Destaque Internacional - Informes de Coyuntura

Vol V - No. 117 - Buenos Aires - Madrid, Nov. 12, 2003.-

Brazilian Social Forum: Leftists Debate Utopias, Strategies and Dilemmas

Ghosts from toppled leftist Latin American governments reappear in the midst of harsh debates

 Among the 30 thousand participants of the First Brazilian Social Forum (FSB), held in the City of Belo Horizonte, the motives for discrepancy of the ambiguous socialist "utopia" were not the issue, however the methods, strategies and adequate timing to move towards them were. During various moments of the FSB those discrepancies were acutely and even aggressively manifested amongst the parties, such was the case when a balance of the first 10 months of Lula's term in office was attempted. It exposed dilemmas and internal division of Brazilian leftists, including divisions within the interior of the government itself.

The seminar titled "Social state and movements: repression, cooperation, appeal" was held in the "Mineirinho" stadium which was filled to capacity with a crowd numbering in the thousands. One of the speakers, a History professor in the University of São Paulo, Valério Arcary, Director of the Unified Workers Socialist Party, with Trotskyite tendencies, accused two other members at the table, the Presidents of Central Workers Office, Luiz Marinho, and of the National Union of Students, Gustavo Petta, of having transformed those organizations into "vehicles with official tags" of the Brazilian government.

According to Arcady, Presidente Lula, on his part, would be "opting for capitalism" and not for socialism. His fiery speech, identified with pro-Castro and pro-Chavez tendencies of the FSB, polarized and divided those present into two sides, which accompanied his words with applause, defiant yelling, verbal aggression and whistling.

The President of the Central Workers Office, one of those alluded to by Prof. Arcady, and a member of the latter tendency in favor of gradual and slow speed, responded by saying "we need to have the wisdom to not exaggerate, because if we do we could miss the History train. If we overthrow the government of Lula, as my comrade Valério insinuates, what government would substitute it? One to the left of the current government? Or will the right regain power again?

Gilmar Mauro, Director of the Landless Movement, who is identified with the extreme pro-Castro left, but at the same time perceiving that false steps by certain revolutionary leaders can lead to an abyss, made use of his time to speak to warn "it is not possible to create a revolution commencing from the top and working downward, because it has been historically proven that it could not sustain itself", that the "profound social transformation would come if in all of Brazil there was a fight among the masses", and that "it is necessary to join forces and to get organized", which differs greatly from the "agitate and propaganda" method.

The clash between both revolutionary tendencies was present during the seminar "Internal Relations: where Lula's government has been and where it will go", which took place in the rectory auditorium at the UFMG.

Juarez Guimarães, political scientist from the UFMG and acting counselor to the Secretary General of Republic's Presidency, in Brazil, after recommending caution, explained that we are faced with a "dramatic government because it simultaneously holds within itself deep forces of change and forces which defend the continuation of the neo-liberal paradigm."

Following there were speeches by those in favor of speeding up the process towards socialism, such as the lead teacher from the Economic Institute of the Rio de Janeiro Federal University, Reinaldo Gonçalves, and also an exchange of insults between defenders of one current or the other.

Prof. Juarez Guimarães commented that those incidents "confirm that we are living a dramatic experience and because of it people react dramatically". He pointed out, faced with the divisionism and misunderstandings within the left, "the difficulty in maintaining governability which this leftist government maintains", asking of the radical attendees in favor of moving rapidly towards socialism, to be cautious in what they do. Because similar attitudes precipitated the demise of "leftist governments that were overthrown in Latin America" such as that of the socialist Salvador Allende, in Chile, and "including the last leftist government in Brazil of Jango Goulart, which was also overthrown".

The Secretary General Counselor to the presidency admitted that one of the largest problems of the left in the government is "how to make effective the improvement of the current neo-liberal paradigm" and that "the answer depends on how to resolve the situation of the new paradigm". In this matter, he added that "as Emir Sader said, there are no antecedents from other countries" which makes it necessary to "devise a transition theory using a liberal model" to work towards the model which is being sought. In any situation, concluded Juarez Guimarães, the "frontal attack alternative is not a realistic policy" .

It would be a political mistake to deduct from the transcribed testimonies that the revolutionary tendency in favor of moving gradually would necessarily make it "moderate" and because of that it should be supported as a lesser evil. In effect, its leaders are knowledgeable and habitually use the rules of gradual movement, which with its moderate appearance has many times been able to immobilize and even anesthetize sectors of the center and the right. Because of it, this tendency is considered by some as more dangerous than that which is made up of groups from the extreme left, whom with their frequent political indiscretions open the eyes of many.

For more information on the new and efficient strategies of the so-called "moderate" at an international level, we suggest reading the articles regarding the Third Worldwide Social Forum of Porto Alegre "'Diversity' and new totalitarianism" and "'Transversality' and chaos" (CubDest, Feb. 14 and 15, 2003).

Lastly, it would be simplifying reality to describe the heavy discussions within the governing Workers' Party and those of the Brazilian left as a mere "show", as it relates to the speed that should be used for the process towards socialism. In effect, they have an irrefutable foundation based on realty and they could actually define the path which Lula's government will take. It was not in vain that several participants spoke of the ghosts of failed socialist governments from Latin America, among the causes was precisely the delicate problem of the excessive speed used towards the revolutionary process. With that even the more moderate public opinion and the humble socialists were justifiably startled, contributing to the downfall of those regimes.


Adital, Carta Maior, Diário Vermelho, Luso-Brasileira de Notícias and correspondents from Destaque Internacional in Belo Horizonte: Nelson Andrade, Ana Maria Lopes and Fernando Alencar.

Next articles:

Brazilian Social Forum: Latin American Collaboration and Lulist Foreign Policy

Brazilian Social Forum: Pronouncements of the "Catholic Left," MST and Indigenous Advocates

Brazilian Social Forum: The goal of "Deconstruction" and "Reinvention" of man and of society