MST Brazil: “We Will Continue Fighting for Land and Agrarian Reform”

Joaquín Pinheiro | Wafika Ibrahim
Translation: Sara DeLorenzo

The Brazil’s Landless Movement (MST) is accused of being a criminal organization. This accusation is part of the process to criminalize social protest and popular movements. After weakening the Workers’ Party, Temer’s government aims at attacking the MST now. But we continue the struggle, because this is the only way to defeat the conservative forces and the coup.

This were the words of Joaquín Piñero, a member of the National Coordination of the Landless Rural Workers Movement and the Popular Brazil Front, in an exclusive interview with Al Mayadeen, in which he offered us his reflections on various topics related to this popular movement.

What impact does the judicial and constitutional coup against Dilma Rousseff have in the Brazilian MST?

The impact will be general for all the Brazilian society. We have a young democracy reconstituted in 1985, after 21 years of dictatorship, which was now broken again by the coup.

That blow was executed for the implantation of neoliberalism. This means the paralysis or extinction of social policies, even those that we had in the rural areas. In addition to the changes in the Federal Constitution of our country to end with the rights granted to the working class. There were, and there will be, reactions from parts of the organized sectors, including the MST. The repression by the government against these sectors is very violent and, especially now against the MST, as the recent case of the invasion of the police in our School in Sao Paulo.

What analysis can you make about the popular response, why didn’t people mobilize massively?

There are several factors. First, since we are in a moment of declination for mass movements. Here we should be self-critical: Left sectors stopped doing the basic work and the formation of these people, there were fewer actions of the movements and parties in that area. In addition to that, Lula and Dilma’s governments themselves failed to communicate people on the importance of their administrations and the role of the Workers’ Party (PT) in the implementation of social policies.

Secondly, we have in Brazil a “massive media monopoly”, who became the spokesmen of the coup, attacking Lula, Dilma, the Workers’ Party and the movements that stood up against the coup. Therefore, the civil society (as Gramsci said) mobilized against or in favour of the coup, but most of the population stayed home watching T.V.

Which are the possible solutions for Brazil? Are there any discussions with the sectors that support Lula? Are there any alternatives built?

When we perceived that the coup in Brazil was being forged, the MST and other popular movements created the Popular Brazil Front (FBP). This Front has three objectives:

One, the mobilization: building unity among the popular movements of the countryside and in the cities, youth, students, trade union centers, progressive parties and democratic sectors of our society that are against the coup. That unit was the one that guaranteed all the mobilizations in this last period.

Two, organization: Now were are moving forwards for the constitution of that Front in all the national territory.

Three, a national project: We began the process of debate between the organizations on which project of country we want. That process is more complex but still necessary. Even though we will have in Lula the main leader and he is doing well for the presidential surveys in 2018. Our objective is to discuss a project beyond names and elections based on the debate with the society and the nation project.

What do you think about the work done by the MST during the Workers’ Party Government and the relationship with President Dilma?

The MST is a popular movement, massive, who fights for land, the agrarian reform and the transformation of our country and it was borned and continues to be independent from any Party. We have a base of almost 2 million people in 23 states. Therefore, we have the need to dialogue with all governments to present our demands on various issues such as land, health, education, guaranteed as our rights under the Constitution.

With the Workers’ Party in the government, that dialogue was more direct and the repression by the federal government to our movement ended. However, when we could not advance in the demands, we took other ways of pressure as the occupation of the ministries, marches, etc.

What are the main challenges of the MST in this “post Workers’ Party period”?

The Workers’ Party remains Brazil’s strongest leftist party, although in the last elections its base of votes decreased. However, any change must go through dialogue with its base and leaders. Our challenge is to help in this process, especially starting with the Popular Brazil Front.

Which is the current state of the MST? Which are your main demands?

Our main objectives continue to be the organization of rural workers for the conquest of land and Agrarian Reform. To advance in the processes of formation and education in our base, and to expand the debate with the society on the importance of carrying out a Popular Agrarian Reform based on a model of production that respects the worker and the nature from agroecology.

Does the MST keeps the same essence since its foundation?

Yes. We remain autonomous and independent from parties, unions, churches, etc. Adapting the forms of struggles today, using technology to strengthen our organization.

We know that there are links between the MSTs in Latin American. What does it mean for you to maintain regional solidarity ties with similar movements?

The MST was born and developed by learning from the experiences of other organizations in other countries. We are what we are because of having received solidarity from these organizations. We advance when we form common spaces of articulations among peasants such as the Latin American Coordinator of Field Organizations (CLOC) and La Via Campesina. From these spaces, we fought common struggles against our main enemies, and expanded the continental integration processes when we helped to build the Continental Articulation of ALBA Social Movements.

What do you think about the MST’s struggle and global support within the framework of global social forums?

The World Social Forum played an important role in the fight against neoliberalism in the early 2000s. We were together in that construction and the MST was part of its international council. However, lately, the Forum has lost its importance and became a space for more debate among NGOs without the strength of popular movements.

What can you say about the continental right? Which were the main mistakes made by the Latin American left in that sense? What does the MST brings to that debate?

In the past 15 years our continent has experienced a long period of progressivist governments, affecting the U.S. hegemony in the region with the peak of neoliberalism.

We have moved forwards in social policies, in the integration of countries, but we continue depending on the great capital. Latin America is still producer of raw material. The progressivist government were not able to change that reality, and now, the crisis affected our economies. This is the base for the change in government, by the polls or the coup, and the right is starting to retake their positions.