Não Nos Representam: A Left Beyond the Workers Party?

July 23rd, 2013

Published on The Bullet, Socialist Project’s E-Bulletin no 853, July 18, 2013.

It started as a good idea. Rather than taking the path of the old Latin American left, in the form of the guerrilla movement, or the Stalinist party, Brazil’s Workers’ Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores, PT), aided by strong union and social movements, decided to try something new. The challenge was to somehow combine the institutions of liberal democracy with popular participation by communities and movements.  

The answer eventually became participatory budgeting (PB). Introduced in the city of Porto Alegre in 1989, PB was a highly innovative experiment in co-management and de-centralization (Weyh, 2011). It allowed communities of diverse political stripes to democratically manage a small portion of their city’s budget. Not only did this result in more and better services for poor communities, it also opened a space where people could learn new democratic skills and build new solidarities. In PB, a virtuous cycle of democracy was unleashed: the more people participated, the more people learned to participate. Add to this, a number of poverty reducing programs at the national level, such as Bolsa Familia, and you suddenly had a new path to social transformation: peaceful, gradual and pluralist … //

… Anti-FIFA World Cup Sentiment: … //

… Não me representa: … //

… Beyond the Workers’ Party? … //

… Post Script: Historic General Strike:

The first since 1991 (and the fourth in Brazil’s history), the general strike that took place on July 11, 2013 successfully brought much of the country to a standstill. The strike came amidst, not only widespread popular protests, but also an upswing of strike activity that began in 2008. This culminated in a yearly average of 560 strikes by 2012, a record since 1998 (Le Monde). The strike also took place a day after the national chamber of deputies rejected Dilma Rousseff’s proposal of a popular plebiscite for political reforms, opting instead to form a “working table” to discuss the issue in the future. Unlike previous general strikes, this one brought together workers and social movements. Diverse actions were witnessed throughout the country, including road blockades, building occupations, demonstrations and marches.

Porto Alegre was one of the city’s most affected by the strike. The public transportation system was almost completely paralyzed and practically all businesses were closed, giving the city the feel of a national holiday. The strike actually began on the night of July 10th in Porto Alegre, as a number of activist groups occupied the municipal chamber of aldermen demanding “free transit now” and the opening of transit companies’ books. The next day, hundreds of workers gathered in several spots throughout the city and marched toward the city center. In the early afternoon, Bloco de Luta, asked the unions to continue their march all the way to the Chamber, where the occupation was ongoing. This revealed a certain disorganization in the movement, as many activists were left wondering where exactly to meet and march toward.

Once under way, the march split downtown, with about 3000 people continuing to the Chamber and 2000 remaining near the prefecture. Surprisingly, these numbers were a bit lower than in previous marches and demonstrations. Although organized workers were much more visible than in previous days, it seems most decided to stay home rather than go out to the streets. Also more visible were party flags, demonstrating that the anti-party sentiment of the first wave of demonstrations had considerably eroded. Now it’s June 12, 2013, and things are back to “normal” … at least for now.
(full text).

(Manuel Larrabure is a Ph.D. candidate in the Political Science department at York University in Toronto, Canada. His research is on Latin America’s new cooperative movement and 21st-century socialism. He is currently in Brazil conducting fieldwork).

Link: Manuel Larrabure at Worker’s Control.net.

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