[8/09/05] MST Update #96 The MST's Political Position on the Current Situation

Dear friends of the MST,

We think it is important that you who are friends of the MST know what we are really thinking. Last month in a meeting of the national leadership of the Movement, with more than 250 comrades from every state and sector, we analyzed the current political situation and our position in relation to it. We are presenting here in a concise format the main political deliberations of our Movement, which orient our practical actions.

1. About corruption.

Corruption is an endemic method for the privileged classes to take control of public resources in a country that is lacking in democracy. We believe that illegal corruption exists, which generally benefits personal interests and is practiced with methods that are legal -- but immoral and illegitimate -- that involves the appropriation of public resources by an economic group, a specific sector of the ruling class or by all the wealthy. The interest rates in Brazil and the transfer of public resources to the banks, greater than $R100 billion per year are an unequivocal example of this. There is another important question: the media and the elites generally protect those who practice corruption and prevent us from identifying the ones who are truly guilty. Who are the owners of the millions of resources diverted for electoral campaigns? What interests are behind the millionaire investments made in political campaigns?

We think it is essential to demand punishment for all the corruption cases. And in particular we demand profound changes in the system of political and partisan representation: it is the only possibility to fight the systemic corruption that rules in the country.

2. About the Lula government.

The Brazilian people elected the Lula government to make changes. The people voted for a program based on his campaign promises, which were widely distributed throughout the country. The elected government committed itself as well, by means of a letter to the Brazilian people, to promote changes, despite maintaining its contracts with capital. The government frustrated everyone and distorted the will of the 53 million voters. A perverse composition of political forces, including conservatives and the right wing, took the important positions in the Central Bank, in the ministries of Finance, Agriculture and Development, and Industry and Commerce.

Last July, in the midst of a deep political crisis, the government promoted a ministerial reform that reinforced even more the alliance with conservative sectors. Based on that, we would say that this government has been distorted. We are not dealing any more with the same government that we elected in 2002. We do not have a government of the left, nor of the center-left. We have a centrist government, since the right controls economic policy. We can say goodbye to the Workers Party government and its historic commitments. We are suffering the consequences of an ambiguous government, composed of political forces in society that range from the right to the left and that has very little to offer. The government lost the opportunity throughout its mandate to consult with the people about strategic questions for our society such as the foreign debt, interest rates, GMOs, bingos, the autonomy of the Central Bank, the transposition of the San Francisco river, the Kandir Law, etc. And certainly the people would opt for changes would give support to the government that preferred to hear only the traditional politicians.

3. The government and Land Reform.

We believe that the victory of the Lula government represented a change in the correlation of forces and it would favor Land Reform. The National Plan for Land Reform was put together, which would have settled 400,000 families in a four-year period, besides administrative changes in the National Institute for Colonization and Land Reform (INCRA), training for settlement workers and the wedding of Land Reform and agro-industry. Two and a half years have passed and we can state that Land Reform is moving slower than a turtle. The government was incapable of implementing its own plan. It lacked the courage to confront the blocking points to Land Reform, which is not moving ahead because:

a) the state administration is organized against the poor, to serve only the rich;

b) the government believed in the false idea that agribusiness would be a solution to poverty in the countryside. But it benefits only the exporters and agricultural transnational corporations;

c) the government did not see that maintaining a neoliberal economic policy impedes the carrying out of any Land Reform program. The neoliberal policy cuts budgetary resources, concentrates income, and puts a priority on exports and unemployment. The policy that we defend distributes income, creates jobs, develops the internal market and establishes man in the rural environment. And Land Reform is only an instrument of this policy.

Discontented (with the government) we carried out the National March. For 17 days we brought together 12 thousand marchers around this demand. We succeeded in making the government renew seven commitments to us with the goal of speeding up Land Reform. Little has happened. The commitment to settle 115 thousand families this year was taken up again, until now, approximately 20 thousand. Another 120 thousand families remain in encampments, waiting in sub-human conditions. The promised regulation that changes the indexes of productivity to calculate expropriations has not yet been published. It’s a question of a simple administrative act by two Ministers. We are tired of hearing rulers speak about the lack of resources while the banks are swimming in billions of Reais transferred by the state.

The Lula government has an immense debt to the landless and with the Brazilian people on the question of Land Reform..

4. About the PT and the left

The MST will maintain its historical political line: it is autonomous both in relation to political parties and in relation to the government and the State. We will maintain our autonomy in this crisis as well.

Individually as citizens and social activists, the members of the Movement join with the Brazilians who are puzzled by the revelation of the methods used by the Workers Party to make policy. The electoral campaigns commercialized the vote. Campaigns that spent billions and were directed by hired consultants ended up becoming transformed. The corruption that is now denounced is only the fruit of the method that was used. What is striking is how the sectors of the Left made use of the same methods as the Right and put themselves on a par with the Right. That is the upshot of what we call politics.

For this reason, we defend the methods of the left to make policy, which is centered on the discussion of ideas, on the training of militans, on grassroots work and in the conscious organizing of the people, as the only force capable of making changes in our country.

5. About the nature of the crisis.

We believe that the crisis that we are living through is not restricted to corruption; it is much more serious. It is a case of a crisis of the economic model. The jobs created, many fewer than those promised during the campaign, are insufficient to meet the new demand of the youth who are entering the labor market. We confront a social crisis: the poor struggle only to survive and in various areas we are seeing symptoms of social barbarism, with a worsening of violence. We are suffering through a political crisis: the population cannot recognize itself in this system of representation, does not have political power, and cannot exercise what the Federal Constitution says: that all power emanates from the people. The people are angry at politicians and see them as being all alike. All this leads us to an ideological crisis, a result of the lack of discussion in society about a project for the country. We fear the prolonging of this apathy.

6. Who are the enemies of the people

We understand that the true enemies are the ruling classes who are continuously enriching themselves at the expense of the people. The enemies are the interests of foreign capital shown by the actions of the transnationals, of the foreign banks, the foreign debt, the transfer of weath outside the country. The enemies are the large Brazilian capitalists who subordinate themselves to those interests and turn their back on the people. And the national financial system is an enemy. The enemies also include the large estate owners who continue to accumulate lands and defend them in any way possible. Included as well is the policy of the Bush government that wants to consolidate Latin America only as a market for its US businesses and control our biodiversity and our seeds.

The Lula government can find an ally in the people to combat these enemies. But it needs to show what side it is on: either with the ruling classses or with the poor. Speeches won’t help. This choice is made through clear changes in the current economic and social policies.

7. About the way out of the crisis.

We understand that the way out of this serious crisis does not depend only on the government, on the president, on the political parties or on the 2006 election. It will depend on a massive coming together of all the social forces, organized to carry out a true grassroots discussion and construction of a new project for our country.

A development project for our country that puts popular sovereignty in first place. That organizes an economic policy focused on solving the main needs of the people such as jobs, income, housing, schools, and culture. A model that puts the highest priority on human life, building a society with less inequality and social injustices. We need a constitutional reform that changes the current political regime, that incorporates mechanisms for direct democracy. We need to have the right to convoke plebiscites, to carry out consultations with the people. We want to see the system of political parties and political representation democratized.

All this will be a long path. But it’s necessary to start soon. We have to stimulate the discussion in society, in all spaces. This is the only way the people will seize in its hands the conviction that social changes will be the result of organization and struggle.

We will continue to train activists and people who will struggle for the people, raising their level of consciousness and culture. We need to democratize the media, to build alternative means through community radio and TV stations so that the people have access to correct information.

8. Mobilization calendar.

Facing this evaluation of the crisis and of the current situation, we call on all MST activists and base members of Via Campesina and the urban social movements to join forces, mobilize, and get organized. We call on everyone, men and women, to participate in the initiatives that are going on during the month of August, which will culminate with a huge Independence Day -- September 7, where we are capable of emitting a true “cry of the excluded‿ in the largest number of Brazilian cities. Throughout September and October we will carry out popular state assemblies to discuss a new economic model, culminating with our national popular assembly: a grassroots effort for a new Brazil, to be held at the end of October in Brasilia.


National Secretariat of the MST
São Paulo, August 2005

News Briefs
The massacre of Corumbiara – more than 10 years of violence and impunity

August 9, 2005 marked 10 years since the massacre at the Santa Elina Ranch, in the town of Corumbiara, Rondônia. It involved 194 policemen, including 46 from the Special Operations Company and many other heavily armed gunmen and thugs. Three hundred and fifty five people were imprisoned and tortured for more than 24 hours and the camp was destroyed and burned down, with all the people’s belongings. The camp was attacked at dawn with tear gas that affected everyone, including the children. The shooting was deafening. On that day 11 people died, including little Vanessa, only 6 years old, whose small body was hit by a “stray‿ bullet. Read the article by Angélica de Mesquita on the MST web site: www.mst.org.br

United States has 70,000 people imprisoned outside the country

Amnesty International has issued an alert that the prison on the American base at Guantánamo is only the “tip of the iceberg‿ of a situation created by the U.S. in the last few years. According to a report published by AI, the US is keeping around 70,000 people detained on bases and secret prisons outside its own territory. In Guantánamo, the majority of the 500 detainees were captured during the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and are held indefinitely and without trial.

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translated by Friends of the MST volunteer Charlotte Casey