|Written by Dirceu Travesso, CSP-Conlutas, Brazil – June 27th 2013|
|Saturday, 29 June 2013 18:37|
|Last June 25th seven Brazilian labor federations – CUT, Força Sindical, CSP-Conlutas, CTB, UGT, NovaCentral and CGTB – called for a day of action for July 11th. Their set of demands include More funding for public services: Healthcare and Education; Better wages; Less working hours; Stop a bill to legalize outsourcing; Stop the new oil fields auctions / opposition to privatizations; Land Reform; Reversal of reduction rate on retirement benefits (“Fator Previdenciário”); and Good and Cheaper Public Transport.
This decision may place the working class in the central stage of the wave of mobilizations that have shaken Brazil since June 6th.
That day, five thousand protestors, primarily the youth, gathered to challenge bus, train and subway fWIDEare increase in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s largest city. Facing strong police repression, larger mobilizations were carried out in the following days, June 7th, 11th and finally 13th when 15 thousands were met by rubber bullets, bombs and tear gas launched by riot police squads. Hundreds were injured, seven big press journalists among them. Nearly 200 were arrested. Shocking images crossed the country building momentum for a huge enlargement of the protests both in demands, turnout and number of cities in action.
In June 17th, 100 thousand protestors gathered in Sao Paulo, another hundred thousand in Rio de Janeiro, on top of large demos in all other major capitals. The national Parliament in Brasilia was climbed by thousands. Three days later more than a million demonstrated in 300 cities across the nation.
The first gains soon started to emerge. On top of the right to demonstrate free of police brutality, transport fares were decreased or had their increases cancelled in many cities, including Sao Paulo. The Brazilian Senate is about to pass a bill establishing free transportation for students nationwide.
Transport fares are not the only demand on the protest’s agenda. Widespread dissatisfaction with expensive and lavish football stadiums for the World Cup are connected to poor quality public services: healthcare and education.
Other critical issues are corruption, gay/black/women’s rights, affordable housing and police brutality.
This week, the streets got other gains. All Royalties from the new oil fields found along Brazilian coast will be delivered to Public Education and Healthcare. The bill PEC 37, meant to hinder corruption investigation by public prosecutors, was defeated. Other concessions are on their way.
Who Are The Targets
From June 6th till 13th, the demands were placed against Fernando Haddad and Geraldo Alckmin. Haddad is the recently elected mayor of São Paulo and a member of the PT (Workers Party). Alckmin is the rightwing governor of São Paulo. Bus fares are under the mayor’s responsibility. The governor is responsible for subway and train fares, and police actions. Together they announced transport fares increase from R$ 3 to R$ 3,20 (nearly US$ 1,50 each trip).
After the nationalization of the protests and a plurality of demands were raised, all administrations were targeted particularly the president of Brazil, Dilma Roussef.
Dissatisfaction against her administration accumulated. The polls prior to the protests showed a steep decrease of her support across all sectors of Brazilian population. There is a general perception that living conditions are getting worse, and will not improve. On top of that, top politicians corruption scandals, like mensalão, leveled both rightwing parties and PT as bankrupt institutions.
Fighting for Hearts and Minds
The wave of mobilizations emerged out of control of both the bourgeois parties and PT. the main labor federation, the CUT, and the main student association, the UNE, are literally absent from the protests.
The first reaction from both bourgeois parties and the PT was to criminalize the protests and resort to police repression. After this strategy failed, mainstream media fought for hearts and minds of the protestors. Inciting anti-political-parties feelings, they prepared the way for thugs, hired among skinheads and under-covered police, to attack physically labor, people’s and leftwing protestors and organizations.
President Dilma supporters cried about an eventual rightwing coup d’etat would be on their way. That was just a maneuver to bring support around her administration. No sector of the ruling classes are working for any regime change but for a better position in the coming presidential elections next year. Nevertheless through the employment of thugs, they want to prevent the emergence of a new militant leadership for the Brazilian working class that could threaten plutocrat interests.
The challenge to push ahead self-defense is definitely placed.
The Potential for Workers’ Action
Inflation, low wages, poor quality public services, families’ indebtedness are key factors building for working people uncomfortable mood. The number of labor strikes increased from 554 in 2011 to 873 in 2012. The huge federal universities student’s strike last year and other democratic mobilizations for different demands ranging from free marijuana, slut’s walk, to recalling elected politicians certainly built momentum for the current wave of mobilizations.
In spite of the fact that the youth have been the undisputable leading sector of the mobilizations so far, there is a high potential for labor actions.
In Sao Paulo, the first mobilizations were called by youth organizations like MPL (No Fare Movement), ANEL (Free Students National Assembly) and JUNTOS combined with the militant local subway workers union. For two weeks prior to the protests, subway workers took out their uniforms, wearing a vest opposing fare increase. Hundreds of thousands of printed manifestos were delivered by union activists to commuters opposing fare increase and calling rallies. Altino Prazeres Melo, the president of the union himself, was arrested in the very first rally.
In Porto Alegre, bus drivers also allied themselves to the students in order to stop fare increase.
In June 20th, Força Sindical, a conservative labor federation that stands for labor-capital partnership, pushed ahead a two-hour metalworkers stoppage in Mooca industrial district, in Sao Paulo.
In June 26th, labor presence side by side with youth and people’s organizations in the 60.000-strong demonstration in front of Belo Horizonte football stadium where the Brazilian national team was playing against their Uruguayan counterparts, was remarkable.
In June 27th the alliance Espaço Unidade de Ação (Unity in Action Forum that unites CSP-Conlutas and other labor groups like CUT PODE MAIS – a dissent caucus within CUT ranks – and Farm Workers Federation of Sao Paulo) held actions across the nation in unity with other organizations.
All these actions are still drops in the stream of mobilizations. The call for July 11th actions from labor federations may provide a very positive addition to the current wave of struggles.
The continuity and extension of the protests are not assured so far. Working class participation as such in alliance with the youth and the poor is critical for a sustainable movement for deep social changes. That is the challenge we face today.
International Solidarity is Needed
After June 13th, rallies in solidarity to Brazilian protestors were held across the world primarily by the Brazilian community abroad. These actions, together with struggles and revolutions in the international arena are a great source of inspiration for Brazilian protestors.
We ask all labor, youth, people’s and democratic organizations across the world to hold protests in front of Brazilian diplomatic representations in July 11th 2013 demanding Brazilian authorities to meet protestors demands for less funding to the World Cup and more funding to public Education, Healthcare, Social Security and Transport; for labor/gay/black/women’s rights; for the end of police brutality and the criminalization of social movements, among others. Motions in solidarity to Brazilian protests are also welcome, building momentum for the international solidarity needed.