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Participatory Politics and the Itararé Manifesto


Source: UJS/PCdoB

Reinaldo Azevedo of Veja magazine comments on the fine points of the recent wave of protest movements in Brazil.

I analyze Dilma’s speech – As I foresaw, the president is using the protests to announce a leftward turn to her government; if all goes well for the PT and badly for Brazil, we will have a government influenced by “popular councils” made up of people who have never been elected.

Public consultations have been a watchword for the ruling party since the inauguration of the participatory budget process in Rio Grande do Sul at the outset of the last decade.

It is no accident that the Free Pass Movement (MPL) — at first glance an ephemeral mobilization over the trivial matter of a R$ 0.20 fare hike– has deep roots in the long-term agenda of the PT.

As mayor, for instance Luiza Erundina submitted a bill greatly expanding the public subsidy for public transport — a measly 12% — and taking aim at the corruption in the current system of concessions.

In her speech last evening, Dilma Rousseff used the apparent urgency of the moment — ironically, a media-driven moment in itself — to push for three major reforms on a national level: urban transport, visa reform for foreign doctors to work in the health care system, and the use of  100% of oil revenues for education.  

Azevedo, then — anti-Veja friends will howl — is absolutely correct: the recent street demonstrations resemble ad hoc, bottom-up and horizontally integrated events based on a participatory model of policy making. In fact, however, they count on the discipline of deeply rooted networking practices among “social organizations” — less reliant on digital technology — is the opposition overly reliant on social tech? — but still able to connect to hearts and minds.

Thirty-five social and popular movements have addressed a letter to President Rousseff regarding the wave of protests that have swept Brazil and the agenda of the government. These organizations believe it is urgent to convene a national conference to create dialogue between state governors and the mayors of major cities and the social movements, in search of solutions to the urban crisis suffered by the big cities. The text of the letter follows:

Madame President,

This week, Brazil witnessed mobilization in 15 capital and hundreds of other cities. We agree with their belief in the importance of these mobilizations to Brazilian democracy, because we known that the necessary changes can only be achieved through popular mobilization.
More than just a mere conjuncture of events, the recent movements demonstrate a gradual resumption of the capacity for popular struggle. It was this popular resistance that made possible the outcome of the elections in 2002, 2006 and 2010. Our people, dissatisfied with neoliberal programs, voted for another program of government. The implementation of this other project has met with stiff resistance, mainly from rent-seekers and neoliberal sectors of society which remain influential.

But it has also confronted the limits imposed by fair-weather alliances, a domestic bourgeoisie that … stands in the way of structural reforms, such as urban reform and public transport.

The international crisis has impeded growth and with this, has interrupted the continuity of the project that helped create the broad front that to date has sustained the government.

The recent mobilizations have been carried out by a broad, diverse group of youth who are experiencing their first demonstrations. This process educates its participants, allowing them to perceive the need to confront those who impede the democratization of income, healthcare, education, land, cultura, political participation and access to mass media.

Conservative forces hope to dispute the meaning of these movements.

The media is trying to characterize the movement as anti-Dilma, anti-corruption, against public spending and other issues which imply the return the neoliberal agenda. We believe that there are a diversity of agenda, a diversity consistent with the diversity of opinions and world views in our society. This is a shout of indignation by a people historically excluded from national political life and accustomed to view politics as having a negative impact on society.

In the face of the foregoing, we write to you to defend public policies that guarantee the reduction of public transportion fares and a reduction in the revenues of the large transport companies. We oppose the policy of tax breaks for these companies.

The time is ripe for the government to move forward with democratic popular agendas and to stimulate the participation and politicization of society. We commit ourselves to promoting all sorts of debates on these themes, and make ourselves available to debate with the public authorities as well.

We propose that a national conference be scheduled on an urgent basis, involving state governments, the mayors of capital cities, and the members of all the social movements. We are open to dialogue and believe this conference is the only way to find solutions for the urban crisis our cities confront.

This is is a propitious moment. These are the largest demonstrations the current generation, and some of the ones before it, have ever seen. We hope the current government will opt to govern with the people and not against it.


ADERE-MG; Associação Nacional de Pós-Graduandos (ANPG); AP – Assembléia Popular; Barão de Itararé; CIMI; CMP-MMC/SP; CMS; Coletivo Intervozes; CONEN; Consulta Popular; CTB; CUT; Fetraf; Fórum Ecumênico ACT Brasil; FNDC- Fórum Nacional pela Democratização da Comunicação; FUP; KOINONIA Presença Ecumênica e Serviço; Levante Popular da Juventude; MAB; MAM; MCP; MMM; Movimentos da Via Campesina; MPA; MST; Quilombo; Rede Ecumênica de Juventude (REJU); SENGE/PR; Sindipetro – SP; SINPAF; UBES; UBM; UJS; UNE;/ UNEGRO