Today, progressive organizers and activists are struggling to reach enough people and build the power necessary to realize our transformational ambitions. As we engage in the long struggle to protect democracy, and advance racial, gender and economic justice, we are looking for ways to learn, remember and reimagine forms of organization, tactics, cultural practices, and political education methods that can help us sustain people’s participation, resist authoritarian threats, and build the power necessary to win.
We believe that front-line organizers in the United States and Puerto Rico can gain inspiration and ideas from the experience in Brazil, where progressives are finding ways to resist authoritarian threats, expand fundamental rights of BIPOC and LGBTQ+ communities, generate new solutions to the overlapping crises of inequality and climate disaster, and build organizations able to engage millions of poor and working class people in long-term fights for land, rights and governing power.
To facilitate this learning, The Action Lab and Defend Democracy in Brazil are inviting 25-30 leaders of key national and state organizations, along with aligned academics and cultural workers from the United States and Puerto Rico, to participate in an 8-day learning delegation. We will start in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday, September 24th, and end in São Paulo on Sunday October 1st.
The goal of the delegation is to learn from the playbook that has been constructed by progressive movements in Brazil, build solidarity with these movements, coordinate our actions and share our learnings more broadly. Specifically, we will focus on three overlapping goals:
1) To learn about effective resistance from those in the struggle against authoritarianism
2) To learn about how organizers and activists are developing participatory movements, institutions and coalitions across issues and communities, how they are relating to political institutions, and how movements are combining cultural and political practices to foster belonging and solidarity.
3) To build relations of support and solidarity with organizations in Brazil, share reflections and strategies, and establish the capacity for coordinated resistance against rising authoritarianism.
Our itinerary will include conversations with progressive elected officials grappling with the challenges of governing, labor leaders organizing some of the most vulnerable workers, and Black and LGBTQI+ activists organizing inside the favelas. We will visit urban and rural occupations where people are fighting to secure homes and infrastructure, participate in political and educational activities, and meet with members of some of Brazil’s most effective social movements and organizations, including:
● Landless Workers’ Movement (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra, MST), one of
Latin-America’s largest popular movements. MST works with landless peasants to identify and settle on underutilized land, gain legal title to the land and bring it into productive use. Through the MST’s efforts, more than 1.5 million people have been settled on 17 million acres of land, and currently more than 120,000 families are living in encampments, awaiting settlement.
● Homeless Workers Movement (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Sem Teto, MTST), originally emerged as a faction within MST, but now operates as fully autonomous urban movement focused on reducing Brazil’s housing deficit by staging squatters’ occupations in unoccupied plots, resisting attempts by local governments to evict the poor, and negotiating for the conversion of occupied buildings into low-income housing.
● UNEAFRO, a network of 31 centers of popular education and political formation in the outskirts of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro peripheral territories throughout Brazil. UNEAFRO was founded and led by black and indigenous youth working in defense of anti-racist education, and in favor of equal opportunities for black, indigenous and immigrant youth.
● The Marielle Franco Institute, an organization named after the slain Afro-Brazilian, queer socialist leader from the favelas of Rio, who was elected as City Councillor in 2017 and assassinated in 2018. The institute works to inspire, connect and empower black women, and LGBTQIA+ and people from the favelas who want to occupy politics to continue moving society’s structures for a fairer and more equal world.
● National Federation of Domestic Workers (Federação Nacional das Trabalhadoras Domésticas, FENATRAD), a federation of domestic worker unions working to expand labor rights for the sector, and build movement by nurturing alliances with Afro-Brazilian organizations, feminists, and the labor movement.
● The Workers’ Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores, PT) is a left-wing political party in Brazil that regained governing power in 2022, with the election of Igancio Lula da Silva to the presidency. The PT has a history of innovative redistributive democracy policies to achieve participation, social redistribution, and justice.
We look forward to returning and helping to ensure that the cross-border connections, new learnings, skill-sharing and coordinated resistance enables social movements in the U.S., Brazil, and beyond, to build relations, learn from each other, and fight more effectively to improve the material conditions of working class people, and join forces in the against rising authoritarianism.