Monday, June 24, 2013

Social protest in Brazil crescendoes

There is far more photojournalistic documentation of Brazil’s massive protests than there are journalistic reports. But according to differing estimates, there are now between one & two million people in over 100 cities protesting an entire range of political discontents. Remember that only two weeks ago, news from Brazil was only about indigenous peoples & their human rights allies resisting evictions from Maracana Village (the abandoned natural history museum in Rio) to make room for upscale shopping malls for World Cup & Olympic attendees & of their protests obstructing the Belo Monte dam project. They stood alone against a gigantic state with a big military apparatus directed at their jugular. Now they are joined by over a million people with nearly as many political grievances.

You can see in photojournalistic reports the full range of human participation, from youthful dilettantes in clown regalia & carnival partying to unarmed protestors defying & scuffling with riot cops employing extreme violence & blasting tear gas & water cannons. Exactly what we’ve seen elsewhere, most currently in Turkey.

Many people--especially those who cannot distinguish between the word & the deed--are outraged that protestors would target the government of Dilma Rousseff who in her youth was a socialist who actively opposed Brazil’s military dictatorship & now belongs to the Worker’s Party (PT), which is a heterogenous group born from opposition to the dictatorship. Since  its formation as a socialistic party for social transformation, it has morphed to the right as an instrument of the status quo attuning its policies to neoliberalism on most economic & social issues. Nothing signifies that political degeneration more than the Belo Monte dam project which usurps indigenous human & land rights & environmental concerns, as well as the billions being poured into numerous stadia for the World Cup & Olympic games while education & health care are ignored & taxation massively increased.

Left-wing supporters of the Rousseff/PT government are sending out international alarms that the movement in Brazil has now been hijacked by fascists working in league with Brazilian media. That Brazilian fascists & undercover agent provocateurs would be active in a social uprising of such scale is hardly a surprise. That they are attacking more radical left participants is also not surprising because at this point the Brazilian uprising is a spontaneous movement without a hegemonic leadership & fascists want to contain & usurp its more radical dynamic. Media here has expressed concern about what political forces are leading the protests because leadership can determine whether  protests are anarchistic destruction & just degenerate into street theater or whether they move forward to social transformation by countering neoliberal policies.

Anyone involved in social movements knows that in periods of massive uprisings all sorts of political forces engage in battle contesting for their point of view. Such conflict is the nature of transformational politics. Those who argue that the Brazilian uprising should not be supported fully because it is now predominantly fascist are not just talking through their butts; they have another agenda which is to support the neoliberal policies of the Brazilian government against the just demands of millions of Brazilian working people. Do they propose hundreds of thousands of rebels just go home & leave the political battle field to fascists!?

It should come as no surprise that many who argue this position have icons of Joseph Stalin on their mastheads. As for Companera Rousseff, you can’t represent the politics of social transformation with tear gas & billy clubs. You can’t be a socialist & a neoliberal predator too. Call off your riot cops & military police because anything you say means nothing when you’re beating heads. Your actions speak louder than words.

Military police here manhandle & arrest a protestor in Rio de Janeiro.

(Photo by Victor R. Caivano/AP)

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