The Brazilian Labor Party (hereinafter referred to as the “Labor Party”) was established on February 10, 1980 and was approved and registered by the Brazilian Supreme Electoral Court on February 11, 1982. It is the largest left-wing political party in Brazil and the most influential in Latin America. One of the left-wing parties. In the past 40 years, the development trajectory of the Labor Party reflects the ups and downs of Brazil’s political situation: in 1980, the Labor Party emerged from the labor movement and was an important force in promoting the re-democratization of Brazil; from 1989 to 1998, the Labor Party had three presidential elections. From 2002 to 2016, the Labor Party won four consecutive presidential elections; in 2016, President Rousseff was impeached by the parliament in his second term, the Labor Party’s rule ended sadly, and Brazil fell into a system of political turmoil and economic recession. Crisis: Since 2019, the Labor Party has once again become the “choice preference” of Brazilian voters, and it is more likely to “return to power”. An in-depth analysis of the theoretical system and ruling practice of the Labor Party will help to more objectively grasp the political changes and development trends in Brazil.
The Construction Process and Basic Connotation of the Labour Party’s Theoretical System
The theoretical system of the Labor Party is gradually constructed during its participation in Brazil’s political process. It not only bears the stamp of the times in international politics, but also reflects the characteristics of Brazil’s political changes and party system changes. In the more than 36 years since Brazil’s re-democratization in 1985, the Labour Party has been in power for about 39% of the time, which to a certain extent reflects the good acceptance of the Labour Party’s policy ideas in Brazil.
The composition of the Labour Party is a central factor in determining its political philosophy. Under the influence of the third wave of democratization in the world, the military governments of most countries in Latin America have successively handed over power to the democratically elected governments. In Brazil, a highly industrialized country, the labor movement was the main force in promoting re-democratization, and it also contributed to the birth of the Labor Party. From 1978 to 1980, a series of workers’ strikes broke out in the Greater São Paulo region, who put forward the slogan “All Brazilian workers unite to build their own party – the Labor Party”. In May 1979, the Labor Party officially clarified the principles of party building, emphasizing that the Labor Party is a platform for workers to participate in national politics, and put forward the political goal of “building a socialist and democratic society”. On February 10, 1980, the “Founding Declaration of the Labor Party” pointed out that the Labor Party was a “broad and open” political party, respecting the diversity of ideas within the party, and explicitly proposed to oppose classism, eliminate exploitation and oppression, strive for democracy, and raise wages. , improving working conditions, striving for national independence, supporting the struggle of the world’s oppressed classes and other specific goals.
In the wake of the division of the Brazilian Labor Party due to internal ideology and power struggles, the Labor Party proposed a “broad and open” party building idea, attracting a large number of left-wing people and organizations demanding the overthrow of the military dictatorship, with workers as the main mass The base also includes former members of the Communist Party of Brazil, Trotskyites, democratic socialists, liberation theology, intellectuals, and other people at the bottom, which makes the party’s membership complex and ideologically different. Therefore, the main proposition of the Labor Party in the early days was to fight for democracy and oppose military dictatorship, and did not emphasize socialism. In its early documents from 1979 to 1982, the Labour Party had a very vague definition of socialism, only proposing that socialism is the direction of development of human society, representing the liberation of workers and all the oppressed, but lacked clarity on how to build socialism explain. Nevertheless, as a political concept against capitalism, socialism still has a certain consensus within the Labour Party.
In the late 1980s, the drastic changes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe and the neoliberal reforms in Latin America also had an important impact on the development of the Labour Party’s political ideas. After the drastic changes in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, the Labour Party conducted extensive debates on socialism, criticized the Eastern European model of socialism, and emphasized that socialism is not dogmatic, bureaucratic, arrogant, imported, exaggerated, or imposed, and believes that Brazil’s socialist construction should be based on four levels: one is the understanding of Brazil’s national conditions, the development trend of capitalism, and the game of political power; the second is the summary of social movement practices in Brazil; the third is the experience of other countries’ socialist practices for reference; The fourth is an objective judgment on the development trend of global capitalism and the international balance of power. In addition, with the advancement of neoliberal reforms in Brazil, the discussion of socialism in the Labour Party gave way to criticism of neoliberalism, especially marketization, privatization, and globalization. In 1990, the Labor Party formally proposed the concept of “labor socialism”, and then gradually formed a relatively clear theoretical framework. According to the sorting out of the important documents of the Labor Party from 1990 to 2020, the main contents of labor socialism can be summarized as the following three aspects.
First, pursue broad and deep democracy. The Labour Party is open to all social forces pursuing democracy and socialism, and adheres to the diversity of ideas, cultures and religions within the party. Labour socialism emphasizes the diversity of human society and opposes any form of discrimination based on gender, race, religion, ideology, sexual orientation, artistic preference. At the same time, labor socialism believes that democracy is not only a tool for winning public opinion and defending people’s dignity, but also the goal, purpose and eternal value of political action. It advocates the realization of political socialization and the pursuit of fundamental democracy, namely political freedom and economic, The unity of social rights emphasizes the protection of people’s rights in life, land, housing, employment, medical care, food, etc. At the institutional level, labor socialism advocates the organic combination of representative democracy and participatory democracy, and promotes the participation of the masses in the political process and economic management of the country. Labour socialism is a medium- and long-term historical enterprise whose prerequisites are the establishment of a people’s power and a state led by the working class, as well as the implementation of a series of reforms that will lead to a profound transformation of national life.
Second, economic development ideas that take into account both efficiency and fairness. Labor socialism advocates the implementation of a development model in which economic growth and income distribution are coordinated, allowing the coexistence of state ownership, private ownership, and collective ownership, but emphasizes the state’s regulatory role in economic planning. Labour socialism advocates deepening land reform and encourages cooperation between family farming and big business farming. At the same time, labor socialism emphasizes that the socialist economy should take democratic planning and environmental orientation as its core and serve the people as its goal; the economy should not be a concentration of wealth, but should meet the current and future needs of human beings. Take it back from those whose goal is to accumulate capital, free it from the anarchy of the capitalist market, from a few vested interests, consumerism, and state bureaucrats and big entrepreneurs who sacrifice society and natural resources.
Third, support internationalism. Labor socialism believes that the current capitalism reflects a stronger autocracy and poses a huge threat to democratic freedom, and the globalization dominated by neoliberalism has fallen into crisis. Since capitalism is a mode of production on an international scale, socialism must also propose alternatives on a global scale. Therefore, labor socialism calls on socialist parties to deepen cooperation, emphasizes that the sovereignty of nation-states must be respected, supports the self-determination of peoples, values internationalist action, opposes all forms of exploitation and oppression, and eliminates the causes of war and other political and social conflicts. All roots. Labour socialism also emphasizes that the international order established after World War II must be reformed or adjusted to promote the construction of a world political superstructure based on equality, cooperation, development and peace. In addition, labor socialism advocates linking state building with the international environment, establishing a multilateral and multipolar world that can promote balanced economic and social development and is not controlled by major powers and powers, and promote the economic, social and political development of Latin American countries, especially South American countries. Integration, against imperialist countries’ control of finance, trade, etc.
The practical application of labor socialism concept
After the Brazilian military government returned to power in 1985, the political priority of the Labor Party changed from “anti-dictatorship and promoting democracy” in the early days of the party’s founding to “taking power through democratic elections”. In 1989, Lula ran for the presidency as a Labour Party candidate, but lost to Color in the second round. In both the 1994 and 1998 presidential elections, the Social Democratic candidate Cardoso won in the first round, and Lula came in second. Despite three unsuccessful federal elections, the Labour Party has gained momentum in municipal elections: in state elections, it won two states in 1994 and three in 1998; in municipal elections , won the governing power of 49 cities in 1992, increased to 111 in 1996, and reached 200 in 2000. Especially in the municipal elections in 2000, the Labor Party won 6 mayoral seats in 27 state capitals (including the Federal District of Brasilia), including the most populous city of Sao Paulo, becoming the biggest winner in the municipal elections that year. In 2002, Lula participated in the presidential election for the fourth time and won, and Brazil entered the ruling cycle of the Labor Party for nearly 14 years. In the 2002 general election, Lula changed his election strategy. In addition to the traditional left-wing alliance party, his campaign coalition also included some center-right parties, especially the Liberal Alen Carr as his partner, and finally voted in the second round. China won the election with 61.27% of the vote. In the following three general elections, the Labour Party continued its campaign strategy of “de-ideologicalization” and achieved good results. The ruling practice of the Labor Party not only shows the connotation of labor socialism, but also reflects that the party can adjust in time to the changes in Brazil’s national conditions.
The first is to promote new developmentalism without breaking the neoliberal economic order. In the 1990s, labor socialism deeply criticized neoliberalism and proposed to formulate an “alternative plan” for neoliberalism to strengthen the state’s macro-control role in economic life. In the 1989, 1994 and 1998 elections, Lula used campaign slogans such as nationalization and abolition of foreign debt, and even launched the World Social Forum in 2001, taking a clear stand against neoliberal globalization. But in the 2002 election, Lula markedly weakened his aggressive economic claims and was open to privatization. In response to the doubts of domestic and foreign investors about its economic policy, Lula published a “Message to the Brazilian People” before the election, promising to implement a responsible fiscal policy, continue the reasonable elements of Brazil’s economic policy at that time, and accept international debts contract, etc. From Lula’s administration in 2003 to Rousseff’s impeachment in 2016, the Labor Party government basically continued the neoliberal policies of privatization, trade and financial liberalization during the Cardoso period, and replaced the primary fiscal surplus, floating exchange rate system and currency. Inflation targets are the three pillars of macroeconomic policy. On this basis, the Labor Party has also strengthened the guiding role of the government in economic development: First, it has strengthened the autonomy of national development. In December 2005, the Lula government repaid the loan to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) ahead of schedule, cancelled the loan agreement with the organization, and did not renew the loan with it, demonstrating the autonomy of economic development emphasized by labor socialism. The second is to increase public investment. Brazil’s public investment rate (public investment as a share of GDP) has been declining since the mid-1970s, but this trend has been reversed under the Labour Party: during Lula’s second term (2006-2010) , Brazil’s public investment rate increased from 2.9% to 4.6%. In 2007, the “Accelerated Growth Plan” launched by the Lula government is a typical manifestation of the Labor Party government’s expansion of public investment. Its core purpose is to accelerate economic growth by expanding investment in infrastructure construction. continuation. The third is to formulate a “re-industrialization” policy plan. Industrialization is the central goal of new developmentalism. During the ruling of the Labor Party, Brazil made some policy arrangements for the realization of “re-industrialization”. In 2011, the Rousseff government launched the “Strong Brazil” plan to improve industrial competitiveness by reducing taxes, supporting technological innovation, and expanding investment, thereby achieving sustainable economic growth.
Second, increase investment in people’s livelihood projects and implement the core essence of labor socialism. The “people’s party” is the basic orientation of the Labor Party, and democracy is the core content of labor socialism. During the Labour Party’s reign, livelihood projects have always been a priority area of national governance. In general, the Labor Party’s social policies mainly focus on two points: First, raising the minimum wage and cash transfers as the main poverty reduction policy means. Under the Labour Party, the minimum wage in Brazil was raised from 200 reais to 880 reais, and the purchasing power of the minimum wage also increased from 1.38 “basic food baskets” in 2003 to 2.21 “basic food baskets” in 2014 “. At the same time, the Labour Party government implemented the largest cash transfer policy in the world at that time, the family assistance scheme, which provided differentiated cash subsidies for low-income families at different levels, with the additional condition that the families receiving assistance must ensure that school-age children are enrolled in school and vaccinated as required. In addition, Brazil’s poverty rate has dropped from 34% to 14%, the extreme poverty rate has dropped from 15% to 5%, and the Gini coefficient has also dropped from 0.59 in 2002 to 0.49 in 2014. Its poverty reduction policy has achieved good results. By 2012, the Brazilian middle class had exceeded 50% for the first time. The second is to allow the middle and lower classes to enjoy more public services. During the ruling period of the Labor Party, Brazil increased investment in public services such as education, medical care, public housing, and the Internet to ensure the rights of low-income, people of color and other groups to enjoy public services. For example, in the field of higher education, the Labor Party not only built 18 federal universities, but also required private universities to provide full or half scholarships to poor students through the “universal university plan” established in 2004. In terms of electricity consumption for rural residents, in 2003 the Labor Party government launched the “National Lighting Program”, benefiting nearly 16 million villagers, 90% of which are below the poverty line. The Labor Party government also provided preferential credit to family farming, small and medium-sized enterprises, and ordinary consumers, which not only promoted labor employment, but also effectively cultivated the domestic consumption market. The growth of domestic consumption slowed down the international financial market in 2008. The impact of the crisis on the Brazilian economy. Therefore, the Brazilian academic community generally believes that the public policy of the Labor Party also has the characteristics of neo-developmentalism, that is, the state cultivates and stimulates domestic consumption capacity through large-scale public investment, and finally provides new momentum for economic growth.
Third, promote the building of a left-wing “alliance” in Latin America and strengthen “South-South cooperation”. Labour socialism contains obvious content against imperialism and hegemonism, and advocates the establishment of a multi-polar order and the promotion of multilateral cooperation. These concepts are fully reflected in the foreign policy of the Labour Party government. At the regional level, the Labour Party attaches great importance to the unity and self-improvement of Latin American left-wing forces, and on this basis, deepens the integration of Latin America and shapes the “South American Pole”. As early as 1990 and 2001, the Labour Party launched the Sao Paulo Forum and the World Social Forum respectively, which effectively promoted the dialogue and coordination among the Latin American left-wing forces, and promoted the criticism of neoliberalism and the exploration of alternative models. During the period in power, the Labor Party government made good use of the “pink wave” in Latin America to lead the Latin American integration process, promote the improvement of the Mercosur institutional arrangements, and advocate the establishment of regional organizations such as the Union of South American Nations, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States, etc. The integration of South America has reached the best state in history, and these measures are the successful practice of the party’s international strategic thinking of “integrating South America into one of the future multi-poles”. At the global level, the Labour government has always placed “South-South cooperation” at the heart of its diplomacy. During its administration, the Labour Party government strengthened its cooperation with emerging powers through multilateral organizations and mechanisms such as the United Nations, the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the G20, the BRICS, the BASIC, the India-Brazil-South Africa Trilateral Dialogue Forum, etc. At the same time, it actively promotes dialogue and cooperation with Africa, the Middle East, Southeast Asia and other regions, which not only greatly expands Brazil’s “diplomatic frontier”, but also changes the trade pattern of Brazil’s dependence on the European and American markets, and effectively promotes the layout of Brazil’s overseas interests. In the process of promoting “South-South cooperation”, the Labor Party government dared to say “no” to the hegemonic practices of developed countries, opposed the unilateral military actions of the United States, and actively mediated in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and the Iranian nuclear crisis. The spirit of internationalism emphasized by socialism has a high degree of agreement.
Evaluation and Prospect of Labor Socialism
From a theoretical analysis, labor socialism has the basic content of socialist theory, such as the theory of class struggle, the goal of struggle to eliminate exploitation and oppression, the political line based on the masses, the idea of people’s democracy, and the internationalism of anti-imperialist and anti-hegemony. Since the founding of the party, the Labour Party has always emphasized that socialism is the party’s political banner. However, the issue of ownership of the means of production, which is the core of the socialist theory, is seldom covered in the important documents of the Labour Party, and the Labour Party lacks a clear stand on this. Although the Labour Party stated that “socialism should be based on social ownership of the means of production”, it advocated a democratic way to determine the form of ownership. In addition, labor socialism overemphasizes the diversity of mass bases and ideologies, and lacks a more cohesive theoretical consensus based on the principle of democratic centralism. Due to the high degree of ideological heterogeneity within the party, labor socialism is the “tie” that maintains the cohesion within the party, which determines that labor socialism is different from traditional socialist theory and democratic socialism, and It is a theoretical framework based on Brazil’s national conditions and the Party’s conditions, aiming at realizing socialism, with loose organization and insufficient concentration of policy concepts.
On October 19, 2016, former Brazilian Congress Speaker Eduardo Cunha (second from left) was arrested by the police on suspicion of corruption by Petrobras. (Photo by Xinhua News Agency)
From the perspective of ruling practice, the “de-ideological” political alliance strategy is a pragmatic choice for the Labor Party to achieve the goal of gaining power and continuing to rule in Brazil’s multi-party environment. Although this strategy seriously deviates from the class struggle stance held by the Labor Party in the early days, it is also in line with the policy ideas of “adapting to Brazil’s national conditions” and “taking political power as a priority” emphasized by labor socialism. At the level of economic policy, the Labour Party has also shown a compromise with neoliberalism and has not cut itself off from the capitalist order, which is in stark contrast to the policy proposition of labour socialism. The Labor Party has also reflected on this, and believes that the fundamental reason is that “the neo-liberalism in Latin America is very strong” and the practical need to “ensure the stability and order of the Brazilian economy”. Nevertheless, labor socialism has been reflected in macroeconomic policies to some extent, mainly because the state’s control and planning of the economy has been significantly strengthened. In addition, labor socialism is more fully reflected in social governance and diplomacy, and in a sense has reshaped Brazil’s social structure and international image, which is also the most important political achievement of the Labor Party.
In 2016, because of Rousseff’s impeachment, the Labour Party’s rule ended sadly. There are many reasons for this situation, but from the perspective of the Labour Party’s own construction and governance process, two factors are crucial: First, corruption, ideological diversification, compromise to the bourgeoisie and neoliberalism have weakened the Labour Party political appeal. Second, the untimely transformation of social policies has greatly weakened the mass base of the Labour Party. During the 14 years that the Labour Party was in power, the social policy orientation did not achieve an effective transition from poverty alleviation to the supply of public goods, which made the emerging middle class that benefited from the poverty alleviation policy gradually “turned away”.
In the past five years, Brazil’s political situation has remained in a turbulent range, and the political party game has not yet returned to stability. During this period, in order to achieve the goal of returning to power, the Labor Party focused on three-level policy arrangements on the basis of summarizing its ruling experience and lessons.
First, strengthen intra-party building and promote political dialogue with the people. At the Sixth National Congress of the Labor Party held in 2017, the party set up an ethics committee and a disciplinary committee to strengthen the organization and discipline within the party. In addition, the Labour Party has also used various channels (including social media) to strengthen its dialogue with the people, and strive to win the people’s trust and recognition of the Labour Party.
Second, build a broad left-wing united front. There are many left-wing political parties in Brazil, and the Labor Party has obvious advantages in terms of political influence. In order to welcome the 2022 presidential election, the Labor Party, while striving to win the support of more left-wing political parties and social organizations, emphasized that the Labor Party belongs to the “persecuted” status in the “Rousseff Impeachment Case”, so as to unite the left-wing forces in the opposition. Consensus on topics such as neoliberalism, bourgeoisie and imperialism.
Third, under Bolsonaro, the Labour Party has worked hard to shape itself as the largest opposition party. Since Bolsonaro came to power, the Labor Party has been tit-for-tat criticizing the ruling authorities’ domestic and foreign affairs, expressing its own position on some core issues and proposing alternatives. From the current point of view, the Labor Party is in a relatively active and favorable situation in the Brazilian political party game, and Lula has obvious advantages in various polls. However, in the face of the 2022 presidential election, the challenge facing the Labor Party is not only to gain vote advantage, but also to formulate a new and effective governance plan for the new changes in Brazil’s national conditions.