April 2000 

LQB Spokesman Cerezo Fired for Leading Resistance

Brazilian Steel Company 
Assault on Six-Hour Day

                                                                                  Vanguarda Operária

Students demonstrate April 12 in defense of six-hour shift at CSN steel plant.

On April 14 Brazilian bosses dealt a blow to the working class, ramming through a vote to end the six-hour day at Volta Redonda’s Companhia Siderúrgica Nacional (CSN), Latin America’s largest steel plant. Management threatened hundreds of layoffs if workers refused to give up this historic gain, while pretending there would be “zero dismissals” if it passed. But barely an hour after the polls closed, as vote counting was underway, CSN bosses peremptorily fired our comrade Cerezo from the plant for his leading role in the fight to defend the six-hour day. The management was clearly afraid that if it had announced this reprisal earlier, it could have reversed the close vote.

One of those who pushed the CSN’s cynical “zero dismissals” lie was the head of the local pro-company Força Sindical union, who the next day threatened to sue Cerezo in the bosses’ courts for denouncing the bureaucrats’ treacherous role. The firing of comrade Cerezo, the leading spokesman of the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil, came after several thousand copies of a special supplement of the LQB’s newspaper, Vanguarda Operária, were distributed at the plant with headlines calling for a “Militant Strike to Defend the Six-Hour Shift at CSN” and denouncing “Bourgeois State Terror Against Workers’ Struggle.” The paper reported on recent revelations that during a steel strike a decade ago, the Brazilian army put Cerezo on a death list of radical workers.

The six-hour day was won in the great 1988 steel strike, which became a milestone in the history of the South American labor movement when the workers of Volta Redonda refused to back down in the face of the army’s occupation of the plant and murder of three strikers. Over the past year CSN has waged a campaign to abolish this important gain and restore the 8-hour workday. Its threats of mass layoffs had a big impact in a company town already suffering devastating unemployment as a result of the slashing of the CSN workforce in the late ’80s and after the company’s privatization in 1993. Together with its threats, the company offered a bribe of two and a half months’ pay, as a bonus, if workers voted “yes” to ending the six-hour day. In addition, as Cerezo denounced in the local press, supervisors and company guards participated in the vote.

                                                                                                        Vanguarda Operária

CSN plant in Volta Redonda. Even after mass layoffs following privatization, this factory 
remains one of the largest proletarian concentrations in Latin America. 

Despite the intimidation, the bribes, the stacked nature of the referendum and the union leaders’ refusal to wage a real fight against the company attack, the company only won the vote by a little over 300 out of the almost 4,000 ballots cast. While the vote was still being counted, Cerezo’s supervisor told him he had been fired and gave him half an hour to clean out his locker and get off the premises. This was the third time Cerezo had been fired from CSN. The first dismissal came after a 1987 strike in which he was part of the strike committee. He played an important role in the 1988 strike, which was initiated by the committee of fired workers; in the settlement of that hard-fought strike, 30 militants were reinstated. 

Two years later, he was instrumental in sparking the 1990 CSN strike, which earned him a prominent place on the army’s death list. Cerezo was one of several militants fired from CSN in a political purge of the plant after the ’90 strike. He was the only one who never gave up the fight to win his job back, and only a month and a half ago finally returned to his old job as a welder–almost ten years later–after a labor court ruled the original firing illegal. His latest firing, on April 14, was prominently covered by Diário do Vale, mouthpiece of the steel bosses, as well as by other local press and television.

In the period leading up to the vote, the LQB energetically mobilized to defend the union gain of the six-hour day. The VO supplement reprinted a leaflet by the Comitê de Luta Classista (Class Struggle Caucus, led by the LQB), which noted: 

“The onslaught against CSN workers is not simply the result of privatization or of ‘neoliberalism,’ as the reformists pretend; it is a product of the offensive against the working class by the entire bourgeoisie and their state.... After the capitalist counterrevolution in East Europe and the former Soviet Union, which were undermined by Stalinism, the capitalists around the world want even more than before to tear away the rights and conquests of the working class....”
The CLC leaflet denounced the Força Sindical bureaucrats’ scheme of “partnership” with the CSN bosses, as well as the popular-frontism of the leaders of the CUT labor federation aligned with the Partido dos Trabalhadores (Workers Party) of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, which has formed a class-collaborationist alliance with bourgeois politicians from the traditional populist parties. The leaflet called the CUT leaders’ reliance on the bourgeois courts “the road to defeat.” It stressed the need to link the fight at CSN with the defense of all the oppressed, calling for a shorter workweek with no loss in pay, demanding jobs at the plant for women and free 24-hour childcare centers.

The Trotskyist workers underscored the need for the “expulsion of every kind of police from the unions and the CUT, since cops are not part of the workers movement but the armed fist of the bourgeoisie.” The leaflet reprinted in the VO supplement also noted:

“A militant strike at CSN, a first necessary step, must be accompanied by shutting down the city of Volta Redonda: no bus should move, shut down all industry, commerce, transport, shut down city hall, the schools, so ‘Steel City’ will stop dead in its tracks. Elect a strike committee that can be recalled at any time.”
While United Steelworkers union bureaucrats in the U.S. call for protectionist measures against Brazilian steel, the Class Struggle Caucus in Volta Redonda declared:
“In a situation where the bosses try to pit Brazilian steel workers against the workers of other countries, we must declare our solidarity with our class brothers and sisters by making real the motto of the workers movement: ‘Workers of all countries, unite!’”
The CLC leaflet emphasized that these tasks require “building a revolutionary internationalist workers party, a Fourth Internationalist party...for a workers and peasants government as part of the socialist united states of Latin America and the extension of revolution to the powerful North American proletariat.”

The perspective of a genuine class-struggle fight against the arrogant CSN bosses, the government of president Fernando Henrique Cardoso and their godfathers in the International Monetary Fund drew the interest of increasing numbers of steel workers, primarily young workers. Meanwhile, as the whole city of Volta Redonda focused on the vote, LQB supporters played an important role in sparking an April 12 demonstration of 150 high-school students in defense of the six-hour day. In the march ending at CSN’s main gate, signs also demanded freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal and for Mexican students arrested during the strike at UNAM (Mexico’s National University). 

Vanguarda Operária

Volta Redonda students demonstrating for six-hour day
at CSN steel plant call for freedom for jailed Mexican 
student strikers, April 12.

In threatening to use the capitalist courts to try to silence Cerezo right after CSN fired him, the Força Sindical bureaucracy is part of a holy alliance of capitalist state repression against our comrades. Over the past few years, the Brazilian Trotskyists have faced an unrelenting onslaught from the courts and cops: municipal workers union president Geraldo Ribeiro was threatened with jail by the city government for campaigning against the racist firing of a black woman city worker; when LQB supporters mounted a drive to expel members of the guarda municipal (municipal police) from the union, they confronted armed military and city police intervention, Ribeiro was sued and threatened by the guarda commander, and a union assembly was shut down by police action on a court order to try to prevent the removal of the cops; pro-police provocateurs were then installed by the courts in a judicial coup to oust Ribeiro and other LQB supporters; and the provocateurs continued to unleash slander, violent gangsterism and endless court suits against the LQB, including a court order for the “search and seizure” of CLC leaflets.

That the repressive vendetta against our comrades goes much higher up in the bourgeoisie and considerably further back in time is now made chillingly clear in the revelations about the army’s death list. We print below a translation of the article from the April 2000 Vanguarda Operária supplement.
Military Scandal Reveals:

Army Death List Targeted 
Brazilian Worker Militants

The following article is translated from the April 2000 special supplement to Vanguarda Operária, newspaper of the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil.

“CAPTURE AND NEUTRALIZATION”: The words evoke the death squads that terrorized an entire continent, from the Southern Cone to Central America. And they come from Brazilian military officers seeking to exterminate the “subversives” who dare to organize struggles of the exploited and oppressed. Yet this is not a story from the darkest years of the dictatorship that ruled Brazil from 1964 to 1985. Recent spectacular revelations–unveiling the terrorist activities of the armed forces against workers struggles in the steel city of Volta Redonda a decade ago–show the iron fist of the capitalist state in today’s bourgeois “democracy,” in force in Brazil since the military turned power over to civilian politicians. The same conspirators and specialists in repression remain in the officer corps today, under the government of president Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

These revelations are the tip of the iceberg of what the press has called Brazil’s “parallel military government.” The topic returned to the headlines recently when high-ranking officers unleashed a torrent of threats and insults against the creation of a Defense Ministry supposedly subordinated to civilian government structures. Contrary to the illusions sown by reformists and popular frontists, it is not possible to “democratize” or reform the armed forces, which exist to defend the power of the ruling class.

Repression is not simply the work of this or that individual, nor of the particular government currently inhabiting the Planalto presidential palace. It is a function of the capitalist state, which in Friedrich Engels’ famous definition boils down to “special bodies of armed men” whose purpose is to defend the exploiters’ rule. During the investigation of the crimes committed by the army during the repression of the 1970s guerrilla movement in Araguaia (central Brazil), the chairman of the ultra-reformist Partido Comunista do Brasil (PCdoB) used his May 1996 testimony in the chamber of deputies to proclaim that his party is not an “inflexible opponent of the Armed Forces,” which “have an important role to play.” Yet the entire history of the class struggle shows that the role of the bourgeois armed forces is bloody repression in the service of the exploiters. The struggles of the oppressed must aim at sweeping away the entire capitalist system and its repressive apparatus through international socialist revolution. Only in this way can the working people of the cities and countryside defend themselves against the terror of the armed fist of the bourgeoisie.

The recent wave of revelations began in March 1999 with the publication of testimony by Dalton Roberto de Melo Franco, a former captain in the First Special Forces Battalion, regarding the bomb that destroyed the memorial to the workers killed by the army during the great 1988 Volta Redonda steel strike. This was followed in June by an official inquiry into the Riocentro incident, in which a bomb exploded near a May Day concert attended by 20,000 people in Rio de Janeiro in 1981. And in August of last year, a military officer revealed that the commander of the Special Forces prepared a list for the “clandestine capture” and “neutralization” of seven leaders of the strike which paralyzed the Companhia Siderúrgica Nacional steel plant, Latin America’s largest, for 31 days in 1990, among them our comrade Cerezo (Carlos Alexandre Honorato). Make no mistake: this was a hit list of people to be killed.

Almost ten years after being fired in the wake of the 1990 strike, Cerezo recently returned to his job as a welder at the CSN steel plant after winning a legal judgment against the company. The local journal Aqui (12 December 1999) called the event “The Victory of Determination,” observing: “What distinguishes Cerezo’s story from that of the other trade unionists involved [in the 1990 firings] is what happened between then and now. The welder refused to make a deal with the company because he wanted to uphold the basic right to return to work,” not only for himself but for all those fired. After many years, a labor relations court “finally granted him a ruling returning him to his former job.” Aqui noted as well that “together with other activists, he founded the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil, which publishes the Vanguarda Operária newspaper.” 

The Bourgeois State: Terror Machine Against the Exploited

Cerezo was recently interviewed by The Internationalist, publication of the Internationalist Group. (The IG, like the LQB, is a section of the League for the Fourth International.) In the future we will publish more of this interview; here we will focus on drawing the lessons of the 1990 events. As Cerezo points out:

“With the exit of the military dictatorship and the establishment of bourgeois ‘democracy,’ there was no basic change for the workers. The army, the military and local police all remained and would occupy CSN when the workers went on strike.... It didn’t change the life of the steel workers, who were still persecuted by the army, the municipal and Military Police as well as CSN’s own police force.”
Volta Redonda had been a “National Security Area” under the military dictatorship. Officially this came to an end in 1985, but in reality it continued eight more years, with the presence of the 22nd Motorized Infantry Battalion in the neighboring city of Barra Mansa.

During the great strike of 1988, in which comrade Cerezo was a member of the strike committee, the army invaded the plant, wounding 46 workers and murdering William Fernandes Leite (22 years old), Valmir Freitas Monteiro (27) and Carlos Augusto Barroso (19) on November 9. Yet even the military invasion and the betrayals of the union bureaucracy did not succeed in breaking the spirit of the steel workers, who resisted in the streets and inside the factory itself, where they faced off against army tanks and occupied the plant’s rooftops, throwing stones–and even lime–at the soldiers below. The bourgeoisie and its armed forces viewed with an abiding hatred the workers of Volta Redonda, who won a six-hour day at CSN as a result of this strike.

Internationalist photo

Volta Redonda monument to steel workers
William, Valmir and Barroso, killed on 9
November 1988 in army attack on CSN strike.
Army squad blew up original monument the 
day after it was inaugurated. 

As a direct provocation against the workers, in September 1999 president Cardoso nominated army general José Luiz Lopes da Silva, who commanded the invasion of CSN in which three strikers were killed, to the Superior Court of Military Justice, which oversees trials against military personnel. The government’s supporters were mobilized to ram the nomination through the Senate. In testimony before the Constitution and Justice Commission which rubber-stamped his nomination, general Lopes spoke of the invasion with pride: “From a military point of view it was a complete success” (O Estado de S. Paulo, 7 October 1999).

Lopes was not the only one rewarded for his bloody attempts to smash the workers’ resistance. Already in 1989 four Rio de Janeiro Military Police officers were decorated with the “Peacemaker” medal for their actions during the invasion of the struck CSN plant. In fact, an important role was played in the invasion by the Military Police, which worked closely together with the army. As Cerezo observes in the interview:

“Our entire experience with regard to the police underlines the point we always make: that cops of all kinds are not part of the workers movement.... When we carried out the fight to expel the guardas [municipal police] from the Volta Redonda municipal workers union, this was influenced not only by the lessons of theory–such as Trotsky’s explanation, in his writings on Germany and elsewhere, that police must not be part of the unions–but also by our own experience of living through this police repression.”
On May Day 1989, a memorial to the slain strikers William, Valmir and Barroso, designed by the renowned Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, was inaugurated in Volta Redonda. As Cerezo notes, “during the early hours of the following day, army commandos blew up the monument as an act of revenge against the steel workers and against the memory of what happened.” The shock waves from the explosion–a symbolic second murder of the fallen strikers–shattered windows a thousand feet away. Another explosive charge, which failed to detonate, was found near the ruins of the memorial.

Reserve general Newton Cruz, whose former posts included military commandant of the presidential palace and chief of the Central Agency of the National Intelligence Service, said at the time that he applauded the authors of the bomb plot. Nevertheless, armed forces spokesmen sought to cover up the truth by roundly denying any military involvement in the attack.

Cerezo recalls:

“Several days later the workers moved to rebuild the memorial, mixing the concrete themselves. It was striking how the army used blackmail to make sure no cranes would be made available and no company would take up the project to reconstruct the memorial. So all the various companies which were approached for the job refused to do it, and told people this was because of the army’s threats. The workers decided to put the memorial back up with their own hands.”
The blowing up of the monument also intensified many workers’ doubts and suspicions about the death, three months previously, of steel union leader José Juarez Antunes, who had led the 1988 strike. Juarez was elected mayor of Volta Redonda after the strike and had been in office 51 days when he died in a supposed auto accident.

The bishop of Volta Redonda, Waldyr Calheiros, has stated that a Federal Police agent warned him at the time that both he and Juarez had been marked for assassination in “accidents” that were supposed to occur in areas far from the city (Diário do Vale, 17 March 1999). Although Juarez was elected as a candidate of the Partido Democrático Trabalhista (PDT), the populist bourgeois party of Leonel Brizola, many capitalists and military officers considered his election an act of defiance and an insult against “order” by the workers. Later, death threats were made against former union president Marcelo Felício (who has now gone over to Cardoso’s party) and a lawyer hired by the union to investigate the death of Juarez.

The Revelations of Ex-Captain Franco

The existence of the death list against Cerezo and other leaders of the 1990 strike came out as part of the series of revelations about the attack on the November Ninth Monument, as well as other facets of military terror, that shook Brazil over the course of several months last year. The 1990 strike broke out in July of that year against the bourgeoisie’s campaign to go after the CSN workers in preparation for privatizing the company. The sequence of events provides insight into the machinery of bourgeois state power in Brazil.

In April 1999, Jornal do Brasil, one of the country’s leading dailies, published the revelations of Dalton Roberto de Melo Franco, a former captain in the army’s First Special Forces Battalion. Franco originally made his declarations as part of his defense in a military trial held in December 1998, in which he was accused of “diverting munitions” eight years earlier. He said he had been persecuted by a number of higher officers, among them the notorious general José Siqueira, former secretary of security in the Rio state government and a friend of populist leader Leonel Brizola.

                                                                                     Jornal do Brasil

Former captain Franco (circled, right) revealed that General Álvaro de 
Souza Pinheiro (circled, left) gave the order to blow up the November Ninth 
Memorial to the three Volta Redonda workers killed by army in 1988 strike.

Describing himself as the victim of a military frame-up, ex-captain Franco said he had been punished and then expelled from the army because he was ordered to participate in blowing up the November Ninth Monument in Volta Redonda but refused to do so unless he was given the order in writing. Franco had been part of a group of Special Forces officers that the army infiltrated into CSN in 1988 with the mission of identifying and “rapidly isolating the leaders” when troops invaded the plant. He noted that the following year, when plans for unveiling the monument were underway, “the army considered this an affront, that the intent was to create martyrs” (Jornal do Brasil, 14 March 1999).

Franco said he received the order to blow up the monument from then-colonel (now general) Álvaro de Souza Pinheiro; when he refused, the task was carried out by other agents. “The dynamite came from a group of numbers-runners who obtained it from stone quarries in the Baixada Fluminense region. They helped put together a storehouse of munitions to be used subsequently in irregular operations,” he related. The dynamite was kept in camouflage knapsacks that were part of a shipment of arms and matériel the army had seized from a Panamian-registered ship in 1986.

Franco went on to describe the activities of his former battalion, clearly modeled on the U.S. Special Forces “green berets” units, specialized in counterinsurgency and “unconventional” warfare, which were used by the United States to carry out terrorism and extermination operations in Vietnam. As the Jornal do Brasil described it:

“The First Special Forces Battalion is the apple of the eye of any commander of the Brazilian Army. Created in the 1960s, it is made up of soldiers renowned as Rambo-style warriors.”
Franco related that in his more than ten years in the battalion, he carried out espionage assignments in all the countries neighboring Brazil, from Argentina to Guyana. General Pinheiro had participated in the repression of the Araguaia guerrilla movement, and according to Franco the battalion carried out counterinsurgency missions in Colombia, Nicaragua and El Salvador. In the early ’90s, he said, Brazilian Special Forces soldiers were in El Salvador on the eve of the “peace” accords between the Salvadoran government and the FMLN guerrillas. “There were sectors of the rebel movement that didn’t like the accords. Our detachment provided support to a group of American counter-guerrilla troops,” Franco stated.

A Chain of Attacks and Provocations

In response to the scandal set off by ex-captain Franco, the army established a Military Police Inquiry (IPM, from its initials in Portuguese) to “investigate” his revelations. And who appointed the officer in charge of this IPM? The same general José Luiz Lopes who commanded the invasion of CSN in 1988, and today heads the army’s Eastern Military Command. The IPM was accompanied by a special commission of the Rio de Janeiro state assembly which “united” the legislators, from the popular-frontist “opposition” of the Partido dos Trabalhadores (the Workers Party of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva), the PCdoB and their bourgeois partners in Brizola’s PDT, the Partido Socialista Brasileiro of the landowner Miguel Arraes, etc. For his part, Luiz de Oliveira Rodrigues of the pro-company labor federation Força Sindical called the inquiry “good for the Army and good for society” (Diário do Vale, 18 March 1999). Thus “Luizinho,” who promoted the establishment of union-company “partnership” at CSN when the steel plant was privatized in 1993, used the occasion to underline yet again his loyalty to the exploiters and their state.

There have been so many parliamentary investigative commissions (CPIs) into one scandal after another that the bourgeois press has taken to calling Brazil “the land of the CPIs.” As for the Military Police Inquiry, this is a clear example of the continuity of many institutions of today’s “Brazilian democracy” with the old military dictatorship. As part of the “Great Strategy of the Doctrine of National Security,” the institution of IPMs was created in 1964, after the military coup carried out that year, specifically as a tool to identify and root out “subversive” elements. The bourgeois “justice” system, in both its military and civil incarnations, exists to defend the rule of the capitalist class, which in Brazil means racist, anti-working-class terror. Some months ago, the press revealed the “disappearance,” in São Paulo alone, of more than 1,100 inquiries and lawsuits accusing members of the Military Police of serious crimes, 80 percent of which had to do with the murder of civilians, many of them minors (O Globo, 23 May 1999).

The most famous IPM in Brazilian history, on the Riocentro affair, returned to the headlines in recent months in the context of the revelations by ex-captain Franco. On the night of 30 April 1981, a bomb exploded inside a car carrying two officers of the armed forces’ terror and torture unit DOI-CODI (Intelligence Operations Detachment-Center for Internal Defense Operations), killing one and gravely wounding the other. The incident occurred at a turning point in Brazil, after the huge metal workers’ strikes at the end of the 1970s. The bomb blew up near the Riocentro arena, where 20,000 people were attending a show to celebrate May Day featuring several of the countries’ most popular musicians, among them Milton Nascimento, Caetano Veloso and Gilberto Gil. The original IPM on the Riocentro incident declared the explosion to have been the work of anti-army “terrorists,” and this brazen fraud was used to whip up more white terror against “subversives.”

Almost two decades later, faced with Franco’s declarations in 1999, the army confronted growing pressure to reopen the Riocentro case. The armed forces’ first response was a scarcely veiled threat: the commander of the army declared that calls to reopen the case “disturbed” the military and demanded an “end to resentments and discord.” When this failed to do the trick, the second response was to mount a damage-control operation through a new IPM. Even the bourgeois daily O Globo (9 May 1999) warned that the result could be “to avoid having the IPM wind up revealing the inner workings of the parallel military government of the 1980s, tarnishing records and stirring up military circles on the eve of the creation of the Ministry of Defense.” Thus the decision was made to sacrifice Wilson Machado, the officer who survived the 1981 explosion, and general Newton Cruz, charging Machado with homicide and Cruz with perjury and disobedience. After an attempt to maintain silence with the argument that the 1964 law creating the National Intelligence Service exempted its agents from testifying, Cruz admitted knowing about the Riocentro bomb before it blew up.

In reality the Riocentro conspiracy involved the entire military terror apparatus. Press interviews, parliamentary testimony and other statements by individuals associated with military terror groups–among them ex-officers and “right-wing militants” linked to the armed forces and the paramilitary Communist-Hunting Commandos (CCC)–demonstrated that the intended purpose of the bomb carried by the two officers in their car was a controlled explosion which would provide cover for bombs placed to explode inside the auditorium at Riocentro. These were deactivated only after the failure of the two officers’ mission.

The Riocentro incident was part of a chain of terrorist acts by the “intelligence community” during this period, including the bombs which assassinated a secretary at the oppositionist Brazilian Lawyers Guild and maimed an employee of Rio de Janeiro’s town hall, as well as the series of bombings of newspaper stands in Rio used to create a panic over “terrorism.” According to Franco, the army considered blowing up newspaper stands in Rio again during the 1989 elections. Ten years later, a former member of the ultra-rightist CCC threatened to blow up a monument to murdered guerrilla leader Carlos Marighella in São Paulo, saying he “didn’t need help from Army officers” to do it and demanding the establishment of a monument to the founder of the bloody São Paulo State Department of Political and Social Order (DOPS) for “creating the Death Squad which hunted down and eliminated undesirables and participated in the fight against terrorists” (Diário do Vale, 5 November 1999).

Secret Brazilian Army document says that "in the event of imminent actions
which would constitute a grave disturbance of public order" seven "individuals
who stand out for their radical positions" should be "neutralized immediately."

Death List

Death squads were clearly the inspiration for the plan for capture and “neutralization” of CSN strikers put forward in 1990 by the commander of the Special Forces Battalion. In August 1999, the Jornal do Brasil published an extensive article on this plan, reproducing a secret report by then-colonel Álvaro Pinheiro which the newspaper obtained from a former military officer identified as “R.” Saying that he decided to divulge these secrets because “the Army caused me problems,” R. confirmed the essential facts of ex-captain Franco’s revelations about the Special Forces’ terrorist activities and turned over seven army documents, three of which detailed the movements of Volta Redonda steel workers and visits by trade unionists and political figures from other cities during the 1990 CSN strike.

The secret report of 31 July 1990 begins with the observation that “July 30 marked the 20th day of the strike at the Companhia Siderúrgica Nacional” and that “the proposal presented by [CSN] president ROBERTO PROCÓPIO LIMA NETO...was rejected by the workers.” (Lima Neto was the frontman for the capitalists most interested in privatizing CSN, and later became a right-wing politician.)

The report goes on to give detailed information on the speakers and discussions at union assemblies, stressing disagreements between the most militant activists and “the ‘moderate’ wing of the Union, whose foremost representative is union president VAGNER BARCELOS, [who] completely opposes any kind of radicalization.” (Barcelos was a member of the Democracia Socialista tendency in the PT, followers of the late pseudo-Trotskyist Ernest Mandel; he later joined the staff of Cardoso’s minister of sports, Pelé.) The document highlights “the proposal to blockade the Dutra Highway put forward...by activists from CONVERGÊNCIA SOCIALISTA (CS) and the ORGANIZAÇÃO QUARTA INTERNACIONAL (OQI).” It also notes that the company of Military Police stationed in the city “completely lacks the credibility and reliability required for reestablishing order when necessary.”

Then the report gives a list of seven “individuals who stand out for their radical positions,” providing the full name of each of them, including Luiz Antônio Vieira Albano, Marcelo Felício, Isaque Fonseca, Wanderley Barcelos, Nilson Carneiro Sales and Luiz Antônio Coelho Ferla. One of the first people listed is:

“CARLOS ALEXANDRE HONORATO–‘CEREZO’–Union activist. He is one of the foremost members of the OQI and a member of the PT of VOLTA REDONDA.”
To be included on this list meant being marked for death, as shown in the subsequent part of the report, which put forward the plan for eliminating the activists:
“In the event of imminent actions which would constitute a grave disturbance of public order (blocking the Dutra highway, occupying key points inside or outside CSN, looting, etc.), these elements should be neutralized immediately. It is important to stress that their capture, which would be carried out in a clandestine fashion, would not be difficult to carry out, given the freedom and lack of concern with which they circulate at the present time.”
Jornal do Brasil comments: “One can assume that when [then-colonel] Álvaro proposed the ‘capture’ and ‘neutralization’ of union leaders, and sent this suggestion to the higher echelons, his superiors condoned this. There is no report of him being punished for making an illegal proposal.” Punished? He was promoted, and today he is a general. With the fake naïveté of the bourgeois press, JB asks: “What does it mean to clandestinely capture and neutralize striking workers?”

Everyone knows the answer: in the jargon of the “intelligence community,” neutralize is one of the many ways of saying kill. In the United States, the FBI’s “counterintelligence program” COINTELPRO for “neutralizing” black radicals led to the murder of 38 members of the Black Panther Party and the death of many other fighters against racist oppression. The police frame-up against Mumia Abu-Jamal, the radical journalist and former Black Panther on Pennsylvania’s death row, was the culmination of years of persecution against him under this same secret police program. In fighting to mobilize the power of the working class to free Jamal, we are fighting against capitalist state terror here in Brazil as well, and all over the world.

                                                                      Marcos de Oliveira/Imagens da Terra

Assembly of metal workers during 31-day strike, July 1990.

The 1990 Steel Strike

In his interview with The Internationalist, comrade Cerezo recalls that “we suspected at the time, but now the revelations confirm the fact that they really sought to capture and neutralize part of the strike committee” in 1990. The 1990 strike was one of the most important struggles in the period preceding the “auction”–in reality an outright giveaway–of CSN. The steel company’s privatization followed a plan originally presented by the government of Fernando Collor de Melo, which soon became an international symbol of presidential corruption; it was carried through by president Itamar Franco with the support of Rio governor Leonel Brizola. (Both Franco and Brizola are now “heroes” of Lula’s popular front.)

“The strike began because CSN owed each steel worker four to six months’ back wages,” Cerezo notes, “under the pretext that the company was in a financial crisis and was going bankrupt.” Meanwhile, CSN’s standard practice over the course of many years was to furnish steel to large Brazilian and international corporations at prices well below the cost of production. “So a struggle broke out to demand the back wages and also to oppose privatization and win back the jobs of a number of workers who had been fired.”
Cerezo continues:

“It’s important to point out that this struggle occurred immediately after the election of Collor, who openly said CSN might be shut down.... One of the ways Collor’s attack was expressed was by not paying the company’s debt to the workers and to make a list of people to be laid off in preparation for the privatization. Collor sent his frontman Procópio Lima Neto to carry out this mission. Lima Neto was put in place by the Monteiro Aranha group, a group of businessmen known for living off of corruption, which was getting ready to take a big slice of the pie when state-owned industries were privatized. They served as a front for imperialist companies which were constantly exercising pressure and various forms of blackmail as pioneers in the push for privatization and mass layoffs at CSN and other state enterprises.
“So the strike was against all of this. It was the hostile reception the workers gave to this frontman for imperialism and Brazilian big capital.”
For his part, Lima Neto did not bother to conceal his contempt and hatred for the workers, including in his references to the killing of the three strikers in 1988. When questioned about his decision not to ask that troops be sent against the strikers in 1990, he responded: “I’m not going to give them any more corpses.” 
In fighting for this strike, Cerezo and the Luta Metalúrgica group (predecessor of today’s LQB), together with other activists, had to wage a major struggle against the union leadership: “The union bureaucracy reacted by trying to put obstacles in the way of a strike.” Led by the Mandelite Vagner Barcelos, they argued that the company’s crisis made it impossible to call a strike and that the CUT labor federation should avoid being accused of instigating “chaos.”

The 31-day strike was preceded by a plant occupation on 11 May 1990. At the beginning of the occupation a contingent of 8,000 workers entered the plant singing the Internationale, the revolutionary working-class anthem composed during the Paris Commune. Cerezo recalls: “In several other marches and mass meetings the workers sang the Internationale. It was exciting and quite beautiful, and showed the radicalism of this struggle. The workers were already in the habit of doing this, because the union sound truck always used to play a tape of the Internationale, and sometimes the words were passed out to the workers so they could sing the lyrics.”

                                                                                              João Ripper/Imagens da Terra

Demonstration by railroad workers against mass layoffs by the National Steel Company,
May 1990.

At a mass union meeting held during the plant occupation, comrade Cerezo put forward the proposal to maintain and intensify the mobilization and clear a path of struggle for the entire workers movement. Within a short time there would be strikes by the Ford workers and electrical workers; millions of working people throughout Brazil wanted to resist layoffs and the brutal slashing of real wages. But the spokesmen for the union bureaucracy succeeded in pressuring the CSN workers into temporarily suspending the plant occupation while they presented various reformist schemes for fixing up the company’s financial situation.

Fighting against this sell-out perspective, in July “we called another mass meeting, and this time the workers voted to go on strike,” Cerezo remembers. “The 31-day strike was characterized by a high level of mobilization, with the participation of 28,000 to 30,000 workers, who decided to face this situation head-on and refused to be intimidated by the murder of William, Valmir and Barroso in the previous strike two years earlier.”

Yet despite the CSN workers’ enthusiasm and the potential to broaden the struggle, in the midst of the strike there was an attempt at reformist sabotage led by representatives of Convergência Socialista (predecessor of today’s PSTU [United Socialist Workers Party]), the followers of the late Argentine pseudo-Trotskyist Nahuel Moreno. Cerezo explains:

“In the middle of the strike, Convergência proposed that CSN’s debt to the steel workers be turned into debentures, a kind of bonds which the workers would hold while they waited for a supposed improvement in CSN’s situation, which meant that Convergência had swallowed the company’s whole line about the crisis it was in. It was clear that the capitalists were saying this to gouge and lay off the workers. But these people created this illusion about swapping the four to six months’ back wages for bonds, debentures and other paper issued by the government. This was how the way was cleared for privatizing CSN. The proposal came from Convergência, and the Mandelites, the Catholic left, the PDT–all of them part of the union executive board–accepted it. This was a heavy blow which we fought against at the time.”
In reality, he continues, “this was the foundation stone for the ‘independent CUT Investment Club’ created two years later” by the popular-frontists to grease the skids for privatizing the plant outright. “It was class collaboration under the guise that CSN was in crisis, that it was unsustainable, so they created ‘leftist’ phrases about the debt being paid when the company recovered.... The Morenoites were the pioneers of parceria” (“partnership,” Força Sindical’s slogan for union-company collaboration in a privatized CSN). The same reformist logic later led the Morenoites to participate directly in the Frente Brasil Popular, the class-collaborationist alliance between bourgeois politicians and Lula’s PT.

The entire course of this struggle, in which the main protagonists included militants of three different tendencies which identified themselves (falsely) as Trotskyists, underlines that the fight for an authentic class-struggle leadership is at the same time the struggle for genuine Trotskyism. This is the task undertaken by the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil.

The Bureaucracy’s Three Nooses and Lima Neto’s Attack

Referring to this betrayal by Convergência, Cerezo says: “Even so, with their open class collaboration, they were unable to put a stop to the strike. The strike continued for another 15 days.” He continues:

“At a certain point the bureaucrats decided they didn’t want me to speak in one of the union assemblies, and they used a squad of violent goons to try to stop me by force. I broke through the goon squad, got up on the sound truck and said the only way I would agree not to speak was if the assembly voted not to let me. It was a meeting of about 5,000 workers. While a union bureaucrat tried to take the microphone away from me, the workers voted massively for me to speak. The bureaucrat was defeated and had to let me use the mike. I said that both the bureaucracy and Convergência were creating obstacles aimed at defeating our strike.
“In the next days the union bureaucracy put up three nooses, threatening to hang me, together with Nilson and another Luta Metalúrgica activist called Boquinha–in other words, to lynch us. This was about 15 days into the strike, and they put up a big beam with the three nooses and signs saying they were for the three of us. The ones who organized this were a bureaucrat from the PDT together with the Mandelite Vagner Barcelos. This was directly related to them trying to stop us from speaking and their attempts to put an end to the strike.”
But Cerezo says “we didn’t let ourselves be intimidated, we managed to speak in the assemblies and we put forward the proposal for the strike to be extended, to occupy the Dutra Highway and transmit our struggle to other workers, and for us to join together with the strike which had broken out at Ford, and with the electrical workers’ strike. The workers supported this proposal.”

It was these debates which proved so worrisome to the officers and spies of the Special Forces Battalion, as shown in the recently published documents. It was against the plan to extend the strike, in particular, that they proposed the capture and neutralization of strike activists.

When the union bureaucrats failed to prevent Cerezo from speaking, Procópio Lima Neto attacked him in the company’s Informativo newsletter, saying that Cerezo was putting forward dangerous proposals and that the strike “is being used for political purposes.” In an article titled “Our Answer to Procópio,” the Luta Metalúrgica bulletin (August 1990) responded: 

YES, OUR STRIKE IS POLITICAL. It is the politics of defending the workers massacred by savage wage-cutting.... It is against your politics of privatization and draining CSN to pay off the foreign debt. Our strike is against your politics and that of the government you represent.”

The slogans Luta Metalúrgica put forward during the strike also included opening the company’s books to inspection by the workers, cutting the workweek with no loss in pay, and workers control of production.

Strikebreaking Role of the Popular Front

Cerezo recounts that despite the workers’ support for the proposal to extend the strike, “the bureaucracy did not abide by the decision and asked Lula to come to Volta Redonda.”

“So Lula traveled to Volta Redonda and had a meeting with activists, excluding the Luta Metalúrgica members such as myself, Nilson, Boquinha. What he said was that we were a danger. And Lula said the strike should end and that the workers should not follow the proposals put forward by these radicals like Cerezo, Nilson, Boquinha, etc.
“From that point on the union bureaucracy dealt heavy blows to the strike until it was finally able to defeat the strike, without holding a union assembly, in a treacherous fashion, and with various people being fired. Approximately three days after Lula came to town, the strike ended. It was a major betrayal against the workers.”
Cerezo explains that this betrayal was the direct application of the politics of the popular front. While the PT emerged from the wave of tumultuous workers struggles in the late ’70s and early ’80s, Lula’s party always had a reformist program. Evolving further to the right, however, it abandoned its original slogan of “Workers vote for workers” and decided to crystallize the program of class collaboration by forming the Frente Brasil Popular with bourgeois politicians for the 1989 presidential elections.

                                               La Jornada

PT leader Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva went to
Volta Redonda in August 1990 to stop steel
strike and isolate militant leaders like Cerezo.

Cerezo, who was elected president of the Volta Redonda PT in 1988, voted against the Frente Brasil Popular at the PT’s Sixth Conference, held in São Paulo in June 1989. His position was approved at a plenary meeting of 290 members of the Volta Redonda PT, against the violent opposition of Convergência Socialista in particular. It was in this context that Cerezo and other Luta Metalúrgica militants joined Causa Operária (formally called the OQI), in the belief that it represented a proletarian opposition to class collaboration, although in reality Causa Operária voted for Lula, candidate of the popular front.

Cerezo explains that “the popular front was in high gear”:

“So the formation of the popular front and the betrayal of the 1990 strike are two directly related events.
“The leftists who were active against us in the union were part of the popular front. In the period immediately before the strike, the Mandelites, who at that time were leading the union, were even calling for a government of Lula and Brizola. In other words, they were proposing an even more right-wing popular front, which would include not only Arraes’ PSB but also the PDT. This was actually carried out later [for the 1998 elections].”
A year after the strike, the PT began a purge against its left wing, beginning with Causa Operária. The first targets were the comrades of Luta Metalúrgica in Volta Redonda. In a document written in 1991 on the eve of the PT’s First Congress, Cerezo wrote that this “witch hunt” was launched “at a time when the threat is looming that CSN will be privatized, bringing mass layoffs,” after the city’s proletariat had in effect gone up against “the ‘National Security Area’ and courageously confronted the armed fist of the bourgeoisie–the army.” He warned that privatization and repression were “the solution the popular front is preparing for the population of Volta Redonda.”

The reformist leaders soon gave their response, as Cerezo recounts in the interview: “Since they were unable to achieve their objective through a vote in Volta Redonda, they sent João Machado, a Mandelite who was part of the national leadership of the PT; Jorge Bitar from the Rio PT, who is now the secretary of planning under Rio state governor Garotinho; Dodora from Força Socialista (another tendency in the PT), the leader of the teachers union in Volta Redonda; Vagner Barcelos, and Ernesto Braga, today the national president of the PT. They put together a special commission to intervene in the Volta Redonda PT in order to expel us.” (The name of the Mandelite tendency in the PT is Democracia Socialista, which as it turns out translates into “democracy” for the bourgeoisie and expulsion for class-struggle militants.) The LM comrades showed up at a PT local meeting and found a sheet posted on the wall announcing that they had been “excluded” from the party.

For the reformist PT leaders, these expulsions were the counterpart of the process of deepening class collaboration, as shown for example by the PT’s and CUT’s participation in “chambers of industry” with the employers and the Collor government; the presence of prominent PTer Erundinha in president Itamar Franco’s cabinet; the PT’s participation in state and municipal governments run by the PDT, Cardoso’s PSDB, the PMDB (Party of the Brazilian Democratic Movement), etc. But even where the PT governed alone, its policies were no different from those put forward by these bourgeois parties.

Against the reformist PT and the bourgeois popular front, the comrades of Luta Metalúrgica continued the struggle for the revolutionary independence of the working class, which later led them to clash with Causa Operária’s political line. As Cerezo points out in the interview with The Internationalist:

“Causa Operária said in 1989 that it was against the popular front. But from ’89 to ’94, when we were in CO, what they really did was tail Lula and the PT.... In all the elections they came out for supporting and voting for Lula.
“During the 1990 strike their publications were militant in form, but when it came to the revolutionary program and important issues like the woman question, the black question, the defense of homosexuals, they had absolutely nothing to say.
“So what we did, knowing what the popular front was about, was to try to look more deeply into the program, and we found there was an immense vacuum in their program. So we decided to fight on the black question, the woman question, the popular front, putting forward documents in 1994 stating our repudiation of these politics of class collaboration and of ignoring the revolutionary struggle against special oppression.”
Cerezo stresses:
“Our line of combating class collaboration means no vote to any candidate of the popular front. We have seen and lived what the popular front really means and how it is the enemy of the working class. On the basis of these experiences and lessons, our group went through a revolutionary evolution. We fight for a revolutionary workers party, a Trotskyist party. In 1996 we formed the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil, which two years later was one of the founding sections of the League for the Fourth International.”
                                                                                            Vanguarda Operária

Cerezo pointing to poster showing stand-off between the army and workers in
1988 steel strike which won the six-hour day. Poster says: "No to Privatization 
of CSN. For Workers Control of Production."

The Struggle Continues: Forge a Revolutionary Workers Party!

Those who fought against bourgeois state repression, against the popular front, for the intransigent defense of the workers’ rights, continue fighting for the interests of all the oppressed and exploited, the struggle for international socialist revolution. They remained at their posts, and call on new forces to join the struggle.

Having denounced the “armed fist of the bourgeoisie” which repressed strikers and prepared a hit list for assassinations, in 1996 the LQB carried out the struggle for the expulsion of the municipal guardas from the Volta Redonda municipal workers union (SFPMVR), which was voted by the union assembly of 25 July 1996. The following year, the LQB and the Comitê de Luta Classista (CLC–Class Struggle Caucus) denounced support by the opportunist “left” to “strikes” by the Military Police, stressing that police are professionals of bourgeois repression who must be expelled from all unions and from the CUT. We have defended the class-struggle program against the repression, physical attacks and slanders of the pro-police provocateurs of Artur Fernandes’ clique (as well as their “left” apologists, among them the Liga Bolchevique Internacionalista and its “Revolutionary Trade-Union Tendency”), imposed by the bourgeois courts against the will of the workers so as to masquerade as the SFPMVR. And we have defended this program against the capitalist state, which even ordered the “search and seizure” of our leaflets in September 1997.

In the 1998 elections we warned that the “Broad Front” of Lula and Brizola bound the exploited hand and foot in the face of the onslaught by Cardoso and the IMF; and as an expression of proletarian opposition to the popular front, we called for casting a blank ballot. Against class collaboration, we call for workers mobilizations to defeat the starvation plans of the Brazilian bourgeoisie and their imperialist senior partners.

As part of the internationalist struggle against black oppression, we have succeeded in getting various unions to begin mobilizing in strikes and work stoppages to demand immediate freedom for Mumia Abu-Jamal, a first step that must be extended and intensified. The struggle for black liberation through socialist revolution “is a basic and strategic question as part of the program of permanent revolution in Brazil,” observes Cerezo, which manifests itself in many different issues, “from the struggle against the murder of street children and forced sterilization of black women to the question of leukopenia. [Leukopenia, the drastic reduction in white blood cells caused by exposure to the benzene gas produced by steel plants’ coke ovens, affects many workers in the Volta Redonda area.] Long before the bourgeois press finally decided leukopenia was newsworthy, back in 1993 at the first “CUT anti-racist seminar” Luta Metalúrgica was the first to denounce CSN’s racist practice of characterizing this as a “black disease.”

Today, when many leukopenia sufferers are fighting for their rights, the company insists that leukopenia “is not considered an illness according to the criteria of the Ministry of Health” (O Estado de S. Paulo, 3 December 1999). At the same, in yet another example of the phony character of the bourgeoisie’s “environmental laws,” a recent press report stated that “the index of benzene in the air of Volta Redonda is 80 times greater than the level allowed by legislation.” 

The great themes and issues of past struggles have a very concrete expression today in Brazil and at CSN. Cerezo states in the interview:

“We want to fight against the return of the 8-hour work shift, together with fighting this attack on workers who suffer from leukopenia. CSN wants to destroy the victory won by the workers in the 1988 strike, when we won the six-hour day. Together with firings of people with leukopenia, they want to increase the workday and carry out mass layoffs. We put out a bulletin on this question, calling for a militant strike not only at CSN but at other steel plants as well, to fight CSN’s policy of wage-slashing, layoffs and racism.”
The Class Struggle Caucus bulletin (19 May 1999) emphasizes that this means shutting down Volta Redonda completely and extending the strike to the other sectors of the empire controlled by CSN (Vale do Rio Doce mines, the Light electric company, etc.). The slogans it puts forward include an end to layoffs and the brutal speed of production at the plant; cutting the workweek with no loss in pay, dividing available work among those presently employed and unemployed; opening jobs to women and establishing high-quality 24-hour child-care centers. The bulletin points out:
“In a situation where the bosses try to pit Brazilian steel workers against the workers of other countries, we must declare our solidarity with our class brothers and sisters by making real the motto of the workers movement: ‘Workers of all countries, unite!... Forge a class-struggle leadership, cohered in the world party of socialist revolution, a reforged Fourth International, to lead the struggle for power for the proletariat and all the oppressed!”
Cerezo ended the interview by noting: “Young people in particular are key to the revolution. So we want them to know about the struggle in order to draw lessons from the defeats and the victories, to learn, and above all to join the ranks of the struggle and the revolution. Against every obstacle we continue the fight, and we invite the workers to join us.” n

To contact the Internationalist Group and the League for the Fourth International, send e-mail to: internationalistgroup@msn.com