Alexandre Conceição, MST Brazil: The campaign, the proposals, the challenges

Ursula Asta from São Paulo – Alexandre Conceicao He is coordinator of the National Office in Brasilia of the Landless Rural Workers Movement (MST) and responsible for the Movement’s election agenda. In the last stretch of the campaign, which has an important territorial presence, we spoke with him in a San Pablo-Federal District connection. Strategies, proposals of the MST, Popular Territorial Committees and challenges of the future.

UA: How are you living these days?

AC: These days are very important for all of Brazil and Latin America. We started the second round very much looking forward to a victory for Lula. I think we are reaching the end of a very nice campaign, with proposals, with a political project. Perhaps on Sunday at 5:00 p.m. we already have a new time in Brazil with Lula president.

UA: What are the axes assumed in the campaign from the first round to the second round?

AC: The axes of the campaign are the same as the first part. The most shocking thing now is that Lula managed to expand the front during the campaign. It is all against fascism, against the ultra-neoliberal policy of the Bolsonaro government. When you add others to a broad front, of course you add other political projects that will continue throughout the campaign and the Lula government.

By adding proposals from Simone Tebet, the campaign became broader, but the fundamental axes are job creation and income; remove inflation from the map of hunger, that is why we must invest very strongly in family farming that produces 70% of the food that go to the table of the working class; take care of the Amazon and the environment; and make an economic program that has a greater investment for all the Brazilian people, even using the official banks to give more credits, deliver infrastructure projects and create jobs in civil construction.

UA: That the alliance is broad, of political forces that have nuances and even differences in some cases, does it imply a problem or difficult challenges ahead?

AC: The first problem is Bolsonaro. The first task is to get rid of Bolsonaro and fascism. When there were attempts to hit Dilma, the MST told Dilma what he had to do a Ministry of broad national political forces to avoid the hit. I think that is what Lula has to do now, a great ministry that is going to coordinate the entire political project. That has as its central axis democracy and the care of our popular sovereignty. The MST, the PT, the other parties, the other movements will have to make their contributions. Ours will always be the fight for land, agrarian reform and producing healthy food for all the Brazilian people.

UA: The MST has always been with Lula. How are these agendas combined? What are the concrete proposals that the MST brings to an eventual government from 2023 onwards?

AC: Our main proposal is to start again with land expropriation processes. Carry out a broad and popular agrarian reform that can lead the rural working class to a process of sustainable development, producing food and generating employment and opportunities for youth and women. A program of agro-industrialization and commercialization so that what we produce reaches the city, to all the public institutions of the Brazilian State as the main buyer of this product. Our proposal is that we have a government of national conversation, to rebuild the foundations of inclusive and participatory democracy. Not the democracy where one only goes to vote, but a democracy that can have participation. That is why we are working hard on the construction of the Popular Committees for the defense of the vote, the program and the government, because, regardless of our victory, in Brazil there is 30% that is Bolsonarista and that we need to defeat ideologically. We need to be permanently mobilized.

UA: I listened to Aloizio Mercadante (former Minister of Education of Lula, one of the current coordinators of the campaign) Regarding militias in the Amazon area, which have grown a lot during the Bolsonaro government.

AC: During the Bolsonaro government they tried to transform Brazil. There are militiamen who are aligned with drug traffickers. That is why Bolsonaro does not respond as President of the Republic. Who had Marielle killed? Where are the weapons that were in the neighboring house of Bolsonaro? A militia, drug-trafficking government that we need to defeat. The grileiros of terras (those who steal land) and garimpeiros they are very dangerous and have the full support of the Bolsonaro government. That is why we need to defeat and dismantle, from the point of view of the Brazilian State, that militia state set up by Bolsonaro.

UA: The MST, in addition to integrating the Popular Committees of Struggle and campaign, how is it integrated in the Brazilian territory? How are they organized?

AC: The MST adopted from the beginning, looking at the historical struggles in Brazil that were very important for our formation, the fact that our movement could not be localized, it had to be national to be in all of Brazil, even for the maintenance of all the movement, which is 38 years old. The MST was quickly nationalized. We have 4 centers with 50,000 settled families. Those settlements were created because there was land occupation, there was political pressure. The governments of Fernando Henrique and Lula were the ones that dispossessed land the most. The Lula government expropriated 47 million hectares, settling 614,000 families and more than 3,000 settlement projects. With that we created a political force of the MST, of family agriculture and we became the largest organic food producers in the world. Thanks to this political force and this expropriation, the MST reaches its 38th year with political vitality. We had 15 candidates to contest the elections, it was a very important vote to experience at the polls.

During the Bolsonaro government and the pandemic, we had to adopt a policy of active resistance. This policy led us not to discriminate against the COVID-19 virus, to take care of health, but at the same time continue to produce food against Bolsonaro’s attacks. Everything we produce, we manage to deliver to the Brazilian population. Until December 2021, we delivered 8 thousand tons of food, 170 thousand books and more than 1 million quentinhas de marmitex (pre-packaged dinner plates) so that the poorest population of Brazil can eat. 33 million people in our country wake up in the morning and don’t know if they’re going to have coffee, if they’re going to eat a cookie. 33 million people are hungry, because the Bolsonaro government led Brazil to hunger again.

UA: Regarding the MST’s agro-industrialization and commercialization project, how would it work specifically within the framework of a popular government?

AC: The agro-industrialization project is only possible with public investment, which is why Lula and his vice president Geraldo Alckmin are very clear that it is important invest through public banks. It is the cooperative agro-industrialization that provides the conditions to develop the productive chains of milk, rice, coffee. A single settlement with 5 hectares does not have enough production. That’s why it is necessary to have cooperative agro-industrialization where several settlers collectively produce and develop their productive chain and at the same time they can commercialize on a large scale for the Brazilian people.

UA: What is expected for this Sunday, October 30?

AC: We expect a lot of struggle, a lot of political organization. We are talking to the militancy throughout Brazil, that we have to take care of ourselves, not go into provocation. Take care of the vote, take care of the other, take care of the people who have difficulty going out to vote to guarantee the vote that we had in the first round, expanding by 5 or 6 percentage points to guarantee for Brazil, for us and for all of Latin America, the Lullah’s victory.

UA: Part of the campaign to grow is taking place in the Southeast and North.

AC: In the Northeast we are going to leave the vote of 60% for 70%, we are going to grow a lot. And in the southeast region, in São Paulo, Lula is making a very important dispute with Haddad. Haddad will be elected governor, he entered the final stretch of the campaign very well. In Minas Gerais, very important for us, we are going to maintain the difference we had in the first round or grow a little more. In Rio de Janeiro, he is going to fight side by side with Bolsonaro.

Tying in the Southeast, expanding in the Northeast and North, we can have a resounding victory for President Lula. All public institutions in Brazil, after the result, have to make an immediate call to recognize Lula’s victory. We will not allow a self-coup or a coup by Bolsonaro who is trying to make a noise. You are very attentive in denouncing the attempted coup of non-recognition of the elections. Sunday will be a popular festival. That all Brazilian institutions and the international media can speak to the world that in Brazil there was a resounding victory for Lula.

UA: Lastly, the religious vote in Brazil is very important, both Catholic and Evangelical. I would like a reflection from you on this topic for the outside so that it can be understood.

AC: The holy Pope is Argentine, he is a fan of San Lorenzo. He spoke yesterday (for Thursday) asking Our Lady of Aparecida to save Brazil from hatred. Here 60% of the population is Catholic and does not want hate. Parents, churches, processions, the Christian faith of Catholics are attacked by the Bolsonaristas. Not only are evangelicals fundamentalists, there are evangelicals who are with Lula, because he speaks to them with a program that can attend to employment, rent, school, university. That’s why I think Lula’s campaign has grown a lot with concrete proposals for evangelicals. We are going to reduce this vote that Bolsonaro had in the first round and we are going to expand that of Catholics in Brazil.

Alexandre Conceição, MST Brazil: The campaign, the proposals, the challenges