Who benefits from the increased bus fare? Certainly the owners of the bus companies who, besides offering a lousy public transport service, are totally exempt from taxes (PIS/PASEP and COFINS) thanks to the federal government. In other words, the bus companies receive privileges from the government and can increase fares in order to make more profit… But the workers, the unemployed and students have to put up with the terrible conditions of public transport in Rio de Janeiro day in day out and moreover have to pay more!
Buses, ferries, trains, subway… we are daily violated by a lousy public transport system. We wait in endless queues, travel hours in crowded, badly-maintained coaches, risking our lives. We suffer because of the violence of greed, neglect and robbery, from the mafias of the public transport companies, aided by governments all seeking increased profit.
In the metropolitan area and outer city area, there is a shortage of buses to serve the residents of certain remote regions, who wait hours and often take two or three different means of transport. Trains often break down between stations; they are crowded, hot and unsafe; people are humiliated and attacked every day.
But what happens when the people go out onto the streets to complain against this injustice? They are attacked! Riot police, tear gas, pepper spray, bombs and rubber bullets at close range that can blind or even kill. The whole apparatus of war is used against the people, and dozens of protesters have been arrested and injured by the police. Can’t we go onto the streets to demonstrate our indignation and fight for justice? Will we be going back to military dictatorship?
Faced with the social problems in Rio, the response of the government comes through a sinister policy of terror against the poor. Day by day we are abused by governments and businesses. Street vendors want to work but suffer the violence of law and order. In Aldeia Maracanã district, indigenous people are fighting for their rights and territories, but are violated by the Prefecture and the World Cup business. Hundreds of residents in working-class communities are evicted from their homes, with no debate and without receiving fair compensation, suffering from the violence of property speculation. Contractors and business owners will profit from works of urbanism and the BRT transit systems. The sick suffer the violence of neglect in rows in hospitals, and students sit in public schools with terrible conditions, without State funds.
Both police brutality and the indifference of the public to social issues, as well as the disrespect that the public transport companies force us to put up with every day, are all forms of violence against the people. And all the various ways that the people use to defend themselves against this violence are legitimate. The people, organized in social movements, are demonstrating for justice and cannot be criminalized, beaten or arrested.
We must be careful with the dominant powers’ strategy of criminalizing “individually” militants and activists struggling against the fare rise. Many are already undergoing trial for fighting back. Struggle is not a crime! We cannot let our comrades be criminalized! This criminalization must be denounced! This is the true face of bourgeois democracy, disguised every two years by the polls and the electoral propaganda, but which shows its claws when the flowers of the resistance spring up!
How much longer will we put up with this? Public transport should meet the needs of the people, not the entrepreneurs!
The price rise is just the “tip of the iceberg”
The recent fare increase shows the future planned by the elites for the “wonderful” city: the casualization of transport/public services, a speedy facelift and the transformation of Rio de Janeiro into a tourist town with high costs of living for workers. To ensure that there is no resistance, the federal, state and municipal governments are acting in a coordinated manner. They are annihilating the resistance of the indigenous people, controlling popular spaces with “Police Pacification Units” or simply repressing anyone who dares raise his or her voice against the rule of capital! In other words, everything for the rich and the businessmen, repression and neglect for the people.
Building unity in struggle
We live in Rio at a difficult time; we live and struggle in a city controlled by the most voracious forces of national and international capital, real estate speculation, transport mafia and public policies that repress and turn their back to the poor. Nevertheless, several segments of the left (political organizations, collectives, trade unions, etc.), of the social and student movements have courageously taken to the streets to confront the criminal readjustment of the period.
Inspired by the successful attempts to mobilize popular in other cities, protesters staged strong initiatives of resistance against the excesses of the transport mafia. This was the case of the last demonstration against the changes, which was repressed with excessive violence by police. We believe that unity in struggle and organization from below are the best ways to defeat the mafia transport, built by the various sectors of the left with a common flag: the defeat of the transport mafia and the struggle against forced changes by street action!
Along with this comes the need to organize ourselves more and more, knowing that even if we lose the battle, we have a long war ahead. We know that politicians work for the benefit of entrepreneurs, and as that is the case there will be fare increases every year. So we must be patient and build this struggle permanently in our living, studying and working places! This work is what builds social strength and will, with difficulty, create challenges and progress, what we call poder popular [popular power – tr.]! If the working class struggle goes through a difficult time and retreats a little, the importance of grassroots work is even greater. Going to the streets is always the result of prior mobilization, of struggle that starts in the neighborhood, the favela, the university, the workplace, in spaces of grassroots organization. Direct action is the result of day-to-day grassroots mobilization!
The independence of the people: without sectarianism or divisiveness
Another important issue is to ensure that unity is brought about through the independence of the people. As class-struggle libertarian socialists, we know that the struggle will not be led by us, though we will be a part of it as it goes on. This means that the struggle is the people’s struggle, people who organize themselves and go out onto the streets to show their indignation. The struggle cannot be captured by any party, tamed by any legend, because the struggle is a task of the entire class. The struggle is not “apolitical” or disorganized. Because it is in the struggle that we educate ourselves, we learn from our mistakes, grow and build up strength for the next day. We advocate unity built without sectarianism and with respect to the different forces of the left. Making a struggle a non-party struggle is different to its being anti-party. It means respecting the different viewpoints that are active within the popular mobilization, uniting the different political forces for common agendas.
Nor do we claim – as a class-struggle, anarchist political organization – to “represent” the entirety of what is usually called the anarchist movement, just as we do not require any particular Marxist party to account for all Marxists. We are part of a class-struggle anarchist political organization that works with common principles, criteria for admission, militant strategy and theoretical/ideological unity. Thus, we reject the preconceived association of those who, in a badly thought-out way, associate anarchism with disorganization. We respect, albeit with our differences, the various forms of association, whether party-like, independent or of other political banners that will add themselves to the fight. But we reject any attempts to divide the movement internally. Sectarianism, wherever it comes from, is harmful and divides the class.
The efforts of various political organizations, collectives, militants and activists is what ensures the strength of the social protest. Organized popular action without providing a ladder for political careerists must mark the strength of our revolutionary hearts.
Protest is not a crime!
Against the criminalization of the social movements!
Create a strong people! Struggle, create, poder popular!
Federação Anarquista do Rio de Janeiro (FARJ)
Member of the Coordenação Anarquista Brasileira (CAB)
Translation by FdCA – International Relations Office