Beyond political neutrality: the fight for revolution in Brazil

The article below is a translation of an article that originally appeared on the website of the Brazilian Marxists – Esquerda Marxista

It’s already 2017. But June 2013 was a landmark in the debates about what the involvement of a young person in politics should be. When we say ‘young person’, we mean it in a general sense, not just the revolutionary youth already determined to overthrow the system and create new a social system. Today, with the movement of school occupations, the anti-austerity protests, the fight against PEC 55 [Constitutional Amendment Proposal to limit public spending], the spreading university protests, along with many other struggles in which the youth has taken part, our idea of politics has changed. Instead of individuals, we increasingly act as a movement.

Slogans of “down with the political parties” are fair and understandable in the face of the rottenness of the political parties that act in the service of the ruling class. A central point in the demands of young people has been the expulsion of any organised group advocating a broader cause.

These isolated youth protest movements wanted the only organisation to be the “movement” itself, and that it should be formed spontaneously. Hence, if in a school or university there were attacks on students coming from management, an organisation fighting such attacks should come from the students of that university and be directed to that immediate problem. After the resolution (or not) of the conflict, the organisations created to fight the injustice would disappear. But the idea that this tactic could succeed against such powerful people is an illusion.

Over the years, young people have realized that the tactic of spontaneous struggles is a tactic doomed to failure. The management, the bosses, and the opportunists, much more experienced in the politics of bureaucracy and maneuvering, disarmed the youth movement with ease. And even this only when they weren’t able to recruit the rebellious youngsters to their side through offers of personal advantage.

Confusion took hold of the movement. If we’re against the current party system and against all politics, establishment or otherwise, how can we achieve our goals? Inevitably, young people then found themselves forced to enter the political arena, with the aim of doing “a different kind of politics”. But the result was that many ended up being recruited to the side of the ruling class. The least radical ended up being sucked into the bourgeois establishment system and were co-opted to become leaders in the same parties they used to criticise. “For political renovation now!”, was the slogan of a new generation of young militants and activists created in the Jornadas de Junho [the June 2013 days, a series of public demonstrations in several Brazilian cities, initially organised to protest against increases in public transportation prices].

Young people started engaging with politics because they realised they are forced to live it, whether they engage with it or not, and they need it to overcome the hurdles and divisions within the spontaneous movement. They realised that they are constantly being attacked, and with the advance of the economic crisis their own futures could be at stake. The youth was called into politics in Brazil in a way that it hasn’t been in a long time. But within the classification of “young person” there is not a unity, but a diversity of interests and groups. Sooner or later the majority will realise that only by fighting with and following the working class will it be possible to create a movement that puts an end to the unjust society that benefits the 1%. To be a young militant today is to be able to discern which political group does not cut rotten deals with the ruling class, but is an instrument of victory over the ruling class.

2017 is demonstrating that the traditional reformist and opportunist establishment political approach to solving our problems is doomed to failure, in the same way that 2013 showed that the spontaneous struggle is weak and confused. It is necessary to organise an offensive that goes beyond the idea of mere resistance within the discredited establishment institutions. Today the youth can go much further.

But in order to explain our idea that society is divided into classes, and that one of those classes dominates society, we need a revolutionary and socialist organisation present in schools, universities, and workplaces. Political neutrality cannot possibly be an advantage for young people today. Political neutrality is a white flag raised by the oppressed that assures the victory of the oppressor. The revolutionary socialist organisation is the instrument that will show that the youth, alongside and under the leadership of the working class, the potential for an entirely new society.

Translated from Esquerda Marxista by Rui Soares Barbosa, Oxford Marxists