by Jawdat Abu-El-Haj
Boito and Saad-Filho interpret the rise and fall of the power bloc that has sustained Brazil’s PT governments in the tradition of Poulantzas’s work on classes, class struggle, and the state. They consider the Brazilian state to be the main arena in which classes manifest their interests and power to influence economic outcomes. As did Poulantzas, they fall into the trap of structural determinism, in which collective choices and actions are derived mechanistically from fixed social spaces. I disagree with their thesis that the PT administrations represented an internal-bourgeoisie power bloc in an alliance with the middle classes and the popular masses and instead describe those administrations, especially under Lula, as left Bonapartist. The federal government under them exhibited greater autonomy from the bourgeoisie because of positive economic indicators such as a large trade surplus through commodities exports, the expansion of incoming foreign direct investment, and the capitalization of state-controlled pension funds. The increasing fiscal efficiency of the state led the government to amass unprecedented financial power.
Further, that autonomy was translated into instrumental policies directed personally by Lula to bestow public funds on two types of business groups: companies that were close to the national developmentalist governments of the 1950s and conglomerates founded by self-made capitalists from working-class and lower-middle-class backgrounds. The development strategy sought to transform national companies into global actors by financing foreign acquisitions in the belief that their technology and productivity would trickle down to Brazilian industry and project a positive image of Brazil as a progressive capitalist model that reconciled economic growth with social equity. However, once these Brazilian companies acquired global standing, they abandoned the Brazilian market, provoking a decline in capital accumulation and eventually a fiscal crisis. Finance capital, represented by Brazil’s largest private banks, was slowly consolidated as the hegemonic fraction of …
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Latin American Perspectives
March 2016 vol. 43 no. 2 Abstract 207-216