About assemblies, strikes and the teachers’ union movement

Image: Thắng-Nhật Trần


Rejoinder to the article by Valter Lúcio de Oliveira

Since I publishedOn the earth is round, a response to text of Valter Lúcio de Oliveira, I was replicated directly and indirectly in some texts posted on this site.[I] Firstly, I would like to agree with the opening of the reply written by my colleague and express my satisfaction at seeing this portal having become a kind of free tribune on the federal teaching strike. This rich debate, about the strike and the conception of the teaching movement, is, without a doubt, one of the gains of this strike.

In this text I will only try to write a very brief rejoinder to Valter Lúcio's article,[ii] with whom I had spoken in my previous text and who kindly and politely chose to respond to me. I won't respond to the others for two main reasons: (i) I don't think they managed to escape the commonplace and, therefore, they don't even deserve a response; and, mainly, (ii) because I am part of CLG-UFBA, time has been an extremely scarce asset for me.

As all those who have already participated, or actively participate today, in the construction of a strike know, it is necessary that we renounce our personal lives during this period and dedicate ourselves, almost exclusively, to building the movement (of its agendas, its assemblies and, in the case of UFBA, its countless occupation activities).

The first question addressed to me by Valter Lúcio de Oliveira is, based on the quote from The Poverty of Philosophy which I used in the previous text.[iii] If in the quote the common enemies of workers are the bosses, who would be “our enemies? The president of the republic? The whole of your government? Deputies and senators? The society we serve?” A similar question, and with a similar answer, was asked by the newspaper columnist The globe, Carlos Alberto Sardenberg, famous for his attacks on the Public University, in his most recent column.[iv]

Our bosses, for Carlos Alberto Sardenberg, would be the students and that is why “the strike at universities is against students and society”. Valter Lúcio is not so clear in his answer, but the two paragraphs that follow his questions leave no doubt that his understanding is the same.

I disagree with both. Our strike is directed at the current organization of the Brazilian State, above all, at the current budgetary governance regime,[v] began in 2014 and deepened in the post-parliamentary coup period of 2016. In this new regime, in a very summarized way, executive control over the budget has been neglected in favor of parliamentary amendments (individual and bench), tax expenditures and the interference of control bodies (such as the TCU, which, due to a change in interpretation of the LRF, was directly responsible for the impeachment of Dilma Roussef).

As I tried to demonstrate in a text developed during the strike[vi] and presented at one of the meetings of our local strike command, higher education was one of the sectors that suffered most under the new regime.[vii] The participation of higher education in the discounted final budget (when we eliminate spending on ministerial maintenance, pensions and family grants) went from 3,76%, in the Multi-Year Plan (PPA) 2016-2019, to just 2,30% in the PPA 2024- 2027, developed by the Lula government.

This reduction of 146 basis points, or 39% share of the deducted final budget, has a harsh impact on our working conditions and also on the study conditions of the students that Valter Lúcio and Sardenberg say they are concerned about. In practical terms, budget cuts in higher education mean that today, a student who enrolls in an economics degree at the Federal University of Bahia will not have computers available to run basic software for their training.

Figure 2: Evolution of Discretionary Expenses in Higher Education by Category – 2016-2024 (values ​​adjusted by IPCA)

Source: SIOP; Data from 2016 to 2023 correspond to committed values ​​and from 2024 to the Current Allocation, extracted on 17/05.

It is possible to see from the graph that, in real terms, the budget dedicated to Federal Higher Education Institutions (IFES) in 2024 is lower than the budgets of the two years of Michel Temer's government and the first year of Jair Bolsonaro's government, in addition to being practically equal to the second year budget of the Bolsonaro government. If it is unequivocal that there was an intentional and announced dismantling during these two governments, why does Valter Lúcio indicate that our demands for budget restoration are nothing more than rhetoric? Wouldn't he be worried about the serious situation that reality presents us with?

Furthermore, when the government presents us with a multi-year salary proposal (2024, 2025, 2026) it is important that we look at the budget projected for the coming years. And when we do, the budget situation not only doesn't improve, it actually gets worse:

PLPPA 2024-2027 – Program 5113 Higher Education: Quality, Democracy, Equity and Sustainability (In 2024 values)

 BRL 14.463.853.779,00 BRL 14.052.426.488,57 BRL,54 BRL,10

That is, if our strike achieves nothing (which already seems unlikely given that this Monday Lula will meet with the Rectors to, precisely, announce a budget recomposition for costs and investments in the coming years), at the end of the Lula Government we will be with a situation, at Federal Universities, even worse than at the beginning. Again in a practical way, it is to say that the ceiling of my work office, located on the fifth floor of the Faculty of Economics, in which today the lamps do not light due to the deep infiltration of water, and which already requires buckets to be located to stop For water drops to reach the floor, it must fall or have cracks that make it unfeasible to use.

Saying that the fight for working conditions is not a union agenda and that “strikes are corporate movements and fundamentally focused on salary and career” lacks real basis and perhaps comes from those who, instead of helping to build the wall movement, have committed himself daily to discredit and destroy him.

Another disagreement I have with Valter Lúcio's text is regarding his accusation that I was idealizing the assemblies. I cannot speak for the assemblies of other Universities, as it would be doing so based on secondary, personal and, therefore, biased observations. But when I defend the assemblies, I defend it based on the concrete reality of the assemblies that I have experienced since April 25th, here at the Federal University of Bahia.

If it is true that the board, linked to Proifes-Federation, has made efforts to maneuver them, it is also true that it has not been able to do so, given the strength and unity presented by the base. In the last assembly, on 06/06, we had a rich debate on the budget of Federal Institutions, with long and well-founded presentations, before a member of the union board and then a member of the CLG. We also had a beautiful artistic intervention by a dance teacher, in the few three minutes dedicated to her speech, as well as humorous interventions, emphatic interventions and controversial interventions.

All of this is recorded, and can be accessed on Apub's YouTube channel. It is obvious that, when speeches contradict the majority of those present, they are normally followed by boos, which I understand that, far from being aggressive, are a free democratic manifestation, just as applause is free, which follows speeches that please the majority. of gifts. This aversion to assemblies, which is not exclusive to Valter Lúcio, always seems to me to be linked to a view of the university professor as someone distinct from society, who must always speak quietly and slowly, who cannot express emotions, who cannot shout, etc.

On this, we may never agree, and it is part of democracy to disagree, because I understand that we, university professors, are hard-working human beings like any other and, just because our academic training is above the average of other workers does not mean that we are better and/or distinct. of these. We are workers and workers, we have a boss (the State) and this boss, far from being a universal democratic apparatus, is a boss directed by the logic of capital.

In addition to disagreements, which can always be mediated and influenced by different conceptions of observers, there is an error, which I consider serious, in Valter Lúcio's text. My colleague states that “strikes in the context of the struggle between proletarians and the bourgeoisie do not last more than a few days as both sides feel the pressure”. I cite, for example, the victorious general strike of 1906 that took place in Porto Alegre and which, after lasting 21 days and massive support from the proletariat of Porto Alegre, achieved a reduction in working hours.

My colleague could, based on such an old example, say that long strikes no longer exist, but in a quick Google search, in which I entered the word 'strike' and limited the search to the last 24 hours, I found the Renault metalworkers' strike of São José dos Pinhais, which has already lasted 30 days, a little less than our strike at the Federal University of Bahia.

Finally, I will not go into the Andes x Proifes issue, as the description of the role of the entity without a union charter has already been very well prepared by my comrade Henrique Saldanha.[viii] I would just like to express my disagreement with analyzes that date back to Andes-SN's decisions in the 2012 and 2015 strikes, which took place 12 and 9 years ago respectively. These analyses, in general, start from an ahistorical principle, as if the Andes-SN and Proifes had not changed during this long period.

As an example, in 2012 I was still an undergraduate student and in 2015 a master's student and, as I saw when I joined the National Strike Command between the 26th and 31st of May, many of those who are mobilized today belong to a similar age group to my. Therefore, I think we should discuss the present. What role did Andes-SN play in this strike? Was it not to present a widely feasible counter-proposal?[ix] What role did Proifes play in this strike? Wasn't it a betrayal of its bases and the vast majority of the category?

To conclude, thank you once again to the site the earth is round for giving space to debate the teaching movement and to my colleague, Valter Lúcio de Oliveira, for his kind and polite reply, even though I almost completely disagree with it. I also highlight that this is my last text on the subject, but if my colleague writes a new answer, I will read it with pleasure.

*Lucas Trentin Rech is a professor at the Department of Economics at the Federal University of Bahia (UFBA).


[I] https://aterraeredonda.com.br/uma-maquina-milionaria/

[ii] https://aterraeredonda.com.br/assembleias-greves-e-o-movimento-sindical-dos-docentes/

[iii] https://aterraeredonda.com.br/assembleias-docentes/

[iv] https://oglobo.globo.com/opiniao/carlos-alberto-sardenberg/coluna/2024/06/a-greve-nas-universidades-e-contra-os-alunos-e-a-sociedade.ghtml

[v] On the topic, I recommend an important book published by IPEA https://repositorio.ipea.gov.br/bitstream/11058/11565/1/Governanca_Orcamentaria_no_Brasil.pdf

[vi] ttps://www.researchgate.net/publication/380711731_Analise_dos_Recursos_destinados_ao_Ensino_Superior_Publico_em_Tempos_de_Greve_Docente_Federal

[vii] This observation was already present in a book chapter that, together with Leandro Couto, I published by IPEA in 2023: https://repositorio.ipea.gov.br/handle/11058/11961

[viii] https://esquerdaonline.com.br/2024/05/29/a-greve-docente-federal-e-o-papel-da-proifes-federacao/

[ix] https://diplomatique.org.br/movimento-de-greve-dos-docentes/

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