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Today I wanted to send a piece reporting and celebrating Lula's election
victory in Brazil -- by Judy Rebick -- plus another of our now periodic
interviews with ZNet writers about their books. I have to leave this
message to that minimum statement, other than to note that we also have
a placed a Brazil Watch section online -- as today our in house
computers (not the site) are being revamped and I only have minutes
before I am off email for the day.
First -- Congratulations to Brazilians, and really, everyone!
Hope wins over fear in Brazil
by Judy Rebick
Lula said it best: “Hope won over fear.” In a decisive victory with a
record 83 million votes cast, Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of the Workers’
Party (PT) — known everywhere as Lula — became the President-elect of
Brazil last night with 61 per cent of the total.
In what could be an excellent omen, October 27 is also Lula’s 57th
Brazilians poured into the streets to party even before Lula’s opponent,
José Serra, ceded defeat. In Rio de Janeiro, thousands began a march
from the top of the famed Corcovado mountain and snaked down through
favelas and neighbourhoods to the centre of town, where the partying
went on long into the night.
"Lula said he was being elected president of the republic in the name of
our generation, everyone who fought for democracy in Brazil and dreamed
about this moment,” said Workers’ Party President José Dirceu.
Rici Lake, a rabble.ca citizen journalist posting from Brazil says: "It
was a great party. Marco Zero -- the plaza at the centre of Recife --
was absolutely packed. The estimate is that there were 200,000 people
there, which certainly seems plausible. The elections office had set up
a giant screen showing the results as they came in."
In San Paulo, Brazil's largest city, people were literally dancing in
the streets all night.
The election of a democratic socialist as president of Brazil, the
world’s fifth largest democracy, will also have tremendous repercussions
across Latin America and around the world. Lula strongly opposes the
Free Trade of the Americas (FTAA). The PT, along with organized social
movements, held a people’s plebiscite last month where 10 million people
voted 85 per cent against the FTAA. There is no question that Brazil
will not only oppose but organize opposition to a free trade deal in the
President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela spoke of Lula joining him in a Latin
American “axis of good,” reported the New York Times.
The Workers’ Party has pioneered a new form of people’s democracy that
provides a model for the left around the world. When he was speaking in
Toronto a few years ago, Lula asked, “Did we win democracy, only to have
the right to cry out our hunger?”
"I want my victory to symbolize that nobody is inferior to anybody
else,” Lula said in a speech on Wednesday. “A lathe operator can be more
competent in doing politics than many political scientists.”
The World Social Forum organized in PT-led Porto Allegre has already
provided a centre for social justice movements around the world. Lula’s
victory will be a huge injection of energy in building a global movement
for social justice.
Perhaps as important is the symbolism of Lula’s victory. As the first
working class president, Lula’s election gives tremendous power to the
poor, landless and marginalized people of Brazil. The PT has close links
to massive social movements who have promised to mobilize to ensure that
this electoral victory is just the beginning of a broad transformation
towards social justice.
Dealing with the massive economic inequalities in Brazil will be an
enormous challenge for Lula. Neo-liberalism has hit Brazil’s economy
hard. The gap between rich and poor is one of the biggest in the world.
Unemployment is at its highest levels since early 2000, and there is a
$260-billion debt. There is also the difficulty of transforming an
economy under the triple threat of investment flight, International
Monetary Fund (IMF) sanctions and possible U.S. intervention.
Moreover, Lula’s Workers’ Party is far from controlling Congress.
Brazil’s system is modeled on the American system so the President’s
power can be limited by Congress. In state elections, the PT did not do
as well, winning governor in only three states out of 27, two of these
in the first round.
Rici Lake reports, "Although it was certainly a night to celebrate, it
was also a victory for Lula more than for the PT, which had
disappointing if not heart-breaking results in second-round state
There were several very close races. "In Rio Grande do Sul, the
traditional home of the PT, PT candidate Tarso Genro was beaten by the
PMDB candidate by 52.7% to 47.3%. Genro had been trailing throughout the
polls, and the result was better than had been predicted by pollsters.
However, it is obviously still a disappointment."
The U.S. government and the markets seem to be taking a wait-and-see
approach. U.S. President Bush made a pro forma statement congratulating
Lula on his victory through a spokesperson yesterday. Brazilian
currency, under attack by international markets since Lula’s first round
victory October 6, made a slight rally in the last few days.
In his first formal address on television last night, Lula said he would
“do everything within my reach to bring peace to our continent” and
“build a country that has more justice, brotherhood and solidarity.”
Viva o Presidente Lula!
Judy Rebick is publisher of www.rabble.ca, where this article originally
appeared. She is also the author of Imagine Democracy (Stoddart), which
was in part inspired by the experiences of the PT in Brazil.
And second, here is an interview with Robin Hahnel regarding his
forthcoming book, The ABCs of Political Economy. To find out more about
the book, plese visit the Pluto Press Website -- they are a very
excellent leftist press in England: http://www.plutobooks.com/
(1) Can you tell ZNet, please, what your new book, The ABCs of Political
Economy, is about? What is it trying to communicate?
The ABCs of Political Economy: A Modern Approach (Pluto Press, November
2002) is an introduction to modern, radical, political economy. It
presumes no prior economics background. It provides a radical framework
for understanding the relationship between economic and political,
gender, and racial dynamics. It defines and defends progressives core
values: economic democracy, economic justice, solidarity, and
environmental sustainability. It teaches readers the essential concepts
for understanding how markets work, where unemployment and inflation
come from, the logic of monetary and fiscal policy, the relationship
between the financial and real sectors of the economy, and how
international trade and investment affect participating economies. In
particular it focuses on rebutting myths about capitalism perpetuated by
mainstream economics. In the last two chapters The ABCs of Political
Economy explains why capitalism is inherently undemocratic, unfair, and
environmentally destructive, and what can be done in both the short and
long run to replace the economics of competition and greed with the
economics of equitable cooperation.
(2) Can you tell ZNet something about writing the book? Where does the
content come from? What went into making the book what it is?
This book has been percollating for three decades. A few years back I
taught an introductory course on political economy on ZNet's Left On
Line University where I posted lectures every week and engaged in
discussion with activists taking the course via email. Some of the core
material originated in those "on-line" lectures. Much of the material is
the distillation of teaching introduction to economics and political
economy at American University for over a quarter century. In that
context I have watched most of my fellow academic political economists
abandon large parts of the traditional Marxist theoretical framework and
struggle over what to replace it with. Of course a few have refused to
abandon any part of the Marxist framework. Many others have abandoned
their radical perspective along with the Marxist framework -- throwing
out the baby with the bath water. I have long been convinced that we can
retain and expand upon the radical insights of Marxism without clinging
to outdated and illogical theories. I believe The ABCs of Political
Economy offers the non-professional audience a modern replacement for
historical materialism, the labor theory of value, and Marxist crisis
theory that is a vast improvement over the old theory. A great deal of
the last two chapters is based on decades of thinking and writing about
(3) What are your hopes for The ABCs of Political Economy? What do you
hope it will contribute or achieve, politically? Given the effort and
aspirations you have for the book, what will you deem to be a success?
What would leave you happy about the whole undertaking? What would leave
you wondering if it was worth all the time and effort?
Personally, I hope The ABCs of Political Economy answers many of the
questions I get not only from my students at American University, but
from activists who email me daily, asking me to explain -- from a
radical perspective -- how some part of the economy or some policy
recommendation works. I plan to keep an earmarked copy of the book next
to my computer so I can type in a few page numbers, hit the reply key,
and get back to my own work more quickly! More seriously, I hope the
book helps progressive minded people sharpen their thinking about
economic issues. I hope it helps progressives clarify what they mean by
economic democracy, economic justice, economic efficiency, and
environmental sustainability so they better understand what will
accomplish those goals, and what will not. I hope it will prevent
progressives with little or no economics background from backing down
from debates with people with more formal economic training who tell
them they should accept hierarchy and injustice because there is no
alternative. I hope it will help people whose values I share become more
proficient at doing their own economic analysis. This is a book that
teaches people with humane instincts how to think more clearly about
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