Teaching movement — assembly and/or online consultation

Image: Alina Ananko
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By LUIZ FILGUEIRAS & GRACE DRUCK*

A fighting and mobilizing union, not bureaucratized, must stimulate and facilitate, in every way, the organization and political-cultural participation of its professional base, including retirees

In recent years, a dispute has arisen in the teaching movement at some Federal Universities that opposes two deliberative bodies that, in principle, should be complementary, as they have, in fact, distinct nature, scope and objectives.

This opposition comes to the surface every time teachers gathered in the Assembly decide, by majority, to paralyze their work activities as a way of fighting for their demands and negotiating them with the public authorities.

This happens because the minority group that voted against the strike is not satisfied with the decision and emphasizes the need for a consultation, called public — as if the Assembly that decided the strike was not public and was not open to the participation of all and sundry. any teacher who so desires.

In fact, the consultation is a vote carried out virtually over the Internet, in which each teacher alone, individually in their home or workroom, and without actively following the discussions and debates between the different views in dispute, presses a button. As a result, sociability, bonds and solidarity between teachers are broken and destroyed, weakening the movement, with the argument that, in this way, it is more democratic because more people will be consulted.

Before continuing to discuss the merits of the issue, it is worth highlighting, in passing, the following observation: in the present case of the Federal University of Bahia (UFBA), for example, if the assembly had decided, by majority, against the strike, the losers ( in favor of the strike) would never call for a virtual consultation, as they believe that a face-to-face meeting of teachers is a genuinely democratic and supportive way to discuss and decide the direction of the movement. On the other hand, the winners, in turn, would not worry about carrying out any “democratic” consultation to ratify the decision against the strike.

But this dispute expresses a broader reality, which was built over the last four decades by a process that radically transformed the characteristics and way of functioning of capitalist societies — being driven by three distinct, but closely related, phenomena: productive restructuring, globalization -financialization of capital and the political-ideological rise of neoliberalism.

Specifically, this process had a profound impact on the world of work, with the increase in unemployment, the precariousness of work, the weakening and bureaucratization of unions (of their management) and the trade union movement, the imposition by capital of the individualization of labor relations, the destruction social and labor rights, etc. The correlation of forces between capital and labor has become much worse for the latter, in addition to the dissemination throughout society of the fundamental values ​​and characteristics of neoliberal ideology: individualism, competition in all areas, entrepreneurship, etc.

In this context, new information and communication technologies (ICTs) began to occupy a central place in several dimensions: in the production and commercialization of goods and services, in increasing labor productivity, in the development and application of science, in the monopolization of knowledge (the Big Techs), in the denial of the existence of labor relations (the “uberization of work”), in the constitution and management of so-called social networks (ghettos) – a fundamental instrument in the process of rise of the contemporary extreme right around the world.

In what concerns our controversy more directly, it is worth highlighting in this process the spread of extreme individualism, stimulated in the most varied ways, with the breakdown of sociability, bonds, conviviality and solidarity among workers. In addition to social networks, the closest examples are so-called teleworking and, more specifically, the now widespread Distance Education (EAD), widely used, without any limits, by Private Higher Education Institutions. The old university coexistence, a rich space for intellectual formation and the character of youth, as well as the irreplaceable teacher-student relationship, disappear. Everyone must remember the painful experience during the pandemic, when, under those exceptional conditions, we were forced to teach classes online.

A virtual consultation or plebiscite can be used to evaluate teachers' opinions on various topics or even to operationalize the process of choosing the Union's Board of Directors, as long as the necessary guarantees are provided. But they cannot replace the Teachers' Assembly, the fundamental political instrument of convergence and collective formation of the movement's cyclical will, with decisions that can change or remain unchanged at any given moment.

Participation in the Assembly is free, there is no restriction or constraint for any teacher. The argument that “teachers who don’t go are because they have other activities during their time at the Assembly” cannot be taken seriously; Assemblies are scheduled during the teachers' regular working hours, although with specific differences between Exclusive, 40 and 20 hour teachers. Furthermore, the teachers who attend the Assemblies also have other activities, but they organize themselves to carry them out in a way that makes their respective participations viable.

A fighting and mobilizing union, not bureaucratized, must stimulate and facilitate, in every way, the organization and political-cultural participation of its professional base (category), including retirees. Relying on segments that are demobilized and uninterested in the struggles and the future of the profession is not a good path.

Occupied Universities, through debates, meetings, plenary sessions and… Assemblies is the way to strengthen the struggle and unity of teachers, with the construction of their collective will.

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

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


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