The Fight for the Right to Public Transportation - Free and With Quality - Under Control of Workers in Brazil

The Fight for the Right to Public Transportation - Free and With Quality - Under Control of Workers in Brazil

14.6.2013, El Mundo Socialista,


Note by the Editorial Board: We reprint this report from an important struggle in Brazil published by the socialist blog El Mundo Socialista.


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The Free Pass Movement (MPL-in Portuguese) is a Brazilian social movement that advocates the adoption of zero tariffs for transportation. The movement was founded on a session at the World Social Forum in 2005, in Porto Alegre-Brazil.

For some years the Free Pass Movement, nationwide, has spoken against the increase in bus fares. They not called much attention from the press. The News about then were just 5 seconds in TV newscasts. It was then in middle of the second term of the Lula government. Such increases in the passages bothered, but did not cause anger. Inflation, even manipulated and debased, was under control, with the dollar's value artificially lowered by the Obama policy, (dollars flooding the world economy). But in the U.S. and in Europe the crisis was already a harsh reality since2008, hundreds of thousands of layoffs in the public and private sector on both sides of the Atlantic. But Brazil was as if it were not part of this planet. While Greece, Spain, Portugal, Cyprus (smaller economy countries in Europe) seemed from another world and we had nothing to do with it. The images and news from these countries, and more, the general strikes in France, Italy, etc, the maximum that caused in the Brazilian population was kind of a relief not to be at the center of this crisis.

But recent events have been warning us that we would not be immune to the global economic crisis. Decline in GDP, industrial growth stagnated, mild increase in the value of the dollar, retake of the interest rate by the Central Bank of Brazil, public investment and private investment almost frozen. Heavy layoffs in the manufacturing sector, including high-tech as the plant Embraer (military aircraft) in São José dos Campos. Definitely the government of Dilma Rousseff did not have the financial stability from its predecessor Lula da Silva, and did not have the same ease that former President to hold the mass movements and even some sectors of union leaders under the tutelage of his party, the PT. The number of strikes has increased considerably in the last twelve months. The Brazilian economic miracle touted internationally as revenue had something similar to the industrial centers of China - good rates of employment among the low wages and controlled inflation (or manipulated). So the strikes were necessary for the workers, or not to lose even more purchasing power, or only to get small crumbs. But even these strikes were controlled by the unions bureaucracy of PT - PcdoB-PSB-PSOL and even Morenist PSTU-LIT (in Sao Jose dos Campos).

In recent months what we see is an increase in violence in the country-side, especially the land dispute between landowners and indigenous communities. There is a growing sector of the extreme right taking up more space with their diatribes xenophobic, racist, homophobic, wishful of military dictatorship. The president of the "Human Rights Commission" in the House of Representatives, Marcos Feliciano, is a Protestant minister (from the Church Assembly of God) that has a lot in common with the TEA PARTY, (most radical sector of the U.S. right) when he states that Africa is a continent cursed by God. This caused immense upheaval of the Black Movement.

To complete: the last twelve months of official inflation reached, as the government says, to 6.5 percent. Taking into account that this index is manipulated (not only in Argentina), it may be at least double of that. The beans, staple food in Brazil increased from an average of 4R$ the kilogram two years ago to 8R$ this month. The poorest people still live with Family Purse Bonus (a kind of Bonus from Federal govern for the poorest family not to starve), but it does not solve the problem of poverty. While thousands of poor people are being evicted from areas near the football (soccer)stadiums with the complicity of the govern of States and Federal government on behalf of the Football World Cup in 2014. And the press are not ashamed to boast that more than 1 billion dollars of financial governments are being sent for the national and international capitalist entrepreneurs, to the delight of FIFA and the bourgeoisie that controls the sectors of Construction, tourism, hotels, etc..

In this context, six months after the inauguration of the new mayors of thousands of Brazilian cities, they announced an increase in ticket prices of public transport (controlled by the private sector), the Movement Free Pass, which previously had no expression has then called for nationwide protests, with popular support we have not seen since the end of military dictatorship, when millions of people took to the streets for the right to direct and secret vote for president. The difference between the prices previous and the proposed differentiate from a few cents. In São Paulo it goes from RS 3.00 to R$3.20, but for the urban worker, who already receives a low salary, which saw their purchasing power being eaten by inflation, and he had no real salary increase, he felt in his pocket all the increase of general prices and especially that of public transport which he needs to go to work everyday to ensure his little salary, the increase was the last straw.

In extremely truculent repression of the military security of the protests that have happened these past few days (mostly last day 13/06) traditional rightist governments (PSDB-PMDB) and the Popular Front governments (PT-PCdoB) did not make any difference. The Mayor of the city of São Paulo, Fernando Haddad from the PT (Popular Front), and the state government of São Paulo Geraldo Alckmin from PSDB (traditional right wing) committed one of the most violent repressions on the popular movement against the rise transportation prices that is only compared to Tahrir Square of Egypt's Mubarak and now the Erdogan government in Turkey. The simultaneous images on television in Turkey Taksim Square and the images of repression in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro are symbolic for who serves the bourgeois state: just the bourgeoisie. The police arrested 230 protesters; some were arrested simply because they were carrying bottles of vinegar to ward off the tear gas. Justice system made tough measures, most have been released, but the few who remain in prison (at least 4) were charged with conspiracy and destruction of Public Property, and the bail is 20 thousand reais (about ten thousand dollars). They are political prisoners.

Everything indicates that the violent repression was a shot in the foot of the governments. The more increased repression, more people were joining the movement in these four manifestations. The next meeting is scheduled for Monday.

* No to the increase of prices for public transportation!

* Immediate and unconditional freedom for all political prisoners!

* Free Pass and nationalization of transport companies!

* Transportation has to be public and under control of the workers