Hundreds of thousands of strikers in Brazilian K-12 schools and universities answered to the call from trade union organisations on 15 May. They invaded the streets in over 2000 cities and towns across the country (see photo), against the brutal measures that the Bolsonaro government has just announced: a 30% reduction of the public education budget and massive cuts to scholarships for PhD and Masters degrees.
Five months after his election, Bolsonaro is today facing an unprecedented mobilisation that has tacked itself on to the mobilisation against the reform of the retirement pensios. On the 1st of May, all the trade unions launched a call to general strike for next 14 June, for the withdrawal of the retirement reform.
Bolsonaro’s declarations are full of hate against the strikers; calling the demonstrations “stupid things” and the demonstrators “manipulated idiots” is not likely to calm down the situation. “The opposition to the government is taking a turn that is more and more political and involves more and more of the masses,” said university sociologist Emir Sadir, columnist for the review Brasil 247.
How to defeat Bolsonaro? The activists who distributed the newspaper Jornal Resistir at the gathering of the strikers handed out a leaflet that ended with the following conclusion: “For our part, we think that the solution lies in the formation of committees everywhere for the general strike, in the workplaces, in the neighbourhoods, in the schools and universities, and everywhere else. General assemblies in the working places could spur the creation of such committees. Teachers and students could invite parents to join them. In universities, for example, ‘brigades for the general strike’ could be constituted, to organise assemblies, with tours and meetings from city to city to convene and organise the 14 June strike. The working class and the young people themselves must build the general strike. That is the condition for defeating the Bolsonaro-Mourão government and imposing the withdrawal of the draft reform of retirement pensions (PEC06/2019), for recovering public subsidies to universities, for stopping privatisations and preventing the country from marching towards disaster.”
Heard…… in a bus blocked
by demonstrators in São Paulo
Renata, home from the demonstration, tells us: “I took the bus round 5:30 pm and I got home at 9 pm, because of the traffic jams due to the demonstration. Budget cuts in education, the future of the children: the discussion took off rapidly among the passengers. The woman next to me was a member of the group ‘Lotus Flowers’ which she described as a group of ‘women resistant fighters’. They had been twice to Curitiba, the town where Lula (head of the Workers Party) is imprisoned, to take part in the permanent demonstration for his release. She showed me photos and reminded me of time when militia from the far right had set fire to a camp where women and children were sleeping. She had been present at the 150,00-strong demonstration on the Avenue Pauliste (one of the main streets of São Paulo). The young woman next to us was a bit shy, but after a little while she said, ‘what they are doing to Lula is not fair.’ Then an elderly man asked me where I was coming back from. I answered ‘From the demonstration on the Avenue Pauliste.’ He agreed: ‘These budget cuts are absurd when you see all the wealth there is in the country Bolsonaro is only governing for the big property owners and the financial sector.’ He explained to me that although he was already retired and late as it was, he was only just getting home from work. ‘I don’t want this life for my grandchildren!’ A little later on, a young woman got on the bus. ‘I hope you are not in a hurry,’ the bus driver said to her. She laughed and the whole bus laughed along with her. I talked to simple people, all of them displeased with the situation. And, for a few of hours, my bus turned into an extension of Avenue Pauliste.”
Heard… in a café at the end of the demonstration
Carminha tells us: “The television was on, channel GloboNews. The anchor announced that there had been massive demonstrations in 26 states, like in São Paulo. The television showed a march live, which I think was in Rio de Janeiro. And all of a sudden the whole café began applauding and shouting Ele não! (‘Not him!’ – i.e., ‘Not Bolsonaro!’) And they all starting drumming on the tables in the rhythm of the ‘batacada’ – which is the drumming of the carnival – Ele não! Ele não! ”