FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

"Lula is One of Us"

PORTO ALEGRE. “I will tell the people at Davos that the world does not need war, the world needs peace and understanding,” said President Lula da Silva to a cheering crowd of tens of thousands in this sunny port city in Southeastern Brazil. If there is one theme that unified this year’s World Social Forum — and captures the irrationality and destructiveness of letting a handful of people determine so much of the world’s fate — it is opposition to the looming war against Iraq.

The World Social Forum began three years ago — under the slogan, “Another World is Possible” — as an alternative to the World Economic Forum, an exclusive gathering of the rich and powerful held at the same time at the mountain resort of Davos, Switzerland.

The WSF has grown enormously, attracting more than 100,000 participants to Porto Alegre for this year’s series of events. And among the delegates from 126 countries, the largest contingent outside of Brazil this year is — to the surprise of many — from the United States.

This, too, is related to the war. While Secretary of State Colin Powell works the crowd in Davos in an attempt to bully and bribe other governments into going along (e.g. a giant $16 billion IMF loan and $4 billion grant to the government of Turkey, where 90 percent of the people oppose the war) the sizeable American anti-war movement has also reached out to their counterparts around the world.

It is a sad testimony to the state of American democracy that we need the help of other countries to stop our President from getting our own people killed — along with thousands or tens of thousands of innocent civilians — in a war that most Americans don’t want.

But the war is not the only issue here that brings people throughout the world together against American-led policies that cause so much harm throughout the world. The largest number of delegates are from Latin America, where the profound failure of the policies known here as “neo-liberalism” has become painfully obvious. The last 20 years have seen the region’s worst performance in more than a century, with income per person hardly growing at all. The US recipe of substituting the indiscriminate opening of trade and financial flows for what used to be development policy, along with punishingly high interest rates and budget austerity, has failed miserably even on its own terms.

The rejection of the “Washington Consensus,” often imposed on Latin America by US-controlled institutions such as the IMF and the World Bank, is what brought Brazil’s President Lula da Silva to power last October. And so he is an appropriate symbol of the growing importance of the WSF and its ideas, relative to its elite counterpart in Davos. Last year Lula was also welcomed enthusiastically by the crowds here, as a genuine working-class hero who everyone loved but few thought would actually win. Now he is president of the second largest country in the Americas.

But he still has to deal with the unelected “Masters of the Universe” as the London Financial Times dubbed the leaders gathered at Davos, where Lula also spoke. Chief among these masters is the IMF, which has a program for Brazil’s government that is literally impossible. The previous government piled up an enormous public debt: it swelled from 29 percent to more than 65 percent of GDP during former President Cardoso’s eight years of office. With domestic interest rates at 25.5 percent (as compared to our own Federal Reserve’s 1.25 percent), this debt burden is not sustainable.

Brazil will have to either lower its interest rates considerably or renegotiate its debt, but the IMF and the financial markets are against both of these options. Instead they hope to keep squeezing ever larger debt payments out of the government budget. This cannot be sustained, and for as long as these policies are pursued it will be very difficult for the government to restore economic growth or deliver on its other promises to end hunger and help the poor. A confrontation is inevitable.

“I was not elected by the financial markets, and I was not elected by the powerful economic interests . . . I was elected through the high level of consciousness of Brazilian society,” Lula told the crowd in Porto Alegre.

The people here seem to agree. A banner at one of the big marches here said “Give it up, Davos: Lula is one of us.”

MARK WEISBROT is Co-Director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington D.C. and the co-author of Social Security: the Phony Crisis.

 

More articles by:

Mark Weisbrot is co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy Research, in Washington, D.C. and president of Just Foreign Policy. He is also the author of  Failed: What the “Experts” Got Wrong About the Global Economy (Oxford University Press, 2015).

July 23, 2018
Thomas Mountain
Ethiopia’s Peaceful Revolution
Weekend Edition
July 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Atwood
Peace or Armageddon: Take Your Pick
Paul Street
No Liberal Rallies Yet for the Children of Yemen
Nick Pemberton
The Bipartisan War on Central and South American Women
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Are You Putin Me On?
Andrew Levine
Sovereignty: What Is It Good For? 
Brian Cloughley
The Trump/NATO Debacle and the Profit Motive
David Rosen
Trump’s Supreme Pick Escalates America’s War on Sex 
Melvin Goodman
Montenegro and the “Manchurian Candidate”
Salvador Rangel
“These Are Not Our Kids”: The Racial Capitalism of Caging Children at the Border
Matthew Stevenson
Going Home Again to Trump’s America
Louis Proyect
Jeremy Corbyn, Bernie Sanders and the Dilemmas of the Left
Patrick Cockburn
Iraqi Protests: “Bad Government, Bad Roads, Bad Weather, Bad People”
Robert Fantina
Has It Really Come to This?
Russell Mokhiber
Kristin Lawless on the Corporate Takeover of the American Kitchen
John W. Whitehead
It’s All Fake: Reality TV That Masquerades as American Politics
Patrick Bobilin
In Your Period Piece, I Would be the Help
Ramzy Baroud
The Massacre of Inn Din: How Rohingya Are Lynched and Held Responsible
Robert Fisk
How Weapons Made in Bosnia Fueled Syria’s Bleak Civil War
Gary Leupp
Trump’s Helsinki Press Conference and Public Disgrace
Josh Hoxie
Our Missing $10 Trillion
Martha Rosenberg
Pharma “Screening” Is a Ploy to Seize More Patients
Basav Sen
Brett Kavanaugh Would be a Disaster for the Climate
David Lau
The Origins of Local AFT 4400: a Profile of Julie Olsen Edwards
Rohullah Naderi
The Elusive Pursuit of Peace by Afghanistan
Binoy Kampmark
Shaking Establishments: The Ocasio-Cortez Effect
John Laforge
18 Protesters Cut Into German Air Base to Protest US Nuclear Weapons Deployment
Christopher Brauchli
Trump and the Swedish Question
Chia-Chia Wang
Local Police Shouldn’t Collaborate With ICE
Paul Lyons
YouTube’s Content ID – A Case Study
Jill Richardson
Soon You Won’t be Able to Use Food Stamps at Farmers’ Markets, But That’s Not the Half of It
Kevin MacKay
Climate Change is Proving Worse Than We Imagined, So Why Aren’t We Confronting its Root Cause?
Thomas Knapp
Elections: More than Half of Americans Believe Fairy Tales are Real
Ralph Nader
Warner Slack—Doctor for the People Forever
Lee Ballinger
Soccer, Baseball and Immigration
Louis Yako
Celebrating the Wounds of Exile with Poetry
Ron Jacobs
Working Class Fiction—Not Just Surplus Value
Perry Hoberman
You Can’t Vote Out Fascism… You Have to Drive It From Power!
Robert Koehler
Guns and Racism, on the Rocks
Nyla Ali Khan
Kashmir: Implementation with Integrity and Will to Resolve
Justin Anderson
Elon Musk vs. the Media
Graham Peebles
A Time of Hope for Ethiopia
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Homophobia in the Service of Anti-Trumpism is Still Homophobic (Even When it’s the New York Times)
Martin Billheimer
Childhood, Ferocious Sleep
David Yearsley
The Glories of the Grammophone
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail