Wednesday, May 4, 2016

James Petras — The Left: Business Accommodation and Social Debacle [Brazil]

Prologue: In 2004 I wrote Brazil and Lula: Year Zero (Edifurb: Blumenau, Sao Paolo 2005), in which I presented my analysis of the Lula-Workers Party (PT) regime in Brazil undergoing a Grand Transformation with the first stage represented by the PT’s incorporation into a government apparatus led by of bankers and exporters (the agro-mineral elite).
Two year earlier, my colleague, Henry Veltmeyer, and I had published Cardoso’s Brazil: A Land for Sale (Rowman and Littlefield, Lanham MD 2003) where we described how President Cardoso had sold off the major public resources, banks, petroleum and iron resources to foreign capital for rock bottom prices. The 2002 election of President Lula DaSilva of the Workers’ Party did not reverse Cardoso’s sell-out. Indeed, Lula accepted his predecessor’s neo-liberal policies - embellished them - and set about forging an alliance between the Workers’ Party and the economic elites, replacing Cardoso’s Party! For the next few years, we were attacked by the Left academic and pundit world for having dared to advance such a critique on their ‘worker president’! The consequences of what we had described as the PT’s pact with the Right are clear to everyone today: Brazil is enmeshed in swindles, scandals and coups.…
Excellent analysis of why and how the Left failed after taking power based on huge public support.

The Left believed in the myth of democratic capitalism. They had faith that their negotiations with the business elites would increase social welfare. They operated on a platform of gradual accommodation of class interests leading to multi-class alliances and strategic conciliation between business and labor.
The historical lesson has proven otherwise - again. Business and the capitalist elite make clear, tactical short-term agreements in order to prepare a strategic counter-offensive. Their patient long-term strategy was to mobilize their class allies and overturn the electoral process - at the ripe moment.…
Victorious capital and empire neatly ended this charade of ‘market democracy’. The retreating Left parties begged for a reprieve via parliamentary vote and ended with a decisive defeat… bleating their last whimper as the door slammed shut…
Capitalists have never and will never recognize weak popular opposition. The capitalist political elite will always choose power and wealth over social democracy. The Left, in retreat, isolated and expelled from the corridors of power, now face retribution from the most corrupt and treacherous of their ‘former allies’.

They usher in a lost generation.
Never trust a snake not to bite you.

James Petras Website
The Left: Business Accommodation and Social Debacle
James Petras | Professor (Emeritus) of Sociology at Binghamton University in Binghamton, New York and adjunct professor at Saint Mary's University, Halifax, Nova Scotia


Dan Lynch said...

Excellent article, thanks for posting it.

One can question whether capitalism will ever be compatible with democracy?

The Nordic countries and the Swiss have shown it can be done -- in small, homogeneous countries where there is a cultural consensus that people should look out for their fellow countrymen. It remains to be seen if the Nordic way can be sustained in other parts of the world.

nivekvb said...

I read recently, and I think it made a lot of sense, that the Nordic countries are so cold in winter that they had to be very collective to survive. In other words, rugged individuals would have perished.

Collectivism, as well as our intelligence, is the reason why the human race has been so successful.

'Rugged individualism' is just more propaganda put out by the right. It's easy to be a 'rugged individual' when you're loaded, or rather, to pretend to be one. This myth is designed to stop collectivism.

Now the right will say that the left failed in Latin America. But the left Latin American countries were existing in a world of neoliberalism, which constantly attacked its collective model.

Castro was right, you have to completely block out the West to survive, and lock up the leaders on the right. But in the end even he had to give in to some degree to neoliberalism.

I don't know how to get the neoliberals out of power. Banking and finance so complex, that left wing democratic governments will have to rely on banking technocrats to advise them, but these technocrats will always go on a looting spree.

The Yanis Varoufakis Noam Chomsky interview was very revealing. The technocrats in Europe saw politicians as a nuisance, and much lower down the hierarchy than themselves. Even Yanis Varoufakis felt overwhelmed by the bankers, who he thought were much more expert in banking than himself. There was even splinter groups of banking experts specializing in their own field, like VAT, etc.

Let's say that someone with a very good left wing ideology became leader of the British labour party and then won the election, but he would have to rely on the bankers for advice, who would always run rings around him.

This even happened to Ted Heath's Conservative Party. When be tried to industrialise Britain the bankers connived to wreck his policies. When the Labour party got in power afterwards, the bankers destroyed that party too, and so on until they got Thatcher.

The newspapers always talk about how the Labour Parties were a disaster for Britain, but the banking complex always insured that their policies failed.

Simsalablunder said...

"The Nordic countries and the Swiss have shown it can be done"

Don't think that's the case any more. Nordic countries has been neo-liberalised very much the last 30 years. Sweden perhaps the most.

The article is applicable on Nordic countries too. It's all down to how things are regulated and that has changed massively in favour of the owner class. In Sweden there are a few families which used to be industrialist owning most, today they're into the privatised public services, health care and school system owning even more.

It's easy money, but more importantly -more invisible power over the people where the multi-class alliances and strategic conciliation between business and labour is in full bloom.
Through the privatisation of public service they've created an alternative career for politicians where they can end up in management, board of directors etc. when working in favour for privatisation.

Social democratic parties in Nordic countries very much believed in the myth of democratic capitalism.
In Sweden it came across as "the spirit of mutual understanding". That "mutual understanding" only worked as long as the social democratic party where large and had the upper hand, could regulate things for the benefit of the masses, but also understood what the class conflict was about and maintained that knowledge among people in general, which required an understanding that they cannot rely on the owner class media, that they need their own media to give an alternative story to what the owners give. Those (newspapers back then) have since been sold to the owner class or put to rest.

Perhaps one of it's underlying major problems at the time was that its will to always be "modern", and that it in a strange way meant not to be bother about their own history enough. That I think is part of what fooled them to believe free market ideas where "modern" and give the new path to walk.

"The spirit of mutual understanding" would still apply they thought, and some fools still think it does. But today it's the owners who is calling the shots and "spirit of mutual understanding" is just a tool for the owner class to sound moderate when obstruct demands from the opponent.

This being "modern" wasn't enough though. The real change came with the banking crises around 1990 which then was blamed upon the welfare state, also by some of the "modern" social democrats, that it "cost too much" and needed to be scaled down.

And that they did. In a short period of time they sacked huge number of people creating unemployment numbers that since then never gone away but instead slowly but steady grown.

Matt Franko said...

"Even Yanis Varoufakis felt overwhelmed by the bankers, who he thought were much more expert in banking than himself."

This is not the guy you want in there then...

Dan Lynch said...

@Simsalablunder, you may be right that the Nordics are backsliding into Neoliberalism. It may turn out that the Nordic Social Democracy experiment was an anomaly similar to America's New Deal. If that is the case then we will have to admit that the whole "social democracy" concept is flawed.

For any democratic system to work and prevail people have to believe in it and, if push comes to shove, be willing to die for it. Who is willing to die for ObamaCare, or for charter schools, or for an Uber job?

Meanwhile, the elites keep the masses fighting among themselves over guns, god, and gays. That's why they trot out fake issues like transgender bathrooms at election time.

Simsalablunder said...

" If that is the case then we will have to admit that the whole "social democracy" concept is flawed."

The concept worked as long as enough people understood class struggle. They were the most successful when they thought of class struggle with no end. If that insight is revived then things could also change. If not then they are of no use really.