By: Nicolás Allen / Source: / The Dawn News / September 13, 2016. Resumen Latinoamericano interviewed Joao Paulo Rodrigues, leader of the National Coordination of the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST). Read Part I of this interview here.
Photo by Rovena Rosa/Agência Brasil
The MST promotes the Agrarian Reform. Could you provide a brief summary of the state of the struggle to democratize the ownership of land and break up land concentration?
Brazil has plenty of peasant organizations. Now, Dilma’s government was terrible in relation to the agrarian reform. It was the government that gave lands to the least amount of people since the military reform. And that generated an important contradiction in the recent juncture. However, it was also a government that didn’t criminalize the movement and instead established a fluid dialogue, it was active in other areas, making important investments such as Minha Casa, Minha Vida, a good housing program for the countryside, or the program of rural electrification, or the investment on technical training in the countryside.
So it did achieve certain goals. But families weren’t provided with settlement, so that was a limitation. That’s why it’s necessary for us to do a mobilization in defense of the agrarian reform in the next period. We have to put the agrarian reform back on the social agenda as an important element for the development of the country. This can’t be just a matter of solving conflicts or relocating poor people in the countryside. Especially, in this debate that is in course right now, it’s important to place the issue of healthy food next to the issue of agrarian reform.
Regarding Temer’s government, what type of government plan can we expect during the next two years at least?
Temer’s government is the worst there is in Brazilian politics, because it is not a strictly liberal or neoliberal government, that at least defends a clear idea of liberalism, that is, a philosophical stance against state intervention. And it’s obviously also not a government of the people. Temer’s government is the petit-bourgeoisie at the service of big capital, a bunch of corrupt and opportunistic politicians that has had a role in every single government the country has had since the military dictatorship. So, it’s a group without a project, that intends to keep afloat in the correlation of power.
If we manage to fight it powerfully and mobilize a lot, we may get this government to be less conservative. But the opposite is also true, if we don’t mobilize, they’re going to consolidate an extremely conservative government, that will be allied with the US and with the main focus set on carrying out some of the tasks that the bourgeoisie deems essential. But it’s a nucleus of conservative opportunists that have no relation with any sort of project that may contribute to the nation. It’s a national disaster for our economy and politics.
Why did the PT divert so much from what could have been considered a pillar of its social support —that is, the left— in order to co-govern with the PMDB?
We have 3 big problems in this case. First of all, Lula won the 2002 elections in a period marked by the decadence of the political struggle and very difficult for the Brazilian left. The left had been completely defeated after 10 years of Henrique Cardoso’s government and in this context Lula won the elections with an extremely wide-range electoral alliance.
Secondly, the PT changed its direction in order to become exclusively concerned with institutional matters. And the third component is the main cadres of the PT became a part of the government to become officers and that is a contradiction. The result of this process was that the PT ceased to be a left-wing party, and to a bigger extent, it ceased to be a party whose political life that was linked to the everyday life of the people. And then there are all those other problems: financing of campaigns, corruption scandals… a whole list of them. It’s true that a big part of the left stayed with the PT, and that throughout those years the left didn’t build a political alternative. The PT is, to this day, the biggest group in the left, and that has hindered the growth of other organizations. To us, the PT is also very linked to the figure of Lula, and Lula has given signs that he’s going to run for the 2018 elections, and, unless the judiciary power prevents his candidacy, he will be president in 2018.
At the same time, I have no doubt that the cycle of the Workers’ Party is coming to an end. And I’m also sure that future generations are going to create new ways of political organizations, and I don’t see the Workers’ Party having an important role in that panorama. Obviously, the party won’t disappear but it won’t be a reference for the youth that want to fight for socialism.
Would another mandate of Lula and the Workers Party be desirable for the left?
In the best case scenario, we’d have Lula as President of the Republic. This is clear. Right now, we don’t have much wiggle room, we’re playing defensively. Our political way out has to combine mobilizations on the streets and elections, and that would be much more viable with Lula as President, because it would buy us time to recompose the perspective we’re lacking right now. And that can only be possible if we prove our ability to mobilize. If Temer’s government ends up being victorious, the right is going to govern again as they did in Paraguay. And it will be 20 or 30 years until we manage to create a new opportunity. Therefore, our task is to prepare ourselves for the elections and for national struggle, but our way to fight is by attacking Temer’s government. And in that sense I believe we’re on the right path.