Tag Brazilian Communist Party

The State and the Social Movements

IN Editors' Note: As part of our attempt to have the widest possible coverage of global struggles, we publish below an article translated from the Portuguese-Brazilian website Passa Palavra. The article deals with the systematic, pervasive web of containment of social struggles and class conflict developed by the Brazilian Workers' Party (Partido do Trabalho, or PT) over decades, beginning in the 1980s, and culminating in its ten years in state power since 2002, first under Lula (2002–2010) and now under Dilma Rousseff (2010–). IN readers familiar with similar modes of integration in the United States and elsewhere will agree that the American NGOs (for example) are nothing in comparison to the webs of control of the PT, now strengthened by a decade with state power at a national level in Latin America's biggest economy.

Passa Palavra Editors' Note: The dissatisfaction that has come to the fore recently inside the social movements has to be explained in a very broad context. This context must be probed and analyzed, in order to turn it around, before it is too late.

I exaggerate a bit, but Lula[1] seems to command a broader consensus than Jesus. 94 percent of the people approve of him or say that his government is OK.

—Gilmar Mauro

Sectors of the working class, as for example Forca Sindical[2], which did not support Lula, are now supporting Dilma[3]. Religious movements did not support Lula, but are now supporting Dilma. These popular forces, in the current government, are bigger and more substantial.

—João Pedro Stédile


The ruling classes, politicians as well as bosses and corporate officers, try to hide the mechanisms of power. They cannot hide repression, because one of the characteristics of police action is to be very visible. But the police and the courts often help to conceal other, much more efficacious and discreet mechanisms of power. And we on the far left frequently help bolster this illusion, when we mourn or celebrate the victims and when we denounce those immediately responsible for the repression, but we forget to break through the deep and silent web of interests which underlies the violence of institutions.

In capitalism, the mechanisms of domination are hardly external to the working class, as is the case with the police and the courts. These mechanisms of domination also permeate the working class from within, notably through political parties and the unions. Contrary to what people often imagine, the ruling classes are on more solid ground when they have at their service governments in which parties of the left are hegemonic. If these parties are well rooted in the working class, it becomes much easier to carry out the measures required for the development of capitalism. In the two centuries of the history of capitalism, and in all countries without exception, this is a general rule: capitalism renews itself and develops by appropriating for itself movements originating on the left, taking them over for its own ends. The examples are public knowledge, for anyone who wishes to study them, and they should be a secret for no one.

It has been verified—and recent years provide numerous examples—that left-wing parties succeed better than those of the right in accelerating the development of capitalism and in implementing measures that are onerous for the majority of the population. This happens because left-wing parties have at their disposal more mechanisms of domination within the working class and, moreover, because they need to rely on repression less than right-wing parties.

In the same way, when trade-union bureaucracies assume positions in the government, it is much easier for the government to get the working class to accept capitalist measures or even to stir up enthusiasm for these measures in a significant part of the class. Unions tied to governments in this way fulfill a very important function because they can launch movements and strikes and, afterwards, can present as partial gains exactly those measures which the ruling groups and companies intend to push through. Workers are thereby transformed into an active agent in the modernization of capitalism.


Since the election of October 2002, Brazil provides a good example of a government acting through mechanisms internal to the working class, above and beyond the usual repression. Much of the discussion in recent months about the evolution of the Landless Workers Movement (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Terra) (MST) and other social movements would be clearer if it were discussed in this perspective.

In contemporary Brazil, the two main mechanisms of domination within the working class are the unions and the Workers Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores (PT).

The entry of the Central Única dos Trabalhadores (CUT) and Forca Sindical[4] into the government constitutes a factor of enormous importance. There are few countries in the world in which the capitalists can directly guide the unions through government ministries.

It is clear that this entry compromises the combative appearance of the CUT, but this does not mean that those trade unions still in the opposition are able to develop a more combative platform. One factor explaining this is the opposition unions' preservation of the same hierarchical and bureaucratized structure, remote from the rank-and-file, as that of the unions allied with the government. In particular, they continue the capitalist management of considerable union funds and other holdings, which prevent them from transforming themselves into effective fighting organizations.

Unions today are becoming—not only in Brazil but throughout the world—large capitalist investors. In Brazil, the unions mobilize more than 600,000,000 reals[5] an year merely from union dues. This figure has to be further multiplied if we take account of the numerous mechanisms of compulsory contributions the unions use. To these in turn we have to add the colossal amounts accumulated and invested in pension funds. These figures are neither visible to the public, nor to union members, nor even to most union leaders. What the unions lose on one hand in mobilizing capacity, they gain on the other hand in economic power, and from this viewpoint there is no difference between the CUT and the unions in opposition. This explains a recent episode in the steelworkers union in Sao José dos Campos (State of Sao Paolo), an entity affiliated with the Central Sindical e Popular– Conlutas,[6] which used typical management methods to contain a work stoppage by its own staff. But this is far from being a unique case.

The transformation of the unions into capitalist investors—at times large investors—helps fan internal rivalries, which helps explain the fiasco of the unification attempted by Conlutas and the Intersindical[7] in June 2010.

It is in this way that the trade-union elements in the government extend their power through supposedly oppositional unions.

The PT is another mechanism of domination capable of permeating the working class and immobilizing it or even pulling it into the government camp. It is clear that the PT became an almost exclusively electoral machine years ago, cut off from any rank-and-file militancy. But this is not why the far-left oppositional parties failed to develop any significant presence. One of the most regrettable results of this situation was the sum total of votes obtained by the Socialism and Freedom Party (Partido Socialismo e Libertade or PSOL), the Unified Socialist Workers Party (Partido Socialista dos Trabalhadores, or PSTU), the Brazilian Communist Party (Partido Comunista Brasileiro or PCB) and the Party of the Workers' Cause (Partido de Causa Operaria or PCO) in the first round of the presidential elections in October 2010. These four parties, added together, received exactly 1.0 percent of the votes cast.

This situation explains why the PT has numerous and varied channels of political penetration of the working class, particularly because its organizational structure permits the existence of factions. In this way, while the government continues to move ahead in the development of Brazilian capitalism and neo-imperialism, tendencies further to the left continue to form within the PT, as occurred in December 2011 with the founding of the Popular Socialist Left (Esquerda Popular Socialista). This kind of maneuver, repeated over time, is interesting. The evolution of the government creates the motive for the formation of new tendencies, but this evolution does not prevent these tendencies from staying within the same political framework as that laid down by the government. It is like a current which is constantly forming more and more links to its left, but which is always pulling them back to the right. In this way, through the PT as a whole and, in particular, through its left-wing tendencies, the capitalists maintain and reinforce their political penetration of the working class.

This penetration is further consolidated when the PT appears as an instrument of struggle in smaller cities, without traditions of social or left-wing militancy, whereby these struggles are subordinated to the logic and the schema of the PT in larger cities.

If we look at things in a certain detail, we see that the far-left organizations exist in the large cities and in their peripheries, but that their presence in smaller cities, cut off from the large metropolitan areas, is practically nil, and exists thanks to ties with rank-and-file and mass movements such as the MST. In places where even the MST does not exist, it is the PT which makes up the left, and which leads the rank-and-file movements. In this way the mechanisms of capitalist domination not only penetrate the working class, but proliferate and consolidate themselves at various levels.

In these locales, where the mode of exploitation and submission of workers is realized in more backward forms, including illegal ones, and where repression is carried out on the margins of the state and with an extreme degree of violence, the PT became a refuge for a majority of the people fighting against local ruling forces, especially where the Church did not already play this role; in places where it did, the PT became more and more allied with it.

Once affiliated with a mass party, every militant, however cut off from the major centers, winds up being partially linked to the national processes of struggle. The mediation of the PT, which takes place through the “political formation” of these militants in the “PT way of doing things” (which over time has been transformed into the “PT way of governing”) includes knowledge of and respect for modern institutions (from labor laws to civil rights to the electoral system) in all those sectors which have come to be called “civil society,” and also in what we call social classes.

This formation by the party also occurs as people learn about various types of social struggles. And where, before, there was no trade union, or at least no modern union adept at negotiations, one comes into being. The same thing happens in places where there had been no real electoral disputes. Where the youth or minorities are not organized and do not understand themselves in these terms, this possibility emerges, and develops from there. Once that occurs, the spread of nuclei of the landless movement (mainly those of the MST) in locales where the struggle for land takes place in naked form merely flows from that. This new stage of struggle, organized through the social movements, is already emerging in many places and is integrated with the PT.

This dynamic in the construction of the country's working class gives the impression in many places—primarily those most cut off from the major centers—that the PT is the most left-wing organization. Their formation by the PT allows many workers to give shape to their demands, and allows many other workers to feel more protected when confronting the local conservative elites. On the other hand, thanks to the PT's formation of militants, direct confrontation between antagonistic classes ceases, and with this new phase, conciliation emerges as the main alternative. All this took place well before the Lula government, and become worse when the PT came to power nationally.

With this arrival in state power, what changed was not the strategy of the PT, but the party's ability to impose an electoral logic on social movements which were previously in the orbit of the unions. Henceforth, by its control of the state machinery and with its legitimacy in the world of business, the PT became more capable of guaranteeing payoffs to those who supported it. In this way, in slightly more than 20 years, workers, subjugated by backward forms of exploitation and confrontation with local elites, became electoral instruments through the mediation of the social movements.

The pragmatism necessary for electoral politics not only changes the way in which militants see themselves and see their struggles: it pulls people away from grassroots work and integrates them into campaign machines. Social struggles wind up not only having a problem of self-conception, but they suffer from a lack of militants who can give continuity to projects they previously thought of as central. If we add this to the development of the country's productive forces, currently intensifying labor in the agrarian sector and thereby even further reducing the need for human labor in the small and medium-size cities closest to agricultural zones (and thus responsible for a large percentage of labor migration,[8]) we have the real picture of how struggles in the countryside are being attenuated.

Once they have entered the party and have adapted to its respective municipal organizations, the new militants are almost forced to link up with the group of state deputy X, of federal deputy Y, and of senator Z, on pain of political ostracism. These compulsory links demand from the militant more loyalty to the parliamentary group than to the social base which formed him or her as such. Any concrete political activity (agitation, candidacies) has to pass muster with these obligatory connections. The latter are, in general, much more rigid than previous local alliances and more stable than those realized with figures of the center or the right in the political framework existing before the militant's involvement with the PT. In general, the musical chairs in positions of power, as choreographed by the center and the right, implies the rotation of allies, whereas these compulsory affinities with a leftist label hinders, when it does not prevent, ebbs and flows with other political currents. That is why all the rival political groups fall apart and reconstitute themselves under new names in these locales, whereas the militants of the PT, because they do not have the motives for those adopting this or that label, are thus closer to people who once engaged in fierce opposition, and they remain bound to the party, giving it stability and continuous growth.

This is how the mechanisms of domination penetrate not only the working class, but also proliferate and consolidate at different levels, including different sources of information and media-cultural collectives which attempt to be the ideological expression of this work in progress.


This is the framework for an analysis of the recent evolution of the social movements, and specifically of the MST. The mobilization of these movements to vote for Dilma in the second round of the 2010 elections seemed to have marked an important turn, signaling their clear entry into the orbit of the government. Be that as it may, this evolution corresponds to deeper tendencies, because the MST is forming alliances with the government not only at the federal but also at the state level and, given the traditions of clientelism in the countryside, the endorsement of Dilma and of other PT candidates by national leaders of the MST points to difficulties in getting beyond this framework.

In the local settlements[9] of the MST, undergoing structural problems (as indicated above) as they were at the time of the electoral campaigns of 2005, the majority of militants left to work for the candidacies of various left-wing politicians, particularly those of the PT. However, because politics abhors a vacuum, the lack of rank-and-file work in the settlements allowed the growth there of evangelicals[10] not sharing the movement's ideology, and leading to a sharp division within the settlement itself. Four years later, the division was still there and, in the new electoral cycle, the situation repeated itself, further complicated by a division between militants working for the PT and others working for the PSOL. When lessons are not learned, it means that the problem lies at the root.

The situation in Bahia illustrates the effects of this root problem. Bahia is the state where the MST has the highest number of encampments and where the state leadership is completely tied to the state government of the PT. Further, thanks to regional coordination such as those in the southwestern part of Bahia (Vitória da Conquista and environs), the MST adopted an immobilist posture tied to local electoral concerns, rather than shaking up the political conjuncture (one that is more important than elections) with direct actions against the latifundias.

The problem proliferates. In Paraná, the MST leadership made an electoral pact with the candidate of the Democratic Labor Party (Partido Democrático Trabalhista, or PDT), Osmar Dias, brother of Álvaro Dias of the Brazilian Social Democratic Party (Partido da Social-Democracia Brasileira, or PSDB), a member of one of the largest landowning families in the state. At the same time, in the encampments and settlements, left-wing parties, such as the PSTU or the PSOL, were denied entry.

Confronted with this proliferation of events, it is impossible to explain each case as a special one; they are rather a tendency in a general evolution.

In the analysis presented here, we have to highlight the role played by the chief minister of the General Secretary of the President of the Republic, Gilberto Carvalho.[11] The Weekly Conjuncture: Balance Sheet of One Year of the Dilma Rousseff Government, published by the Center for Research and Support for Workers (CEPAT), states that Gilberto Carvalho has primary responsibility for the negotiations and good relations established between the Dilma government and the various social movements during the year 2011.[12] Carvalho's profile in actions and in administering conflicts is highly conciliatory, such that he is respected and considered to be the legitimate interlocutor of the social movements in their relations with the Federal government. As evidence of Carvalho's role, the CEPAT emphasizes that the chief minister “was present at the debates which voted on the minimum wage and on the incidents of the Jirau rebellion; he was the flack catcher in the Belo Monte debate; he tirelessly met with trade unionists, as well as with commissions and all kinds of movements and was, on one hand, a ‘bridge’ between the demands of the social movements and the executive branch and was, on the other hand, a spokesperson for the government's positions.”[13]

Gilberto Carvalho himself, in an interview with the magazine Valor Econômico, explains even better Dilma's intentions when she appointed him to the post: “She had a very simple conversation with me. She said: ‘Gilbertinho, I need you because I want someone who can inform me about the reality of the social movements, their demands, their failings, the crises; someone who can sensitize me to this suffering of the people, someone who tells the truth. I never want to be deceived.’”[14] Carvalho also pointed out that “every ministry is in dialogue with the social movements. My arena has no monopoly of these contacts, but it is where, shall we say, this dialogue is organized. It began with the question of the minimum wage, when I held meetings with the top levels of the unions.”[15] But it is not merely the union leaderships who fall within the networks of the chief minister. “Also included are the so-called popular movements, such as the MST, the indigenous, the blacks, the gays and the lesbians, in short, all forms of organization in society, including the NGOs and the churches.”[16]

In the same interview, Gilberto Carvalho also comments on Dilma's statement about the MST where the president says that while the MST is an ally, she will not permit or open any dialogue about invasions of public buildings and productive farms. “What you can never imagine is any criminalization of this movement by the government. There is no margin of error for this. We are going to try to convince the comrades that dialogue is very important. We cannot dialogue while making ourselves the accomplices of any illegality. We will never retreat from this position.”[17] Carvalho recognizes that conflicts are not going away, but at the same time he explains the stance of the government toward them: “Actions will happen, they can happen, but then people have to pull back. We are not militants, this is not a political party; this is a government. You can't always do what you want. You have to act within parameters. This is what the president's statement means.”[18]

When, at the beginning of this article, we mentioned the mechanisms of domination which permeate the working class, this is precisely what we were thinking about. Minister Gilberto Carvalho is one of the most important cogs in these mechanisms and his conciliatory stance has obvious echoes in the social movements. We should recall that none other than Carvalho himself announced the gains of the day of struggle, August 27, 2011, on the site of the MST itself. Watch the video of Minister Carvalho's speech in the encampment of Via Campesina, in which he said to the landless rural laborers: “We are a government whose doors are always open, because the government belongs to you. And the country depends fundamentally on your labor, so we can continue being a country which produces food, and which also produces generosity in people's hearts, as we move toward a truly fraternal and egalitarian society.”

What would we say about a boss who made a speech to a union, congratulating them on the success of a strike by workers in his factory?

But the issue is not merely Minister Gilberto Carvalho. Although José Dirceu stayed on the sidelines in recent years, his political importance never declined and it is thus significant that he participated in important meetings with the MST leadership of the state of Sao Paolo in the first months of 2011. But recently, José Dirceu, from behind the scenes, helped create a new left-wing tendency in the PT, the Popular Socialist Left (Esquerda Popular Socialista), linked to social movements, at the same time that its constitutive assembly was meeting in the MST's Florestan Fernandes National School. Governing will be difficult, so the PT and the MST will be more closely linked.

In this regard, in counterpoint to certain analyses by some sectors of the left, Luiz Dulci—who, as secretary general of the President of the Republic during the Lula government,[19] was Gilberto Carvalho's predecessor—gives an interesting diagnosis of the results of both popular demands and those of Brazil's civil society. “Some of the most massive demonstrations of the last 20 years took place precisely during Lula's government, but news coverage almost always blacked them out or downplayed them, perhaps because they called into question, in practice, the (supposed) ebb of social movements and the (non-existent) ties between civil society and the state.”[20] Far from throwing in the towel or being co-opted, the social movements were, in Dulci's opinion, fundamental for the strengthening of governability and legitimation during Lula's terms in office. “To prove this, we have only to remember the three marches of the working class, promoted by the central leaderships of the unions, with 40,000–50,000 people each, or the ‘Cries from the Land’ (Gritos da Terra) organized annually by the Contag (National Confederation of Agricultural Workers—Confederacao Nacional dos Trabalhadores na Agricultura); the national encampments of the MST, the splendid ‘daisy marches’ which turned out 30,000 peasants from all over Brazil on the Esplanada dos Ministerios, not to mention the days of struggle of the youth, the mobilizations of feminists and of black people and the immense ‘Gay Parades’ taking place in various Brazilian state capitals.”[21]

Defending this “democratic management method,” Luiz Dulci means that all these actions described above “already constitute, in practice, a real national system of participative democracy.”[22] To drive home the breadth of such practice, Dulci emphasizes: “Policies of development, for generating employment and profits, for social inclusion, health, education, the environment, the youth, social security, women's rights, racial equality, and the democratization of culture, among many others, were discussed in 63 national conferences which directly mobilized, at various stages, more than 4.5 million people in roughly 5000 Brazilian municipalities. These policies are permanently funded and guaranteed by councils on social participation which today exist in every ministry.”[23]

What Luiz Dulci is describing, with names and numbers, is the web of relationships emanating from the capitalist center and infiltrating and diffusing themselves in the working class. Police clubs are the visible expression of these politics, drawing the line beyond which workers may not go. Those paths open to workers are different ones, set off by tighter and tighter links between the social movements and the government. And these links are not only political.

They are also economic.

“A noteworthy example of this new form of governing,” in the opinion of Luiz Dulci, “is the Annual Harvest Plan for Family Agriculture, which increased the financing of the sector from 2.5 billion to 15 billion reals, and which is promoting an authentic revolution in small-scale Brazilian agriculture, benefiting three million families (about twelve million people), giving them an economic weight and a political strength they never had. It suffices to point out that, currently, 70 percent of the total food consumed comes from family agriculture. This leap of almost 600 percent in financing is concretized through technical assistance, by agricultural insurance, by guaranteed prices and by the food acquisition program.”[24] It should be pointed out that the Harvest Plan was not a unilateral initiative of the Federal government. According to Dulci, as he reaffirmed this new participational-institutional method, the “Harvest Plan was developed by the government together with the main entities of the sector—the National Federation of Agricultural Workers (Federacao Nacional dos Trabalhadores na Agricultura, or Contag), the National Federation of Workers in Family Agriculture (Federacao Nacional dos Trabalhadores na Agricultura Familiar, or Fetraf), the Movement of Small-Scale Farmers (Movimento dos Pequenos Agricultures, or MPA), and the Movement of Rural Landless Workers (MST)—in the National Council of Food Security.”[25]

But the amounts and sourcing of financing are vaster and more numerous than Luiz Dulci has indicated.

On one hand, the National Program for the Strengthening of Family Agriculture (PRONAF) quadrupled between the crop years of 2002–2003 and 2006–2007, rising to 10 billion reals. The resources designated for the National Program of Education in the Agrarian Reform (PRONERA) and its partnerships with universities and public technical schools rose from an annual average of 10 million reals in 2003 to 35.4 million reals over the next four years. Nonetheless, these figures should be compared to the market turnover of large-scale agriculture, which is seven times larger than peasant and family agriculture: 231.5 billion reals for agribusiness and 32.8 billion reals for family agriculture in the harvests of 2003–2004 and 2007–2008.

In this respect as well, we should note that, according to the National Bank for Economic and Social Development (BNDES), “in 2009, the bank strengthened its contact with social movements in the areas of agricultural and cattle production as well as with environmental groups. In this sense, a dialogue was established for the support of cooperatives and the landless workers—which has been done in partnership with the Bank of Brazil through its business strategy for Sustainable Regional Development (DRS) and the Bank of Brazil Foundation (FBB).”[26]

But the economic links are not being established only with governmental institutions.

The deeper involvement of the MST and its financial resources has been accompanied by a deeper involvement with corporations.

Recently, various departments of the economic technocracy have announced that “Fibria, formed in the fusion between Votorantim and Aracruz, is planning to announce, in three months, a project for a settlement of 1,300 families. The partner in this agreement is the Movement of Landless Workers (MST), the very same group that three years ago destroyed the center for GM foods in Aracruz, in Guaíba.” But, curiously, “iFibria received the leaders of the MST in August at its annual strategy meeting.” We might note that this news was announced in the business press, which workers do not read, but not on the site of the MST, which gives out information in a, shall we say, rather selective form.

Fibria's project of building a settlement of ten thousand hectares in the interior of the state of Bahia involves partnerships, in addition to the MST, with INCRA[27] and with the state government of Bahia. Moreover, the campaign of the governor of Bahia, Jaques Wagner, was financed by Fibria itself. According to the president of Fibria's administrative council, José Luciano Penido, the settlement will be based on family agriculture and will have a focus on education. “We want to teach the young people in the MST how to use science and education, to dismantle an unnecessary antagonism,” he declared. But who will learn more from whom?

This is not a unique case. In Bahia as well, the MST is pushing settlements to integrate themselves into programs of Petrobras,[28] on a monoculture basis, to produce castor for biodiesel fuel.

The dissatisfaction revealed recently within the social movements, of which the resignation letter of 51 militants from organizations such as the MST was not the only, more or less public, example, has to be explained in a very large context. This is the context which must be taken apart and analyzed, to attempt to counter it, before, as usual, it is too late.

Postscript: Further on the State and the Social Movements

February 27, 2012

Passa Palavra Editor's Note: The state of Sao Paolo published information confirming the analysis we made in the above article, justifying our worst prognoses.

On February 5th of this year, Passa Palavra published the above article “The State and Social Movements,” in which we made an analysis of the principal political and economic mechanisms used by the governments of Lula and Dilma, or those even used directly by banks and large corporations, to involve the social movements in the activities of the government and to advance the modernization of Brazilian capitalism.

Curiously, the most flagrant material we put forward in the article, showing the acceptance of this orientation by the current leadership of the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST) was not questioned in any commentaries, nor were there even any manifestations of outrage. It seems that the long-term relationship established between the MST leadership and the head of the General Secretary of the President of the Republic, Gilberto Carvalho, is accepted as a natural one, as are the relationships established between the MST leadership and the corporations of several large economic groups. That these facts could pass without comment indicates the degree of demoralization to which social struggles have sunk.

On February 26th, the newspaper O Estado de S. Paolo published a curious news item, signed by Alana Rizzo, which confirms our analysis and unfortunately our worst prognoses. “Watch out for the collateral effects of urban conflicts during the election year,” the newspaper says; “the Planalto Palace[29] unleashed an operation to detect the ‘hot’ areas scattered around the country and to hook up with the local community leaders. This mapping lists 192 conflicts by apartment block, but the focus is on the three states where the opposition is in power and which have PT members or militants of the Communist Party in leadership positions in popular movements: Sao Paolo, Minas and Goiás.”

Evoking the concern raised in Brasilia over the violent events in Pinheirinho,[30] the journalist reveals that the office of the President of the Republic ordered the Coordination for Prevention and Mediation of Conflicts over Land, under the aegis of the national secretary for Housing, Ines Magalhaes, to present a report on the “potential areas of conflict: and ‘areas which are ready to become new sources of tension,’ focusing on the ‘fuse’ of the ‘red zone,’ i.e., a radicalization of the occupations planned by the movements.”

Explaining with more precision, the journalist writes: “The government requested an overview with the profile of families, social leaders and the land question in the locales of the invasions. Analyses were also made of every occupation and of the possibilities for intervention.” And, after indicating that the “report was presented to the General Secretariat of the President, headed by the minister Gilberto Carvalho and the main official responsible for dialogue with the social movements,” the news item clarifies something confirming the analysis presented in “State and Social Movements.” “Internally,” the journalist writes, “the Presidential Palace says it is watching the conflicts from afar to avoid political discussion. But the plan of the government is to act in real time with the movements.” It was to make this action “in real time” possible that the PT and Gilberto Carvalho, over a long period, have developed close ties with the leaders of these movements.

Finally, the journalist indicates that “one of the most critical areas on the list is in the (state of) Minas, with 14 registered cases of urban land disputes,” and she cites as an example the community of Dandara, in Belo Horizonte, where an occupation will have lasted three years by April 2012. After having told the journalist that “we are worried about the outrage which took place in Pinheirinho,” Fray Gilvander Moreira, one of the leaders of this community, and an advisor to the Pastoral Land Commission and to the MST, added: “A large part of the PT wants its own candidate (in Belo Horizonte) and supports the community. Dandera could be the tipping point for the election in Minas.” That a three-year occupation and the effects of a possible massacre can be measured by their electoral consequences says a great deal of the state at which social struggles have arrived.

  1. [1]Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, steelworker militant of the 1980s, and a major figure in the rise of the Brazilian Workers Party (Partido do Trabalho, or PT) who was elected president of Brazil in 2002 (following three earlier failed attempts) and who remained in office until 2010.
  2. [2]A Brazilian trade union.
  3. [3]Dilma Rousseff, also of the PT, who was elected president of Brazil in 2010.
  4. [4]These are the two main trade union federations in Brazil.
  5. [5]At this writing, the dollar–real exchange rate is $1=2.3 reals.
  6. [6]Translator's note: another minority union federation which broke away from the dominant CUT and which is not in the government.
  7. [7]Another minority left-wing union in Brazil.
  8. [8]The population and GDP of medium-sized cities are growing more than in the rest of Brazil. Cf. IPEA.
  9. [9]The MST over decades has occupied land, sometimes unused, sometimes under cultivation by the big landholders, demanding its redistribution. The outcomes vary according to a complex balance of forces, but the MST's national impact in Brazil has been huge. See the MST's web site.
  10. [10]“Evangelicals” refers to Protestant fundamentalist groups, hostile to the left, which have been making inroads in previously Catholic populations in different parts of Latin America for decades.
  11. [11]Gilberto Carvalho is an historic member of the PT, which he joined at its founding. His active trajectory on the left was tied to grassroots movements of the Catholic Church, inspired by liberation theology. He began his career as a militant in the group Pastoral Operária. After belonging to the national steering committee of that organization, Carvalho had an important role in trade-union and party development, as the secretary general of the PT for a number of years. Worthy of note, for the later influence of this experience for his role as interlocutor with the popular movements, was Carvalho's activity as coordinator at the Cajamar Institute for Education, a school for union cadre formation created by the CUT and the PT.
  12. [12]The Weekly Conjuncture: Balance Sheet of One Year of the Dilma Roussef Government, Centro de Pesquisa e Apoio aos Trabalhadores (CEPAT) and the Instituto Humanistas Unisinos, December 2011.
  13. [13]Ibid.
  14. [14]Dilma has a different style, but it's the same line,” Valor Econômico, Feb. 22 2011.
  15. [15]Ibid.
  16. [16]Ibid.
  17. [17]Ibid.
  18. [18]Ibid.
  19. [19]Luiz Soares Dulci is an outstanding figure in the PT. In addition to serving as head of the General Secretariat of the President of the Republic, Dulci was one of the main coordinators of the electoral campaign of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in 2002. Having been a militant in Convergência Socialista during the military dictatorship, he was a founding member of the CUT. He was always present among the leading national cadre of the PT, and had an important trade-union activity among teachers and played a key role in the trade-union school of the CUT in Belo Horizonte (state of Minas Gerais). He was also a Federal deputy and participated in two terms of office when the PT controlled the city of Belo Horizonte. His main role during Lula's two terms was in strengthening the dialogue of the Federal government with social organizations and movements.
  20. [20]Luiz Soares Dulci, «Participação e mudança social no governo Lula», in Emir Sader and Marco Aurélio Garcia (eds), Brasil: Entre o Passado e o Futuro, São Paulo: Boitempo, 2010, p. 144.
  21. [21]Luiz Soares Dulci, op. cit. p. 136.
  22. [22]Luiz Soares Dulci, op. cit. p. 136.
  23. [23]Ibid.
  24. [24]ibid.
  25. [25]ibid.
  26. [26]BNDES, Annual Report 2009, Rio de Janeiro: BNDES, 2010, p. 20.
  27. [27]Instituto Nacional de Colonizacao e Reforma Agraria (National Institute for Colonization and Agrarian Reform), a government agency dealing with the land problem in Brazil.
  28. [28]Petrobras is Brazil's nationalized oil company.
  29. [29]The building in Brasilia housing the offices of Brazil's president.
  30. [30]Translator's Note: Pinheirinho is the site of a land ccupation which was violently terminated by military police in September 2011.