I write this text under the impact of the movements that built the general education strike on May 15. Actions were organized in the main Brazilian cities. I participated in the event held in the central region of Salvador and carefully followed what happened in other cities through reports from friends and the press.
Again, there is war between narratives. The left opposition says that the general education strike is the beginning of the end of the Bolsonaro administration. The other side diminishes the importance of the event. President Jair Bolsonaro said that those on the streets were "useful idiots manipulated by a minority."
As is often the case, analytic sobriety invites us to take the middle path, which does not mean neutrality. There is an enormous gap separating the sobriety from the fallacy of neutrality.
May 15, 2019 says much about the current stage of the Brazilian crisis. Rather, a brief contextualization with information that is obvious to the reader of the present. They will not be obvious to the reader of the future. The memory dispute has already begun. Truism is always a matter of historical location.
In early May, Education Minister Abraham Weintraub ordered a cut of about 30 percent of the federal education budget. At first, the argument was ideological in nature: universities were accused of being inefficient (when all indexes say otherwise) and of serving as a stage for "shambles" (read, political manifestations of opposition to the government).
How could it not be, the academic community reacted. The digital media were activated and the various entities representing the interests of teachers, students and employees of federal institutions called for the general strike for May 15.
The streets were full, quite crowded. Of course, the organizers present ambitious, perhaps inflated numbers. In any case, it was the main act of mobilization since the "no," which happened even during the elections. For the first time, Bolsonaro's government was confronted on the streets.
Within the possibilities and considering the gravity of the conjuncture, the winds seem to be favorable to those who were in the streets. Not all the groups that form the government support Weintraub's attack on the federal education system.
This time it is not a simple reduction of resources, something that the whole government, sooner or later, ends up doing. We already know well that in times of short supply in the economy, education is the first sector to have discovered feet.
The PSDB, with the hated minister Paulo Renato (perhaps no longer so hated), imposed budgetary difficulties on federal universities for much of the 1990s. Even Dilma cut off education resources. Does anyone here remember the fiscal adjustment of Joaquim Levy?
Now it's different, very different. The attack is ideological, purely ideological.
The minister is acting this way because he is part of a group that launched a cultural war against universities. Olavo de Carvalho is the intellectual mentor of this war. Since the 1990s, Olavo de Carvalho says that Brazilian public universities were taken by "cultural Marxism". Now the guru of Virginia believes the time has come to counter such Marxist indoctrination.
For the political dynamics of the crisis, it matters little whether this "cultural Marxism" exists or not. It really matters what people believe, their beliefs.
The ideological core, however, is only one among the various groups that are now disputing the government from within. The Olavista tendency is hegemonic, no doubt. But it is not unique, nor is it flying in the sky of Brigadier. There are internal opponents who are not supporting cultural warfare.
In recent days, perceiving the lack of support within the government itself, Minister Weintraub changed his speech and went on to justify the budget cut with arguments of a technical nature: as the economic crisis did not subside, the budget defined by the previous government can not be fulfilled . If the pension reform is approved and the economy shows signs of recovery, according to the minister, the contingency will be released.
The change in narrative is a sign of retreat, and suggests that the minister is recognizing that the cultural war in Bolivia has no echo in all the groups that support the government.
The National Congress has shown this clearly.
On May 14, on the eve of the general strike, more than three hundred deputies approved Weintraub's convocation for a special session aimed precisely at explaining the cuts in education. It was an embarrassment to the minister and the government. Only the PSL and Novo teams attempted to preserve Weintraub.
PMDB, DEM, PSDB, who are allies of the government in other agendas, such as the pension reform, did not come out in defense of the Minister of Education. If they wished, they could have avoided the summons. They did not. They did not because they did not want to. This is an indication that the Salvadoran cultural war is a strong project within the government, but its strength is explained more by the ideological convictions of the president than by the real political situation in Brasilia.
Politically, the insistence on this neomacartista journey is not a good strategy for Bolsonaro, if he wants, in fact, to govern. Nothing suggests that the president will soften the speech.
The streets are also nothing homogeneous. It is possible to feel a tension in the air, something that involves the figure of the ex- president Lula.
It seems that a consensus was formed that the "Free Lula" agenda and the role of the PT would act as demobilizing forces. Time and again someone shouted a "Free Lula", but the movement's official agenda was clearly delimited: defense of education and protest against Social Security reform.
Perhaps it is even wiser to act like this. In fact, Lula and the PT could function as demobilization factors of organized civil society. The problem is that there is also a disorganized civil society made up of a mass of ultraprecarized and hungry workers. For these people, "retirement", "scientific development" and "technological innovation" do not say much. These people no longer retire because they die before. These people do not go to university. They are semiluted.
This is the social basis of Lullism.
It was these people who filled Monteiro, in the interior of Paraíba, in March 2017, when Lula inaugurated the work of transposition of the São Francisco River. If Lula is taken out of the agenda, it means not demobilizing organized civil society, it also means not mobilizing disorganized civil society. It is a difficult choice.
For now, there is no direct political impact of this May 15. It was only the first act of a calendar of mobilizations aimed at building the general workers' strike, which is scheduled for June 14.
But it was good to participate, very good. It served, at least, to improve the state of mind.