Workers, educational institutions and the federal education strike

Image: Jonas Kakaroto
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By MICHEL GOULART DA SILVA*

We may have specific criticisms of certain aspects of the strike, but under no circumstances can we question its legitimacy or relativize its importance.

At this moment, possibly the main process underway in Brazilian politics is the strike at universities and federal institutes. On the one hand, this process shows workers organized and fighting, at a national level, demanding the recovery of wage losses that have been accumulating for many years. On the other hand, by raising this demand, these workers explain the debate about the public budget and its uses, questioning, in particular, the prioritization of debt payment or the guarantee of parliamentary amendments for politicians of all political colors.

However, for many analysts, the central debate surrounding the strike does not involve the need to increase investments in education, the government's submission to financial capital or the budget drain to guarantee electoral camps in an election year. For many analysts, the big question that permeates the strike is understanding why a category that, for the most part, helped elect Lula is now questioning the program applied by the government. For some, there would not even be any legitimacy to this strike, after all we would have given Lula the mandate and now we should accept anything that came from this government.

These arguments have already been duly questioned by different colleagues with a variety of excellent arguments. However, in general, these arguments are nothing more than variants of those positions that do not support the strike. Specifically, what we have is that workers at federal educational institutions, collectively, chose to paralyze their teaching, research, extension and management work. We may have specific criticisms of certain aspects of the strike, but under no circumstances can its legitimacy be questioned or its importance relativized.

Although for many the categories in struggle can be reduced to “Lula voters”, this is the least relevant aspect in the constitution of this social being. Firstly, obviously, because not everyone is a Lula voter. Secondly, because the act of voting is a specific choice given specific and momentary circumstances and obviously cannot be a stigma that people carry for four years. This particular phenomenon certainly has its implications and impacts during the four years, but, given the concrete circumstances, it is obvious that each social being goes through new impressions of reality, reflections and changes in perspectives and cannot be limited to what it was at a given moment. specific.

In the presidential elections, the concrete scenario in which we were faced was the choice between Bolsonaro, an alleged fascist with a demagogic speech who had declared war on universities since his first campaign, and Lula, futilely trying to balance specific improvements for workers with the interests of the bourgeoisie. and financial capital. That was the choice we were faced with and many of us opted for the second option, even without having hope in the new government or, at least, given the expectation that, in this new government, we would not need to constantly defend ourselves. – sometimes even physically – of the attacks that were constantly launched against us.

Therefore, the social being that is now carrying out the strike is constituted, to a large extent, by the denial of the atrocities of Bolsonarism that we have experienced over four years – or even six, if we understand that the Temer government was a kind of precursor to Bolsonaro. To a certain extent, by defeating Bolsonaro at the polls, we wanted the right to continue to exist and to be able to work without our lives being at risk or without the government constantly questioning the legitimacy of our actions, reducing them to “doctrinarism”. or any other rhetorical aberration that has come out of the mouths of the different representatives of the Bolsonaro government.

However, the years of Temer and Bolsonaro were not only filled with rhetorical attacks, but also with concrete actions against education. And, thus, a second element was forged that marks the workers who are on strike, that is, the defense of the educational institutions in which they work. Between blockades, contingencies, cuts and many other attacks, which date back to Dilma's second term and deepened with Temer and Bolsonaro, the daily life of educational institutions involved ensuring, even with a limited budget, the basics for our students.

In the midst of this, we survived a pandemic, which forced us to literally guarantee our lives and those of our students. Since 2015, we have seen our institutions suffer budget suffocation, facing difficulties of different natures, forging workers who defend them as part of their own lives. This is not about category corporatism or institutional arrogance, but about understanding that our survival depends on the existence of these institutions, on collaboration with our colleagues and on serving our students.

However, the defeat of the demagogic rhetoric that constantly attacked us and the fight for the material maintenance of our institutions will be nothing if we are not alive. Therefore, we understand that it is not possible to survive with a salary that, in the case of some categories, is equivalent to a third of what was received in 2010. The scenario of inflation and increased family expenses, such as health and education, shows that “Super salaries” in the federal public service are nothing more than a completely unrealistic fallacy. Particularly in the case of technical-administrative employees at universities and federal institutes, the minimum wage for the category is lower than the minimum wage. In the case of higher-level teachers or technicians, the absolute values ​​may even be a little higher, but this depends on many years in the position and holding a master's or doctor's degree.

Therefore, what we have in motion today is a social being that cannot be limited to its punctual vote in the last presidential elections. These are, yes, workers who fought for the right to exist, in the face of Bolsonarist attacks. Who defend their institutions, as a response to the budget losses we have suffered over the last ten years. And they struggle to be able to survive and guarantee the subsistence of their families. These are the workers who are currently facing a very tough strike against the government and who cannot be reduced to mere Lula voters, and who deserve the unconditional support of the entire working class.

*Michel Goulart da Silva He holds a PhD in history from the Federal University of Santa Catarina (UFSC) and a technical-administrative degree from the Federal Institute of Santa Catarina (IFC).


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