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The truth on Ciro Gomes’ fight against neoliberalism in Brazil
The website Brasil Wire published, on May 17th, an authorless article entitled “The Ciro Delusion”, with the purpose of attacking Ciro Gomes, his political party (PDT, the Democratic Labour Party), and his supporters with a lot of misinformation. The website does not provide the name of the author (maybe it was intentionally anonymous).
After trying to contact Brasil Wire, to publish our respectful response, both through their Twitter and their official website, and not having any response from them, we decided to publish it on our website. As the article was written in english we will reply to it in the same language, hoping to provide some of their readers with a righteous response.
The article starts claiming its goal: discredit Ciro’s forty years long public career. According to it, Ciro is the only person who believes in his potential presidency. Well, that is obviously not true. Ciro received more than 13 million votes in the 2018 presidential election, and currently has millions of supporters in a growing cross party effort. Starting, of course, within his own party, PDT.
PDT has deep popular roots that go way back to the most important achievements and most prominent political figures in the country’s modern history. The party currently has 1.1 million members and is one of the biggest political parties in Brazil. Since 2016, it has been concentrating its internal political effort in strengthening what is being called a “National Development Project”, or PND. The PND is basically Ciro’s view for a big breakthrough towards Brazil’s much needed development. According to him, the PND is vital in order for the country to overcome its inequality and underdevelopment.
The results of 2020 local elections, for instance, brought Ciro’s party to be the main player in Brazil’s center-left. PDT elected more than 300 mayors across the country, including several state capitals. Considering left wing parties, Lula’s Workers’ Party (PT) came only in third, with 179 elected mayors. As this effort has been building more support inside the party, it is also overflowing to several other political leaderships, from different parties, that have already publicly defended Ciro as the most prepared politician to lead Brazil to its economic challenges that lie ahead.
Ciro has almost forty years of a public career. He served basically in every possible political position. He was Mayor of Fortaleza, State Representative in Ceará, Federal Representative in Ceará, State Governor of Ceará, Minister of Finances and Minister of Interior.
As Mayor and Governor, Ciro had the highest approval rates across the country. The article erroneously claims that Ciro was FHC finance’s Minister, but that is not true. He was Itamar Franco’s Finance Minister and helped implement Brazil’s currency, the Real, in 1994. As Minister of Interior, he helped to develop and started implementing the Transfer of the São Francisco River, bringing water to millions of people in northeastern Brazil.
Ciro’s relation with PDT, his current party, started in early 2000s, with PDT’s founder Leonel Brizola. Since then, Brizola saw Ciro as a political leader capable of surpassing Brazil’s submission to the neoliberal agenda. At that time, Ciro had already published three different books on Brazil’s economic challenges: (1) No País dos Conflitos (In the Conflicts Country); (2) O Próximo Passo – Uma alternativa prática ao neoliberalismo (The Next Step – A practical alternative to neoliberalism); and (3) Um desafio chamado Brasil (A challenge named Brazil). Later in 2020, Ciro published his fourth book, called “Projeto Nacional: O Dever da Esperança” (National Project: Hope’s duty).
Since his first book in early 1990s, Ciro Gomes has been a strong voice against neoliberal practices in Brazil. He has been consistently arguing for a strategic balance between public and private enterprises. Always advocating that Brazil has to move to a full time education, reform its tax system progressively, develop its industrial economy, and move forward with the current status as a commodity exporter. These are some of the central pillars of Ciro’s National Project.
Since 2009, Mr. Gomes has been publicly criticizing the lack of commitment, within the Workers Party presidencies, in implementing these pillars. His main argument is that Lula and the Workers’ Party expanded the economy for the poor, and as the poor have never got any attention from the government in decades, Brazilian society recognized that effort. However, Lula also has given more than ever before to the richest. Brazilian elite thrived. Brazil did experience a large economic boom due to the rising values of its exports, but Lula’s government has never used this power to transform Brazil’s economic structures.
At the same time, in order to keep political support within Brazilian Congress, the Workers’ Party allied itself with Brazil’s most corrupt forces. Michel Temer, for example, was chosen by Lula to be Mrs. Rousseff ‘s Vice President. Temer was jailed after his term as president, always empowered by Lula. The corruption scandals took several leaders of different political parties to jail, including some from the Workers’ party itself. A classic example is Antonio Palocci, former Minister of Economy under Lula’s administration who confessed his crimes and literally returned R$ 100 million (around US$30 million at the time) embezzled off public receipts.
During Brazil’s impeachment (or, as Mr. Gomes prefers to say, coup) of 2016, Ciro was one of the main actors in defense of Mrs. Rousseff. Ciro’s state of Ceara, was the only one that had the necessary ⅔ of its representatives voting against the impeachment, a clear signal that Ciro’s leadership was converted into support for Mrs. Rousseff’s struggle. He also visited several media channels, universities and political rallies, constantly claiming that Brazil was under a coup. At the same time, PT’s Fernando Haddad, Lula’s presidential candidate in 2018, preferred to say that “coup was a strong word” to define what was going on in Brazil.
That even had a cost for Ciro’s ambitions of becoming president. Having strongly battled against the coup, he was associated with the Workers’ Party, right when the party was under severe outbursts from the media and had gigantic rejection numbers, mostly because of Brazilian economic collapse.
To some analysts Ciro’s position might seem contradictory. How could someone strongly present himself as being “against the coup”, and at the same time criticize the Workers’ party economic disaster? That is one of the reasons Ciro moved from party to party during his early political life: not everyone is ready for an honest and sincere analysis of reality.
Or at least not everyone is committed to the truth. After all, Dilma’s last couple years in government brought Brazil’s GDP way down. It was the third worst result in centuries, following a neoliberal agenda of austerity implemented by PT’s government. In 2018, during Brazilian election, Ciro did not save his critics to PT’s economic policies and to Lula’s allies, specially the ones who shared their party with Michel Temer and who pushed for Dilma’s impeachment.
However, critics to PT’s commitment with the neoliberal agenda were being ignored by the establishment, as basically all other political forces had “acceptable” economic programs aiming the support of the financial sector of Brazil.
The author of the text published at Brasil Wire also attempts to “move” PDT to the right of PT. It is a common mistake between some political analysts to see the political spectrum as a rule with standardized seats for each party or each person. And it is understandable. Even though he is not being fair by putting representative Tabata Amaral as a reference in this attempt. She is basically not in PDT anymore. Amaral already announced that she is going to move to another party.
But the main lack of truth in his argument is PDT’s historic leadership in Brazil’s fight for justice, sovereignty and education since the early 1930s. It was Getúlio Vargas who implemented women’s right to vote, gave birth to Brazilian basic labour rights, created Petrobras, Eletrobrás, Vale and several universities countrywide, for instance.
Another example was Leonel Brizola’s government in the state of Rio de Janeiro, which prioritized basic full time education in the poor communities of Rio (Can you believe that our allegedly left wing governments never implement full time education in Brazil?)
Anyway, Ciro’s recent effort on discussing with right wing politicians, criticized by the author, is not different from Lula’s effort. The former president recently met with the main players of the 2016’s coup, the ones who voted in favour of the impeachment against his own party. That is part of the political game, and only few are able to play it. The disturbance that arises from these movements only show that Ciro is gaining political strength.
What happened in 2018?
The majority of the Workers’ Party members argue that Ciro’s voters elected Bolsonaro, but the data below shows that is not true. However, the article published at Brasil Wire introduces a baseless assumption that claims Ciro’s voters are in fact supporters from the Workers’ Party that were convinced Ciro had more chances to win Bolsonaro.
The first one we know is not true. The second one, the author will be able to prove only after 2022’s elections. What we do know is that, in 2018, the polls showed that Ciro was the one with most chances to win Bolsonaro during the second round. Also, we know that Ciro’s voters were the ones that voted the most for Haddad in the second round of Brazilian 2018 election. The author falsely claims that Mr. Gomes did not endorse Haddad and also said that “he was not going to stand in fierce opposition to the president elect.” Both claims are false.
We found it interesting that the ghost author recognized TodosComCiro’s organizing effort between 2017 and 2018, although there were some mistakes and misunderstandings in the text. It was really a big effort and we are pleased to talk about it. TodosComCiro was basically an informal group of young activists that fought hard to strengthen Ciro’s grassroots support all over the country. A group of young people doing real organizing work to elect a president that could finally put our country where it really deserves to be – and will put it.
TodosComCiro started to grow. And meetings got more and more frequent. Every couple months, we traveled to São Paulo in the cheapest buses and flies we could find. The largest part of our group lived there. Everytime we had to travel to São Paulo, we searched for an apartment on the internet, booked it online, landed in and worked on organizing. Looks like one of these apartments was owned by a journalist. Sorry to disappoint the ghost author, but this is just a mere coincidence, as we found and booked it through the internet. It was the cheapest that could host our group at that time. A bunch of hardcore organizers working really hard to help the way they could.
All of TodosComCiro work was 100% organic, self financed with a few hundred reais a month and it did not have any relation with Ciro’s campaign or with PDT. In fact the campaign did not even exist. And we did not know if Ciro was really going to be a candidate. By the way, Veja, a right wing magazine, already failed in an attempt to create this false relation between our independent group and PDT in 2018.
During that period our group met with several people from the left. Always with the same commitment with the National Project. From what I can remember, none of them were from the Workers Party.
We were eager to learn about organizing, and while we researched and learned on how to do it, we tried to expand our network and exchange experiences and techniques with organizers within Brazil, from other countries in Latin America and also from other countries. Research and networking with other organizers will never undermine our political consciousness. As Bernie Sanders’s campaign also had interesting technological innovations we found Zack Exley on the internet with whom we had great conversations, the same way we met with organizers from other social movements and unions.
A few people tried to delegitimize TodosComCiro’s autonomous organizing efforts by pointing out a remote connection with people from other countries we have met. It is kind of understandable. One may have gotten worried about naiveness, others may not have been sure about the limits of the group’s political compromise. There was even speculation that our work could be high-level spionage engineered by the right wing. None of these are true. And there is nothing to be ashamed of what we have built. We are really proud of it.
Here in Brazil, however, there is a major background issue: the Workers Party, after years in power, basically monopolized relations with other popular organizing movements within Brazil and worldwide. And any organizing efforts not within their reach is not considered legitimate by them and their propaganda machinery. We decided we would not accept that. Creating bridges nationally and internationally is an important task for all of us that believe Brazil needs an alternative to avoid the past and to overcome the present.
By the way, before Haddad’s meeting with Bernie Sanders in 2018 [LINK], Guilherme Boulos and PSOL had workshops with Bernie’s organizers. The brothers Arturo Carmona, vice-director of politics and Armando Carmona political strategist for Bernie Sanders, came to Brazil in August 2018 to help them in organizing for the 2018 presidential elections. Congratulations to PSOL. They were also able to surpass PT’s barriers in monopolizing relations with organizers all over the world. [LINK]
Although Ciro’s campaign had nothing to do with TodosComCiro organizing effort, we were able to study and learn organizing practices from everyone we could. And it looks like our efforts brought results, as the ghost writer even mistook our work with Ciro’s central campaign. We take that as a recognition of our grassroots organizing work.
TodosComCiro kept organizing after the 2018 election, and recently, the group decided to organize a cell within PDT, after most of us joined the party. Hopefully, that will make our efforts even stronger.
What about 2022?
Bolsonaro probably has 15-20% of solid support in his arms. And so does Lula. There are other 50-60% of people who are still looking for an option. (luckily, we don’t live in a bipartisan country). Both Bolsonaro and PT had the chance to implement their agendas for brazilians.
One had 14 long years, and crashed our economy following the same agenda from their predecessors. The other failed to protect the lives of our people and proved to be an antidemocratic oriented person, not to mention the lack of capacity his government exposed to the world, undermining decades of good diplomacy. None of them changed our economic model.
Brazil has a giant challenge ahead. It won’t be easy at all. But the main challenge will be to turn the table and start debating the country we want to be in 30 years. Are we going to keep the same economic model that is in place since 1995 and the early neoliberal years? Are we going to keep exporting commodities and importing costly technology? Are we going to force our researchers, engineers and scientists to end up as Uber Drivers? Are we going to let the neoliberal agenda thrive in our country while all countries in the world are recreating their economies in the post covid-era?
Well, we believe not. That is why Ciro’s loud voice against this agenda is not alone. If you are interested in joining efforts, please sign up to TodosComCiro.com and help us organize an alternative to our country.