Bethania Assy & Bruno Cava – The Guardian, 07/01/2013
Who would have thought that the Latin American spring would blossom in Brazil? In the past 10 years, the country has created a “new middle class” by bringing 40 million people to unprecedented levels of income and consumption, and creating 19 million jobs in the midst of one of the worst global financial crises. Why then do millions of young people feel so politically unrepresented that they have taken to the streets in such numbers?
Brazilian commentators have proffered many partial answers, some of universal import, others specific to Brazil. The low level of confidence in representative institutions which are seen as corrupt and undemocratic is one; the government’s willingness to back various mega sporting events alongside its broken promises on the social state agenda (including health, education and public transport) is another; finally, the depoliticisation of a part of the Brazilian middle and upper-middle class youth. These are people who have reaped the benefits of capitalist growth without experiencing its side-effects of extreme inequality, poverty and despair. They have accepted the rightwing, anti-state ideology and have turned it into the anti-political “no party” slogans constantly heard in the protests. The ejection in the protests of flags or shirts indicating “any” political association is a direct attack on the leftwing parties and social movements who started the campaign. This is a hegemonic struggle for political power. The right has been trying to unite different parts of the population against Dilma’s administration and is now using the protests to this end.
It would be too reductionist, however, to interpret the multitude in the streets as part of a rightwing or neoliberal conspiracy. The colourful multiplicity of protests is not a prelude to a rightwing coup, something from which Brazil has repeatedly suffered. The activists of the social movements as well as the extremist anti-Dilma rightwing groups are only a minority. The majority of protesters are people who have never before taken part in political activism or demonstrations. The protests catalyse a dispersed, even ideologically contradictory, feeling of indignation. The anti-political and anti-party chants of rightwingers, who may be secretly praying for a military coup, cannot be compared with the multitude’s cry “que se vayan todos!” (let them all go). The central meaning of the protests brings them closer to events in Argentina in 2001, and makes them an integral part of the cycle of occupations all over the world since 2011. Diverse grievances, antagonistic hopes and conflicting narratives ground the protests, but they are also part of the new age of resistance. No, we have not seen this film before.