Stedile: Structural Reform on the agenda for the 11th July mobilizations

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

We have not had such vigorous street mobilizations since the campaign for “Rights Now” in the '80s.  The protests which exploded with the youth indignation were just the tip of the iceberg of the profound social and economic problems that persist in our society.  On one hand, the big cities have become a living hell, where workers pay high costs for low quality public transport.  Besides that, they spend two or three hours a day traveling, a pure waste of time.

Those who managed to buy an automobile, financed by international finance capital, are realizing that they paid dearly for the ability not to be able to move.  The auto assembly companies and the associated banks have never before sent so much money abroad.

For another thing, the political life of the country is a disgrace.  The congressmen only represent their campaign financiers.  The judiciary is an oligarchic power, the last of the state powers not yet republican.

Every day there is news about their corruption, which goes unpunished.  Even the President of the Federal Supreme Court (STF), Joaquim Barbosa, used public money to go to a national soccer team match .... the Globo network did not denounce the fact and, coincidentally, has just hired the son of the illustrious judge.  Some coincidence!

Globo itself was fined by the Federal Treasury for evading millions in taxes, for the purchase of the transmission rights for the 2002 World Cup: according to the Treasury, the company owes R$  650 million ($320 million US) to the public purse.  The broadcaster also received from the  state and municipal governments of Rio de Janeiro the small sum of R$ 20 million (nearly 10 million USD) to promote, with public money, the show of only two hours for the Confederations Cup draw, held in the Rio Center last year.  The Globo network thinks it is the voice of the people.  Stupid fraud.  It barely manages to fool the viewers of the television soaps.  One of the most common slogans of the youth on the streets was: “Globo network out!”.  Thus, young people suddenly began to act against the monopoly of the broadcaster, and for democratization of the mass media in the whole country.

During the protests, Dilma's government had to get off its pedestal to talk to the streets, and proposed a political reform, a constituent assembly and a popular plebiscite.  In the end the president had to meet with the organized people, which she had not done in the two and a half years of her mandate.

The elites are trying to control the streets and impose a right-wing agenda.  However, they are failing.  They surpassed themselves in stirring up an unprepared police force, and infiltrating fascist groups and police intelligence services, to provoke violence and misrepresent the movement.  They failed.  The more they repress, the more the people rebels.

Trade Union and Popular movement on the streets

The time has come for the people organized in popular movements, in the trade unions and in the pastorals they have mobilized.  There has not been such broad popular unity since the defeat in the 1989 elections.

Various assemblies have united left-wing parties, trade union confederations and organized social movements around a common political platform, starting from the fight for free, good quality public transport, and moves on to structural reforms that the working class needs and has fought for for a long time.

The first day of struggle of this band of organizations is set for the 11th July.  There will be stoppages, strikes and marches across the country, to confront the conservative sectors and push the government to the left.

One of the points of this common platform is political reform.  The rules of Brazilian politics have to be wiped clean to democratize them and create mechanisms for effective popular participation.  Among the items that need to be changed are: exclusively public financing of electoral campaigns, the right of the people to call popular plebiscites on the basis of petitions, and recall of elected representatives who do not fulfill their campaign promises.

There is only one way to make these changes:  call an Exclusive Constituent Assembly.  The majority of the politicians in Congress, elected from campaigns that cost millions, paid for by big corporations, will not accept a change in the political system.  So the only way to get a constituent assembly is to call a popular plebiscite immediately.

President Dilma was encouraged by the voice of the streets to promote this debate.  However, her political and parliamentary base began to boycott it. Placing all possible obstacles in the way.  Therefore this dispute has to be resolved on the streets.  The reaction to the idea of a plebiscite and the constituent assembly shows the resistance to change and reinforces the need to carry out these proposals.

Necessary Changes

Apart from the political reform, there is a set of historical demands of the trade union and popular movements that are stuck in the throat of the people and in the drawers of the palaces of government.  Here are six points of the platform of the working class organizations:


  1. Passing the bill for reduction of the working week to 40 hours, with no reduction in wages.  In Europe, capitalism in crisis already has a 36 hour week.
  2. Forget the constitutional amendment which implements subcontracting in labor relations, and buries the CLT that guarantees workers' rights.
  3. A progressive tax reform, so that taxes bear more heavily on the rich, with a wealth tax, and reduces tax for poor workers.
  4. Priority in the use of public resources for health, education and quality public transport, instead of paying the national debt and the primary budget surplus.
  5. Suspension of the auctions of the oil deposits and mineral exploitation rights, which only benefit transnational corporations.
  6. Implement Zero Fares for public transport for the whole population.  This proposal of technically viable with the investment of existing public resources, without the need to raise taxes.  Just compare the Sao Paulo municipal subsidy on transport, around R$ 1 billion, with the money spent on the Morumbi tunnel, R$ 2.4 billion to attend to the needs of the Sao Paulo elite.  Fortunately the bidding process begun by the Kassab regime has been suspended, after the outcry from the streets.

Growing Mobilization

In several cities in Brazil, sections of workers and social sections have continued with massive actions.  Oil, bank, metal workers and teachers have intensified their mobilizations.

In Sao Paulo, the civilian police and prison guard trade unions have been in action.  There have also been popular revolts in several cities, against abusive toll road prices, as well as actions by truck drivers.

Rural workers across the country, organized in dozens of social movements, such as the National Federation of Agricultural workers (Confederação Nacional dos Trabalhadores na Agricultura - Contag), the Federation of Family Farming Workers (Federação dos Trabalhadores na Agricultura Familiar - Fetraf), the Small Farmers' Movement (Movimento dos Pequenos Agricultores - MPA), fishermen, descendants of escaped African slaves, indigenous poor, rural women, the rural pastorals, as well as the MST, the Landless Rural Workers' Movement,  have joined the mobilizations.

The rural movements have drawn up a common platform, that they will deliver to President Dilma at a meeting, with the following points:


  1. Recover national sovereignty over Brazilian land.  We propose that the government annul land purchases already made, and expropriate all land controlled by foreign companies.
  2. Accelerate the Agrarian Reform, and immediately give settlement rights to the thousands of families camped on roadsides outside the farms awaiting expropriation.
  3. Public policies to support, encourage and give loans for the production of cheap, healthy food, without poisons, and to strengthen rural workers.  The adoption of structural programs for rural youth and women.
  4. Guarantees for the rights of rural people, with the immediate recognition and delimiting of indigenous lands, and the lands of descendants of escaped African slaves, and rights for those affected by dam, fishing territories and others.
  5. Immediate prohibition of agrochemicals already banned in other countries, the prohibition of spraying by air, and policies for the reduction of agrochemical use.  A profound review of the policy of GMO use, with social control.
  6. Implementation by the government of a policy to control deforestation in the whole country and support for the recuperation of degraded areas, and reforestation by family and peasant agriculture.
  7. Reversal of the privatization of natural resources like water, energy, mining, forests, rivers and seas.  We propose the withdrawal of the 'regime of urgency' in the national congress for the Mining Code bill (“Código de Mineração”), and that the government/congress promote a broad national debate with Brazilian workers, to produce a new Code in line with the interests of the Brazilian people.
  8. Immediate implementation of programs to eradicate illiteracy and guarantee schools for all rural communities.
  9. Suspension of all the privatization auctions of irrigated areas in the Northeast, and their immediate assignation, by the INCRA, to settlements for family and small farming agriculture.  The adoption of structural policies to democratize access to water, and help for families to deal with droughts.
  10.  End of the Kandir law, which exempts from tax the big companies that export agricultural, energy and mining raw materials.

Thus 11th July will be a day of great national mobilization, with millions of workers on the streets across the country, demanding real, deep and structural changes, like the political reform which depends on a popular plebiscite being held.