Written by PSTU – Brasil
Sunday, 27 July 2014 01:03
“I am a working and a strong-willed woman, and this is the reason why I support Zé Maria”.
Last June 6, Claudia Durans, PSTU vice presidential candidate, began her election campaign in the district of Liberdade, where she was born and grew up in the city of São Luis (Maranhão state’s capital), Northern region of Brazil. Walking along the streets which mix themselves with her own history, Claudia, who is an activist of the Movement “Quilombo Race and Class” and of the Movement “Women in Struggle” both movements affiliated to the CSP-Conlutas, gave us an interview, discussing the meaning of her candidacy by PSTU and the reasons why she was chosen to be Zé Maria’s partner in the election campaign. Claudia is also a Social Worker and, since 1992, she is a Professor in the Department of Social Services at UFMA (Federal University of Maranhão). With M.Sc. and Ph.D. in Social Work she is the author of Limits of Trade Unionism and Social Struggle Reorganization(EDUFMA, 2008). She is currently a licensed union leader of the Faculty Association of the Federal University of Maranhão.
PSTU Website – Claudia, why have you chosen the Liberdade District to launch your campaign?
Cláudia Durans – It was here, at Liberdade District, where I was born and lived for most of my life. This is a Black people district, full of joyful and hardworking people, a true urban Quilombo. It is a conquered space, a space of cultural resistance and of struggle, where one hears a good samba, a reggae roots, a “Bumba-meu-boi”of several accents. But unfortunately, in the last decades, just as happened in popular districts throughout Brazil, the Liberdade District has experienced an unbelievable process of degradation. Starting the campaign here means not only to rescue my own roots, but also to reaffirm that our candidacies are supporting the struggle to restore our people dignity, in order to fight against racism which lies behind this degradation, in order to rebuild a Quilombo where, indeed, we have the freedom for which our ancestors fought so hard.
What are the conditions wherein the men, women and the youth of the Liberdade District live, and, as you said, are these conditions the same as in other communities where most inhabitants are poor and black people?
Cláudia – In this neighborhood whose beautiful name means so much to mankind, our people are stuck to the terrible combination of racial oppression and capitalist exploitation. Being so they live amid the police violence, amid the criminality and amid the consequent lack of prospects for the youth. It is very sad to see mothers who cry every weekend the death of their children. It is lacking water; it is lacking kindergartens, schools, public health of good quality and decent public transportation. There are no sewers in many streets where families have to face open-air stinking sewers, which cause diseases, especially to children.
And it is important to remember that along with all these, there is the fact that a large number of families survive by working in precarious jobs and depending on insufficient programs such as the Bolsa Familia(Family Allowance).
By the way, it is worth noting that after nearly 50 years of the Sarney’s oligarchy, the result is that of the 7 million inhabitants of Maranhão state, around 4 million live on Bolsa Família. This is emblematic. It is also emblematic that this oligarchy, with its roots in the military dictatorship [1964-1985], is an important partner of the PT government, when Lula was the president as well as under Dilma Rousseff’s term.
While you launched the campaign at Liberdade District, Zé Maria visited São Gonçalo and the ofComplexo da Maré, in Rio de Janeiro, two regions also comprised mostly of Black people. Why did PSTU make this option?
Claudia –All of this is completely in line with the very meaning of our candidacies, not only for the Presidency, but also for all levels throughout the country. We decided to start our campaign in the workers districts, outskirts and black neighborhoods. Such a beginning points out how our campaign will be, centrally next to the working class in their places of residence, work or study, presenting socialist candidates as an alternative to the bourgeois parties. As we always say, only the fight changes life, and for us, the electoral process is also a way to organize the most exploited and oppressed ones.
This is the second time you are a vice presidential candidate of Zé Maria’s campaign. What is the meaning of this partnership?
Cláudia –We think it expresses the essence of what we want to say to the workers and to the youth of this country, particularly Black men and women. The message that Zé Maria and I want to bring them is that, in a world where racism, male chauvinism and all forms of oppression, such as homophobia and the massacre of indigenous peoples, are at the service of the capitalist’s profits. The only way out for us who suffer with the prejudice, discrimination and marginalization is to combat this situation hand in hand with the working class. As I have said, I’m black, I’m a woman, but I also have class consciousness. Therefore, I can only be together with Zé Maria, a worker who has not changed his political principles.
Is that what you mean when you say that Zé and Claudia candidacies are an alliance of race and class?
Cláudia– Exactly. Today I am a university professor and have fought in defense of the public, free and high quality education, which will also be a focus of my campaign in particular, as well as my activism in Social Work. But I am aware of the fact that the professional career I exercise is an exception with regard to the majority of black women. And also, not only because of my origins, but also because of a political choice, I keep living and fighting together with the working class. And I’ve learnt right here in the district of Liberdade, that there are no individual solutions. Furthermore, there is no possible freedom until all of oppressed and exploited people are completely free. What we’re going to say in the streets in the coming months is that there are no possible solutions from the point of view of the exploited, the oppressed and the poor unless we unite ourselves for transforming our reality, because we are the majority who produces the wealth of our country. It is only those who are part of this social class, who suffer on a daily basis, who can truthfully denounce the situation of calamity wherein our people live.
Besides acting in Andes, you are a member of the Black People Bureau of PSTU and an activist of the movements Quilombo Race and Class and Women in Struggle, both CSP-Conlutas branches. You have a strong performance against the combination of male chauvinism, racism and exploitation. Tell us a little about the situation of the black women.
Cláudia – According to a recent research from the IPEA (Institute of Applied Economic Research), black women account for 50% of the female population. Here in the North Region, we are 74.7% among the women. Even considering that white women are also victimized by sexism and exploitation, unfortunately, the situation of black women is far worse. For example, in households headed by white men, the average salary is US$ 400, while in those held by black women the average salary is US$ 200. In 2012, a black woman earned 72.9% of the average salary of a white man.
According to the survey, in 2009, 37.6% of households headed by female domestic workers were below the poverty line, in other words, the income amounted to half the minimum wage for each family member. Female domestic workers are around 7.2 million people, a legacy of the slavery period in Brazil. In the Education, while 23.8% of white women are enrolled accordingly to their age, the percentage of black women is only 9.9%. Black women are also the majority of those who depend on the scrapped public services such as the SUS (Unified Health System).
Not to mention the sexist and racist society that tries to turn everything into commodities and to transform us in sexual objects. We are harassed in the outrageously crowded public transportation and we are also the most frequent victims of violence, trafficking and sex tourism, as unfortunately has been observed during the World Cup.
Despite everything, there are those who still deny the existence of racism in Brazil. What do you have to say about that?
Cláudia –We want to expose the speech which states that we live in a racial democracy. Here there is no equality, let alone justice. It is true that the appalling living conditions affect the majority of the working class. But in this country which experienced nearly 400 years of slavery, being the last to abolish it, social classes are formed according to the skin color, in other words, most of the proprietary class is formed by a handful of white, heirs of slaveholders, and black men and black women are the poorest.
My candidacy and several other black candidacies that PSTU is presenting such as the candidacies of Dayse Gomes and Pedro Jair, candidates for governor of Rio de Janeiro and Pernambuco, and several candidates running for the House of Representatives have in mind the need to unmask this myth and organize the black people in the fight against racism not so subtle in which we live.
To do so, what are the main proposals that PSTU will advocate in these elections?
Claúdia – First, as we really do not believe it is possible to separate race struggle from class struggle, our proposals to fight racism, as well as sexism and homophobia are all present in all parts of our program. When defending better health conditions, housing, education, transport etc…, we never forget those for whom access is even harder. But, specifically with regard to racism, our campaign begins by exposing the genocide to which black people are subjected, particularly the younger ones. This is the country where bricklayers as Amarildo disappear in the police’s hands. The country in which an auxiliary clerk employee such as Claudia is dragged as a garbage bag by the police van, where nonsensical deaths such as the deaths of Douglas, Jean and the dancer DG, all of them young and Black people, prove the researches showing that one young black man is murdered every 25 minutes and that the possibility of a black man being murdered is 153.4% higher than a white one. A situation that is worth noting has only worsened during PT governments. From 2002 to 2010, for example, the number of murdered young white fell by 26.4%; while the murdered young black went up 30.6%.
What are the proposals to fight the racist violence?
Cláudia – First and foremost, we advocate the demilitarization of the Military Police, this cursed legacy of the military dictatorship, who are, covered by hoods and uniforms of outlaw militiamen and avengers, behind a significant percentage of those deaths. For us, demilitarization is just a first step towards the Military Police extinction and the establishment of new security policies under the workers control. Furthermore, in the course of the campaign, we will present our proposals to put an end to what we call the diffuse violence that contributes to lessen in six years the life expectancy of a black person if compared to a white one: the violence of the queue in public hospitals, the violence of the crowded public transportation, the violence of housing shortages and of hard access to education.
Finally, what are your expectations for the elections?
Cláudia – As I said, we believe that only the struggle changes life. In the election campaign we fight for something more important than the vote. Each vote is important for us, because it means one more step in the workers consciousness, the most exploited and oppressed in particular, so that we can fight the required fight. Black men and women have been fighting everywhere. They were present in the days of June 2013, they came down from Pavão Pavãozinho and occupied the streets of the wealthy neighborhood of Ipanema in Rio de Janeiro against racist violence, they performed the rolezinhos (mob-style gatherings in luxury malls) denouncing the lack of leisure, they were also the overwhelming majority among street sweepers, the transport workers and the Rio de Janeiro Complex Oil workers who staged huge strikes this year.
They have also spoken out against the absurd spending on the World Cup. What we want is that when elections get to the end, we have organized many of them together with us, contributing for the construction of a socialist Quilombo. Therefore, the black men and black women from the PSTU are participating in the elections not only as candidates. We are participating as heirs of Zumbi, Dandara and the runaway slaves of Palmares, of Luiza Mahim and the Malê revolt, of Luis Gama and the rebels abolitionists, of João Cândido and the sailors who turned their guns against the power with the purpose of getting rid of the lashes, of Carolina de Jesusand everyone who, even marginalized, resisted.
 Bumba-meu-boi: Folk song and dance of the Northern region, which can be found throughout Brazil.
 Liberdade is the Portuguese word for Freedom
 Bolsa Família: an official subsidies program for poor people. Each family receive US$ 34 plus US$ 17 per child in school, up to a cap of US$ 78.
 Andes (Associação Nacional de Docentes das Instituições de Ensino Superior): the national trades union of university teachers.
 Domestic workers are the women whose job is to clean, cook and take care of another people’s house.
 Leading Brazilian runaway slaves who founded the biggest Quilombo in Brazil, the Quilombo of Palmares.
 The Malê Revolt is a rebellion of slaves inspired by Muslim teachers against the government. Muslims were called malê in Bahia at this time, from Yoruba imale that designated a Yoruba Muslim.
 Luís Gonzaga Pinto da Gama (June 21, 1830 — August 24, 1882) was a Brazilian Romantic poet, journalist, lawyer and a prominent abolitionist.
 João Cândido Felisberto (June 24, 1880 – December 6, 1969) was a Brazilian sailor, also called the “Black admiral” who was the leader of the 1910 “Revolt of the Lash”.
 Carolina Maria de Jesus (March 14, 1914 – February 13, 1977) was a Brazilian black peasant who lived most of her life in a favela (slums) of São Paulo. She wrote a diary, discovered by a journalist, and published as Quarto de Despejo (Child of the Dark) in August 1960.