|Written by Marcos Margarido, ISL|
|Friday, 02 August 2013 04:43|
This was the shout that echoed through the country in June and July as millions of young people took to the streets, most of them for the first time in their lives.
It started as small protests against public transport fare increases but swelled as many joined the rallies. As the protests grew the demands increased. The demands were against: poor public health and education services; attempts to limit the public prosecution investigation into corruption (a congress bill called PEC 37 would have ended meaningful investigation but it was not voted through); the attack on the LGBT (lesbian, bay, bi-sexual, trans-sexual) community and against the ruling parties who, after 25-years of congress democracy, are using public services to enrich themselves.
“We don’t want the World Cup, we want money for health and education”, shouted many thousands as they marched during the football matches of the Confederations Cup in the cities of Belo Horizonte, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, and Salvador. They oppose the tremendous expense of building “first world” stadiums in a country with “third world” public services. The “country of football” became the “country of protest”`.
Police savagely attacked the marches with tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets, stun grenades and acoustic bombs. Governors and mayors condemned the demonstrators as vandals.
The daily press demanded an end to protests and President Dilma Rousseff, from the Workers Party (PT), offered the help of the federal police to crack down on “troublemakers”. The repression did not last.
Mobilisations against repression and for new demands started.
The community of Rocinha (a favela, or shanty town, based in the hills of the most valued district of Rio de Janeiro) surrounded Governor Sergio Cabral’s house demanding sanitation services. In Sao Paulo, residents from the poor neighbourhoods, blocked major roads to demand plumbed water, street paving and lighting.
The government, state authorities and the press rapidly changed their position and began to “compliment” the protesters for their civility. In a desperate attempt to end the demonstrations they canceled the fare increases in the main cities. It was too late. The masses had found it possible to fight for their needs and liked what they did. They learned also that their fight is winnable, and then demanded more.
Some of the demands of various sectors are being met. The PEC 37 bill was rejected; the allocation of 75 per cent of oil royalties as a subsidy for public transport was approved.
A bill is pending in congress to provide free bus fares to high school students. The hated bill known as “gay cure” (which talks of sexual diversity as a disease) was shelved. These are small victories, but show the path for the masses to take. Brazil will never again be the same.
The working class enters the struggle
The national day of action on 11 July called by all trade union federations, marked the entry of the working class into the protest wave. Strikes, roadblocks and demonstrations occurred in at least 23 states. Important sectors such as engineers, construction workers, dockers, public servants, teachers and oil workers, went on strike and took to the streets.
To the people’s general demands, historic demands of workers were added, such as: reduction of working hours, wage increases, an end to the reduction of pensions, land reform, and suspension of oil auctions to the private sector.
The organised working class has entered the struggle and its well-defined objectives hit the PT’s popular front (class collaborationist) government after 10 years in power and President Dilma is being unmasked by the struggle of the masses.
The role of CSP-Conlutas
Only a few times in Brazil’s history has the role of a small union organisation in defining the direction of the labor movement been seen. CSP-Conlutas is a minor trade union central, which brings together some hundreds of unions and social and youth movements. The giant union federations, the CUT and Força Sindical, have more than 35 per cent of the 9,700 unions, and there are three other federations.
However, neither federation took any positive initiatives when the masses took to the streets. The CUT gives continual support to the PT government and it repeats the threats and sermons of the government. It even warned that demonstrations could lead to a military coup. Força Sindical, a bureaucratic union federation, has never promoted any action outside of its own interests.
The CSP-Conlutas unions however on 27 June held a successful day of struggle and made a call to all union centrals to call a national day of general strike.
The demands of the streets, the pressure of the workers and the lack of response from the central government forced them to convene a national day of struggle on 11 July.
The success of the mobilisations led the centrals to convene a new national day on 30 August. Definitely, Brazil has woken up!
Background to the demonstrations
Many wonder why all this happened, because before June president Dilma’s popularity had reached 75 per cent in the polls (but 30 per cent afterwards), the mayors were at the beginning of their terms, and media propaganda boasted that, “Brazil was the seventh world power”, the PT boasted that they had led, “10 years of developmental government”.
However Brazil’s GDP had decreased from 7.5 per cent growth in 2010 to 0.9 per cent in 2012. It is expected to be below 3 per cent this year. Meanwhile the PT government has made massive attacks on workers, such as road, airport and port privatisation and is continuing the auction oil, and grant tax exemptions to employers.
From January to May this year the trade deficit was $2.5 billion and the country had to use its reserve funds. As a result of currency devaluation there was a sharp increase in food prices.
These early symptoms of the arrival of the world economic crisis added to the eternal tax burden due to the payment of public debt — which takes about 45 per cent from the annual revenue budget to pay debt interests. This has already led to a deterioration of public services.
These are reasons workers and youth took to the streets.
The PSTU (IWL-FI’s section in Brazil) says, “have no confidence in Dilma Rousseff and the proposed referendum on political reform, it is merely an attempt by the popular front government to channel the struggle in the streets into the dead end of elections”.
Brazilian PSTU grows in the struggle
During the “June Days” (see article on page 8), thousands of young people took to the streets for the first time and they asked parties to remove their banners.
It was a repudiation of parties who were in power, whether right or “left” wing – like the Workers Party (PT) – which for decades have turned their backs to the people’s needs. But it was also against left parties, such as the PSTU, which has always been in opposition to the capitalist governments and supported all the struggles against them.
However, this obstacle did not last long or hinder the party’s construction. In June, a daily average of seven applied to join on the party’s website. The national day of strikes and demonstrations, on 11 July, gave further impetus to this process.
Young students and workers looked for political discussion, which was reflected in the increased sale of hundreds of PSTU newspapers and the debates organised by the party in the country’s major cities were full of “new faces”.
This shows that the new phase that has opened in Brazil not only changed the routine of Brazilians, but began to generate a new political consciousness, one result of this is the incorporation of new fighters into PSTU’s rank and file.