Haneul Na'avi is an independent journalist and geopolitical analyst based in the United Kingdom. He has previously written for RT, Press TV, Global Research, and the Pravda Report.