A proposal from Dilma and the politicians: Political reform and a plebiscite

Deceiving “the streets†in order to usurp the will of the people

July 05, 2013

Friday, July 5, 2013

In recent days, the spectacular movement of the masses, that took to the streets of the country, showed its strength, by forcing the government to respond to some of its demands. The first of them was the reduction of the price increase of the public transit fare in several cities.

Furthermore, the federal government and the bourgeois politicians – repudiated in the streets – fearing more wear and tear, shelved the proposed constitutional amendment 37, viewed by some groups among the mobilized people as a draft of a guarantee of impunity for politicians, while the corrupt Renan Calheiros, President of the Senate, in a maneuver to try to take people’s minds off the repudiation of this eroded agency of the regime, announced that he is going to speed up the voting on a bill that would introduce the free ticket for students.

Governors like Tarso Genro (PT), of Rio Grande do Sul, agreed and quickly found ways to institute the free ticket for students. To that is added the prison sentence (the first since 1988) of the Deputy Natan Donadon (PMDB-RO) for siphoning money off, something inconceivable in the situation before the mobilizations. In the Chamber of Deputies, a proposal to earmark part of the petroleum taxes for education and health care was approved, that was already questioned in the Senate and is light years away from the demand for 10% of the GDP for education, demanded by several social movements (see another article on this subject on the LER-QI site). A law that characterizes corruption as a “heinous crime†was also approved in the Senate, despite the fact that the lawyers themselves consider that it will not change the structural situation of the prevailing impunity much.

All this shows the strength of the mobilizations begun by the young people, because of the high cost of transportation, that radiated throughout the country, winning popular support and stimulating a surprising social mobilization. The politicians, now tame and shrewd, rejected by the masses, are trying with their measures and promises to look like those who “listen to voices from the streets.†In truth, they are trying to soften the clash and divert attention, by considering some social questions partially, in order to retake the power of the initiative, at the same time that they hope to duck out, preventing the people’s anger from advancing in effective questioning of their capitalist deals, to benefit themselves, leaving the country and the majority of the population immersed in the disaster of the public services, the increase in the cost of living and every type of oppression.

The ups and downs of the “exclusive†Constituent Assembly proposed by Dilma and the PT

Nevertheless, the subject that was mainly placed in the center of the debates was Dilma’s move in the declaration that she made on June 24, in which she stated that she would propose a plebiscite to the Congress, to approve the calling of an “exclusive†Constituent Assembly for “political reform,†criticized by her own base of support and obviously by the opposition.

Over and above the fact that an “exclusive†Constituent Assembly is an anti-democratic and crooked measure that would scarcely deal with some subjects previously defined and restricted to agendas of interest to the government and the PT, the uproar that seized the Congress is due to the fact that a maneuver of that type, amidst a situation of popular mobilization and a broad national politicization, could backfire, increasing political instability.

This proposal is anti-democratic first, because it usurps the “voices from the streets†and allows the rejected politicians to determine what it is that the people should deal with, channeling the entire debate, begun nationally by the mobilizations, toward small, controlled and cosmetic changes in the regime, with the aim of “embellishing†the most monstrous aspects of self-preservation and privileges of the caste of political parasites that govern the country. The people in the streets want to “deal with†subjects like public services, corruption, national resources and priorities, anyway, matters like “who†has, controls, administers and distributes the national wealth produced by the work of the majority of the population, but the politicians, in an authoritarian manner, want to restrict the people’s will to what interests them.

Some analysts consider that this move of Dilma sought, in reality, to position the President as the biggest recipient of the “voice from the streets,†while the Congress would remain responsible for putting limits on the changes proposed, in an attempt at self-preservation that would bring the mobilizations to a standstill and would allow retaking control of the situation. Be that as it may, if that had been Dilma’s aim, the outcome is that she only got criticisms, even from Lula himself, who described the maneuver as “a blunder,†obviously only now, after what did not happen, since in the crisis of the mensalão [“monthly payment, bribe†], Lula himself made that same proposal. Thus, her backing down from the already anti-democratic proposal of an “exclusive†Constituent Assembly, is a demonstration of the government’s cowardice, facing the mobilizations, and of the impossibility of uniting such ill-assorted interests among the diverse parties and bourgeois factions.

Facing this, the “exclusive†Constituent Assembly was replaced by the PT government with a proposal for a plebiscite that would deal with some subjects related to political reform, that the government has already been trying to put up. Among the subjects would be (public, private or mixed) financing of the political campaigns, and what model of voting (by district, proportional, or mixed), the end of the electoral coalitions, among others that could be negotiated with the parties of the regime. Meanwhile, the government’s partisan base itself shows that it is far from giving the government a blank check. Facing the proposal of a plebiscite, ten of the main parties of the base allied with the PT declared their support for that attempt at diversion, but they suggested the inclusion of a referendum on the impossibility of re-election and extension of the presidential term of office to five years, among other “questions.†Although everyone has stated that this is not an attempt to change the rules for the 2014 elections, when Dilma will try to get re-elected, the mere suggestion of that referendum as part of the plebiscite produced uneasiness between the government and the allied rank and file, that shows the tendency for the emergence of contradictions in this bloc to be intensified. Another unresolved debate is from when the resolutions of the expected plebiscite would begin to have validity, whether before or after next year’s elections.

The politicians say they are “listening to the voices from the streets,†but, in reality, they are trying to guarantee their own interests, to avoid, as much as possible, the risks to their power, a source of inexplicable privileges and disgraceful shady deals, in favor of the capitalists and against the interests of the nation, of the workers and the people. Although that is not definite, nor even the realization of the mentioned plebiscite either, since the bourgeois opposition states that it only accepts a referendum, and there is no agreement among the government’s own supporters on how to “organize†the “popular referendum,†what is clear is that maneuver is an attempt by the national political caste to end this time of mobilization and politicization.

It is about an attempt at self-reform of the regime, by usurping the people’s wishes to put an end to the political mechanisms of corruption, shady deals and privileges, that prevail in the Legislature, and also in the Executive and Judicial branches (although, for the population, the judiciary is wrongly seen as “less corrupt†), to which, we need to set out an effective policy. To this maneuver by the upper echelons, we must contrapose an effective response to the deepest wishes of young people, of the workers, and of the people, for real changes, both political and social. The wishes of the people, expressed in the streets, must be organized by the left, trade-union, popular and student organizations, with complete independence from the political parties of the employers and this corrupt regime, that is directly responsible for the evils that afflict the majority of the population, while a parasitic minority, capitalists and the bosses’ politicians, live like “nobility.â€

The bourgeois and corrupt politicians cannot transform the regime for the benefit of the people

The most important issue of why the plebiscite cannot serve the interests of the majority of the population is the fact that we cannot depend on or trust that the same corrupt bourgeois politicians would be those responsible for promoting the changes that we need. The matters that will make up the plebiscite will be determined by the same national political caste, in accordance with their own aims, that would make the population choose between the interests of one wing composed of the government, and another, composed of the bourgeois opposition. All this, in the name of sidetracking any fundamental transformation and silencing “the voice from the streets,†that Dilma and the politicians say they are listening to, but the strength of which they cannot wait to lessen.

Really hot issues, that have brought the vast majority to the streets, like the need for public transportation, education and health care, free and of good quality, would be left out. That is not a coincidence. It is about transformations that the politicians of the bourgeoisie, whether from the government or the opposition, cannot decide, since, in reality, they are not servants of the people, but “officials†of the big national and international capitalist monopolies, that have profits of billions, while public services are degraded and expensive for the majority of the population.

The reduction of the increases in the transportation fares, the implementation in some cities of the free ticket for students, are minimum measures, that will really mean, for the leaders, “giving up some rings in order not to lose one’s fingers,†but, in fact, transportation continues to be unaffordable, of dreadful quality, and a source of confiscation by the employers that monopolize the sector, and the municipal, state and national politicians. These measures, from the government, will not reduce, by a centavo, the exorbitant profits and subsidies of the employers, which means that the population will continue to bear the costs of a privatized public service, unsafe and of awful quality. The mobilizations must continue to get organized and strengthened, in order to fight, because of the fundamental cause of the transportation crisis – privatization, the subsidies – to impose the only measure really capable of guaranteeing quality transportation, safe, free for the vulnerable groups, or even for everyone, without any subsidy to the businessmen: nationalization of transportation (busses, the subway, and trains), without compensation, under the control of committees of workers and riders, and instituting progressive taxes on the great fortunes and on billing the companies.

All the politicians of the executive, legislative and judicial branches want to deceive the people. Neither a plebiscite nor a referendum: For a free and sovereign Constituent Assembly

Against the crooked proposals (political reform, an Exclusive Constituent Assembly, plebiscite or referendum) that the politicians are preparing, in order to make it appear that “they are listening to the streets,†but, in truth, they are seeking “to change something, so that nothing will change†(high salaries of the Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches, at the service of the businessmen and monopolies), all the tendencies, parties and class-conscious, militant, anti-government and anti-capitalist organizations, that are active within this process, should form a Class-conscious and Democratic Pole (with representatives elected in the schools, universities, neighborhoods, social movements, unions) that will demand of the unions of the CUT and the rest of the union federations, of the MST and of the UNE, that they break with the government and take charge of the struggle for the demands expressed in the mobilizations, unifying the workers with the young people and the groups in struggle, in order to impose the calling of a free and sovereign Constituent Assembly, that will discuss and impose the will of the people on all the problems and demands that afflict the majority of the population: nationalization of the financial system, of the land, of the public services, and of the strategic enterprises, employment, wages, labor, civil and social rights, no to payment of the public debt, and breaking with the agreements with the big capitalist monopolies and imperialist countries, that are plundering our wealth and resources.

A truly democratic Assembly with deputies proportionally elected according to the population of each place, considering the country as a single district, where groups can join together and launch candidates without being restricted to the legal parties (challenged publicly), with revocable mandates and without the scandalous privileges of the current political caste of the Executive, the Legislature and the Judiciary, by decreeing that no deputy, judge or highly-placed government official will earn more than a teacher.

Translated by Yosef M.