Today (15th May 2019), a huge education strike is taking place across Brazil, organised by the National Confederation of Education Unions and with the support of the National Union of Students (UNE). Bolsonaro’s Education Minister announced a 30% cut to the education budget, which has provoked a huge backlash from students and education workers. In some universities, this cut is set to influence 56% of their overall budget. Mass meetings with tens of thousands of people have been organised over the last few weeks in preparation for this.
15,000 teachers and students at the Universidade Federal Fluminense Niterói (RJ) marched on 8 May. What this shows is despite Bolsonaro’s election just a few months ago, there is a growing mood of anger against the measures his government wants to implement. The working class in Brazil remains strong. A fierce class struggle is developing which promises to fight back against every cut Bolsonaro attempts to implement.
When Bolsonaro was elected in October, he did so on a programme of huge privatisations and attacks – not to mention vile misogyny akin to Trump. In response, there were huge protests across universities in Brazil. The radicalisation of the youth is ongoing and is bound to play a huge factor in events yet to unfold. The strike should give confidence to the youth and workers, that they have the power to change society.
The biggest unions across the country have also called for a general strike to take place in a month’s time on 14th June, specifically targeting Bolsonaro’s hated pension “reform” plans, which involves an increase in worker’s pension contributions and a raise in the retirement age. Whilst the call for a general strike is no trivial matter, to truly have as much impact as possible this must be coordinated and built for with the ongoing struggles throughout society.
So far, the trade unions have failed to mobilise for it adequately. Not only this but rather than to strike against the pension reform as soon as it was announced they have fixed a date in June, when Bolsonaro’s proposal passed its first parliamentary hurdle on April 24. This education strike should be a building block, rather than an isolated event. For this reason, the comrades of Liberdade e Luta (Freedom and Struggle) are putting forward the slogan to build for the general strike!
If the union leadership were to call on all sectors of the economy, beyond education from healthcare, transport etc. we could see a huge movement develop. One that appeals to all sections of the working class. Brazil has seen huge general strikes in the past, but these strikes must be part of an overall strategy to bring down the government rather than isolated acts designed to let off steam.
Liberdade e Luta are taking part in these meetings and strikes. They have linked this attack with the wider attack on the working class that Bolsonaro is planning.
The world-wide crisis of capitalism means that capitalists have no choice but to ruthlessly cut and implement austerity. The problem for Bolsonaro is that much of his original base of support will be targeted by these measures. On the basis of capitalism, there is no way out.
Liberdade e Luta organiser Lucy Dias explained what the comrades are doing and arguing for in this strike
“Young people and workers are on strike against the cuts to education and against pension reform in Brazil. In many states and cities, universities and schools are paralyzed by the actions of students, teachers and staff.
The youth of Liberdade e Luta prepared for this strike by explaining the need to fight for public education, free and for all, as connected with the need to overthrow this government as a step towards a revolutionary situation in Brazil. We participated in assemblies, agitated in the classroom, and painted banners with the slogan “Fora Bolsonaro” (“Bolsonaro Out”).
Today, (15th May) we are going to take part in local actions and offer practical solutions, something the trade union and student leaders refuse to do. We say, Bolsonaro out! Fight the cuts to education!
This government is not interested in negotiating. Its only mission is the ultra-liberal agenda of privatisations, scrapping of public services, payment of public debt and repression. There is no way to negotiate. The only way forward is to fight against the cuts, and the closure of universities. And to fight in defence of public education, free and for all!
Fight for socialism and revolution!