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Brazil: Who is the World Cup for?

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Today the World Cup opens in Brazil, but with a very different atmosphere to what usually accompanies such an event, as the widespread protest movements and strikes taking place in the country clearly demonstrate. Here we publish an article by comrades of the Esquerda Marxista [Marxist Left] that highlights the enormous social and class contradictions that have surfaced around the tournament.

fifa-cartoonThe World Cup used to be a news item solely for the sports’ pages. In the past, the main concerns would be about the performance of the national team, the footballers, and the chances of winning the cup. Times have definitely changed!

This year’s world cup tournament of this enthralling sport has, however, brought to the surface a whole series of contradictions between public and private interests, between the interests of the bourgeoisie and those of the working class.

Public money has been drained from the government’s coffers to prepare the event. In total, it is estimated that more than 30 billion Brazilian Reals [$13.5bn] have been taken from the state budget to fund the cup!

The lavish waste is evident in some cases. The cost of building the Amazonia Arena [the football stadium in Manaus, Amazonas, Brazil] was 605 million Reals [$270million] (all financed with public money). This is a stadium that is going to host four games during the World Cup and will then no longer be used, because football is not very popular in that region. The Amazonas league has an average of 640 spectators per game, while the new stadium has a capacity to seat 44,310 fans, and the cost of maintaining it adds up to 6 million Reals a year (which will be shouldered by the regional government). To free themselves of this burden, they are considering the possibility of turning it into a jail after the World Cup. Perhaps they have in mind the demonstrators that are being repressed and criminalised!

The Maracana stadium, that has been refurbished for the third time in the past 15 years, cost the public coffers no less than 1.19 billion Reals [$530million]! This is more expensive than some stadiums that have been built from scratch, such the Arena Corinthians (or Itaquerao) in Sao Paulo, which is expected to have a final outlay of 855 million Reals [$380million]. But what is scandalous is that after being refurbished, the Maracana Stadium, that historic symbol of Brazilian football, was privatized and placed in the hands of a consortium formed by Odebrecht (a Brazilian construction company), IMX (owned by Eike Batista) and the American AEG. This consortium will pay 7 million [$3million] a year for 33 years (the concession is for 35 years, but they are exempted from paying for the first two years), which will yield a total of 231 million [$103million] for the Rio de Janeiro government, a figure that is well below the cost of the last renovation and amounts to 18% of the value of the three last renovations of the Maracana.

In June of last year, during the big mobilizations that shook the country, placards were carried that ironically called for FIFA-sponsored hospitals, and protesters chanted “Hey Cup, my hand is open; I want money for healthcare and education”. They were absolutely right in pointing out those contradictions, yet another demonstration of the Dilma government’s submission to the interests of capital.

Who gains from the Cup?

The defenders of the World Cup say that it will stimulate an inflow of billions to the national economy, but what they don’t explain is that most of that money will go into the pockets of the bourgeoisie, both national and international.

The leadership of the PT, of the PCdoB [Communist Party of Brazil], as well as other government forces, maintain that the World Cup tournament should not be seen as an obstacle to investment in social spending, in sectors such healthcare and education, and they also label the protest movements against the World Cup as being right wing and accuse them of wanting to destabilize the federal government. This is a completely limited and superficial analysis.

The truth is that young people and workers feel outraged at having to suffer on a daily basis an overcrowded, expensive, and low quality public transport system, run-down schools and waiting lists for decrepit hospitals, while the government is setting apart billions to organise an event that they won’t even be able to enjoy because they can’t afford it.

A ticket for the opening match costs around 160 and 990 Reals [$72 and $450]; and a ticket for the final costs anything between 330 and 1980 [$150 and $890]. A cheaper ticket for a game in the group selection phase, in the worst part of the stadium, costs 60 Reals [$27]. Someone who wants to follow the Brazilian team from the opening game right up to the final (if it gets to the final, of course), in a front seat, can buy a special ticket for 6700 Reals [$3000], as well as having to pay for the travel costs, accommodation, and other additional expenses in the different cities where the games will be held. The truth is that for most workers this World Cup, as always, will be watched on television.

The role of FIFA

According to FIFA secretary general, Jerome Valcke, FIFA will make around $3.5 billion from its commercial rights over the Brazilian World Cup. At the same time, it will spend $3.3 billion in the organization of the competition. “In the end, FIFA will make a profit of $200 million which will go into our accounts”, said Valcke. Everything indicates that that figure may be an underestimation. An auditing company, BDO, has calculated that FIFA’s proceeds from the World Cup will in reality amount to $5billion, most of it from its broadcasting rights, followed by the whole marketing industry generated by the event.

Professional football moves a lot of money and has vested interests around the world. FIFA is an international capitalist organization that manages this profitable business. Its power and influence are immense. One just has to look at the demands imposed for organising the Cup, which have been dutifully respected by the Brazilian government.

The stadiums have to be built according to a specific plan, FIFA’s plan. New laws are drawn up to accommodate the organisers; half-price tickets for students have basically been scrapped, because now they only give access to the worst parts of the stadium. The FIFA bosses, in all their arrogance, treat national governments as mere servants. But the worst thing is that the Brazilian government has accepted this role, submissively bending to the needs of FIFA and the capitalists.

Repression and Criminalisation

The regional and federal governments have been expanding the repressive apparatus of the state. We have already seen the grotesque investment in repressive weaponry and technology, as well as changes to the laws, such as the “anti-terror law” that has the aim of branding demonstrations as “terrorist acts”. The federal government is creating a special force of anti-riots shock-troops made up of 10,000 police officers to supress the protests during the World Cup.

Moreover, a bill shamefully co-authored by Senator Walter Pinheiro of the PT is being put forward that will allow sentences of up to 15-30 years in prison for demonstrators participating in protests during the World Cup. The bill also limits the right to strike during the tournament in those services considered to be of “social interest”.

The Defence Minister has announced that he will keep army troops stationed in the barracks, ready to move into action against the protests should the military police require reinforcements.

These are extraordinary measures for the purpose of repressing and criminalising protest movements, with the PT and the Dilma government spearheading it all. Obviously, all this is not solely to ensure the holding of the World Cup – they are preparing themselves for the class struggle beyond this event.

Demonstrations against the World Cup

All the attacks against the working class that have taken place during the build up to World Cup and that are being operated in the coming period have to be denounced and fought against: the squandering of public money, the death of workers on the construction sites, the evictions of families to build stadiums and parking lots, and the overall repressive offensive.

However, to try to stop the completion of the World Cup structures is a disproportionate battle waged against the government and the repressive apparatus. Can we win over the masses under this banner? What would the prevention of the World Cup change? We consider that the calling for the “Nao vai ter Copa” [There Will Be No World Cup) demonstrations lack concrete demands and adequate strategy. The Black Blocks, who were at the front of the demonstration on January 25 in Sao Paulo, with their tactics of street fighting and attacking banks and other symbols of capitalism end up, in reality, by alienating the population from the protests and creating a pretext for repression.

It is necessary to mobilize the youth and the workers in defence of real investment in social services and to get the government to break with the capitalists, beginning with a refusal to pay the public debt, which ate up at least 718 billion Reals [$320billion] of the federal budget in 2013. Because of this, the activists of the Juventude Marxista [Marxist Youth] are promoting the campaign “Public, Free and for Everyone! Transport, Health, and Education! Down with Repression!” creating Committees of Action all over the country (read its manifesto in: www.facebook.com/PublicoGratuitoParaTodos ).

The class struggle was, is, and will be a reality, before and after the World Cup. The central problem is the system in which we live, capitalism. To organize, to raise the level of consciousness of the working class and the youth, is the central task of revolutionaries all over the world, to bring down the system and to move towards the real solution, socialism.

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