Student occupation in São Paulo

  • Left Voice | 
  • May 29, 2007

Not the threats of repression, nor the reactionary media campaign by
the bourgeoisie, nor pressure by la Rectora [the Dean], managed to
take down the occupation of the Rector’s Office promoted by the
students on strike in the University of São Paulo (USP). Since May 3,
the property of the Rector’s Office has become the center of what
appears to be the biggest student mobilization in a long time. The
students at USP are now the vanguard of a political struggle against
the state government of José Serra (Partido da Social-Democracia Brasileira – PSDB) that began with resistance to the decrees that ended political and financial autonomy of the university (see “The
reactionary decrees of Governor Serra” below), then by demands for
student housing, against political persecution and other demands.

Assemblies with more than 2,000 students have been held that have won
sympathy and effective support from the non-teaching staff on strike.
In an assembly, around 400 teachers, who are generally the most
conservative and opposed to the strike, have just voted their support
to the strike, the student occupation, and in an historic resolution
that had already been approved in a student assembly the night before:
the call to a decision-making assembly to discuss the structure of
power in the university. The conflict in the USP is the biggest
conflict in a national situation marked by a combination of strikes by
the federal and state public workers of São Paulo. While this struggle
is primarily against the Serra administration, we cannot forget that
it also arises in the context of the erosion that is the meaning of
the second term for Lula – who shares Serra’s attack plans against the
university – and of the bourgeois pressures to advance the attack on
the workers’ movement. This is combined with an attempt by the
bureaucracies of the union federations (CUT and Força Sindical) to
make a show of force by calling a national strike on May 23. Although
this strike supported the government’s veto of the anti-workers
“Amendment3″1Amendment Number 3, presented by the right wing, attacked the
rights of the workers, by de-criminalizing the practice by enterprises
of hiring workers as service providers (with an invoice), which allows
enterprises to avoid [maintaining] a staff of employees
(“dependencia”) with the obligations that entails. Lula vetoed this
amendment, but at the same time he is sending Congress a bill with the
same content, only concealed, a fact the union bureaucracies are
keeping quiet about.
, the strike was used by the students in struggle to
add their demands to the workers’ struggle.

In this context, the student struggle has become a fact in national
politics, with the bourgeois media reporting on it daily, forcing
Governor Serra to discuss directly with and against the occupation,
and it has opened a crisis in the academic bureaucracy, with the most
openly reactionary sectors who defend ending the conflict by police
repression and another that seeks to deflect the struggle with
dialogue and tepid concessions, although neither wing has yet managed
to stop the escalation of the conflict. On the contrary, now the
majority of the departments at USP, as well as the other two state
universities (Unicamp y UNESP), are on strike. Faced with every threat
of repression by Serra and la rectora [the Dean], the students’
willing to fight grows stronger; students have recently begun
discussing how to effect a more profound transformation of the
university, which is run in a completely elitist and racist manner,
designed to defend the interests of capital.

One may well wonder if this hard political struggle can draw closer
more advanced processes and even intervention by the workers’
movement. As the USP students say, “Let’s be realistic; let’s do the

The intervention by the left

The PSOL (Partido Socialismo e Liberdade), and tailing it, its allies
in the PSTU (Partido Socialista dos Trabalhadores Unificado), that
had a leading role in initiating the occupation, have done everything
to end it, since their politics were limited to a simple act. They did
not expect that student discontent was going to explode the way it
did. These attempts [to end the occupation] grew stronger especially
after the threats of repression began. In the plenary meeting of the
occupation on Monday, May 21, the PSTU proposed ending the occupation
exactly when the students had gained more support and la rectora [the
Dean] had not met a single fundamental demand. The PSTU motion was
defeated several times and, in order to regroup, they published an
assessment that [their motion] was a mistake. While we support the
making assessments for the vanguard, we say that [the PSTU motion] was
not a “mistake” but an attempt to put an end to the most radical and
progressive traits of the vanguard, by staying to the right of the
militant sectors. Incredibly, while [the PTSU] were trying to end the
student occupation, they were calling for unconditional support for
the cop strike in Santa Catarina state, claiming that it “was a
struggle by public security employees against precarious employment.”

From the movement A Plenos Pulmones [“at the top of our lungs”], that
unites militants of the LER-QI [Brazilian section of the Fracción
Trotskista] and independents, we made a bloc with the militant sector
of the movement that was (anti-spam-(anti-spam-(anti-spam-(anti-spam-winning)))) an ever larger role in the
leadership. We discussed the need and legitimacy of resistance against
possible repression, together with support by the university workers.
We raised the need to extend the movement by setting up a militant
delegates’ body, beginning with the election of representatives
subject to recall in departmental and course assemblies, to constitute
a strike command [entity], like the CGH was for the heroic struggle by
the students of the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM)
[1999-2000]. It was constantly becoming clearer that, in order to
impose our demands, we had to fight for the downfall of la rectora
[the Dean] and Pinotti, secretary of higher education, and elect a
decision-making assembly, to take the power in the university out of
the hands of the academic bureaucracy and put it in those of the
students, professors and non-teaching staff, with a student majority,
to put the university at the service of the interests of the workers
and people.


The reactionary decrees of Governor Serra

·Decree Number 51.460 changes the administration of some entities by
tying them to different sectors of the government of São Paulo
[state]: “Public employees and university students state that the
measure fragments the educational sphere even further, by putting some
entities under the control of various secretariats.”

·Decree Number 51.461 organizes the office of the Secretary of Higher
Education: “The measure attacks university autonomy and does not
anticipate the correlation of higher education with basic education.”

·Decree Number 51.471 prohibits admitting or hiring personnel in the
field of direct or indirect public administration: “The measure
involves making services offered to the population precarious [that
is, jobs that represent precarious employment] and stimulates
outsourcing. It also damages the university’s autonomy in hiring
professors and employees in accord with its resources and needs.”

* Translation by Yosef M.


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