tisdag 29 december 2015

Nyårshälsning från Stédile

"From now on, no more unemployed," claims João Pedro Stedile

In an interview assessing the year ending and pointing to 2016, the MST leader states that the year that passed was a "lost year for Brazilian workers" and that the [popular] movements should demand changes in economic policy: "no more unemployed."


By Bruno Pavan,
São Paulo (SP)

The year ending represented an extremely complex situation for Brazil. Faced with such a scenario, the popular movements built new connections of spaces for social struggles.

João Pedro Stedile, of the national directorate of the Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST) and member of the Brazil Popular Front, believes that 2015 was "a lost year for Brazilian workers."

In an interview with Brazil de Fato, Stedile believes that "the drama of impeachment" must end by April 2016 and that next year will be marked by the struggle over the conduct of government economic policy. "No more unemployed," argues João Pedro.
Check out the full interview:
Brazil de Fato - How do you assess how the movements that make up the Brazil Popular Front are doing in the year that is ending, in terms of struggles and political confrontations?
João Pedro Stedile - The Brazil Popular Front is a broad front, an alliance of the different forms of organization of our people: popular movements, from the youth, trade unions and parties. We always take decisions by consensus; we have no governing bodies, nor spokesmen. So I can’t and shouldn’t speak for the Brazil Popular Front. I speak from what I see in the movements of Via Campesina, in popular movements and in my travels around Brazil. Overall, I think we can say that 2015 was a lost year for Brazilian workers. A year in which political mediocrity reigned. Most of the Brazilian people, with its 54 million votes, re-elected President Dilma [PT – Worker’s Party]. However, sectors of the ruling classes and the more conservative parties came up and wanted to resume the command of the Executive in tapetão.* They began conspiring since Dilma took office. For this they used the spaces in which they have hegemony – such as the corporate media, the judiciary and Congressional power - to try to overthrow the president. The federal government got scared, set up a mediocre ministry, which does not represent the forces that elected the president. And she [Dilma Rousseff, president of Brasil] spent the year defending herself, creating a situation of dispute and maneuvers just around the small policy.
And what is the assessment of the mobilizations?
Well, I think there was a year well played. Earlier, in March and April, many sectors of the institutional left did not want to go into the street. It was we, the popular movements and the unions, which insisted on the line that our main dispute with the right should be on the street. The Right peaked in March, and then decreasing in August and was met with ridicule in December. And the popular movements did the opposite direction: we were increasing slowly, and gave the change in December, with mass mobilizations in many capital cities, mainly São Paulo. I think we can now involve not only the militants, but many of the base began to stir and also went to the street. I think, on the street, the impeachment is defeated. For the small reactionary bourgeoisie who ranted calling for a coup, the return of the military, could not mobilize anyone other than themselves. In addition, the petty bourgeoisie in Brazilian society is negligible in terms of social base.
And the economy, which is the assessment?
The assessment is extremely negative in the economy. The Brazilian economy is going through a serious crisis, the result of its dependence on international capitalism and the hegemonic control of banks and transnational corporations. We ended the year with a drop of 4% in GDP. Productive investments fell, either by the government and state enterprises, or by entrepreneurs. The government committed a number of mistakes that exacerbated the crisis. First, it brought a neoliberal to the Ministry of Finance, which certainly would have been the ministry of the crony, Aécio Neves. Neoliberal measures increased the 7% interest rate to 14.25%, cuts in social spending, such fiscal adjustment, only produced more problems for the people and the economy. Inflation reached 10% per annum and unemployment averaged 8.9% of the working class. The National Treasury paid 484 billion reais in interest and amortization to banks. They used public money to ensure the profiteering of financial speculation, rather than investing in problem solving and productive investment. Fortunately, the minister fell. He left, however, a lost year. It is necessary to change the economic policy, not just the manager.
How do the popular movements analyze the environmental tragedy that happened in Mariana?
2015 will be marked by greatest environmental crime of the country's history, and perhaps one of the largest in the world. And what happened? The demand of the mining companies, in this case Vale, is to have maximum profit. In other countries, the waste [run-off, pollution] of the mining companies would have been treated. However, that costs more. Here, covered up by politicians and benevolent authorities that Vale finances, Vale prefers to let [the waste] be contained in dams – a procedure, according to experts, which has no safety. Already five dams have broken in the country, and there are another 48 under similar conditions. Thousands of people were affected. They killed the River Doce, along its entire length of 700 kilometers. And nobody knows how all this can be recovered. If we had a more courageous government, it was time to propose the re-nationalization of Vale, and use all their income to repair the damage. Incidentally, stalled for years is the process that annulled the auction of Vale [when Vale was privatized] for fraud, in the Federal Regional Court of Pará.
What is your evaluation of the performance of Congress, especially the House of Representatives, during 2015?
The Congress was the largest mirror of the political mediocrity during the year. First it elected Eduardo Cunha [PMDB-RJ] as Speaker of the House, although everyone knew of his schemes. And when he learned that the Prosecutor's Office would ask for his dismissal and imprisonment, he stepped forward and proposed the impeachment of President Dilma. But the spell turned against the witch and President Dilma was saved by the cruelty and manipulation of the sorcerer, who used false arguments. I'm sure that with the rite given by the Supreme Court, certainly the government will have the necessary votes in the House and Senate to stop the process.
It is necessary that Mr. Cunha is judged by the Supreme Court as soon as possible. But beyond the antics of this Brazilian Ali Baba, Congress proved extremely conservative in all matters submitted, some being approved, representing a setback, the destruction of constituency of 88 [National Constituent Assembly of 1988 which drew up a democratic constitution(link is external) for Brazil,(link is external) after 21 years under military rule.(link is external) The work of the Constituent Assembly was closed on September 2, 1988, after the vote and approval of the final text of the new Brazilian Constitution] and a complete dichotomy with the desires and practices of society. Various weird projects, meaningless, are going through Congress, especially the House. From the reduction of legal age for criminal punishment as an adult, the prohibition of putting on labels that the product is transgenic - denying information to the consumer, authorization for the use of sterile seeds; the privatization of Petrobras - Sierra senator's project [PSDB], to homophobic and extremely reactionary measures. All this is the result of the failure of the Brazilian parliamentary democracy, caused by the hijacking that companies have made by financing millions for political campaigns. According to the former minister Ciro Gomes, Congressman Eduardo Cunha would have distributed 350 million reais from companies to elect crony congresspersons, who now defend...
And what is the solution to this malfunction of Brazilian democracy?
We from the popular movements have defended the need for profound political reform, which make several changes in the political system, the electoral system, to return to the people the right to choose without media influences or capital. There are several bills introduced in the House, by various entities of the Democratic Coalition ... But this Congress does not want, nor is moral, to cut their own fingers. So, we can only fight for a Constituent Assembly, which will only come with rekindling the mass movement. So it will take, but it's the beginning output of a feasible and necessary policy.
And we had some achievement on the agenda of agrarian reform? How are the struggles and the government in this sector?
It was also a lost year for the landless and for family farms. The government escalated a good team in the Ministry of Agrarian Development and INCRA, but handed the Ministry of Agriculture to the worst in Brazilian politics. And with the cuts of neoliberal fiscal adjustment agrarian reform has been hit. The few achievements that occurred were the result of a lot of mobilization and social pressure. The government has not fulfilled its promise to accelerate the settlement of 120 thousand families camped in the country. There weren’t any new contracts for home construction in rural areas. The National Supply Company (Conab) left very good programs of the EAP (food program) involving simultaneous delivery to urban entities; there were resource cuts for Pronera [rural education] and for Ates (technical assistance to the settlers). Everything stood or worsened. In previous governments, we had won the national plan for the reduction of use of poisons (Pronara), seven ministers signed but the minister of poison in agriculture vetoed it, and the president did not dare to enact. The program to support agro-ecological agriculture (Planalpo), has good guidelines, but does not have resources ... and so on. We lost a year in family agriculture and agrarian reform. I hope the government stops deluding itself about agribusiness, which coupled with the profit of commodity exports by transnational corporations, but does not represent any gain for society. Even in agribusiness investments in machinery and inputs fell 30%.
What are the political prospects for the year 2016, from the viewpoint of popular movements?
We expect that by April the impeachment drama will end. And from there, the government recompose with a new alliance of ruling parties, with a new ministry adequate to the reality of society. And the government will again assume the commitments it made in the campaign. If the government does not give signs that it will change, it will take that defended the campaign, it will be a government that condemns itself to failure. It has no confidence of the elites, who tried to overthrow it, and at the same time does not take measures for the immense social base, which is 85% of the population. I hope the government has a minimum of political vision to choose the right side.
CUT has already expressed by the change of economic policy and made criticism of the government Dilma. How do you see this process?
CUT [Central Workers Union] and other unions had a very good performance during the year 2015, when they mobilized their bases, against the coup, but also to defend the rights of workers. I also read the note that CUT is welcoming the departure of Levy [Joaquim Levy, pro-austerity Minister of Finance, who resigned on December 18, 2015], but cautions the government that we need to change economic policy. And the signs that Mr. Barbosa [Nelson Barbosa, current Minister of Finance] is giving the press are not good, to resume neoliberal-corporate agenda of pension reform to raise the minimum age, tax reform, to consolidate the exemptions and labor reform to break the CLT {Brazilian labor laws]. CUT has warned that it will fight. And we will also together with the trade union movement. If the government increases the minimum age of rural retirement, there will be a revolt in the countryside and against the government. I'm just warning you.
Is there an alternative proposal for economic policy by the popular movements?
In 2015, about 150 of our best economists in the universities, trade unions and research institutes spent months discussing and presented a document with short and medium-term measures to exit the economic crisis. The government did not take the ball. It took the Brazil Popular Front to present the document to the government, which only occurred on December 16th. I have listened to many economists, entrepreneurs, researchers and nationalist politicians. And all have clear proposals. The problem is that the government is deaf and self-sufficient. The government needs to urgently present a recovery plan of economic growth, and propose a pact between workers and employers to cease rising unemployment. No more unemployed, beginning now.
I have heard proposals that could use $100 billion of our reserves – of which there are $350 billion - and therefore would not affect the flow of trade and no external payment. With these features, apply to productive investment in the economy, such as construction, which quickly enables all the economy, in infrastructure of the cities, family agriculture and education. Imagine applying over a few months 400 billion reais [about $100 billion dollars] into productive investments, certainly they would activate the economy to return to growth, providing jobs and income also for workers.
The government should lower the interest rate, and part of the funds paid to banks in interest move to Petrobras, resume their works, some there are only 10% to complete and are stopped. Also transfer resources to the BNDES [Brazilian Development Bank] to finance industry and big business in the cities. Proposals abound. The government lacks the courage to build a large social coalition of popular forces and businesses, to change the direction of its economic policy. If you continue the same bureaucracy and public accounts, it will be a government doomed to failure, and there is no way to defend it. For this it needs to show signs soon.
Even if you assess that the resolution of impeachment will take place at the beginning of the year, how are the movements organizing to address the issue?
During the month of January every movement will make their assessments, balance sheets and draw the lessons of 2015. Then we will conduct our national plenary Brazil Popular Front, to see what we will do together in 2016.
For now, there is a political will that, in the days or weeks of the decisive votes of the impeachment process, an encampment will be organized in Brasilia and the legislative assemblies in the capital. And also do massive vigils, in defense of democracy and against the coup. I attended a mobilization and popular assembly in Porto Alegre [RS], where we approved that we will repeat the encampment in front of the Piratini Palace [seat of the executive branch in the state of Rio Grande do Sul], in memory of Leonel Brizola, who in August 1961 broke the coup against Goulart [João Goulart, 24th president of Brazil, deposed by a military coup in 1964], in his campaign for legality. Now is the vigil for democracy and repeat the camp in front of the Piratini Palace.
Addressing expectations and outlook for 2016 are municipal elections part of this scenario?
The expectation we have is that the climate for mass mobilizations will increase during the first half of 2016: on the one hand, various sectors of the working class are facing more problems with unemployment, inflation; the other, more social sectors are realizing that only exit from the crisis is with popular mobilizations. The election period should galvanize attention only during the timing of campaigns. And yet, as there is a discouragement with the institutional policy, it is likely that in large cities there is an apathy for the process. In the inner cities, which determines municipal elections always revolves around people and families.
Finally, in your opinion, how should popular and leftist organizations behave next year?
We still have many challenges, historical; we must face the [next] year and the medium term. Brazilian society is facing an economic, social, political and environmental crisis. And this crisis will only be overcome with a project of the country that can bring together the majority of society to create a new hegemony around it. The financial capital and transnational corporations want to return to neoliberalism, but fail to achieve social hegemony, because Brazilians know that this project is concerned only with the big capitalists. The internal bourgeoisie, profitable, does not have a project. The petty bourgeoisie wanted impeachment and will be defeated. And the working class has not yet united around a project for the country. It is still stunned watching the problems.
We have the challenge to connect all means of popular alternative media, to cope with the daily massacre of the bourgeois media.
We have the challenge to take back the debate on the need for political reform, which will come only with a Constituent Assembly. And we have the challenge of pressuring the government to change its economic policy, to prevent the worsening of the problems of the economy and the working class. And if the government does not change until April, giving clear signals of which side it is on, it will surely lose its social base, and will become a government of permanent crisis until 2018.

Link: http://www.brasildefato.com.br/node/33797(link is external)
*An expression used in soccer when a team loses on the field, they take their case to the soccer “court.”

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