Potato Square. Photo: Camila Picolo
Potato Square. Photo: Camila Picolo

By Lincoln Secco*

Ahe demonstrations that took place in Brazil left everyone perplexed. Some spoke of revolution, others of coup, some of civics. And there are even those who blame the Free Pass Movement.

The first aspect to be considered is its regional diversity. It is possible that, in the future, research will show a greater social variety in Rio de Janeiro, the presence of the World Cup theme more strongly in the Northeast and the typically right-wing agenda more strongly in São Paulo. Although all these are everywhere in different combinations.

The second aspect to consider is the international situation. It does not seem coincidental that the Brazilian uprisings took place after the rebellions that took place in the Arab world and southern Europe, nor that both had a fragmented leadership and hurried agendas that made the movement lose momentum and fail to change the subsequent electoral logic. Is it possible that in Brazil the same thing happens?

The third aspect is the social composition of the protesters. At least until the end of June, it was a middle-class rebellion with a little more participation of the poor in few regions of the country. Let us remember that small towns and states with different social indicators had demonstrations and they were not homogeneous. Despite this, the large demonstrations in the capitals were by young people with higher education.

Now, the growth in the number of university students in Brazil must have had some impact on the 2013 movement. Brazil has 6,5 million university students, according to the Ministry of Education (MEC). There was an increase of 110% in relation to the total enrollment in undergraduate courses registered in 2001! According to Folha de S. Paul, 84% of the June 17 protesters had no party preference, 71% participated in a protest for the first time and 53% are under 25 years old. Students were 22% among the protesters and people with higher education, 77%.

Does social composition determine the movement's agenda? The middle class is a class in transit. Like on a bus, some want to get on. But unlike a crowded bus, many are afraid to get off. Only a small portion really believe that they will quickly ascend to the upper class. Now, a class in transit is a class in trance. She is able to unite opposing programs in the same movement. It can swing left and right. In the 2013 demonstrations, it is possible that there were young people from the traditional middle class afraid of going down and young people resulting from the social and economic improvements induced by the Lula government. These people want to “get on the bus” because their expectations have risen more than their social status.

The fact that the media right managed to hijack a movement that also had left-wing potential for some time proves that, despite the majority of young protesters using the internet to organize protests, the themes continue to be produced by the communication monopolies. Network communication was already widespread since the 19th century, when Karl Marx created his European correspondence circle. But, before, it was given in written or spoken form and only the people most inclined to become politicized responded to these appeals. Print was the form of mediation. The internet is a space for interaction between individuals, mediated by the consumer market. And the consumption desires of products or ideas are induced by the propaganda of the monopolies.

It must be said that leftist militants in Brazil are basically middle class. As well as the right. This class condition guides the leadership of the entire left to seek in the June movement its contradictions in order to dispute it. It is natural for the left to believe that this is where its storehouse of new members is. It so happens that, from a political point of view, a fragmentary movement can have several directions and interpretations. But from the point of view of the theater of operations, or in this case the streets, there are only two sides. If the right (which is at the height of the mainstream press) managed to hijack the movement, which path was left for the left? The dispute would no longer be there, but in the place where the government led by the PT until now has not wanted to fight it: that of the democratization of the mass media.

*Professor at the Department of History at the University of São Paulo (USP)

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