Brazil: The World Cup and the Mass Protests of the Social Movements

Report from Corrente Comunista Revolucionária (RCIT Brazil), 17.6.2014, www.elmundosocialista.blogspot.comand www.thecommunists.net

 

The expectation created by the leaders of the social and political protest movements for the opening of the World Cup was that there would be massive demonstrations. They hoped that there would be a replay of the events of June 2013. However these hopes turned out to be illusions.

The multi-faceted and multi-class crowd who entered the streets last June did not return. Many people became convinced by the government and the media that it would not make sense to participate in the movement called "There Will Be No Cup" since the state had spent so much money in the event.

The centrist left has been politically divided in their analysis of the situation. While the Morenoite PSTU (Brazil section of the LIT-FI) has joined the movement against the World Cup, the Workers' Cause Party (PCO) denounced that the slogan "There Will Be No Cup" would only serve to feed the demands of right-wing parties.

From January until the eve of the opening of the games there were many strikes, mainly workers of public transport and public services in general. The strike of the street cleaners in Rio de Janeiro was an example of a victorious struggle:

* It was a victory against the mayor who threatened to fire 300 street sweepers;

* It was a victory against the judiciary that declared the strike illegal;

* And it was a victory against their union leadership that attempted to reach an agreement with the bosses by massively reducing the striker’s demands

This successful strike was followed by several other strikes in the whole country: by the public school teachers, the drivers of public transport, judiciary workers, etc. It appeared that the closer the date of opening of the World Cup was coming, the more the number of strikes and protests increased.

However, much of the movement was suppressed by the police who acted with brutality against strike pickets. Furthermore, the employers appealed to the judiciary, which, without exception, considered most of the strikes as illegal. However, despite these threats the bus drivers in São Paulo ignored its trade union leadership which tried to sign an agreement with the bosses against the desires of the rank and file workers and went on strike for three days and virtually stopped the city. But the judiciary declared the strike illegal and fined the trade union with 200.000 reais (about 180.000 dollars) . Finally, the strike ended with the help of Valdevan José de Jesus Santos, the treacherous president of the driver’s trade union. Santos told a television network that he "was not surprised by the judiciary’s decision, and we will appeal to the judiciary to cancel the fine. We will appeal the punishment that because we are not guilt." Also said has not intend to carry out a new strike in protest against the decision. "We have no reason to. The union has not called strike, we are just call for judicial proceedings," he said.

The teachers of Rio de Janeiro – both state and county – proceed on strike since May 12 demanding a 20% wage increase and better working conditions. Recently, the teachers in São Paulo ended a strike that lasted 43 days in a very confrontation against the administration of Mayor Fernando Hadad (PT).

The workers of the São Paulo metro, whose union is mostly led by the PSTU, went on strike for five days on the eve of the opening of the World Cup. However, the accumulation of errors by the PSTU was crucial for the defeat of the movement: They do not unify the metro workers strike with the previous strike of bus drivers; after the refusal of the state government to meet the 36% demand of wage increase they lowered their demand to 10%, which was only 1.5% higher than the government’s offer; and in addition they were accused by the government and the press to make an opportunistic and political strike. This strike did not find support from the people, who did not understand why they were without transportation because of a difference of only 1.5%. The result was, again, that the judiciary outlawed the movement and fined the trade union with 100.000 Real (about 90.000 dollars) for each day of strike. The governor of the State of São Paulo, Geraldo Alckmin (PSDB), based on the alleged illegality of the strike, fired 42 strike workers of the metro. The union leaders, instead of calling for an intensification of the strike, canceled it and tried to negotiate the readmission of workers. But the governor was intransigent and kept the layoffs. It was a historic defeat of the subway workers.

The Homeless Workers Movement (MTST), which for months was the leading sector in the campaign against the Cup with massive street protests, was co-opted by the federal and municipal governments (PT) a few days before the start of the Cup. The PT governments promised to fulfill three of the MTST demands: 1) construction of 2000 houses on a plot near the stadium Itaquera; 2) creation of an inter-ministerial committee for the prevention of the forced evictions in the country, aiming to avoid conflicts and police violence; 3) realization of changes in the "Minha Casa, Minha Vida" (My House, My Life) program, which is a program that supposedly should allow for federal housing finance for the poorest people. Given these promises MTST withdrew from the streets.

As a result only a few groups continued to participate in the movement against the World Cup like some social groups independent of the parties, the teachers that are still on strike in Rio de Janeiro, and the few people of the so-called “Black Block”.

The tactic of the PSTU was a fiasco. They – and other of the left – backed the slogan "There will be no World Cup" and therefore prioritized to launch the metro strike on the eve of the event instead of uniting their strike with the struggles of the workers of public transport (buses) and the teachers. Worse, they helped the government to give weight to their demagogic argument that they were doing an "opportunistic strike which is harming the population."

It was also wrong of the PCO to claim that the movement "There will be no World Cup" was led by the right wing opposition. The truth is that the big sponsors and big corporations have invested a lot of money in this project and would never encourage right wing sections to boycott the event.

Moreover, the federal government used all the influence they have within the bureaucracy of the unions and social movements such as the MST (the powerful Movement of the Landless Peasants) to neutralize any broad social movement that could undermine the stability not only of governance but also the World Cup matches. In this sense, the bourgeoisie and the PT government are together as ever to ensure that they make profits together with FIFA.

The real battle between the government and the PT-PMDB and their allies against their traditional opponents of the PSDB and their allies will only start after the end of the World Cup, when the media will put in the agenda the October election for president.

It is urgent to build an authentic revolutionary party which can provide the working class with a leadership which unites the struggles of the different sectors of the workers and combines it with a socialist program to overthrow the capitalist ruling class. The CCR (RCIT in Brazil) is working towards this goal and looks forward to discuss and collaborate with like-minded militants.