MST leader João Paulo Rodrigues on upcoming Brazilian elections

In an interview with OperaMundi, Rodrigues discusses Popular Committees and the demonstrations in favor of Lula’s candidacy

March 24, 2022 by Landless Rural Workers' Movement
In a visit to the Eli Vive settlement in Londrina, in the state of Paraná, Lula unveiled the popular committees last Saturday, March 19. Photo: @midianinja

In an interview on Wednesday, March 23 with journalist Breno Altman on his Interview program, João Paulo Rodrigues, a national leader of the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST), explained how the MST and landless families living in the Agrarian Reform areas throughout the country are organizing for this year’s elections. Rodrigues explained that this year’s presidential elections are of strategic importance for the reorganization of the left, for the mass struggle, and for Brazil’s standing in the American continent.

According to Rodrigues, the MST is organizing on three fronts: the construction of popular committees, in partnership with the Worker’s Party (PT) throughout the country to debate which agendas should be included in Lula’s platform; the strengthening of the electoral candidates and campaigns both of the MST and supported by the MST; and the fight against fake news.

“In the MST, for the first time, we have a slightly more organized agenda for the election of candidates. We have between ten and twelve states with their own candidacies…people living on encampments and settlements [of the MST], who are going to be candidates, and there are others from the grassroots that the MST supports…The second task of the election is the popular committees…we need to build a process of organizing the Brazilian people who want to vote with Lula; it’s a space for the militants from the countryside and the city to get together and think about what the tasks are…for the next period. We have to start debating an agenda of a minimum platform for Lula to change the country. And to communicate with society, we can’t lose to fake news, much less to the Bolsonarist agenda,” said Rodrigues.

Rodrigues invited the Brazilian people and especially the Left to join in organizing popular committees throughout the country, with the objective of discussing what the Brazilian people need to be included in Lula’s platform. “Any militant from leftist parties, popular movements, and unions can create committees in various locations around the country. If these committees are well organized, they will play a role in organizing resistance and the struggle to confront Bolsonarism after the elections. That is why the committees play a tactical role pre-campaign, and during the campaign and post-campaign,” he said.

On the other hand, Rodrigues emphasized that the MST will support Lula’s candidacy, regardless of who is on his ticket, and stated that, for the moment, “the presence of Geraldo Alckmin (PSB) is not yet a reason for concern.”

According to Rodrigues, Alckmin’s relationship with the MST in the state of São Paulo has been one of mutual respect, and he has never persecuted the Movement. “Alckmin is a right-wing person…but the fact that he has not persecuted us as he did in several other governments…gives us a peace of mind, that if he supports our program, our political positions regarding national sovereignty, economy and the issues of democracy, and we manage to achieve the defeat of Bolsonaro, we see no problem.”

In relation to the construction of political alliances and the agendas of popular movements to guarantee the interests of workers in Lula’s platform, Rodrigues points out how, thus far, the forces of capital have proven to be supportive of Bolsonaro. In order to win the 2022 elections, the Left needs to expand the agendas of movements in order to convince those in the political center and the youth to join Lula’s campaign.

“What we have to do in order to win this election is form popular committees, have a mobilization calendar, politicize both the militants and the base, so that this election can have a little of the spirit that the Chilean election had…that can shape the next period…. It has to have a little bit of Latin America, a little bit of ’89, a little bit of boldness…We have to attract the youth, the Left, but we also have to attract the center, the middle class…And I think Lula is the greatest beacon of hope, who will help us in designing the political struggle for the next era. ”

João Paulo Rodrigues is a farmer and land reform settlement activist. He possesses a degree in the social sciences, and is part of the National Coordination of the MST.

This article was originally published in the website of the Landless Rural Worker’s Movement (MST).