By Jakob Stein
The following is a compilation of reports on demonstrations across Brazil connected to the National Education Strike, held last week on Wednesday May 15.
The strike was called in response to the fascist Bolsonaro administration announcing that they would be cutting thirty percent of the budget across the board for universities and high schools in an ideologically motivated attack on public education aimed at fighting “leftist indoctrination.”
Workers, students, and teachers mobilized across the country, especially in the state capitals and federal universities, to repudiate the reactionary budget cuts, as well as the dismantling of social security and labor laws. The national education strike and the influence of revolutionary organizations has pushed many to take up the slogan “Prepare the General Strike of National Resistance!”
Rio de Janeiro saw massive mobilizations estimated at 300,000. It was characterized by combativeness on the part of the youth, including revolutionary organizations like Popular Revolutionary Student Movement (MEPR), the Class Movement of Education Workers (Moclate), the Popular Women’s Movement (MFP) and the Red Unit – Revolutionary Youth League.
As the demonstration approached Central do Brasil, a major transportation hub, the marchers confronted the Military Police, who threw flash bang grenades into the crowd. The combative youth however, did not cower. They fought back with rocks and fireworks. They also defaced the Pantheon de Caxias, a monument to the genocidal Duke of Caxais, by splattering it with red paint and spray-painting “80 shots, killer army!” a reference to the cold-blooded murder of Evaldo dos Santos Rosa by an army patrol in Rio. Solidarity signs for Ajith and Dr. Sernas were also seen at the demonstration.
In Curitiba, about 20,000 people gathered in Santos Andrade Square, in front of the Federal University of Paraná (UFPR) Museum of Art, and left by taking the main thoroughfares of the city center to the front of the Iguaçu Palace, headquarters of the State Government.
A combative block from UFPR carried banners in defense of public education and denouncing imperialist intervention in Venezuela. Revisionists and electoral cretins like the Worker’s Party (PT) were roundly rejected by the majority of student demonstrators, who were instead won over to the combative block. Later in the evening students from several universities united and made the journey from Santos Andrade Square to Rui Barbosa Square, continuing the call for workers to take to the streets in defense of education.
In Porto Velho, one of the largest demonstrations within the past several years was held with an estimated 5,000 people. Numerous interventions were highlighted with the following themes: the attacks on the University and Federal Institutes and the privatization of education; the delivery of the country’s wealth and the Alcantara base in Maranhão to Yankee imperialism; the denunciation of the semicolonial and semifeudal condition of Brazil; the denunciation of the criminalization of the struggles in the countryside and in the city.
An estimated 50,000 protesters took the streets of Porto Alegre on Wednesday despite heavy repression from the Military Police, who used tear gas on the masses. The demonstrators chanted revolutionary slogans against Bolsonaro and Guedes, and even capitalism, but were mostly silent in response to opportunist chants like “Lula Livre!”, a reference to reformist Worker’s Party (PT) politician and former president “Lula” da Silva.
More than two thousand protesters took to the streets in Montes Claros, the demonstration began with two public events held by teachers and students before combining into one large event that paralyzed traffic for several hours.
“And this protest is not only against the cut of funds, it is against the end of the production and diffusion of scientific knowledge in Brazil. It is a protest in defense of the sovereignty of our country!” an activist with the Class Movement of Education Workers (Moclate) said. “This reactionary government of Jair Bolsonaro, guarded by the High Command of the Armed Forces, never tires of pulling the sack of the United States and now wants to turn our schools and universities to the monopolies of private education of this imperialist country. That is not enough, he has already delivered the Alcantara base to the Yankees and wants to use the Brazilian Armed Forces as a cannon fodder for the genocidal United States army to invade Venezuela. It is urgent a great General Strike of National Resistance against these damn ‘reforms,’ the cuts of funds and in defense of the sovereignty of our country !”
In the days leading up to May 15, students at the Federal University of Mato Grosso do Sul (UFMS) held assemblies and agitated around campus to mobilize students against the cuts in education. Their work culminated in the occupation of a campus building, called Unit VI, for several days, where teachers and students discussed ways to integrate the students into the larger movement against the Bolsonaro government and its attacks on workers and social security.
It was estimated that up to 10,000 participated in the demonstration on the 15th, paralyzing traffic on a major road in front of the UFMS campus. After the demonstration there was a great deal of support for a general strike among students moving forward, and a General Strike Student Committee was created to prepare.
Salvador had an estimated 50,000 people in attendance for the demonstrations, the biggest since the mass protests that swept Brazil in 2013. The masses showed themselves more politically advanced compared to the union leaders who summoned the protest. While reformist and revisionist “left” parties only denounced the federal government, in the streets there were many students and teachers criticizing the governor of the state of Bahia, Rui Costa (PT), who has applied a right-wing contingency policy in universities, closing state schools and taking away basic rights of teachers in the state network.
An estimated 70,000 people participated in demonstrations in Natal including organizations like MEPR and the Popular Students Collective (CEP). Opportunist sections of the student government made an alliance with the Federal Highway Police, resulting in the repression of independent journalists, infiltration by plainclothes police, and the arrest of three activists for the supposed plundering of a headquarters of Bolsonaro’s far-right Social Liberal Party (PSL). The demonstration was repressed by the police throughout, however that did not stop the masses, who raised slogans in defense of the arrested as political prisoners.
In Goiânia over 40,000 mobilized for the National Education Strike. Students from the Federal University of Goiàs (UFGO) and the Federal Institute of Goiàs (IFGO) held a unified demonstration in university square. Protesters set fire to American and Israeli flags, shouting anti-imperialist slogans like “Yankee out of Latin America! Israel out of Palestine!” They also denounced the Bolsonaro government’s support for both countries and their reactionary governments.
In Vitoria two separate demonstrations were held, the first was attended by about 5,000 and was organized by the union of state education workers. The second was organized by several student and trade union organizations and was attended by an estimated 10,000 protesters, with participation from the antifascist movement. Calls were made to prepare for the general strike on June 14th to defend education and social security from the reactionary government.
Students from the Federal University of Amazonas (UFAM) began the day by blocking Rodrigo Otávio Avenue, a main access to the Free Economic Zone of Manaus, for a few minutes at a time as traffic began to pile up. The most combative segments of the students then began to hold the blockades for longer and wanted to cut off the highway, although the Military Police and opportunist leaders from the student union tried to prevent them. Through heavy rainfall the numbers continued to swell, and the masses eventually took it upon themselves to completely take over the road, marching back and forth in front of the UFAM campus, an act that had not been seen in Manaus since the large protests in 2013.
An estimated 40,000 protesters took the streets in Belém in defense of public education and against the cutting of funds. A combination of high school and university students, trade unions, teachers, and popular movements marched from Republic Square to the Legislative Assembly of Pará.
In Campinas, approximately 15,000 were present in demonstrations for the National Education Strike. Among the various organizations and movements present, a bloc formed by members of the Alvorada do Povo (AP) and other independent activists who raised two large banners with the words ‘Preparing the General Strike of National Resistance’ and ‘ In defense of Public Universities, Autonomous and Democratic.’ The block marked a combative position, with great fighting spirit, chanting slogans denouncing the precariousness of education, the involvement of the government with militias, and calling for the General Strike.