Against Capitalist Rule
Carlos Alexandre Honorato (Cerezo) speaking at the entrance to the CSN steel plant during the April 2019 general strike.
The following article is translated from a special supplement of Vanguarda Operária (October-November 2020), published by the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil, section of the League for the Fourth International.
On October 16, the Regional Electoral Court of the State of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, denied the independent candidacy for mayor of Volta Redonda of Carlos Alexandre Honorato (Cerezo), spokesman of the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil (LQB – Fourth Internationalist League of Brazil), of the Class Struggle Committee (CLC) and the of the Union of the Working Class of Southern Rio de Janeiro State (UCTSF); and of Geraldo Ribeiro, also of UCTSF, CLC and LQB, for deputy mayor.
The electoral tribunal thus denied voters the possibility of voting for these working-class fighters running independently of the registered parties. We have appealed this anti-democratic ruling by the TRE-RJ and are continuing to campaign. If that is refused, we will call for a blank ballot.
Despite the refusal of the capitalist justice system, the campaign of revolutionary struggle against the authoritarian bonapartist government of [Brazilian president Jair] Bolsonaro, the conservative right wing and the reformist popular-front left continues. We publish below the program of struggle of the Workers' Power Candidacy Against Capitalist Rule.
Volta Redonda can and must be a stronghold of workers power in the national and international struggle for the emancipation of workers and all the oppressed!
Against the contempt shown for the lives of workers and the poor in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, we demand free and rapid COVID-19 tests for everyone now and the immediate expansion of the public health system to provide high-quality hospital care to all the sick, under workers control and led by medical professionals.
Against the poverty wages and the fraudulent and wholly inadequate welfare “bolsas” (stipends), both from the PT [Workers Party] and now from Bolsonaro, we demand a huge increase of the monthly minimum wage to at least the level of the DIEESE [Interunion Statistical Department], i.e., R $ 4,342.57 [US$806] for all, and a sliding scale of wages to be adjusted for inflation.
In the face of the constant killings of the population (in particular black people) by the police and the militias, we demand: Military Police, Military Firefighters and all armed agencies out of the slum districts (morros e favelas), and police of all kinds out of the unions.
In the face of the elimination of job stability (“precariousness,” including jobs akin to slave labor and the runaway increase in hours and speed-up, we demand a six-hour work shift with no loss in pay, continuing contracts for all workers and union control of hiring.
Against the attempts to destroy public education and gag teachers with the “school without parties” law, we demand that the schools be controlled by councils of teachers, students, parents and school workers, under union leadership.
Against the corruption and privatization of Petrobras, mainly carried out by the “neoliberal” job killer FHC [Fernando Henrique Cardoso, president of Brazil from 1995 to 2002] and his minions in other parties (as happened with CSN, the mining giant Vale do Rio Doce, which with criminal negligence buried an entire city, Brumadinho [in the state of Minas Gerais], under a mudslide of mineral waste. After those privatizations other piratical privatizations took place, including of the telephone company and others. We demand full state ownership of the oil and energy industry and the imposition by oil workers of workers control of production, to sell cooking gas to the population at R$1 per liter.
Against the harassment of the superexploited immigrant population, notably Peruvians, Bolivians and Haitians, we fight for full citizenship rights for all immigrants, and against any participation by Brazil in imperialist aggression and occupation, today against Venezuela, and in the past against Bolivia and Haiti.
The current government of Bolsonaro and his imitators at the state and municipal level represent a bonapartist danger, of imposing a police-military type of “strong state,” constituting a threat to democratic rights, the existence of the workers movement and the very lives of black people, Indians, slum dwellers, homosexuals and all the oppressed.
However, the rise to power of the bonapartist regime was prepared by 14 years of government by the popular front led by the Workers Party, which under Lula’s and Dilma’s governments attacked workers’ rights, strengthened the police apparatus (forming the National Security Force, putting Police Pacification Units in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro) and spread the lie of having created a “new middle class.”
Today, the conservative bourgeoisie of the “centrão” [broad center, referring to the traditional right wing], together with important sectors of the capitalist state apparatus (the “justice” system, and others), offers itself as an “alternative” to Bolsonarism. The remnants of the popular front want to join these “coup” plotters of yesterday in a mega coalition of class collaboration, within the framework of bourgeois parliamentarism. Against all bourgeois parties, politicians and alliances, our candidacy seeks to initiate a revolutionary workers party to fight for a workers and peasants government to expropriate capitalism in the framework of socialist revolution and a Socialist United States of Latin America.
Not the Way It Used to Be Nor How It Is
Power to the Working Class!
Geraldo Ribeiro (right) with workers protesting refusal of public health system to pay their wages on time. Workers Power Candidacy is calling to end the privatization of health care, for workers to take control of the hospitals, led by medical professionals, and for free, rapid COVID-19 tests for all.
We who are signing this document are not electoralists; we say it is crucial to fight at all times on all issues involving the interests of the working class. On the basis of that daily struggle, those of us who have followed this path make our own the phrase of the German poet Bertold Brecht: “Indispensable are those who struggle all their lives.”
Unite Struggles from the City to the National and International Levels
Cerezo is a metal worker and the Poder Operário (Workers Power) candidate for mayor of Volta Redonda in the November 2020 elections. He has a long history of struggle in defense of the working class, starting well before the great 1988 strike at the CSN national steel company. For his leading role in the 1990 CSN strike and occupation, Cerezo was one of the activists put on the army’s “death list.”1 His running mate Geraldo, our candidate for vice-mayor, has been a city worker for three decades and led the fight to oust police from the municipal workers union.2 He also played a leading role in struggles over the PCCS (salary steps for public employees) and other demands against the government’s attacks, as when the Popular Front mayoral administration of Paulo Baltazar took over city hall [in 1993] and tried to lay off almost 3,000 workers, an attack which the struggle succeeded in reversing.
The Poder Operário candidacy maintains that it is crucial to know how to combine the most basic struggles in Volta Redonda with the more complex ones at the national and international level, bringing together the interests of the downtrodden who are systematically crushed by capitalist oppression and exploitation. A key example is the emphasis that must be put on saving our lives, as is the case with the COVID-19 pandemic. It is ridiculous that health workers who are risking their lives are not even getting paid on time. They are being treated like playthings by President Jair Bolsonaro, whose absurd denial of the pandemic is passed along by the governor of Rio de Janeiro state, Wilson Witzel. Both have been denounced for pulling off con jobs with public funds that were supposed to be used for dealing with the pandemic, acting in tandem with the current mayor of Volta Redonda and “Pastor Everaldo” [of the Assembly of God church], who notoriously sells votes to the big political parties.
We demand the immediate establishment of adequate working conditions and wages – paid on time – for health care workers; cutting the workday with no loss in pay; immediate hiring of those who have passed the qualifying exams; immediate expropriation of the CSN central office building (a white elephant used for pure and simple real-estate speculation) and its conversion into a field hospital for the fight against COVID-19 and other deadly diseases.
Capitalist society worldwide is in deep crisis. We need to
fight unemployment in order to provide work and shelter for
all, including the artists from many parts of Latin America
who have come to our city; and to fight against repression and
the attacks on the rights and conquests of the workers and
oppressed in Brazil and other parts of Latin America, linking
this with the case of George Floyd and the massive anti-racist
protests in the United States.
Workers Power candidacy campaigning at Volta Redonda bus barn, protesting the political firing of bus driver Jamaica (in the foreground). Banners call for an end to the firings, state ownereship of the public transport system and free mass transit.
Here in Volta Redonda, the “Steel City,” the proletariat has a tradition of combating the bourgeoisie, but the Popular Front has always been a roadblock to this struggle. Today, facing great dangers, it is urgent that the power of the working class be strengthened, mobilized and provided with a class-struggle program. In order to do this, it is crucial to draw the lessons of these struggles in order to break with popular-frontism and every kind of class collaboration, which have led to terrible defeats.
We are not electoralists: our candidacy is fundamentally different from all others. We of the Poder Operário candidacy refuse to accept even one real [the Brazilian currency] in campaign financing from the state. We would not govern from the easy chairs of city hall, based on the apparatus of the bourgeois state that always represses us. On the contrary, we struggle to form workers councils in the factories and the proletarian neighborhoods, as the basis for a workers and peasants government. The goal of our campaign is to advance this work of organization and promoting class consciousness, to put forward a revolutionary and internationalist program for the emancipation of the exploited masses.
In line with these points, the six-hour workday which features in our program is part of this great tradition of struggle. The beginning of Brazilian bourgeois “democracy” was marked by the military repression unleashed against the workers occupation of CSN in 1988, when we won the six-hour day. Later we fought to defend it against the bourgeoisie and the sellouts of the union bureaucracy. With a class-struggle program, we fought the privatizations, at CSN and the FEM (Metal Structures Factory) in particular, and the mass layoffs. We fought and won amnesty for the CSN strikers, against the resistance of the popular-front government.
On the health question, which is so central now amidst the COVID crisis, we fight to end the privatization of health care being pushed through contracts with “social organizations,” a central topic in the impeachment of Rio governor Witzel, currently underway. With the same emphasis on defending the workers’ health, as shown in our posters, leaflets and other publications, at the CSN we exposed the company’s anti-working-class and racist lies about leukopenia.3 We were in the forefront of the fight to rehire the 6,000 “mosquito killers” in Rio.4 We have fought against the pollution of working-class and poor people’s neighborhoods, particularly in the Volta Grande I, II, III and IV neighborhoods; and against the terribly unhealthy working conditions for city workers.
The Comitê de Luta Classista (Class Struggle Committee) and the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil, of which Cerezo and Geraldo are members, have fought tooth and nail against the municipal governments of Baltazar, Antônio Neto, Gothardo Netto and Samuca Silva, to make city hall pay up the salary steps for municipal workers. We are also fighting for CSN to pay the cost-of-living raises, which are now in the process of being paid out. It is particularly important to point out that at the same time, it has been necessary to struggle against the pseudo-leftist parties, the PT, PSOL, PCdoB, PSTU and PCO,5 whether for their omissions, their sabotage or at times their open opposition in those struggles.
Against racist discrimination and the oppression of women, we led the defense of city worker Regina Célia and – facing a campaign of repression from the police and popular front – we carried out the historic 1996 struggle to expel police from the union. One of the municipal cops was responsible for the murder of Ernane da Silva Lúcio, a black child, on 22 October 1995. Today the demand for cops out of the unions is being put forward by anti-racist protesters in the United States and other countries.
An Internationalist Fight Against Oppression
We brought to Brazil and all of South America, for the first time, the case of Mumia Abu-Jamal, a former Black Panther imprisoned in the U.S., and organized the first strike for his freedom anywhere in the world, by the education workers of the state of Rio de Janeiro in April 1999, an example which spread to the U.S.6
We fight intransigently against the campaign that Yankee imperialism, Bolsonaro and Co. are carrying out against Cuba and China. Our demand for Brazilian troops to be driven out of Haiti was adopted by the Rio education workers union. We also organized the solidarity actions with the courageous Mexican teachers strike in 2016.
Under the red banner of the international working class, we fight to carry through the great motto: Workers of the World, Unite! Our program is the only path forward for putting an end to capitalism. Long live socialism! It is the only solution that can save humanity from barbarism. ■
- 1. See “Army Death List Targeted Brazilian Worker Militants,” The Internationalist No. 8, June 2000. Built in Volta Redonda in 1941 with backing from the U.S., the Companhia Siderúrgica Nacional (CSN – National Steel Company), Latin America’s largest steel producer, was state-owned until its privatization in 1993.
- 2. See “Class Struggle and Repression in Volta Redonda, Brazil,” Internationalist Group pamphlet, February 1997.
- 3. This medical condition, in which white cells in the blood are reduced, affected many steel workers because of exposure to benzene gas produced in the coke ovens. Company officials claimed it was a “black disease.” See “Brazilian Metal Workers Struggle Against Racism” in “Class Struggle and Repression in Volta Redonda, Brazil.”
- 4. This poorly paid, largely black workforce was part of Rio de Janeiro’s campaign against dengue fever.
- 5. For more information on groups mentioned here, see “The Electoralist Campaigns of the Brazilian Left,” internationalist.org, October 2018. The PT is the reformist Workers Party of former presidents Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Dilma Rousseff; PSOL: the PSOL, Party of Socialism and Freedom, an equally reformist split from the PT; PCdoB, formerly Maoist, now social-democratized Communist Party of Brazil; PSTU, United Socialist Workers Party, part of the International Workers League (LIT) notorious for pro-imperialist positions; PCO, Workers Cause Party, a satellite of the PT formerly associated with the Argentine Partido Obrero.
- 6.The day after the strike in Brazil, the International Longshore and Warehouse Union shut down all West Coast ports in the U.S. for 10 hours demanding Mumia’s freedom. (See “Brazilian Workers Mobilize for Freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal” and “ILWU West Coast Port Shutdown Showed Labor’s Power in Fight to Free Mumia,” The Internationalist No. 8, June 2000.)