Investigative Journalism that is as
Radical as Reality Itself.

Lula

by JENNIFER C. BERKSHIRE

When Brazil’s new president, Luiz Inacio Lula de Silva, or “Lula” to friend and foe alike, took the stage at the Porto Alegre amphitheater this week, the mostly Brazilian crowd welcomed him like a rock star. Teenage girls in midriff bearing t-shirts sporting the Workers’ Party insignia screamed Lula’s name, while families waved small PT flags in the air. One gentleman came in a gaucho costume, the baggy pants and tall leather boots of the Pampas, along with a homemade sign proclaiming: “Lula ? You Are My President.” I couldn’t help wishing that he were mine as well.

The sense of hope that fills the air here is almost tangible. Lula’s victory last fall means more than merely a new government; it is seen as a chance to try something different. And if poor and working class Brazilians are rushing to embrace the new president–they poured into the amphitheater by the thousands, long after he had finished speaking–the Americans who are here in Porto Alegre embrace him too. “Lula can represent the interest of workers in Brazil and in the US,” said a labor activist from the US. “There is no one in power in the US that you can say that about.”

But while optimism abounds, there are plenty of skeptics too. When Lula left the amphitheater, he exited stage right: to Davos, off to attend the World Economic Forum. His decision to forego the people’s forum for the annual ruling class reunion has been a source of bitter divisiveness here. Those representing the social movements–from Brazil and elsewhere–view Lula as the anti-globalization president, and expect him to act accordingly. “He’s making a terrible mistake by going to Davos,” said Chris Nineham from Globalize Resistance, the UK-based anti-war coalition. “It will lead to disappointment and to the kind of compromises that let people down.”

Another compromise certain to disappoint lurks in the not-so-distant future when Lula’s administration resumes negotiations over the Free Trade Area of the Americas, known here by its Portuguese acronym ALCA. And activists in North and South America who hope that Lula will simply kill the deal are likely to be very unhappy. “We will sit down to negotiate the FTAA with determination,” said candidate Lula on the campaign trail.

Not if the Brazilian far left can help it. While the unions that are Lula’s base take a rather more measured approach to the question of FTAA negotiations, the extreme left parties want none of it. Signs reading “Nao A Alca” are everywhere around the city, and during the Social Forum opening march, members of the PSTU, a left-wing split off from the PT, loudly demanded a national plebiscite on the hemispheric trade deal.

Meanwhile, many of the US activists present here have expressed disbelief that “their” president is likely to sell-them out on the FTAA. “I keep hearing talk that ‘another FTAA is possible,'” said Canadian labor activist Michelle Robidoux. “If that’s where things are headed, people are going to be devastated. Canadians have seen what has happened as a result of NAFTA. We know what this is going to mean.”

But Lula is not the anti-globalization president; he is the leader of sovereign Brazil. And for his anti-poverty agenda to have any chance of success–he has declared, famously, that his goal is for every Brazilian to have three meals a day–he has to take on a larger opponent than either Brazil’s far left, or the very rich in his own country. Lula must go up against the global economy.

When Lula announced from the stage that he would not be attending the World Social Forum, but was going to Davos instead, the crowd fell silent. The PT flags stilled, and the soccer chants, “Lula, Lula le-oh-le-oh-le,” stopped as well. In his trademark baritone, Lula explained to the crowd why he felt that he had to make the trip. All my life, he said, people have told me what I shouldn’t do. When I told them that I wanted to join a union, they told me not to, that unions were corrupt and antiquated. In three years, we had the strongest union in Sao Paolo. I’m going to Davos to tell them the truth about Porto Alegre, he said.

Among some leftist commentators in the US, it is already fashionable to write off the new president. “Is it right to scream ‘sellout’?” asked one such commentator. Like the Brazilians, I think I’ll wait and see. For now, he’s all they and we have.

Jennifer Berkshire can be reached at: jenniferberkshire@hotmail.com.

July 08, 2015
Norman Pollack
Post-Senescent Stage of Advanced Capitalism; EU and Greece
July 07, 2015
Bruce K. Gagnon
Sanders Bullshit Meter Goes Off the Charts in Portland, Maine
ANDRE VLTCHEK
In Ecuador, Fight for Mankind; In Greece, Fight for Greece!
Nile Bowie
Obama’s Pacific Trade Deal Trails Behind China’s Development Vision
Binoy Kampmark
Warrior Economist: the Varoufakis Legacy
Shamus Cooke
Unions Must Act Now to Survive Supreme Court Deathblow
Dave Lindorff
The Greek People Have Voted ‘No!’ to Austerity and Economic Blackmail
Mateo Pimentel
The Pope’s Letter: Neoliberalism and Fukushima
Raouf Halaby
Beware Those Who Speak With Forked Tongues
Ron Jacobs
The Grateful Dead: The Ship of the Sun Bids Farewell
Jonathan Cook
Hasbara Industry: Why Israel’s Army of Spin-Doctors is Doomed to Defeat
Rev. William Alberts
Charleston: a Reality Check on Racism in America
Ellen Brown
A Franciscan Alternative: the People’s Pope and a People’s Bank?
Colin Todhunter
The Warped World of the GMO Lobbyist
John Wight
Who Will Join With Greece?
W. T. Whitney
Colombia’s Fensuagro Union is Revolutionary, Persecuted, and Undaunted
Mel Gurtov
Keep It in the Ground, Obama
July 06, 2015
MICHAEL HUDSON
Greece Rejects the Troika
Steve Hendricks
Will FIFA’s World Cup Sexism Ever Die?
Binoy Kampmark
Oxi in Greece
Gareth Porter
How US Spin on Access to Iranian Sites has Distorted the Issue
Peter Bach
ISIL and Ramadan in the Rag
Paul Craig Roberts
A Rebuke to EU-Imposed Austerity
Robert Hunziker
Looking Inside Fukushima Prefecture
Quincy Saul
The View from Mount Olympus
ADRIENNE PINE, RICHARD JOHNSTON, FIONA WILMOT, et al.
Seven Reasons to Scrap the USA’s $1 Billion Aid Package to Central America
Norman Pollack
Capitalism’s Self-Revealing Practices
David Macaray
Could Justice Scalia Be the One to Rescue Labor?
Linn Washington Jr.
Storm Smashes Chris Christie’s Presidential Candidacy
Benjamin Willis
US and Cuba: What Remains to be Done?
Robert David Steele
The National Military Strategy: Dishonest Platitudes
Joan Roelofs
Whatever Happened to Eastern European Communism?
Weekend Edition
July 3-5, 2015
Mike Whitney
The Pentagon’s “2015 Strategy” For Ruling the World
Jason Hirthler
Going Off-Script in St. Petersburg
Rob Urie
Greece and Global Class War
DIMITRIS KONSTANTAKOPOULOS
The Future of Greece Without Illusions
ANDRE VLTCHEK
Ecuador Fights for Survival – Against its Elites
David Rosen
White Skin Crisis
Jerry Lembcke
Nobody Spat on American GIs!
Stavros Mavroudeas
The Greek Referendum and the Tasks of the Left
Andrew Levine
Dumping on Dixie Again
Richard Pithouse
Charleston (It’s Not Over)
Arun Gupta
What Does It Mean to Call Dylann Roof a “Terrorist”?
Michael Welton
The Tragedy of Harper’s Canada
Brendan McQuade
The Right Wing Resurgence and the Problem of Terrorism