Brazil: MST leader says 'We are in the midst of ideological battle

MST leader Joao Pedro Stedile.

Brazil's government must ally itself with the people or pay the price, said Joao Pedro Stedile, national coordination of the Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST), a powerful social movement with deep roots in the South American nation that fights for land reform.

Pedro Stedile spoke to Brasil de FatoM amid the huge protest movement sweeping Brazilian cities, sparked by a rise in bus fares and fuelled by spending on big events such as 2014 World Cup while public services deteriorated.

In response the the protests, Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff met with protest organisers on June 24 and pledged an increase in spending on public transport, among a raft of reforms including constitutional changes. Mornign Star said on June 25 that Mayara Longo Vivian, one of the leaders of th Brasil de Fato e Free Fare Movement who met Ms Rousseff in the capital Brasilia, said no concrete measures were given to the group and that their “fight would continue”.

Pedro Stedile said that, behind the protests, there was an urban crisis in Brazilian cities, provoked by financial capitalism. “For people, large cities have becoming a living hell where they lose three or four hours a day in transit, which they could instead be using to spend with their family, studying or participating in cultural activities,” he said.

The MST leader said cutting fare prices was of great interest to all the people and the Free Fare Movement was right to call the mobilisations.

Stedile said it was crucial to go onto the streets to fight for hearts and minds and politicise the demonstrating youth, who have no experience of class struggle. “The youth are tired of this type of doing bourgeois and money-driven politics,” h said.

He added that the worst thing was the parties of the institutional left, “all of them”, have adapted to these methods. Stedil said popular forces and leftist parties need to put all their energies to going out onto the street, because there was an ongoing ideological dispute between different class interests. “We need to explain to the people who are the main enemies of the people,” he said.

Below is an extract from the interview, which was translated by Federico Fuentes. The full version can be read at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal.

* * *

What is your analysis of the recent protests that have shaken Brazil in the last few weeks? What are the economic roots of these events?

There is an urban crisis, due to financial capitalism. Due to an enormous amount of housing speculation, rent and land prices have increased 150% in the past three years. Without any government control, financial capital has promoted the sales of cars in order to send profits overseas and transformed our traffic into chaos. And in the past 10 years there has been no investment in public transport.

The housing program “My home, my life” has driven the poor out to the periphery of the cities, where there is no infrastructure. Added to this is the poor quality of public services, especially health and education. Children leave school without being able to write. And university education has become a business, where of 70% of university students’ diplomas are sold on credit.

From the political point of view, why did this occur?

Fifteen years of neoliberalism plus the last 10 years of a government of class conciliation has made politics a hostage of capitalist interests. Parties were transformed into mere acronyms that mainly bring together opportunists interested in winning public posts or fighting over public resources for their own interests.

Young people have not had the opportunity to take part in politics. Today, to compete for any public post, for example, to become a local councillor, a person needs to have more than 1 million reales ($450,000); to become a deputy costs around 10 million.

The capitalists pay and the politicians obey. This is what has generated repulsion among the youth towards the way parties behave. Young people are not apolitical; on the contrary, they took politics to the streets.

And why did the protests explode now?

It was probably a product of several diverse factors regarding the psychology of the masses than the result of some pre-planned political decision. We have the climate created by everything I have talked about, as well corruption in relation to stadiums being built.

For example: Red Globo received 20 million reales of public money from the Rio state government and the mayor’s office to organise a show of barely two hours around the match draw for the Confederations Cup. The stadium in Brasilia cost 1,400 million and there are no buses in the city!

FIFA has imposed an explicit dictatorship and all of the government has subordinated itself to it.

The rise in bus fares was the straw that broke the camel’s back. It was the spark that set alight the generalised sentiment of revolt, of indignation. Finally, the youth have stood up.

It is evident that there is a class struggle going on in the streets, even if for now it is at the level of an ideological dispute.

Look, they are doing politics in the best way possible, in the streets. In every city, in every protest, there is a permanent ideological dispute of struggle between class interests. There is a struggle to see if where the ideas of the left or right will win over the youth. The ideas of the capitalists or the working class.

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