Interview

Stedile: with no bedrock support or project, Bolsonaro tends to become more isolated

Brazilian landless workers’ leader argues that the Brazilian government’s contradictions are becoming increasingly clear

Leia em português | Leer en español | Brasil de Fato | São Paulo

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Stedile: “People will become more aware that this government has nothing in common with the Brazilian nation” / Rafael Stedile

Jair Bolsonaro’s approval ratings, recent polls show, have been on the slide since he took office, in January, and should continue to drop and make him increasingly isolated, as the president of Brazil has not clearly presented a project for the country and does not have enough bedrock supporters to keep his hawkish, unpopular discourse for long.

That is the opinion of João Pedro Stedile, a member of the national board of Brazil’s Landless Workers’ Movement (MST) and La Via Campesina International.

“The Brazilian society is dismayed at his rhetoric and his actions. It feels like every month people become more and more appalled by the way Bolsonaro expresses – very honestly, from his own perspective – his views on society, the world, and Brazil,” Stedile told Brasil de Fato. “Those views Bolsonaro expresses every day clash with the culture, the politics, and the customs of the Brazilian people. This is why I believe that – and this is what tends to happen – Bolsonaro will grow increasingly isolated over time.”

The landless leader said the left and the people’s forces have to present a structural project for the country that can create jobs, increase income, and improve life conditions. And one of the challenges for the left to get this message across to society is to improve communication strategies targeting the masses.

“There is not one specific way, but actually thousands of strategies to communicate with the masses, including radio, newspapers, newsletters, graffiti art, a song, or a cultural performance,” he said, adding that “people’s movements and the left at large have to overhaul the methods of pedagogy of the masses, which means working differently to raise people’s awareness.”

Read the highlights of the interview below.

Brasil de Fato: A recent opinion poll by Ibope from Sep. 25 showed that Bolsonaro’s rejection rate has been consistently on the rise. Not only it’s the highest rate since January, but he also hit a record-high rejection rate for all presidents since José Sarney, the first president since the democratic transition, in 1985. What could that mean? 

João Pedro Stedile: These are the first signs that the Bolsonaro administration does not have bedrock support. He is the result of the manipulation conducted through Globo [Brazil’s biggest media conglomerate] and social media. Having support from Trump’s campaign and Israel’s [intelligence agency] Mossad, they created powerful bots to operate on services like WhatsApp and Facebook, building up that whole atmosphere a month before the 2018 election. And since Lula was barred from running, that boosted Bolsonaro’s chances of winning. But being elected and rising to power does not mean that he represents society.

The Brazilian society is dismayed at his rhetoric and his actions. It feels like every month people become more and more appalled by the way Bolsonaro expresses – very honestly, from his own perspective – his views on society, the world, and Brazil. Those views Bolsonaro expresses every day clash with the culture, the politics, and the customs of the Brazilian people. This is why I believe that – and this is what tends to happen – Bolsonaro will grow increasingly isolated over time.

Even from his political alliances?

From everything. The first step is popular rejection. At first, he managed to manipulate people. This is actually why they had to start supporting Bolsonaro only in the last few weeks before the election [which took place in October]. Had they started to campaign in April or May, people would have had the time to realize it was all lies. So he was the result of this media manipulation that is now dissolving.

What are our challenges moving forward? What should be the key demands to struggle for?

For the working class and the people, there are huge challenges posed by Brazil’s current situation. One of them is about facing the full-fledged crisis hitting the Brazilian society. This is a long crisis that cannot be resolved overnight or through one single proposal.

For example, we have 13 million jobless people and 30 million working in vulnerable employment conditions. So we have around 50 million workers who are alienated from the production process. This is not something easy to resolve, even if we had a political change or if Lula quickly returned to power – respecting the election calendar, the next presidential election is not until 2022.

The left and the people’s forces have to bring forward a debate about a project for the country that includes structural measures to change the country’s economy and create jobs, income, and better life conditions for the people.

The second challenge is precisely how to convey these ideas to the ordinary people. It’s not enough to have these ideas clear between ourselves – with courses and schools, with the Youth Uprising or the MST. It’s the common people, the masses, who have to realize that a new project is needed.

So the challenge for leftwing and people’s forces is reaching out to these masses, and there is not one specific way, but actually thousands of strategies to communicate with the masses, including radio, newspapers, newsletters, graffiti art, a song, or a cultural performance. The first demonstration against Bolsonaro happened through culture, when people used the carnival season to upbraid him, and that was education for the masses. Even amid that folkloric atmosphere of carnival season, people saw Bolsonaro as an enemy of the Brazilian people and culture.

The third challenge is that the working class and people’s forces need political unity to build a common platform for struggle. This is also not easy, because every political party has its own interests. In general, parties in Brazil are not political institutions to organize the people and engage in mass struggle. Institutional parties in Brazil are organized to run for elections only. The logic of the elections is not necessarily a logic of class struggle and social change. The party thinks: “who is going to win the elections for city government, council, or state or federal representative?” That, sometimes, is far from what the people want: jobs, homes, education, and health.

The last challenge is that people’s movements and the left at large have to overhaul the methods of pedagogy of the masses, which means working differently to raise the people’s awareness. We have to be creative and find new pedagogic ways to convey our message and raise people’s awareness. Awareness means grasping what is happening in Brazil, and, from that, having the people engaged in changing this reality.

One of the aspects that capitalism brought about – not only to the Brazilian society, but to the entire world – is the environmental crisis. It’s extremely serious, because it’s about the living conditions in the environment. Everyone needs to eat, and food is part of nature. Everyone needs to breathe and needs oxygen to survive. Everyone needs water, and it has to be good, or you’ll get sick. Thousands of children all over Brazil, for example, still die because they drink water that is in poor conditions.

These are the topics that are directly connected with the environment where we live and our relationship with nature. Everything comes from nature: food, water, oxygen, the weather, and climate change.

How to solve the environmental crisis is also part of a different project for Brazil. It’s actually about having a different attitude, whether as human beings or as the way we organize production facing the problems coming from the assault capital has been carrying out against nature.

Does Bolsonaro have a project for the country? If so, what is it?

The good thing is that he does not have a project for the Brazilian nation. Bolsonaro is just a capitão do mato, to use a reference from Brazil’s history of slavery. A capitão do mato was a black man contracted by white capitalist slave owners to patrol their plantations. Now our capitalist masters are the banks and big transnational corporations, focused on the United States.

So the modern capitão do mato is Bolsonaro and he is completely subjected to his white master, represented by Trump. But it’s not Trump as an individual, but the symbology of great US capital that has to rule our economy, take over our oil, our iron ore, our market, and our state-owned companies.

He recently visited the United States and it was pathetic: he met with Trump and said to him, in English: “I love you.” That’s ridiculous. Two heads of State meet. Symbolically, that’s two different peoples. And neither one deserves those commanders.

The good thing is that people will become more aware that this government has nothing in common with the Brazilian nation and that, therefore, we have to build – with the people and the people’s forces – a project for the nation.

Edition: João Paulo Soares