"The Big Challenge is to Continue Struggling for Structural Reforms" Says MST Leader
By Iris Pacheco
In an interview with the MST web site, Alexandre Conceição, from the MST national coordination, says that the role of social activism in this election was instrumental in the re-election of President Dilma Rousseff (PT), and states that "social movements have the big challenge of continuing to struggle for structural reforms in Brazil. "
Conceição also spoke on Agrarian Reform, "with the struggle for the Constituent Assembly we maintain our steadfast struggle for land and to democratize the access to and use of land (...) The struggle for agrarian reform is urgently needed, and the re-elected president must recognize this fact and settle the more than 120,000 families in encampments throughout Brazil,” he adds, saying that “neoliberalism was defeated at the polls and now we have the struggle to defeat the large landowners and agribusiness.”
Another important discussion that permeated the entire electoral contest was the performance of the conventional media, which Conceição cited as the "media dictatorship" faced by the president.
"Dilma, who has faced a military dictatorship, had to face the media dictatorship in this campaign. Now that she has been re-elected she cannot ignore the democratization of the media. To build a democratic and developed country we have to advance the right of communication with an expansion of freedom of expression and a guarantee of diversity and pluralism in radio and TV. "
Check out the interview:
How do you evaluate the competition in the second round, which took place between two antagonistic government projects: neoliberalism, represented by the candidacy of Aécio Neves, and neo-developmentalism in Dilma's candidacy?
First of all we recognize the role and strength of social activism that, on seeing the two projects in play, consciously took to the streets and made the difference, because the election is won in the streets with collective effort, with prepared activism and people organized to fight for democracy.
In this scenario, in which the stage was the streets and the social networks, the right fought the elections with all their might, with the financial capital of the banks, agribusiness, and particularly with the media, which played a role in whipping up a hatred of change, which tends to benefit the working class of Brazil. So Dilma, who has faced a military dictatorship, had to face the media dictatorship in this campaign.
What did this election mean for the country's social movements and the working class?
The election was extremely fierce because of the hatred with which the right wanted to defeat the Workers Party and the social movements. Hate that in this second round was even sharper and was crystallized in the dispute of the class struggle, between a change that adds rights for the Brazilian people and the the backwards neoliberal program that promotes privatization, outsourcing of public services and the massacre and criminalization of the struggle for land.
As you mentioned, the "media dictatorship" supported the conservative wave in this election. What should the government do to change this scenario? After the criticisms of Dilma in Veja magazine, is it possible that the democratization of the media could be put on her agenda?
Now that President Dilma has been re-elected, she cannot ignore the democratization of the media. To build a democratic and developed country we have to advance the right of communication with an expansion of freedom of expression and a guarantee of diversity and pluralism in radio and TV.
The government should stop financing Globo and Veja, which have always expressed their hatred of the working class. This second term has to carry out the project of democratizing the media. It is unacceptable that the government spends 70% of public funds in the area of communication with this monopoly, which only attacks and demonizes the struggle of the Brazilian people so they can maintain their privileges.
The social movements and organizations already have proposed the Law of the Democratic Media, a Popular Initiative Bill on Communications that questions the media concentration and demands the regulation of Brazilian radio and TV that is required by the Constitution. We can no longer be held hostage by the few families that dominate the media and provide nothing but misinformation.
Dilma won by a small margin, and her victory was greatly due to sections of the left who decided to support her in this second round. Can these facts move the Workers Party activists and the government more to the left?
With this tight race, it fell to the social movements to raise their banners and go into the streets to ensure Dilma's victory, and especially to ratify at the polls what had already been won in 2002: the defeat of neoliberalism. In this context, the role of the social movements was critical, although their agendas are short of being met. Just look at the weak numbers of Agrarian Reform during Dilma's four years in office. So we will continue to fight and raise our demands. We went to the streets to win the elections and move the candidate's campaign to the left. Now, we will continue gathering forces and occupying estates for a more just and egalitarian society.
In her victory speech, President Dilma said she did not believe that the election has divided the country and that she seeks dialogue with all sectors of society. Can we consider this as an indication of how it will be in her second term?
In Latin America, the right continues its project of trying to destabilize popular governments. Brazil is no different. Now, post-elections, they claim that the country is divided in an attempt to discredit the work of the government. The electoral process was educational because of the sharp class struggle that occurred. So I believe that the president, seeing the antagonism of the two projects, was inevitably pushed a little more to the left. For example, despite being benefited by the current government, agribusiness, as a class, supported Aécio and fought Dilma on all sides.
How can her second term embrace a widespread yearning for change across the country?
Dilma is the democratically elected president of all Brazilians. And as such, we hope that in her second term she actually carries out the structural reforms that meet the aspirations of the working class, peasants, students and ensures the individual rights of LGBT people, the African religions, women, etc.
To ensure these rights, the president will have to govern with the people in the streets, because the conservative Congress can defeat her government in parliament, and her party alliances are also unreliable.
On the issue of 'reforms', the president said that the Political Reform and the referendum through a popular consultation is a priority for the new term. Can this reform improve the lives of the people?
The plebiscite, held in September, is a winning movement. We obtained 7.7 million votes in favor of a referendum on a constitutional reform, and President Dilma made this commitment.
The basic demands of the Brazilian people are not being met because the structure of political power in Brazil and its operating rules do not allow major changes. Although we have the right to vote in direct elections, several factors influence the victory of candidates who are not at all committed to the needs of the people. We need to be able to build broad national unity around an official plebiscite by a sovereign and exclusive constituent assembly. So we are going to organize, prepare the struggle and make sure she fulfills this commitment.
At the same time, the re-elected President never mentioned Agrarian Reform, and her program is vague on the issue of the countryside. How does the Movement intend to act from now on to achieve progress on this demand?
Along with the struggle for the Constituent Assembly, we will remain firm on our struggle for land and democratization of access and use. We will continue to seek to ensure the production of healthy foods for the urban workers' tables, with low prices and even help the government to curb food inflation.
Agrarian reform is urgently needed, and the re-elected president must recognize this fact and settle the more than 120,000 families who are currently in encampments throughout Brazil.
We defeated neoliberalism at the polls and now follows the struggle to overthrow the latifúndio and agribusiness, which produces no food and no work for the people, does not create opportunities for youth and pushes people from the countryside to the cities.
What are the challenges from now on?
Social movements have the great challenge of continuing to struggle for structural reforms in Brazil. We must keep fighting for land, keep building the people's plebiscite for a constituent assembly and demand that they democratize the media. It is also necessary to reform the judiciary, which has criminalized the struggle for land in recent years, paralyzed the creation of new settlements, delay the demarcation of indigenous and afro-descendant lands and acts as the main accomplice in crimes of impunity in the country. All are demands born in the desires of the working class, not just of a movement or a party. They are the demands of an organized people who are aware of their role in street mobilizations and in pressuring the government to ensure structural reforms for a more just and egalitarian Brazil.