After the large scale protests throughout Brazil last Sunday, politicians, bureaucrats and the pro-government media are hurrying to talk about “political reform” as an answer to popular dissatisfaction — as opposed to the “coup-supporting” opposition who longs for president Dilma Rousseff’s impeachment. Marcelo Zero, for instance, preaches the party line and states that “those who are actually against corruption do not want impeachment, an euphemism for coup d’état, but support political reform” (Brasil 247, March 15).
Despite the different and occasionally reactionary requests of the protesters in the streets, they display the obvious: that Brazil’s political and economic decline has become intolerable. The economy is in ruins, real wages fall while unemployment rises. Alongside that, corruption cases surface every day — the largest among them being the bribery scheme by construction companies contracted by Petrobras, which stuffed the coffers of the president’s Workers’ Party (PT).
According to PT supporters, however, Brazil became Narnia around 2002, when then president Lula played Aslan in a magic wonderland of perpetual progress where any lingering doubt is attacked in hysterical denunciations of the non-believers. Large sectors of the Brazilian left, ever since PT got in power, have become extreme legalists, opposing any form of organization outside the conventional institutions. These Leninists tend to cry wolf at any disturbance of the order, calling them “coups.” This opportunistic legalism translates into the transformation of political reform into a sacred cow of Brazilian politics.
Obviously, political reform is only an easy answer to alleviate the pressure of the crisis, since no one has yet decided what it actually means. Lula, for example, has stated that it involves “public funding of electoral campaigns” (Época Negócios, March 15). For fellow PT members such as federal deputy Enio Verri (“Reforma política ampla e popular,” Brasil 247, March 18), though, it involves a “constitutional assembly to debate and develop a new electoral system,” “a thorough and popular reform, in conversation with every sector of society, and which respects the characteristics of a continental country, with its rich and diverse culture.” Curiously, while impeachment is seen as coup, rewriting the constitution seems to be well within the acceptable rules of the game.
PT members believe that public funding of electoral campaigns is essential to prevent “private interests,” as Zero puts it, from having influence over the political process. Nonsense: The state is but a manifestation of private interests. Public funding has never prevented “private interests” from taking over the state; the state exists to serve those interests. Former Brazilian president Fernando Collor de Mello, for instance, resigned in 1992 (before he could be impeached) following the corruption scheme set up by his campaign treasurer PC Farias, who was a middleman between the government and large businesses. At the time, private funding was forbidden, but it didn’t matter at all to stop corruption.
Corruption debates are frankly irrelevant when we begin to see the state as what it is: a tool of the elite for the economic exploitation of the general population. When we abandon our distorted party lenses, we begin to see that the payment of bribes by construction companies in exchange for Petrobras contracts wasn’t anything but expected given our established institutions. The pro-government “protests” from last Friday (13), anticipating the opposition movements from Sunday and organized by the Unified Workers’ Central (CUT), argued that “Petrobras is the property of Brazilians!” It isn’t, it has never been, and it won’t ever be.
“Public funding of electoral campaigns,” on the other hand, will result in a party system ever more monopolized where money flows upwards to established politicians. And, obviously, that won’t stop “private interests” from interfering with politics. Government supporters will never accept this simple fact because, for the PT establishment, politicians are pure angels corrupted by private money. As Oscar Wilde would put it, they can resist anything but temptation.
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- Erick Vasconcelos, Political reform: The new buzzword, Dhaka, Bangladesh New Nation, 03/25/15