BRAZIL. The Movement of Landless Farm-Workers (MST) and the political situation in Brazil

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By François Houtart / Source: Rebelion.org / The Dawn / October 5, 2015

 

A privatization of education has began. States that were, in the past, showcases for the Partido dos Trabalhadores (Workers Party, PT) such as Rio Grande do Sul (now governed by the PMDB (Brazilian Democratic Movement Party), a center-right party allied with the PT in the federal plan) and Paraná (with a governor from the PSDP, the Social Democratic Party of FH Cardoso) are now adopting neoliberal policies in economic and social domains. The popularity of President Dilma Rousseff has fallen below 10%.

In this context, between September 21st and 25th, the Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (Movement of Landless Farm-Workers, MST) organized the Second National Meeting of Educators of the Land Reform in Brasilia.

These are teachers of all levels of education, from literacy and primary school to university, dedicated to education in the settlements of the MST and other rural movements.

The programs are Supported by the state and several agreements have been signed with universities, mainly State-owned ones. Since the beginning of this initiative in 1998,  thousands of students have gone through this education system.

The political dimension of the moment was evident at this meeting. Two ministers attended the opening session; the Education Minister and the Rural Development Minister.

The latter, member of the PT, former Minister of Social Welfare and responsible of the programs to fight poverty (such as the “Bolsa Família” welfare program, among others), is supposed to counterbalance the Minister of Agriculture, who speaks in the name of large landowners or “ruralistas”, but his budget is comparatively very small.

In his speech, João Pedro Stedile , founder of the Movement, spoke clearly about the socio- political situation: he expressed the need to fight against neoliberal policies, because they are a class strategy. The current situation is truly confusing, because in today’s Brazil, there isn’t a single social class that possesses hegemony over the others, which leads to dubious political alliances and contradictory projects.

According to Stedile, the current crisis in the country is threefold. The first one is the economic situation which originates in the capitalist system, and that deepened over the past 15 years. There is also the dependence of the Brazilian economy: a return to the production of primary goods and a relative de-industrialization. That means Brazil is no longer growing.

The productive bourgeoisie is oriented towards financial speculation. In little time, they have removed more than 200 billion dollars from the country. Transnational corporations reinvest abroad.

Secondly, there is the urban crisis, with several aspects: transport is expensive and of poor quality, there are housing problems, and higher education absorbed only 15% of graduates at the secondary level. Another speaker at the meeting also pointed out that every year 40,000 people are victims of murder, most of them young, poor and black, and that the number of disappeared people is around 50,000. Brazil is still a society of extreme inequalities. Rich people live in a bubble, almost another world. It’s the country with the second largest number of private helicopters in the world, after the United States.

The third component is the political situation. The electoral system is the capture of the popular will and allows over-representation of landowners. Corruption has affected the parties in the government, such as the PT, but even more, the PMDB, which has the vice-presidency and the leadership of the Senate. This explains most of the loss of credibility of the President.

João Pedro Stedile concluded that people must rebuild their space, but now in the streets rather than through institutional politics. Since the Congress that took place in 2014, the MST has announced the resumption of land occupations and, some months later, hundreds of actions have taken place, one even being on the grounds of a government minister. Fortunately, there were no serious incidents.

Stedile also added that because of the suppression of rural schools by thousands, each school less will mean the occupation of a municipal office (“prefeitura”). He called for solidarity with the oil workers that on strike not for a salary increase but to defend the share of oil destined for education. Finally he recalled that the Popular Agrarian Reform was the main objective of the Movement, in response to the concentration of land for monoculture, and that agro-ecology was the basic principle.

Around the same time, an article by Marcelo Carcanholo, president of the Latin American Association of Political Economy and Critical Thinking, titled “Why is the government of Dilma[Rousseff] not left-sided? – The political economy of PT governments”.  (Izquierda, 57, September 2015, 41-45), was published.

According to this analyst, Lula did not change his predecessor’s economical logic in order to retain the credibility of the markets, and he even extended certain structural reforms in their favor. He took advantage of the favorable international environment to raise growth rates without inflationary pressures and develop compensatory social policies. This was during the period between 2002 and 2007

The result has already been exposed: return to the production of primary products and relative de-industrialization. That implies a great external vulnerability. In consequence, the recess of the economy caused an immediate effect. To respond to the crisis of 2007-2008, decrees were issued in order to implement tax exemption, credit expansion and protection of markets. This meant a timid counter-cyclical policy in a liberal ocean. In medium term, it emphasized the fiscal deficit, caused the indebtedness of families and prompted an orthodox economic adjustment.

On the contrary, left-wing policies would have broken neoliberal structures, decreasing the external structural vulnerability, promoting a change in the concentration of income, an increase of domestic markets and an expansion of regional integration beyond trade agreements. It would have also meant social and public policies that transcended the compensatory measures, which derived from the increment of neoliberal reforms.

The author’s conclusion is that Dilma is not leftist, because that was never her proposal and that the political and class alliance of the PT was never different. If certain intellectuals may think that this position is too radical, the MST’s experience in the field tends to confirm its relevance.

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