Protests took place in 200 cities across Brazil on Sunday against austerity measures, and political corruption marring the Dilma Rousseff administration. Major news media have assiduously attempted to frame the protests under the banner of “anti-corruption” and “anti-Rousseff” in disjuncture with the class-character inherent in the protests. This frame has also been made to placate the general public and to circumvent the growing strength of the working-class movement in Brazil, since its global emergence in the 2014 world-cup protests.
Within the framework of capitalism’s mode of production, Brazil’s economy is now shrinking at nearly 1.2 %, the steepest decline in a decade. Brazil is also facing a high unemployment level, which stands at 6.4 % (according to capitalism’s definition of unemployment), high inflation, depreciating currency, and a general fiscal crisis. With a declining economy, the Rousseff administration, in order to “protect the country’s international credit rating (currently at BBB (Fitch)) for investment”, will employ neo-liberal instruments in order to assuage the needs of its central bank and international lending institutions such as the IMF.
The neo-liberal instruments, government introduced austerity measures, will translate to a penchant for the liquidation and privatization of major social institutions such as healthcare, education and other welfare state infrastructures: shifting the cost of social-reproduction of labour further away from the capitalist’s pocket and burdened on to the labourer him/herself. It is important to note that the degree of the deleterious cuts to social services and welfare state infrastructure will be in directly in relation to the state of class-struggle in Brazil. It is here that the government of Brazil will repeat the rhetoric heard in every other neo-liberal states: “what is good for the economy is good for the people.” This rhetoric attempts to inculcate the working-class to believe that “a good business climate” (low taxes for the corporations/rich and anti-working-class organization climate) will mean greater influx of investment, and with it employment and jobs for the working people: in essence, “what is good for the rich is good for the poor.” This is despite the fact that most of the current large investments are non-productive investments (not actually producing anything but instead investing in rents, speculative stocks, currency, and fictitious capital) and the last two major recessions in the world have been job-less recoveries. However, one does not need to go further than the Furvela’s (the slums) of Rio to realize the class-character in this statement, and that “austerity” is a synonym for “class war”: and this is a class attack by the capitalist class, represented by the state of Brazil, to dispossess the working-class of Brazil.
The current protests have proven to the Rousseff administration that the working-class movement in Brazil is not ephemeral and will only grow larger. Since the 2014 FIFA protests that rocked Brazil, with 200 cities and millions of people protesting against abject poverty in the face of a 15 Billion investment made by the government (for stadiums and infrastructure), the state of the class-struggle has undoubtedly oscillated towards the left. While the working-class in Brazil, burnishing its newly acquired anti-capitalism character, is seething with new reasons to shake the government, the government itself is become sclerotic with the fear of continued protest and it is unable to implement the neo-liberal austerity cuts the way it wishes to do so. Without a fast remedial solution to the working-class movement, the Rousseff government can only pursue its austerity cuts at a snail’s pace and will be forced to a standstill at every turn by the working-class in Brazil.