Earlier this month student protests in Sao Paulo were interrupted by armed police. The Police opened fire on the marching students with rubber bullets and tear gas. The students had been protesting against recent education reforms. Geraldo Alckmin, governor of the state of Sao Paulo, is proposing to close 94 public educational institutions, leaving 300,000 students to be re-located. The way in which schools are funded is also said to be under re-consideration.
The situation in Brazilian politics is dramatic to say the least. Recently the Brazilian Senate voted to impeach President Dilma Rousseff and have her replaced by Michel Temer, the result of which will be the formation of a new right-wing government. An interim government led by Temer has now been put in place. While Rousseff’s presidency clearly did not have working class interests at heart, the impeachment is a sign of a major step to the right in Brazilian parliamentary politics, one which will have dire consequences for the workers of Brazil.
The student protests in Sao Paulo directly attacked Michel Temer. Graffiti calling for him to be ousted could be seen lining the walls of the streets. It is vital that the voices of these students are heard – their anger at the government is a reflection of an anger in society that is seeping far deeper into the working class. The police intervention clearly reflects the attitude of Temer and his government – they are unwilling to compromise.
In Rio similar protests have taken place. While the world has its eyes on Rio as the host of the Olympic Games, students there have taken the opportunity to show their opposition to the education reforms. Footage of protesters clashing with police there has emerged, showing protesters running from police as they open fire and cordon off the streets. Students have also been occupying their schools in Rio. Undoubtedly the government is feeling the heat of these protests at what is such an important moment for the prestige of the Brazilian ruling class.
The student protests have effectively made a statement to the government, but what is really needed now is real support for the students’ demands. Above all this must come from the Brazilian working class. But we have a role to play as well. In order for change to be achieved it is the job of students across the world to support our comrades in Brazil. We need to show that young people have a voice and are not afraid of confronting authorities for their cause.
Oppose Brazil’s education reforms! Support the struggle of students and workers all over the world!
by Kit MacDougall, Glasgow Marxists