More than a Million and Half Students and Educational Workers in the Streets Against Bolsonaro’s reforms.

Luiz Carlos de Freitas, Municipal Public School Teacher, São Paulo, Brazil
Translation: Rebecca Tarlau, Penn State University

On Wednesday, May 15, education workers and Brazilian students held a massive National Education Strike in Unity. Across the country, hundreds of demonstrations brought together more than 1.5 million people to condemn the President’s proposed pension reform as well as his continual attacks on primary, secondary, and higher education. There were demonstrations in 220 Brazilian cities, including in all of the capitals and in Brasilia, the Federal District.

The unity among all of the student organizations and educators of the country made the massive protest possible. The National Education Strike is a concrete step towards a general strike of all Brazilian workers, scheduled for June 14.

In addition to fighting the pension reform, which will in practice prevent most workers from ever retiring, there has been a brutal attack against public education during the first four months of Bolsonaro’s administration. The attack began with handing over of the Ministry of Education to followers of the astrologer and self-educated philosopher, Olavo of Carvalho.

Bolsonaro has made it clear that he wants to privatize higher education, in addition to his direct attacks on primary and secondary education. In four months, he has already had two Ministers of Education and he has put in jeopardy the application of the National High School Exam due to the fact that we have already seen in 2019 four different heads of the National Institute of Study and Research "Anísio Teixeira" (INEP). Finally, Bolsonaro has cut 30 percent of the discretionary funding for public universities. It is important to stress that defending public education is part of the current struggle. Equally important is the defense of retirement benefits and public welfare, which the Brazilian bourgeois government and the international bourgeoisie are intent on destroying as their principal objective.

At the same time as Bolsonaro’s government introduces a bill in congress that rewards oil companies with a trillion reais (250 billion dollars) in tax exemptions, the government also claims it will save 1 trillion reais with its ill-fated pension reform. The pension reform increases the contribution time and retirement age of the entire working class and destroys the social security system that today prioritizes the health of retirees and people with disabilities. The mainstream Brazilian press covered the massive nature of the May 15 education demonstration, but ignored the fact that the protests were also against the pension reform. They ignored the fact that we denounce the tax exemptions of the oil companies and the proposed capitalization of the pension system, which intends to privatize the system through the creation of an economic fund in order to boost bank speculation.

The movement has also declared and shown that if the government charged and punished tax evaders - generally large corporations, including the media establishment - the economic crisis would be reduced without the need to punish the working class.
In response to the strike both Bolsonaro on a trip in Texas, as well as his Minister of Education Abraham Weintraub in a testimony to Congress on the same day, said that the students and educators participating in the protests were "useful idiots" and "imbeciles."

Because of this response, the Brazilian students have scheduled a new demonstration for May 30. In addition, the entire working class including the youth will organize a national general strike on June 14, to defeat  Bolsonaro, the bankers, and his policies that intend to destroy public education and public pensions.

(The banner photo shows massive mobilizations for the  National Education Strike in Unity in four major Brazilian cities. The Portuguese caption reads, "More than 1 million in the streets against Bolsonaro, it is only beginning." The map shows locations of the demonstrations.)