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Brazil Needs a General Strike to Demand Good Education for All

Workers' protest in Brazil

Workers' protest in Brazil May Day is no longer commemorated as it once was. The crisis in socialist alternatives, the overpowering force of global capitalism and the division of the workers into the included and the excluded have all contributed to lessening the ideology of Labor Day.

Yellowing with age, May Day has lost its red vigor. This is because the proletariat has neither redesigned its Utopia nor reoriented its revolution. Losing its transformative vigor, it channeled demands without proposing revolutionary transformation.

In an epoch of robotics, the proletariat’s power has been weakened by the "inutility" of work; the world of work has lost strength. A mere gentle pressing of buttons by specialists has replaced the strength of hands. The proletariat has lost its sense that equality is possible.

All are born equal; the brain of the rich capitalist’s child has the same potential as that of the poor, unemployed person’s child. Day by day, inequality is systematically constructed by the difference in schools.

Equality will not come from the economy. It is no longer capital that is accumulated but, rather, knowledge. The capitalist’s child who does not study will not be a successful boss; depending upon his or her talent, persistence and vocation, the proletariat’s child who studies will have every chance.

Utopia still exists: the Same Chance is possible for all, be they children of the bosses or of the workers. There is a lottery that awards everyone: the school. There is a lottery ticket with which everyone wins: the diploma in courses that are presented and chosen well.

Once again Labor Day needs to be a day of Utopian dreams and revolutionary vigor for an educational revolution to assure the Same Chance to each person, independently of where a child was born and to which parents. An education that develops the latent potential the child has at birth.

The workers went out on sectorial strikes for salaries and on general strikes for changes and revolutions. The sectorial strikes became weaker and weaker and, wisely, rarer and rarer. The few with work fear the millions of unemployed; and their bosses know that, by negotiating in time, they avoid stoppages by those who still have jobs.

Labor Day makes us think that it is time to return to the dreams and the struggle. Convoke a general strike so that workers and the mass of the people demonstrate that they want the right to the Same Chance, demanding schools for their children equal to those of the boss’s children.

A general strike of a mere hour to shout, "Education Now," just as people used to shout "Direct Elections Now" or "Long Live Socialism."

The "Força Sindical" organization took the Environment as the theme of this May Day’s event. This proves the Utopia has returned because only ecological equilibrium gives all generations the same chance. But is it necessary to go beyond that, to use education to guarantee all social classes the Same Chance.

And to carry the debate to all the workers of all of Brazil! That is a revolutionary gesture that is possible today. Break with the paralysis and the conservative accommodation of neoliberalism’s single way of thinking and with the traditional left’s accommodation and paralysis that continues imprisoned by the logic of the revolution for the economy.

The new revolution of the Same Chance considers that, in the 21st century, capital and development will come from knowledge. Distribution is no longer accomplished through the concentration of capital in the hands of the State but, rather, through the egalitarian distribution of knowledge to all people starting in early childhood.

Utopia consists in making the school of the poorest worker’s child equal to that of the child of the richest boss. That is the struggle that will turn Labor Day red once again but in a different way.

Cristovam Buarque has a Ph.D. in economics. He is a PDT senator for the Federal District and was Governor of the Federal District (1995-98) and Minister of Education (2003-04). He is the current president of the Senate Education Commission. Last year he was a presidential candidate. You can visit his homepage – www.cristovam.com.br – and write to him at mensagem-cristovam@senado.gov.br

Translated from the Portuguese by Linda Jerome – LinJerome@cs.com.

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