MST: 25 years of stubborness

In January 1984, there was a mass movement rise in Brazil. The working class reorganized, accumulating organic power. Illegal political parties, such as BCP (Brazilian Communist Party), PCP (Communist Party from Brazil), were already on the streets. We had managed to achieve a partial amnesty and a large majority of exiles had already returned.

PT (Worker´s Party), CUT (Central Trade Union) and CONCLAT (Congress of the Working Classes). Broad sectors of the Christian church, inspired by the Liberation Theology were expanding their ant´s work, raising awareness and building grass roots cells in the defense of the poor. There was enthusiasm everywhere, the military dictatorship was being defeated and Brazilian working class was in the offensive. Struggling and organizing.

Peasants in rural areas were experiencing the same climate and the same offensive. Between 1979 and 1984 there were dozens of land occupations all over the country. Those living on the land without title, landless, rural wage workers all lost their fear. And went for the struggle. They did not want to migrate to the city as cattle marching to the slaughterhouse (as the expression of the late Uruguayan poet, Zitarroza).

As a consequence of all that we met in Cascavel, in January 1984, stimulated by the pastoral work of CPT [Pastoral Commission for Land] leaderships in the struggle for land from sixteen Brazilian states. And there, after 5 days debate, discussions, collective reflecting, we founded the MST. The movement of landless rural workers.

Our objectives were clear. To organize a mass movement at national level, to raise the awareness of peasants in order to struggle for land, the agrarian reform (meaning broader changes in agriculture) and for a more just and egalitarian society. We wanted to fight poverty and social inequality. The main cause of that situation in the countryside was the concentration of land, nicknamed as latifundio.

We did not have the slightest idea if it was possible or not, nor the length it would take for us to reach our objective.

25 years have gone by. A long time. Those were years of mobilizations, struggles and a persistent stubbornness, to continue struggling and mobilizing against the latifundio.

We paid a high price for our stubbornness. During Collor administration, we were heavily repressed, and a special department for landless people was created in the Federal Police. Later with the victory of neo-liberalism during the administration FHC, there was a green light for large land owners and their state police to attack the movement. In a short period of time we had two massacres: Corumbiara and Carajas. Along those years, hundreds of rural workers paid with their own lives for the dream of a free land.

But we continued struggling.

We detained neo-liberalism electing Lula. We hoped that the electoral victory would launch a new rise for mass movements, which would give more power for the agrarian reform to be implemented. There was no agrarian reform during the administration Lula. Quite the opposite, the forces of international and financial capital, through its trans-national corporations expanded their control over agriculture in Brazil. Today, the large majority of our natural wealth, production and distribution are in the hands of trans-national corporations. They have allied with capitalist farmers and produced the exploitation model of the agri-business. Many of their spokes people were quick to predict the end of the MST in the columns of their bourgeois newspapers. But they were completely mistaken.

The hegemony of the financial capital and from the transnational corporations over agriculture, luckily, did not succeed in putting an end to the MST. For a single reason, the agri-business does not represent the solution for the problems of millions of poor people living in the countryside. The MST is the expression of the wish of the poor for freedom.

The struggle for the agrarian reform, which in the past was based only on land occupation of the latifundio [large land holding], it is now more complex. We have to struggle against capital. Against the domination from trans-national corporations. And the agrarian reform has ceased to be the classical measure: expropriate large land holdings and distribute lots to poor peasants. Now, the changes in the countryside to fight poverty, inequality the concentration of wealth, depend on changes not only in landownership, but also in the production model. If now the enemies are also trans-national corporations, dominating the world markets, it also means that peasants will increasingly depend on alliances, with urban workers in order to advance in our victories.

Fortunately the MST has gained experience in the last 25 years, the necessary wisdom to develop new methods, new forms of mass struggle, to be able to resolve the problems of the people.