Ricardo Antunes is a Brazilian sociologist consulted by socialist movements and trade unions around the world. He’s written books about work translated into multiple languages and calls himself a “militant, independent intellectual,” close to Brazil’s Socialism and Liberty Party. He has a deep knowledge of his own country, and he was formerly a member of the Worker’s Party, (PT in Portuguese), which also includes Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, the former president now embroiled in a corruption scandal, and President Dilma Rousseff. Antunes recently spoke with il manifesto.
Rousseff appointed Lula head of her cabinet, but a judge has blocked the appointment. What is the situation in Brazil?
Deeply critical, dramatic. There is an economic, social and political crisis, and a profound articulation among the three levels. Brazil has registered a contraction of almost 4 percent, a tragedy which has caused an increase in unemployment, after a positive period between 2002 and 2012. From 2014 to the beginning of 2015, especially in January and February, unemployment has taken on worrying proportions, affecting mainly young people between 18 and 25 years of age. Twenty percent of today’s youth is out of work, a situation that is increasingly resembling that of Europe. The measures taken by Dilma’s government in January 2015 were against working men and women, with severe austerity measures and the highest banking interest rates in the world, which unavoidably brought 60 million people into debt. It’s a deep, structural crisis.
The second element was the explosion of the “Car Wash” scandal, a court investigation initiated by the state of Parana. The operation has reached the core of the PT and the government. The right has dealt in corruption in Brazil since its inception, since the days of the colonial empire and the Portuguese domination. But the PT was born in 1980 with a promise of a sharp break with the practiced [lack of] ethics, and presenting itself as a classy left-wing party. Unfortunately, 36 years later, it is going through a profound corruption. The only person who did not have a personal involvement is Dilma. She is being attacked because of an accusation that during her election campaigns in 2010 and 2014 she allegedly used the proceeds of bribes related to the corruption in Petrobras [national energy corporation].