Coletivo Lenin on Student Struggles
A Communist Perspective
for Student/Educational Struggles
[The following is a slightly edited English translation of “A New Political Group at the Rio de Janeiro Federal University: Join the Hora de Lutar [Time to Fight].” The statement was distributed to students on August 2010 at the Rio de Janeiro Federal University as an introduction to the Coletivo Lenin’s student group on campus..]
Hora de Lutar [Time to Fight] was formed by the Coletivo Lenin in the aftermath of the last student union elections. It was necessary to form a new group which was politically independent of existing student organizations, and which based itself programmatically on orienting students to the working class.
An alliance with the working class is essential for winning even the smallest steps towards the goal of a free quality university education, since the working class produces all the wealth in society and compromises the majority of the population. Student struggles will therefore only be effective and have lasting long-term value if they are linked to a working class political strategy. Only when the working class takes power and establishes its democratic political rule can we ensure that the wealth it produces be used to meet society’s needs. Otherwise, even the very small and specific temporary reforms that have been won under capitalism remain fragile and reversible with a change in the correlation of forces. This will remain true as long as the capitalists and their political agents continue to rule society. In this statement, we offer students a brief political evaluation of other left groups active at the Rio de Janeiro Federal University and some of our main programmatic proposals related to current campus struggles.
Elections for the Rio de Janeiro Federal University student union are a time when many questions get debated and help highlight and clarify the differences between competing political groups. The left groups who ran in the last elections all opportunistically lowered their politics and limited themselves to demands they believed would win them more votes.
In their initial slate meetings, Correnteza [Stream], student group of the orthodox Stalinist Partido Comunista Revolucionário, put forward a highly advanced program of an alliance with workers which included a call for a universal free quality education. But as the campaign developed, they politically retreated from that initial platform, chose to drop the call for open admissions and limited themselves to defending the currently existing affirmative action programs.
A Plenos Pulmões [With All the Strength of Lungs], student group of the formerly Morenoite Liga Estratégia Revolucionária – Quarta Internacional, took a similar political turn. Their slate also limited themselves to only defending racial quotas, even though they frequently claim to be militant fighters for open admission, instead choosing to leave the demand for their “Sunday Socialism” speeches and articles. Calls for solidarity with and permanently hiring the campus’s grossly underpaid and predominantly black and female temp agency workers were similarly scrapped. While these issues were at first prominently raised in their initial leaflets, they were simply disappeared from subsequent statements once the campaign was in progress.
Despite having many serious political differences between themselves (including whether or not to break away from the National Student Union), student supporters of the Morenoite Partido Socialista dos Trabalhadores Unificado and the Mandelite Enlace chose to run as part of a common slate which mostly did not go beyond advocating increasing the school budget and some other minor reforms. The minimal low level quality of the politics put forward was necessary to ensure the participation of both groups, who could only run as part of a joint slate by publically burying their existing differences. Both groups could have raised the level of political discourse and clarity amongst both students and their own supporters had they chose to openly debated these issues instead
We support participating in united fronts with other groups around specific issues and campaigns we may agree on. While engaging in joint struggles, everyone would maintain their political independence and be free to raise disagreements and express their full politics. On the other hand, opposing groups which choose to participate on a common political platform, such as an election slate, are forced to dishonestly water down and hide their politics in order to get elected. Besides, there is no purpose for socialists to be in the students’ union leadership unless it is to openly lead their struggles in a socialist direction.
While the working class taking state power can guarantee free access to and make vast improvements to social programs such as education, health, housing and transportation, this would simply not be possible for any government tied to the capitalists and their system. The last 8 years of Brazil being governed by Lula and the PT [Workers Party] has amply demonstrated this. Unfortunately, large sections of the student movement are under the direct influence and control of this very government. Even while defending REUNI and PROUNI, government programs designed to attack public universities by transferring large chunks of their budgets to fund private universities, student supporters of the PT [Workers Party] and PCdoB [Communist Party of Brazil] formed a common electoral slate and were able to reach second place.
Despite its bureaucratic leadership, the UNE is still the largest student union federation in the country. It is therefore necessary to participate in it while maintaining a perspective of fighting against students illusions in the government and its supporters in the leadership. We believe those groups who call for abandoning the UNE to create a new federation (such as the PSTU-controlled ANEL [Free Students National Assembly]), are therefore making a serious tactical mistake. We are not for abstaining from ANEL either, but as participants also oppose the politics of its leadership and argue for ending the organizational division amongst student unions.
We invite those who agree with our aims to join our new organization. Along with the selection of demands raised in the charter below we also fight for others, including – free childcare and cafeterias open to students, teachers and all workers; down with the super-exploitation of female and black workers – equal pay for equal work; for the integration of temp agency and other part time workers into the permanent workforce; and for student/ campus-worker control of the universities.
HORA DE LUTAR Charter
I) Our group’s central task is in politically connecting student’s struggles to those of the working class. Most of us will either become workers in the future or already work to pay for our education. So we either already now, or will upon graduation, share the same interests as the rest of the working class. The values and ideology of exploitation are also deeply integrated into the present educational system, whose main purpose is to instill them into students from the earliest age as a way of politically and socially conditioning us in preparation for our future roles as disciplined workers in a capitalist society.
II) We oppose all policies aimed at the super-exploitation of young people at the workplace. We oppose poorly (or non) – paid internships/apprenticeships where the real aim is more frequently to exploit rather than teach us. We are opposed to poor starting salaries and the lack of job security for less experienced workers, which particularly effect youth and force them to the bottom of the job market.
III) We fight for a truly free and universal higher education, which must include financial assistance that would cover all living expenses, including food, transportation, housing, textbooks as well as leisure and cultural needs. Such assistance must also allow students to attend school without the obligation of working to support ourselves and studying at the same time, which frequently damages our academic progress and leads many to drop out of college.
IV) Education can only be free if it is accessible to everyone. Thus we fight for an end to admission tests. We are for the expropriation of all private universities and vastly expanding and improving the quality of the public university system.
V) We defend affirmative action as a partial gain, while also recognizing it’s inadequacy in addressing racial inequality for more than a minority. So while defending affirmative action, our main demand is for free tuition and open admissions for all, which would permanently end the universities status as the elite racist institutions they currently are.
VI) We fight against every form of oppression, such as sexism and racism, mechanisms for increasing capitalist profits through the super-exploitation of the oppressed, and for hindering the organization and dividing the struggles and of workers and students.
VII) We are opposed to the state and its armed bodies (such as the police and the military), which exist to serve the interests of the ruling class. We oppose the Brazilian military’s international presence, as in Haiti, where it suppresses black workers and helps maintain order to protect the property interests of the Haitian and international bourgeoisie.