The strike at universities and federal institutes is not against the government

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By GRACE DRUCK & LUIZ FILGUEIRAS*

The left-wing and democratic forces need to get out of their passivity, as if waiting for Lula and his government, as well as the STF, to resolve political impasses.

1.

This short text is aimed, mainly, but not only, at teachers, employees and students at Federal Universities and Institutes who are still in doubt about the relevance of the strike in the current political situation.

The legitimate question that concerns these colleagues is the following: could the strike weaken the Lula government and, consequently, favor the actions and objectives of the extreme right? And, as a corollary, shouldn't this social segment, which mostly supported Lula da Silva's candidacy and helped elect this government, understand that there is an unfavorable correlation of political forces and postpone their demands for another time? Below we try to answer these two questions by arguing why the strike is important at this time.

2.

Professors and administrative technicians from Universities and Federal Institutes are on strike demanding salary readjustment and budget recomposition, so that these Institutions can pay their current expenses (electricity, water, telephone, cleaning, a variety of outsourced services, etc.), invest in works stopped and able to function properly.

Just to remind you: (i) The total budget resources foreseen by the Annual Budget Law (LOA) in 2024 (R$5,8 billion) for Federal Higher Education Institutions is lower than what was allocated in 2014 (8 billion); so ten years ago! (ii) The salaries of its professionals are out of date, considering recent years, by 40%, but the government initially defined a zero adjustment for 2024. After eight negotiation tables in 2023 and three tables this year, the government maintained zero adjustment for 2024, 9% for 2025 and 3,5% in 2026, depending on compliance with the “Tax Framework” targets.

This strike, obviously, directs these demands to the public authorities which, as stated in the Constitution, must maintain and make the Federal Higher Education Institutions (IFES) financially viable. Therefore, these demands are directed at the Lula Government, responsible, at least until 2026, for directing and commanding the Brazilian State.

However, the strike is not against the Lula Government; quite the opposite. Its two fundamental demands, salary adjustment and budget recomposition, are contained in the Government Program presented, during the 2022 electoral campaign, by then candidate Lula da Silva. After four (or six) years of dismantling the country, and specifically, Public Universities, the Lula government took on the responsibility of national reconstruction. Therefore, the strike movement is strictly in accordance with the objectives of this government.

In the Government Program “Guidelines for the Reconstruction and Transformation Program of Brazil 2023-2026” it is written: “Our objective is to rescue and strengthen the principles of the democratic education project, which has been dismantled and degraded. To participate in the knowledge society, it is essential to rescue an education project that dialogues with the national development project. To achieve this, it is necessary to strengthen universal, democratic, free, quality, socially referenced, secular and inclusive public education, with public appreciation and recognition of its professionals” (p. 9).

It turns out, however, that this government has been prevented from implementing its Program, enshrined at the polls, by political-social forces that can be clearly identified, namely: financial capital (“the market” or “the people of Faria Lime"); the neoliberal right entrenched in the media and in various State Institutions; the neofascist movement with parliamentary expression (House and Senate); and more specifically the so-called “Centrão”, which seeks to systematically “wall down” the Lula government – ​​taking away important portions of power in the formulation and execution of the budget, and in the implementation of economic-social policies, undermining and blackmailing the Executive Branch on a daily basis – through requirement for the release of “parliamentary amendments” as a condition for voting on matters of interest to the government.

In the current circumstances, the so-called “coalition presidentialism” has, little by little, transformed itself almost into a kind of “coalition parliamentarism”, an illegitimate and illegal “monster”, as it is not foreseen nor welcomed in any way by the Brazilian constitution. In practice, an attempt, already partially successful, to annul the mandate that Lula da Silva received from the majority of Brazilian voters. Therefore, a kind of “electoral fraud” practiced by the political-social forces defeated in the 2022 election for President of the Republic.

In this way, the strike by Federal Universities and Institutes is against all these individuals who have been protecting the Lula Government, preventing it from putting its Program into practice, constraining it through a restrictive monetary policy (with high interest rates) , carried out by the Central Bank independent of the Government, but not of the “market”, and by a fiscal policy subordinated to the “Fiscal Framework” that guarantees without restriction, once again, the parasitic remuneration of financial capital. In fact, since the creation of the “Spending Ceiling” in the Temer Government, a situation of permanent “fiscal adjustment” has been formalized. In short, the Public Fund is formally hijacked by a very small portion of the very rich, whether Brazilian or not.

This situation highlights the existence, in fact, of a correlation of forces unfavorable to left-wing and democratic political-social currents – placing the Lula government in a defensive and uncomfortable position. But it is also evidence that the response that the government, and its closest supporters, have given to this adverse situation, that is, restricting itself only to a practice of negotiation at an exclusively institutional level, is making the achievement of its objectives unfeasible. most important economic and social issues – announced and defended in the 2022 electoral process.

3.

But a correlation of forces, whatever it may be, cannot be treated like a photograph, something static and immutable; it has to be understood as a film, a process in motion, whose developments are not previously defined. This means that the change or maintenance of a certain correlation of forces will fundamentally depend on the political struggle waged in the present, at each moment.

Therefore, assuming that there is, in fact, a correlation of forces unfavorable to left-wing and democratic forces at present, the crucial question is the following: whether there is recognition that merely negotiating institutionally has not been able to change this correlation, what What can these forces and the Lula government do to change the situation? Noting that the correlation of forces is momentarily unfavorable and acting only within the scope of institutional negotiation is acting, in the end, with a perspective only of damage reduction, which only sanctions and legitimizes the current unfavorable correlation of forces.

Under these circumstances, this mistaken political behavior opened space for movement within the government, more specifically in the Ministry of Finance, in order to deconstitutionalize the budget floors (minimum mandatory percentages) for health and education, a historic achievement of the Brazilian people. The reason for this is that these floors come into conflict with the “Tax Framework”, the fundamental instrument that makes the interests of financial capital viable. This is absolutely unacceptable, especially considering the enormous social inequality that characterizes the country.

The left-wing and democratic forces, which have a long tradition and experience of popular mobilization, need to get out of their current passivity, as if waiting for Lula, his government, as well as the STF to resolve the political impasses. In turn, Lula and his government cannot ignore the popular support they have, they cannot be afraid to mobilize and stimulate this support.

In this context, it is not possible to accept as natural, or that it was a mere technical-practical problem of convocation, that the demonstration held in São Paulo on May 1st, Labor Day, was attended by only two thousand people. And this in an act organized and called unanimously by all the Union Centrals and with the presence of the greatest popular political leader in the country's history. Explanations based on the identification of structural changes in the world of work are not sufficient; This is a process that has been developing since the 1990s.

In reality, the explanation for the existence of a demobilization situation must be sought in the practice and political action of left-wing and democratic forces. There is something wrong happening, and it is not the strike at Federal Universities and Institutes. If these forces do not recognize this, the “monster” on the other side will appear bigger than it actually is and the possibility of an electoral victory for the extreme right in 2026 will become increasingly credible.

In short, the strike by professors and employees at Federal Universities does not weaken or weaken the Lula Government, but goes against the grain of passivity, indicating the path of struggle, which the union movement and all social movements must follow, to strengthen and restore the Lula Government on the path to rebuilding the State and distributing income for which it was elected.

To reiterate, an unfavorable correlation of forces can only change if there are actions in this direction. The positive moment of approval of the Transition PEC was also supported by the mobilization derived from the electoral process, but which was gradually undone; it is necessary to resume it, demanding a new stance from both the Lula Government and all left-wing and democratic political currents.

*Graça Druck She is a professor at the Department of Social Sciences at the Federal University of Bahia (UFBA).

*Luiz Filgueiras He is a professor at the Faculty of Economics at the Federal University of Bahia (UFBA).


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