The landslide victory of the Workers Party (PT) candidate, Lula da Silva in the Brazilian presidential election in October, was of historic significance.
The landslide victory of the Workers Party (PT) candidate, Lula da Silva in the Brazilian presidential election in October, was of historic significance. The first Brazilian from a working class background to be elected to the post, the vote of 61.4 percent was also the first time a workers-based party has won national elections in Latin America since 1970.
A former trade unionist, Lula played a leading role in metal workers' strikes which helped to bring down Brazil's military dictatorship in the late 1970s. Last month's result was a decisive rejection of the neoliberal politics of the outgoing President Cardosa, and his would-be successor Jose Serra. Seventy million of Brazil's 175 million population live below the poverty line and the IMF demands that the country services $348 billion of debt. This will only make things worse.
Lula greeted his victory with a commitment to tackling unemployment, but this was combined with a promise to be 'fiscally responsible'. Lula now calls for Brazil's crippling debt to be renegotiated, not defaulted on. His promise to honour contracts signed by his predecessor is a retreat from the popular policy of renationalisation. 'Lula-Lite', as he is now known, is a long way from the party whose 1982 election slogan was 'Vote PT--the rest are bourgeois'.
With its currency down 40 percent in value against the dollar this year Brazil is teetering towards recession. Predictably the IMF are waiting with an Argentina-style loan scheme. The question is, can a large and confident working class be made to pay the price? Joao Pedro Stedile of the Landless Workers Movement spoke for many when he warned that if Lula 'tries to deceive people by asking for patience, he will end up like De la Rua (the Argentinian president deposed by mass rioting)'.
The hundreds of thousands who came onto the streets to celebrate Lula's success are part of a widespread movement to reject the ravages of the market. They have the power to keep up the pressure on Lula in the coming months. That is not a prospect the IMF will be relishing.