Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Strengthening the historic breakthrough made by the PT

Leonardo Boff's weekly columns are available in Spanish from Servicios Koinonia. Some of his older columns are available in English at

by Leonardo Boff (English translation by Rebel Girl)

For me, the greatest significance of these elections is the consolidation of the breakthrough that Lula and the PT [Workers Party] established in Brazilian political history. They defeated the economic and financial elites and their ideological wing, the big corporate media. As you know, they always kept the people on the margins of citizenship, in the harsh language of our greatest mulatto historian Capistrano de Abreu, "castrated and bleeding, over and over again". The elites have been seated in power for almost 500 years and have organized the state so that their privileges have always been protected. Thus, according to World Bank data, they are the ones that have accumulated proportionally more in the world and are, politically and socially, among the most backward and insensitive. There are twenty thousand families that control roughly 46% of the national wealth, and 1% of them own 44% of all lands. No wonder we are among the most unequal countries in the world, which is to say, one of the most unjust and wicked on the planet.

Until the victory of a child of poverty, Lula, the big house [of the masters] and the senzala [slave quarters] were the hinges that supported the social world of the elites. The big house did not let the senzala discover that the wealth of the elites was made of their super-exploited labor, their blood, and their lives turned into fuel for the production process. Through business alliances, they shuffled the cards in different ways to always keep the same game, amusingly, repeating: "We make the revolution before the people do." The revolution was to change something so that everything would remain as before. Thus, they aborted the emergence of another historical subject of power, able to take the stage and initiate a modern and more inclusive time. However, against their will, networks of social movements of resistance and autonomy broke out, and that social power was channeled into political power to gain state power.

Scandal of scandals in the submissive minds aligned with the world powers: a worker, a "survivor of the great tribulation", a representative of popular culture, non-academically educated in the school of the Pharaohs, comes to central power and gives back to the people the feeling of dignity, historical force and being subject of a republican democracy, in which "public affairs", social questions, the abused life of the people has become central. In line with Gandhi, Lula said: "I did not come to manage, I came to care; I manage a business, I care for a living and suffering people." Unprecedented language that promoted a new era in Brazilian politics. "Zero Hunger", then "Bolsa Familia" ("The Family Purse"), "allocated credit", "Light for All", "My House, My Life," "family agriculture", "PROUNI", "Vocational Schools", among other social initiatives, let the society of the deprived experience what the economic and financial elites never allowed them to: a leap in quality of life. Millions went from misery to decent hard-working poverty, and from poverty to the middle class. All of society was mobilized for the better.

But this defeat inflicted on the exclusive and anti-people elite should be consolidated in this election by a convincing victory, so that a "definitive no return" is established and so that the latter are no longer ashamed to see the Brazilian people as they are and not as they wish they were. The long dawning has ended.

There were three visions of Brazil. First, it was seen from the beach: the Indians attending the invasion of their lands. Second, it was seen from the ships: the Portuguese "discovering/concealing" Brazil. Third, Brazil dared to look at itself and thus began the invention of the culturally and ethnically mixed republic we are today. Brazil also faced four tough invasions: colonization that decimated the indigenous and introduced slavery; the coming of new peoples, European immigrants, who replaced the indigenous and the slaves; the conservative substitution industrialization in the 1930s, which created a strong domestic market; and, finally, economic and financial globalization, including us as junior partners.

Given this tortured history, Brazil was resilient, i.e., it faced these visions and interferences, managing to jump over them and learn from its misfortunes. It is now reaping the benefits.

It is essential to defeat the reactionary forces that are hiding behind the opposition candidate. I do not judge this person -- that is something for God -- but what he represents as a social actor. Celso Furtado, our best thinker in economics, died leaving a warning, in his book titled Brasil, a construção interrompida (Brazil: Interrupted Construction -- 1993): "The question is whether we have a future as a nation that counts in human evolution or whether the forces that are bent on interrupting our historical process of forming a nation-state will prevail"(p. 35). They can not prevail. We are able to complete the construction of Brazil, defeating them through Lula and by the forces that will make Celso Furtado's dream and ours come true.

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