May Day 2024

Image: Mahdi Yousefi


Establish the correlations of forces necessary to change the reality of submission to the increasingly shameless and limitless excesses of big capital


In recent years, from 2017 to 2022, the working class has suffered extremely strong and varied attacks. The PEC of the “end of the world” (EC 95/17) is included in this context; the labor “reform” (Law no. 13.467/17); the pension “reform” (EC 103/19); and, during the pandemic, MPs 927 and 936 of 2020.

During the pandemic, in fact, the attacks were established on the level of an authentic necropolitics, through which the lives of thousands of workers were taken or the health of thousands of workers was weakened.

On that occasion, on May 1, 2020, I published a text (here) in which, remembering that the day in question marks the struggles of workers for improvements in their living and working conditions and also remembering that for years the working class had already been experiencing the situation of simply fighting for the preservation of the rights they had won , drew attention to the fact that at that moment of extreme tragedy there was an opportunity for the reconstruction of class consciousness and the unification of the working class, which would allow it greater strength to confront capital, since, at least rhetorically , bourgeois society admitted the essentiality of work and, consequently, the relevance of the male and female worker, targeting, above all, the hitherto most invisible segments.

He advocated the need for a reconstruction of the working class, in order to consider as authentic only those labor movements (in the public or private sectors) that: (a) do not have as their purpose the exclusive defense of the immediate interests of a certain 'category' of workers (even more overlapping with the interests of another “category”). 'Category', in fact, was a formal concept, legally established, to divide the working class;

(b) organize themselves with a view to defending the interests of the working class as a whole, necessarily integrating those excluded from the labor market; (c) are based on full equality of rights and the equal division of tasks between men and women, covering public and private environments, including facing all forms of discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation;

(d) “have as a fundamental starting point the equality of rights between workers in general and domestic workers, integrated, in short, into the politically organized working class; (e) overcome the class division determined by outsourcing; (f) objectively and uncompromisingly confront all issues (including in private life) related to racism and sexism; (g) integrate informal workers and, above all, those who provide services through applications at the center of their concerns, in the demand for equal treatment and expansion of rights.”


However, things in the trade union environment did not move in this direction, so we continued to experience the struggles of disconnected and sometimes even contradictory fragments of worker categories.

On May 1, 2021, we reached the in-depth stage of the massacre and, in a new text (here), advocated that “the reversal of the humanitarian, social and economic tragedy in which we find ourselves essentially depends on the collective reaction of the working class”. He also denounced the evils of immobility caused by a certain use of the tragedy as an argument for the electoral succession that was to come, in 2022.

As explained in the text: “But it is also worth saying that demobilization and the preservation of the present state of affairs are equally promoted by the defense and the hope that everything will be resolved – and only then will it happen – in the 2022 elections, even because every life lost until then it cannot be recovered.
We must urgently admit that we are experiencing a tragedy, which imposes emergency actions on all of us.”

Faced with the deepening of precarious work formulas, the radical approach taken by the government to serve, solely, the interests of big capital and the absence of a forceful reaction in terms of union organization, political action or institutional intervention, the working class, atomized, she found herself in the emergency of mobilizing, to, however she could, defend her own life. It was the time of the so-called “health strikes”. Strikes whose sole objective was the imposition of working conditions that could reduce risks to the health and survival of workers.

And the reiteration of attacks on labor rights was growing so gigantic that it was still necessary to establish a legal debate about the legitimacy of a mobilization to defend life. I had to express, contradicting opposing positions, that, obviously, workers are people like any other and that, therefore, they have the inalienable right to protect their own lives, whether this defense is called a “strike” or whatever. name…

Hence why it was stated in the aforementioned text that: “Health and solidarity strikes (hence, including, the essentiality of the general health strike) are legally supported by the principle that the defense of fundamental rights, such as the right to life (the main one) , does not depend on a law that guarantees it or defines how it should be exercised”.

Regarding the atrocities committed against the working class during the pandemic period, one aspect is very important to be highlighted now, which I even referred to in several texts written at the time: how the electoral calculation, aimed at the election of 2022, promoted a state of anesthesia and immobility in the face of the human tragedy experienced in the pandemic and how much this contributed to the worsening and prolongation of the suffering of the working class (See example here).

What people were trying to make us believe was that the structural situation would only change with the election of a new government, headed by Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. Specifically, nothing was done against the entire massacre of the working class because, from 2023, with the electoral victory, everything would be corrected.


And now, on May 1, 2024, more than one year after the electoral victory, what is left for the working class? Suffer more attacks! This answer is not the result of a subjective interpretation or evaluation. It is the explanation of facts that, moreover, speak for themselves.

Now, what was seen is that: (a) all the terms of the labor “reform” were maintained; (b) all the terms of the pension “reform” were maintained; (c) no initiative was implemented to hold historical responsibility for the necropolitics carried out by the previous government;

(d) no initiative was taken to expand rights: stability or guarantee of employment: repeal of the unconstitutional 1989 strike law; elimination of outsourcing, including in the public sector; revocation of the time bank; expansion and enforcement of the rights of domestic workers; guaranteeing the self-management of unions, including financing;

(e) a tax “reform” was carried out that does not meet the logic of distributing socially produced wealth; (f) an administrative “reform” that does not prioritize the service and public servants was sent to congress; (g) a bill was sent to congress that excludes the employment relationship in work through applications and whose defense has been carried out, by the President of the Republic himself, through attacks on the CLT, in the style of Paulo Guedes, Minister of Economy of the last government.

As if that were not enough, acting as an employer, the government offered professors and employees at federal universities a “readjustment” of 0,0%, at the same time that it reinforced the neoliberal logic by replacing the salary policy with an increase in benefits whose existence is based on the breach of the solidarity pact, since the concept of salary was strategically and artificially excluded from it, on which, as we know, social contributions and taxes are levied.

From a concrete point of view, this May 1, 2024 will be marked:
– for the strike at federal universities.

– due to the record number of deaths of motorcyclists (delivery drivers, almost all), in the city of São Paulo, in the first quarter (

– for the still recurring work in conditions similar to slavery (

– due to the concrete data that 78% of the 1.132 strikes carried out in Brazil in 2023 still had as their central objective to defend rights already won(

– and for the total lack of struggle against this entire state of affairs, so as to not, as they say, destabilize governability.

But even worse was seeing the realization of a unified act, organized by the CUT, Força Sindical, UGT, CTB, NCST, CSB Intersindical Central da Classe Trabalhadora, scheduled for the Corinthians stadium, with the presence of the President of the Republic, in addition to of union leaders, guests representing popular movements and organized civil society, parliamentarians, party leaders, ministers and federal government authorities, and artists, with the generic agenda of the fight “'For a Fairer Brazil', with a focus on decent employment, the correction of the income tax table, the reduction of interest rates and the appreciation of public servants” (, that is, without mentioning all the situations listed above, whose existence is a symptom of both the preservation, for the benefit of capital, of all mechanisms at the service of the super-exploitation of labor, and the control of workers' organizations by the political class in power.

After so many attacks and enormous suffering, it would be time for, with the essential class unity, that is, without leaving anyone out, the workers to show their strength, which, without a doubt, can even establish the correlations of necessary forces to change this reality of submission to the increasingly shameless and limitless excesses of big capital and which, in fact, constituted the cause and effect of the 2016 coup and which was only consolidated with the arbitrary and illegitimate arrest of President Lula.

However, on the 1st of May that is announced, when it is made clear that important representations of the Brazilian union structure do not propose a reversal of the existing reality in the world of work, do not oppose current initiatives of social and labor regression and are still subject to the vicissitudes of the policy of congressional negotiation, in which agendas to the liking of capital are accepted as part of the negotiation process, what has the effect is a political act that ends up meaning a form of legitimization of all the harmful effects of the breakdown of institutionality to which we have been subjected to since 2016, including the deposition of Dilma Rousseff and the arrest of President Lula, in addition to constituting an explicit denial of the historical power of the working class.

Less bad than, in other mobilizations, the fight goes on…

Jorge Luiz Souto Maior is a professor of labor law at the Faculty of Law at USP. Author, among other books, of Moral damage in employment relationships (Studio editors) []

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