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Brazil , the World Cup and FIFA

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The remaining months of the year 2014 will be very important politically for Brazil. In less than two weeks, on June 12, the World Cup begins and, in October, there will be elections for the President, state governors and parliament. When the government, then under Lula, brought the World Cup to Brazil, practically everybody thought this would be a safe number.

No nation in the world is more avid for football than the Brazilians. The sequence seemed perfect, first the World Cup, then the re-election of the Workers' Party (PT). However, now, immediately before the World Cup, the country is like a pressure cooker and nobody knows whether, or when, it might explode. The elites had certainly not reckoned on this.

FIFA and its super-Business World Cup

FIFA had already moved into the focus of protests last year with demonstrations against fare increases that, at their height, brought over a million people onto the streets. The resentment about the World Cup and related policies was expressed in the demand for "FIFA standards for Education and Health!" which was heard everywhere on demonstrations.

The message is clear; for the bulk of the population, mainly the working class, the situation is precarious and, especially in the big cities, increasingly precarious (public transport, education , health, housing ... ) political arrangements for FIFA are decided in no time and piles of money are made available.

With about £8 billion in public spending for stadiums, infrastructure and airports, this World Cup is the most expensive of all time. The costs, especially for the stadiums, have exploded to four times original estimates. To this can be added approximately £320 million in tax breaks for FIFA and all its partners plus an unknown sum for the security apparatus as well public credit for the development bank, BNDES.

As partIn the course of the works related to building the stadiums and infrastructure, it is estimated that some 250,000 people were forcibly resettled. In Rio alone, there were 70,000, including the sites for the 2016 Olympic Games. National legislation was often broken, compensation payments were often not paid, were too low, or paid only after years of legal battles. The infrastructure projects are, of course, primarily of benefit to tourists and the well to do. In Rio, a super expensive metro line into the rich district of Barra da Tijuca has been built, while the trains in the poor parts of the city to the north are more like cattle transports.

Then there is the exclusive legislation for FIFA that has outraged many people. The Brazilian working class have been fighting for a century for their rights, even small reforms could only be wrested from the capitalists by long struggles. Twice, an initiative to increase the property tax for the rich has been rendered ineffective by the courts in Sao Paulo. In contrast, a whole series of special laws granting privileges to FIFA have been passed without any delays; the Law for the World Cup ( Lei Geral da Copa) a law allowing municipalities additional debt for World Cup-related expenditure, a law giving complete tax exemption for FIFA and its “official partners” and more. Of course, special laws for the repression and restriction of demonstrations during the World Cup are also under discussion.

Above all, FIFA will once again make a handsome profit from the spectacle. The association currently expects a profit of US$ 2.7 billion U.S. Special zones have been established around all stadiums in which only official partners may sell goods. All street traders are to be excluded, if necessary with police violence. To enforce this, President Dilma is planning to use 170,000 police officers who, of course, will be given extra training by Academi (formerly the US mercenary company, Blackwater). It has also been announced that the army will be on standby, in case that is not enough.

It's bubbling at the base ...

So FIFA is like a mafia organisation that sweeps from one country to the next. It no longer has anything much to do with football. But it is very positive that demonstrations, protests and strikes in Brazil now dominate the international media.
After the mass movement last year, anything can happen again this year. There is certainly enough resentment because no serious reforms have been carried out since then. And there are protests everywhere.

On the one hand there are the "Comite Populares da Copa"; rank and file committees that organise demonstrations and try to involve all those affected. These committees are organised by anarchists and communists and exist in all 12 World Cup host cities. On May 15, they called for a national day of protest. Although the turnout was rather disappointing, with an estimated 10 – 15,000, the committees continue their work.

On April 22, the dancer Douglas Silva Pereira was shot by police in the favela "Pavaozinho" in Rio, close to the districts of Copacabana and Ipanema. The suspect, who has not yet been officially identified is, in all probability, an official of the "peace police" (Polícia da Pacificacao), which have imposed military occupations to “pacify” the various favelas in Rio for years. Protesting residents staged a militant demonstration through the rich district and set fire to barricades – and this is happening shortly before the World Cup, when only tourists should enjoy the sand and the sun in Copacabana. The politicians and FIFA are nervous.

Another great wave of protest has gathered in Sao Paulo. In May, the city was shaken by a strike of bus drivers. Now, the squatters' movement, MTST, is mobilising for its demands. On May 23, MTST organised a demonstration of 15,000. On May 28, 2,500 demonstrated in front of the city council and demanded the legalisation of the occupation "Copa do Povo", in the east of the city. And with success: the PT grouping in the council has agreed under pressure to support the claim and to force a vote on it before the World Cup.

The organisers of protests all know that it is an enormously opportune moment to enforce social demands. The eyes of the world media are focused on Brazil. Guilherme Boulos, one of the leaders of the MTST makes the point very clearly: "We all know that the opening of the World Cup will take place in Itaquerao, a stadium in Sao Paulo. If there has been no vote on our demand by then, a lot of people without tickets will want to get into that stadium."

Brazil before the election

No one can say exactly what will happen during the World Cup. But perhaps the situation after the World Cup, before the important elections in October, will be even more tense. During the protests last year, Dilma was pressed to put forward the proposal for an "exclusive Constituent Assembly" to carry out a fundamental political reform. The proposal, of course, was quickly shelved, but a part of the base of the PT, the trade union confederation CUT and the landless movement MST, have now taken up the proposal and are campaigning for it. They have drawn in many social and leftist organisations.

The PT, of course, hopes to turn this into an election campaign, and maybe they will succeed in that, but the proposals being discussed now go far beyond what Dilma originally proposed, and there is no guarantee that the PT leadership can control how the initiative develops. In addition, the topic is causing friction with the PT's main bourgeois coalition partners, PMDB, which is, of course, strongly opposed to it. If the campaign gains momentum and Dilma is forced to go to the left, this could lead to a rupture of the electoral alliance.

So, the situation is politically exciting, and the re-election of Dilma is by no means set in stone. Of course, the right wing hopes to profit from all this and to return to power after 12 years but Dilma is still well ahead in the polls.

For the working class, of course, aside from all this bickering, what matters is to finally establish its own political force that can fight independently against the bourgeois state and the reformist bureaucracy of PT for a socialist perspective. Today, what needs to be put in place in Brazil is the foundation stone for the building of a new revolutionary party.

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