The Media and the Federal University Strike in Brazil

Screengrab from Telesur’s coverage of the protests.

The strike of professors at universities and federal institutes across Brazil ended its third week by drawing attention to the problems in education, such as precarious budgets, lack of infrastructure, and low salaries. ANDES-SN, the trade union entity that represents the majority of university professors, counts 47 paralyzed institutions, while the Federal Institutes (IFES), according to SINASEFE, add up to 78. If we add the civil servants of the FASUBRA trade union base, which represents the technical-administrative staff of the universities, there are many thousands of workers who have suspended activities throughout the country.

Aware of the movement in the Federal Educational Institutions (IFES) [in public higher education], President Lula once again insisted that workers have the right to demonstrate. Claiming to be “the son, father, brother and uncle of strikes,” Lula affirmed the government’s willingness to negotiate: “To me, it is not pleasant to see part of the education sector on strike. I have to open a lot of technical schools, visit universities, and I want the teachers and staff to be tranquil.”

Lula’s speech is encouraging, despite the absence, so far, of a proposal capable of resolving the impasse. Though Lula does not seem angry with the teachers and employees of the IFES, the press feels otherwise. In an editorial published last Sunday in the newspaper “O Globo,” entitled, “Opportunist strike erodes the prestige of federal universities,” the Marinho family business trampled on the workers of federal universities and institutes, listing arguments that went beyond the merely dishonest.

Every strike is a political instrument, so it is laughable to read in the Globo editorial that the strike has “a political component”, because it is “incensed” by ANDES-SN, which would be an “enclave of the PSOL [political party], which disputes hegemony on the Left.” For the Rio de Janeiro daily, one of the main problems of the strike is the proposal to revoke the New High School (NEM) reform, since it allegedly shows that the strike is “organized by unions more concerned with doing politics than improving the quality of education.”

It is worth remembering that the NEM, supported by Globo and business entities that see education as potentially big business, is repudiated by teachers and students who have already experienced the tragedy of seeing essential subjects being replaced by classes that teach students how to make homemade candy and other absurdities.

As they did in 1964, when they supported the military coup; as they continued to do throughout the dictatorship, which they enthusiastically supported; as they did in 1989, when they conspired in favor of Fernando Collor de Melo as president, and then repeated in the campaign for the overthrow of Dilma Rousseff and the imprisonment of Lula, feeding the monster Lava Jato [a US-sponsored lawfare program], which opened the doors to Brazilian fascism, the Marinho family business does not hide its opportunistism. One might hope that they would learn something from the past, but they prove instead they would rather repeat it.

Translated by Forrest Hilton.

This column was originally published in A Tarde.

Carlos Zacarias de Sena Júnior is Professor of History at the Universidade Federal da Bahia, and author of Strategic Impasses: Communists, Antifascism, and Bourgeois Revolution in Brazil/Os impasses da estratêgia: Comunistas, o antifascismo e a revolução burguesa, 1936-1948 (Edufba, 2022 [2009]).