The struggle for a new democracy - Brazilian reality after the 2013 protests
Today in Brazil there is a calling into question of Brazilian democracy, a sort of societal "midlife crisis". Our democracy provides, in theory, equality of rights and economic conditions (equality of citizens before the law) for everyone. Therefore, the logic of alternation in power would be accompanied by an amount of sales desirable to the leadership with the goal of aerating the representatives and agents, as well as making an effort to deconstruct the legitimacy of the party oligarchies. Notably, we do not consider it inevitable that the political elites control their directorates with an iron fist.
In Porto Alegre, south of Brazil, the protests are being organized by a strong ultra-left coalition.
To attain some income distribution, albeit shyly, the leadership of the Workers' Party (PT) believed it was necessary to ally with a part of the oligarchy. This created a vacuum of representation and ten years of political paralysis in terms of social pressure. Today, we live better and more disorganized. When the PT began to resemble their former adversaries, there wasn’t – and there still is – any major disappointment among the Brazilian population. This may be one of the causes of the explosions in 2013, in addition to two absurdities: the perception that hosting the World Cup would be a case of mistaken priorities and, no less importantly, the composition of key posts in Congress under the control of two oligarchs of dubious reputation. But 2013 can be seen as the beginning of a new political impulse and a sign that something was moving in the new Brazilian society.
In the 2013 manifestations we saw that the majority of events were driven by university students, something which is not uncommon in Latin America. What is new is the generalization of these protests and the visibility of sectors hitherto disorganized and confused in the midst of the urban working population. Nowadays, to live in Brazil implies a double or triple shift of work and study, to which is added the metropolitan chaos with traffic jams and very low quality public transport. Those who live in the country suffer the pressure of permanent education – higher education with an emphasis by the labour market on qualifications – and, at the same time, we are a generation of between 18 and 25 years old that lives connected via the Internet. With the fragmentation of the lower classes, these people – night students, apprentices, technicians in training – number millions, are poorly paid and have quite a high level of information and ways to connect with forms of protest on a global scale. However, it is important to note that the protests in Brazil had two fundamental factors: one, the high price of bus tickets and the perception that the state, at all three levels of government, operates as a guarantor of profits for capital, even if it is a particular public service; the other fact is the repudiation of the organization of the World Cup – not against the spectacle of football or of popular culture – but against this way of doing shady business deals with public money and the desires imposed by FIFA becoming laws in the country. As football is the universe that Brazilians identify with and understand most, the volume of critical information surpassed the propaganda action of the media and the silence of the big means of communication in the face of the mass actions. This time it was not possible to silence the millions of Brazilians in the streets.
Brazilian living conditions
In the last ten years, Brazilians' quality of life has changed a lot. As a whole, we live better. Today, the official statistics of the Brazilian Geography and Statistics Institute (IBGE) show that we have five social classes, whose measurement is given by the factor of revenue and income. It is not a sociological concept of social class, but rather marketological, linked to the use and possession of material goods. It is also noticed that the improvement of living conditions – from misery to poverty with a bit of dignity, and from poverty to lower middle class bosses (your own home, a car, university degree, credit card, travel vacations) – did not imply an improvement in public services. The stable middle class has health plans, pays for private schools and has houses with private security or cleaning services. It is doubly taxed and does not see the upper class as being taxed, experiencing loss of profit margins or having their immense fortunes taxed. But still, at the base of the social pyramid we will need more than two decades to have a less unjust country and, at least, decent material conditions for all.
Among the biggest challenges (social, political and economic) that Brazil has to face, we highlight:
– Another form of state funding, stabilizing our public finances with the refinancing of public debt based on the increase of basic interest rates. Besides this we need domestic savings and a better distribution of taxes, where the three levels of government (federal, state and municipal) have an equivalent tax distribution;
– An immediate review of the refinancing of states' and municipalities' debt for the Union, and also of the federal debt to pay with other parameters. Today, this offset consumes nearly half of the federal funds, and therefore our average capacity for direct investment is 18%, whereas in most BRIC countries it is 25%;
– Political reform in which the voter may present bills for which they have the possibility of collecting signatures to call a referendum and where private funding of political campaigns is prohibited . We can make progress with electronic democracy and in experimenting with direct participation;
– Endless basic sanitation works, ensuring the compliance of the budget allocated by the 1988 Constitution for health and education;
– A regulatory framework for the media which divides the spectrum into three destinations: public, state and private media;
– Complete agrarian reform and the immediate recognition of the indigenous reserves and Quilombo  lands;
– Socially, we have a lot to learn but we highlight two fundamental problems: the improvement of functional illiteracy and revising the country's history. We have to talk about the cursed legacy of colonialism, since Brazil was built by genocide and slavery.
The 2013 protests and the presidential elections
The 2013 protests were not directed exclusively against President Dilma and much less against Lula-ist heritage. Lula remains the most popular leader in the country's history and he is very pleasing to the dominant class since he promotes a class pact whereby neither the top floor loses privileges nor does the bottom floor feel itself immobile or unassisted. The challenge will be overcoming the reelection, in the second round, against the candidacy of Eduardo Campos y Marina Silva (Socialist Party of Brazil, PSDB – unregistered REDE party ). These candidates come from inside the government and don't have the brand management of Fernando Henrique Cardoso (privatization and unemployment, despite economic stability). Hence the pressuring of the media by the specter of inflation. The struggle against inflation is a trauma in Brazilian society and in its name it is possible to promote a squeeze on salaries and compress the real economy in favor of bankers and speculators. Another problem of the protests is that the hosting of the World Cup is the work of the "Lula era" and fighting against the realization of this event ends up being attributed to fighting against the Dilma government. The stage is open although Dilma remains the favorite for reelection.
This year is not going to be a quiet one for the country although we may not have the mass protests of 2013. If we had more deaths throughout the year – something which is always likely in terms of Brazil – and political repression we could have national commotion. 2014 is already hot, both in terms of allegations of corruption at the highest levels of government – which for us is trivial – like for the murder of a cameraman in the protests in Rio de Janeiro in February 2014; and in terms of the intensification of popular revolt in Rio against the "pacification" police in the slums who have no due respect for the civil rights of the people living on the hills [where the slims are situated]. Until the end of the World Cup, Brazil will not yet go into full election campaign mode and we will always have the possibility for the intensification of popular struggle.
Bruno Lima Rocha, e-mail and Facebook: email@example.com, website: www.estrategiaeanalise.com.br
Júlia Klein, firstname.lastname@example.org
Barómetro Publication 12-05-14
Translated by Jonathan Payn: email@example.com
2. The REDE party (NET) is a green network that was not allowed to run for elections, which is why it was fused with the PSB (Brazilian Socialist Party). It has the former Environmental Minister and Senator Marina Silva as its presidential candidate.