The article “Quem grita ‘Não vai ter Copa?’ (Who is shouting, ‘There will not be a World Cup?') by Ciro Barros was originally published by Brazilian journalism organization Agência Pública on February 17, 2014 and will be republished by Global Voices in two parts. All links lead to Portuguese-language pages except when otherwise noted.
An Agência Pública reporter searched out the activists that mounted the first protest of the year against the World Cup due to be hosted in Brazil this year; what he found was a mixed group determined to stop the sporting event throughout protest and without “violent acts”.
The scene is the academic center of a university in the west part of São Paulo on a surprisingly dry January evening. About 20 people are seated in a circle. While waiting for the meeting to begin, the people converse in low voices, criticizing the police, the Cup, the federal government, the state government of São Paulo. The group is mixed: older men, adolescents of both sexes, women, workers, students. They have in common the experience of being involved in social movements – from those experienced in street protests to those who have only made a name for themselves in the recent wave of protests in June of last year.
They are there to organize the second demonstration of the year, on February 22, 2014, around a controversial motto: “Se não tiver direitos, não vai ter Copa” (If there are no rights, there will not be a Cup). The first occurred on January 25.
On social networks, the last four words of the group's motto caused a stir at the beginning of this year, as “Não Vai Ter Copa” (There will not be a Cup) emerged on the streets in June during protests [en]. Only recently was it that the PT (Worker's Party) and the federal government reacted on social networks, worried about the possibility that protests will tarnish the brilliance of the Cup in Brazil during an election year – and that they will have the same devastating effect on popularity that President Dilma Rousseff (along with all the governors) faced in June of last year.
On Sunday, January 12 – 13 days after the first protest organized by the collective – PT's reaction (Worker's Party) came in the form of a post on the party's official page on Facebook: “It's agreed. A great week for all of those that root for Brazil.” Accompanying the phrase, there was photo with the hashtag #VaiterCopa (There will be a Cup). On the official page of President Dilma, the same tone: “WITHOUT A DOUBT. A good week for all those who root for Brasil” and once more a photo with the same hashtag. Today, the hashtag used by the government and the PT is #CopadasCopas (Cup of Cups), the official motto.
On blogs and social networks, there were some who treated the movement as terrorists or “police case.” More moderate critics say that protests will happen during the Cup, and wonder if they will have the same effect on the popularity of President Dilma as before, making way for the right-wing parties.
But in the end, what is this new movement? What does it intend? How would they respond to the critics of whom they have been a target? It was these questions that brought me to that meeting.
Protest and the growth of liasion
On December 10, 2013, on the International Day for Human Rights, the movement released a manifesto with the title “Se não tiver direitos, não vai ter Copa” (If there are no rights, there will not be a Cup). An excerpt reads:
(…) Junho de 2013 foi só o começo! As pessoas, os movimentos e os coletivos indignados que querem transformar a realidade afirmam através das diversas lutas que sem a consolidação dos direitos sociais (saúde, educação, moradia, transporte e tantos outros) não há possibilidade do povo brasileiro admitir megaeventos como a Copa do Mundo ou as Olimpíadas. Isso significa que as palavras de ordem no combate a esses governos que só servem às empresas e ao lucro devem ser: ‘Se não tiver direitos, não vai ter Copa!’
(…) June of 2013 was only the beginning! The outraged people, movements and collectives that want to transform our reality affirm through various struggles that without the consolidation of social rights (health, education, housing, transportation, and others), there is no possibility that the Brazilian people can allow mega-events such as the World Cup or the Olympics to take place. This means that the words representing our cause to the governors that only serve businesses and the profits should be: “If there are no rights, there will not be a Cup!”
And the manifesto continues:
Nossa proposta é barrar a Copa! Mostrar nacionalmente e internacionalmente que o poder popular não quer a Copa!
Our proposal is to stop the World Cup! To show nationally and internationally that the popular power does not want the World Cup!
After this, the manifesto refers to the protests against the rise in transportation fares which sparked the wave of protests in June:
Os dirigentes políticos disseram que era impossível atender a pauta das manifestações pela revogação do aumento, entretanto o poder popular nas ruas nos mostrou que realidades impossíveis podem ser transformadas, reivindicadas e conquistadas pelo povo. E mesmo assim dirão: ‘mas isso é impossível!’ Então nós diremos: ‘o impossível acontece!’
The political directors said that it was impossible to attend to the cause for the protests, the repeal of the fare increase, however the popular power on the streets showed us that impossible realities can be transformed, reclaimed and conquered by the people. And as such, they will say: ‘But this is impossible!’ And so we will say: ‘The impossible happens!’
Five movements signed the manifesto. The most well-known of these is perhaps the Movimento Passe Livre (Movement for Free Fare), one of the principal catalysts of the political protests in June with its focus on the current model of public transportation.
The others are the Fórum Popular de Saúde do Estado de São Paulo (Popular Forum for Health in the State of São Paulo), a group that unites various collectives in defense of public health; the Coletivo Autônomo dos Trabalhadores Sociais (Autonomous Collective of Social Workers), which unites, principally, social assistance advocates that operate in São Paulo; the Periferia Ativa (Active Periphery), funded by communities in the South Zone and metropolitan region of the capital São Paulo; and the Comitê Contra o Genocídio da População Preta, Pobre e Periférica (Committee Against the Genocide of the Black, Poor, and Underprivileged Population), which combats police violence and violence by vigilante groups.
“I'm not affiliated with anything”
The focus of the organizations, as one can see, are different, but what unites them is the fight for the human rights of the excluded population, who are considered the most threatened by the World Cup. Sérgio Lima, of the Fórum Popular de Saúde, describes the members of the movement like this:
É um pessoal que já participou de muita luta, pessoal de movimento social mesmo, que tá cansado de gabinete e tudo mais. Eu sou um caso que postulei muito tempo luta de gabinete. Mas hoje não sou filiado a nada.
They are people that have already participated in this struggle, the very people of the social movement, that are tired of offices, paperwork and everything. I am someone who has already spent a lot of time fighting the fight through offices. But today I'm not affiliated with anything.
And he explains the objectives of the group:
Ao meu ver, é dizer que a gente não precisava da Copa nesse momento, diante de tantas mazelas em transporte, educação, saúde. Acredito que é nesse sentido.
From my point of view, we are saying that we don't need the World Cup at this moment, in the face of so many problems with transportation, education, health. I believe that it is in this sense.
When reminded of the criticism, expressed principally on social networks, that the group “Não vai ter Copa” serves the interest of right-wing parties, Lima laughs. He says that he was even affiliated with the PT before. “They always say that,” he says in disdain.
I ask then, if they really intend to stop the Cup, and how:
É um objetivo sim. De enfrentamento mesmo, a gente sabe que é uma luta desleal e cruel, mas a gente tem isso como pauta, sim. Queremos ganhar a massa, ganhar corpo e fazer o enfrentamento com os protestos nas ruas. Não queremos nenhum ato violento, nem se cogita isso. Queremos barrar com os protestos mesmo.
It is an objective, yes. And in facing that reality, we know that it is a cruel and disloyal fight, but we are doing this for a cause, yes. We want to win over the masses, gain strength, and make a stand with protests on the streets. We don't want any kind of violent acts, nor even consider it. We want to stop it with protests alone.
Besides the cited organizations, the movement has also attracted activists to the left of the PT, such as the PTSU (the United Socialist Workers’ Party) and the PSOL (the Socialism and Freedom Party). The movement Juntos! (Together!), for example, which emerged at the beginning of 2011 from the youth of the PSOL, also forms a base of support. One of their members, Maurício Costa Carvalho, says:
A gente entende a Copa do Mundo como parte de um aspecto crítico do crescimento capitalista. Com o crescimento, ao invés de termos investimentos nos setores públicos, em saúde, educação, transporte, moradia, o que temos é um processo de subserviência ao projeto tradicional de acumulação, que é esse megaevento comandado por uma entidade absolutamente corrupta como a Fifa. O único objetivo da Copa é enriquecer os parceiros comerciais da Fifa e as grandes empresas no Brasil. E isso tem sido feito com a produção de cidades de exceção.
We understand the World Cup as part of a critical aspect of capitalist growth. With this growth, instead of investing in public sectors, in health, education, transportation, housing, what we have is a process of subservience to the traditional project of accumulation, that is this mega-event commanded by an absolutely corrupt entity such as FIFA. The only objective of the World Cup is to make FIFA's commercial partners and big business in Brazil richer. And this has been done with the production of ‘cities of exception'.
For Maurício, the current protests make up part of a sequence of protests that have been occurring in the last few years around the whole world – from outraged people in Spain to Occupy Wall Street in the United States. It was these protests, he says, that motivated the creation of Juntos!:
Todos os governantes tiveram a sua popularidade bastante desgastada depois das jornadas de junho. Isso mostra que não é um problema de um partido ou de outro, só. É um problema da estrutura da velha política partidária no país. As manifestações mostraram que é necessário ter mudanças estruturais. E essas mudanças passam por ter uma política que é completamente distinta dessa política que vem sendo feita. É necessário que se ouça a voz das ruas e que a política não se resuma a passar um cheque em branco a um candidato a cada dois anos.
All the governors had a decrease in popularity after the protests in June. This shows that it is not just a problem with one party or another. It is a problem with the infrastructure of outdated party politics in the country. The protests showed that it is necessary to make structural changes. And these changes will be made to have a form of politics that is completely distinct from the politics that are now in play. It is necessary that the voices on the street are heard and that government policy doesn't end up being a blank check to a candidate every two years.
I asked if the connection of Juntos! with the PSOL party, which will support Senator Randolfe Rodrigues from Amapa as a presidential candidate this year, compromises the partisan independence of the group, to which he says:
O Juntos! é um grupo que têm militantes do PSOL, mas que tem muitos militantes que não são do PSOL, tem seus fóruns próprios, seus próprios grupos de discussão. Existem militantes do PSOL que participam de vários grupos diferentes. Então não tem nada ligado à estrutura do PSOL.
Juntos! is a group that has PSOL activists, but we also have activists that are not from the PSOL party, who have their own forums, their own discussion groups. There are many PSOL activists that participate in many different groups. As such, there is nothing linked to the structure of PSOL.
Watch out for the second part of this article, to be published shortly.