Vanguarda Operária
October 1998

Declaration of the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil   on the Elections  

You Can't Combat Capital with the Popular Front 

Against the Cardoso/IMF Onslaught:  Fight for Workers Revolution! 

    The following statement is translated from Vanguarda Operária 
    supplement No. 3 (October 1998).

 With national elections coming on October 4, the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil, section of the League for the Fourth International, calls on class-conscious workers, on all those who seek to combat capitalist exploitation and oppression, to fight for the political independence of the proletariat, breaking all the chains which subordinate working people to capital and building a revolutionary workers party. We stress that to defeat the anti-working-class onslaught which the domestic and international bourgeoisie are preparing to launch after the elections, it is necessary to wage proletarian opposition to the popular front. Neither the class collaboration of the “União do Povo” (Union of the People) with long-time regional bosses and big landowners like [traditional bourgeois populists] Leonel Brizola and Miguel Arraes, nor parliamentary cretinism–revolutionary class struggle is the only response which can defeat the starvation policy of [Brazil’s president] Fernando Henrique Cardoso and the International Monetary Fund. 

As we wrote some months ago: “This is the third year of Cardoso’s presidential term, which ends in 1999. He is following the IMF’s prescriptions to the letter, having carried out all his assignments and subordinated himself to the ‘Washington consensus’. To gain approval from the Wall Street bankers and imperialists, the social-democratic professor Cardoso ferociously attacked the Brazilian workers’ main historical gains: from youth to retirees, everyone is being squeezed. Even more serious is the drastic growth of unemployment” (“Cardoso Prepares for Reelection,” Vanguarda Operária No. 3, April-June 1998). 

The imperialists thought that with the destruction of the Soviet Union, they would have free rein to impose their starvation plans on the workers of the entire world. What followed was a global anti-working-class and privatizing offensive. But what has been the result? A world capitalist crisis, beginning in the stock markets and affecting the entire economy. Noting that the Brazilian economy is more than twice the size of Russia’s, now in ruins, spokesmen for imperialist high finance have raised a cry of alarm. “What is at stake is not just Brazil but Latin America, the U.S. economy, and therefore the world economy,” exclaimed an analyst from the Institute of International Finance (Jornal do Brasil, 30 September). 

Imperialist worries are summed up in the title of an article from Fortune magazine (28 September): “Brazil: Hanging by a Thread.” The bankers and imperialist politicians of Wall Street and the White House and their junior partner in the Palácio do Planalto [Brazil’s presidential palace] are calling for cuts in public spending and aim to privatize essential social sectors like education and health, which are already being bled dry with low wages for public employees and terrible working conditions. They are to be turned over to the control of “private enterprise,” accompanied by a package of demands including mass firings of public workers. 

Today the IMF and most of the Brazilian bourgeoisie are placing their bets on Cardoso to maintain an appearance of “stability” in the face of market crises from Asia to Russia, in order to carry out their attacks on the working people after the elections. This crisis is “one of the results of the counterrevolutionary destruction of the former USSR, prepared by the Stalinists, the consequences of which we are suffering today, with the loss of rights and conquests around the world” (Class Struggle Caucus Bulletin No. 9, 18 August 1998). 

Coming amid an inter-imperialist trade war growing out of a crisis of overproduction, more attacks are being planned against the working class throughout the world. The effects of this deepening inter-imperialist trade war bring to mind the scenes of crisis preceding the first and second world wars, along with Clausewitz’s saying that “war is the continuation of politics.” In Brazil these attacks are aimed particularly against the retirement system and public employees. 

Capital flight has meant the loss of most of the money received from the privatization of [the previously state-owned phone company] Telebrás. Today, the IMF is calling on its marionette Cardoso for discussions on the Brazilian crisis and the preparation of a new package of cuts headed up by the demand for a fiscal “reform” to guarantee that profits will flow and speculative capital will remain in the country. The new measures being studied by the IMF will certainly bring more exploitation, more privatizations/giveaways, more police terror, more racism, more oppression of women, more attacks against homosexuals, Indians and all the oppressed, more attacks on education and the rights of youth, more bloody repression against landless peasants. 

The response of the workers movement must be to organize massive workers mobilizations to defeat the Cardoso/IMF hunger plan. But this is impossible without breaking the chains which bind the workers movement to the bourgeoisie–the chains of class collaboration. The supposed “alternative” put forward by almost the entire Brazilian left is one or another version of the popular front; in other words, a coalition which subordinates the working people to a supposed alliance with sectors of the exploiters. The “Union of the People” promoted by the reformist Partido dos Trabalhadores (the Workers Party of Luíz Inácio Lula da Silva), with its candidate Lula; the return to an earlier version of the popular front (Frente Brasil Popular) wished for and promoted by the PSTU (Partido Socialista dos Trabalhadores Unificado, followers of the late Nahuel Moreno); or more “radical” versions of the same promoted by various left groups–in reality what we are seeing is a syphilitic chain of popular frontism. Against this, we of the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil/League for the Fourth International call on the workers movement to break with the bourgeoisie! For class struggle, not class collaboration! 

Against the “Union of the People” Popular Front of Lula and Brizola 

Already in 1989 and 1994, Lula was the candidate of the Frente Brasil Popular, a classic popular front subordinating the workers movement and the left to sectors of the bourgeoisie. The PT, a reformist party, thereby subordinated itself openly to the bosses’ parties. The PT has participated in governments in the Federal District and the state of Rondônia which carried out attacks against the workers and massacres against the landless peasants. In Volta Redonda, where City Hall is ruled by the Popular Front of the PSB (the bourgeois Brazilian Socialist Party of populist landowner Arraes) and the PT, it tried to lay off 2,000 city workers and was stopped only by the mobilization and strike led by comrade Geraldo Ribeiro in 1993. Now in the third year of its latest term, the Popular Front is attacking city workers’ rights, increasing hourly workloads with no pay increase, sending the Municipal Guard and Military Police to invade union meetings and violently attack strikers. It is currently escalating its attacks, cutting the wages of almost 1,000 city workers in some cases by more than 50 percent in line with the orders of the bourgeois “justice” system. 

In May of this year in Brasília, during a march for jobs called by the popular front itself, the PT governor sent the police to disperse the demonstration with the use of horses, police dogs and heavy weaponry, winning fulsome praise from [rightist leader] Antônio Carlos Magalhães and now from Cardoso himself. The same thing occurs in the countryside, where landless peasants were massacred in Corumbiara by order of the governor of Rondôndia, where the PT participates in a state ministry. Now the PT has made its popular front even “broader,” bringing old-line representatives of bourgeois populism like Brizola, Arraes and others into the “Union of the People.” 

The popular front means terrible defeats for the workers and oppressed, from France and Spain (in the 1930s) to Brazil in 1964, Indonesia in 1965, Chile in 1973 and today in France, where the popular front is attacking workers and immigrants. Our policy is that of the Bolshevik Party of Lenin and Trotsky, which led the October 1917 Revolution against Kerensky’s popular front, the bourgeois Provisional Government. 

Our position is the most intransigent proletarian opposition to popular frontism. Not one vote to any candidate of the class-collaborationist alliance headed by Lula. Given the anti-democratic election laws and the absence of a genuine working-class alternative in these elections, our proletarian opposition to the bourgeoisie and class collaboration is expressed through a voto nulo (casting a blank ballot). 

In the face of announced plans for destroying the retirement system and carrying out mass firings of public workers, ordered directly by the IMF and implemented by Cardoso, the working class must prepare now for the coming battle. The bourgeois offensive against all the working people must be answered with a class-struggle workers offensive fighting for power. The necessary response would begin with a strike of all public employees, then extending to the private sector in a general strike paralyzing all large industry, transport and commerce, which would be a showdown with the bourgeois power. To lead this fight, it will be necessary to throw out the existing pro-capitalist leaderships and form organs of struggle, workers councils, led by a genuine revolutionary workers party which can head the masses of landless peasants in a fight for a workers and peasants government and the extension of revolution to the imperialist centers. 

The Opportunist Left and the Elections 

The Stalinists (PCdoB, PCB, etc.) participate directly in popular frontism, in accordance with their line of alliances with a non-existent “progressive” bourgeoisie and a “two-stage” revolution: class collaboration today, socialism never. 

The Partido Socialista dos Trabalhadores Unificado (PSTU) is presently trying to position itself to Lula’s left, seeking to win the votes of workers who are fed up with Lula’s constant maneuvering with one bourgeois politician after another. But the PSTU’s campaign does not represent even the beginnings of a class-struggle opposition to the popular front. They are reformists who participated directly in the Frente Brasil Popular in 1994, showing once and for all that they have nothing to do with revolutionary class politics. They never renounced that policy and only complain that the latest version is too right-wing. They want a return to the older-style popular front (talking about “the PT as it was in the beginning”) with a bit more “militant” and nationalist verbiage. This position is clearly expressed in the party’s election program, which claims as its own the position that the PT occupied in 1994, maintaining the basic programmatic guidelines of that year’s popular front. 

The PSTU’s program is made up solely of “democratic” slogans, demanding that the capitalists pay for the crisis. This is a social-democratic utopia which will never occur under capitalism, since it is the workers and poor of the cities and countryside who will always bear the costs of the crisis and suffer police repression. Against this reformism, our program is for revolutionary expropriation of the bourgeoisie. The PSTU’s program talks about a workers and socialist alternative, but it never talks about socialist revolution. It talks about agrarian reform, but not agrarian revolution. It talks about defeating Cardoso and his neo-liberal plan, not about mobilizing the international working class in the struggle against capitalist exploitation. 

The PSTU’s deeds, as well as its words, show that it is a reformist cover for the popular front. In April, immediately after governor Cristóvão Buarque of the PT sent cops to attack workers and landless peasants marching in Brasília, the PSTU’s candidate José Maria Almeida declared at a public meeting in the same city that if there is a second round (run-off election) between Lula and Cardoso, the PSTU will vote for Lula. 

In a balance sheet of the teachers’ strike in the state of Rio de Janeiro, we wrote: “In order to avoid seeming ‘radical,’ the PSTU pushed for calling off the movement, following the prescriptions of the CUT [PT-linked labor federation] reformists. In the midst of a growing mobilization at the state and national levels...despite all the possibilities of extending the strike movement, the PSTU went hand in hand with the reformist teachers union leaders and decided on capitulation in order to attract the PT left on the eve of the PT’s state convention, in an electoralist wave in the shadow of the popular front” (Vanguarda Operária No. 3, April-June 1998). During the General Motors strike in the U.S., the PSTU (which controls the GM workers union in São José do Campo) did nothing to paralyze production in solidarity with the strikers–whose fight, together with the strike at UPS, showed the powerful U.S. proletariat once again on the stage of the class struggle in that country and gave the lie to these Third Worldists who ignore the struggles and importance of the proletariat in the imperialist countries. In other words the PSTU are union bureaucrats with “socialist” rhetoric. 

Meanwhile, when the Military Police, the armed fist of racist capitalism against the workers and oppressed, launched their “strikes” to demand more money and better conditions (arms, etc.) for carrying out their bloody work, the PSTU proclaimed to the four winds its support for the cops! Class-conscious workers must oppose the PSTU campaign. No vote to the reformists who support police “strikes”! 

The Partido da Causa Operária (PCO–Workers Cause Party, linked to the Argentine Partido Obrero of Jorge Altamira) talks against the popular front, but always votes for the candidates of the popular front, calling them workers and peasants candidates when they are actually candidates of class collaboration. That was their line in 1989. That was their line in 1994. “These fake-Trotskyist popular frontists played a game of make-believe: they simultaneously criticized the Frente Brasil Popular and called for voting for the ‘worker candidate Lula,’ covering over the historical characterization of popular fronts, which are a class-collaborationist ‘alliance’ to subordinate the workers movement to bourgeois politicians and parties” (LQB Revista Teórica No. 1, August 1997). 

Today, when Lula’s alliance includes bourgeois politicians who are even further to the right, the PCO is voting for Lula once again! In other words, the PCO’s campaign is a little appendage of the popular front. The PCO gives a left cover to the popular front when it calls for a “critical” vote to Lula, who is putting into practice the program of class collaboration. This is yet another proof of the PCO’s Menshevism and opposition to genuine Trotskyism. The PCO puts forward stagism to the masses and cherishes the same hope as the PSTU: that Lula may break with the bourgeoisie or in the best case that the working class, disillusioned with Lula, may accept these parties’ own program, although their program was never revolutionary. Trotsky said always to “speak the truth to the masses.” The PCO does the opposite. 

The PCO calls for an “agrarian reform controlled by the workers,” yet agrarian reforms are decreed in laws by bourgeois governments. This means that the PCO fights for bourgeois agrarian reform and not for agrarian revolution, the historic banner of Trotskyists. 

Let us recall as well the fact that the PCO supported the forces of capitalist counterrevolution in the former USSR and East Europe, a great defeat for the workers of the world. “When the capitalist counterrevolution was advancing in East Europe and the former USSR in the 90s, the PCO said, in chorus with the followers of Moreno, Ernest Mandel, Guillermo Lora and other fake-leftists: ‘To make an omelette you have to break some eggs’” (LQB Revista Teórica No. 1). 

The “Liga Bolchevique Internacionalista” (LBI) talks of the voto nulo. It calls itself “Bolshevik,” but continues to uphold the position of voting for Lula as candidate of the Frente Brasil Popular in 1989, since then it was “only” an alliance with the national bourgeoisie and supposedly not with the IMF! In other words, their politics are nationalist, putting forward a maximum of disguised Third World nationalism and not internationalism. The LBI expresses bigoted contempt for the campaigns which the LQB and LFI carry out in defense of the specially oppressed (blacks, women, Indians, homosexuals). 

The real nature of the LBI is shown in its dirty alliance with the bourgeois state in Volta Redonda, where the co-leader of its “trade-union tendency,” Artur Fernandes, has spearheaded the campaign of judicial and police repression against the revolutionary workers of the LQB and the legitimate leaders of the Volta Redonda Municipal Workers Union (SFPMVR). The LBI will forever be known for its dirty “defense” of the municipal guardas (police), the armed fist of the bourgeoisie, against the will of the ranks who voted the disaffiliation of the guardas in July 1996. We demand the expulsion of police of all kinds from the CUT and all the unions! 

With hypocritical words against the popular front, the LBI calls for the formation of a front of “revolutionary organizations,” saying: “with all our energies, we seek even before the elections to build a Revolutionary Workers Front with other tendencies which stand to the left of the Popular Front and consider themselves revolutionary.” In other words, a rotten propaganda bloc with other enemies of revolutionary politics, the composition of which, if it ever materialized, would be no more than a mini-popular front, that is, the politics of a PT or PSTU in miniature. In its manifesto on the 1998 elections the LBI is still complaining about the PSTU’s refusal to discuss a common electoral policy with tendencies to the left of the PT. The LBI ends its manifesto by proposing a form of Menshevik stagism from the non-payment of the foreign debt to agrarian reform (not agrarian revolution), together with statification and workers control of the financial system, the same proposals put forward by the reformist PSTU. 

The “Partido Operário Revolucionário” (POR–Revolutionary Workers Party), which follows the Bolivian centrist Guillermo Lora, criticizes “the reformist opposition (PT and allies),” but wants its own “national unity” and popular front: the “Anti-Imperialist United Front”! It was under this watchword that Lora made his front with former Bolivian president, General J.J. Torres. 

As Trotsky wrote, the popular front is “the main question of proletarian class strategy for this epoch” and “the best criterion for the difference between Bolshevism and Menshevism.”

For a Revolutionary Workers Party– Reforge the Fourth International 

Fed up with the betrayals of the reformist PT, many union and youth activists have gotten stuck in the blind alley of anarchist-influenced “abstentionism,” “anti-parliamentarism in principle” or “apoliticism.” But to defeat bourgeois politics, the workers need proletarian politics, a party with the program, strategy and tactics of Lenin’s Bolsheviks. The struggle against capitalism in Brazil can be successful only as part of the world struggle of the proletariat. The LQB, section of the League for the Fourth International, “was born out of the evolution of Luta Metalúrgica, as an organization which will tirelessly seek to build that party. A Trotskyist party in Brazil, with a heavily black component in its leadership, would have an important impact not only in this country but internationally, from Harlem to Johannesburg. We fight for a workers and peasants government as part of the Socialist United States of Latin America and the extension of revolution to our class brothers and sisters in the ‘belly of the beast’ in North America, Europe, Japan and throughout the world. 
We go forward to build the nucleus of the Trotskyist party in the fight to reforge the Fourth International, world party of socialist revolution.” “In Brazil, a semicolonial country characterized by uneven and combined development, with a large and combative proletariat, the theses of Trotsky’s permanent revolution show the way forward for the proletariat and all the oppressed.... Join us!” (Vanguarda Operária No. 1, July-September 1996). 

For workers mobilizations against the Cardoso/IMF hunger and unemployment plan! 
For proletarian opposition to the popular front and class collaboration! 
For a revolutionary workers party! 
Reforge the Fourth International, world party of socialist revolution! 

Volta Redonda, 30 September 1998 
E-mail: internationalistgroup@msn.com