In the late afternoon of June 19th, after the huge demonstrations which had been held in regional capitals and many other cities, the mayor of São Paulo announced, along with State Governor Geraldo Alckmin, that the price of bus and metro fares would be reversed back to 3 Reais. In Minas, the government is also looking into reducing fares, which were also reduced in Rio, and Recife, where the fares had been reduced even before the demonstrations took to the streets. Mayors from the interior of the country are announcing reductions, following on from São Paulo and Rio. This is a victory that affects the entire country.
On June 20 more than a million people took to the streets celebrating and raising demands. However, now the protest movement is divided. Fascist gangs, probably organized by undercover police, were at work in most demonstrations. There were banners calling for the intervention of the military, for the lowering the criminal age, for the prohibition of abortion, against PEC 37 [see note at end of this article] and in favour of Federal Supreme Court president Joaquim Barbosa to become the country's president.
The fascist gangs attacked anyone who was wearing red. There were indiscriminate physical attacks against the PT, the CUT trade union confederation, the landless peasants movement MST, the Free Bus Pass Movement MPL, and left-wing political parties PCdoB, PSOL, PSTU, PCO, PC, PCR, etc. Their banners were torn or they were forced to lower them. After the fascist provocations in Rio and Brasilia, police brutality swept the streets. Protesters were pushed toward the Foreign Ministry building at Itamarati - where the fascist gangs were already breaking windows - and were then attacked. Activists were hospitalized with injuries from rubber bullets and tear gas.
In Rio, there was police brutality around the technical school IFCS and the headquarters of the social security and healthcare workers' union SINDSPREV. In scenes not seen since the military dictatorship, more than 200 students and trade unionists were arrested and were only released early in the morning escorted by lawyers. Tear gas was fired into the Flying Circus (traditional venue of Rio in Lapa, which features popular artists) and even into a hospital which was treating protesters!
In São Paulo, on June 20, the PT had called for a red wave on Avenida Paulista, but there was only a small wave that was engulfed and expelled from the demonstration after bravely resisting the provocateurs. Very few PT members attended and the party leadership, so zealous in making statements and declarations, abandoned the activists to their fate.
In Bahia and Rio Grande do Sul there were also scenes of aggression against demonstrators. Particularly in Bahia, the promise of Sports Minister Aldo Rebelo (a member of the Communist Party of Brazil, PCdB) that the present Confederations Cup would be held at all costs was fulfilled, with the complicity of Bahia governor Jaques Wagner (from the PT).
The situation of the government and in the country
The headlines on the evening of the 19th, announced that the Dilma government had fallen by 8 percentage points in the opinion polls. The press reported that the exchange rate to the dollar had reached R$ 2.21. Inflation continues to rise and the federal government has announced further cuts in the state budget. What is given with one hand, lowering transport fares to their previous price, is thus taken back twice with inflation, particularly with the high prices of food products. Education and health are going from bad to worse, transport remains bad and even with the reductions, fares in Brazil, compared to wages, are among the highest in the world.
Moreover, the people did not have a say in spending nearly thirty billion Reais on the World Cup! The people did not decide to spend hundreds of billions of Reais in interest payments and "services" on a debt that amounts to more than two trillion Reais!
All of these dodgy deals are what leads the government to make cuts and more cuts in the Federal Budget and to dedicate its largest share to pay off the debts, making fat bankers and big business even fatter, while pushing more and more of the working people and youth into poverty, while a handful of wealthy parasites are swimming in cash.
What is behind the increase in rates is precisely the economic policy of the government and the capitalists who bleed our people, in order to guarantee their business with the imperialists and big capitalists.
Municipalise and nationalise public transport
The capitalists, the big transport companies, together with the bankers and civil construction companies make huge donations to political parties in their election campaigns and then present the bill later for the help given. One hand washes the other. Municipalities such as Sao Paulo, subsidize fares by extracting more money from us in taxes. The federal government has exempted a growing number of companies from paying taxes and now will certainly unload the price of the fare cuts onto the backs of the workers. This has to stop. The bus companies should be municipalised so that free fares can be guaranteed. The federal government should approve federal funds to subsidize these companies that would become de facto public. This is the battle that opens up for the movement. The metro, as public companies should be federalized along with the re-nationalization and resumption of all rail transportation in the country. No more money should go to the capitalists! The people's money, taxes paid by the people, should be used for the benefit of the people themselves.
How the struggle in the streets evolved
After more than a week of cracking down on any street demonstration, in which even carrying vinegar (to fight tear gas) was viewed as a "crime", the bourgeoisie and its media changed their discourse and began to "condemn" the "repressive" Military Police, conveniently "forgetting" that the police actually carrying out the orders and of their rulers. They then tried to divert parts of the movement into an abstract nationalist and anti-corruption sentiment. The peak of this was when the building of the powerful Sao Paulo bosses’ organisation FIESP (Federation of Industries of the State of São Paulo), in Avenida Paulista, projected a huge flag of Brazil as the demonstration was passing by. They want to remove the red flags and paint everything in the green and yellow of the national flag.
Sudden turns: harbinger of change
Trotsky, analyzing the world situation in the 1930s, explained that the main feature of a pre-revolutionary situation that opened up was sudden changes in the mood of the masses and in the situation between classes.
This is what we have witnessed in Brazil - from June 10 to the 15, they were all for "Law and Order", and the "troublemakers" had to be repressed. A week passed and the strength of the demonstrations threatened to overcome the police and everyone suddenly shifted their stance, "changing their views." The leadership of the PT, with Dirceu at its head, then demanded that negotiations be opened up with the protesters - the Minister of Justice conveniently "forgetting" that he had put the Federal Police at the disposal of Sao Paulo Governor Alckmin (of the right-wing PSDB), and then went on to criticize the actions of the Military Police (PM) in São Paulo. Finally, on June 19 Alckmin and Haddad came out together to announce the revocation of the fare increases.
The situation is indeed rapidly changing; the force of events and the fear that the bourgeoisie has of the people did melt, even if only momentarily, the hardened hearts of their governors and ministers. Lula acted directly, demanding that Sao Paulo mayor Haddad lower the fares.
But, to "guarantee order" is precisely what the bourgeoisie could not do at the moment.
What to do?
In this situation of sudden turns, the right wing gave its answer on June 20 and seems intent on continuing with the line of "moralizing everything" as it did in the coup of 1964. The struggle against PEC 37 has become their main banner. They are doing everything to divide the labour and popular movement. But, what is the response of the main parties and movements?
The Free Pass Movement, MPL, devastated by the exploitation of its marches by the right wing, suspends the demonstrations. But the right wing keeps calling them. Is fear of the masses a response?
The leaderships of the PT and the CUT appear as "lambs". They ask members of the CUT and PT to attend the demonstrations "peacefully". In the case of the PT this almost sounded like a provocation. After all, after the PT's Justice Minister Eduardo Cardoso declared that the Federal Police would support Sao Paulo governor Alckmin, sending the Federal Police to Minas to help the Military Police in the repression (150 soldiers, a symbolic force, not a real one), after the the PT governors of Bahia (Jaques Wagner), Brasilia ( Agnelo) and Rio Grande do Sul (Genro) sent the Military Police to beat up the demonstrators, such an appeal is a scandal and makes it easier for the right wing to instigate the masses against the PT!
The PSTU behaves like the Communist Party in 1933. For a party that declares itself the heir to the ideas of Trotsky, to behave like the Stalinist party of 1933, which attacked the Social Democracy as Social Fascists, uniting in practice with the right-wing Nazis, takes some doing. The position of Esquerda Marxista (Marxist Left) is clear. What is required is a United Workers' Front to defend all the left-wing organisations, to defend the reds. No comrade must be allowed to fall victim of the fascists. Let us do as Mario Pedrosa (a founder of the PT and a Trotskyist) did in 1935 in Cathedral Square - anti-fascist unity to sweep the green (or white) chickens off the streets and squares!
The PSOL, while on the one hand raises - correctly - the need for unity of the left to organise self-defence, it also raises issues which belong to the right wing, such as the struggle against PEC 37.
The PT leaders, after the events, appear completely terrified. José Dirceu has once again stressed the need to listen to the voices on the streets, but what are the voices on the streets saying? Walter Pomar [of the Sao paulo Forum and PT] says correctly that we need to be on the streets and be organized, including a stewarding service in order to defend our banners. That is correct, but in order to demand what?
The problem is simple. If the leadership of the PT does not break with the bourgeoisie, we are not going anywhere. All such statements pale into insignificance in the presence of the repressive that PT leaders such as Bahia governor Jaques Wagner and Brasilia governor Agnelo Queiroz are ordering! The rank and file of the PT must state loudly and clearly: these repressors out of the Party!
Should we abandon the streets? We still think that what is required is unity of all in defence of the most pressing demands and the unity of the left, of all its parties and organizations, to defend themselves against the right wing and the police. Without this, none of the parties on their own, neither PT, PCO, PSTU, PSOL, nor any social movement, MST, MPL, CUT, CONLUTAS, will be able to stand up to the organized right wing. Meetings between parties, assemblies and plenary meetings of unions and trade union confederations, meetings of the student bodies, general meetings uniting different parties, trade unions and movements should be convened to discuss together how to proceed and how to defend ourselves. Everyone has the right to put forward his or her criticisms - and we all must listen and learn by discuss amongst ourselves. But we must unite our forces to fight back against the right wing! It is the policy that Trotsky proposed in 1933 and it is still correct!
- Down with repression! Freedom for all political prisoners!
- Unity of the left against fascism!
- Non-payment of foreign and domestic debt!
- Municipalisation and nationalisation of public transport: zero fares!
- Funds for education and health!
- Struggle for socialism!
- Long live the youth and the struggle to repeal fare increases.
- Long live the struggle of the workers and youth around the world!
Sunday, June 23, 2013
(NOTE: PEC 37 is a constitutional amendment bill being discussed by the Brazilian Congress, which gives the police sole powers to start and lead criminal enquiries, to the detriment of the Public Prosecutor. In part this is a dispute between two bodies of the bourgeois state over powers which bring higher status and higher wages. On the other hand, it is a limited attempt to curtail the powers of the Public Prosecutor’s Office which in the recent period has increasingly acquired the role of a battering ram for a section of the ruling class against the PT. The Public Prosecutor in the recent period has been at the forefront of repression against the workers' and popular movement. Curtailing the powers of this unelected office would be a small step forward from a democratic point of view. The campaign against the amendment has been promoted by the right wing. The slogans against PEC 37 have often gone together with those advocating Supreme Court president Joaquim Barbosa to become the country's president.)