Socialist Worker

Strikes in Brazil can challenge the return of the right wing

by Sean Purdy in Sao Paulo
Issue No. 2447

Brazils president Dilma Rousseff with Barack Obama

Brazil's president Dilma Rousseff with Barack Obama (Pic: Roberto Stuckert Filho)

Right wing parties and movements in Brazil have been on a renewed offensive during the last few weeks. This was marked by massive demonstrations in all the major cities against the Workers’ Party (PT) government.

The one in Sao Paulo drew in 250,000 people. The demonstrations galvanised all conservative forces in the country, including political parties, business associations, the media, far right skinheads and groups linked to the military. 

Significant numbers called for the impeachment of the president. They aped Cold War anti-communist slogans against social programs. Some even called for military intervention. 

For the first time since the coup in 1964, the right mobilised significant numbers onto the streets. The protests were supposedly organised by grassroots groups. But it’s clear that they are linked to the opposition political parties, the conservative media and corporations.

The demonstrations were widely publicised beforehand by the huge media conglomerates who oppose the government. President Dilma Rousseff’s federal government is clearly in crisis and facing challenges from both the right and left.

It is embroiled in a huge corruption scandal in the state petroleum company, Petrobras. Dozens of PT members, including elected officials—as well as politicians associated with all the parties—have been implicated in bribery and influence peddling. 

Rousseff has not only reneged on her promises to maintain fledgling social spending. She has introduced a series of cuts to social programs, especially education, and imposed restrictions on workers’ pension rights. 


Reeling from the effects of the global economic crisis and the Petrobras scandal, the PT government turned its back on the very social movements and unions who mobilised for its reelection.

The CUT, the main trade union federation allied to the government, was forced to organise a national day of action against the cuts on 13 March. This brought out significant numbers in many capital cities. 

But it was hamstrung by its unconditional support of the PT government. The efforts of the union bureaucracy were dwarfed by the 15 March right wing demonstrations. 

Yet there have also been a number of important strikes that show the possibility of a left wing exit from the crisis. 

School teachers and public sectors workers are on all-out strike in the states of Sao Paulo and Parana. Municipal sanitation workers in Rio de Janeiro have once again taken to the streets in a militant strike that has won the support of the majority of the population. 

And sacked construction workers on Petrobras works in Rio de Janeiro have mounted a popular campaign to win their jobs back. 

The homeless workers’ movement in the large cities continues to organise big demonstrations against the permanent housing shortage. 

The anti-government left and social movements need to oppose the calls for the illegal impeachment of Rouseff.

And we need to resist the right’s attempts to use “anti-corruption” as a means to cut social programs and workers’ rights. But we also need a united front of parties and social movements that oppose the government and the right.

Sean Purdy is a member of the Party of Socialism and Freedom in Sao Paulo, Brazil

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Article information

Tue 31 Mar 2015, 15:59 BST
Issue No. 2447
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