One of the MST representatives from Sao Paulo state told me that when theyoccupied the unutilized plantation of a large landholder, the police evicted them. Theyreturned, and the police evicted them again. Twenty-one times they were evicted,but 22 times they returned, and now their settlement lives in peace because of theirconviction and persistence.Manoel da Conceição, a national leader of the second largest landless people’sorganizations, the “Movimento de Libertação dos Sem Terra” (MLST), complainedbitterly that 30 million Brazilians are living below the poverty line, and of them, 4.5million are rural workers. After 40 years of struggling for agrarian reform, they haveachieved almost nothing from the government. Hired gunmen of the big landownersare their greatest danger, as they often attack the camps to try to scare the peopleinto leaving.Editor José Arbex Jr. of the progressive and popular magazine, “Caros Amigos”,pointed out how Neo-liberalism makes the media banal. He said that 77% of TVprograms are imported from the US. Only 25 Brazilian companies have sizeablemarkets, but just six giants dominate the television industry, and all journalists knowthat the news stories that are broadcast are those approved by the oligarchy.The United Negro Movement protested that on the eve of the national celebration of the discovery of Brazil 500 years ago, racism continues to exploit the descendents of 110 million Africans who were kidnapped and brought to Brazil as slaves. The UNIndex of Human Development statistics place white Brazilians in 63rd place in theworld countries, but black Brazilians occupy 121st position. Like the Indians, theresidents of 401 “quilombos”, rural villages formed by runaway slaves, also cannotget titles from the government for the land that their ancestors settled.Comandantes Luzia e Abraham, Zapatistas wearing black masks from Mexico,presented their revolutionary message with passion and dignity. They described thesolidarity and community services in the liberated villages of Chiapas, and thecongress that was held a few months ago to plan their strategy collectively. Luziatold how 50% of the representatives of that congress were women. Abrahamemphasized that the Mexican and US media portray them wrongly as terrorists.Instead they are fighting for peace, justice and dignity and they are struggling to enddivisions amongst the people. He said that they have unitedly decided to vote for themain opposition party (PRD) in the coming Mexican national elections.
A lack of consciousness
Unfortunately, this encounter was organized like a political congress. Everyone wasexpected to passively listen to the speakers at the microphones. Only three or fourworkshops were held each afternoon, and the topics were all political. There wasnothing about alternative lifestyles or cooperatives, and very little about ecology.Worst of all, there seemed to be no space for dialog, for sharing of experiences andvisions, nor was there space for other groups to participate. And, of course, therewas a lot of smoking and no vegetarian food was available.Perhaps inspired by the news broadcasts from Seattle, the anarchists decided to takematters into their own hands. They completely disrupted the second morningprogram until the facilitator finally allowed each interested person to speak for threeminutes to an open microphone. As one could expect, the line of people waiting to