Bernardo Corrêa [*]
April 28 was a historic day for the class struggle in Brazil. The general strike stopped all Brazilian capitals and the main cities of the country in a demonstration of strength of the working class as it had not been seen for a long time. The strike was the strongest and most important of the last 28 years, comparable to the general strike of 1989, where 35 million workers stopped their activities.
The organizers say that in the 28A strike, more than 30 million people stopped working among the most diverse lines of work: bankers, teachers, metallurgists, urban transport workers (buses, trains and subways), landless, Ceiling and the incredible strength of young people and women. Trade, schools, public transportation, many factories and banks did not work, and also blocked the main highways and airports of the country. In the big cities, the numbers of people who have mobilized are incredible: from 150,000 in Belo Horizonte, 70,000 in São Paulo, 70,000 in Natal, 50,000 in Rio de Janeiro, Fortaleza and Belém, 30,000 in Goiânia, 20,000 in Salvador, Curitiba and Porto Alegre. At least 254 cities have stopped, according to the press.
Faced with pension and labor “reforms”, the protests united the various social movements, youth, peasants and workers in Brazil. The economic crisis that the country is going through is very serious, the GDP has negative growth and it already accumulates 14 million unemployed. The government’s measures are draconian, allowing outsourcing of all activities and attacking decades of earned labor rights. Among many of the attacks are the decrease in lunch-break times, negotiation by company and no longer by job categories, vacations split up to 3 parcels, flexible employment contracts and raising the minimum retirement age to 65 for men and 62 for women.
In this scenario, Michel Temer government goes through moments of great weakness. His approval rate is at 4%, as research shows recently. The strike, in addition to the millions of people who were on the streets and pickets, won immense popular support. A virtual survey by the most reactionary national weekly magazine (Veja Magazine), which involved more than 700,000 people, reported the support of about 97% in favor of the strike. The media and government initially tried to reduce the impact of the movement and say that it is a struggle of isolated groups, but throughout the day it was impossible to sustain this version, forcing them to admit in the evening news that it was one of the biggest strikes in the country’s history. Strong demonstrations clashed with large police repression, especially in Rio de Janeiro, where there were heavy combats, with cars and buses burning, and in Sao Paulo, where the demonstration went to Temer’s house.
The participation of Juntos and MES / PSOL was decisive. Luciana Genro (former Presidential candidate) and all of our counselors and congressmen had been at the pickets since 03:00 and were well received at demonstrations throughout the country. The union bureaucracies that acted to contain the activism of the work places were run over by the base, opening space for the construction of a new direction for the Brazilian workers.
It can be said that the general strike on April 28 opened a new cycle of struggles in Brazil. It was possible to feel the atmosphere of the great days of June 2013, but with the decisive presence of the organized working class, which was not seen at that time. However, the government continues its offensive and we will need to build a mobilization agenda and raise the temperature of the struggles to defeat the neoliberal plans of the illegitimate government of Temer. The streets gave their message. The battle began.
[*] Sociologist and member of the board of MES / PSOL. He currently works in Peru collaborating with Movimiento Nuevo Perú.