FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Lula

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.

 

More articles by:

March 26, 2019
Elizabeth Keyes
My Russia Hot-Air Balloon
March 25, 2019
Jonathan Cook
Three Lessons for the Left from the Mueller Inquiry
Dave Lindorff
The TSA’s Role as Journalist Harasser and Media ‘Watchdog’
Tanya Golash-Boza – Michael Golash
Epifanio Camacho: a Militant Farmworker Brushed Out of History
Robert Fisk
Don’t Believe the Hype: Here’s Why ISIS Hasn’t Been Defeated
Jack Rasmus
The Capitulation of Jerome Powell and the Fed
Lawrence Davidson
Israel’s Moves to the Right
John Feffer
After Trump
James Ridgeway
Good Agent, Bad Agent: Robert Mueller and 9/11
Dean Baker
The Importance of Kicking Up: Changing Market Structures So the Rich Don’t Get All the Money
Lawrence Wittner
What Democratic Socialism Is and Is Not
Thomas Knapp
Suppressing Discussion Doesn’t Solve the Problem. It is the Problem.
Stephen Cooper
“I’m a Nine-Star General Now”: an Interview with Black Uhuru’s Duckie Simpson
Andrew Moss
Immigration and the Democratic Hopefuls
Weekend Edition
March 22, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Henry Giroux
The Ghost of Fascism in the Post-Truth Era
Gabriel Rockhill
Spectacular Violence as a Weapon of War Against the Yellow Vests
H. Bruce Franklin
Trump vs. McCain: an American Horror Story
Paul Street
A Pox on the Houses of Trump and McCain, Huxleyan Media, and the Myth of “The Vietnam War”
Andrew Levine
Why Not Impeach?
Bruce E. Levine
Right-Wing Psychiatry, Love-Me Liberals and the Anti-Authoritarian Left
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Darn That (American) Dream
Charles Pierson
Rick Perry, the Saudis and a Dangerous Nuclear Deal
Moshe Adler
American Workers Should Want to Transfer Technology to China
David Rosen
Trafficking or Commercial Sex? What Recent Exposés Reveal
Nick Pemberton
The Real Parallels Between Donald Trump and George Orwell
Binoy Kampmark
Reading Manifestos: Restricting Brenton Tarrant’s The Great Replacement
Brian Cloughley
NATO’s Expensive Anniversaries
Ron Jacobs
Donald Cox: Tale of a Panther
Joseph Grosso
New York’s Hudson Yards: The Revanchist City Lives On
REZA FIYOUZAT
Is It Really So Shocking?
Bob Lord
There’s Plenty of Wealth to Go Around, But It Doesn’t
John W. Whitehead
The Growing Epidemic of Cops Shooting Family Dogs
Jeff Cohen
Let’s Not Restore or Mythologize Obama 
Christy Rodgers
Achieving Escape Velocity
Monika Zgustova
The Masculinity of the Future
Jessicah Pierre
The Real College Admissions Scandal
Peter Mayo
US Higher Education Influence Takes a Different Turn
Martha Rosenberg
New Study Confirms That Eggs are a Stroke in a Shell
Ted Rall
The Greatest Projects I Never Mad
George Wuerthner
Saving the Big Wild: Why Aren’t More Conservationists Supporting NREPA?
Norman Solomon
Reinventing Beto: How a GOP Accessory Became a Top Democratic Contender for President
Ralph Nader
Greedy Boeing’s Avoidable Design and Software Time Bombs
Tracey L. Rogers
White Supremacy is a Global Threat
Nyla Ali Khan
Intersectionalities of Gender and Politics in Indian-Administered Kashmir
Karen J. Greenberg
Citizenship in the Age of Trump: Death by a Thousand Cuts
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail