[05/19/06] MST Informa #117: Against barbarism, study; against individualism, solidarity

Dear friends of the MST

In the name of our commitment to the struggle against obscurantism and backwardness, two strong instruments of domination of the Brazilian elite, the MST has worked to ensure basic teaching for thousands of children, youth, and adults in rural areas in more than 1200 primary public schools and in dozens of secondary schools installed in our settlements. Besides this, in the name of the same struggle, the MST saw the need for a National School for activists from the popular movements, a project that culminated in the January 2005 inauguration of the Florestan Fernandes National School in the municipality of Guararema, in São Paulo state.
The main goal of our National School is to be a space for training in the most diverse areas of knowledge not only for MST activists but also for the activists of other rural and urban social movements, from Brazil and other countries in Latin America.

In the first year of activities, we held various courses at a superior level in the areas of Political Philosophy, Theory of Knowledge, Rural Sociology, Political Economy of Agriculture, Social History of Brazil, International Situation, Administration and Social Administration and Management (in partnership with the Faculty of Santo André), a course in specialization in Rural Education (in partnership with the University of Brasilia) and a course in Latin-American studies (in partnership with the Federal University of Juiz de Fora).

We have other partnerships for courses that are being administered at the universities themselves throughout Brazil. Besides this, the School offered numerous seminars, talks, and conferences held by professors from various universities and Brazilian faculties and by renowned intellectuals from other countries. To participate in these activities, the School received around 1500 students, activists from various social movements. The School also holds support activities for the community of the district of Paratei, where it is located, emphasizing in particular courses in computers and access to the Internet, offered to the poor youth of the area.

For a teaching philosophy, based on the need to preserve its subordination to the interests and decisions of the movements that are organizing the various courses, especially the MST, the School tries to preserve the maximum autonomy in relation to public and private institutions. For this reason, its activities are maintained thanks to the financial contribution of the movements that send students or the students themselves or thanks to the agreements with the universities or other teaching institutions. The great majority of the courses count on the voluntary unpaid donation of its teachers. As for the students, they take on all the tasks and internal service of the school such as cleaning, kitchen help, gardening, etc. In other words, the School is also a school of permanent solidarity involving the community that lives in it.

However, our permanent costs are high, which is the reason we depend on the solidarity of our friends. But the contribution to the projects with solidarity groups is not sufficient and we need your support. In general, our courses each function in stages of 3 to 4 weeks length. At the end of each stage, the students return to their places of origin, throughout the country, in a system of alternating theory and practice. At each stage, for train tickets alone, we pay an average of $R400 per student and about $R30 a day for food, lodging, and teaching material.

When we founded our School, we assumed that we could not continue hoping, generation after generation, that such a necessary change of policy of allocating public funds would finally come to change and improve, objectively and really, the living conditions for the great majority of our people. Of course for this majority to assume active and competent control of their own history, demanding that indispensable social changes be carried out, they need to appropriate the knowledge that is denied in the name of preservation and perpetuation of this unequal social order. That was what led us to take on the task of opening access to this knowledge to those who were excluded from it. It is such a giant task because of the misery in the Brazilian countryside. A task that demands all our courage and dedication of our dreams and ideals for justice and solidarity.

In the name of these dreams and ideals, we decided to ask for the solidarity of your help so that we can continue to teach these poor students – urban and rural workers – and their children.

Solidarity is the most beautiful human quality.

São Paulo, May 2006

Adelar Pizetta (General Coordinator of National School)

Alípio Freire (Friends of the School Committee)

Heloisa Fernandes (Group of volunteer teachers)

If you wish to contribute to the Florestan Fernandes National School, make your donation to the Friends of the MST online at www.mstbrazil.org and mark it for the school.
Brief news items

People’s Court put Aracruz on trial for environmental crimes

Aracruz Cellulose, a foreign-funded company for the monoculture of cellulose, was put on trial in the People’s Court of European Transnationals. Witnesses included an indigenous Guarani and a woman farmer from the MST. The event was held from May 10 – 13 as part of the second session of the Forum for Alternatives in Vienna, Austria. Aracruz was accused as the company responsible for the creation of the “green desert� of eucalyptus and pines and for its irregular performance in the country, including lack of respect for environmental laws and the toxic effects on biodiversity and water resources in the regions where it plants. The corporation is also responsible for the destruction of a good part of the Atlantic Forest, where 220 thousand hectares were used to plant eucalyptus, creating the “green desert�.

Sign the statement in support of the women of La Via Campesina

The women from La Via Campesina are being persecuted following the occupation of an area belonging to Aracruz Cellulose in Rio Grande do Sul. The goal of the mobilization was to denounce the social and environmental consequences of the “green desert� created by the monoculture of eucalyptus. The Barba Negra Ranch holds the main production unit for Aracruz saplings of eucalyptus and pines and includes a laboratory for the cloning of saplings. To sign the manifesto to be sent to the governor of Rio Grande do Sul, go to http://www.mst.org.br/interar/mural/mulheresmanifesto.htm