[01-16-09] MST Informa #159: 25 Years of Agrarian Reform

In 1984, our country was going through an intense period of social struggles. A context of popular struggles for the end of the military dictatorship, with widespread mobilizations. After being suffocated for so long, the peasant movement once again started to challenge the latifúndio and use land occupations as a form of concrete and legitimate action in the struggle for Agrarian Reform. The First National Meeting of the Landless was held from January 20 to 22 of that year in Cascavel, Parana. Rural workers from 12 Brazilian states who had already participated in occupations were present. It was there that the proposal to organize a movement on the national level was born, and there we adopted the three objectives that guide our organization even today: struggle for land, for Agrarian Reform, and for a society that is more just and egalitarian. In these 25 years, we helped to advance Agrarian Reform and the fight against poverty and inequality in the countryside. The Landless Movement that we built is responsible for the settlement of 370 thousand families in 7.5 million hectares all over the country. We also made advances in our internal organization and today we are organized in 24 of the 27 states of Brazil. We constructed together a proposal for education in the countryside, besides advancing in the field of organic production and food sovereignty. Today we have even greater challenges in our struggle. There are thousands of families in encampments who struggle beneath the black plastic tarps for the distribution of land. And the families in settlements continue to struggle for better standards of living and for changes in the agricultural model. And greater still is the number of Brazilian men and women workers who have their rights denied, prejudiced by the absurd concentration of income and social inequality. For this reason we commit ourselves to continuing the struggle. In the last few years, land has become concentrated also by agribusiness – huge transnational corporations in agriculture, tied to international finance capital and to the latifúndio, which still controls the chain of production – of seeds for sale, production destined for export and speculation in food prices. So now we need a People’s Agrarian Reform, that ensures food sovereignty for the Brazilian people. The MST was built throughout these years and survived thanks to the support received from the working class, teachers, artists, environmentalists, lawyers, students, writers, poets, parliamentarians, clergy, and common citizens who support the construction of a country that is just, democratic, and sovereign. They are our partners and comrades in the struggle. On the occasion of our 25th anniversary, we received greetings from our friends and comrades (some of which are included below). National Coordination of the MST I implore the gods and demons to protect the MST and all its beautiful people who commit the craziness of wanting to work, in this world where work merits punishment. Eduardo Galeano The MST is the most democratic social organization that Brazil has or has ever had. It does not forget the individual necessities of each of its members as political organizations tend to do and it is capable of wedding them to the broadest needs of the struggle for land. It does not only struggle for land but for the emancipation of Brazil. Not only for Brazil as a nation but for Brazilians as a people. Augusto Boal – artistic director of the Theater of the Oppressed Center in Rio de Janeiro I take great pleasure in congratulating the MST for its 25 years of existence and stating that I feel privileged to have participated in the MST CD in which I sang a song about the importance of education and freedom. And I want to say that the MST’s contribution is extremely important. The contribution and consciousness-raising that the MST has given the Brazilian people was fundamental because the MST never stopped being present in the main social struggles of our country, of our nation. For this reason, I feel proud to have participated in various events for the landless movement and I want to say that I hope that they continue in this struggle, with this political consciousness and that they never allow themselves to be submissive to the oligarchies, to the ruling classes of any type. If we get to where we are going, the MST is also responsible for this. Congratulations to all of you! Leci Brandão - sambista I would like to congratulate the MST for the 25 years of activity and say that this movement has been very important for Brazil on agrarian and social questions and I hope that you have much health, peace, and many accomplishments in this year of 2009. Lucélia Santos - actress I have a great deal of attraction and admiration for the MST. We need to have an organized movement to defend the people’s interests. It’s obvious that the MST’s fundamental goal is for agrarian reform in the country, which is needed no matter who it hurts. And it is necessary that the agrarian question be looked at again because Portuguese colonization and the way in which land was distributed in this country since colonization is absurd. These movements are necessary and parallel to this, the MST extended its network to education, schools, such as the Florestan Fernandes School, cultural formation and giving support to those who don’t have access to education as they should. It’s a movement of courage and resistance, that the conservative press demonizes. And to arrive at 25 years of existence as an organized movement is a great act of heroism, a great victory. Osmar Prado - actor I want to compliment the MST on this date on which they commemorate their 25th anniversary. I think that the MST is one of the most important things that has happened in the recent history of Brazil. I think that the MST had, has, and will have a very important function in the democratization and distribution of land in Brazil. I wish a long life to the MST! I wish much luck in their projects, much struggle and improvements for the Brazilian people that will come through the struggle of the MST! An embrace to all of you. Congratulations, MST, for your 25 years. Congratulations for the important struggle that is developing in Brazil and good luck. Paulo Betti - actor The redemocratization and democratic normality would not have been possible in Brazil if it were not for this vigorous movement, in these 25 years that the MST is completing. Now it remains for democracy to do its part, ending the various forms of bondage in Brazil, among which are the bondages of land, slave labor, child labor, environmental degradation and the redistribution of income, on the path to a more just society. A big hearty embrace to these people who struggle. Chico de Oliveira - Professor emeritus of FFLCH-USP The importance of the MST is unequaled because it is able to add the demands for better living standards, here and now, with an agenda that profoundly questions capitalist society. The most immediate demands are indispensable for nourishing a mass movement. Without them there is no large expansion and adhesion of the participants. Right away, people enter into a struggle to improve their conditions of material poverty – which is much different from the motive that leads an intellectual to social struggle. A majority of social movements present that condition. What is rare is that the MST combines the struggle for better conditions of life with the struggle for fundamental social transformations such as the pattern of consumption, the relations of production, the relations of power or the relations with the environment, just to give some important examples. Long live those who struggle! Long live the MST! Erminia Maricato – Professor of the University of Sao Paulo Although there is a long path to follow in the direction of better conditions of life for rural workers, as well as the fight against inequalities, injustices, and agrarian conflicts, in Brazil, the contribution of the MST – in these 25 years of existence – is priceless, in the sense of promoting social justice in the countryside and in the city, through actions committed not only to the dignified subsistence of the rural population in the place where they were born but above all to the quality of life and to the production of foods for all the Brazilian people. The struggle continues! Roberto Franklin de Leão - President of CNTE (National Confederation of Education Workers) Congratulations to the MST for 25 years of struggle on behalf of improving the conditions of life for the most needy. I continue supporting you and I wish for you to continue the work of pressuring the government about the need for agrarian reform in Brazil. I suggest that the pressure also focus on the lack of education and the current technological matrix for production in the countryside that excludes people and is environmentally incorrect. João Luís Homem de Carvalho It’s not by chance that the history of the MST, constructed throughout the last 25 years, is recognized all over the world. To keep the struggle for agrarian reform on the agenda in Brazil has been one of the great victories of the MST. The life and blood of men and women workers, mobilized against the injustices of the latifúndio and in search of an egalitarian society, are fuel for our daily activism in the direction of socialism. Dr. Rosinha, federal deputy (PT-PR), president of the Parliament of Mercosul. The MST completes 25 years of life and struggle as one of the most important social movements in our country. It was the movement that placed and kept the struggle for agrarian reform on the agenda in the country, within a transforming perspective of Brazilian society. That is no small thing. And there is no other reason for which the movement has been the victim of so much persecution by the latifúndio and by the governments. But it is also the reason for which the MST is a privileged partner of all who in our country struggle for the end of exploitation and oppression that afflict the life of the working class. Congratulations to the MST for the 25 years of life and struggle. A long life to the MST! José Maria de Almeida – National Coordination of Conlutas Throughout these 25 years, the MST consolidated itself as one of the most important Brazilian social movements. For us of the Federation of Oil workers, the MST is a reference point in the struggle and a partner in numerous campaigns. Its trajectory is marked by a commitment to a more just country for all, especially the poorest. The just and necessary struggle for agrarian reform and democratization of the Brazilian countryside is its main commitment but the understanding that the struggle is needed on all battle fronts pushes the MST to hold up various banners in the defense of our national sovereignty. For all these reasons, we can state the Brazil would be worse off if it were not for the activities of the movement. As colleagues we wish for another 25 years of struggle and victories. João Antonio de Moraes – General Coordinator of the Federation of Oil workers-CUT For 25 years the MST struggles to change the exclusive and conservative face of our country. Through the MST, thousands of Brazilians excluded from land and from full citizenship, thousands of Brazilians without a voice or a collective desire, organized themselves and transformed themselves into people who struggle for their rights and love liberty, fraternity, dignity, and justice. Thousands of Brazilians who had been disinherited from the land, men and women, elderly, adults, youth and children, whites, blacks, and Indians, became brothers, and with hands clasped together, believed that together they could change their own destiny. Confronting the omnipotence of the powerful, this brave people acquired roots, identity, experience, dreams, and even the project of building a more just and egalitarian society. With a lot of courage and obstinacy, they are teaching Brazilians that their hope for a dignified life is our light at the end of the tunnel. Heloísa Fernandes, sociologist, professor in the Florestan Fernandes National School and retired professor of the University of São Paulo. In the social struggles, to preserve what was built, to advance in periods of difficulties, to refuse the impositions and the constraints imposed by a destructive logic, not to lose the feelings and directions in the search for a new way of life, in all and for all distinct from the current tragedy, is something difficult to be maintained and to be won, but it is also essential. The MST, in its 25 years, has been honoring this battle with dignity, force, pride and popular strength. Let’s march forward now towards the 50 year anniversary! A long life for the MST. Ricardo Antunes – professor of the University of Campinas Men and women colleagues of the MST: in truth, I would like to celebrate the extinction of the MST on the basis that Brazil would have put agrarian reform into effect, the latifúndio would be extinct, misery eradicated, the encampments suppressed, the settlements considered priorities for a government averse to agribusiness. I pray thus to the Liberating God that he not allow commemorations of the 30, 40, or 50 years of the MST, since all will have land to work and live on in this country of continental dimensions. Courage and may the struggle continue! Frei Betto The MST is celebrating 25 years, if we take as a reference its official birth date: the First National Meeting held in Cascavel in 1984. But if we consider the first struggles that gave birth to the MST and that happened between 1979 and 1983 in the South, Southeast, and Center-West regions, the MST would be completing 30 years. In the three decades, the MST became one of the best known peasant movements in the world. It is organized in 24 of the 27 states of the Federation and is one of the most important protagonists of the struggle for land of the territorial development of Brazil. The MST became, through its occupations and the settlements in spaces and territories of resistance, the model for expropriating the development of agribusiness. Peasant agriculture represents the healthy world, the poison-free food made from scratch. Peasants used to be spoken of as part of the backwards world. Studies have increasingly shown that the peasants are part of the modern world. That besides producing healthy food, it struggle also for all to have the right to food, defending food sovereignty. It is this idea that makes us understand why the MST is the movement of the future. Bernardo Mançano Fernandes State University of Sao Paulo – UNESP So the MST completes its 25 years of struggle, of poetry, of prophecy at the foot of the road and of the street. According to many analysts, the MST is in fact the best organized and most effective people’s movement. The MST knows very well that “the land is more land” and for this reason is pertinacious and hopeful in the communitarian conquest of land, in quality education, in health for all, in a permanent attitude of solidarity, in free and fraternal collaboration with all the other popular movements. The 25 year anniversary of the MST is a date to celebrate, giving thanks to the people of the land and to the God of the land and of life, reaffirming the principles that guide the goals and the practice of the MST. Recalling the word of Jesus of Nazareth: you cannot serve God and Mammon”, you cannot serve the latifúndio and agrarian reform. The latifúndio continues to be a structural sin in Brazil and in all of Our America. That the MST continues to uphold this “new socialism” and a true agrarian and agricultural reform through La Via Campesina in the search and in the making of a new America. May the memory of our martyrs, fecund blood, the best comrades of the journey, remain alive and productive of hope. May the MST continue entering, planting, singing, fighting, with that hope that is not lacking because it even has the guarantee of the God of Land, of Life, of Love. Pedro Casaldáliga, Emeritus Bishop of the Prelate of São Félix do Araguaia Differently from what the big press insists on and from the political and ruling legal thought of criminalizing the MST, a thoughtful balance of its 25 years indicates that they condense an experience of resistance and a positive agenda in the socio-economic, political, cultural, and educational field. This agenda can overcome the legacy of a ruling class that throughout the 20th century, consolidated in Brazil a project of dependent capitalism and one of the societies, at the same time, that concentrates wealth and iniquitous poverty. In the field of education, but not only there, as an educator and a researcher for 30 years, I have no doubt in stating that the MST condenses the most advanced proposal articulating culture, experience, work, and knowledge in the perspective of human emancipation. Gaudêncio Frigotto. UERJ/RJ Educator The existence of the MST and its struggle is fundamental for Agrarian Reform in Brazil to be made concrete and the struggle for democracy to advance. The MST was born in the process of democratization of the Brazilian State and is a patrimony of all those who struggle for a Brazil for all Brazilians. The struggle for land would not be a politicizing struggle with a sense of transformation without the worthy comrades of the countryside. We activists for City Reform who are organizing in CONAM, take pride in having the comrades of the MST as strategic allies in the great political struggles in our country. The year of 2009 gives the Brazilian people many challenges that must be faced. We are certain that the MST will continue to play a major role in the social struggles of a transforming character in our country. Congratulations for the 25 years of struggle. Bartiria Lima da Costa – President of CONAM In Portugal, all who struggle against the dictatorship with a democratic façade imposed on the people watch with admiration the difficult and heroic fight of the MST. On commemorating a quarter century, the MST appears to us as an example of tenacity and coherence in the battle for Agrarian Reform that can destroy the unproductive latifúndio and allow the Land to finally pass into the hands of the peasants who work it, freeing them from secular servitude. Miguel Urbano Rodrigues In these 25 years, the MST went beyond borders, constructing itself into the main social movement that rescued the historic struggles of the poor peasants and landless for agrarian reform and social justice in Brazil. Osvaldo Russo, ex-president of INCRA, director of ABRA and coordinator of National Agrarian Nucleus of the Workers Party The MST is the most important social movement in Brazil. If agrarian reform is slow, it would be practically halted if not for the MST. We value the forms of struggle and the way in which the MST organizes itself in the face of intolerance and aggression by those who defend the latifúndio, protected by the bourgeois state. The MST, starting some years ago, made a great leap in quality when it began to participate in democratic, popular, and anti-imperialist struggles for a world without exploiters. Ivan Martins Pinheiro – general secretary of the PCB In these 25 years of the MST, more than 370 thousand families were settled, with the movement at the front of this struggle against the latifúndio. If it were not for these struggles, these families would go to the cities, occupying the outskirts and in many cases falling into criminal activity because they would have no other expectation from life. In our settlements we have no families going hungry or child outside of school, for this we always challenge those who are against agrarian reform to go visit a settlement and get to know this reality. I am proud to participate in this struggle since the creation of the MST. Federal Deputy Adão Pretto Just like the correlation of political forces in the countryside, Brazilian civil society in these 25 years lived through a process of social struggle in which the quality of the struggle for land and on the land was an historic reference point for all the popular social movements in the rural areas and in the cities, not only because of the courageous actions of the MST, but above all by the development of a renewed ability to politically train an entire generation of social combatants in and for the struggles to overcome class society in Brazil. We need two, a thousand, ten thousand MSTs in this country and in the world so that the call of liberation may be kept alive and so we may defeat the concept and practice of the capitalist world. Horacio Martins de Carvalho, agronomist