The FIFA World Cup circus is about to begin in brazil. And while millions are earned in match after match, we can turn our eyes away from the spectacle, even if momentarily, to see some of what has made it all possible and what sustains it.
The cost of the event will be between 20 to 30 billion Euros. For the 12 stadiums alone, almost 3 billion Euros will be spent, 98% of which will be covered by public money. In addition, massive infrastructure investments (airports, trains, roads, housing) parallel the construction of sports facilities. Much of the latter will of course never be used by most of the county’s people, as they are well beyond their means. And as for the games themselves, as live events, they are spectacles for the rich.
The beneficiaries of all of this manna begins with FIFA itself: tax benefits from the brazilian state amount to 323 million Euros, corporate sponsorship totaling almost 3 billion Euros, and some 900 commercial contracts.
The construction of stadiums and infrastructure feeds pharonic speculative investment, along with parallel corruption. The infrastructure needs of themselves further parallem speculation in property, real estate, tourism, the sex trade, and so on.
It is the poor and the working classes then then find themselves in the fevered storm of appropriation. Over a quarter of a million people have been evicted, displaced with little or no compensation, directly as a consequence of building dictated the world cup. Further parallel evictions have occurred, and will continue, as a result in the rise of property values in urban areas today occupied by squatters in brazil’s favelas. What work has resulted from the demand for labour has been precarious and intensely exploited, with labour legislation often ignored. And to assure that all remains peaceful among the wretched, whole neighbourhoods are militarised and placed under a virtual state of exception.
What will remain of all of this, after the event closes? More divided cities, class lines more violently traceable in the urban scape and architectural forms of cities pacified by armies masquerading as police.
The masters of this dispossession may feel assured behind their walls and barbed wire, armed guards, and sheltered worlds, but unlike Juvenal’s Romans, panis et circenses has done little to pacify many who today openly contest the World Cup. With the resonances of Brazil’s 2013 winter of rebellion, protests and struggles against the Cup have been constant, determined and courageous. (If polls are to be believed, more than half of the country is opposed to the Cup, and this in a country supposedly football mad). And they promise to continue throughout the event.
A rebellious consciousness seems to have taken root: from city assemblies, to collectives of the unemployed, the homeless, the landless, the evicted, networks form, resistance is offered, and new political possibilities emerge. The country’s president, Dilma Rousseff recently asked brazilians to be, during the Cup, “joyous and civil” …
What follows is a partial translation of an article by Isabella Gonçalves Miranda of the Comité Popular dos Atingidos pela Copa, part of a larger national network of popular assemblies organised in opposition to the World Cup. (See: Portal Popular da Copa)
The Cup of Cups or the Cup of the Troops?
The World Cup and the Olympics are the most important and lucrative mega events of global capitalism. In the context of their preparation, the city as privatised and the public policies which sustain it, and which the Brazilian left has historically opposed, are radicalised. In Brazil, the preparation of this event destructed the lives of more than 250,000 Brazilians, whose rights were violated: communities evicted, favelas militarised, workers displaced and injured, children and adolescents threatened by sexual exploitation, public protest violently repressed, demonstrators criminalised …
The climate of exception generated by mega events runs roughshod over democratic procedures in the construction of cities, with the weakening of national, state and local legislation and the promulgation of instruments of exception. In addition, retrograde laws are re-activated, such as the law of national Security, and new kinds of penalties are created to punish those who dream of contesting the realisation of the World Cup. Democracy is trivialised to increase the possibilities of re-configuring cities according to private interests.
The World Cup has created a city of exception, an exception that deepens the basic rule of government in the country: a military democracy marked by strong social inequalities “managed” by a political consensus that seeks to please, simultaneously, the worker and boss, farm worker and land owner, speculator and occupier.
It is important to understand that the World Cup and the Olympics are not isolated events; they constitute a model of capitalist development that has become ever more pronounced in the country during the last decades of economic growth and which violates the rights and dignity of communities, in many cases annihilating their forms and conditions of life. In this sense, the building of dams, large scale urban change and mega events, the World Cup and the Olympics, are all sides of the same coin.