How Pink Tide Failed Brazil

How the failure of the leftist Pink Tide movement lead to the right's victory in Brazil.

Submitted by Ivysyn on November 5, 2018

Brazil’s runoff election has been won by the right wing candidate Jair Bolsonaro. Among Bolsonaro’s less than savory traits are colossal misogyny, and nostalgia for Brazil’s military dictatorship. This is naturally a dark time for Brazil’s working class and oppressed people. Regardless, Bolsonaro did not fall from the sky. His victory was the direct result of the failure of the so called “Pink Tide” in Latin America.

At the turn of the 20th century Latin American social movements in resistance to neoliberal policies of exploitation lead to the election of left-wing officials and governments. This has been called “Pink Tide”. From Pink Tide came significant left-wing governments on the continent such as that of Correa in Ecuador, Morales in Bolivia, and Chavez to Maduro in Venezuela. These new leftist regimes were suppose to be popular governments that actively resisted neoliberalism. They were suppose to create economically self-sufficient nations. If the goals of Pink Tide governments were met at all, it was only in very limited ways.

The fundamental problem with Pink Tide was two-fold. Firstly the popular energy of Pink Tide was transformed into state power. Prominent figures in social movements were absorbed into the state bureaucracy and the state, as it always is, was constituted as a sovereign power completely uncountable to popular demands. Secondly, and most obviously, capitalism was left in tact. Effectively Pink Tide tried to resist the pressures of the global capitalist economy through a national capitalism controlled by left-wing governments. This plan did not account for the fact that capitalism can not be channeled by leftists for their aims. Capitalism only cares about the maximization of profit which is only accomplished through the exploitation of labor and the environment.

Pink Tide amounted to nothing more than another leftist attempt at managing capital and the state. The problem with such attempts as can be seen in so called “Nordic Social Democracies” and Stalinist regimes is that they are attempting to manage the very foundation of modern people’s misery. Rather than overthrowing the systems of domination that keep the working class subordinated to the capitalist class, these leftists become participants in them. In Pink Tide’s case this meant the continuation of the extraction of natural resources such as oil for the world market, often against the will of indigenous people. Fundamentally, it also inherently meant the continued exploitation of the working class. In order for capitalists to make profit they need a workforce that can only survive on the wages they get in exchange for producing commodities for the capitalists. This is the backbone, not only of every national capitalist economy, but the global capitalist economy as a whole.

Capitalism is also prone to periodic crises because of the instability of it as an economic system based on the fluctuations of the market. Thus the recent global economic crises hit the Pink Tide countries just as it hit the rest of the world. The fact that Pink Tide regimes continued to be capitalist governments based on the exploitation and thereby misery of the masses meant workers often became fed up and turned to the political right. In the case of Brazil the country has elected left-wing presidents for the past 20 years. Former president Dilma Rousseff was impeached as a result of a corruption scandal and her still popular predecessor “Lula” is serving a twelve year sentence on corruption charges.

The fact is that Bolsonaro is promising law and order and shake up of the Brazilian government in a time of crises where even the left-wing Pink Tide has failed to create an alternative to the miserable capitalist world we all live in based on oppression and exploitation. Of coarse the Pink Tide is not directly responsible for Brazil’s turn to the right. Despite this the unavoidable truth is that the failure of Pink Tide to deliver real change gave the political right an opening in Brazil to mobilize on the basis of popular frustration. Since left-wing capitalism got us into the mess of right-wing capitalism the only way out is capitalism’s abolition. Since the poverty of left-wing politicians has delivered the predictably regressive Bolsonaro government the solution is not to simply replace Bolsonaro with a leftist when his term is up.

There is no way to utilize the capitalist state for the goals of fundamental social change. The state is in fact THE coercive mechanism for the maintenance of the status quo. The state and every politician from Bolsonaro to Maduro must go along with the capitalist mode of production. This requires an international movement of the working class and oppressed people, independent of all political parties and state influence, carried out through self-managed organizations, for the transformation of society along the lines of common ownership of production, meeting human needs, harmony with the natural environment, and directly democratic management of society without coercive political mechanisms.


What Happened To Pink Tide?, Kyla Sankey:

The State: It’s Historic Role, Peter Kropotkin

Capital Volume 1, Karl Marx