Strike — the course of truth and a fragment of the real

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By CLARISSE GURGEL*

Every public service strike in our country is a fragment of the reality of which another idea of ​​Brazil attests that the work of its truth is underway

The teachers' strike is over. For many of us, there is the feeling that very little has changed. Especially when, after the strike ends, the Minister of Economy, Fernando Haddad, announces a cut of 25 billion in the public budget, in the name of the Fiscal Framework, having already signaled the constitutional change that removes the floor established for health and education, providing for the charging of tuition fees at public universities.

But the university that returns, after this strike, looks a little different from the one that started it. And this change was already present, since its inception. The change could be noticed in the decisions taken at union assemblies and in other deliberative spaces. For decades, meetings, forums, plenary sessions have become stages that simulate spheres of collective decision-making, when, in fact, such decisions are taken behind the scenes, in other spaces, at another time.

In this strike, some teachers, aware of the historical role of strikes as an instrument for conquering and defending rights, were regretting interrupting classes, after two years of pandemic and social isolation. They were also afraid of the idea of ​​criticizing Lula, the one who freed the country from Jair Bolsonaro. Many of them decided to vote in favor of the strike, there, in the assemblies, listening one by one, because they understood that it is, above all, an act of loyalty, inscribed in a hypothesis: that a world governed by the social and by the common.

It was the role of teachers to defend education and public service for present and future generations. It was the mission of all of us, remembering the recent drama surrounding the Covid vaccine, to highlight the need for scientific research, as a path to Brazil's independence. Countless young teachers, who were experiencing their first moments as workers, defending rights (and duties, such as offering a good public service), were also called upon to do so.

This context explains the conversion of votes, which occurred in some assemblies, at the moment of triggering it, in which many who were more averse to the strike decided in favor of it, at the last moment. The same can be observed in Superior Councils, which decided to suspend the calendar, with surprising turns in favor of the strikers.

This was also the case in the last assemblies: when the strike was maintained and became even stronger, after the government's attempt to reenact the drama of a false agreement with a fake union, at which point the verb “leave” began to be conjugated by the leaders; and even when, towards the end of the strike, many teachers resisted, finding its sudden end strange.

This strike, therefore, despite the regrets, not only brought together militants torn apart by sectarianism and bureaucratization, not only allowed the formation of new cadres, but also rescued the place of authenticity, the limits of simulations, revealing a greater level of demand from workers.

The end of the strike, however, has no explanation for its exhaustion, nor for its absolute success. The Lula government, through the PT, began to occupy a greater number of deanships, began to reoccupy the directors of teaching associations, sometimes producing a certain symbiosis between base entities and central administration. The PT also recovered a base, which continues to depend on Lula as the only solution to the Bolsonarist threat. What could appear to be greater political organization among teachers is what distinguishes polarization from politicization. We are at opposite poles, facing the extreme right, without being politicized.

There are many times when we have been led to believe that we defend our “pole”, promptly meeting the demands of others and abdicating our own. Without major debates and clashes, the poles lose the polis and service becomes confused with servitude. The relationship of loyalty with the government — which removes the autonomy of any tool of struggle — was what marked the end of the strike almost by decree.

Classes are returning, the university is beginning to have its structure improved, between a room and a bathroom, not exactly as a result of the small remuneration and budgetary gains obtained in this strike. Doors, grants and rights that reappear are many more fruits of what the strike produced, breaking with the setback that continued in the corridors of public service, even after the defeat of Jair Bolsonaro. In this sense, the success of this strike is in its infancy, as it follows failures that continue to shape us.

The fecundity of failures

Alain Badiou is a philosopher who contributes greatly to a better understanding of what failure is, taking as his starting point what he called the “reflux of the 'Red Decade'”: initiated by the quadruple occurrence of national liberation struggles (Vietnam and Palestine, in special), the global student youth movement (Germany, Japan, United States, Mexico...), factory revolts (France and Italy) and the Cultural Revolution in China, between the 1960s and 1970s.

The subjective form that, according to Alain Badiou, this reflux would take finds refuge in resigned denial, in the return to customs (including electoral ones), in deference to the capital-parliamentary or “Western” order, in the conviction that wanting more is wanting worse, “ predicting against totalitarianism, squatting over mountains of victims”, as the philosopher says.

Thus, Alain Badiou seeks to inventory the failure, providing us with terms that seem to describe the Brazilian reflux of recent years very well, leaving us to place it in time: whether since the neoliberal wave of the 1990s, whether since its radicalization in the Letter to Lula's Brazilians, whether since the fall of Dilma Roussef or since the election of Jair Bolsonaro... Exercise to be done by us and which will help us understand that, in the face of failures, we run the risk of being reduced to negative, modest statements such as realization, surrendered to the instrument of submission and resignation, in which the motto is: “There is no choice!”

Faced with this historical moment in which we are, engaged in our resignation, in which we witness unimaginable setbacks such as Bolsonaro's election and the PT's implementation of measures that it fought against, the strike has already been successful. His level of disciplined adherence was a further reinforcement of his veracity. 

To paraphrase Alain Badiou: every public service strike in our country is a fragment of the real from which another idea of ​​Brazil attests that the work of its truth is underway. It is also the result of the fecundity of failures, of their critical analysis and their confrontations — the same thing that stimulated mathematical life and science itself.

* Clarisse Gurgel is a political scientist, professor at the Faculty of Social Sciences at UNIRIO.

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