The general strike in Brazil on 28 April was rated a great success by the trade unions, the social movements and the various parts of the left. It showed that the working class has recognised the importance of the moment and its pressure has been felt in the trade unions, social movements, youth and left parties. In short, the general strike marked the entry of the working class into the struggle against the Temer government in the form of a united front.
According to the online newspaper “Brasil de Fato”, about 40 million workers took part, making this the biggest general strike in Brazilian history, both in the number of strikers and in its geographical spread. The bourgeois press tried at first to conceal the strike, reporting nothing about its impact right across the country but, from hour to hour, this became impossible and they were forced to show the pictures. Of course, even then, they tried to use these to disparage the strikers, especially the pickets. They tried to give the impression that the whole thing was the work of “hooligans” and “down and outs” by showing pictures that suggested it was only a small number of trade unionists who had obstructed the majority who wanted to work.
The strike began in the grey light of early dawn, as union militants organised themselves in picket lines in front of the garages, bus terminals, subway stations and factory gates, persuading workers to join the strike. In Rio de Janeiro, even the ferries were stopped, the main thoroughfares were blocked by strikers and the bridge connecting Rio de Janeiro and Niterói was closed. Even those who had wanted to go to work came to see the necessity of the strike day.
Although there was practically no public transport, participation in the central demonstrations was large and as numerous as in the protest days before, sometimes even greater, as in Belo Horizonte, the capital of Minas Gerais, where 150,000 stayed till the end of the rally despite torrential rain. In Juiz de Fora, an industrial city in Minas Gerais, where our comrades organised the campaign, 30,000 came out, almost 10 percent of the population, and as in other cities, buses could not leave the garages.
We can safely say that about 40 million Brazilians were mobilised by the general strike against the reforms of the pension system and labour laws. It was a movement that spread right across the vast expanse of Brazilian territory, not only in the big cities and metropolises, but also in the innumerable small and medium sized towns of the interior.
In some cities, there was violent repression. In Rio de Janeiro, the police attacked the workers and youths who participated in the legal demonstrations by trying to break them up with rubber bullets and tear gas. In response to the police violence, eight buses were set on fire. In Goiania, during a brutal police attack, a teenager was hit so hard by a policeman with a baton that the resulting head injuries have left him in a coma, hovering between life and death.
In other places there were arbitrary arrests, for example, of 6 leading members of the movement of homeless workers, MTST. In addition, the office of the Union of São Paulo’s employees was illegally stormed by the police in the Osasco region, and the trade unionists present were searched in a violent and aggressive manner, just as in the days of the military dictatorship.
According to the calculations of Fecomercio SP, this one day strike resulted in a commercial loss of 5 billion Reals so, while the media belittled participation in the strike and tried to make the movement look ridiculous, the commercial and trading associations dramatically disproved this by lamenting their huge losses!
The fight goes on!
The forums and committees formed to carry out these struggles now have to prepare for, and demand from the trade union federations, the calling of an indefinite general strike until the proposed new Labour Code and the proposed amendment to the Constitution, the Pensions Act, have been withdrawn. This indefinite general strike must necessarily lead to the fall of the putsch government of Temer.
The left must be prepared for this. It needs a principled unity which is ready for the anticipated attacks by the Temer government and the Congress and the struggle to overthrow the present government. In order to avoid this question of power, the Workers’ Party, PT, and the apparatus of the former President Lula, are raising the slogan, “New Elections Now!” in an attempt to channel the discontent of the movement in their direction and keep it within the limits of parliamentarianism.
Our task as revolutionaries is to defend and expand the mobilisation of the masses, calling for the union federations, social movements and students to organise a real, that is indefinite, general strike. But not only this: we must also urgently work on the task of building a revolutionary party in Brazil without which there can be no socialist revolution!