Brazil’s youth are fighting for their lives

In Levante’s first national gathering since the onset of the pandemic, militants reaffirmed the necessity of grassroots organizing and fighting for a Brazil for all Brazilians

June 20, 2022 by Brasil de Fato
Members of Levante participated in an action denouncing racist violence. Photo: Guilherme Gandolfi

Celebrating 10 years of organizing, the Brazilian organization Popular Youth Uprising (Levante Popular da Juventude), held its 1st National Meeting of Militants, at the Federal Fluminense University (UFF), in the city of Niterói, in the Rio de Janeiro state. The event brought together over a thousand young people from all over the country from June 16 to 19. Militants united under the slogan “fighting for a Brazil for Brazilians”, a nod to world-renowned author Carolina Maria de Jesus, who lived most of her life in the slums of São Paulo. 

On the first day of the meeting, João Pedro Stedile, a member of the national coordination of the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement (MST), and Julia Aguiar, vice-president of the National Students Union (UNE), participated in the discussion titled “What kind of world do we live in?”

Stedile recalled the 1st National Levante Camp, held in 2012 in Rio Grande do Sul, and declared that the decision to build the Levante was a historic achievement, given the potential of the youth struggle in Brazil.

“The processes of struggle have always been carried out by young people, who put their rebelliousness at the service of the peoples’ struggle. We can see this in the Cuban Revolution, in the process of re-democratization in Brazil, and in so many others. It has been like this throughout the history of humanity and I hope to be sowing in fertile soil, bringing reflections for you to consider,” said Stedile.

This gathering is the first national event of the Levante movement after the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo: Sara Sulamita / Levante Popular da Juventude

As detailed by Julia Aguiar, who is also a member of Levante, “we lived through a very complex period, which was the coup of 2016. We know that this process had a profound impact on the Brazilian reality and especially on the lives of youth, implementing a neoliberal policy that cut jobs, cut budgets for public education, and cut people’s rights.”

Aguiar also spoke of hope and, remembering the motto of the meeting, said, “This is a moment of resistance and struggle for a Brazil built with the people and for the people.” She ended her speech, urging the plenary: “How about we go for it?”

10 years of history

Planned since the end of 2021, the event is the movement’s first national activity after the onset of the pandemic. According to a note released by the organization, the gathering brings together “young people from high schools, universities, the peripheries, the countryside and the city, who fight in defense of a structural transformation of Brazilian society.”

Former President Dilma Rousseff participates in national meeting of Levante

The Movement held a tribute to Dilma, remembering moments from the life of the former president and handing her a symbolic presidential sash – Sara Sulamita / Levante Popular da Juventude

On the night of Friday, June 17, Levante organized a political event within its National Meeting of Militants. The space served to discuss the current political and electoral moment, as well as pointing out the challenges in defeating Bolsonarism.

Dilma Rousseff, former President of Brazil, was present at the event and gave a speech of just over 30 minutes. In her speech, Rousseff, who started her political militancy as a teenager, celebrated the 10 years of Levante organizing, stating that the hope for a better future lies in the organization of Brazilian youth.

“The Popular Uprising is facing a neoliberal government with a fascist character. And in facing this, it faces, in society, the terrible evils that this causes. Not only the shameful extermination of the majority part of the youth of this country, the black youth, but also the hatred, the police violence that has spread throughout this country and that has reached terrifying proportions, such as the gas chamber inside a police car, the armed hand of the state,” he said.

Dilma also stressed the importance of organizing popular committees.

“It is extremely important that the youth get organized in popular committees. It is the strength of the organized people capable of having their own strategy, of defending their agendas, which are our agendas, that will transform this country. President Lula is a person with an immense capacity for work, with immense management capacity, and with immense political capacity. And it is he who says ‘without the strength of the people, I cannot govern.'”

In addition to Dilma, the national president of leftist party PSOL, Juliano Medeiros, federal deputy Jandira Feghali of the Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB), federal deputy Benedita da Silva of the Worker’s Party (PT), Leidiano Farias representing the Popular Brazil Movement, Duda Queiroga, president of the Central Worker’s Union of Rio de Janeiro (CUT-RJ), and Bruna Belaz, president of the National Union of Students (UNE), were also present.

Marina dos Santos, who is a member of the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement (MST) and a pre-candidate for state deputy in Rio de Janeiro, also attended the meeting.

The MST member stated, “It is very important that the youth take this energy that is here in this meeting, of joy, of transformation, back to all corners of the country, in the sense that we celebrate, but also project the transformations that we are going to conquer for this next period, mainly resuming democracy in the country with the election of Lula as president and with the defeat, finally, of Bolsonarism.”

The Movement of Workers for Rights (MTD), the Homeless Workers Movement (MTST), the Movement of People Affected by Dams (MAB), the Petrochemical Workers’ Federation (FUP), the Brazilian Union of Secondary School Students (UBES), the Worker’s Party Youth, the RUA Movement, the Socialist Youth Union (UJS), and the Afronte Collective, among others, also contributed with speeches.

Levante action calls for justice for victims of police massacres

The action in Rio de Janeiro recalled the Black parliamentarians throughout Brazil who have been receiving threats – Guilherme Gandolfi / Levante Popular da Juventude

On Saturday afternoon, June 18, Levante organized an action in Rio de Janeiro against the genocide of Black youth. “The peasant youth, the youth from the slums and the periphery, the organized youth, wherever they are, are here to claim our lives, our future,” said Ellen Neves, from Levante Rio, of the Manguinhos territorial unit.

“The state and city of Rio de Janeiro are marked by violence. So much so that it is the state where Bolsonaro’s figure is consolidated,” said Daiane Araújo, from the National Coordination.

“We will come to address the extermination of Black youth, but not only that. Within the context of our meeting, we challenge ourselves to elaborate our popular program for the youth, to claim a project of dignified life in the context of the re-democratization of the country and the reconstruction of our rights,” she added.

The protest is part of the National Meeting of Levante, and takes place at a time of extreme violence against the poor and Black population of Rio de Janeiro. Police carried out 39 massacres, with 178 murders in just one year under Governor Cláudio Castro of the Liberal Party, according to a survey conducted by the Fogo Cruzado Institute with the Group for the Study of New Illegalities at the Federal Fluminense University (Geni-UFF).

At the opening of the action, at Arcos da Lapa, in the city of Rio de Janeiro, Jessy Dayane, from the National Coordination of Levante, also recalled the threats against Black parliamentarians. “Black congressmen and councilmen have to spend all their time defending their lives, thinking about their safety, and can’t focus on political proposals to change the lives of the people. That’s what they want: to take our lives, to take us out of politics,” she said.

Also present at the event were state representative Renata Souza (PSOL), who herself was the victim of threats in on social media at the end of 2020, and councilwoman Thais Ferreira (PSOL).

Act at the Arcos da Lapa, in Rio de Janeiro, is part of the National Meeting of the Popular Youth Levante / Jennifer Marques

This article was adapted from several articles originally published on Brasil de Fato.

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