Occupy Movements Around the World: How Is Brazil's Different?

Search form

Occupy Movements Around the World: How Is Brazil's Different?

Occupy Movements Around the World: How Is Brazil's Different?
This article originally appeared on Huffington Post

Spain's Indignados. Egypt's Tahrir Square. Occupy Wall Street. Now, Turkey's Occupy Gezi and Brazil's own distinctive movement. These local moments of a global Occupy movement represent a new stage in the history of protest.

"Horizontalist" movements like these, which emphasize direct democracy and collective decision making over specific parties, transcend the political spectrum. They claim that the financially and politically privileged have lost touch with the citizenry and with the public goods governments are supposed to provide. They challenge the corruption of local, national, and global elites.

Apart from these commonalities, the movements do have differences. One of these is violence. Brazil, Turkey and Egypt have suffered more explicit and extreme violence than other "occupy" struggles. In some cases, Turkish colleagues report that the state's agents provocateurs, posing as protesters, threw molotov cocktails in order to justify police violence. In Brazil, on the other hand, after a week of police brutality, President Dilma Rousseff praised the Rio police for restraint on Monday night.

Furthermore, Brazil's ruling party is grounded in the workers' struggle for more rights; few other elites worry about "being on the wrong side of history," as Gilberto Carvalho, Rousseff's secretary general, expressed. Indeed, the youth wing of the ruling Workers Party has itself expressed solidarity with the protesters. No wing of the ruling Turkish party has come out in support of Occupy Gezi.

Brazil is also different because it has a civil society accustomed to struggle, learned in how popular participation can change national trajectories. Indeed, its innovations in participatory democracy have taught the world that direct public participation can make the work of government better and fairer.

Yet at the same time, Brazil's Workers Party government is seduced by the allures of a great power potlatch, as evidenced in the enormous resources being funneled toward hosting the World Cup next year and Olympics two years later. The fact that Brazilians can protest this allocation of resources as a sign of the corruption of public values is testimony to Brazil's legacy of participatory democracy.

Where will Brazil's horizontalist movement lead?

Given the novelty of these movements, we have no longstanding theory on which to base predictions. Movements have cycles and rhythms, but precisely because they are acts of creative worldmaking, they can defy expectations. Occupy movements on a world scale continue to evolve.

Their trajectory depends more on government response than the movements themselves. If the authorities negotiate with protesters, listen to the protests, and devise ways to accommodate their just concerns, the protest will fade sooner, yielding new policies and practices addressing injustice. If authorities respond with violence, the movement may lose a few faint of heart, but the core of the movement will feel even more righteous in its commitment to escalating the conflict. In such violence, nobody wins.

But these movements offer hope, including in Brazil.

Occupy movements consist of rings of participants. Their cores are built around those who have years of movement experience and are more directly committed to mobilizing for their sense of justice. The outer ring includes those who continue to see value in organizing around electoral contest. Brazil has many not only in the core, but also in that outer ring.

How will the response to protests affect upcoming elections? Many of those in the Workers' Party came to politics through popular struggle. For them to be in the office and not in the streets is fraught with contradiction, and real emotion.

Those occupying this outer ring may decide the course of democracy's future.

To the extent it can highlight outcomes of the people's struggles in the priorities of their elected leaders, representative democracy may regain some legitimacy. To the extent the elite misses the point of protest, Brazil's democracy is itself at risk. And that's a risk the world over.

Gianpaolo Baiocchi is associate professor of sociology and international relations, and Michael D. Kennedy is professor of sociology and international relations, at the Watson Institute for International Relations, Brown University.

 
 
 
 
 

Article Tabs

There’s no way policymakers can adequately address inequality in the United States overall without recognizing the effects of the racial wealth gap.

There seems to be a method to the madness of winner-take-all capitalism.

Last year, the top 25 hedge fund managers took home, on average, almost $1 billion each – and even run-of-the-mill portfolio managers at large hedge funds averaged $2.2 million each.

New Scottish media platforms are thriving as the region's eclectic, creative, evolving, non-corporate and critical news landscape looks to grow even further into a media challenging the status qu

Jeff Clements, money in politics, Powell Memo, Corporations Are Not People, Citizens United, Free Speech for People

After Citizens United, says Jeff Clements, “I felt that I couldn't just leave it at that, that democracy is really on the line, that the country is on the line – I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that humanity is on the line.”

There’s never been a better time to organize a general strike in the U.S. than right now, with both corporate owners and political leaders pillaging public resources for their own private gain.

Posted 4 days 11 hours ago

Now rolling into to its fourth month, the video game consumer movement known as #GamerGate continues to evolve in scope and focus as it seeks to advocate for greater ethical standards in gaming journalism.

Posted 5 days 7 hours ago

New Scottish media platforms are thriving as the region's eclectic, creative, evolving, non-corporate and critical news landscape looks to grow even further into a media challenging the status qu

Posted 2 days 10 hours ago

The provision was literally written by Citigroup executives.

Posted 4 days 10 hours ago
Jeff Clements, money in politics, Powell Memo, Corporations Are Not People, Citizens United, Free Speech for People

After Citizens United, says Jeff Clements, “I felt that I couldn't just leave it at that, that democracy is really on the line, that the country is on the line – I don't think it's an exaggeration to say that humanity is on the line.”

Posted 2 days 11 hours ago

There’s never been a better time to organize a general strike in the U.S. than right now, with both corporate owners and political leaders pillaging public resources for their own private gain.

Due to welfare cutbacks, rising food prices and unlivable wages, a growing number of people in Britain are having to resort to food banks as a means of staving off hunger.

He's friends with Vladimir Putin and Angela Merkel, a best-selling author, and has a wife who cooks excellent meatball soup. Romania is ready for its Transylvanian president with German flare and know-how.

The UN plan agreed Sunday is a crucial step towards a climate change deal due to be finalized in Paris next year – for the first time committing all countries, including developing nations, to cutting emissions.

What makes Enyia’s ideas about governing revolutionary is that they're policies which hardwire economic justice and sustainability into the institutions themselves.

Sign Up