Brazilian popular democratic activists by their hundreds of thousands are struggling against a system of corporate-political repression that has become all too familiar to citizens of the U.S. in the aftermath of a corruption-caused recession and generation-long trend of wealth transfer from the 99% to the wealthy corporate elite and its political lackeys.
Hundreds of thousands of Brazilians did not struggle across cities on foot and face down both violent police hostility and right-wing thugs because bus prices are too high and buses too scarce or because too much money in a society deprived of social services is being thrown at soccer stadium construction. Rather, the causes rest in years of government repression of democratic rights combined with a rigged financial system exploiting the poor for the benefit of the rich, both made ever more agonizing by the false promise of “change” from two successive presidents with reformist halos–Lula and Rousseff–who failed to deliver.
As Brazilian reformer and economist João Machado explains, the political system is losing legitimacy:
L’indignation contre la répression des manifestations, le soutien au droit de manifester, a un poids important. Tout comme celui que la question suggère, que je ne poserai pas en termes de « la classe moyenne ne se sent pas représentée », mais plutôt comme une perte de légitimité généralisée du système politique. Une grande partie de la population sent que les partis majoritaires mènent des politiques très semblables. [CADTM 6/28/13.]
João Pedro Stedile, national coordinator of the Movement of Landless Rural Workers (MST) explains:
…there is an urban crisis in Brazil’s cities, a result of the current stage of financial capitalism. Due to an enormous amount of housing speculation, rent and land prices have increased 150% in the last three years. Without any government control, financial capital has promoted the sales of cars in order to send profits overseas and transformed our traffic into chaos. And in the last 10 years there has been no investment in public transport. The housing program “My home, my life” has driven the poor out to the periphery of the cities, where there is no infrastructure.
All this has generated a structural crisis where for people, large cities becoming a living hell where they lose three or four hours a day in transit….
Fifteen years of neoliberalism plus the last 10 years of a government of class conciliation has transformed politics into a hostage of capital’s interests.[CADTM 7/1/13.]
Were the subject of analysis the condition of U.S. society, not a single word of the last sentence would need to be changed: “neoliberalism” meaning a “liberal,” permissive attitude by government toward corporate efforts to create a financial system conducive to transferring wealth from the 99% to the rich corporate elite protected by a “government of class conciliation,” meaning a political elite that conceals the class war of the rich against the rest with the illusion of democratic politics engendered by meaningless elections followed up by carefully concealed deals in smoke-filled rooms between the financial elite and the elected officials of all parties.
Brazilians today are doing what the U.S. Occupy Movement tried to do. The Occupy Movement failed because U.S. citizens remain by and large too misinformed, unorganized, and apathetic to defend their interests. If a million people marched through Wall St., blocking all the limos of the bailed-out billionaires, how many days would it take to change the system?