Joao Pedro Stédile, MST leader: “Lula’s candidacy is not enough, we have to present a new project that can overcome neo-developmentalism, which has already been exhausted”

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By: Carlos Aznárez / Source: Resumen Latinoamericano / The Dawn News / August 1, 2016

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To talk to Joao Pedro Stédile is to talk to one the the most lucid leaders of the Brazilian left, who does not surrender despite the complexities of the current scenario after the neoliberal coup. Founder and leader of the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) for the past 3 decades, he is one of the many men and women who are promoting the struggle against the coup through the coordination within the Popular Brazil Front. He is sure that popular mobilizations on the streets are the only way to wear down and throw out Temer’s illegitimate government, should Dilma Rousseff be prevented from returning to her seat. The final trial against Dilma will be held in the Senate on Monday, August 29.

– August 29 is approaching.  What is needed for Dilma to have chances of returning to the government, under the current circumstances? Is it plausible to think that this matter will be resolved by “convincing six Senators” [the amount of votes needed to allow Dilma to return]?

Dilma has real chances of returning to her seat. But, it’s still unknown, because there are many elements that can influence the Senate. First of all, there’s the distinct possibility that some senators change their vote, or simply not show up in court. Secondly, the catastrophic administration of the coupist government. Thirdly, the against many Senators for corruption. Fourthly, the climate caused by the strength of the popular mobilization. And, lastly, there are local alliances  for the elections in each Senator’s’ State. Senators usually run for re-elections or for the State governments, and the bad reputation of the coupist leaders may make them lose votes.

– If the impeachment succeeds and Dilma is permanently deposed, is there any other way out for popular sectors, apart from waiting for the next elections? Is Lula the only hope?

If the coup were to consolidate, we would have several ways to continue the struggle against Temer. On the one hand, we would issue a claim in the Federal Supreme Court because, Dilma has not been proven to have committed any crime and there is not a legal base for that. Also, we would continue protests against the government, and take to the streets.

Also, it is likely that, if Temer’s government begins to look too weak in the eyes of the public opinion, the bourgeoisie itself will want to depose him. In that case,  they would just have to impugnate him, because there is already a process for corruption open in the Federal Supreme Court that would expel him from the government, next January or February. His replacement would be chosen through indirect elections, in the Congress. In that case, the bourgeoisie has already chosen a candidate: the coupist Finance Minister, banker Henrique Meirelles.

henriquemeirelles-620x450Henrique Meirelles

 

On the contrary, if this doesn’t happen, popular movements will go on struggling to overthrow Temer’s government and to demand a popular plebiscite, so that the people can decide on the main topics regarding popular movements: a) whether or not to hold anticipated elections (which would be on December 2018), b) whether or not to have general elections and c) whether or not to convene a Constituent Assembly exclusively to carry out a political reform, in the Brazilian electoral system.

– During this period, in which Temer has taken the government through a coup, which do you think are the main setbacks that popular sectors had to endure?

Temer closed the Ministry of Agrarian Development, where all public policies destined to family and peasant agriculture were designed. He shut down the three main Ministries that protected Human Rights, women’s rights and the black community. He implemented an economic policy that’s typically neoliberal. The economic crisis has deepened and the unemployment rate in the industry is og 15%, and it’s reaching 30% amongst youth.

At the same time, Temer has established a new law that annuls the current oil regulation and that will allow the privatization of the Pre-Salt reserves. In fact, under his command, Petrobras has already sold part of its actives and privatized one the richest hydrocarbon oil fields. That field was worth 80 thousand million dollars and was sold for 8 thousand million dollars to transnational companies.

Now, they are threatening that once the coup is complete, they will carry out a reform of the social security system, raising the minimum retirement age by 10 years. They will also reform labour laws, even increasing labour hours. They will impose a new system in which labour laws will only be signed by both parties: unions and employees. And they are even promising a law in Congress that will free the selling of lands to foreign capital.

Are Temer and his government as weak as when they started or have they strengthened in the past months? Are they still praised by those who promoted the coup from abroad or are those sectors also thinking about a replacement?

I believe Temer’s government, apart from being coupist and illegitimate, is totally provisional. That’s why they are trying to carry out neoliberal changes as fast as they can, changes that no other government with an electoral base would have carried out. Also, his cabinet is totally involved in corruption. So, I believe that even if Dilma is deposed on August 29, the bourgeoisie won’t keep Temer until December 2018. He is only doing the dirty work, to pave the way for a more suitable candidate of the right in the next elections.

Is the popular Brazilian left, in which you and the MST are framed, satisfied with what was done so far, in terms of resistance? What are you planning for the future to fight against Temer’s government?

Off course we are not satisfied. We have many challenges in the short term in the fight against the coup. The working-class are still in their houses, they have not mobilized. The sector who protested the most were the militants, the most organized sectors. But 85% of the working-class is still at home watching soap operas. That’s why we, the popular movements,  have to redouble the efforts to reach the working class, and show the serious risks that we are facing and promote their participation on the streets. We are debating about the possibility of a general strike against the coup. But there has been 28 years since political strikes. The working class has not been trained for that.

We will continue to mobilize in the short term, as we will do next Friday August 5, in the opening of the Olympic Games, and then the week of the voting. In the middle term, the main challenge is to continue to organize the Popular Brazil Front as the new space of popular unity, and to debate the need to build a new project of society that so far the left lacks. That’s why the right will do anything it can to make Lula’s candidacy unviable, and his presence in the electoral dispute won’t be enough. We need to present a new project that can overcome neo-developmentalism, which has already been exhausted.

But I look at the future with great optimism, despite the current difficulties and the defeats we have endured. The crisis opens up a new time of change. And for that reason popular forces need to double their efforts to do more popular work and to debate on a new project of country, that can bring the structural changes for society. So, we will have a new dispute, a new class struggle, a battle of ideas.

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