The Peasant Workers' Block (BOC) and education

Lyonel Feininger, Veleros, 1929. Oil on canvas, 43 x 72 cm.
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By AMARILIO FERREIRA JR.*

Many of the educational policies claimed by the labor and rural workers movements were incorporated into legislation in the last century, and today they are threatened by the neoliberal fiscal adjustment initiated in 2016

The passage between the 350th and XNUMXth centuries did not change the nature of the social relations of production that Brazil maintained with the world capitalist system, that is, it continued to be a subordinate and peripheral economy in the following terms (a) the financial dependence on imperialism exercised by the central countries, notably the British; (b) its productive forces were based on agrarian foundations and their production turned almost exclusively to the foreign market; (c) the existence of an incipient industrial park subject to periodic crises generated by the contradictions of the international situation and (d) a brutal economic and social demand inherited from almost XNUMX years of slavery and the duration of unproductive latifundia.

In turn, these elements of colonial origin engendered a social composition that had the following configuration: (1) a ruling class formed by the agrarian aristocracy; (2) rural workers; (3) an urban petty bourgeoisie, mainly linked to state bureaucratic levels; and (4) urban workers with a small fringe of factory workers. This social structure was distributed in a population universe of more than 25 million inhabitants, of which more than 70% lived in the countryside and less than 30% in the cities. In addition, its superstructural reversal produced a type of political domination that set up state power and became known as the “coffee-with-milk policy” (political domination of São Paulo and Minas Gerais).

In such a way that this autocratic regime of domination, traced by the absence of the secret ballot, only reproduced the economic interests of the main oligarchic groups in the country and, at the same time, also constituted a true “generator plant” of cyclical crises in the political and social spheres.

The organic imbrication of these elements, particularly in the second half of the 1889th century, heralded the twilight of the so-called “Old Republic” (1930-1930). These were years irremediably marked by the outbreak of various social, political and cultural events that already foreshadowed, in one way or another, the transformations that Brazil would undergo after the 1920s. In other words, the XNUMXs constituted a historical proscenium in which several different corporate projects clashed:

In the first place, the reproduction, through social and institutionalized violence, of the agrarian export project of the dominant classes that, ultimately, defended the maintenance of the status quo renaissance of the imperial period (1822-1888). That is: a social order that relegated millions of Brazilians to a situation of total disregard for any type of social policy; in this case, for example, the “denied education” that abandoned millions of Brazilians, disinherited since the end of slavery, to illiteracy.

Second, the political project advocated by the petty bourgeoisie, segmented into two fractions: the intelligentsia and the young officers of the Brazilian army, who contested, each in their own way, the aristocratic agrarian order in two senses: (1) in terms of the arts plastic, coming to the fore during the Modern Art Week (1922), which dared to expose the “aesthetics of hunger” that characterized the Brazilian people; and (2) the armed struggle carried out by the tenentista movement, in 1922 and 1924, with prominence for the Coluna Preste (1924-1927).

However, these historical protagonisms, taken in their entirety, did not manage to outline a program that presented a societal alternative to the economic and political model that propelled the social misery to which the mass of the Brazilian people was largely subjected. Criticisms of these projects were reduced to the scope of some claims such as, for example, the institutionalization of secret ballots in elections.

Third, the project of the nascent proletariat, which from the general strikes of 1917 onwards affirmed this social protagonist in a definitive way in the Brazilian societal scenario. The founding of the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB) in 1922 introduced a new reading of the national reality, which combined revolutionary action by the working class with the theory advocated by the Marxist conception of the world. This new political intervention was the one that, for the first time, pointed to the overcoming of the organic elements that supported the exporting agrarian economic model, and was exposed as follows: (a) break with dependence on financial capital; (b) anti-latifundia agrarian reform; and (c) the immediate industrialization of the country. In this case, it was evident that in such circumstances of structural changes other measures would have to be processed in all fields of social activities.

In the 1928 elections for the Municipal Council of the Federal District, Astrojildo Pereira, in his work PCB formation, highlighted the programmatic platform that the Bloco Operário e Camponês (BOC) presented.

With regard to educational policy, the BOC positioned itself as follows: “Teaching and Education – In matters relating to public education, the candidates from the Workers' Block will fight not only for the extension and mandatory nature of primary education, but also, in addition: ( a) for financial aid to poor children of school age, providing them with, in addition to school materials, clothing, food and free means of transport; (b) by the multiplication of professional schools of both sexes as a necessary and natural continuation of the primary schools of letters; (c) by improving the living conditions of primary school teachers, whose dedication to the cause of public education must be better understood and rewarded; (d) by subsidizing popular and working-class libraries” (1979, p. 121).

Almost 95 years later, some of BOC's educational proposals are still valid for many regions of Brazil. Their claims regarding educational policies were gradually incorporated by institutionalized republican legislation from 1930 onwards, notably during the first decade of the new millennium. The workers' and rural workers' movements deserve the credit for having formulated such social policies before the 1920s had come to an end. Now, after 2016, with the neoliberal fiscal adjustment that imposes investment control on public policies, the educational proposals originating from the program presented by the BOC are again threatened.

*Amarilio Ferreira Jr. is professor of education at the Federal University of São Carlos (UFSCar).

 

 

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