Workers in Brazil participated in the first general strike held in 21 years on April 28. The 24-hour strike was organised against the austerity measures proposed by Michel Temer’s government. The controversial ‘reforms’ have included increasing the retirement age to 65, a 20-year freeze on public spending, and the removal of many labour protections for workers.
Hundreds of thousands of workers came out on protests while millions more stayed home from work and school. In Rio de Janeiro, police used tear gas against demonstrators at ferry terminals and also in the city centre. Access to Rio’s second major airport was also blocked due to the strike. São Paulo, the country’s main industrial centre and largest city, saw the major car plants close down for the day. Much of the city’s public transport ground to a halt and major highways were blockaded.
The strike was an expression of the widespread disapproval people have of the Temer government. Despite Temer only being in office for a year, an April poll found that 92% of Brazilians “thought the country was on the wrong path”. The president’s own approval rating has dropped to just 4%!
Brazil has experienced frequent protests over the past four years as the country has suffered from the widespread graft among politicians revealed by corruption cases. Last year’s protests brought down the former president Dilma Rousseff.
While this strike was an impressive display of workers’ strength, the battle is not yet won. It is urgent that this action is built upon to in order to defeat this government and its ‘reforms’. The mass movement also needs to develop a political alternative that deals with the economic crisis Brazil is facing by forcing the corporations to pay more rather than the working class.
By Isobel Orford
For more news and analysis from Brazil see: General strike demonstrates working class strength