Sunday, August 14, 2005

Passing away?

Having been immersed in my dissertation and preparations for Wednesday's interview, I haven't commented much on the current shenanigans going on in Brazil. But a couple of stories in the Folha and among the London-based PT made me sit up and take note. It would seem there are two political deaths - the PT (probably overstated) and that of Miguel Arraes - dominating the Brazilian scene this week.

First, what is happening to the PT? There's been an interesting email exchange going on among London petistas regarding what exactly is the PT. While there is general disillusion with the path taken by the present government, what is intriguing is the perception group members have of the PT's mission. For some the PT has sold out, failing to deliver socialism. But for others the PT was never a socialist party in the traditional sense. Indeed, as one very articulate contribution points out, the wording in the PT's documents are vague. What is advocates is radical democracy, or democratic socialism (whatever that is).

At the same time some in the PT are considering abandoning the party, like Christovam Buarque. He's been feted internationally and his administration of Brasilia with its introduction of the bolsa escola is usually offered as an example of good governance. Interesting then that some in the London PT seem critical of hmn, accusing him of opportunism. Could this be because of his background and social-democratic orientation? After all, Christovam has never really been a red, dyed-in-the-wool petista. Might this also be a moment to plug my work on his administration in this book? Available at all good bookshops!

If he does leave the party there is a real question of where he could go. The Folha piece says the options are limited and beyond the PT there is no other party on the left which can offer the prospects of change for Brazil.

Troubling too is the suggestion that the PT in Rio Grande do Sul are also being caught up in this whole 'cash-for-influence' scandal. Of all the regional sections of the PT, I thought (perhaps naively) that the gauchos would be the least involved, due to the relative independent strength of the party down there. As a personal observation, I also met David Stival, the PT chairman who had to make a statement to the police, briefly while carrying out fieldwork there in June. It just gets more depressing...

And so finally we also say goodbye to one of the last great populists. After Brizola's death last year, this week Miguel Arraes passed away - yet another of the politicians who dominated the 'Populist Republic' between 1945 and 1964 before being booted out by the military and into exile before returning again in the 1980s. He's not of historical interest though; others, like Garotinho, owe their political style to him (more's the pity...).

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