Brazil: More than 200 workers founded Movimento Nossa Classe [Our Class Movement]

April 12, 2014

More than 200 workers founded Movimento Nossa Classe [Our Class Movement].

The Encontro de Trabalhadores [Workers Meeting] held Saturday March 29, showed that the sanitation workers in Rio de Janeiro opened a new phase in the Brazilian workers’ movement, leading to the founding of the Movimento Nossa Classe [Our Class Movement]. Attended by 350 people, more than 200 workers participated in an intense and emotional journey that started with discussions about the lessons of the sanitation worker strike and the protests during the June 2013 Confederations Cup. In November last year, the Liga Estratégica Revolucionaria (LER-QI) organized a meeting of workers, youth, blacks, women and LGBTTI that brought together 800 people to discuss the lessons of the June protests from a revolutionary perspective.

A proposal to build a national grouping in the labor movement involving all workers from all industries was passed. Since then we debated this issue within the industries we are in, and given the new phase the sanitation worker’s strike opened, we resolved to urgently convene this Encontro de Trabalhadores to draw upon the lessons from the sanitation workers struggle and to found the Movimento Nossa Classe.

The delegation of sanitation workers set the tone for the entire meeting and wowed those who attended from their arrival, when we were greeted and together sang o, o, o, o gari acordou [The sanitation worker woke up], não vai ter arrego [we will not back down], e, e, e, nesse carnival o prefeito vai varrer [and in this carnival the mayor can sweep the streets]. In the opening session were four sanitation workers elected to represent the delegation, alongside Val Lisbon, founder of LER-QI, and Jenifer Tristan, from Juventude às Ruas, Rio de Janeiro, whom were shoulder to shoulder with the workers from the first day of the struggle.

The event was chaired by Marilia Rocha, a São Paulo subway train operator, LER-QI militant, union delegate and leader of the group Metroviários pela Base [Rank-and-File Subway Workers], and Pablito, a University of São Paulo (USP) restaurant worker, director of Sintusp [USP staff union], and LER-QI militant. In their testimony, which can be seen in the videos of the meeting, the sanitation workers reported each moment of the heroic struggle they waged, and all of their resulting reflections.

At the table with the sanitation workers was the important participation of Adailson Rodrigues, a bus driver for the company Trevo who was elected to the Bus Driver’s Strike Committee in Porto Alegre. They shut down the city’s transportation for 15 days and also organized the rank-and-file against the union bureaucracy, winning an end to the banco de horas. Internationalism was also a hallmark of the meeting, with participation from Vilca Alejandro, who is a leader of the Socialist Workers Party (PTS) in Argentina and a sanitation worker union delegate from Jujuy.

Also intervening was Julio, a metal worker from Minas Gerais, who reported on the work LER-QI is doing against the bosses’ dictatorship in the factories. He gave homage to a comrade who works in a chemical factory and could not be present because of hospitalization due to a work accident that almost cost him his arm, and read an emotional letter from the recovering comrade addressed to those present at the meeting.

The São Paulo delegation had dozens of subway workers, with temp workers and an important delegation of outsourced workers. University of Sao Paulo (USP) workers, Sintusp directors Diana Assunção, Bruno Gilga and Claudionor Brandão, and São Paulo teachers, who will now fight against the union bureaucracy in the APEOESP elections, also had a significant presence. São Paulo bank workers from the group Uma Classe [One Class], which had an important role in opposition slate 2 in the Bank workers’ union elections and will now compete in the Caixa Econômica [Brazilian state bank] Associations elections, also greeted the crowd. Manufacturing industries were represented by food, metallurgical, chemical, and shoemaking workers from the ABC region [industrial cities southeast of Sao Paulo], West São Paulo, Campinas, and Franca. Also present were petroleum, healthcare, post office, and airline workers along with several other categories of outsourced workers.

In addition to these workers, the plenary was filled with the important participation of members from the women’s group Pão e Rosas and youth in Juventude às Ruas, which have been actively working in every workers’ struggle, and who were instrumental in the entire organization of the meeting. They pledged to support the construction of the movement through spreading the sanitation worker strike support experience, starting with organizing the Maré Laranja Slate’s campaign to sweep away USP’s current academic and student bureaucracy in the upcoming DCE [student government] elections at USP.

After the opening session, Discussion Groups (GD) were organized. They discussed the lessons of the sanitation workers’ strike, and with the rich intervention of the sanitation workers themselves, the foundation of Movimento Nossa Classe. Political resolutions of solidarity with several organizations and their ongoing struggles were also discussed. After receiving several contributions as a result of the GD break-out session, the following resolutions were unanimously adopted in the final plenary.
The first resolution was a vote to “Empower Movimento Nossa Classe to build upon the lessons of the June protests and the sanitation worker strike—principally in the fight against the government, employers, and trade union bureaucracy. That the workers believe only in their own forces to organize broader workers’ democracy. That we fight tirelessly against all forms of oppression of women, blacks and LGBTTIs. That we fight against repression of strikes and fighters, against the genocide of black people and against the militarization of the morros and favelas [marginalized zones].

That one of the axes of this movement is to organize the broad solidarity with workers’ struggles around Brazil starting from the example we made with the sanitation workers struggle, and now with a strong movement of hundreds organized nationally. That we struggle to fight for the defense of the jobs, wages, and rights of the working class. That we struggle to sweep away the trade union bureaucracy and make trade unions instruments of struggle again.†Everybody in the plenary demonstrated conviction that we will create a movement of hundreds around Brazil that will make a difference in the new stage of the class struggle that opened in the country after the June days, and especially now with the workers’ movements’ arrival to the scene with great examples of struggle.

The discussions emphasized the national and international class solidarity we expressed in support of the sanitation workers, with various categories showing support. This should be a cornerstone of the Movimento Nossa Classe, a concrete class struggle perspective to not let any important struggle in this country remain isolated. We already started practicing this by recording a video in support of striking sanitation workers in Recife during the meeting.

This movement will be present in all sectors, and include several independent workers’ movements along with militants from LER-QI and independents that work together to build Metroviários pela Base, the Professores pela Base, and the bank workers from Uma Classe. The workers and the youth from Pão e Rosas, and those that organize Boletim Classista [newsletter edited by LER-QI] for distribution in a variety of industries will also participate. We voted that each category should elect a representative to be part of the national coordination, and we committed to making a blog, Facebook page, newspaper and videos of Movimento Nossa Classe to spread it to all the factories, businesses, schools and universities within our reach. Also coming out of the discussion in the GD’s, we voted to conduct trainings for workers.

The other resolution adopted with respect to the orientation of Movimento Nossa Classe calls for “following the example of the sanitation workers, organizing a big fight in each of the industries where we have supporters, organizing assemblies and rank-and-file meetings, while calling other leftist organizations to join us in pushing forward this rank-and-file organization. In these fights, we have to consider the structural demands of each category, building strong strikes that go beyond mere mobilization to pressure for 1% or 2% wage increases. Just as the sanitation workers took advantage of Carnival, we must take advantage of the World Cup to seize all that can be achieved by workers in each industry, while fighting to unite the entire working class to raise the demands that the Brazilian people stood for in the streets in June last year, including quality public transportation, healthcare, and education. Through the Movimento we will push the discussions that the grouping Metroviários pela Base in São Paulo have advanced, calling for the nationalization of transportation under workers’ and users’ control. We also want to unite workers in all industries to fight against casualization, exhaustion and accidents, and promote a strong campaign for the permanent hiring of all contractors and precarious workers without a civil service test or other type of selection process, reaching the most exploited sectors of the working class."

In this discussion of orientation, an important point mentioned was that for our movement to have an impact nationally, we have to actively participate in correct political initiatives and demonstrations called for by union centers and leftists, such as the CSP-Conlutas and the Espaço de Unidade de Ação [Space for Unity of Action], or other organizations tied to the World Cup protests. In each industry we must try to build united fronts around battles that incorporate the lessons of the sanitation workers, while being clear this will be a political struggle for the left to break with how they usually work in the labor movement. This break is necessary because these currents almost never put energy into working with their bases, and they do not struggle to overcome corporatism in a concrete fashion for each category. Rather, they accommodate and capitulate to bourgeois “justice,†giving up upon the first legal threats etc. (See a report on the Espaço de Unidade de Açao on this site)
The third resolution was internationalist: “The working class has no borders, and so our movement should practice internationalism actively, raising the demands of workers worldwide. In this meeting, we voted to build campaigns of solidarity with the struggle of the Panrico factory workers in Spain, who have been on strike for more than five months, with the struggle of teachers from Argentina and with the struggle for the acquittal of the Las Heras workers in Argentina, adhering to international campaigns already underway.†At the end of the meeting, we took pictures and made videos in support of these struggles.

We made it a point to approve only three main resolutions so they could be thoroughly discussed in the GD’s as a clear, central guide to all present. This is in contrast to the meetings of other leftist organizations that vote on a thousand resolutions that are mere formalities, adopting all of them to discuss none of them, or through a direct adoption of a book of resolutions “by consensus,†effectively serving for nothing. In the final plenary there were other exciting moments, such as the greeting from Jorge Luiz Souto Maior, a USP law professor and labor judge who was honored by the sanitation workers who used his legal arguments in their fight. Then the sanitation workers spontaneously honored LER-QI comrades from Rio de Janeiro, in particular, Val Lisbon, Rita Frau, and Jenifer Tristan, who have all stood shoulder to shoulder with them.

The meeting ended with everyone very excited and convinced of the opportunities that will open up in the labor movement through the construction of Movimento Nossa Classe in the factories, businesses, schools and universities. Such efforts will place the working class on the frontline of the fight against capitalist exploitation and oppression by creating a wall of solidarity around all strikes so they may be victorious, defending rank-and-file organization, creating unity and coordination of fights plans consciously prepared to defeat the bosses, governments, bourgeois politicians, and union bureaucrats, and raising the legitimate and just demands of the workers and poor people. We closed the meeting dancing to samba de raiz, which featured the special voice of a singer who is a sanitation worker from Irajá in Rio de Janeiro.