Leornardo Boff, a former Catholic friar and the ‘father’ of liberation theology in Brazil, has once suggested that his country currently enjoys the biggest network of revolutionary ‘social movements’ in the world.
One of these revolutionary movements is called Movement of Landless Workers (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem-Terra – MST). The MST is not just a social movement fighting for the cause of land reform. The MST is actually a radical organization struggling to implement a land reform that would eliminate every private property and impose a collectivist system on the agricultural sector.
Although the Brazilian Constitution gives a formal protection to property rights, the government of Brazil has openly supported land invasions organized by MST leaders. Such invasions are jeopardizing the agriculture sector and generating an explosion of violence in the countryside.
The support of the government to land invasions is made clear in public statements from the Minister for Agrarian Development, Miguel Rosseto.
Thus an editorial from a prestigious newspaper, Folha de S. Paulo, pointed out:
“On the one hand, the Minister for Agrarian Development administers the governmental protection of the landless movement. On the other, he makes use of the state bureaucratic machinery to ‘build up’ forces for a future rural revolution”.(1)
Although the MST’s main activity is indeed land invasion, we can see at MST’s official website that two of its major goals are the “promotion of massive fights” (fazer lutas massivas) as well as the “incitement of the cultural revolution” (impulsionar a revolução cultural).
Thus military officers have already warned the society about the risks of the MST becoming a FARC-like terrorist organization.
In an interview to daily newspaper Jornal da Tarde, on April 24, 2000, a source from the FARC’s High Command has confirmed the good ties of relationship between the Colombian drug guerrillas and the MST.
In fact, a good evidence of the MST’s anti-democratic ideology is found in this excerpt from a document released by the organization:
“The idea of collective implies the respect of subordinates to decisions carried out by those who are in charge of controlling them.
“It implies that all members of the collective body must engage themselves in actions commanded by their supreme leaders…
“It implies the submission of the individual to the collective body…
“It implies the submission of inferior organisms to the superior ones, with the subordination of all segments and organisms to the same collective direction…
“To eliminate the contradictions between us and our enemies, we must impose a dictatorship”.(2)
The MST has opened schools where more than 200,000 children are currently learning on the political writings of Marx, Lenin, Gramsci, Mao Tse-Tung, and other ‘icons’ of the revolutionary communism.
They also learn about ‘strategic’ concepts such as ‘class struggle’ and ‘social exclusion.’ They have to sing the hymns of the MST as well as of the International Socialist.
In relation to the sort of education received in such schools, an article from Época magazine points out:
“At a time when Cuban teenagers dream about Florida, young people from Eastern Europe celebrate the end of the Iron Curtain and the Chinese try to escape from oppressive state control, the new generation of MST members is perhaps the only group of young people in the world who still believes in the dictatorship of the proletariat…
“A majority of these young militants were brainwashed for communism from early life… They have received their real ideological formation in courses given at camps and settlements.
“An essential aspect of this pedagogy is its appeal to so-called “mystics,” where actors stage historic passages of communist revolutions and the MST. They often feature heroic scenes with protagonists such as Vladimir Lenin, Pol-Pot, Mao Tse-Tung, and Fidel Castro”.(3)
The hymn of the MST was officially recognized in 1989. Since then, the website of the MST says that this is not a song just for the festive occasions but, especially, for “the strong moments of our struggle, such as… land occupations”. It is worthy in this case to translate the lyrics of the hymn:
Oh come let us stand for freedom
with strong arms that tear the soil
Under the shade of our braveness
let us spread our revolt
and share the land as brothers!
Oh let us come to the fight
and raise our fists.
With the power that leads us to build
a free and strong nation
based on popular power.
With our raised arms we dictate history
suffocating with force our oppressors.
Let us display our colourful flag
and wake up the native land
for the future which belongs to us the workers!
Our force is sustained by the flame
of a hope in the future which must come.
We will establish with our fight
a free proletarian and peasantry nation
in which our star at last will triumph!”(4)
One of the most conspicuous leaders of the MST, José Rainha, talks about freeing criminals as a strategy to advance a Cuban and Soviet inspired revolution.
On April 2, 2002, Rainha declared that the MST favours all terrorist activities in Israel, including the targeting of Israeli civilians. As he put it, “although most of the terrorist actions are targeting the civilians…, terrorism is still a valid weapon of self-defence for the Palestinian people”.(5)
Thus an official document delivered by the MST to the Embassy of Israel dares to compare the Israeli Prime-Minister with Nazi leader Adolph Hitler.
In another document, the MST explicitly declares: “We support and extend solidarity to the Palestinian people who… have become victims of genocide carried out by the government of Israel”.(6)
However, everybody knows that a ‘social movement’ like the MST has been a traditional ally of the ruling Workers’ Party (PT). President Lula openly supports the MST’s actions and has donned its red cap during a public meeting.
According to Luiz Antônio N. Garcia, president of the Democratic Rural Union (UDR), a conservative farmers rights group, “when land invasions take place, the police stand by with arms crossed, because this government has no will to enforce the law”.(7)
The red cap used by Lula displayed the logo of the MST: a peasant menacingly waving a sword. A red flag with the same sort of picture is always present at the major activities of the MST.
The MST’s website says that the red colour of its flag means “the blood that runs in our veins and the desire to fight for agrarian reform and social transformation”. The green colour means “the hope of victory over every large estate that we conquer.”
The black colour of the letters would talk about “our fight and our homage to all the workers who died fighting for a new society.” And the sword waved by a peasant represents “our tools of work, fight, and resistance”.(8)
The MST’s national leader, João Pedro Stédile, is a self-declared communist who describes the MST’s activists as ‘our army’. He calls these activists to ‘finish with’ ranchers and landowners, by urging his ‘army’ to get more involved in what he describes as ‘the fight in the countryside’: “That is the dispute – he says – [and] we won’t sleep until we do away with them”.
In August 2004, the same Stédile asked the Minister of Education, Tarso Genro, for the complete eradication of all liberal ideas from the press, government, public agencies, schools, and universities.
The request was publicly made at the 2004 National Conference for Education of the Countryside. The Minister seemed to have liked the suggestion, for he promised that the government would then establish an ‘interlocutory channel’ with the MST to discuss ‘university reform’.
It is hard to see how the MST can positively contribute for university reform. However, such contribution seems to have started negatively, with the purge of liberal academics.
A prominent liberal economist, Roberto Fendt, was summarily dismissed from the Getúlio Vargas Foundation (FGV) after running an article which criticised the economic policies of the Lula administration.
Just a few days ago, the MST organized a massive march from Goiânia, the capital of the state of Goiás, to the federal capital of Brasília.
The march, which arrived in Brasília on May 17, 2005, was enthusiastically supported by the Catholic Archbishop of Goiânia, D. Washington Cruz, and financed with taxpayers’ money by the Governor of Goiás, Marconi Perillo.
Each one of the 12,000 marchers received books of Karl Marx, flags with the image of Che Guevara, and posters of the great ‘icons’ of the revolutionary communism.
They also received portable radios which transmitted revolutionary messages such as this: “March on Brazilians and raise up your voices/ for a new country depends only on us/ a socialist nation that we have to construct/ Together we the people will resist/ It is hour, comrades, and we must not give up”.(9)
On their way to Brasília, land invasions took place with marchers occupying several farms beside the road. Once invaded, the property was mapped out by ‘commissions.’ which also provided for tent erection, cooking, and security.
But the MST’s members made it very clear that they were not hostile to the PT government. To the contrary, “they are pleased that [President] Lula himself has welcomed their initiative, saying that social movements need to mobilize Brazil to achieve change”. In fact, Lula promised the MST in his electoral campaign: “I will give you so much land that you won’t be able to occupy it all”.(10)
One may suggest that agrarian reform is a just cause that has been hijacked by the radicals of the MST.
But for a well-known professor, Ubiratan Iório, a former dean at the prestigious Faculty of Economic Sciences from the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ), economic development depends not on “the size of the lands, but its productivity – which depends on capital, and not on millions of people carrying scythes”.
In his opinion, the idea of settling people in rural areas is a nonsense because, as he also explains, the most productive agriculture in the world, the United States, has only 1,5% of its population living in the countryside.
But even if we disagreed with this opinion, the basic fact still is that a movement like the MST is totally opposed to the most basic rules and principles which inform a democratic government under the rule of law.
Actually, the violent tactics adopted by the MST, including lootings and highway robberies carried out by members of this radical organization, have already prompted a dramatic situation of lawlessness in Brazil.
(1) O Outro Lado do Governo. Folha de S. Paulo, 25 November 2004.
(2) Rosenfield, Denis Lerrer; Companheiros de Guevara. O Estado de S. Paulo, 29 November 2004.
(3) Mansur, Alexandre; MST – Os Filhos Querem Revolução. Época Magazine, 7 July 2003.
(4) MST – Quem Somos: Hino do MST. See: www.mst.org.br/historico/hino.html
(5) Guedes, Gilse; José Rainha Defende Atentados Contra Civis em Israel. O Estado de S. Paulo, 3 April 2002.
(6) MST Position on the Middle East Conflict. National Leadership of the MST, São Paulo, April 8, 2002. See also: BBC Brasil; Militante Entrega Bandeira do MST à Arafat. 31 March 2002.
(7) Brant, Gerald; Brazil’s Lula and the MST. NewsMax.com, 12 September 2003.
(8) MST – Quem Somos: Nossa Bandeira. See: www.mst.org.br/historico/bandeira.html
(9) Para os Sem-Terra, Tudo. Para os Militares, Nada. Boletim da Associação dos Fundadores da TFP, São Paulo, 16 May 2005. See: www.tfp-fundadores.org.br/principal.asp?IdTexto=480&pag=1&categ=29
(10) Branford, Sue; Brazil’s Landless Want More than Just Land. Los Angeles: Brazzil, See: www.brazzil.com/content/view/9276/76/
Augusto Zimmermann is a Brazilian Law Professor and PhD candidate for Monash University – Faculty of Law, in Australia. The topic of his research is about (un) rule of law and legal culture in Brazil.
He holds a LL.B and a LL.M (Hons.) from the Pontifical Catholic University of Rio de Janeiro, and is a former Law Professor at the NPPG (Research and Post-graduate Law Department) of Bennett Methodist University, and Estácio de Sá University, in Rio de Janeiro.
He is also a member of the editorial board of Achegas, a prestigious journal of political science, and Lumen Juris, a leading law book publisher in Brazil.
He is the author of two well-known books in Brazil: “Teoria Geral do Federalismo Democrático” (General Theory of Democratic Federalism – Second Edition, 2005) and “Curso de Direito Constitutional” (Course on Constitutional Law, Fourth Edition – 2005).
His e-mail is: firstname.lastname@example.org.
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