The member of the national board of the Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) João Pedro Stedile spoke with Brasil de Fato in Rio Grande do Norte, northeastern Brazil, about the impacts of the education budget cuts announced by the Jair Bolsonaro administration. The landless leader says the most affected by the move will be those who live in rural areas, and that the government’s decision exposes its lack of commitment with public education in the country.
Stedile also spoke about the pro- and anti-government protests and the Landless Workers’ Movement’s perspectives facing a scenario of elimination of rights in Brazil.
Read the highlights of the interview below.
What is your view on the education budget cuts?
This government is irresponsible. They are cutting all the rights of the working class, which they claim will “reduce the maximum labor cost.” Workers no longer have the right to education, health, housing, and land reform. The government wants to turn these public services into mere commodities, which only those with money can access. It’s the same with education. That’s what professor Paulo Arantes said, “after the cuts, they will privatize education.”
And how can these budget cuts affect rural education programs?
What’s at stake is that they don’t want any public education, at any level – high or higher education, postgraduate education, nothing. During the [Luiz Inácio] Lula [da Silva] and Dilma [Rousseff] administrations, rural workers had access to the university through Pronera [Brazil’s national program for education in land reform areas], and this was the first thing they cut, and that’s what will happen with other basic education programs.
What is your opinion about the May 30 demonstrations?
We are in a process in which the ideological battle will be fought on the streets. We held a gigantic demonstration on the 15th, which caught the bourgeoisie by surprise, because they didn’t expect there would so many people.
They tried to get even on the 26th, but that was a failure. The two cities with the largest demonstrations were São Paulo, with 50,000, and Rio de Janeiro, with 20,000, which is nothing. It was only the high-income, racist middle class that took to the streets on the 26th, which had been calling for a reactionary agenda since the presidential campaign. So the support for the government was limited to that ideological group called ‘Bolsonarists,’ and he lost a social base that voted for him.
Now, for the 30th [of May], we expected to get our own back, but the political scenario changed in each city. In some, the number of protesters was smaller, but it was bigger in others, like São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, so we won the battle on the streets.
The demonstrations – by the youth and teachers and professors – give us the energy to organize an actual general strike on the 14th [of June]. The working class needs to move and walkout, stop production, bring people and products to a halt, to let the capitalists who own this government know that, if they keep eliminating rights, the working class will not accept it.
Translated by Aline Scátola