MST leader Stedile addresses questions on current situation

Tuesday, April 5, 2016
Info Source: 
Interview with Korean friends from Via Campesina

The recent historical trajectory of Latin America has been marked by the dominance of the neoliberal project in the '90s. Then there were uprisings in several countries and the people elected progressive governments that dominated the 2000 scenario (with the victory of Chavez) until 2013. In this last period there were three political-economic projects on the continent.

The first was the neoliberal project that represented the interests of big local capital and transnational companies and especially U.S.banks

A second project we call neo-developmentalism, which was implemented in Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, and represented a type of agreement between the working class and sectors of the national bourgeoisie and also international corporations. A third project had a clear anti-neoliberal and anti-imperialist intent and appeared under the ALBA label, led by Chavez. In each national election these three projects had candidates and they vied for hegemony on the continent. And none of them could dominate the continent.

In the last three to four years, with the deepening of the capitalist crisis at the international level, it became evident that the problems we have in Latin America come about because we are a peripheral economy, dependent on international capital and the force that they bring against us. What we are witnessing now is a crisis of the three projects. None of them, for different reasons, could solve the problems of the economy and the people. And all are in crisis. Therefore, all the countries of Latin America, whether in the neoliberal sphere (such as Mexico ..) or in the neo-developmentalist
sphere (such as Argentina and Brazil) or ALBA, (such as Venezuela,) are facing crises. An economic crisis related to their models.

 In no country are we experiencing a reawakening of the mass movement. The working class and the people are just watching the class struggle on television, with electoral and judicial skirmishes. In all countries there is an ideological hegemony of neoliberalism, with false values of consumerism preached by television and major mass media. This is the current scenario. A crisis, a clash of projects and absence of the working class, for now.

As I said, it is not democratic or dictatorial tendencies. the fact is that the crisis is the domination of capital, a crisis that impacts all the aspirations of the working class. In this vacuum, there are
all kinds of demonstrations and various election results. I think we will live through a long period of conflicts and institutional damage until the crisis produces a powerful reawakening of the mass movement in the main countries, which will put on the agenda the discussion of a real project for the country that can solve the people's problems.

Even when the people had electoral defeats, in Venezuela and Argentina, their concrete problems were not resolved.  Instead they got worse. Because the project of capital is just neoliberalism, which
further concentrates capital and wealth.

We have entered an historical period of many uncertainties and conflicts. Where governments play only a secondary role for the outcome of the class struggle in the countries and throughtout the continent.

There are many factors that influenced the defeat of neo-developmentalism as well as the ALBA project, which is the most popular project for the integration of the continent. We have the socio-economic context of being fully dependent on international capital. Most countries, with the exception of Mexico, Brazil, and Argentina, have not achieved industrialization. Most of the continent depends on exports of raw materials, agricultural products and minerals without added value.

We are societies with great social inequality, where the population wants rapid responses to their problems. We are democracies without much participation, and fake representation in institutions. There is an absolute control of capital over the judiciary and the media. And a lack of a clear political project from the left.

We are still orphans of liberating proposals, after the fall of the wall. We tried  class conciliation in the neodevelopmentalist project and it did not work. We tried the ALBA project, which was based on continental integration and was anti-imperialist, but it could not unite the major countries. So the eocnomic and current political crisis is caused by several complementary factors, hence its complexity and difficulty in interpreting and getting out of it.

Generally, progressive governments with the exception of Cuba and Venezuela are frightened by the political and ideological hegemony that the right is advancing upon the continent via the courts and bourgeois media. However, I repeat, I believe that the way out of the crisis does not depend on governments.  As I said, we need to build proposals for economic models that can free us, models that are anti-neoliberal, anti-imperialist while reindustrializing our countries and that specifically address the problems of the people. On the other hand, the working class, which produces the wealth in industry and agriculture, needs to mobilize, carry out mass struggles, and create a powerful mass movement to confront their enemies and change the current correlation of pro-right and pro-capital forces.

Our luck is that we understand that capitalists and their neoliberal and globalizing models do not solve the fundamental problems of the people, and so these models bring about contradictions, which in the medium term will stimulate the mass struggle. And through the mass struggle a higher level of consciousness of the working class about its future.

Popular movements in each country of Latin America are trying to develop our historical tasks that in a certain way have been dampened by illusion about progressive governments. Now we have more clarity that the popular movements must act independently of governments, and act to better organize their social base in the working class. We need to develop political and ideological education, so that the class understands what is happening, from the historical lessons the classics teach us. We need to encourage all kinds of mass struggle, the only way for the class to express its political strength. We need to prioritize work with working class youth, who have no future in the capitalist model. And we need to develop our own mass media, from social media networks, newsletters, newspapers, even the historical methods of agitation and propaganda, culture, theater, animation, etc.

Here in Latin America we have a coalition of the most popular movements, we meet once a year to discuss the situation and see what we can do together. Our dream is that our comrades in Asia and Africa also have coalitions that bring together the popular movements all over the continent. Now at the end of March, the popular movements in Africa are going to meet in Zambia.

And we propose to hold a major world meeting of all popular movements in 2017, precisely to discuss among all the movements the complexity of the crisis and how to jointly develop mass actions against common enemies, which today are represented by international financial capital in large international corporations and large landowners. Also in this same effort, in Brazil we will hold in June one large international gathering of youth who are fighting in many countries. We hope to bring together 60 countries. And we hope our companions in struggle from Korea will also attend.

We are facing an historic crisis worldwide. But it is a crisis that although requiring sacrifices of the working class and all the people, is a crisis of accumulation, of domination of the capitalist model. They do not represent the future for humanity. And we hope that the workers, the youth and the people of the world can meet and discuss common paths to find solutions and post-capitalist proposals.

The Brazilian people elected Lula in 2002 as a way to defeat the neo-liberal governments and their previous programs. However, at the time we were going through a period of decline in the mass movement. And the PT and its candidate, in order to win the elections made a deal with sections of the national bourgeoisie, and organized a class-conciliation government that then applied a neo-developmentalist project. This project was based on three macro-economic pillars. Grow the economy based on industry, which resulted in a re-industrialization of the country. Recover the role of the state in the market, both to induce investment in the economy and to implement public policies of social interest as a way to expand universities, health care, etc.  And the third pillar was the distribution of income to workers that came through the raise in the minimum wage and social security benefits. In 12 years the project was a success and the government won 4 elections. And as Lula said, during this period everyone gained, although bankers gained more than workers.

However starting with the world capitalist crisis which had its consequences for an economy as dependent as Brazil, the pillars of the program were destroyed. And the economy has not grown for three years. There was a de-industrialization of the country because of international competition, and Brazil  was transformed into an exploiter and seller of agricultural and minteral raw materials. And that does not sustain development nor the distribution of income. On the contrary, everything started to become concentrated again.

Therefore, in recent years, the project was in crisis. And that spoiled the alliance between the bourgeoisie and the workers. This is the crisis that we are now experiencing. Basically an economic crisis, which had its consequences and has become a social, political and environmental crisis (by the aggressive actions of capital  on the environment).

Sectors of the bourgeoisie subordinate to the United States want the return of neoliberalism. However  neoliberalism does not solve the problems of the people and will exacerbate the social and environmental crisis. Other sectors want to renegotiate neo-developmentalism. But that would depend upon the state re-investing in industry, and the state does not have the resources. And there are sectors of the petty bourgeoisie inflated by the bourgeois media, which have the unique proposal for overthrowing the Dilma government. And this does not solve any of the crises and only aggravates the institutional situation.  

On the part of the working class, we have some proposals to end the crisis, but we have not had enough unity among the various sectors and in particular the broad majority of the class,  the 120 million workers who are still scared and not doing anything. They have not been in the streets. They have not mobilized in the wake of the crisis.

And our mission as the MST and popular movements and left parties, is to educate the working class about the severity of the problem, which will only be resolved when the working class unites around a project that confronts and solves the structural problems of Brazilian society. And for that we need the reawakening of the mass movement, which is still far off. Therefore, the Brazilian crisis is not a governmental crisis. It is a crisis of the development model and it will take many years to find the strength of the working class to actually find a true way out of the crisis.