01 March 2009

In Country: Labor Unions, the Communists and Global Economics

Political protest is commonly viewed as a healthy sign in a functioning democracy. When opposition parties are allowed to assemble in public spaces and when labor unions are given voice -- and that voice is heard -- a country has self-respect is respected by other countries of the world. It is healthy for society to allow dissent, claims the purveyers of conventional wisdom.

If this is true, then I have two compelling examples that display the health and vibrancy of Brasil's democracy. One example comes in the form of a recent court ruling in favor of three labor unions.

But first some back history. As corporations around the world are struggling to deal with the global economic downturn, news of employee layoffs increase. This is the case with the world's 4th largest aircraft maker Embraer which, on February 19, announced a 20% reduction in its workforce in an attempt at dealing with declining work orders. As a result of the announced cutbacks, three labor unions representing the workers filed a collective lawsuit to stop the layoffs. Yesterday a court here in Campinas "temporarily blocked aircraft manufacturer Embraer from laying off close to 4,300 workers amid the steep global economic downturn." While the victory for the workers is not permanent, and the company will appeal the ruling, it is a good example of how labor unions work to preserve jobs in Brasil. Whether their attempts to keep jobs for workers will be successful, however, is a completely different issue!

Another example that points to the health of Brasilian democracy was a protest I witnessed in the park adjacent to our hotel in Campinas. The hotel is called Park Tower Hotel and the park is known as Largo do Para. Both sit in the central portion of the city so there is a lot of activity most every day and night. But what took place on Saturday morning was exceptional. Typically every Saturday a handful of artisans set up booths to sell their wares. This Saturday, however, a convergence of people with large red flags and a man with a loudspeaker joined the craftspeople in the square. Because of the tree cover I was unable to get a good look at the flags. Likewise because of my still-insufficient abilities with Portuguese I was unable to firmly understand what was being said on the loudspeaker. Once the protesters made their way out onto the street, though, I got some good shots of the flags and the people. And guess what? They were Communists and Socialists. Yep, the Communist party in Brasil is alive and well.

Intersindical is a leftist organization which was formed as a result of the 2002 election of President Lula. Although Lula was originally a leftist too, many critics are concerned with the right (neo-liberal) turn he has taken with regard to economic and political policies in Brasil. Hence the emergence of a new group of leftist organizations, of which Intersindical is one. Also in this new cohort of political action against the present government is the PSOL (Party Socialism and Liberty) and the PCB (Partido Comunista Brasileiro or the Brasilian Communist Party). The PCB was initially established in Brasil in 1922, shortly after the 1917 Revolution in Russia. And, although it has undergone extensive revision in the past 75 years, it is still adherent to Marxist-Leninist ideology. This may explain the hammer and sickle on the flag below. Overall, these groups are comprised of "workers, landless activists and youth from all over the country" who are increasingly dissatisfied with Lula Administration policies, according to a SocialistWorld.net article from July 2008.

The crowds were small and fairly sanguine as they marched through the main thorough fares of Campinas. Indeed there was an absence of militancy or aggression amongst the protesters but they were protesters of a type never seen on the streets of American cities. After all, when was the last time you saw the Communists marching in broad daylight in Sacramento?

In conclusion, if this were the only measure by which a society were judged, then I would say that Brasil's democracy is healthier than the United States' simply by virtue of the political protests on display.

1 comment:

huevofilosofo said...

Yay! Hehe commies....if only they would read Ayn Rand they would understand that rational egoism and laissez-fair economics is the way to go. Just look at the state of the economy today--it couldn’t be better! Thanks to the “rational” egoism of Paul Greenwood, Stephen Walsh, Stanford Kurland, and Bernie Madoff the economy is blooming! Yay rational egoism! And shame on those irrational people who only wanted a roof over their family’s head and took out a mortgage they knew they couldn’t afford. C’mon! be more rational and more egoist, startup your own Ponzi scheme....Ponzi scheme, hm, I think that’s what Wall Street is: A legal Ponzi scheme. Invest in Wall Street! Now that’s “rational.” XD