labor “If Lula is Arrested, Civil Disobedience is the Way” Calls MST Leader Joao Pedro Stedile
The leader of the MST and the People’s Brazil Front, Joao Pedro Stédile, believes that the solution for the crisis that Brazil is currently facing (which is even more serious than the ones that took place in the 1930s, 1960s and 1980s) lies in a broad alliance between the social organizations of the country. “United, they would help create a new project for the country”, he says.
The People’s Brazil Front is a kind of broad front made up of 88 social movements and parties. Together, they have the role of constantly analyzing the juncture of the country and design scenarios to seek solutions.
In his opinion, former president Luiz Inacio “Lula” Da Silva must attempt to register his candidacy for the presidency next August 15, as the Workers’ Party (PT) already announced, and participate even if he is imprisoned. Although he doesn’t believe Lula is going to prison, if he were, Stédile would support the use of civil disobedience. “The idea that an entire people can rebel against laws or governments that don’t reflect the will of the majority or that apply clearly unfair and inhuman procedures is not at all a novelty in the political sphere,” he argues. “This has its origins in the Church”.
The leader of the MST, however, thinks it is difficult for this to happen in Brazil. “The thing is, the immense majority of the people are still not organized. So we need to undertake two big tasks: to explain to the people who the culprits are—their true class enemies, and the injustices of the judicial power—and at the same time organize them for rebelliousness.
Stédile speaks with the authority of a person who leads a movement that is present in 24 states throughout the five regions of Brazil, made up of 350 thousand families who conquered their land through struggle and organization of rural workers.
Beyond taking land from the hands of big landowners and restituting them to peasants, over the last two years the MST (which stands for Landless Workers’ Movement) created projects to transform the lands they occupied (which were mostly unproductive estates) to produce healthy food, cultivated with traditional methods of the people, and making rational use of water. The result can be found in farmers’ fairs and supermarket aisles, with the seal of organic products.
At the moment, there is a high degree of uncertainty in Brazil’s political scenario. At the same time, the MST and the MTST (Movement of Homeless Workers) seem to be, to the eyes of society, pretty solid and well organized. Why is this?
Brazil is going through a serious economic crisis, which brought a social crisis with an increase in social inequality and unemployment and a feeling of hopelessness. This resulted in a political crisis, because the bourgeoisie made a coup d’État using their power over the media, the judicial system and the Parliament, in order to completely control the four powers, and so apply their economic plan to adjust on the working class in order to keep making huge profits during the crisis.
The country went through similarly serious crises in the 1930s, 1960s and 1980s. All of them taught us that solutions must be designed for the long term, and that they require a broad coordination between social forces, which should join on the premise of a common project. In these periods of crisis, those who are less organized, the masses, are unprotected. Political organizations who don’t accurately read the situation also lose relevance. We see many public figures and parties who have nothing to say, or only say nonsense which nobody listens to.
The MST has faced many difficulties, because the project of agrarian reform has been paralyzed for four or five years without real achievements. That’s another reason why we are putting energy into building the People’s Brazil Front, as a sort of broad front, made up of 88 social movements and parties, in order to join and permanently analyze the juncture and decide together what to do. That’s what we have done over the last two years.
The solution to this historic crisis will depend, also, on a broader front, which brings together the majority of the masses, especially the disorganized ones. For the time being, these masses are dormant. But they have already identified Lula as a symbol of change. We also need to create a program for the nation and attract social forces that are still isolated.
We hope than in the upcoming months and years the masses are set in motion, due to indignation and desire to build a new political project for the country. It has happened in other periods of our history. And I’m sure it will happen again soon.
In speeches given in Porto Alegre and in São Paulo, the President of the Workers’ Party, Gleisi Hoffmann, and Senator Lindberg Faria predicated civil disobedience and confrontation as appropriate answers for the moment. What are your thoughts about this and how would this come about?
The term “civil disobedience” comes from the doctrine of the catholic Church, and proposes the idea that every people has the right to rebel against laws or governments that don’t reflect the will of the majority or that apply clearly unfair and inhuman procedures. Therefore, it is not a novelty in the political sphere.
But the biggest obstacle for this to happen in Brazil is that the immense majority of the people are still disorganized. So we need to unite two efforts: to explain to the people who the real culprits are, their true class enemies, the injustices of judicial power, and at the same time organize them for rebelliousness. And social rebelliousness won’t emerge from our political will or our speeches. It depends on psycho-social factors that regulate the behavior of masses. But eventually, some of them will rise.
After the second-instance sentence, the candidacy of former president Lula is being threatened. There are not many juridic resources to use to make it possible. What do you think about this scenario and how, in your opinion, can it be solved?
Lula’s candidacy is protected by the current law of the country. He has every right to register his candidacy on August 15, as announced by the Workers’ Party. He can run as candidate even if he is in prison. I still hope it doesn’t happen. We have jurisprudence were candidates ran in elections while in prison, and won.
But politics, power, depends on correlation of strength. The bourgeoisie and its minions use the judicial power to suit their interests as if this was a monarchy, with no oversight by society. They trampled on the Constitution in order to reach their goals. The working class has only one space where it can exert its political power: mobilization on the streets. I believe that from here on until the elections, mobilizations will grow and demand Lula’s candidacy. and the legal status of his candidacy will ultimately be achieved by the number of votes he wins. If he had only 10% of voter intention, he would already be forgotten and abandoned by parties. But it so happens that the people, by the indirect way of opinion polls, is saying that he is the only solution to build a project for the country. The only thing that we have to do now is take that people out on the streets.
From the juridic standpoint, it would suffice if judges (those hypocrites who laugh at demands of better salaries, affordable housing and other initiatives for the people) respected the rule of the Constitution. But judges have committed tax evasion for over 300 million Reais.