MST Informa #124: To activate the social struggles and build a new project for Brazil
Dear Friends of the MST,
Now that the election has passed, the votes counted, and the winners and losers are known, the moment arrives to sum it up and to look ahead. Even more than counting the number of progressive congressmen and governors elected, we need to make an effort to analyze how we did and sum up the wins and challenges for the coming period.
For some time now, we have been noticing that the left was going to participate in these elections in a divided and fragmented way. There are many causes for this and certainly our understanding will be deepened and discussed in the coming months. Nevertheless two points deserve to be highlighted. The disappointment with the Lula government, which was incapable of breaking with the neoliberal policy carried out by previous governments; and the way in which some sectors of the left copied the bourgeois style of politics, which resulted in a series of accusations of cases of corruption and of electoral practices.
Faced with this scenario, the big question was how to position ourselves and what to get out of the electoral process. For us in the MST, we made the decision that by the end of this period we had to maintain our political unity and our autonomy relative to the political parties and to the governments.
The first round
The election campaign was completely de-politicized. There were no discussions of political projects and the parties of the left showed that they do not have any organizing, ideological, or political strategies. The Lula government, believing that it would win in the first round, prioritized publicity around its welfare policies and the establishment of a broad range of party alliances from the left to the right. As a result, social activism was not called on and the popular movements felt themselves shoved to the sides in the electoral campaign.
For some time now, various sectors of the left and of the social movements have analyzed that the democracy of the bourgeois state, which restricts popular participation only to the electoral periods, has been exhausted. For these political forces that do not disrespect the electoral process, the priority is to increase the levels of organization and consciousness of the population and promote the social struggle. These elements are essential for changing the correlation of forces with the bourgeoisie, promoting changes, and creating concrete mechanisms for direct popular participation in the legislative decisions and in the executive. For this reason, they indicate that political reform cannot restrict itself only to periodic changes but rather seek as a main goal to ensure that the people exercise power.
The strategy of the re-election of the Lula government, demonstrated by its campaign coordination, excluded discussion about strategic projects for the country and the defense of its class interests. This fact, added to the case of the attempt to buy the dossier, helped distance the activists and the popular forces that wanted to politicize the campaign. On the other hand, the right, without any scruples, used all its strength in the mass media to rally around the candidacy of Geraldo Alckmin (PSDB). In this way, they succeeded in taking the election to the second round and energizing the various right-wing candidates in the states.
The second round
In the second round, along with other social movements meeting in the Coordination of Social Movements (CMS) and in La Via Campesina Brazil, we evaluated that it was possible at the time to promote a real discussion of ideas, of political projects and of the class struggle. It was necessary to prevent the political forces gathered around the Alckmin campaign from winning this election. We did not share the idea that the two candidates were equal.
There were divergent class interests around each candidate. At a minimum, the victory of Lula would symbolically represent the victory of the working class, the maintenance of alliances in Latin America with progressive governments and respect for the social movements. This new positioning in the electoral process caused us to engage in the campaign for the re-election of Lula. This did not mean ignoring the errors and the weaknesses of the first round. Among them, the lack of a clear project to face the people’s structural problems by carrying out Agrarian Reform.
Besides seeking the politicization of the presidential election and showing that, independent of Lula’s government, we were in a class struggle, we evaluated that the second round of the elections could serve to make possible the participation of the people’s movements, seeking greater unity around the idea of building a popular project for the country. It’s undeniable that the decision was correct and victorious. The majority of the social movements took part in the discussions and in the campaign. But all this without illusions and with the ever-greater conviction that the transformations come from the actions of the people themselves. From there, the need for the people’s movements to have autonomy, theoretical elaboration, and capacity for mobilization.
The new term in office
With the Lula government assured of one more term, it’s time to demand political changes that serve the interests of the people. The President, in his first speeches after his re-election, highlighted the need to promote economic development associated with measures of distribution of wealth and income.
This statement cannot be limited to the enthusiasm of a person who electorally defeated the bourgeoisie. It’s necessary for it to be transformed into concrete actions. This requires a break with neoliberal political economy and above all a confrontation with the powerful interests of those who monopolize the rural and urban lands, communications, and the financial system.
It is also necessary for us to fight for the solidarity-based integration of the Latin-American countries to be strengthened, in a way which confronts U.S. imperialism and is counterpoised to the colonizing mentality of the Brazilian elite. Thus, we must charge even more the re-elected government to immediately withdraw the Brazilian military from Haiti and implement a policy of solidarity with the people of that country.
Political reform is necessary, but it needs to serve the interests of the people and not that of the politicians. It needs to create new mechanisms of participation, to implement assemblies and councils, participatory budgeting, plebiscites and popular referendums.
These are challenges that fall to the re-elected government. But they are also challenges to the social forces that want to build a country based on democracy, social justice, sovereignty, and in defense of the environment.
We in the MST and other social movements continue with our role of contributing to raise the consciousness and organization of the Brazilian people. To activate the social struggles and build new uniting forces around a new project for the country – this is the work that we have ahead of us!
A warm embrace,
National Secretariat of the MST