March 15 was a remarkable day with strikes and protests throughout Brazil. The working class, along with the youth movement, took to the streets on massive demonstrations across the country. According to Guilherme Boulos a coordinator for the Homeless Workers’ Movement, MTST, “Today is a historic day. It was a turning point. Until this moment, only civil society movements came to the streets. Today, the working class joined the strike. This sounds the alarm and marks the beginning of the end for this illegitimate government”.
Douglas Izzo, leader of the Unified Workers’ Central, CUT, in Sao Paulo state said, “Either the government withdraws the pension reform bill from the Parliament or we will paralyse the whole country and go on a general strike”. That same day, public school teachers from all over the country started a national strike against the pension reform, summoned by the National Confederation of Education Workers, CNTE. In Porto Alegre, capital of Rio Grande do Sul, besides the large demonstrations with more than 10,000 participants, Judge Marciane Bonzanini granted an injunction suspending all Michel Temer’s campaign actions for Social Security “reform”, under penalty of a R$100,000 daily fine in case of noncompliance. The lawsuit was filed by nine trade unions in Rio Grande do Sul state.
There is no doubt that the general strike of March 15 was a great victory for the working class. Besides the massive mobilisation of workers organised by the unions and the militant youth movement, independent demonstrators also supported the protest. CNTE Twitter photos: https://twitter.com/i/moments/842025193879019521
This is already a significant defeat for the coup-installed government. It has now lost the support of the masses who, manipulated by Brazil’s biggest broadcaster, Rede Globo, once beat pots as a protest against former president Dilma Rousseff and her Workers’ Party, PT. The illegitimate government, which wanted to rush through the attack on the working class by adopting the pension reform by the end of April and the labour reform by the end of June, was surprised by the huge scale of popular resistance that occupied the streets of the country with slogans against the reforms and demanding “Temer Out”.
The success of the strike brought the country to a halt. Of course, the coup-supporting media insisted on showing minor clashes between demonstrators and police and people grumbling about the lack of public transport because of the strikes. These are people who have not yet understood the gravity of the situation. Meanwhile, the great mass took to the streets with strength and joy. People did not show fatigue, even though demonstrations lasted over 4 hours. Everyone wanted to shout “Temer out” and slogans against pension reform. The youth movement, involved in historical struggles against the coup and in support of Public Education ever since 2015, kept up its enthusiasm and showed that it has not been defeated by repression and authoritarianism. On the contrary, it is stronger and more conscious, the high school students’ movement is growing across the country.
In Belo Horizonte (Minas Gerais state), between 60,000 and 100,000 people joined in the action. Teachers, subway workers, public servants, electricians and postal workers paralysed their sectors.
In Betim (also Minas Gerais state), oil workers did not go to work. Additionally, there were demonstrations in other Minas Gerais cities such as Uberaba, Uberlândia, Varginha, Poços de Caldas, Pouso Alegre, Governador Valadares, Montes Claros, São Francisco, Lima Duarte and Piau. In Juiz de Fora, teachers stopped their activities, as well as DaimlerChrysler engineering workers, public servants in general, banking employees, postal workers and others. The unified action brought out some 30,000, as those striking workers were joined by members of Landless Workers’ Movement, MST, high school and university students, in a demonstration that occupied the main avenue of the city for more than two hours.
In Curitiba (Paraná state), around 50,000 people took over the Civic Center, the avenue that holds most governmental head offices, both state and municipal. The strike was strong among metalworkers, transport workers, postal workers, bank workers, federal universities officers, municipal and state servants and oil workers. High school students were also present and occupied the schools.
In Recife, Pernambuco state, according to CUT, 40,000 people joined the protests. Metro and public transportation workers went on strike, as well as municipal and state teachers. Housing movements (MLB and MTST) built barricades on the highways that give access to the capital.
In Rio Grande do Sul state, workers from the public education sector and power industry joined the strike. There were blockades on inland highways and demonstrations in several cities. In the capital, Porto Alegre, the strike was built by workers from banks, post, DMAE (Municipal Water and Sewage Department), public education and from federal offices. The unified action had the participation of approximately 10,000 people.
In Salvador, Bahia state, there was an action with around 30,000 people. Both the municipal and the state education systems stopped work as teachers and other public servants from federal university UFBA and state university UNEB, also joined the movement. Public and private banks had their opening hours delayed.
In Natal, Rio Grande do Norte state, about 4,000 workers staged a protest in the middle of the city. Teachers from municipal, state and federal schools decided to stop for 24 hours. Road and banking companies went on a partial strike.
In the capital of Brazil, Brasília, DF, approximately 5,000 people took part in the occupation of the Federal Ministry of Finance building. Sao Paulo, the economic heart of the country, woke up with a paralysed subway and public transportation system. Workers from municipal and state education and some private schools decided to stop work, as well as some medical and healthcare workers. There were actions in the industrial zone of the southern party of the city. Students and employees from the Federal University, USP, blocked the entrance of the university to protest against the pension reform and against the Dean’s attacks on the trade unions and student movements. Workers from state technical schools also stopped work: in the metropolitan region alone, 20 schools were closed. At the end of the morning, about 200 women occupied the National Institute for Social Security, INSS, building, in the centre of the city. At the end of the afternoon, about 200,000 people occupied Sao Paulo’s most important avenue, Avenida Paulista.
In São José dos Campos, in Sao Paulo state, General Motors workers had a 3 hour stoppage before starting work. At the aircraft manufacturer, Embraer, there was also a protest action against the destruction of social protection. In Jacareí, the metalworkers of the Chinese automobile manufacturer Cherry called a 24 hour strike.
In the ABC Region, in Greater Sao Paulo, there were very important strikes by Volkswagen workers in Sao Bernardo do Campo and the Capuava Refinery oil workers in Maua. In Santos, port workers went on strike despite facing repression from the military police of State Governor Geraldo Alckmin. All bus services in the coastal cities of Santos, Guaruja, Praia Grande and Cubatao were frozen by striking bus workers.
In Rio de Janeiro state, activities began early in the morning, delaying the shift of workers from Duque de Caxias Oil Refinery, in Baixada Fluminense region. In Campos dos Goytacazes, a city responsible for 80 percent of the state’s oil production, all access to the Port of Acu was blocked. Medical and healthcare workers from the state system were already on strike and were joined by health workers from the federal system. One carriageway of the Rio-Niteroi Bridge was blocked early in the morning and post workers from Rio de Janeiro municipality also joined the strike. The demonstration in the state capital began in mid-afternoon and numbered around 100,000 people.
In Fortaleza, Ceara state, there was an action in the morning, joined by 30,000 people. Construction sites and bus companies stopped. Around 200 public schools have not had classes. The unified demonstration was convened by all the Trade Unions, the Popular Brazil Front, the Front of Fearless People and the Left Bloc.
These data were obtained from Movement for an Independent and Socialist Alternative, MAIS (http://esquerdaonline.com.br) and from union leaders. According to a CUT survey, there were over 1 million people on protests and shutdowns across the country. These numbers were boosted by the great demonstrations that took place on International Women’s Day, March 8, that highlighted the centrality of the fight against the destruction of Social Security.
Until now, the movement against the coup leaders and the Temer government has been almost exclusively led by the social movements and the students, the fact that the organised working class has now definitely joined the fight is a major step forward.
The united front of the trades unions played a crucial role in this victorious March 15, the struggle against the destruction of Social Security gave them a basis for united action. This is one of the lessons to be learned from March 15, the importance of overcoming sectarianism to resist capitalist attacks.
However, we cannot stop there. This action, no matter how successful it may have been, was not enough to stop the attack by the coup government of Temer. The working class responded to the call to fight and the population was aware of the grave situation we are experiencing, supporting and joining in the protests. In order not to lose this momentum, we must now take the movement even further, triggering working class strikes and adding withdrawal of the proposed pension “reform”, PEC 287, to our demands and building for an indefinite general strike to end the attacks on working class rights and past gains and the final downfall of the coup government of Temer.
This movement is marked by its class character. People went to the streets when they were called out by the trade unions, with their own flags and left-wing parties’ flags. It seems that the Brazilian people and working class have now awoken from a nightmare and hoisted their historic flags of resistance against the attacks of the bourgeoisie, opening a space for a rich discussion about the necessity for a struggle for a just, egalitarian and truly democratic society. A socialist society.
• Against the pension reform!
• No repeal of rights!
• Temer out!
• All power to the people!
Original version by Liga Socialista, supporters of the League for the Fifth International in Brazil