5 Demands in Brazil: A Million Marchers Across Country Say "It's Not About 20 Cents"

Search form

5 Demands in Brazil: A Million Marchers Across Country Say "It's Not About 20 Cents"

5 Demands in Brazil: A Million Marchers Across Country Say "It's Not About 20 Cents"
Mon, 6/24/2013 - by Jerome Roos
This article originally appeared on ROAR Mag

Burning cars in Rio. Violent clashes between police and protesters in Salvador. Security forces desperately trying to keep the angry masses out of Congress and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Brasília. A riotous mob looting stores in Porto Alegre. But also smiley faces and a festive atmosphere in São Paulo and dozens of other cities, as people finally encountered each other in the public sphere again — struggling for the right to be heard and for the dignity of ruling their own destiny. Struggling, in other words, for real democracy.

These were just some of the images emerging from Brazil on Thursday night as the country witnessed yet another explosion of popular outrage following Monday’s groundbreaking and historic demonstrations. With millions marching peacefully in more than 100 cities, Thursday’s protests were most certainly Brazil’s biggest in decades. What started over an increase in bus and metro fares last week has now exploded into a spontaneous and furious feast of democracy. And clearly the government has no clue how to handle the situation.

Just as it became commonplace to say that the Turkish protests were not just about a park, it is by now already a cliché to note that Brazil’s protests are not just about the 20 centavos increase in the fee of bus and metro tickets. Last week’s violent police crackdown on the mostly peaceful bus fare protests appears to have opened Pandora’s Box, allowing a wide range of long-repressed grievances to come pouring out. The government’s announcement on Wednesday that the bus fare increases would be reversed thus did little to stem the unrest.

Throughout Brazil, millions are now expressing their outrage over the country’s crumbling infrastructure, rising inflation, poor public services, vast inequality, violent crime, widespread police brutality, rampant political corruption — and a government that seems more concerned about pleasing private investors and pumping billions worth in taxpayer money into useless World Cup stadiums than meeting the needs of its own people. As most protesters see it, the ruling Workers’ Party has long since sold out to the dictatorship of the markets.

“There’s been a democratic explosion on the streets,” Marcos Nobre, a professor at the University of Campinas, told the New York Timeson Wednesday. “The Workers Party thinks it represents all of the progressive elements in the country, but they’ve been power now for a decade. They’ve done a lot, but they’re now the establishment.” One of the activists confirmed this analysis, arguing that the protests are ultimately targeted at “politicians who do not represent us”, leaving the people with only one alternative: to take to the streets en masse.

Meanwhile, the autonomy of the protesters places President Rousseff in a difficult position. According to a Datafolha poll, 84% of the protesters do not back any political party. While this does not necessarily make them revolutionary anarchists, it does show that there is something deeper at play than just frustration with the government itself: the real frustration here is with the failure of the system of representation as such — a theme that has kept coming back from the European anti-austerity protests and the worldwide Occupy movement to the Taksim uprising.

But while the general pattern of the protests in Brazil shows an unmistakable similarity to the ongoing uprising in Turkey, we have to recognize that the context in which the two are taking place is radically different. Turkey is ruled by a megalomaniac and increasingly autocratic Islamist madman who in recent weeks has displayed an undeniable tendency towards the fascistic and the delusional. The protesters are Erdogan’s natural enemy; he knows they will never vote for him again so his only concern is with their violent repression.

The same cannot be said of Rousseff, a former Marxist guerrilla, who has been forced to praise the protests and push state governors into reversing the measures that initially sparked the unrest. Realizing that last week’s police violence served as a major catalyst for the movement, she has urged restraint on the side of the police and has tried to start a dialogue with protesters. But the leaderless and diffuse nature of the movement makes such a dialogue practically impossible, leaving the government dazed and confused about how to handle the unrest.

Earlier this week, a live poll on a major commercial TV station showed — beyond any doubt and to the dismay of the presenter himself — that the vast majority of Brazilians do not only agree with the protests but with the riots as well. Another Datafolha poll found that 77% of the population is in favor of the protests. With such a stellar approval rating, Rousseff — who is standing for re-election next year — can hardly be seen cracking down on the demonstrators. Even if she wants to, she simply cannot be seen pulling a Tayyip-style move.

But while Rousseff’s precarious position provides the movement with opportunities, it also implies dangers. The greatest threat is that the right-wing and business interests, through their control over the commercial media, will try to use the left-wing protests for their own political goals and to further destabilize the Workers’ Party. As one organizer puts it, “we are criticizing the government from the left, and we want nothing to do with those anti-government or right-wing movements. That could be their last strategy to try to rid us of influence.”

And so the future of the budding real democracy movement in Brazil remains wide open. One of the immediate outcomes may in fact well be similar to the ones in Greece and Spain: the ultimate discrediting of the Workers’ Party leading to its defeat in next year’s elections. But while the return to power of the right would by no means improve the situation in social and political terms, this possibility should not be read as a reason for despair. If anything, the ongoing protests show that — even if Brazil’s “socialist aristocracy” may long since have caved in to neoliberal orthodoxy — the radical aspirations of Brazil’s massive population are now more alive than ever.

If anything, the ongoing protests in Brazil are an awakening from a long slumber. At long last, the giant has risen. Millions of bodies are now resonating to the rhythm of rebellion, mustering all their strength to collectively challenge the oppressive institutions and sham democracy of the capitalist state — and to re-affirm the dignity of the long-forgotten masses. As Latin America’s biggest country explodes in a furious feast of democracy, one thing is clear: the global wave of struggles that kicked off in 2011 is now more alive than ever.

Article Tabs

Deutsche Bank, Libor, Georgina Philippou, Barclays

The penalties on Germany’s largest bank also involve a guilty plea to the Department of Justice.

Edward Snowden, whistleblowers, NSA surveillance programs, American Civil Liberties Union, Reform Government Surveillance coalition, Patriot Act

According to a worldwide poll, a large and important segment of global society sees Edward Snowden as hero and whistleblower — and its members are the future.

police killings, police brutality, Freddie Gray

Outrage over the police killing of 25-year-old Freddie Gray in Baltimore continued on Thursday after hundreds demonstrated in front of the Western District police station where Gray was taken following his arrest on April 12.

This Earth Day, an apology to future generations from Prince Ea.

Trans-Pacific Partnership, TPP, fast track authority, Bernie Sanders, wealth inequality, income inequality, populist candidate, money in politics, Citizens United

Whether or not this opponent of the billionaire class, corporate greed, Wall Street and environmental degradation – and this champion of working people, the unemployed, retirees, and student debtors – is our next president will be entirely up to us.

The number of homeless children has grown by 60 percent in the past six years.

Posted 6 days 3 hours ago

“We are convinced that the entire public interest is at stake, whether water, energy, health, and public transport – the communities are largely deprived of their ability to act."

Posted 5 days 2 hours ago
Danish wind power, Danish renewables movement, wind power technology

Wind power in Denmark has created tens of thousands of jobs, yet it's still facing stiff opposition from corporations and politicians.

Posted 4 days 2 hours ago
99%, occupy, OWS

What happened to Occupy should serve as a warning to everyone about the dangerous fusion of corporate interests and our public institutions.

Posted 4 days 2 hours ago
fast track legislation, fast track authority, Trans-Pacific Partnership, TPP, Bernie Sanders, corporate trade deal

This job-killing trade deal has been negotiated in secret, drafted with input by special interests and corporate lobbyists but not from the American people.

Posted 2 days 21 hours ago
austerity policies, March for the Homeless, homelessness policy, homelessness protests, No More Deaths On Our Streets

On April 15, Manchester Town Hall was in lockdown as anti-austerity protestors attempted to storm the building – part of a March for the Homeless campaign aimed at raising awareness around homelessness issues.

mass incarceration, black imprisonment

For every 100 black women ages 25 to 54 who are not in jail, there are only 83 black men – the rest are missing largely because of early deaths or because they are behind bars.

fast track legislation, fast track authority, Trans-Pacific Partnership, TPP, Bernie Sanders, corporate trade deal

This job-killing trade deal has been negotiated in secret, drafted with input by special interests and corporate lobbyists but not from the American people.

police brutality, police killings

The Post’s analysis doesn't confirm that race was a factor in dozens of shootings, but the fact that more than 75% of the officers involved were white, and two-thirds of the victims were minorities, leads observers to believe race played a factor.

Edward Snowden, whistleblowers, NSA surveillance programs, American Civil Liberties Union, Reform Government Surveillance coalition, Patriot Act

According to a worldwide poll, a large and important segment of global society sees Edward Snowden as hero and whistleblower — and its members are the future.

Sign Up