Brazil: Placing the Poor Before the Palace

Issue section: 
Issue: 
(283)

Heloisa Helena was one of the Brazilian Workers Party‘s most popular figures when it won the presidential election 15 months ago, and used to be leader of its group in the senate. But last month she announced she was throwing herself into the attempt to build a new socialist party in opposition to the government.

This follows her expulsion from the party along with three parliamentary deputies. Her crime? Voting against a government law to cut public service pensions virtually identical to one the Workers Party fought against when in opposition.

Here are some extracts from an interview in the Jornal de Brasil, where she explained her decision:

’We want to work together to build alternatives, to safeguard the socialist and democratic left. We will defend the historic demands and points of reference of the working class. We could be feasting on the rich banquet offered by the establishment at the Planalto presidential palace, but we prefer to build this alternative.

’The Lula government has encouraged people who think it would be very dangerous for Brazil to break with the IMF. But there is nothing dangerous about it.

’Relations between Brazil and the international community should not be determined by submission to foreign capital, represented by the vampires of the IMF and by the other multilateral financial institutions. The IMF is not a philanthropic entity - it presides over the pillage committed by the international bankers. It is, in fact, nothing but an appendage of the US Treasury.

’The majority of us argue for an investigation into the debt, to discover how it was built up, who has profited, its legitimacy. The parties of the left and many important militants in the social movements have raised the issue with the public during elections and with petitions in the past. I don‘t understand how these people think the opposite today - unless it indicates cynicism and a lack of political scruples. To be against such an investigation of the debt and to defend its payment is a conservative, reactionary position.

’We have to put an end to the ridiculous persecution mania [against those calling for non-payment of the debt]. It is a terrorism which is about promoting fear. It only serves to legitimise a failed model that has never worked anywhere in the world. This model allows the proliferation of parasites who appropriate the fruits of the labour of the majority of people.

’The government has decided to raid the budgets of the social ministries to ensure a budget surplus. It‘s not magic. It is this economic policy which meant the failure of the government on its “Zero Hunger” campaign, on land reform, on education and health. To fill the stomachs of the bankers they have to empty the plates of Brazilians.

’We are convinced of the need to work together in the building of a party which can be an alternative which helps the left and which will not be imprisoned by forces that hold real power.

’The new party will not be born by decree, nor by the will of this or that political personality.

’We are open to everyone. The only people who will not have a place are neoliberals, Nazis, racists and political delinquents.

’First there was a working meeting of several left wing groupings to define the points of agreement, such as internal democracy. Now there will be general meetings to prepare forums of debate which will take place from the beginning of March through to June.

’In the first week of June we want to hold our first congress, and afterwards we will have to gather the 500,000 signatures needed for registering as a party. It is a Herculean task, but I am used to toiling in the burning sun.

’We know the difficulties. We are survivors. We have spent all our lives swallowing our own fears, but we have learned to keep going. Those who have lived through what I have lived through in the state of Alagoas to build the Workers Party, risking my life and humiliation, cannot fear anything. Getting 500,000 signatures is not much compared to the challenges we have faced already.‘


The full interview is available in French on www.alencontre.org.