Brazil: The Failure of the PT and the Rise of the ‘New Right’

Alfredo Saad-Filho, Armando Boito

Abstract


The 2015 protests were very different from the previous wave of demonstrations in mid-2013. The latter were ignited by radical left workers and students contesting a public transport fare increase, although the movement was soon captured by an odd amalgam of the middle class, anarchist ‘black blocks’ and the far right. The 2015 protests were far more cohesive and better organized. Their demands, moreover, unambiguously aligned with the political right, and primarily included the country’s upper middle class and the bourgeoisie. The 2015 demonstrations erupted in the political vacuum created by the paralysis of Dilma’s administration because of its own failings and Brazil’s worsening economy. Those difficulties were compounded by aggressive media reporting of the Lava Jato corruption scandal. That scandal focused on a network of firms channelling vast sums to assorted individuals and political parties through the state-owned oil company Petrobras. Yet, at a deeper level, the economic and political crises in Brazil are due to the achievements and limitations of the administrations led by Luís Inácio Lula da Silva (2003-2006 and 2007-2010) and Dilma Rousseff (2011-2014 and 2015-present). They led a partial economic and social break with neoliberalism that delivered significant gains in employment and distribution, but also entrenched poor economic performance and left Brazil vulnerable to the continuing global downturn. In the political domain, the PT transformed the social policies of the Brazilian state, while simultaneously accepting a fragile hold on power as a condition of power itself.

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