The University against PL 529

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By CARMEN SYLVIA VIDIGAL MORAES & LINCOLN SECCO*

The bill by the government of São Paulo promotes the dismantling of various public services and directly attacks USP, Unicamp and Unesp

Recent years have marked a historic rupture. Critical intelligence debates whether we are experiencing the end of the “new republic” or also the dismantling of the Brazilian State itself as it was structured throughout the XNUMXth century. At no time in our history has national integrity, social rights and the basic functions of the State been so threatened. Behind the authoritarian discourse that decivilizes the public sphere, there is a much deadlier attack on the economic, legal and institutional foundations that sustain a minimum cohesion of Brazilian society, already constantly undermined by an unbearable social inequality. The university, in this context, has also never faced a greater challenge.

In the midst of the serious health, social, political and economic crises that plague us, accompanied by the decline of the political and cultural forces that oppose them, the government of the State of São Paulo presented to the Legislative Assembly, in early August, on an urgent basis , Bill No. 529.

the dismantling

With the justification of predicting a deficit of 10,4 billion reais in the budget for 2021, the project foresees the extinction of ten public companies: the Metropolitan Company of Urban Transport of São Paulo (EMTU /SP); the São Paulo Zoological Park Foundation; the Foundation for Popular Remedy Chopin Tavares de Lima (Furp); the São Paulo Oncocenter Foundation (Fosp); the Forestry Institute; the Housing and Urban Development Company of São Paulo (CDHU); the Endemic Diseases Control Superintendence (Sucen); the Institute of Social Medicine and Criminology (Imesc); the Air Force Department of the State of São Paulo (Daesp); and the Land Institute Foundation of the State of São Paulo José Gomes da Silva (Itesp).

According to PL 529, in addition to the extinction of “decentralized entities”, the government strategically aims to implement a “modern and efficient public management”, defining a set of goals destined to “extinguish 1.000 administrative units”.

The internal project of the Secretariat of Agriculture and Supply, for example, foresees the extinction of 645 Houses of Agriculture, as a result of the restructuring of the Coordination of Integral Technical Assistance (CATI), a historic rural extension agency, harming thousands of settled farmers and several communities maroons.

the universities

The state government's proposal directly attacks São Paulo's public universities (USP, Unesp and Unicamp) and also the State of São Paulo Research Foundation (FAPESP). Article 14 of chapter V of the project initially established that the financial “surplus” of municipalities and foundations be transferred to the Single Account of the State Treasury. According to the governor, the forecast would “equate the mentioned deficit and still recover part of the State's investment capacity”. It so happens that FAPESP funds do not constitute a surplus, but financial reserves for scientific research projects in progress, which, by their nature, are long-term, exceeding the financial year, as is the case of research for the production of respirators and support for clinical trials of a new vaccine related to covid-19.

Of course, universities do not contribute to society only through applied research. she is the loci of critical and systematized thinking, indispensable to civilize our civil society. When USP was founded, the aim was to create an intellectual elite destined to direct the development of the State and perhaps of the Country.

This period of growth and consolidation ended in 1964. In the beginning, USP faced the difficult articulation of old units with new ones. A real integration was never completed. The dictatorship covers the second phase of development of São Paulo universities (now with Unicamp and Unesp), marked by professionalization, departmentalization, specialization, massification, dispersion and, especially, by repression against students and professors.

The redemocratization period (third phase) changed little for the university in terms of institutional frameworks, but it was marked by the emergence of faculty, staff and student organizations that sought to democratize it. Financial autonomy, endorsed by Decree 29.598, of February 2, 1989, was its historic achievement, the result of the general mobilization of society in the 1980s and especially of the strikes sustained for months in the second half of 1988.

The new century did not lead to the deepening of autonomy nor to a permanent commitment of the State with the universities. Less perceptibly, we entered a fourth phase resulting from the overwhelming neoliberalism that changed the role of the Brazilian State and the dominant values ​​in society.

The university, located in a very conservative state, failed to respond to the problems arising from its expansion. The crises increased, and the first decade of the 2007st century was marked by strikes and student occupations. In 28 the state government decreed the end of university autonomy. After XNUMX days of occupations and protests, Governor José Serra issued a declaratory decree stating that previous decrees could not harm university autonomy.

The neoliberal phase did not eliminate dictatorial debris, such as, for example, the repeated invocation of Decree 52.906/72 that “disciplines” the functioning of USP. But it incorporated the supposedly modern discourse of privatization and outsourcing. It should be noted that several surveys carried out at USP itself demonstrate that the objective of neoliberal measures is not to reduce spending on education, but to divert them to remunerate private educational companies in the name of the ideology of efficiency.

The resistance

Universities are already facing financial problems due to the serious crisis due to the reduction in the collection of the Tax on Operations related to the Circulation of Goods and on Interstate, Intercity and Communication Transport Services (ICMS). After the criticism of the Council of Rectors of the State Universities of São Paulo (Cruesp) to the project of the Doria government and, above all, the mobilization of civil society, led by the Forum of the Six (which brings together rectors and union representatives of professors and employees of the three state universities) and other entities, the governor backed down.

Cruesp's position, undoubtedly of great political importance to the continuity of the joint struggle in defense of public services in the State of São Paulo, reaffirms the great losses suffered by state universities in periods of economic crisis in recent years, losses aggravated in this period of pandemic , and reiterates its defense of the financial and budgetary management autonomy of public universities. In this sense, the deans contested the government’s intention of collecting the financial surplus to finance expenses with retirees and pensioners, since universities already carry out such a budgetary and financial procedure, and retirees “are paid by the ICMS share and not by SPPrev ”.

In our view, this is a vital moment to give impetus and continuity to the resistance, to strengthen the unified struggle of all public servants, scientific organizations and unions against the advance of the privatization project, in defense of public health and education , research and scientific development.

*Carmen Sylvia Vidigal Moraes is a full professor at the Faculty of Education at USP.

*Lincoln Secco He is a professor in the Department of History at USP. Author, among other books, of Gramsci and the Revolution (Avenue).

Originally published on Journal of USP.

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