[News] Solidarity: A Conversation with Messilene Gorete of The Brazilian Landless Workers Movement

Anti-Imperialist News news at freedomarchives.org
Mon May 30 14:33:42 EDT 2022


venezuelanalysis.com <https://venezuelanalysis.com/interviews/15536>
Solidarity: A Conversation with Messilene Gorete
By Cira Pascual Marquina – May 29, 2022
------------------------------
[image: image.png]

*The Brazilian Landless Workers Movement [MST, for its initials in
Portuguese] is a powerful *campesino* organization that struggles for
radical land reform. The organization has a long internationalist
tradition, and sends solidarity brigades to accompany *campesino* movements
around the world. In Venezuela, the MST’s brigade has been important in
assisting the Caribbean country’s communal and *campesino* movements. Here
we talk with Messilene Gorete, an MST leader now based in Venezuela, about
the organization’s work here.*

*Internationalism has always been important to the MST. Here in Venezuela,
the organization's Apolônio de Carvalho Brigade has accompanied **campesino**
movements for almost two decades. How does the MST conceive
internationalism?*

Internationalism is part of our organization’s “DNA.” Since the birth of
the organization, we have treated the struggles that take place beyond
Brazil’s borders as our own. Internationalism is one of our driving
principles.

If you take a look at the MST flag, you will see a man and a woman on the
map of Brazil, but you will also see a machete that extends beyond the
border. In other words, internationalism has been an organizational
principle since our movement’s early days. Later, we incorporated it in our
political strategy in a more formal way, because we understand that the
struggle for agrarian reform cannot be carried out in isolation. It’s
necessary to build ties of solidarity, learn with others, and struggle
together.

Our internationalism emerges from a longstanding tradition in Latin America
and around the world. The Cuban Revolution is a key example for MST; the
Cuban people’s extraordinary internationalism has taught us a great deal.
We also learned from the liberation struggles in Central America,
particularly the internationalist brigades that accompanied the Sandinista
and Salvadorian revolutions. Of course, the Bolivarian internationalism of
the Venezuelan process has also left its mark on our organization.

We have learned a great deal from past and present practices of
internationalism.

Today, in the MST, we understand internationalism as both a principle and a
practice. As a revolutionary organization, we can only survive if we build
and learn along with others in a solidarious manner.

The Apolônio de Carvalho Brigade, which is the MST brigade in Venezuela,
takes its name from a great Brazilian revolutionary: Apolônio went to Spain
to fight against Franco in the Red Brigades. That is why, when we arrived
in Venezuela, we took that name as an homage to him.

*One of the challenges that Venezuela faces today is overcoming the rentier
logic that turned the Venezuelan economy into a dependent, “port-based”
economy. The MST, with its vast experience, accompanies **campesino** and
communal organizations around Venezuela, promoting sustainable agriculture
that can break with dependence and build food sovereignty. How do you work
with these local organizations?*

The Apolônio de Carvalho Brigade has been in Venezuela since 2005
<https://venezuelanalysis.com/analysis/1423>. Hugo Chávez requested that
the MST bring its experience to Venezuela and accompany *campesino*
organizations in food production. There was one goal in mind: transitioning
toward food sovereignty.

Since then, we have accompanied diverse *campesino* organizations in the
country. We have made producing seeds a priority so that local agriculture
can ensure food sovereignty to the country.

But seed production cannot be an isolated goal. The objective is changing
the whole production model. The entire model must be radically changed. For
that to happen, one must apply an integrated agro-ecological scheme.

In our work, we also focus on “encadenamiento” [linking] – Chávez’s term
for the production, commercialization, and consumption cycle. It is
something that we should be thinking about when attempting to build food
sovereignty.

The only way to break out of the rentier oil-based economy is through a new
consciousness. However, that consciousness will come only when new
production and organization practices truly begin to emerge.
mst_chavez.png <https://venezuelanalysis.com/files/mstchavezpng>

[image: Chávez visited the Lagoa do Junco MST settlement in Río Grande do
Sul, Brazil, in 2005. A cooperation agreement was signed during that visit.
(MST)]
<https://venezuelanalysis.com/files/images/%5Bsite-date-yyyy%5D/%5Bsite-date-mm%5D/mst_chavez.png>

Chávez visited the Lagoa do Junco MST settlement in Río Grande do Sul,
Brazil, in 2005. A cooperation agreement was signed during that visit. (MST)

*What kinds of organizations and institutions does the MST work with in
Venezuela?*

In our early days, we worked with the Frente Campesino Ezequiel Zamora
<https://venezuelanalysis.com/tag/crbz>. We also worked with government
institutions and communal organizations.

We have assumed the communes as a priority. We support communal
organizations in Venezuela, but we also learn from them. The communal model
is something that the whole continent needs; it is a way of doing things
that transforms the existing system, and the Bolivarian Revolution has
turned it into a practice. This is very important for the MST.

What we have been doing with the communes is help them however we can. Yet
it’s even more important to learn from people’s day-to-day practices when
they come together, build a commune in their territory, and develop a
production strategy that has the common good as its goal.

In a commune, all this happens while building a new hegemony. As communal
councils, social property enterprises, and the communal parliament develop,
the project takes shape as something viable in people’s minds. I think that
the greatest legacy of the Bolivarian Revolution for those who struggle,
including the MST, is the commune.

*The MST has a commitment to ecological agriculture. How do you promote
that here in Venezuela? *

It is only possible to build a sovereign project if we really change the
productive model in rural areas. To do this some technical training and
preparation are necessary, but political education is also a must. For such
a change to happen, people have to understand that if we struggle for a
different societal model, if our horizon is socialism and we work with the
idea of a sovereign nation, then rethinking the ways that we produce is
urgent. In solving this puzzle, agro-ecology is an important element.

We also think that technological agriculture should become a state policy.
In other words, agro-ecology is not just a quaint method to be applied in
*conuco* [subsistence plots] production; the model must be a viable one
that can feed the whole of society in a sustainable manner.

When it comes to sustainable agriculture, our task is fostering it and
offering technical support and political education. The MST has also
donated seeds to the Communard Union
<https://venezuelanalysis.com/tag/communard-union> to help in the
transition towards sustainable agriculture.

When we carry out workshops with *campesinos*, we teach sustainable
agriculture techniques: from the production of organic agricultural inputs
to non-toxic methods for eradicating pests. Interestingly, the crisis and
the blockade have torn down some of the barriers to bringing about the
shift to sustainable agriculture. Now, many *campesinos* understand that it
is both possible and necessary to produce without chemicals. Nevertheless,
the shift to ecological practices in large-scale production is an
outstanding challenge.

In the end, our objective is not to force people to change their
agricultural model but to help generate the conditions so that they
understand that the shift is viable and necessary. After all, if that
doesn’t happen, producers will continue to be dependent on transnational
corporations, and the country will continue importing enormous quantities
of agricultural inputs. Needless to say, mainstream farming practices have
adverse effects on the life of the *campesinos*, but they also take a high
toll on the environment.

A different societal model requires a change in the way production takes
place in rural areas. That is why we give both technical and political
workshops to communes and other *campesino* organizations.

*The MST is now part of the landscape of popular movements in Venezuela.
That makes sense, because Venezuela’s revolution considers itself
Bolivarian and, for that reason, Latin Americanist. What has the MST
learned from the Bolivarian Process?*

It’s been almost 18 years since the first MST brigade touched down in
Venezuela.

Our method of forming brigades is as follows: MST internationalists remain
here for about two years and then we go back to Brazil, to share our
learning with other MST organizers. Overall, we think we have learned a lot
more than we have taught here.

The brigade members that come to Venezuela learn from the Bolivarian
Process. Sharing the MST experience in a country that is in the midst of a
revolutionary process constitutes a school for us. We learn a great deal
from the successes of the Bolivarian Revolution, but we also learn about
the contradictions in people’s day-to-day lives. We learn about what we
should and shouldn't do in a society that transitions towards socialism.

Among the more concrete things that we have learned is how the Venezuelan
people have been the protagonist of their revolutionary process –
particularly the grassroots political organizations – and how a process
that is in constant movement raises the consciousness level of the people
through direct participation. It is not spontaneous participation, but tied
to territorial and national organization. This is a huge lesson for us:
people should be involved in organizational processes in all spheres of
life.

Also, as I was telling you earlier, the commune is a space where we have
learned a great deal. In communal spaces, people understand the need to
organize to build a different society.

We have also learned about people’s everyday creativity in the Bolivarian
Process. Sometimes, from the left, we have very closed schemes about the
level of preparation and planning needed to advance, and that can become a
barrier. In Venezuela, people know that all that is necessary, but
creativity – in a country where people are very spontaneous – has been a
virtue of the Bolivarian Revolution.

We have also learned a lot from the electoral processes. The MST
accompanies these processes because the electoral dispute is also a battle
for the defense of the revolutionary project. Elections here are not about
individual or group interests but about collective ones. This is very
different from Brazil, where elections are a kind of marketplace and money
tends to win and hold on to power. What is at stake in an electoral process
in Venezuela is a political project. Elections here are not a marketplace.

Venezuela taught us that a campaign is not only a tool to get elected; it
is also a time to get closer to grassroots organizations and foster the
participation of the *pueblo*. The PSUV
<https://venezuelanalysis.com/tag/psuv> is the most advanced party in the
continent when it comes to defending a revolution in an electoral
whirlwind. Of course, elections here happen within the parameters of
bourgeois democracy, but campaigns help build another kind of democracy.

Finally, we have also learned from the Bolivarian Revolution’s
anti-imperialism and patriotic practices, which are very tangible in the
day-to-day life of the Venezuelan people. Brazil didn’t have a struggle for
its independence, and perhaps that is why we have a very fragmented
society, a society that doesn't have the defense of the homeland as a core
value.

>From a political perspective, ours is a much more dominated society. In
Venezuela, we have learned about how to build a patriotic sentiment – not
within the framework of bourgeois nationalism, but with the objective of
having a truly independent country at all levels: economic, political, and
social.
mst_maizal.png <https://venezuelanalysis.com/files/mstmaizalpng>

[image: El Maizal’s Ernesto Guevara Technical Farming School is run in
collaboration with the MST. (El Maizal Commune)]
<https://venezuelanalysis.com/files/images/%5Bsite-date-yyyy%5D/%5Bsite-date-mm%5D/mst_maizal.png>

El Maizal’s Ernesto Guevara Technical Farming School is run in
collaboration with the MST. (El Maizal Commune)

*Brazil is due for presidential elections on October 2, 2022. The race will
put the ultra-conservative Jair Bolsonaro against the progressive Lula da
Silva. What is the importance of this event for Brazil and for the
continent?*

Brazil is going through a severe social and economic crisis: the living
conditions of the *pueblo* are catastrophic. Tens of thousands are living
in the streets, in conditions of absolute misery, while 60 million are
directly affected by the capitalist crisis: unemployment and food price
inflation are rampant and fascistic ideas continue to grow.

Of course, the Bolsonaro government has no interest in solving our
country’s many social problems. Instead, his policies favor the market and
the bourgeoisie, while he fosters fascist ideas and promotes a discourse of
violence.

That is why we think that the upcoming presidential elections are of
strategic importance for Brazil and for Latin America as a whole. If Lula
wins, the map of the continental dispute will change: it will allow the
left and progressive projects to go forward once again. The confrontation
with imperialism and its grinding economic project will also take place on
more favorable terms.

The *pueblo* of Brazil needs to choose Lula as its president. It won’t be
easy, but there is a good chance that we will succeed. In any case, to
reach our goal we have to work hard; we are fighting against a very
powerful enemy. It has a robust thirty percent of support and many
far-reaching tentacles.

The MST is participating in the electoral battle by promoting grassroots
committees for debate. The debates in these committees range from the
country’s future to the policies that a popular PT [Workers’ Party]
government should promote.

The October 2 elections are very important, but a victory would be just the
beginning. People will have to be ready to defend the victory.

The situation of the country will not be resolved with welfare policies,
but with policies that restructure things in favor of the people. Brazil’s
crisis is part of the crisis of capitalism. To move ahead with the great
reforms that we need, mobilization will be key.

Finally, Brazil has an important role when it comes to Latin American
integration. It is urgent to reactivate the projects that bring the
continent together. Chávez promoted both economic and political integration
with mechanisms such as CELAC <https://venezuelanalysis.com/tag/celac>
[multilateral Latin American dialogue mechanism] and UNASUR
<https://venezuelanalysis.com/tag/unasur> [South American integration
mechanism].

As US imperialism loses hegemony, the progressive governments in the
continent have to join forces. That is why a PT victory in October is
important not only for Brazil but for Latin America as a whole.
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