Third round of fights

brasilobserver - Dec 19 2014
Photo: Tanda Melo

(Leia em Português)

In 2015, the construction of a broad and democratic space to coordinate and unify social demands is absolutely necessary

By Miguel Leme, from CSP – Conlutas

The year of 2014 will surely be remembered in Brazil for the various struggles of by the youth and workers in the face of economic and political exhaustion.

The first half of 2014 was marked by some important strikes, such as that of the street sweepers in Rio de Janeiro along with bus drivers and education workers several states, followed by federal employees,  underground workers in Sao Paulo and the struggles of the Homeless Workers Movement (MTST) and other popular movements for housing. There were also several demonstrations opposed to the excessive public spending ahead of Brazil’s hosting of the World Cup.

Most of these claims, although not unified were eventually victorious, showing the weight given to public concerns following the mass demonstrations of June 2013. They also revealed the progressive aspect of the actions organised by the youth and workers through representative movements.

In the second half of the year, even as further strikes ensued, especially of the postal workers, national banks and public universities, public attention was firmly on the bigger picture with all eyes on the presidential election.

The election result showed increasing disenchantment for political institutions. In the second round, more than 44 million people did not vote or voted blank. The main reason for the increase of disbelief was the inevitable indifference following 12 years of successive PT (Workers Party) governments. During this period, Lula and Rousseff followed increasingly neoliberal policies and corrupt methods that caused national outcry, particularly in the “mensalão” and, more recently, “petrolão” cases.

Although the election saw important electoral growth of PSOL (Socialism and Freedom Party), it is undeniable that the majority of the population, especially the youth, saw Marina Silva (PSB – Socialist Party) and Aécio Neves (PSDB – Social Democracy Party) as possible alternatives. None of them, however, presented a fundamental difference in relation to Dilma Rousseff’s economic policy. As is known, Social Democrats, when at the presidency of the country, put in place a policy expressed by privatisation, neoliberal reforms, wage reductions, spending cuts in the social sectors and repression and criminalisation of social movements.

As there were more similarities than differences between Rousseff and Neves, in the second round marketers were forced to perform, a campaign of “deconstruction” based on personal attacks. But after the second round, due to the worsening economic situation in the country, Dilma Rousseff made it clear that she will end up implementing many of the ideas she criticised in her presiendital opponents. The first measure was to increase the basic interest rate and announce the new Finance Minister, Joaquim Levy, indicated by the bankers.

The current economic team has reported that some rates and price adjustments are now needed. There have already been increases in gasoline and the next one will be in energy tariffs. The attacks on public income, however, do not stop. For 2015 the government plans to increase spending cuts and resume the privatisation of highways, ports and airports, in addition to labour and social security neoliberal reforms.

As if these attacks were not enough, a water crisis is reaching a critical point in important states, such as São Paulo, Minas Gerais and Rio de Janeiro. In the specific case of São Paulo, over 75% of the population have had their lives hindered by lack of water. And the governor Geraldo Alckmin (PSDB), while still denying that there is rationing going on, will be required to anticipate the end of the classes in state schools.

Given this reality, some industrial sectors, such as beverages, textile and chemical, reported to be forced to lay off workers. Though we live one of the largest droughts in history of São Paulo, the great responsible for this water crisis are the successive governments of the Social Democrats in the State. In twenty years, they have not built a single reservoir for the collection and treatment of water.

To ensure water for the population and stop new attacks from Dilma Rousseff’s government, the construction of a broad and democratic space to coordinate and unify all these struggles in the society needs to happen in 2015. This involves the implementation of a National Meeting of Social Movements.

Read more: Brasil Observer #23