MST sought to make lemonade out of the CPI’s lemons
By Camila Rocha ┃ PhD in political science from the University of Sao Paulo (USP) and researcher at the Brazilian Center for Analysis and Planning
Deputies wearing MST caps during the Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry (CPI) on the MST
From Folha de São Paulo Newspaper
The Parliamentary Commission of Inquiry (CPI) against the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST) ended in a major defeat for the movement’s detractors. The commission, headed by deputies Lieutenant Colonel Zucco (Republicanos-RS) and Ricardo Salles (PL-PSP) was closed on September 27th, without the final report being voted on.
Both sought greater political prominence with the CPI but were unable to burst through the bubble of their ideological niches. In addition, Salles’ attempt to run for mayor of São Paulo failed, and in turn, Zucco became better known for his attacks on congresswoman Sâmia Bonfim (PSOL-SP), who denounced him for sexism and homophobia, than for the agenda of the CPI itself.
The MST, on the other hand, made lemonade out of lemons and took advantage of the circumstances to spread its causes to a wider audience. With the hashtag #TôComMST, the movement placed second among the most commented topics on X (formerly known as Twitter) in Brazil on April 27th, and was the top most commented topic on May 23rd.
In June, João Pedro Stedile, one of MST’s best-known leaders, gave an interview to Flow Podcast. His appearance had more than 240,000 views and, on June 13th, the hashtag #MSTnoFlow occupied the third place among the most commented topics on the platform in Brazil.
Stedile was able to convey a positive image to many people who did not know or had reservations about the movement. Comments like: “I didn’t know Stedile, what class!”, and, “After this interview I completely changed my opinion about João Pedro Stedile. He proved to be a person of great wisdom, great awareness and great vision”, displayed the tone of the comments made by Flow’s audience.
Broad support for the causes defended by the MST is not new. In 1963, the majority of Brazilians interviewed by the Brazilian Public Opinion and Statistics Institute (Ibope) expressed that “agrarian reform must be carried out urgently”. Even after the 1964 coup, carried out largely to stop this advance, Brazilian popular opinion did not change significantly in the following decades, as demonstrated in a 1996 publication by the Center for Public Opinion Studies (Cesop) of the University of Campinas (Unicamp).
Today, however, the urgency to carry out agrarian reform is even greater. In addition to there being more unproductive land in the country than there was 40 years ago, our agrarian model is incompatible not only with social equality and democracy, but with current environmental challenges.
From the 2000s onwards, concern for nature became central to the MST’s struggle. Since then, the movement has become one of the country and the world’s leading references in agroecology, a practice considered by many experts to be the only way to save the planet from an environmental catastrophe.
According to the study published in Nature in 2016, titled “Organic Agriculture in the Twenty-first Century”, agroecology is capable of efficiently feeding the entire world’s population and can be done from small farms. According to the Brazilian Institute of Geography and Statistics (IBGE), family farming already accounts for 70% of the food consumed in Brazil, without relying on major technological resources and government incentives.
Agrarian reform in the 21st century is even more urgent than it has been in the past. Not just for Brazilians, but for the planet.
Translated by: Natalie Illanes Nogueira
Proofread by: Hillary Mercedes