By Richard Mann
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – Presidents of some of the main opposition parties to the government of Jair Bolsonaro decided, in a meeting in Brasília on Wednesday, May eighth, to use the cuts announced in the area of education as a catalyst for demonstrations and a way to unify the Left.
On another front, the PSOL candidate who was defeated for the Presidency, Guilherme Boulos, has been, for more than a month, visiting the public universities of the country in an effort of mobilizing students.
The leader of the homeless saw, in the student demonstrations last week in Rio de Janeiro and Bahia, the spark of what could be a national wave against Bolsonaro.
For him, obedience is not going to beat a savage government. “The greatest challenge that we have right now is social mobilization. We have a savage government.”
“We cannot have a docile, well-behaved opposition on the other side, that only knows how to make hashtags on the internet, having conversations, symposiums and thinking about 2022,” he adds.
“We have to have a combative grassroots opposition that understands the importance of fighting in the streets because doing so only in Parliament is not going to be enough.”
“There, they are the majority,” said Boulos to more than 2,000 students who were listening to him on Wednesday, May eighth, at the University of São Paulo.
Then, on Thursday, May ninth, the parties jointly circulated a notice with their position on this topic.
The notices are to seek out civil social entities, and the parties will work together on their foundations to reinforce the national strike by professors in the public networks scheduled for May 15, and they decided to schedule regular meetings, called “Forum of the Presidents”, that from now on are going to meet every 15 days.
“My impression is that it was a step forward by the parties to do what the coalitions already are trying to do in Congress, which is articulated as a joint political action,” said Juliano Medeiros, President of the PSOL.
Besides Medeiros, those participating in the meeting were the party presidents: Gleisi Hoffmann (PT); Carlos Siqueira (PSB); Luciana Santos (PCdoB); along with those of the minor parties.
For the first time, the PDT did not send a representative to the meeting of the Forum. Last week, Ciro Gomes (PDT), who took third place in the presidential contest of 2018, already has deliberately not attended the unifying action of the central unions in commemoration of Labor Day.
Clergy, Professors, and Students
Besides the joint notification, the presidents asserted that they are going to search for direction from the Brazilian National Conference of Bishops (CNBB), the Brazilian Order of Attorneys (OAB), associations of the clergy, professors, students and mayors who can be directly affected by the cuts announced by the Bolsonaro government.
“The idea is to get around to the entities to show that the Forum of Presidents represents not only the opposition to the Bolsonaro government but the political current of Brazilian society, the Left and the Left-Center, and we have the right to seek a civil society by talking about the problems of Brazil,” said Medeiros.
The initial objective is to guarantee a major paralysis in support of the professors on May 15 and to gain momentum for the general strike announced by the central unions against the reforms of the retirement system on June 14.
Leaders on the Left assess that the deep cuts in education could have been the government shooting themselves in the foot which led to the revolt by the students. Last week, Bolsonaro faced a protest by hundreds of students at the Dom Pedro II school in Rio.
In Salvador, thousands of students of the Federal University of Bahia went to the streets to protest the making contingent of 30 percent of the budget announced by the Minister of Education, Abraham Weintraub.
“Today (Wednesday), practically all the public universities in Brazil are holding assemblies,” said the Director of Social Movements of the National Union of Students (UNE), Vic Ferraro.
Since mid-March, before the announcement of the cuts, Guilherme Boulos had gone around to the universities of the country looking to mobilize students against the policies of the Bolsonaro government. He has now visited more than 20 universities in 10 states.
On Wednesday, May eighth, he met more than 2,000 people, according to the organizers, in a meeting room at the College of Philosophy, Letters, and Human Sciences (FFLCH) of USP – courses threatened with closure by the government.
In his speech, he admitted the difficulty that the Left had in trying to “raise the hope of the people,” which led to the election of Bolsonaro; he asked for unity of the opposition; he pointed to the cuts in education as a catalyst for indignation against the government and he exhorted the students to transform that indignation into concrete actions.
“The Brazilian Left today needs to have the humility to recognize its errors; we lost the ability to raise the hope of the people, and that is why we were defeated,” said Boulos.
“There is a kernel there that is going to give something more. This is barely the start of a process of resistance,” he finished.