Class Struggle Caucus Bulletin No. 4 January 1998
The following is a translation of Bulletin No. 4
(January 1998) of the Comitê de Luta Classista
(CLC--Class Struggle Caucus) on the international
solidarity effort and recent developments in the
continuing repression against the CLC. The bulletin also
includes facsimiles of many of the solidarity statements
received from around the world (see “International
Outcry Against Brazil Witchhunt,” The
Internationalist No. 4, January-February 1998). It is
important to note that the high city official who
originally filed the latest suit against the comrades,
on behalf of the Fernandes clique’s lawyer, had been the
direct boss of city workers for the municipal Popular
Front government against which Geraldo Ribeiro led a
series of successful strikes. The “Estado Novo” (New
State) referred to in the leaflet was the 1930-45
corporatist regime of Getúlio Vargas.
At the beginning of September 1997, when the CLC published a leaflet denouncing the rip-off of pension funds by the judicial mafia with the collaboration of the pro-police faction of Artur [Fernandes], the response was a court case against the CLC demanding the “search and seizure” of all copies of the leaflet. The suit’s authors demanded a list of names and the confiscation of the belongings of Geraldo Ribeiro and the CLC, together with other repressive measures, basing themselves on the laws of the “Estado Novo” and the military dictatorship.
To alert the workers movement, to protest and to defend ourselves, we published a subsequent bulletin (No. 3) pointing out that this new anti-labor attack is a case of political persecution whose origins lie in the Popular Front municipal government and the campaign by [Brazilian president] Cardoso and the International Monetary Fund to loot the workers’ insurance and social security funds. A clear proof: the case against the CLC was filed in the “justice” system, on behalf of Dr. Vanise, by Dr. João Silveira Neto, who was chief of staff in the municipal government of [former mayor] Baltazar and then Municipal Secretary of Public Services (municipal decrees 5955 and 6310). Vanise and Silveira Neto have a “lawyers’ office” providing “services” with one foot in Artur’s office and the other in the chambers of City Hall. This is yet another proof of the class-collaborationist “partnership” of the pro-police faction and the Popular Front. It was under the municipal government of the Popular Front--composed of the PSB [the Brazilian Socialist Party of longtime bourgeois politician and regional boss of the state of Pernambuco Miguel Arrães], PT [Lula’s Workers Party], PCdoB [the formerly pro-Albania Communist Party of Brazil], PCB [a rump of the formerly pro-Moscow Brazilian Communist Party], PV (Green Party), etc.--that City Hall sent police to disperse and repress union assemblies during our campaign to disaffiliate the municipal guardas from the SFPMVR.
Artur Fernandes is the pro-police stooge imposed by the bourgeois courts against the will of the SFPMVR ranks with the objective of ousting the elected president, Geraldo Ribeiro, and subjugating the union. (Artur is advised by the fake-left “Liga Bolchevique Internacionalista.” In the most brazen and cynical way, the LBI’s union tendency put him forward as a “star” at the Sixth Congress of the CUT labor federation in August 1997 as an “alternative” to the CUT’s bureaucratization. During that same month the Fernandes faction scabbed on the Volta Redonda city workers’ strike that they themselves called, since they sent their paysheets in to the city offices and received their normal pay for that day.)
With the solidarity campaign we have carried out against the repression, the CLC has been receiving solidarity and support from important labor movement organizations in Volta Redonda as well as at the national and international levels. When it found out about the campaign, the LBI came to Volta Redonda and “advised” Artur on how to wash his hands of the affair. While “clarifying” nothing whatsoever about the scandalous rip-off of pension funds which we denounced in CLC Bulletin No. 2, they immediately published a “note of clarification” supposedly criticizing their lawyer, saying that when she used the courts against us this was “unfortunate technical conduct,” while simultaneously praising the lawyer’s “professional value.” Meanwhile, the CLC and city workers demand the immediate return of the 15 percent taken from the pension funds.
Then, while Artur/LBI adopted the guise of little saints, a few days later the same lawyer (who continues to be employed by Artur’s apparatus imposed by the bourgeois courts) refiled her suit, as part of this division of labor. Continuing the witchhunt against the CLC, this time the target is Jorge Oliveira, a black worker retired from the CSN (National Steel Company). The lawyer is also threatening to launch a case in the Fifth Criminal Court of Volta Redonda. The “partnership” of Artur’s pro-police faction with the bosses and municipal authorities has made itself clear yet again.
The pro-cop faction is even setting a pattern for others: on 1 December 1997, at the request of the Popular Front that governs City Hall, the Volta Redonda “justice” system ordered the “search and seizure” of a bulletin denouncing city councilmen who voted to charge workers for garbage collection. This bulletin was supposedly distributed by a city worker who is an executive board member of the Volta Redonda Construction Workers Union. We state our complete solidarity with this brother, whose union has declared its solidarity with the CLC. This is one more proof: the actions of the pro-police faction are not only aimed at the CLC but pave the way for the police and bourgeois courts to intervene in the workers movement.
Since the launching of the Comitê de Luta Classista, which aims to raise class consciousness and fight for the workers’ conquests, the enemies of the working class have formed a broad front in the attempt to silence our voice. This new attack is part of the endless repression and court suits launched against our class-struggle positions for throwing all kinds of cops (the armed fist of the bourgeoisie) out of the SFPMVR, the CUT and all workers unions, and fighting against racism and every kind of oppression and exploitation.
The CLC cannot be confused with a trade-unionist tendency--in other words, it is not a tendency which denies political struggle and the fight against oppression. We are a revolutionary tendency within the unions. Organizing the workers must mean organizing the power of the whole working class in the fight against the pelegos [sellout bureaucrats] who represent the bosses, the oppressor class. In order to do this, we must counterpose revolutionary class-struggle politics to the pro-capitalist politics of the bureaucrats.
The CLC’s policy is not only to organize, but also to denounce and fight against those who stand as enemies of the working class. In order for the unions to be one of the instruments for raising the workers’ consciousness, making them understand the need to free themselves from capitalism’s chains, what is indispensable is revolutionary politics and a revolutionary leadership, and this is possible only through the fight to build a revolutionary workers party.
The CLC’s struggle with respect to the unions is above the mediocrity of the bureaucrats, who use the “union machine” simply for their own benefit and to serve the bosses, dividing and betraying the workers. An example is the agreement made by the São Paulo Metal Workers Union, dominated by Medeiros’ yellow “Força Sindical” federation, which sold out the workers in a sweetheart deal with the bosses to cut wages and carry out layoffs.
Any proletarian organization which seeks to fight against these types needs to do so on a revolutionary class-struggle program which defends women, blacks, Indians, homosexuals, children and youth as part of the class-struggle fight and an important part of its program against any form of oppression. Only in this way, rising up as the “tribune of the people,” will it build the authority to lead the struggle of the oppressed and exploited against capitalism.
The pro-police faction completely ignored the campaign for winning back the job of Regina Célia, who was fired because of the racism of City Hall. This is no accident: the LBI publicly attacks the activities which our comrades organized in defense of Mumia Abu-Jamal, the black journalist condemned to death, and against the racist death penalty in the U.S. Our comrades brought this campaign to Brazil, a concrete example of the internationalist and proletarian struggle against racial oppression. In August 1995 there was a demonstration for Mumia Abu-Jamal in Volta Redonda, organized by our comrades of Luta Metalúrgica (now the LQB, Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil) and the SFPMVR under Geraldo’s leadership. In contrast, the LBI does not campaign against special oppression even when it affects workers (their newspapers do not discuss even one such case). It constantly echoes the bigotry and racism of the bourgeoisie, for example attacking the Mumia campaign and demonstration, writing that “it was organized as a big party with music and dancing.” This is like when the racists say, referring to Brazilian blacks, “it’s something for the colored people.” The LBI ignores thousands of signatures [for the campaign] collected among the workers.
The types of oppression we have mentioned above directly affect the proletariat, with its multiethnic composition of men and women of various ages, who are the victims of all kinds of prejudices and who must be defended by organizations which claim to be proletarian. Meanwhile, the only thing the LBI and Artur have passionately defended, in their dirty way, is the presence of cops in general and municipal guardas in unions together with the workers. The LBI as “theoretician and advisor” and Artur as the “practitioner” not only “defend” the guardas, but revive “Zubatovism” in the labor movement. (At the beginning of this century, Zubatov was the inspirer and organizer of Zubatovism or “police socialism” in Russia. He founded phony workers organizations under the tutelage of the police, with the aim of keeping the workers away from revolutionary activity. Zubatov acted directly inside the unions, scheming against the Bolsheviks and the lives of all those who had revolutionary political objectives in organizing the workers.) During the recent “strikes” of the cops (the armed fist of the bourgeoisie against the exploited and oppressed), the LBI wanted the “lower echelons” of the Military Police to “accept the discipline of an anti-capitalist orientation” (Luta Operária, November 1997)! This means spreading a criminal reformist illusion and once again reveals the LBI’s attitude towards the victims of the bourgeois state’s uniformed racist assassins. This makes it clear for the workers movement what the real intentions of the LBI and Artur are with regard to the intervention of the bourgeois courts calling for banning the CLC’s leaflets.
The CLC calls for the class independence of the
workers and fights against all forms of collaboration
with the ruling class!
The judicial attack against the CLC has caused a clamor of protest extending from Brazil to South Africa, El Salvador and the United States.
The workers of Brazil face the brutal austerity plan of Fernando Henrique Cardoso, instigated by the International Monetary Fund and Wall Street bankers in response to the crisis of world financial markets. To impose the starvation plan, the capitalists can rely on Cardoso, who sent tanks and soldiers against the oil workers’ strike two years ago.
The one refinery the army did not occupy in 1995 was the plant at Duque de Caxias (in Rio de Janeiro state), because of Caxias workers’ reputation for organized and militant resistance. However, the courts intervened against the union and seized control of its bank account. Protesting the new repression against the CLC, the Duque de Caxias oil workers union issued a statement “vehemently repudiating state intervention against the workers’ freedom of organization,” denouncing the “suspension of the rights of the union’s elected president” and stating that “persecution of leaders and various forms of intervention in combative unions has been a constant in recent years, particularly under the government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso.”
In a similarly firm and energetic tone, the Rio de Janeiro Glass, Ceramic and Optical Workers Union and the Homeless Workers Movement protested against the bourgeois courts’ authoritarianism, stating that the courts’ aim is to “infringe on the workers’ organizations” and demanding: “Down with the intervention!”
Workers in Belo Horizonte (state of Minas Gerais) also supported the campaign and protested capitalist justice. In her protest statement, Elizabete Xavier Diniz, a supporter of the “Critical Analysis of the Minas Gerais Education Workers Union” (opposition to the current union leadership), writes that “this kind of posture by the state takes us back to the recent past of repressive and anti-democratic practices aimed at cutting off the freedom of speech and legitimacy of the movement for the struggle of the working class.”
The Oil Workers Union of the State of Minas Gerais, which like the rest of this sector has been the target of attacks by Cardoso, who seeks to suppress their organizations, demands that “the right of free association and opinion must be maintained and differences among the workers must be resolved by the workers themselves,” demanding as well: “Down with the intervention!”
From Rio de Janeiro, the Committee Against Persecution and for the Freedom of Political Prisoners in Brazil denounces the fact that Cardoso’s “democracy” maintains “111 political prisoners and victims of persecution,” while calling on the workers to fight for “dropping the charges against the CLC, canceling the verdicts against members of the Landless Peasants and Homeless movements, and freeing imprisoned members of the [Chilean] MIR and [Salvadoran] FMLN” in Brazil.
Also from Rio de Janeiro, the Committee for a Proletarian Culture Center declares: “we find it intolerable that members of the labor movement or people who should be at its service use the instruments and laws of the Bourgeois State to instigate persecution against class-struggle fighters.”
In Volta Redonda, the unions of Hotel and Restaurant Workers, Domestic Workers and Construction Workers protested with solidarity messages noting “the deliberate intention of infringing on workers’ organization as occurred for several years under the Military Dictatorship,” stating “the day will come when nobody can succeed in silencing the roaring voice of the streets,” and demanding “Down with intervention!”
As occurred during a previous period in the campaign of repression against the class-struggle militants, some of the most powerful protests came from South Africa. An 8 October 1997 statement from the South African Municipal Workers Union (SAMWU), which has 120,000 members, stated: “For many years, as municipal workers we fought, with others, a brutal racist regime here in South Africa,” where “the labour movement...suffered many losses at the hands of the brutal police and state machinery.” SAMWU hails the CLC’s “courageous war on racism” and our fight for the “right to publish information vital to workers of Brazil particularly, and the world in general,” demanding: “Down with the charges against Cde Geraldo Ribeiro and the CLC.”
The National Union of Metalworkers of South Africa (NUMSA) and the National Union of Miners (NUM) of the same country also sent vigorous protests against the new repression against the CLC. The South African Commercial Catering and Allied Workers Union (SACCAWU) denounced “the latest attack...by the combined dark forces of capital and state machinery” and called on those responsible to stop anti-union repression, “lest they burn themselves in the fire they shall encounter in return.”
Stating that “International Solidarity knows no borders,” the Association of Telecommunications Workers of El Salvador (ASTTEL) wrote to “condemn this whole new escalation of repression against the unionists of Volta Redonda, Brazil, and specifically against brother Geraldo Ribeiro and the Comitê de Luta Classista.” Also from El Salvador, the FEASIES labor federation issued a statement defending Ribeiro and the CLC against the repression. When the president of El Salvador attacked representatives of ASTTEL and FEASIES on television, calling them “traitors” and “inhuman” for denouncing the terrible abuses against workers in the factories there (many of whom are women workers), Geraldo and the class-struggle militants defended the Salvadoran brothers and sisters.
From the other side of the Pacific Ocean, the Confederation for Unity, Recognition and Advancement of Government Employees in the Philippines wrote that “we join against racist employers who are in cahoots with the repressive government in sowing terror among municipal workers,” stating: “Your struggle is not far from ours. We also [face] racial discrimination against the Cordillera peoples and the Muslim Moros of the South” of the Philippines. This Filipino workers group calls for facing “this disorderly new world order” through “collective action and international solidarity.” In New Zealand, the two labor federations wrote to protest the repression against the Comitê de Luta Classista. The acting secretary of the New Zealand Trade Union Federation (NZTUF) sent a protest to Brazil’s interior minister, and the secretary of the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions (NZCTU) also signed a protest statement against the attacks in Volta Redonda.
In the United States, a solidarity statement to Ribeiro and the CLC from Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 399 (which represents combative janitors and hospital workers in Los Angeles) observed that this is “the eighth legal action against you. This is an attempt to use laws from the military dictatorship to censor and silence the voice of union activists, including the legitimate elected president of the Volta Redonda municipal workers union who has been the victim of court intervention, armed police shutting down union meetings and repeated acts of repression because of the struggles he has led.” The statement also denounced the threat “to seize your belongings and the outrageous threat to demand the names of all the activist[s] who exercised their rights by publishing leaflets to inform the workers and defend their interests.”
In the San Francisco Bay Area, in California, longshore union Local 10 (ILWU) denounced “the vicious witchhunt” which follows previous repression aimed at Ribeiro “because you played a central role in carrying out the will of your membership to disaffiliate the guardas (police) from your union.” Citing an earlier protest by ILWU Local 10, it underlined: “As we stated then and reiterate now, we support your principled struggle. Police have been banned from membership in our union since they killed workers in the 1934 Maritime Strike. And today, the brutal killings of street children in Brazil by police don’t go unnoticed here.” The statement also referred to government repression against the dockers’ strike in Santos [in São Paulo state] several months ago.
On the East Coast of the USA, a solidarity statement in Spanish and Portuguese from the Independent Farmworkers Center noted: “Farm workers here are predominantly Latin immigrants, and we have suffered repression and intimidation in our countries of origin. This kind of repression continues when we arrive in the United States. We believe the struggle you are carrying out is a great example for other countries and popular movements internationally.” An eloquent statement from the Latino Workers Center of New York said “we understand only too well the brutal methods utilized by the police and the state when their interests are threatened” and ended: “Demand that ALL charges against the CLC and comrade Ribeiro be dropped right away!!!”
The broad support from around the world resulted from the international solidarity campaign carried out by our comrades of the Internationalist Group and Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil. Solidarity statements were also been received from the International Bolshevik Tendency, the Freedom Socialist Party and radical historian Howard Zinn in the U.S., the Communist Workers Party (PCT) [in Brazil] and LabourNet in Britain. We thank all the organizations and individuals who have defended the CLC against state repression.