Change in Brazil Won’t Come from Palaces, But from Mobilized People

In order to win a lot of victories in the coming year, the MST is planning struggles and mobilizations. They are forms of organized social pressure where we want to have fewer fast food restaurants on every corner and more libraries and bookstores.

We also want access to land to produce healthy and cheap food, jobs and a decent income for all families, quality free education, access to information, the preservation of popular culture and strengthening of health.

For this to happen, it will be necessary to discuss in all possible spaces the building of an anti-neoliberal, anti-imperialist, popular, and national project. The new model can only be made viable starting with grass-roots discussions that will gather energy, forces, and consensus around the ideas.

No doubt it will be necessary for the mass movement to be strengthened in order to alter the current correlation of adverse forces. The struggle of the MST and the life of those who participate in it are dedicated to seeing this dream become reality in Brazil.

The year that passed was hard for rural and urban workers and for Land Reform. Fortunately, throughout 2005 the MST received much support and solidarity from society for the struggle of 160,000 families who are in encampments, under black plastic tarps alongside the highways or next to unproductive latifúndios and for the 350,000 families in settlements.

The MST considers it important to let people know about its evaluation of the past year and the challenges for the coming year.

Together with other social movements, we have consistently shown concern about the seriousness of the Brazilian. The picture is dramatic. The crisis is not limited to a problem of political parties.

It touches intensely on ideological questions, reflected in the absence of projects, and plunges Brazil into the social abyss. Unfortunately there is no strategic, long-term thinking focused on resolving the true structural problems of the country, which postpones these questions to the future.

The results of the economic policy that was adopted, along with barbaric interest rates, show up in unemployment. Happiness is the requisite of a select club that brings together bankers and international speculators.

According to Professor Eduardo Fagnani of the University of Campinas, the payment of three days of interest on the external and internal debt consumes a one-year budget for Land Reform. The costs of 20 days of interest equal what was invested over 10 years in popular housing and basic sanitation.

The MST has made an effort to build unity around the social movements in the countryside and in the city to collectively forge a popular alternative for Brazil.

The results were felt over this period:

1) the Coordination of Social Movements carried out various protests and activities about changing the economic model in the states, demonstrating the capacity of the movements to think beyond the specific guidelines of demands;

2) the National Forum for Land Reform was consolidated as a space for meeting, reflection, and coming together of all the movements and groups that continue struggling around the commitments that we took on in the Letter from the Land of 2004;

3) the National Popular Assembly, together with the Fourth Brazilian Social Week/CNBB (National Conference of Brazilian Bishops), united thousands of Brazilian men and women in the struggle for concrete proposals for changes in the country.

For our movement, 2005 was also a year of learning. The challenge of placing 12,000 marchers in movement for 17 days – in an organized and serious form – made the National March for Land Reform an unforgettable fact.

The sacrifice of the march was brightened, on the one hand by the support of friends of the MST and on the other hand, by the moments for study and political education along the 200 kilometers that separate Goiânia from Brasí­lia.

But if the March taught us about organization and solidarity, the government once more disappointed us: it did not fulfill the seven commitments it made when the march arrived in Brasí­lia.

The MST resents the fact that Land Reform is not seen as a mechanism for democratizing the land (in our country only 1% of the landowners hold 46% of the land) and for creating and distributing wealth and income.

It is seen as a mere policy for social compensation in an economy that prioritizes the export of grain for the rich countries while the people do not have easy access to the products in the basic food basket.

The simple approval of a decree that brings up to date the productivity indexes according to the measurements calculated by the IBGE would have been sufficient to advance the cause of Land Reform.

However, this decision, which did not involve expenditures and is exclusively up to the Executive Power, was not made. The political will was lacking. Land Reform continues slowly, despite the government boasting about nonexistent numbers.

Rio Grande do Sul had only 100 families settled in three years. In Maranhão, a state that shows the greatest concentration of land, not a single family was settled. Inertia serves as a stimulus for the latifúndio.

The Joint Congressional Inquiry on Land (CPMI da Terra) lost an historical opportunity to unmask the land structure in our country and propose coherent measures. It preferred to subordinate itself to the Democratic Ruralist Union and reverse the roles.

For the congressional members of the CPMI, to concentrate lands in a country with social problems is not heinous. That term is used to describe the struggle against hunger and inequality. The commission wanted to transform the victims into promoters of the violence.

It simply ignored the 38 dead in rural conflicts throughout the year, 16 of them in Pará. Symbolically, on the day to vote on the report, a landless worker was killed by gunmen in Alagoas. The attempt to criminalize the social movements came to life while workers were living under a regime of slavery on the large ranches.

The MST does not believe in miracles. Without putting hope aside, it knows that this is a time for struggle. The change will not come from offices and palaces, but from a people who are organized and mobilized.

The Movement is certain that the new project for the country will be a fruit of popular participation in the democratization of the land, of the riches and of the means of communication. We seek forces for this duty in the lessons of Apolônio de Carvalho, who left us last year.

A few weeks before dying, Apolônio told us, with his tireless motivation, "It’s not worth just looking at reality and protesting against it. We want a world that is not only better but a world that is younger, more full of creativity, of abnegation, peace, justice, broad and pure human relations.

"The ideal of a new society, in which injustices and cruelties are gradually corrected, projecting the ideal in a horizon of more equality, fraternity, and solidarity."

The MST believes in the construction of this new reality.

A warm embrace,

National Secretariat of the MST

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