michel temer Brazil's acting president, Michel Temer. Photo: Wikimedia

The movement wants Dilma back in office, but to carry out the progressive, anti-austerity policies with which she was elected, writes Orlando Hill

They thought it was going to be easy, but they forgot to inform the Brazilian people. The conservative forces that approved the impeachment process in the Lower House and Senate with the intention of moving forward on neoliberal reforms, with the abolishment of labour rights and a policy of privatisation, had not counted on the resistance of workers, artists, students, women, indigenous people, black people and LGBT people.

Tariq Ali once said, “cosmopolitan by nature, revolutions have no respect for borders and can never remain the exclusive property of the country in which they first occurred.” The same can be said about methods of resistance. Methods that had been tried out in the US and Europe have been replicated in Brazil.

Even before the impeachment process had been approved, thousands of secondary school students had occupied their schools in protest against educational cuts and the embezzlement of school meal funds by politicians who were defending the impeachment process.

Students protesting the privatisation of state education have occupied over 200 schools in four states. These students are the pride of their teachers and parents. These occupations are mainly organised by young women. The president of UBES (Brazilian Union of Secondary School Students) is Camila Lanes, a young 19-year-old and highly politicised.

When the putschist interim government shut down the Ministry of Culture, a group of artists took inspiration from the secondary students and occupied the office in Rio de Janeiro. Their interpretation of Carmina Burana with the chorus singing, “get out Temer, get out Temer, get out Michel Temer” went viral on social media. The occupiers are clear in their demand. Jasmine Giovannini, one of organisers, spoke for the movement when she said, “we won’t accept a Ministry of Culture in a coup government. We only want the Ministry of Culture in a democratic government.” Various artists, among them Caetano Veloso, have performed in the occupation. The building of the Ministry of Culture is one of the hottest places to be for free performances.

On 29 May, the 20thgay pride parade will march along Avenida Paulista in the centre of São Paulo. Ten thousand people have already confirmed their presence on the Facebook event. The theme this year is “a law of gender identity now, everyone against transphobia.” Students are organising to march along with the banner “Out Temer, No Coup!” A thousand people have so far signed up on Facebook.

Temer’s government represents a great political setback for the LBGT community who are facing threats to the rights they won under Dilma’s government. Dilma signed a law that recognised the right for transgender people to officially use their social names. Various sections of the social movements are uniting their struggles and understanding the threat to a diverse society that this illegitimate government represents.

Brazilians are gaining confidence in their struggle. In the early hours of Tuesday a community of squatters in Porto Alegre in the state of Rio Grande do Sul managed to stop the police from removing them from an empty tower block of flats. This victory was only through the mobilisation and determination of the community and supporters. They gathered in front of the building singing “if you can’t deal with the ant, don’t stoke the anthill”.

Almost everyday there have been marches in at least one of capitals in Brazil, from the south to the north and spilling into neighbouring countries. In Buenos Ares, Argentina the new Minister of International Affairs, José Serra had to sneak in through the back door when he visited his Argentine counterpart to discuss new international deals. A group of Brazilian and Argentinian activists had surrounded the building.

Some of the demonstrations are spontaneous, but there is a national organisation. The two different fronts, Frente do Povo Sem Medo (Fearless People Front) and Frente Brasil Popular, have been working together and signing common manifestos. Povo Sem Medo is composed of left-wing parties and social movements who opposed Dilma from the left, but are against the coup and campaigned for Dilma in the second round of the presidential election. The Frente Brasil Popular is composed of the Workers’ Party (PT), CUT (the main trade union federation and linked to PT) and other organisations loyal to Dilma.

There are smaller sections on the left that are demanding immediate general elections. However, they do not have much influence.

As the movement grows, the chances of overthrowing the impeachment process are becoming greater. The impeachment needs the approval of two thirds of the senate. The opposition calculates that it would one senate to change his vote for the process not to go through.

It is clear that the movement wants Dilma back in office, but to carry out the progressive, anti-austerity policies with which she was elected. Things in Brazil are at a crucial turning point. It is possible that the neoliberal project is crushed once and for all. But this time from below. 

Orlando Hill

Orlando was born in Brazil and was involved in the successful struggle for democracy in the late 1970s and 80s in that country. He teaches A level Economics. He is a member of the NEU, Counterfire and Stop the War.