Mass protests in Brazil against government corruption and poor public services continue, though President Dilma Rousseff’s promises on political reform and public investment may demobilise.
Meanwhile, many local authorities have backed down on public transport fare increases, the original spark for the protests.
Thousands marched in over 300 cities on Sunday 30 June, to coincide with the Confederations Cup. The tournament is a dress rehearsal for the 2014 World Cup which Brazil is hosting at great expense — a focus for discontent.
Rousseff and her Workers’ Party have promised a constituent assembly to debate political reform, retaining laws which criminalise political corruption, investment in city transport, more money for education and health and (just to balance her promises up) “fiscal responsibility”.
This falls far short of the perceived problems of bourgeois democracy in Brazil. There are over 30 political parties and most are mired in cronyism.
Capitalist development has brought the rapid growth of urban society, not matched by infrastructure, adequate housing or public services.
The demonstrations have been overwhelmingly youthful. Brazilian society is youthful — 40% of all Brazilians are under 25.
Just as the demonstrations are subsiding, for now, Brazil’s labour movement has begun to mobilise. According to Claudia Costa (writing for Labor Notes), on June 20, “the second-largest labour federation, Força Sindical, which is considered conservative, led a two-hour metalworkers stoppage in an industrial district in São Paulo, gathering a few thousand demanding better public transport.
“Then CSP-Conlutas, a left-wing labor federation, and CUT PODE MAIS, a dissident caucus within the largest federation, CUT [Workers’ Party dominated mainstream federation], together with other organisations, called for a day of action June 27.
“That day General Motors workers, together with metalworkers from seven other plants in Sao Jose dos Campos, did a one-hour stoppage. Construction workers demonstrated in Belem and Fortaleza. In Rio de Janeiro, 10,000 workers and students demonstrated throughout downtown. In Belo Horizonte, the unions joined the huge demonstration of 60,000 in front of a football stadium where the Confederations Cup match was scheduled.
“Simultaneously seven Brazilian labour federations along with the Landless Movement (MST) met and declared a ‘National Day of Struggle and Mobilisation’ for 11 July.
“Specific workers demands include “[stopping the] auctioning off of Brazil’s petroleum reserves to private companies, reduction of working hours from the current 44 hours per week, stopping a bill to legalise outsourcing, and land reform, which has been frozen by the administration.”
Costa comments: “The Workers’ Party was elected in 2002, raising workers’ expectations — which were not met.
“Although some measures in favour of the poor were taken, such as bolsa-família (an allowance for the very poor), the administration has carried out neoliberal policies benefiting big landowners, banks, and foreign corporations.”