Movement grows of workers and students in Brazil

IN BRAZIL there has recently been an upsurge in public-sector strikes in the education sector affecting universities and secondary schools, including the University of São Paulo (USP) the country’s largest university. ANDRE FERRARI of Socialismo Revolucionario (the Socalist Party’s counterpart in Brazil) reports on the occupations and protests sweeping the state of São Paulo.

A UNIFIED demo of students, teachers and civil servants of the state of São Paulo took place on 18 May despite intense police repression. Professors and university workers are demanding better pay to compensate for the fall in the value of their salaries over the past five years.

They are supported by students who are also demanding more resources and teaching staff, an end to backdoor privatisation through the setting up of private foundations, and direct elections for the university rector.

On 16 May there was a 24-hour occupation of the rectory building at USP.

The militarised police force attacked the demonstrators with tear gas, smoke bombs, rubber bullets, dispersal gas, dogs and horses.

Several people were hurt during the protest, some quite seriously such as a photographer hit in the eye by a rubber bullet and a teacher whose arm was seriously injured by a smoke bomb.

Two Socialismo Revolucionario (SR) executive members were hit, one with tear gas bomb fragments in his arm and the other hit twice by rubber bullets, one in the lower leg and another in the thigh, as well as tear gas bomb fragments in the arm. Fortunately, the comrades are in no danger and continue to organise the struggle.

The occupation of the USP university rectory had been lifted so that the students could attend this demo. But at another occupation that SR members are also participating in, (the central administration offices for the technical schools of the state of São Paulo), violent police action was taken to dislodge the occupiers.

In spite of the intense repression, the protest march went on to the State of São Paulo Education Secretary building with about 40,000 workers and students. The march had originally been meant to go to the State Legislative Assembly but union leaders changed plans due to the police repression.

In the days leading up to the demo, SR members had already been subject to repression. Teacher comrades in the Cotia teachers union committee organised a mobile picket to solidify the strike and were followed and harassed by police.

In Taboão, another area where we have members on the union committee, the police went to schools where our comrades are active. In the Guarulhos district too, police clashed with a local teachers’ demo.

The government’s repressive action has further angered education and public-sector workers and students.

Continuing and building all the strikes underway has now been posed by all the unions. The repression appears to have had the opposite effect of rallying support for the strikes.

On 25 May there is another unified demo planned at the São Paulo Governor’s Building (Bandeirantes). The expectation is that this demo will be even larger than the 18 May.

There may be further police repression but they will not succeed in intimidating workers and students.

There is now much discussion on the authoritarian turn of the Cardoso government and the São Paulo state governor Mário Covas. Some activists talk of the ‘Fujimorization’ of Cardoso and his government [Fujimora is Peru’s autocratic president who combines state repression with neo-liberal capitalist policies – eds]. Cordosa has indeed been replaying some features of the repression and political persecution of the dictatorship eg invoking the National Security Law, resurrecting surveillance services along the lines of the infamous SNI, repression against the landless rural workers with 14 arrests in São Paulo and one worker shot dead in the state of Paraná.

However, the balance of class forces today rules out a constitutional coup (a la Fujimori) in Brazil at this time. But political agitation against the authoritarian measures and denouncing this government is crucial. Socialismo Revolucionario is calling for the defence of the unification of the struggle and “Out with Cardoso and the IMF” [International Monetary Fund].

There are many strikes and mobilisations by different sections (mainly students and public-sector employees) throughout the country. The trend is for a greater generalisation of these struggles. Even without a political leadership consciously unifying the struggles and taking serious and determined measures to step up the mobilisation, the movement has been going forward.

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