Updated November 4, 2018: A few days after I posted the essay below, Jair Bolsonaro was elected as the next president of Brazil. He received 55% of the valid votes to Haddad’s 45%, although a record 30% of the electorate abstained from voting or annulled or blanked their votes. While Fernando Haddad staged a spirited and upbeat campaign and surged in the final two weeks, he did not succeed in mobilizing a broad democratic front against Bolsonaro. Many public officials, intellectuals and celebrities rallied to the cause of democracy and declared votes for Haddad (including some of the prominent jurists involved in anti-corruption proceedings who had previously critiqued and prosecuted the PT). However, key political leaders on the center to center-right spectrum remained silent, or offered ambiguous or tepid support.
The nature and the political meanings of the June protests are not yet clear. The streets of the major cities in Brazil have been taken by a massive number of people not seen since the impeachment of president Fernando Collor de Melo in 1992. At that time, the protesters had a very clear goal: to remove the president from office after a corruption scandal and a series of unpopular measures. The recent protests are much more heterogeneous in terms of participants, demands, and strategies in the streets, mainly regarding the use of violence. From very different point of views, analysts, activists, and politicians try hard to understand the current mobilization’s demands, meanings, and possible outcomes. In this article we try to highlight the relationship between the current street demonstrations and the Brazilian Left, especially the Left organized around the Workers’ Party. We’ll refer mainly to the protests in São Paulo, which we have followed more closely. Continue reading
The Movimiento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra (MST)–the Rural Landless Workers Movement–is the main social movement organization (SMO) of the land reform/tenure movement in Brazil. The origin and characteristics of the MST are traceable to three processes: the social consequences of the Brazilian modernization of agriculture in the 1980-1990s, the emergence of Liberation Theology in the 1970s, and the legacy of pre-1964 coup land struggles.
Origin and goal. The MST was founded in 1984 as a result of the coordination of peasants’ local struggles for land. In 1975, during the last authoritarian regime, the Brazilian Catholic Church created the ecumenical Commissão Pastoral da Terra (CPT), the commission for the organization of rural Comunidades Eclesais de Base (CEB). Inspired by Liberation Theology, the purpose of the CPT was to organize peasants for land reform (Poletto and Canuto 2002). Continue reading
As Mimi Keck and Rebecca Abers described in a thoughtful set of posts here last month, Brazil has recently experienced its biggest national protest wave since the impeachment movement in 1992. Coming as they did on the heels of the Gezi Park protests in Turkey, and beginning to ebb just as Egyptians were returning to the street in huge numbers (with tragic consequences), the June 2013 protests were, in equal measures, exhilarating, perplexing, and troubling. Keck and Abers have provided excellent discussions of the historical context and political questions raised by the protest. I’d like to take their discussion a step further to ponder some of the analytical and tactical issues that I saw in play, focusing in particular on the intense rejection of partisanship that was one of the hallmarks of these protests. In the process I hope to raise some broader questions about the relationship between social movements, political parties, and institutional politics the recent wave of global protest. Continue reading
It has by now become commonplace to interpret the June Days of Brazil (the surprisingly massive mobilizations that occurred in over a hundred cities between June 6 and July 1, 2013 to protest government failure and fraud, and to call upon the state to fix Brazil’s broken public services), as an expression of deep-seated dissatisfaction on the part of the new middle class, fruit of the PT’s policies over the past decade, now paying up to a quarter of their income in taxes, with the sorry state of their nation’s public services. It has also been common to point to the horrifically wasteful sums of public monies being spent on the mega-sporting events of the World Cup and Olympics as triggers for these mobilizations. While I think these interpretations are basically correct, I want to focus in what follows less on what prompted the mobilizations, and more on what they may mean for the future. Continue reading
This post and its companion piece by Rebecca Abers draw heavily upon an ongoing email conversation about the Brazilian protests between Rebecca Abers, Kathryn Hochstetler, Margaret Keck, and Marisa von Bülow, and these essays have benefited from all of their suggestions.
At its height, the surprising wave of street demonstrations that rocked Brazil in June reached over 100 cities and involved well over a million people. Among foreign observers, it seemed to invite comparison with the almost concurrent demonstrations in Turkey, triggered by urban renewal plans for Istanbul’s Taksim Gezi Park, the Occupy movement in the US, Chilean student protests, and Argentina’s gigantic panelaços, to say nothing of the Arab Spring. In almost all of these protest events, young people played a prominent—even predominant—role, and social media was widely used to mobilize people to come out onto the streets and provide information and images. There has clearly been diffusion of symbols, styles, and to some extent a rejection of traditional rally repertoires involving podiums, speakers, loudspeakers, and the like. On a host of social network sites, participants have condemned leaders and hierarchy, embraced horizontality and self-representation, and disavowed representative institutions and organizations. Continue reading