Violence and strike at Unicamp

Image: Jan Koetsier
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By FREDERICO DE ALMEIDA*

Unicamp's rectory creates a false and dangerous equivalence to hide its own intolerance towards legitimate movements of students and employees

On the night of this Tuesday, October 3rd, an assembly of Unicamp students decided to strike, after a day of strike in support of the strike by the university's technical-administrative workers, the USP strike and the strikes promoted by Metro workers, from CPTM and Sabesp. The day was also marked by the armed attack by a Unicamp professor on striking students.

As I argued in article posted on the website the earth is round, the USP strike brought to light latent conflicts since at least 2016, when the expectations created by the redistributive policies and access to higher education of the PT governments were confronted by an atypical coup and by the neoliberal and authoritarian experiences of the governments of Michel Temer and Jair Bolsonaro. And, therefore, the movement started at USP could easily reach the other two universities in São Paulo.

A professor's violent attack on Unicamp students who were participating in a legitimate political demonstration, however, accelerated the process and escalated the conflicts. Furthermore, it became clear that it is not possible, in this context, to condemn violence in the abstract and, much less, to equate moral repulsion to acts as distinct as strike pickets and armed attacks.

After the incident, there were several demonstrations and mobilizations in solidarity with the students and condemning the violent attack, by teachers and technical-administrative workers, representative entities and university bodies. The rectory, however, expressed worrying signs given the seriousness of the situation.

In a statement, after superficially condemning the violent attack by a professor against students, the Unicamp administration stated that “it has been warning that the proliferation of acts of violence with political justification or motivation is not healthy for coexistence between different people”. By saying this, the university president is creating a false and dangerous equivalence to hide its own intolerance towards legitimate movements of students and staff.

The note makes indirect reference to the protests against the Israeli university fair that would take place at Unicamp in April this year, led by the student movement and the Brazilian Palestine Arab Front. Before the protests, the rectory had already received several motions of repudiation and calls for the cancellation of the fair, from entities internal and external to the university, all of them based on the history of violations of Palestinian rights in the territories occupied by Israel and the worsening of the situation current in Palestine.

The rectory treated these demonstrations with disdain, to which they responded with accusations of intolerance, generic appeals for peace in the Middle East and the fact that Unicamp would have the same number of agreements with Arab and Israeli universities – which makes no sense at all. point of view of denouncing the illegal occupation of Palestine, in addition to being an undue generalization of the Arab world.

On the opening day of the fair, a riot involving protesters and security guards was a pretext for the rectory to request the opening of a police investigation to investigate alleged damage to property and bodily harm. In the documents presented by the rectory to the Civil Police there are generic reports of minor damage and physical confrontations between people, but what draws the most attention is that the Campus Experience Secretariat (SVC), which provides security for the university, identified vehicles present during the protest, he contacted the intelligence service of the Campinas Municipal Guard, accessed data from the owners and handed them over to the police.

The crime? According to the SVC report, in one of the cars water was distributed to the protesters, and in another the driver wore a cap with Palestine written on it. No relationship with the alleged damages and injuries, much less with the hacker attack that the rector and Unicamp systems suffered that day; just a generically irresponsible insinuation made by the university's Attorney General, saying that the facts and people involved were connected.

Not even in the 2016 Unicamp strike, which saw intense conflicts and generated more than twenty internal administrative processes, did the rectory request the opening of a police investigation, much less hand over data (obtained in a questionable manner) to the police.

The intolerance stance of the Unicamp rectory manifested itself again with the university staff strike, which preceded the students' strike and has now lasted more than a month. The reason for the strike is the implementation of the electronic point to control the employees' journey, based on a Conduct Adjustment Term (TAC) signed by the university administration with the state Public Prosecutor's Office.

Although the rectory claims that implementation is a legal determination, signing the Conduct Adjustment Term is a discretionary decision that, given the sensitivity of the issue, would require more in-depth debates and negotiations. Based on a formalistic opinion from the Unicamp Attorney General's Office, the rectory has trampled on procedures and internal discussion bodies, and treated the issue as if it were a mere execution of a legal obligation, evading its responsibility for conducting a process that is essentially political, to the extent that it involves the configuration of work and coexistence relationships at the university.

Recently, at a meeting of the University Council, the rector equated an administrative appeal by the civil servants bench against the implementation of the electronic point to anti-democratic strategies of Bolsonarism, simply because the intended appeal had no regulatory provision, according to yet another formalistic opinion from the Attorney General's Office. .

The employee representative insisted that the University Council is the university's highest body and that the issue was political, not regulatory, and was challenged by the rector, with disdain and irony, to seek justice. In this episode, the rector also claimed Alexandre de Moraes as a symbol of respect for formalities in defense of democracy.

Less than a week after this authoritarian demonstration by the rector against striking employees, the attack by a professor – who we soon discovered was a sports shooter, a weapons collector, a green-and-yellow protester in defense of “freedom” – shows that there is no Is there any possible equivalence between a political strategy of contesting civil servants on legitimate strike, within university bodies, and Bolsonarism.

Likewise, it is not possible to equate the abstract “violence” of a legitimate strike (attributed to the interruption of university activities by students and staff) to extreme right-wing violence (illegal, illegitimate, real, armed and potentially lethal) present in the attitude of the teacher responsible for the attack on students.

This is the reasoning of the false democrats and opportunists who emerged from the general opposition to Bolsonarism: equate what has no comparison, silence divergence, appeal to the cold letter of the law and the supremacy of judicial authority to exempt themselves from political responsibility and transform democracy in a registry office. Therefore, all those truly committed to democracy and freedom of expression must support the strike by students and employees at São Paulo state universities and condemn the violence and intolerance that effectively threaten the public university.

*Frederico de Almeida Professor at the Department of Political Science at the State University of Campinas (Unicamp).


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