Brazilians join the global revolt
When a million people take to the streets in 100 cities in self-organised, angry demonstrations against the ruling elites and their failure to meet their needs, they are joining a global revolt against the system.
As André, a student at the University of São Paulo, told us: “Many Brazilians on the streets see a clear connection with the inspiring moments of Occupy in the USA and Europe and mainly with the mass movements in the Middle East.”
He said that president Dilma Rousseff, an ex-Marxist, is implementing the most “ambitious neoliberal programme” in the country. “We are privatising airports, ports, highways and every piece of infrastructure that we still have.”
Brazil has been held up as a shining example of an emerging economy that would lead the global economy out of its historic recession, a member of the so-called Bric countries (the others are Russia, India and China).
But growth has slowed to a halt, privatisation has become a mainstay of government policy and inflation has taken off. Public spending has focused on prestige projects like next year’s World Cup and the Olympic Games scheduled for 2016 at the expense of social projects.
So it’s no accident that the Confederation Cup taking place in Brazil this week – a trial-run for next year’s World Cup – coincided with the uprising that has shaken the country from one end to the other.
The rise in bus fares which triggered the revolt has been joined by a range of other issues. The targets of the protests, now in their second week, have broadened to include high taxes, inflation, corruption and poor public services ranging from hospitals and schools to roads and police forces.
"Stop corruption. Change Brazil", "Come to the street. It's the only place we don't pay taxes", "Government failure to understand education will lead to revolution", "We want to change everything wrong in our country", "Stop police violence", were just a sample of the slogans and placards.
In the capital, Brasilia, tens of thousands of protesters marched around the landmark modernist buildings that house Congress and the Supreme Court and briefly set fire to the outside of the Foreign Ministry. Police said about 80 of the protesters, some with homemade explosives, made it into the ministry building before they were repelled.
The swelling tide of protests prompted Rousseff to cancel a trip next week to Japan.
"What am I protesting for?" asked Savina Santos, a 29-year-old civil servant in Sao Paulo. "You should ask what I'm not protesting for! We need political reform, tax reform, an end to corruption, better schools, better transportation. We are not in a position to be hosting the World Cup."
The widespread revolt has shaken the ruling Workers' Party, a bloc that grew out of tumultuous demonstrations by Brazil's labour movement 30 years ago. Now the Workers’ Party resembles New Labour, committed to the market economy in a bid to attract inward investment which has all but dried up.
"There are no politicians who speak for us," said Jamaime Schmitt, an engineer. "This is not just about bus fares any more. We pay high taxes and we are a rich country, but we can't see this in our schools, hospitals and roads."
Paulo Henrique Lima, 24, one of the organisers, said: “Brazil woke up. The youth are going to the street, the workers as well, to construct a new fight. We are changing the history of this country. We are going to construct a new politics where people have a voice and go to the street to demand this."
Brazil’s emerging revolution confronts the existing state power and its institutions and marks a new moment in the global uprising that, without warning, sweeps across borders.
The same processes are at work in Britain, as shown by the huge support for tomorrow’s People’s Assembly against Austerity in London. Turning local People’s Assemblies into sites of alternative power that can challenge and replace the discredited, delegitimized economic and political system is the challenge here and everywhere!
21 June 2013