Tensions of polyclassist composition

Image: Mike Chai


Strike at federal Institutes and Universities lays bare the broad front


Elsewhere, we indicated that the articulation between neoliberalism and authoritarianism of Jair Bolsonaro's government was an important conjunctural factor for the composition of the Lula-Alckmin ticket as an antipode to barbarism. If, on the one hand, the opposition candidacy developed a minimum program (democracy, republicanism, respect for minorities...) that allowed forces to come together that transcended the center-left and the left to, thus, facilitate electoral victory, on the other, it amalgamated sectors that were more interested in the fetish of fiscal austerity and overcoming the dysfunctionality of the management of capital society, making it difficult, and even embargoing, actions for social transformation. (ESTEVES; MUSSE, 2023).

Victorious, Lula referred to the sectors united against Jair Bolsonaro as a “democratic front” (LULA DA SILVA, 2023) and knew that, with the minority left in the Chamber and Senate and still recovering from the 2016 Coup, he would not be able to put the bourgeoisie under the command of the proletariat to implement major class reforms. What was seen as the most immediate tasks was to avoid the fascistization of institutions – January 8, 2023 showed the assertiveness of that priority – and not to limit the government solely to the radical fiscalism and austerity of the Michel Temer and Jair Bolsonaro agendas. Somehow, the resumption of the construction of the welfare state should continue.

Almost a year and a half after Lula took office, what has been achieved so far? Have the obvious and peculiar tensions of the polyclassist composition been overcome to make the “reconstruction” project viable (LULA, 2023)? Is this, in turn, feasible with the Fiscal Framework and the budget approved by the National Congress, on 22/12/2023, which, despite the increase in revenue, imposed a zero deficit in “public spending”? Can the Federal Executive, in fact, exert a good counterweight to the increase in power of the Legislature which, with the 2016 Coup and the secret budget routine under the Bolsonaro government, appears to be stronger in the conciliatory negotiations of Lulism? The hypothesis of the “inflection of the class struggle” (ESTEVES; MUSSE, 2023, p. 120) towards the interior of the government itself would have been confirmed to the point where friction between ministries and secretariats escalated the ambiguity of the “very broad front” (ESTEVES; MUSSE , p. 115) for insoluble tensions?

This article mobilizes the current strike in Federal Institutes and Universities to, instead of peremptorily answering the above questions, seek clues to address them in the best possible way.


Educational administrative technicians (TAEs) and teachers launched the strike for an indefinite period, in Federal Institutes, from 03/04/2024, and in Universities, from 15/04/2023. Among the demands are the restructuring of the two aforementioned careers; salary recovery; repeal of harmful education standards implemented under Michel Temer and Jair Bolsonaro; recomposition of the budget of teaching, research and extension institutions; recomposition of student aid and scholarships (SINASEFE, 2024). Since then, the academic community has found itself with its arms crossed, but without ceasing to feed the public sphere with political-pedagogical activities in the fields and to promote the necessary debate about everything that involves the wall movement, greatly qualifying both the strike itself and the public sphere.

During the discussion, arguments were put on the table that highlight aspects of the strike that would be negative, namely: its inopportune timing due to the fact that it could strengthen Bolsonaro's opposition to a government that still needs to rebuild democracy; This would be the “greater context” (MOREIRA, 2024) to justify the quietism and resignation to which the striking categories should be placed, allegedly touted as necessary so as not to tarnish the image of the “fragile government and strengthen the organized and fascist right” ( LONDERO, 2024), on the eve of the 2024 municipal elections - any agenda that exceeds this cyclical limit is (dis)qualified by the epochal court, marked by the “scrutiny of budgetary reality and the geometry of legislative support” (ARRAIS, 2024b) unfavorable to the government.

Furthermore, it was argued that the salary gap for TAEs and teachers did not occur in the “last two years” (ARRAIS, 2024a) and the paredista movement would therefore have to limit the issue to correction by the IPCA in this period (ARRAIS, 2024b) in instead of dealing with the losses that have occurred over the last seven years. In addition to such arguments that seem to use, as an underlying basis, the Machiavellian idea that politics needs to be evaluated by the results of actions and not by the program (the fair agendas of demands of the two categories) that motivated them, there was also the condemnation of the strike for a period of time. indeterminate due to the comparison that education professionals would have made in relation to other public service careers, such as the federal police and public defender's offices, which achieved readjustments under the Lula government: the strike would only have been triggered because TAEs and teachers they had considered the “neighbor’s grass greener” (FERNANDES, M. C, 2024) than their own.

In turn, defenders of the strike respond that, from a cyclical point of view, it could change the direction of the government as it would strengthen the group that wishes to allocate the public budget to promote social well-being, inferior due to hegemony of big capital on the budgetary resources that are directed to the payment of the public debt system (more than 40% of the budget), draining taxpayers' revenue directly to financial institutions, investment funds and external investors.

For all other costs necessary to promote social well-being, the panacea diagnosed by the dominant classes and fractions of classes is austerity; in this way, a crossroads would have been formed: “Either the government ends the constitutional floors, or it ends the Fiscal Framework” (RESCK, 2024a). This is seen as a connecting thread between Temer's Spending Ceiling, the grenade that Paulo Guedes and Bolsonaro put in the civil servants' pockets, and Fernando Haddad's fetish with the zero deficit; Furthermore, in addition to the salary issue, the same Fiscal Framework has already imposed a LOA, in 2024, reducing the budget of Federal Institutes by R$30 million and that of universities by R$310 million (MELO, 2024a).

The strike movement would thus be, in addition to the fight for corporate demands, a space of “resistance to neoliberal market forces”, an inclination towards the construction of a “State focused on social well-being”, contributing to electoral success in the next elections (FERNANDES, R. S, 2024a) and being a way of not “handing over the government to the right, without dispute, and leading it to defeat” (MIGUEL, 2024). More than that: the strike movement would be configured as the “independent mobilization of workers” (DAMASCENO, 2024) that would make the return of the extreme right unfeasible, which would demand from the Executive what it itself contemplated in its Government Program (DRUCK; FILGUEIRAS, 2024b ) and that would weaken the social forces that have been placing the Lula-Alckmin government under tutelage.

Taken together, the arguments mobilize historical materialism and sociological knowledge that attribute to reality the mainstay in relationships and processes, as Georg Simmel and Norbert Elias thought: the correlation of forces is not taken as fixed, but in a historical and plastic way, and may be changed due to the actions of individuals, categories, classes, class fractions, etc. in dispute.


In fact, it seems that the clue left by this frank and open debate indicates that, at the heart of the ongoing phenomenon, is the issue of the Fiscal Framework: it would be the problem to be resolved so that strikers and the government can successfully reach a common denominator common that minimally meets the demands.

By complementary law, the Fiscal Framework replaced the Expenditure Ceiling and reproduced its “general meaning” (BASTOS, 2024): it maintained the link between the growth of primary expenses (with the exception of interest on public debt) and the increase in revenues, thus, expect the generation of primary surpluses in order to stabilize the relationship between public debt and GDP – this is, therefore, a hindrance (1) to development, as it hinders the Keynesian strategy of stimulating demand, (2) everything that matters to social well-being and, therefore, to (3) the government itself, since it depends on social development to “combat Bolsonarist fascism” (HANDFAS, 2024).

Under the current rule of the Fiscal Framework, even the increase in the tax burden leads to the primary surplus being committed to stabilizing the relationship between public debt and GDP, not meeting the social rights provided for in the 1988 Constitution – this is yet another method of constitutionalizing austerity (BASTOS , 2024) to add to others already well known to the public and undertaken in previous legislatures, such as the Fiscal Responsibility Law and the independence of the Central Bank. Together, these mechanisms reduce the latitude of governments' prerogative and exert brakes on their reformist intentions, if they have any. So much so that, in addition to education, the same problem is repeated in other areas, such as what happens in health with the “chronic underfunding” (NARVAI, 2023) of the SUS, despite the contributions that the current government managed to make in 2023 and 2024 .

Based on these elements and returning to the questions proposed at the beginning, the “reconstruction” intended by Lula comes up against the Fiscal Framework: negotiations between the government and education professionals illustrate the problem and take place under a budget already sequestered to pay the public debt. This is the defeat that the category unions already have: the entire discussion is shackled by the premises and the modus operandi of the Tax Framework.

The victory they can achieve is to find here or there some decontingency budget to be committed as a palliative to one or another demand, the increase of some frills that are not even incorporated into salaries and that will be subtracted from civil servants when they retire, but, in a some, would be able to recover the accumulated losses of seven years without adjustments.

The very broad front consists of a Ministry of Finance that erected a wall for the Ministry of Management and Innovation in Public Services (MGI) to resolve negotiations with civil servants: with the Fiscal Framework, the former exercises veto power in possible solutions found at the negotiation tables. If, in fact, the claims remain insoluble, TAEs, for example, will continue with requests for dismissal, which have grown by 85,4% in recent years (BRASIL DE FATO, 2024), and the public service will continue to bleed even Institutes and Universities Federal authorities are no longer able to serve the population. It is impossible to rebuild institutions with the current budgetary bottleneck and without public servants.

Furthermore, the “inflection of the class struggle” (ESTEVES; MUSSE, 2023, p. 120) within the government itself is explained: from a private point of view, the MGI listens to the demands of public servants, but the negotiations do not they advance due to the Ministry of Finance exerting coercion on everything that escapes the mechanisms of the Fiscal Framework; from a general point of view, work is coerced by capital.

It is (very) difficult for the Lula government to be what it once was as the Fiscal Framework is yet another step (quantitative and qualitative) making it difficult to implement a reformist and developmental program: expressions like that of Armando Boito Jr., for designate the previous PT governments as builders of a neo-developmentalism “possible within the neoliberal capitalist model” (BOITO Jr., 2018, p. 57), and those of André Singer, to describe it as a “weak reformism” (SINGER, 2012, p. . 169) the Lula governments, and a “strong reformism” (SINGER, 2018, p. 26) the Dilma Rousseff years, even became nostalgic, despite the fact that, at the time of the first four PT governments, they were melancholic for appointing the PT governments. limits with which the Federal Executive dealt. This time, the “possible” and the weak or strong weight of “reformism” seem to be colored with even paler hues.

The case at hand illustrates how the broad front emasculates itself, notably with regard to the interests of labor: in its autophagy, the government has a Ministry of Finance devouring the MGI; the Fiscal Framework, TAEs and teachers; capital, labor. The strike of education professionals, consciously or unconsciously, when faced with the Fiscal Framework, stood against not only a current/dated economic policy, but against the bourgeois parasitism that took over the public budget and plundered it.

In this way, the strikers realized that, to overcome their degradation, they need to resolve issues that are greater than ministerial and administrative disputes. It is impossible not to remember what Marx wrote in Critical glosses on the article “'The King of Prussia and social reform'. From a Prussian”, when he argued that the revolted Silesian workers, by attacking the policy of 1844 in order to try to solve the pauperism to which they were subjected, consciously or unconsciously, opened war on the industrial and banking bourgeoisie and on private property.

Once these contradictions of the very broad front are laid bare, the caliber and necessity of this and the next fights are better adjusted.

*Anderson Alves Esteves He is a professor at the Federal Institute of Education, Science and Technology of São Paulo (IFSP). Author, among other books, of From scientific socialism to utopian socialism: Herbert Marcuse's emancipatory project (CRV) [https://amzn.to/3VdYYTY]


ARRAIS, TA “Reflections on the strike at federal universities” In: the earth is round. Available in: https://aterraeredonda.com.br/reflexoes-sobre-a-greve-nas-universidades-federais/.

_____. “Reasons for the end of the strike at federal universities” In: the earth is round. Available in: https://aterraeredonda.com.br/razoes-para-o-fim-da-greve-nas-universidade-federais/.

BASTOS, PPZ “Is there no alternative?” In: the earth is round. Available in: https://aterraeredonda.com.br/nao-existe-alternativa/.

BATISTA JR., PN “Framework or fiscal dungeon?” In: the earth is round. Available in: https://aterraeredonda.com.br/arcabouco-ou-calabouco-fiscal/.

BOITO JR., A. Reform and political crisis in Brazil: class conflicts in the PT government. Campinas: Editora da Unicamp, 2018.

BRAZIL IN FACT. “Federal university employees go on strike despite recognizing advances made by the current government” In: Brazil of Fact. Available in: https://www.brasildefato.com.br/2024/03/14/servidores-das-universidades-federais-entram-em-greve-apesar-de-reconhecer-avancos-do-governo-atual.

CUNHA, AM; MIEBACH, AD “Lula and higher education” In: the earth is round. Available in: https://aterraeredonda.com.br/lula-e-o-ensino-superior/.

DAMASCENO, WM “In defense of the strike at federal universities”. In: the earth is round. Available in: https://aterraeredonda.com.br/em-defesa-da-greve-nas-universidades-federais/.

DRUCK, G.; FILGUEIRAS, L. “Why are we on strike at federal universities” In: the earth is round. Available in: https://aterraeredonda.com.br/por-que-estamos-em-greve-nas-universidades-federais/.

_____. “The strike at universities and federal institutes is not against the government” In: the earth is round. Available in: https://aterraeredonda.com.br/a-greve-nas-universidades-e-institutos-federais-nao-e-contra-o-governo/.

ESTEVES, AA; MUSSE, R. “A very broad front” In: MAGALHÃES, JP; OLÓRIO, LF (Eds.) Brazil under rubble: challenges of the Lula government to rebuild the country. São Paulo: Boitempo, 2023.

FERNANDES, MC “The greener grass on the other side” In: Economic value. Available in: https://valor.globo.com/eu-e/coluna/maria-cristina-fernandes-a-grama-mais-verde-do-vizinho.ghtml.

FERNANDES, RS “The strike movement in federal education” In: The earth is round. Available in: https://aterraeredonda.com.br/o-movimento-grevista-na-educacao-federal/.

_____. “Ebb and flow” In: The earth is round. Available in: https://aterraeredonda.com.br/fluxo-erefluxo/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=novas_publicacoes&utm_term=2024-05-25.

HANDFAS, A. “The new version of the fiscal framework” In: the earth is round. Available in: https://aterraeredonda.com.br/a-nova-versao-do-arcabouco-fiscal/.

LONDERO, MFP “Causes of the strike at federal universities” In: the earth is round. Available in: https://aterraeredonda.com.br/causas-da-greve-nas-universidades-federais/.

LULA DA SILVA, LI “Inauguration speech” In: Chamber of Deputies. Available in: http://www.camara.leg.br/noticias/932450-leia-o-discurso-do-presidente-lula-na-integra.

MARTINEZ, VC; RT “Brain drain?” In: the earth is round. Available in: https://aterraeredonda.com.br/fuga-de-cerebros/.

MARX, K. “Critical glosses on the article 'The King of Prussia and social reform'. From a Prussian” In: MARX, K.; ENGELS, F. Class struggle in Germany. Trans. by N. Schneider, São Paulo: Boitempo, 2010.

MELO, A. “The strike in federal education” In: the earth is round. Available in: https://aterraeredonda.com.br/a-greve-na-educacao-federal/.

_____. “How to lie with statistics” In: the earth is round. Available in: https://aterraeredonda.com.br/como-mentir-com-estatisticas/.

MIGUEL, LF “Why are federal teachers on strike?” In: GGN. Available in: https://jornalggn.com.br/crise/por-que-os-professores-das-federais-vao-entrar-em-greve/.

MOREIRA, MS “Teacher strike at federal universities? It will be?" In: the earth is round. Available in: https://aterraeredonda.com.br/greve-de-docentes-nas-universidades-federais-sera/.

NARVAI, PC “Lula Government – ​​Year I – Health” In: the earth is round. Available in: https://aterraeredonda.com.br/governo-lula-ano-i-saude/.

RESK, B. “A legitimate strike” In: the earth is round. Available in: https://aterraeredonda.com.br/uma-greve-legitima/.

_____. “Education in dispute” In: the earth is round. Available in: https://aterraeredonda.com.br/educacao-em-disputa/.

SINASEFE. 188th Plena confirms launch of national strike for April 3. Available in: https://sinasefe.org.br/site/188a-plena-confirma-deflagracao-de-greve-nacional-para-3-de-abril/.

SINGER, A. The senses of lulism: gradual reform and conservative pact. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2012, p. 169.

_____. Lulism in crisis: the puzzle of the Dilma period (2011-2016). São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2018.

SILVA, DA “The strike of professors at federal universities” In: the earth is round. Available in: https://aterraeredonda.com.br/a-greve-dos-professores-das-universidades-federais/.

_____. “Far beyond the neighbors’ green grass” In: the earth is round. Available in: https://aterraeredonda.com.br/muito-alem-das-relvas-verdejantes-dos-vizinhos/.

_____. “Navigating upwind” In: the earth is round. Available in: https://aterraeredonda.com.br/navegando-a-contravento/. Accessed on: 20-05-2024.

VIERIA, L. “Lula Government – ​​Year I – Politics” In: the earth is round. Available in: https://aterraeredonda.com.br/governo-lula-ano-i-politica/.

VITRAL, L. “We made the L and went on strike” In: The earth is round. Available in: https://aterraeredonda.com.br/fizemos-o-l-e-fazemos-greve/.

the earth is round there is thanks to our readers and supporters.
Help us keep this idea going.

See this link for all articles