To those who will come…
The Brazilian Researchers Collective for Autonomy, Democracy and Solidarity (Pebrades) is formed by a group of researchers living in London whose main objective is the fight for intellectual dignity, academic freedom, human rights in a broad perspective and social justice, as well as against authoritarianism and obscurantism in our country.
The interest in building a collective was born out of the recognition that the current government has instituted practices of coercion and oppression against researchers, students, teachers and intellectuals in Brazil. We note the stigmatization and stimuli to persecution against our category, in addition to acts of thought control throughout the national territory.
In Brazil, redemocratization was built on the basis of many struggles by various sectors of society for transitional justice, for recognition of the crimes of the dictatorship and for amnesty for the persecuted — which we believe cannot be forgotten. This struggle for the consecration of a more just society culminated with the promulgation of the 1988 Constitution, called the “Citizen Constitution”, which established a new legal system based on a series of fundamental guarantees and, as the basis of the Republic, the dignity of the human person. In addition to its criticism of anti-intellectualism, the Collective also seeks to broaden the public debate on intolerance and the silencing of fascist statements by the current government that revere the legacy of the Brazilian civil-military dictatorship, which we recognize as a form of coercion and constraint on the democratic environment.
At the same time, under the resurgence of the neo-liberal economic agenda, we have seen the surrender of our public enterprises through privatizations and the adoption of several structural adjustment reforms, such as the recently approved welfare reform, which maintains the privileges of the richest, making the working class even more vulnerable. In the name of the “opening of markets”, Brazil is treated as a great bank to be sold, without questioning what kind of internal market we can develop. There is no question as to how the university can help reduce our economic, scientific and technological dependence. In the same way, we observe the anti-democratic attempt to silence those who historically work for the construction of public policies that transform collective health, public education, the preservation of the environment, public security, as well as those who fight against discrimination of race, gender, sexuality, among others.
Thus, the organization of this collective was due to our total dissatisfaction with the current government, its strategy of foreign occupation and the expansion of authoritarian control over the regulatory and supervisory functions of public administration and its disregard for science. In addition, we have organized ourselves to give form and content to our concern for the future of teaching in Brazil, disposing of, from a democratic perspective, to confront the dismantling of science and the neo-colonial authoritarianism of Jair Bolsonaro. Our political sense is based on three philosophical and strategic horizons:
Autonomy: alma mater of science. Without the struggle for an autonomous environment, the creative ability to think is atrophied. With the autonomy of thought, the necessary demarcations are outlined for a respectful and critical intellectual environment, tolerant to confrontation and plurality of ideas.
The struggle for autonomy in the intellectual environment means a struggle for survival. Without autonomy, the empire of widespread violence, persecution and authoritarianism prevails against the teaching and student body in universities and public schools. Obscurantism prevails in the argument. Sophism and science prevail in “points of view” and “opinions”. Without autonomy, theories without a scientific basis, such as terraplanism and creationism, are strengthened in society.
Democracy: democracy presupposes autonomy and critical freedom. For a healthy democratic environment, the notions of tolerance must be consolidated. One cannot stigmatize the different opinions from a militarized thought, in which the critical intellectual is taxed as “Marxist” or “petralha” and as “the enemy of Brazilian society, its morals and customs. The fight against political criticism is an authoritarian cut-throat struggle, whose tactics are drawn from constraint and coercion. It is the affirmation of an anti-intellectual world view.
The disrespect to intellectuals means the escape of those who can contribute to design the future of Brazil. It means losing vast majorities of engineers, law specialists, biologists, psychologists, sociologists, anthropologists, historians (…) to other powers capable of contracting our intelligence. To be favourable to this environment is to contribute to the perverse brain drain structure, in which the researcher’s profession is disrespected not only in terms of salary — which has been precarious for some time — but also in terms of its social function and work environment. Brain drain is the result not only of a lack of resources and work structure, but also of a coercive and oppressive environment. This is the most undemocratic social phenomenon for our category, seeking exile to have its work recognized. In relation to working conditions and career plans, the current scenario imposes a highly favourable environment for the sickening of students and teachers, with increasingly common cases of depression, anxiety, and, in more critical situations, suicide.
We argue that the Brazilian nation needs its brains for the development of science, industry and technology. Regardless of their theoretical schools, we need our diverse social scientists to create a culture of fighting class, race and gender oppression. Without the democratic culture of free thinking and criticism, the structures that create racism and patriarchy, dark parts of the history of the Brazilian people, prevail unchangeably.
And, finally, Solidarity: the intellectual environment is imbued with an individualistic culture, whose merit lies in the solitary production of articles and results, and collective intellectual construction is rare. Moreover, few organizations and political entities are concerned with peers, their state of mental health, their dilemmas regarding the search for employment and the future that is reserved for them.
We were lucky enough to meet in London and be able to break with that culture at all. The concern of other colleagues with each other has created a favourable environment of solidarity. The difficulty in finding a good home, better supermarkets or on the move in the city, for example, has generated a spirit of togetherness.
This spirit has led us to a collective organization, opening the possibility of help for other members who are also far from their beloved country and who perhaps need help with adaptation in the city. That’s why we want to build a collective that cares about the lives of Brazilian academics not only in London but throughout the UK. We want our organization to be able to help so many other Brazilians who will still arrive in the future. We hope so.