Reflections on the brazilian social unrest: Free Pass Movement

The Free Pass Movement, in other words,  advocate for the right to the city through a constitutional amendment (PEC 90/11) that guarantees public transport as a social right. So in this sense, the right to the city relates to the broader framework of a human right (social, economic and cultural right).  And I think this perhaps explains some of the achievements of this Movement. Although it may seem at first glance a very specific demand, and in a certain extent it is. It also had this potential to articulate and resonate a plurality of claims within diverse social movements in the country. Because in the end what is at stake, I think, is the possibility for participatory budgeting where the people decides where money should be allocated, also the possibility to set what are the priorities that according to the people should be addressed in politics and this claims worked as a chain of equivalence among different sectors in society, first and most of all the students. There was a pol where it was stated that 75-80% of the members in the core of the movement had master degrees. But then it slowly conquered sympathy of workers in general from different social classes as well and it also gave some fuel to social movements in the peripheral area of Sao Paulo for instance. There as well as in the center they were not just pro-the Free Pass Movement but had different demands on health, education and so on. What is interesting to me was that, for the first time the periphery could rise and to to the streets without being afraid of police repression since social unrest was taking place in the whole city and in the whole country to a certain extent.

All together it had this exceptional symbolic value. Among so many pressing issues in the Brazilian society including violence, corruption, inequality, low investments in health and education, public discontent turned into engagement, political activism opening up new spaces for popular manifestation and also affirmed the autonomy of social movements as they did not tolerate any party flags in the protests.

And it is also interesting to notice the change of public perception from being against, to fear and then finally solidarity. What this struggle has in common with other struggles around the globe is that, it is result of the exhaustion of political channels that for long have not been able to channelize political demands. As a Brazilian political scientist described, there is a divorce between the so-called professional representatives of the people and what the people wants to be seen represented. The political elite turned politics into a routine, a rigid structure completely separate from society. While society is flux, it is change. And we can also read the movement’s achievement as the political elite trying to gain some time, next year there will be elections and so on. So in the end, I think, it is a matter of if the movements will get back to the streets forcing the system to acknowledge their claims or if they will buy the idea that the political elites are on their side. In the case of the later things will ultimately remain very much the same.

All together it had this exceptional symbolic value. Among so many pressing issues in the Brazilian society including violence, corruption, inequality, low investments in health and education, public discontent turned into engagement, political activism opening up new spaces for popular manifestation and also affirmed the autonomy of social movements as they did not tolerate any party flags in the protests.

And it is also interesting to notice the change of public perception from being against, to fear and then finally solidarity. What this struggle has in common with other struggles around the globe is that, it is result of the exhaustion of political channels that for long have not been able to channelize political demands. As a Brazilian political scientist described, there is a divorce between the so-called professional representatives of the people and what the people wants to be seen represented. The political elite turned politics into a routine, a rigid structure completely separate from society. While society is flux, it is change. And we can also read the movement’s achievement as the political elite trying to gain some time, next year there will be elections and so on. So in the end, I think, it is a matter of if the movements will get back to the streets forcing the system to acknowledge their claims or if they will buy the idea that the political elites are on their side. In the case of the later things will ultimately remain very much the same.

Clik here for the web site Passe Livre.

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