Sunday, March 15, 2009

Lula: The Future of Human Beings is What Matters


Lula: The Future of Human Beings is What Matters

By Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva
President of Brazil.

Financial Times
March 9, 2009

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/4623a78e-0ce2-11de-a555-0000779fd2ac.html

For me, capitalism has never been an abstract concept.
It is a real, concrete part of everyday life. When I
was a boy, my family left the rural misery of Brazil's
north-east and set off for Sao Paulo. My mother, an
extraordinary woman of great courage, uprooted herself
and her children and moved to the industrial centre of
Brazil in search of a better life. My childhood was no
different from that of many boys from poor families:
informal jobs; very little formal education. My only
diploma was as a machine lathe operator, from a course
at the National Service for Industry.

I began to experience the reality of factory life,
which awoke in me my vocation as a union leader. I
became a member of the Metalworkers'

Union of Sao Bernardo, in the outskirts of Sao Paulo. I
became the union's president and, as such, led the
strikes of 1978-1980 that changed the face of the
Brazilian labour movement and played a big role in
returning democracy to the country, then under military
dictatorship.

The impact of the union movement on Brazilian society
led us to create the Workers' party, which brought
together urban and rural workers, intellectuals and
militants from civil society. Brazilian capitalism, at
that time, was not only a matter of low salaries,
insalubrious working conditions and repression of the
union movement. It was also expressed in economic
policy and in the whole set of the government's public
policies, as well as in the restrictions it placed on
civil liberties. Together with millions of other
workers, I discovered it was not enough merely to
demand better salaries and working conditions. It was
fundamental that we should fight for citizenship and
for a profound reorganisation of economic and social
life.

I fought and lost four elections before being elected
president of the republic in 2002. In opposition, I
came to know my country intimately. In discussions with
intellectuals I thrashed out the alternatives for our
society, living out on the periphery of the world a
drama of stagnation and profound social inequality. But
my greatest understanding of Brazil came from direct
contact with its people through the 'caravans of
citizenship' that took me across tens of thousands of
kilometres.

When I arrived in the presidency, I found myself faced
not only by serious structural problems but, above all,
by an inheritance of ingrained inequalities. Most of
our governors, even those that enacted reforms in the
past, had governed for the few. They concerned
themselves with a Brazil in which only a third of the
population mattered.

The situation I inherited was one not only of material
difficulties but also of deep-rooted prejudices that
threatened to paralyse our government and lead us into
stagnation. We could not grow, it was said, without
threatening economic stability - much less grow and
distribute wealth. We would have to choose between the
internal market and the external. Either we accepted
the unforgiving imperatives of the globalised economy
or we would be condemned to fatal isolation.

Over the past six years, we have destroyed those myths.
We have grown and enjoyed economic stability. Our
growth has been accompanied by the inclusion of tens
of millions of Brazilian people in the consumer market.
We have distributed wealth to more than 40m who lived
below the poverty line. We have ensured that the
national minimum wage has risen always above the rate
of inflation. We have democratised access to credit. We
have created more than 10m jobs. We have pushed forward
with land reform. The expansion of our domestic market
has not happened at the expense of exports - they have
tripled in six years. We have attracted enormous
volumes of foreign investment with no loss of
sovereignty.

All this has enabled us to accumulate $207bn in foreign
reserves and thereby protect ourselves from the worst
effects of a financial crisis that, born at the centre
of capitalism, threatens the entire structure of the
global economy.

Nobody dares to predict today what will be the future
of capitalism.

As the governor of a great economy described as
'emerging', what I can say is what sort of society I
hope will emerge from this crisis. It will reward
production and not speculation. The function of the
financial sector will be to stimulate productive
activity - and it will be the object of rigorous
controls, both national and international, by means of
serious and representative organisations. International
trade will be free of the protectionism that shows
dangerous signs of intensifying. The reformed
multilateral organisations will operate programmes to
support poor and emerging economies with the aim of
reducing the imbalances that scar the world today.
There will be a new and democratic system of global
governance. New energy policies, reform of systems of
production and of patterns of consumption will ensure
the survival of a planet threatened today by global
warming.

But, above all, I hope for a world free of the economic
dogmas that invaded the thinking of many and were
presented as absolute truths. Anti-cyclical policies
must not be adopted only when a crisis is under way.
Applied in advance - as they have been in Brazil - they
can be the guarantors of a more just and democratic
society.

As I said at the outset, I do not give much importance
to abstract concepts.

I am not worried about the name to be given to the
economic and social order that will come after the
crisis, so long as its central concern is with human
beings.

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