A myopic logic

Image: Max Avans


The government does not have the political will to make education a priority, while it courts the military or highway police, who do not move a millimeter away from the Bolsonarism that they continue to support

Lula received rectors, alongside minister Camilo Santana. It wasn't a dialogue (it almost never is); deans were audiences for government announcements. Still, there was hope that it would signal some solution to the strike by teachers and technical-administrative employees at universities and federal institutes, which has been going on for months.

Instead, the president preferred to attack the strikers. “It’s not because of 3%, 2%, 4% that we stay on strike all our lives,” said Lula.

Government money flows freely to Centrão's crooked parliamentarians, to banks, to churches. But education professionals must think that “it is Brazil and Brazilian students who are losing” and return to work with their 22% accumulated salary losses.

Today, it is worth noting, our demand is only a readjustment in 2024 that covers the salary loss due to inflation in the year 2024 itself. But, for the government, the readjustment is for the professional categories that tried to stage a coup and spoil the elections in 2022.

At the meeting with the rectors, Lula also announced the Education PAC, with high-sounding numbers: R$ 5,5 billion planned. Part of it is to restore the IFES budget, which has been strangled for many years. If the government actually releases what it promised, the 2024 budget will reach the 2017 level – in other words, we are still far from what is necessary.

Another part is for “expansion”. In addition to the mythical 100 new federal institutes, already announced before, 10 new university campuses entered.

The question is: for what?

Has there been any study that explains why Sertânia, in Pernambuco, or São José do Rio Preto, in São Paulo, need a federal university campus? Is there a survey of which courses would be needed? With enrollments falling at universities across Brazil, is the priority really “expansion”?

Should we really announce the creation of new institutes and universities without first guaranteeing adequate operating conditions for those that already exist? Are we going to hire people for these places and then deny them good working conditions and the salaries they deserve?

It's a myopic, short-term logic – buildings to open, works to bid on, local political bosses to please.

It's not just higher education. The government was unable to open frank negotiations with students, teachers and school administrators in the case of the ill-fated “new high school”, preferring to side with business interests. In the many units of the federation that it controls, the extreme right is rapidly promoting the destruction of public schools – precariousness, militarization, privatization – without the federal government showing any reaction.

On the contrary, he distances himself from professionals in the field, incapable of a gesture that signals his willingness to value them.

Fernando Haddad, bowed to the logic of “austerity”, does not hide his sympathy for theses such as the abolition of the constitutional minimum spending for education and health. The government's formula seems to be: remuneration of speculative capital as a perennial priority of the State, compensatory policies for the poorest as a “left-wing differentiator” – and we're done.

It is a cowed government, which gives in to the logic of the dominant in everything, which does not accept a single confrontation – except, of course, against its own social base, which, instead of strengthening, it seeks to defeat and play into discouragement and apathy.

The situation is challenging, but the Lula government contributes decisively to its own failure. There is no shortage of people who think about education seriously, who are ready to collaborate with the government. What is missing is the political will to truly transform what the discourse always says is a priority into a priority.

PS. I don't know if we have the conditions to continue the strike, given the government's intransigence. We may have to end it, claiming the budget reconstruction (necessary, even if insufficient) as a victory for the movement.

But let's not fool ourselves: we were defeated. All of us. Teachers, servers. To the left. The government.

Lula's “victory”, doubling down on a sector that has always been committed to defending democracy, leaves scars. We've seen this film before, in the first term, when Lula screwed up the civil service in general. But there the scenario was different and he had fat to burn.

Not today. And those he courts, such as the military or highway police, do not move a millimeter away from the Bolsonarism they continue to support.

* Luis Felipe Miguel He is a professor at the Institute of Political Science at UnB. Author, among other books, of Democracy in the capitalist periphery: impasses in Brazil (authentic). [https://amzn.to/45NRwS2]

Posted on the author's social networks.

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