Corporate Leninism

Dilma Rousseff, in her bid for re-election to the presidency of Brazil, stated that opponent Marina Silva intended to “give away to the bankers” control of the Brazilian economy. Dilma’s electoral bluff assumed that voters would believe that bankers are nowadays unable to dictate the path the national economy should take.

Not even Dilma believes this lie: A mere two months later, with her second term guaranteed, she announced Joaquim Levy as the new Minister of Finance. Levy is a director at Bradesco, one of the largest banks in Brazil, and worked at the IMF during the 1990s. The same IMF that, according to Dilma’s electoral ads, would resume its control of Brazil’s economy should also-candidate Aecio Neves be elected.

Not content, Dilma will put Armando Monteiro in charge of the Ministry of Development. Monteiro is a strong name among employers unions and business associations: He presided over the National Confederation of Manufacture (CNI) and the Federation of Manufacturers of the State of Pernambuco (FIEPE). During his failed bid for the state government of Pernambuco in 2014, Monteiro repeatedly lamented the alleged lack of a consistent “industrial policy” in the state.

Besides those two, Katia Abreu, former member of the conservative party DEM, leader of the so-called rural caucus in the Senate, president of the National Confederation of Agriculture, should be the new name at the helm of Ministry of Agriculture. Abreu was part of the nominal opposition during the Lula administration. During the Dilma years, she has gradually realigned herself, initially interested in dictating the terms of the new port policy — that is, she wanted to control government investments in seaports, thereby subsidizing agribusinesses’ exports.

The naming of these three as part of the Dilma government shows the lack of scruples of the Workers’ Party (PT); the government is not worrying because it will lead us down the path of some sort of bureaucratic socialism, as some conservative critics fear. Rather, their unscrupulousness is troubling because PT is perfectly comfortable inside the power structure of the state and does not intend to break this structure’s balance. Just like the tsar and the Russian aristocracy did not allow the construction of new railroads in the empire, fearing that a new distribution of economic power would undermine their political power, groups that are so incrusted in the state cogs such as PT do not intend to make radical changes to a political structure that benefits them.

Joaquim Levy, Armando Monteiro, and Katia Abreu collide head on with the nominal ideology of Dilma’s Workers’ Party — not only by their supporters, but by their nucleus. They represent banks, manufacture, and agribusiness. Their private interests, symbiotic to the corporate state, are in clear opposition to the “workers” to whom the PT pays lip service. They are individuals, however, that do not stand opposed to PT’s broader project of preservation of power through the maintenance of the present social structure, of the perpetuation of the existing distribution of economic power and hence the existing distribution of political power at the same nodes. Therefore, the presence of sectoral leaders in the government, such as Armando Monteiro and Kátia Abreu, are not surprising: they are expected, given structural incentives.

The state, after all, is a rich people’s game. Rising fist rhetoric and red-tinted TV ads may convey the impression that it has changed its nature: In fact, it is always the same. Being Bolivarian, Caudillista, Varguista, or Peronista is just the marketing fad of the moment in Latin America. In the same way that Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro are but a continuation of the Venezuelan oligarchy, Lula’s and Dilma’s PT are no more than a continuation of the Brazilian oligarchic system.

Karl Marx observed that the state is a committee for managing the affairs of the bourgeoisie, and, in that sense, the PT is a full expression of Marxism: Its 12 years of dominance over national politics have been characterized by a close relationship with “bourgeois” corporate policy. Despite general perceptions and cultural polarizations in the recent elections, there has not been a rupture; as Raymundo Faoro stated, Brazil has always had a “politically oriented capitalism,” directed and redirected according to the wishes and perceptions of the “bureaucratic stratum” that controls the state.

There is a sense, nevertheless, according to which the PT remains distinctly Leninist: Their nucleus still judges itself as a revolutionary vanguard and conflates their success with national success. The militants form a force field that defends the party from outside criticism. Valid criticism are only internal. According to PT’s founding ideology, much like other Leninist parties, if they go well, the country goes well, and the revolution is on track. Maybe it is true. After all, between the Brazilian bureaucratic capitalism and Soviet-style bureaucratic centralization, the gulf is not that big.

Translations for this article:

Anarchy and Democracy
Fighting Fascism
Markets Not Capitalism
The Anatomy of Escape
Organization Theory