October 2006    

After First Round Wake-Up Call, “Comrade President”
Capitalizes on Confidence of Washington and Wall Street

Brazil: Lula vs. Alckmin,
Candidates of Capital Against the Workers

Workers of Volkswagen do Brasil in São Bernardo do Campo go out on strike on August 31 over the
announcement of the closing of a plant and mass layoffs.
(Photo: Andre Penner/AP)

Cast a Blank Ballot Against the Bourgeois and Popular Front –
Forge a Revolutionary Workers Party!

The following is a translation of a statement by our comrades of the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil issued after the first round of voting on October 1. The run-off election was held on October 29 and resulted in a victory for President da Silva, who was reelected with over 60 percent of the total .

Right up to election day, the opinion surveys gave Luis Inácio Lula da Silva a majority of the votes on the first round of the presidential election. Yet the accumulation of scandals and the publication in the morning papers of a photo of piles of money from “Dossiergate” produced the intended effect in the middle class of São Paulo and southern Brazil, where Lula was in the minority. Even with 48 percent of the vote, Lula’s expected triumphal victory was spoiled.

His opponent, Geraldo Alckmin, the candidate of the PSDB (Party of Brazilian Social Democracy) and of the São Paulo bourgeoisie, wanted to rope in the “moralist vote,” but it misfired: trying to look forceful in the debates, his arrogant attacks were infused with prejudice towards the common people. After the shock of the victory-defeat of October 1, the current resident of the Palácio do Planalto (Brazil’s presidential palace) railed against the aristocratic paulista elite and mobilized his base among the poor of the Northeast. Quite a few workers as well, disappointed with four years of Lula’s administration but worried about the consequences of a victory by the traditional right, will vote once more for Lula. And then what? It’s war on the working class.

The bourgeois popular-front government led by Lula and his Workers Party (PT – Partido dos Trabalhadores) has made things very comfortable for the capitalists of Wall Street and the Bovespa (Brazil’s stock exchange), in particular for the bankers, who enjoyed huge profit rates under his administration, rising to historic highs. According to the CUT (Central Única dos Trabalhadores – Unitary Workers Confederation), “they had a 25 percent increase in liquid profits compared to last year, and the biggest banks in the country raked in an additional R$ 11.5 billion (roughly US$5 billion) just in the last four years, an increase of 132.5 percent.”

The photo of stacks of bills from Dossiergate that impressed the middle-class electorate on the first round. On the second round, Wall Street’s money was more impressive, in support of Lula. (Photo: AP)

It was so much that the journal Valor Econômico (29 September) published the “country risk” factor for Brazil, which on the eve of the current elections was running at 233 points, one-eighth the level it was before the 2002 elections. Even so, Lula thinks he should have channeled more profits to the capitalists. He says, “The only thing that frustrates me is that the rich aren’t voting for me. You know? Because they made  money hand over fist in my government (interview with Terra Magazine, 18 September).

Lula saluted his capitalist masters. The Wall Street Journal (23 September) wrote: “Mr. da Silva needs to pass pension, labor and budget overhauls that would reduce a bloated public sector, which currently saddles Brazil with a tax rate comparable to that of a rich country..” As he told trade-unionists gathered in São Paulo’s Hotel Sheraton in November 2002 following his first election: “from now on, there will be an end to feebleness.” At the time, it was about his “reform” of the retirement system, which was an attack on public employees. Now the rights of all workers are under attack, as well as free public higher education and a number of union gains.

The Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil, section of the League for the Fourth International (LQB/LFI), calls for a blank ballot (voto nulo) on the second round of the presidential elections in order to express our proletarian opposition both to the candidate of the PSDB as well as to Lula’s popular front, Força do Povo (Strength of the People), a class-collaborationist coalition formed by the Workers Party (PT), the Brazilian Republican Party (PRB) of the textile magnate José de Alencar and his Universal Church of the Reign of God, and the social-democratic Communist Party of Brazil (PCdoB). Between Lula and Alckmin there is no lesser evil for the workers, both represent the interests of big capital and imperialism. A second Lula administration, like the first, would have the task of imposing the anti-working-class measures that prior right-wing governments had not been able to push through.

The LQB also called in the campaigns of 1994, 1998 and 2002 not to vote for any candidate of any popular front, while the large majority of the Brazilian left voted for Lula, often pretending to ignore the fact that he was the candidate of a bourgeois political formation. This time around the openly rightist character of the Lula government was so well-known that a sector of the PT split to form the Party of Socialism and Freedom (PSOL), reviving the more leftist rhetoric of the old PT. But the substitute PT that is the PSOL has continued the social-democratic practices of the PT, including seeking a substitute popular front. In addition to forming a Left Front with the pseudo-Trotskyists of the PSTU (Partido Socialista dos Trabalhadores Unificado – United Socialist Workers Party) and the PCB (Brazilian Communist Party), the PSOL was flirting with the PDT (Democratic Labor Party), which ultimately named its own candidate, ex-PTer Cristóvão Buarque; and when the PMDB (Party of the Brazilian Democratic Movement) decided not to put forward a presidential candidate, Anthony Garotinho, who had been the PMDB candidate, decided to support the PSOL candidate, Senator Heloísa Helena of the northeastern state of Alagoas.

The campaign of Helena and her vice-presidential candidate, César Benjamin, a former advisor to Garotinho, was not in any way a class opposition to the capitalist candidates. It didn’t even represent on the political checkerboard a left opposition to the Lula popular front. Heloísa Helena opposed women’s right to abortion, denounced peasants for invading the National Congress, calling this a “pseudo-radical farce,” and even criticized Lula for a lack of “firmness” over the supposed nationalization of Petrobrás (Brazilian oil company) installations by the Bolivian government of Evo Morales! We Trotskyists, who fight for permanent revolution – for the taking of power by the working people, the expropriation of capital by a workers and peasants government and extending the revolution internationally – insisted that no class-conscious worker should vote for the reformist and popular-frontist ticket of Helena/Benjamin.

Today, after getting 6.8 percent of the votes on the first round of the presidential elections, the “Left Front” is no longer a front. The PCB is brandishing the threat of Alckmin, who belongs to the ultra-rightist clerical order Opus Dei, to justify a “critical” vote for Lula, Yankee imperialism’s sheriff in Latin America. Sectors of the PSOL – among them Plínio de Arruda Sampaio, Ivan Valente and Chico Alencar as well as intellectuals like Francisco de Oliveira – announced that they would vote for Lula. The PSTU, for its part, is calling for casting a blank ballot, but with a purely bourgeois rationale: “Lula in reality has nothing to do with a left-wing government. His is a right-wing government, masquerading as left-wing,” says the editorial of Opinião Socialista (No. 279, 1 November). And if the policies of Lula’s popular front government were slightly more left wing? This is the continuation of the PSTU’s policy of voting for Lula on the second round of the 2002 elections, going along with the illusions of the masses.

We have already stated in Vanguarda Operária (No. 9, May-June 2006): “In the present run-up to the election campaign, the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista notes that the main tasks for proletarian revolutionaries continue to be the struggle against the popular front and its anti-working-class ‘reforms’ (labor relations, trade-union and university), against the pro-capitalist bureaucracy [of the unions] and in favor of building a revolutionary workers party, objectives which class-conscious workers should pursue in all mass organizations of the working class, in the CUT, in Força Sindical [a more right-wing union federation], in the CGT [another right-wing labor federation] and in unions affiliated with Conlutas [a labor body linked to the PSTU and PSOL].” On October 29, we call on working people to cast a blank ballot (votar nulo) against both capitalist candidates for the presidency and to prepare a class-struggle offensive in order to defeat the assault on the working class by governments following the orders of Wall Street and Bovespa.

Lula’s Government: A Banquet for the Bankers, Crumbs for the Poor

Happy Lula. The rich made  money hand over fist in my government." (Photo: AFP)

The first round of the elections took place amid numerous accusations of corruption involving the buying of alleged dossiers which incriminate the PSDB candidate for governor of São Paulo, José Serra, Lula’s main opponent in the 2002 elections and potential adversary of the PT in 2010. The dossier that the PT tried to buy denounced Serra as one of the initiators of Operação Sanguessuga (Operation Bloodsucker, involving fraud in the purchase of ambulances). There is no doubt that the PSDB initiated the corruption of the mensalão [monthly payments to Congressional deputies to vote for initiatives of the Lula government] and the sanguessugas; the PT simply continued the corruption, while failing to denounce the schemes of Fernando Henrique Cardoso [Lula’s predecessor as president of Brazil]. It’s equally evident that this large-scale corruption was necessary for the survival of the Lula government, which at the beginning was in a minority in the Congress. He ended up buying himself a “frentão popular”, a mega pop front, which ranged from the weakened PT left to leftovers from the military dictatorship (Paulo Maluf, Delfim Netto).

All these media campaigns cooked up by the right were intended to undercut the government and to weaken the PT at the polls. Even left-wing parties like the PSOL, PSTU and others got in on the act. Revolutionary Trotskyists, in contrast, attack the Lula government for its real crimes against the working people and we unmask the political calculus behind this “ethics” maneuver. In reality, we noted:

“Corruption is a constant in bourgeois politics. It is the grease that makes the gears of the capitalist state machinery work so that the government of the day can serve as the executive committee of the ruling class, integrating the interests of its different factions. It particularly bothers the ‘proper’ petty bourgeoisie and social-democratic reformists because it exposes the dirty reality behind the mythology of the ‘neutrality’ of the state, giving concrete proof of how this state defends the interests of capital, not of ‘everyone’.”

–“Permanent Crisis of the Popular Front: Lula Against the Workers,” Vanguarda Operária No. 9, May-June 2006

But the opinion polls tracking voter trends showed the failure of the denunciatory tactics of the right-wing liberal opposition and the strengthening of the campaign for Lula, who blamed the PT for ‘errors” in order to protect his government. Now members of the PT nucleus who surrounded Lula in the Palácio do Planalto – like José Dirceu, José Genoino, Palloci, Delúbio and Berzoini – have fallen, one after the other, following each new denunciation.

How was Lula able to save himself amid the downfall of the PT? It was, first of all, due to the support from layers of the poor who benefited from programs like Bolsa Familia (Family Fund). Some of these welfare programs, like Fome Zero (Zero Hunger), failed completely for lack of funding. But last year Bolsa Familia reached 11 million of the lowest income families (earning less than R$ 120 [roughly US$50] per person per month) with monthly payments of up to R$ 95 [US$44]. In reality, it cost the public treasury very little, totaling about R$ 10 billion, in comparison with the more than R$ 160 billion [US$53 billion] that Brazil will pay in interest on the public debt this year (see Valério Arcary, “Critical Arguments About Bolsa Familia,” Correspondencia de Prensa, 21 October). Even with these programs, in Lula’s Brazil there are more poverty-stricken people than the entire population of Argentina. According to a study by the Getúlio Vargas Foundation, “42.6 million Brazilians are still mired in poverty.” Above all, this type of program is an integral part of the “neo-liberal” schema, which favors payments to the poorest and the elimination of rights won by the workers, such as pensions.

This is the most important task entrusted to an eventual second term for Lula’s government by high finance and the imperialist summits. Delfim Netto, the economist of the military dictatorship who is now an advisor to Lula and Congressional deputy for the PMDB, explained in an interview in Folha de S. Paulo (26 August) his vote for the former trade-unionist “so that he can finish what he began.” “There are two reforms that must be made and only Lula can carry them out,” he went on, namely pension reform and labor relations reform. “Only Lula can produce these two reforms, because workers believe in him.” A pro-Lula business leader, Laurence Pih, explained to journalist Josias de Souza of Folha (in his blog of 12 July) the kind of labor relations “reform” that the bosses want: “It’s important to lighten the burden on the payroll. Social contributions are almost equal to wages.” They want to tear up rights, eliminating “privileges” in the social security system. And these aren’t minor capitalists who are supporting Lula: Pih is the owner of the largest flour mill in Latin America; Lula’s vice president, José Alencar, is a textile magnate known as the “king of the T-shirts,” and now he has the support of Blairo Maggi, the governor of the state of Mato Grosso, known as the “soy bean baron.”

It is noteworthy that much of the business support the head of the PT has received is from the captains of agribusiness, in exchange for the billions in subsidies by the government to this sector. On the other hand, as we wrote in VO No. 9, “In the countryside, the PT’s talk of agrarian reform has produced zero results. The structure of rural property, one of the most unequal in the world, hasn’t changed one bit.” Only about 127,000 peasant families received land from the Lula government up to the end of 2005, and of these, 27,000 were in land-reform settlements. This is quite a ways from the 400,000 land reform beneficiaries that the Rural Landless Workers Movement (MST) requested at the beginning of the administration of the “comrade president.” Moreover, a recent study by the International Labor Organisation (ILO), Slave Labor in Brazil (October 2006), estimates that there are currently between 25,000 and 40,000 forced laborers in situations of slavery in Brazil, the large majority in rural zones. Over the last decade there have been 34,000 complaints of slave labor and 18,000 workers were freed, but only at the end of October was the first guilty verdict issued.

It’s not surprising, therefore, that nine years after the massacre of Eldorado dos Carajás (in the Amazonian state of Pará), where 19 landless peasants were slaughtered, not one of the soldiers and officers involved is imprisoned. And now José Rainha, the emblematic MST activist, has been sentenced to prison for the fifth time. Even so, João Pedro Stédile, the leader of the MST, is campaigning for votes for Lula. Stédile says, using the same arguments as the rest of the PT left wing (Emir Sader, Frei Betto):

“The candidacy of Alckmin represents finance capital, the multinationals, the Bush government, the Brazilian bourgeoisie and the large agribusiness landowners, who are anxious to take back the reins of government.

“Every day in the newspapers they say that it’s necessary to keep on privatizing Petrobras, the postal system, highways and state banks. They want labor-relations reforms, tax reform and pension reform in order to boost their profits. They want to write a guarantee of payment of interest into the Constitution, in the form of the extravagant zero deficit plan. They say that ALCA (Free Trade Area of the Americas) is a necessity – and thus they seek to subordinate our economy and country even more to the interests of the empire.

“And if the poor dare to fight back, they will call in the ‘capitães-do-mato’ (slave catchers), offering police and jail. That’s why the social movements and all their members must mobilize, roll up our sleeves and go into the street to defeat the candidacy of Alckmin and his class interests.”

Folha de S. Paulo, 10 October

All of Stédile’s accusations against Alckmin are justified, but they are also valid against Lula. Lula represents, without the slightest doubt, the interests of finance capital, the multinationals, the Bush government, key sectors of the Brazilian bourgeoisie, agribusiness; he, too, is privatizing Petrobrás, the postal system and banks, gradually but surely; he also is pushing the labor-relations, tax and pension reforms; Lula is already paying off interest, including with advance payments, with a zero deficit (in fact, a surplus in the federal primary budget), not requiring a constitutional amendment; and he continues to negotiate with the empire over ALCA. As for the slave catchers, the judicial system under the Lula regime does nothing against the jagunços (paramilitary private armies) like the Primeiro Comando Rural, while for MST militants it’s police and jails.

Lula vs. Alckmin –two candidates with one, capitalist, program, against the working people. Contrary to the argument of the head of the landless peasants, class-struggle militants must “roll up their sleeves” to struggle against the popular front and the Workers Party that serve the bosses and in favor of a revolutionary workers party to lead an agrarian revolution (and not just reform) by means of a workers and peasants government as the stepping-off point for world socialist revolution.

The Reactionary Campaign of Heloísa Helena

Empty chair debate. Candidatos Geraldo Alckmin (left), Heloísa Helena and Cristóvão Buarque
in televised debate on the eve of the first round of voting. Lula didn't show up.
(Photo: AP)

Internationally, Lula has been the main support point for U.S. imperialism in Latin America. He is praised by George Bush, the bloody butcher of Iraq. In Haiti, a Brazilian expeditionary corps disguised as U.N. “peacekeeping forces” acts as mercenary troops for the U.S. in maintaining a colonial occupation of the first black republic in the world. In July of last year, Brazilian military officials of the MINUSTAH (the United Nations mission in Haiti) carried out an assault on the slum of Cité Soleil, murdering at least 19 residents. Recently, following the intensification of MINUSTAH raids, there were student protests in the Haitian capital of Port-au-Price demanding the exit of the United Nations. The LQB has insistently fought for the expulsion of Brazilian occupation troops from Haiti.

We also defend the right of the neighboring country of Bolivia to expropriate the installations of Petrobras, a multinational capitalist enterprise headquartered in Brazil, a majority of whose shares are held by investors on the New York Stock Exchange. In the face of the announcement by Bolivia’s minister of mines and energy that two refineries of Petrobras that had been confiscated would be turned over to contractors to run, Lula responded: “I have a clear notion of Brazil’s superiority over Bolivia…. When I spoke with [Bolivian president] Evo Morales, I took the map of South America and showed Bolivia’s situation, and where Venezuela is located. I said, ‘don’t go ahead and put the sword to my head; if I didn’t want your gas, you would suffer more than us” (Folha de S. Paulo, 18 September). This was the response of a capitalist ruler of a country that claims to be a regional superpower. As a result of Lula’s threat, the measure was canceled and the Bolivian minister was sacked.

The response of the opposition candidates to the Bolivian action was very instructive. The rightist Alckmin of the PSDB characterized Lula’s response as submissive, inadequate and weak. Heloísa Helena, candidate of the Left Front, took the same tack, criticizing “the incompetence and irresponsibility of the Lula government” (Folha on line, 14 September), saying that he “lacked firmness” for not insisting with Morales on “compensation to be given to our national industry.” (Her comment was reported on Helena’s campaign website, www.heloisahelena50.com.br, since deactivated.)

So here we have the candidate of the PSOL, PSTU and PCB criticizing Lula from the right, for being insufficiently strong in the defense of the “national” interests of Brazil and of a multinational company! In the face of this spectacle, even the PCB commented about Heloísa Helena (in an October 6 resolution on the second round of the presidential election): “her discourse, in many cases, was indistinguishable from that of the bourgeois opposition candidate, above all on international questions.”

This wasn’t the only rightist “gaffe” by the candidate of the Left Front. In an interview on Rede Globo’s “National Journal” TV news program (8 August) she spoke about land reform. Asked whether she “would take over land of rural proprietors who produce and hire labor,” as the PSOL program suggests, Heloísa Helena responded: “I cannot, my dear, because the Constitution prohibits it. A party program deals with strategic objectives. It has nothing to do with a program of government. It would be impossible to expropriate lands, unless they are using slave labor or planting marijuana.”

On top of this, when hundreds of peasants of the Landless Liberation Movement (MLST) occupied the Chamber of Deputies on June 6 in a protest demonstration, as a result of which 539 were arrested, the honorable senator from Alagoas dismissed their action as “a pseudo-radical farce.” She took her stance as defender of this den of thieves, the national Congress: “So why come here? What is the justification for coming to the National Congress?” Helena asks. “You’ve got the wrong address. What’s demoralizing the National Congress is all this stuffing of dollars into men’s underwear and stuffing billions of dollars into off-shore tax havens to pay Mr. Lula’s accounts.” Thus she exempts the Congress of the mensalão and the sanguessugas scandals of any responsibility for the lack of agrarian reform.

During her “National Journal” interview on Rede Globo, after saying it would be “impossible” to expropriate productive lands (unless they produce marijuana!), when asked “if madam could tell us what other planks of the program of the party madam helped found does she intend not to implement,” the “Christian socialist” responded: “I am a socialist by conviction, I always say that I learned from the Bible to be a socialist even before reading the classics of socialist history.” But, she added, “it would be intellectually dishonest on my part and it would disregard the whole of socialist tradition for me to say that I am going to implement socialism…. Today I am fighting for democracy. For the democratization of wealth, of social policies.”

As part of her fight for “broadened democracy” (not even the “participatory” democracy that the PT boasted of in Porto Alegre, where it was used to approve “popular” budgets including cuts in social services), the “ethical socialist” Heloísa Helena opposed the democratic right of women to abortion. In an interview on the “Globo Jornal” morning TV show (1 September), she revealed: “For me, from a scientific and also spiritual viewpoint, I am against abortion.” Not only that, she opposes medical research using stem cells extracted from embryos.

Also in the name of “democracy,” the candidate called for a “citizen’s audit” of the foreign debt to imperialist banks and governments rather than outright abolition or repudiation of the debt. On the eve of a strike by Volkswagen workers, the senator called for the BNDES (National Economic and Social Development Bank) to finance the multinational company. And she considers the renationalization of companies privatized by Fernando Henrique Cardoso, such as the multinational mining company Vale do Río Doce, as called for by the PSOL, another plank of a party program that will not be implemented.

In other words, we have here a “socialist” candidate who is against agrarian reform on productive land, against non-payment of the imperialist debt, against abortion, against stem cell research, against the renationalization of companies that were stolen … and who defends the “national” interests of the multinational private company Petrobras! But even aside from her political positions which place her to the right of various bourgeois politicians, Heloísa Helena is always looking for allies in the capitalist parties. At first she courted the PDT (Democratic Labor party), the heirs of the old populist caudilho (leader) Leonel Brizola, to the point that she was invited to the national convention of this party representing the tradition of bourgeois “laborism.” (One of the congressional deputies who founded the PSOL, João Fontes, has since joined the PDT.)

Then in the middle of her campaign, “HH” received the support of Anthony Garotinho, former governor of Rio de Janeiro and husband of the current governor, Rosinha Garotinho, both responsible for repeated repression of Rio teachers’ strikes. In reality, the campaign of Heloísa Helena was a “frentinha popular,” a mini popular front, a corridor coalition with the right opposition to Lula, which was already established during the scandal over the mensalão, the payoffs to Congressional deputies. No class-conscious worker, and much less a revolutionary, can give political support to such an abomination, my dear.

At the initiative of the Class-Struggle Caucus (CLC) led by the LQB, the teachers union in Volta
Redonda, call on working class to strike in support of teachers in Oaxaca, Mexico
. (Foto: CLC)

“Left” Satellites of the PSOL, Refuse of the PT

As for the PSOL’s allies of the PSTU, these followers of [the late pseudo-Trotskyist leader Nahuel] Moreno had the unpleasant task of trying to justify “their” candidate. But they are well trained in apologies for popular-frontism: what they are doing today for Heloísa is the same as they did for years for Lula, trying to prettify the head of their slate and give him an unwarranted “left” image. The wages of this opportunism are to swallow one betrayal after another. And for what? Their courtship of the ex-PTers who are now the PSOL goes back years, to the time when they were all among the many “left” currents inside the PT. But at every step, the Morenoites have been blocked in their attempts to former a “broader” party.

Back when HH and her parliamentary comrades (Babá, Luciana Genro, Fontes) were expelled from the PT (in 2003), the PSTU called for forming a “new party.” When their overtures were rejected, the PSTU suggested a common slate in the elections, with PSTU leader José Maria Almeida as Heloísa’s vice-presidential running mate. The PSOL could be the parliamentary (if not to say parliamentarist) party, while the PSTU would be in charge of mobilizing in the streets. Another rejection from the PSOL. It’s a story of eternal unrequited love, which keeps on repeating because it reflects the PSTU’s tailist policy of always trying to be the “left” wing of some petty-bourgeois or even bourgeois force, whether it is Peronism in Argentina, Sandinism in Nicaragua or the PT “family” in Brazil. As we wrote at the time of the formation of the PSOL in mid-2004:

“This new party is, without any doubt, another social-democratic party, positioning itself slightly to the left of the PT, and is governed by the rules of the parliamentary game of the bourgeoisie. It is precisely this kind of ‘party of an old type,’ electoralist to the core, that the Brazilian working class does not need. Trained in the struggle for influence in the corridors, it will be a satellite of Lula, undertaking campaigns in order to pressure him (and perhaps recruit some of the leftists who stayed in the ranks and in the ministerial easy chairs of the PT) rather than preparing the proletariat to come out on top in a frontal clash with the bourgeois government.”

–“We Don’t Need a Social-Democratic ‘New Party’ of Disillusioned Lulistas,” The Internationalist No. 20, January-February 2005

If the reformist PSTU acts as a satellite spinning around the PSOL, other smaller groups of a centrist sort are in the orbit of the PSTU. For the Liga Estratégia Revolucionária – Quarta Internacional (LER-QI – Revolutionary Strategy League-Fourth International), affiliated internationally to the Fracción Trotskista (Trotskyist Faction), a neo-Morenoite current led by the Argentine Partido de Trabajadores por el Socialismo (PTS – Socialist Workers Party), the guiding principle of their “strategy” is to make the PSTU fight. Thus they unconditionally supported the union tendency pushed by the PSTU, Conlutas, calling to form a mythical “anti-bureaucratic pole” inside it. In the current election campaign, first they called on the PSTU to form a “class-struggle wing of the Left Front,” for which “the PSTU needs to criticize not only César Benjamin [the PSOL vice-presidential candidate] but mainly Heloísa Helena… including paid articles in mass-circulation papers.” When this tactic flopped, the LER-QI decided to call to “vote critically for the workers candidates of the Left Front” – mainly the PSTU and the “workers sector of the PSOL.” The latter turns out to be ex-members of the LER-QI who migrated to Helena’s party in order to better carry out their tailist policies. In the end, they called to vote for president for the candidate of the Partido Causa Operária (PCO – Workers Cause Party), with which they have almost no political agreement (since the PCO opposes Conlutas). Now they are dejectedly calling for a blank ballot on the second round of voting.

Another centrist group in the opportunist swamp is the Liga Bolchevique Internacionalista (LBI), whose specialty is constant “unity” maneuvers with the most diverse (and contradictory) political currents. The LBI, too, is an unconditional fan of Conlutas, acting as a counselor to the PSTU, asking it to break with the popular front, adopt a more combative policy, etc. etc. In the current electoral period, the LBI began with an “Open Letter to the PSTU” where it called on the latter to run Zé Maria as a revolutionary “anti-candidacy,” and even to “reorient itself programmatically.” When the Morenoites declined to receive their proposal, the LBI changed tack and launched an appeal for a rotten block of all tendencies calling for a voto nulo in the elections (which could extend from the anarchists to bourgeois formations), with an emphasis on criticizing the Heloísa Helena candidacy.

Then, after October 2, the LBI launched a new appeal for a “National Emergency Conference” of everyone calling for a blank ballot on the second round, once again proposing to the PSTU and others who supported the “Catholic socialist” HH on the first round that they should “adopt a revolutionary program of direct action”! In the 2002 elections, the LBI called on “class activists” (a category that included those who voted for Lula), even before the first round of voting, to “launch a broad national mobilization … against the electoral fraud” and impose a Lula presidency. And last July they called for a “national strike to defeat electoral fraud,” to impose a presidency of the Mexican bourgeois politician López Obrador!!

Beyond its opportunist maneuvers with bourgeois forces “against fraud” (and in Brazil last year, against the “mensalão government”) along with its repeated supplication of the PSTU to adopt a “revolutionary” policy, the constant frontism of the LBI is fundamentally opposed to genuine Trotskyism. Trotsky himself commented, in discussing the struggle against the advance of Nazi fascism in Germany in the early 1930s, that a united front for action is counterposed to propaganda blocs. Referring to a lash-up of several centrist leaders at the time, the Bolshevik leader wrote:

“We shall be told that the bloc between Rosenfeld-Brandler-Urbahns is only a propaganda bloc for the united front. But it is precisely in the sphere of propaganda that a bloc is out of the question. Propaganda must lean upon clear-cut principles and on a definite program. March separately, strike together. A bloc is solely for practical mass actions. Deals arranged from above which lack a basis in principle will bring nothing except confusion.

“The idea of nominating a candidate for president on the part of the united workers’ front is at its root a false one. A candidate can be nominated only on the grounds of a definite program.”

–Leon Trotsky, What Next? Vital Questions for the German Proletariat (January 1932)

We will conclude our excursion into the reformist and centrist left with a look at the Partido Causa Operária (PCO – Workers Cause Party). The PCO put forward its leader Rui Costa Pimenta as candidate for president, as it did in 2002 as well. For many years, this party defended Lula, metaphysically separating him in a Menshevik fashion from the popular front. Praising the “workers candidate” of this front with bourgeois forces, it contradicted the Trotskyist understanding of the popular front, a class-collaborationist coalition, as a bourgeois political formation. Only recently the PCO decided to separate itself from Lula, but it continues to seek a return to the old PT with its call for a “mass workers party.” Also significant is its call for a “government of the working people,” instead of the Trotskyist slogan of a workers and peasants government. The latter was, the Bolsheviks stressed, nothing less than the proletarian dictatorship, whereas the tasks which the PCO assigns to its “government of the working people” are measures typical of a social-democratic government of the capitalist sate: an end to privatization, state control of health and education, “a genuine national plan against hunger,” etc.

The Lula government tried to call into question Costa Pimenta’s candidacy, claiming that it had violated the regulations of the Supreme Electoral Court (TSE), which in mid-August turned down the PCO candidate. Revolutionaries defend the right of any party, and particularly those who claim to represent the workers movement, to present their candidates in supposedly “democratic” bourgeois elections, at the same time as we criticize the social-democratic and non-revolutionary campaign of the PCO. In addition to supporting for years the different popular fronts formed by Lula’s PT, Causa Operária has adopted the same policy itself by offering its slate to various careerist elements from the PPS, PDT and other bourgeois tickets.

The fundamental fact is that all these groups generally considered to be the “far left” have their origins in Lula’s Workers Party, and they all yearn for the good old days when they were allowed to carry out their little maneuvers and backroom deals, giving them the illusion of power. But their frame of reference is a party that is social-democratic and parliamentarist to the core, seeking to ensconce itself if the bourgeois political regime. All of them (PSOL, PSTU, PCO and their lesser relatives, LBI, LER-QI, etc.) do on a small scale what Lula’s team did at the head of the PT in years past. Now they want to recreate the PT of the days before they were expelled one after another (PCO in 1989, the PSTU at the beginning of the ’90s, the PSOL in 2004). Even if they achieved their fantasies, it would only lay the basis for repeating this history of degeneration.

What the Brazilian proletariat needs right now, when it confronts a capitalist offensive down the line against its gains and its very existence, is not a new version of the PT. It already went through that experience. It is urgently necessary to forge a workers party based on the Trotskyist program of permanent revolution, which fights for agrarian revolution, for the liberation of all the oppressed – women, blacks, Indians, homosexuals – through international socialist revolution. This is what the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil fights for. n

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