Teachers’ strike at Federal Universities? It will be?



Going on strike now is inappropriate, at least for those who see themselves as defenders of the democratic rule of law and the expansion of social welfare in the country

The 42nd ANDES Congress, held at the beginning of this year, decided to approve the strike indication in federal educational institutions. The union's official website informs that the teaching strike should be built in the coming months under the justification that the federal government did not present a proposal for a salary adjustment for the category in 2024 (even though there is a proposal for a 9% adjustment, divided in the subsequent two years, in addition to an increase in health and food benefits), among other demands, such as the reversal of the trend of underfunding of the country's educational institutions.

This text does not intend to discuss the merit of these reasons, but the context in which they are made. Because politics is never just about principles and reasons, but also about the moment in which they are presented. Identifying the opportune time to act is an essential political virtue, as the Greeks already said (based on the notion of kairos). Let us then look at the context in which such a strike proposal is presented.

Firstly, it is worth remembering that this is the second year of the Lula-Alckmin government, a broad-front, center-left government, established after a very difficult and crucial victory for Brazilian democracy, against the fascist threat of a second government by Jair Bolsonaro. . The first year of the Lula-Alckmin government was fundamentally a period of picking up the pieces of the project to destroy the New Republic, carried out at the time by the leader of the extreme right.

But despite the scenario of political devastation, the federal government granted, in 2023, a salary adjustment of 4% to federal public servants, including teachers, in addition to seeing the resumption of regular negotiations with Union managers. In other words, the The Lula-Alckmin government signaled with this gesture the unequivocal change in the relationship between the Executive, universities and the working class, when compared to the previous government.

Is it against this government that professors at public universities (who must defend democracy and its freedoms – poorly constructed in the country so far) intend to go on strike? But why against previous governments (which treated public universities as a space to be destroyed) no strike was built? No strikes during the two years of Michel Temer's coup government and the four years of the fascist Jair Bolsonaro!

There is another cyclical aspect of the present moment to be considered: we are in a country that is still very conflicted and divided and in which this government for the reconstruction of the democratic rule of law is permanently under attack from the radical right. As the demonstration on February 25th on Avenida Paulista showed, Jair Bolsonaro and the Tupiniquim ultra-radical right have a lot of political strength. As history professor Valério Acaray said in a recent article published on the website the earth is round: “the worst mistake the left can make is to devalue the impact of the neofascists’ counteroffensive.”

Jair Bolsonaro's defeat in the 2022 election is not the defeat of Bolsonarism. Furthermore, even though the policies of the Lula-Alckmin government, in general, are unquestionably superior to those of the previous government, it did not emerge stronger in this second year of government. On the contrary, he has seen his approval decline slightly even among his traditional base of support (voters from the Northeast, female, low-income voters, etc.) and his disapproval increase.

Now, one could ask: what the hell do teachers have to do with this? Would they, then, perhaps be obliged to support the current government? Of course. Despite this, the legitimate defense of their rights and of the public, free and quality University cannot ignore the larger context in which this fight is fought: and the context is still strongly adverse. Going on strike now will inevitably throw water at the opposition's mill, as it will wear down the government in the face of Brazilian society. In this sense, it is acting against the interests of the working class and public universities.

Associated with the first two points, it is also important to remember that municipal elections will take place in October 2024. Bolsonarism and the center-right are widely mobilized and articulated nationally. Now, what do some sectors on the left intend to do? A strike against a center-left government? Regardless of whether or not it is successful in both demands, the strike movement will certainly divide this field, which is already more fragile, decapitalized and demobilized than the opposition. A strategic error, therefore, as it weakens the very defense of the public, free and quality university to the extent that it tends to generate immediate electoral benefits for the Bolsonaro candidates, who are keeping an eye on all kinds of bad news for the Lula-Alckmin government. .

For these cyclical reasons, striking now is inappropriate, at least for those who position themselves as defenders of the democratic rule of law and the expansion of social welfare in the country. Noting this does not imply adopting a submissive stance towards the current federal government. Far from it, but it is necessary to understand the context more broadly to decide which line of action is best for the working class. It is expected that it will be strengthened by the strike – when this important means of collective action has to be adopted – and not the other way around!

Judgments in politics usually have a short validity, depending on the winds of fortune. Therefore, there is no vain intention to establish a set of sufficient or permanent reasons, but only to encourage reflection on the more general Brazilian political context, which can contribute to the adoption of a political strategy that is more harmonious with the principles of democracy. and the public university.

PS: the arguments listed above were constructed based on the assumption – adopted for textual economy purposes – that the scenario in educational institutes in the federal network are similar, when we know that this is not true. Eventually, adverse conditions in one or another educational institution may put more reasons to start a strike movement. Furthermore, this short opinion article only dealt with the condition of federal teachers. Administrative technicians, a category equally essential to university life, have another reality, which would require their own analysis, not carried out here.

*Marcelo Sevaybricker Moreira He is a professor at the Department of Human Sciences at the Federal University of Lavras (UFLA). Book author The political thought of Wanderley Guilherme dos Santos (Appris). [https://amzn.to/3ToA2H0]

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