Tuesday, July 08, 2003

Such a familiar story.
Brazilian public workers began strikes on Tuesday in a move to derail pension reforms by President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's but failed to shut key federal offices. Unions vowed to paralyze Brazil's Central Bank and Finance Ministry, but by midday most federal employees were at work in the capital Brasilia, passing loudspeakers and banners urging them to save their benefits.
Much the same happened in Quebec in the early 1980s. In the 1970s the Parti Quebecois was both social democratic and sovereigntist, pursuing both economic and social independence. After the sovereignty referendum of 1980 went down to ignominious defeat and the PQ was nonetheless amazingly re-elected in 1981, the government took a hard right turn, casting social democracy overboard in a particularly dramatic fashion in the hopes that such a move would secure the real goal, namely independence.

Of course, Quebec has long since buried buried both social democracy and independence. But the PQ continues to tend the flame. Brazil seems to be on quite a similar path. Lula was elected based on his leftist past, but has proven a solid centrist in governing. Unions -- the base of his organized support -- began to rebel when they recognize that nationalism and national strength, not social democracy, is the true animating spirit of the regime. Whatever national autonomy requires will be done.

One wonders if Brazil will bury national autonomy de facto in its bid to bury social democracy de officio just as the PQ in Quebec has done.

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