|Written by Olly – Brazil|
|Saturday, 22 June 2013 20:34|
| ANEL: a student union that fights
Between 31 May and 2 June more than 2,000 students attended the 2º congress of ANEL (National Students Assembly – Free!) in the state of Minas Gerais.
If we take a look across Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, an uprising of the working class has sent tremors down the spine of Western Capitalism and at the forefront of all these movements are the youth.
Youth and students movements are of most importance in the working class struggle. Brazilian students know it and this second congress reinforced this discussion.
The youth are among those suffering the most. In Europe, youth unemployment is reaching unprecedented levels, such as in Spain where there is more than 50 per cent unemployment of under-25s. Alongside this misery, neo-liberal attacks against university are in full swing.
In Brazil if one was to believe the mainstream media, one would assume Brazil to be a country with a ‘socialist’ government, a government that is pulling the poor out of poverty and making Brazilian society a fairer and better place. However beyond the charade of the ‘Workers Party’, what we see is in fact the stark opposite. The Workers Party (PT) Government, since its inception more than 10 years ago under Lula and now under Dilma Rousseff, has been a government with one goal, to implement neo-liberal capitalist reforms to the nation’s economy which in lay-man’s terms means sell everything to the private sector, crush unions and workers movements, divide the class and make vast profits for the elite.
Brazilian student movement history
UNE (National Students Union) had for a long time spearheaded the Brazilian Students Movement. However, the biggest students union in Brazil has been, as with the NUS in the UK, taking the side of the populist government and abandoning the student’s fight.
Unfortunately not only the students’ representatives but also the workers biggest union, CUT (Central Única dos Trabalhadores), were changing sides. With PT (Workers’ Party) worrying almost exclusively about the elections these unions saw a big chance of getting into power and alongside with PT turned into bureaucratic organisations.
Realizing that was not possible to fight this situation within these unions, workers and students decided to create, in 2004, CONLUTAS and CONLUTE (National Coordination of Student’s Struggles) and in 2009 the last one turned into ANEL.
Since its development, ANEL has been playing a huge part in many movements across Brazil and lends it’s support to the Revolutions of Syria and the wider Arabic world, stands shoulder to shoulder with workers in the fight for women’s, LGTB and Indigenous rights. All this was represented in the 2nd Congress.
The 31 May was the International Day of Solidarity with the Syrian revolution, and this was not forgotton by the activists of ANEL. ANEL saw that it was essential to have an international delegation to take part in the congress, so two Syrian students were invited. Students have been central in the bloody two year revolution in the region, where a similar independent students’ union (UELS – Union of Free Syrian Students) has also been developed. The congress also had student delegates from Spain, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Argentina, Italy and Senegal. On 30 May, a pre-congress international meeting called ‘International Space – Many Youth, One Fight’ was organised.
Without doubt, as with all movements, international organisation is essential in the struggle for a better world.
The third day of the Congress was dedicated to the struggles of minority groups. Debates and workshops about the women’s struggle, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community, Black and indigenous communities also took place. As crises cripples capitalism, people from minority groups become even more marginalised because capitalism needs to reinforce the ‘divide and rule’ strategy to develop and maintain the oppression of the working class.
For this reason it is essential to unify the struggles of minorities with the wider class struggle and movements. MML (Movimento das Mulheres em Luta/Womens Struggle Movement), a socialist and feminist movement in Brazil was present at the congress. Sexism and violence against women is increasing worldwide, highlighted recently by the awful gang rape and murder of a 23 year old Indian woman in December last year. Alongside this, abortion remains illegal in the vast majority of nations, women earn on average 30 per cent less than men and it is women who are suffering most in the economic crises.
Also present was the Quilombo Race and Class, which took the debate beyond the struggle against racism in higher education to the racism in Brazilian society. The debate brought out the depth of racism in culture as typified by Globo the Brazilian TV giant, in which TV shows and news typically present black people as criminals. Some of Globo’s most popular TV (e.g. Zorra Total see picture) shows represent black people in a shamelessly racist way and can be compared only to shows such as the old “black minstrel show” in the UK. The stark differences in wages were highlighted as was the fact that a black person is 139 per cent more likely to be killed than a white person.
The secretary of the LGBT movement from CSP-Conlutas was invited. With violence against the LGBT community increasing exponentially, and attacks coming from all areas, especially in the form of Marco Feliciano, an evangelical pastor who was recently elected as head of the commission for human rights and has made comments such as ‘AID’s is the gay cancer’ and many even more vulgar statements. The struggle for LGBT rights has a huge base in the students and anti-Feliciano movements, with protests such as the ‘beijaço’ (Mass Kissing see image). At the 2nd congress a national coordinated mass kiss at all public universities has been called.
All oppression against minorities is a method by capitalism to divide the working class and makes it easier to exploit. Whether it is sexism, racism, xenofobia, homophobia etc, the goal is the same: divide and rule. The working class must unite and fight.
REUNE and university marketisation
Since PT entered government there has been a vast increase in the number of private universities and the implementation of REUNI (Reestruturação e Expansão das Universidades Federais / Program for Restructuring and Expansion of Federal Universities). It is the biggest attack on public universities in Brazilian history. While it was implemented by Lula, the true brains behind the reform are the IMF, World Bank and the United Nations. It has seen class sizes more than double, teacher’s and university worker’s salaries fall behind inflation, a growth in distance learning, advancement of Prouni (government paying for scholarships at private universities), relaxation of relationship between universities and research and much more. Essentially turning universities into large factories of workers for big business. Such reforms are being implemented in numerous ‘developing’ nations, putting university education in poorer countries at the service of the imperialist powers.
Economic crises on the horizon
The year 2013 has seen very poor results in the Brazilian economy, with the predicted growth of 5 per cent likely to be a near-stagnation of 0.6 per cent in the first quarter of 2013. Inflation is increasing, with basic food prices of items increasing at dramatic rates. While recession may not be on the horizon for 2013, a stagnating economy will produce further attacks from the government in the form of privatisation, wage cuts and austerity attacks on public services. The student movement must be at the forefront of struggles against these attacks.
For this the need to grow and develop ANEL is essential in building a true students movement to fight alongside workers in the fight for a better future.
The 2nd Congress of ANEL was a genuinely significant event, and shows the way forward for students across the world. The NUS of Britain is a corrupted and bureaucratic institution with absolutely no intention of building a union of struggle against fees, cuts and privatisation. They main leadership, which is close to the Labour Party aims to fragment and stifle movements against the austerity. The building of an independent students union against austerity and the Labour party is vital in the development of a workers movement against the government.
Dreams and struggles make the future.
For further information on ANEL see http://anelonline.com/(you may need google translate!)