of the Internationalist Group
ICL Leaders Escalate Smear Campaign Against Brazilian Militants
For the past year, the press of the International Communist League (ICL) has displayed a remarkable fixation on the Internationalist Group and our fraternal comrades of the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil. Workers Vanguard, newspaper of the Spartacist League/U.S., has published major pieces on the IG and the LQB in issues No. 648, 651, 652, 653, 657, 663 and 669. The ICL has also brought out four public bulletins totaling hundreds of pages on us. Yet at the same time they repeatedly refer to the "small" LQB and the "handful" of members of the IG. What explains this striking disproportion? If we are so insignificant, why all the attention?
From the very first article, the ICL leaders sought to bury us with invective and discredit us with slander and willful distortion because they couldn't answer our political arguments--which they have barely addressed--and because they were desperate to blot out the fact that they committed a genuine betrayal in Brazil. The dramatic expulsion of leading cadres of the ICL in June 1996 was the immediate prelude to the breaking of fraternal relations with the LQB when the Brazilian comrades refused to abandon the struggle to remove police from the municipal workers union of Volta Redonda, Brazil's "steel city." This was a fight over the key issue of the capitalist state--a fight, moreover, which was initially encouraged by the ICL. Yet when it reached the boiling point, the ICL abruptly abandoned the LQB in the midst of this fight as it was under the fire of bourgeois repression. This desertion from the class struggle was in sharp contradiction to the Trotskyist program defended by the Spartacist tendency for over three decades.
The ICL's latest diatribe ("IG's Brazil Fraud Exposed," WV No. 669, 30 May 1997) is intended to take the place of an answer to our recent publications on Brazil. In February, the Internationalist Group in collaboration with the LQB published a carefully documented dossier titled Class Struggle and Repression in Volta Redonda--Cops, Courts Out of the Unions (February 1997). In the last issue of The Internationalist, in addition to a lengthy article refuting the ICL's myriad accusations against the IG, we demonstrated in detail how the ICL leaders have engaged in repeated fabrications in the attempt to defend their indefensible actions in Brazil.
We cited the ICL's own documents and speeches to refute the smear that the Brazilian comrades "refused" to publish a newspaper or take other key steps towards building a Trotskyist party, the revolting slander that they had a "deal" with the cops, and the ICL's attempt to pretend it did not know about the union meeting, scheduled for the very next day after it cut relations, where the disaffiliation of the guardas (municipal cops) was to be voted. We proved that the ICL repeatedly recognized that the LQB had waged a principled struggle to throw out the cops, but decided that "the power of the bourgeois state" had made the fight too hot to handle, calling on the LQB to "disassociate" itself from its supporters in the union leadership and even "get out of town" (see "Brazil: Context of a Betrayal," The Internationalist No. 2, April-May 1997).
The ICL leadership does not even attempt to answer this--because it cannot. Instead, feeling damaged and exposed, it has lashed out with yet another lying smear, which is supposed to put an end to all discussion and place the LQB and IG beyond the pale. Thus, WV states that ICL representatives were recently sent to Brazil, where they "discovered firsthand" that everything we have written about the struggle in Brazil is supposedly a "fraud." The centerpiece of the new accusation is that there was a "class betrayal carried out by the LQB in Volta Redonda": that the Brazilian comrades and Geraldo Ribeiro, an LQB member and elected president of the Volta Redonda municipal workers union (SFPMVR), are allegedly guilty of "appeal[ing] to the capitalist state to decide who should lead the municipal union" and of "filing anti-union lawsuits."
It is Workers Vanguard's charges against the Brazilian comrades that are a fraud. The LQB and union president Ribeiro have not sued the union. On the contrary, they have repeatedly stated that they oppose on principle all court intervention in union affairs. Moreover, the slanderous charges against the LQB are taken from the very forces who have, repeatedly, called down repression by the capitalist state against the elected class-struggle leadership of the SFPMVR. The source of WV's charges is one Artur Fernandes, who openly brags that he is "oriented by the police," and who has over and over called in armed cops and the courts in an anti-communist witchhunt against comrade Ribeiro and the LQB. WV picked the smears up from the newspaper of the Brazilian Liga Bolchevique Internacionalista (LBI), which acts as advisers for Fernandes. And WV "confirms" them by citing the paper of the steel bosses who have for many years waged a vendetta against the LQB and its predecessor, Luta Metalúrgica (LM--Metal Workers Struggle).
For the most unprincipled factional reasons and to cover its own tracks, the ICL leadership has become a willing accomplice of a very dirty operation. It is giving a "left" veneer to the campaign by the capitalist rulers of Volta Redonda against the nucleus of Trotskyist workers, black and white, who have been fighting tooth and nail for working-class independence from the bourgeoisie. In the 1980s, the LM militants played a leading role in a series of militant steel and municipal workers strikes. In the 1994 Brazilian elections, Luta Metalúrgica was the only political tendency that opposed on principle voting for any candidates of the Frente Brasil Popular headed by the PT (Workers Party) of Luis Inácio Lula da Silva. Over the last year and a half, the LM/LQB has waged a hard fight to expel the cops from the Municipal Workers Union headed by LQB member Ribeiro. In doing so, they have faced an unholy alliance extending from the longtime head of the National Steel Company (CSN) and the military police chief to the "progressive" Popular Front mayor, a pro-cop clique in the union and its pseudo-Trotskyist advisers (see the 24 June letter from the LQB to the ICL responding to the latest WV attack).
This class-collaborationist coalition has gone after the LQB with provocation, gangster violence, police force and court suits. Having failed in their attempt to destroy this nucleus of the Trotskyist vanguard as it has steadily developed, they then tried to defame and discredit them. While the ICL earlier denounced this sinister lash-up, it is now acting as its megaphone, broadcasting internationally some of the very same anti-communist charges WV exposed only 15 months ago. In doing so, it relies on WV readers' distance from the scene of the battle. Nobody in Volta Redonda even pretends today that the Liga Quarta- Internacionalista is suing the union--in the first place because they aren't, and secondly because (contrary to WV) the LQB's fight against intervention by the bourgeois state in the workers movement is widely known. The pro-police provocateur Fernandes tried to float this smear earlier this year, in order to cover up his own thug attacks and court suits, but dropped it in the face of Ribeiro's clear stand against court intervention. Nevertheless, the failed slander has an extended half-life in the pages of Workers Vanguard.
Attentive readers should consider the following telling fact: in the 3,800 words of the WV 669 article, nowhere is the barrage of state repression against Ribeiro and the LQB mentioned. The only reference to defense efforts is insinuating demands for "evidence" and claims that they are based on "lying." Readers of the WV article would have no inkling that the Brazilian Trotskyist militants have faced seven different court actions, as well as arrest for leading strike pickets, repeated bureaucratic thug attacks, and attempted intimidation by shotgun-wielding military police. Why is this not mentioned in Workers Vanguard? Because WV is pushing the cover story of the very forces who unleashed this repression.
Cops, Courts Out of the Unions!
So let's examine the linchpin of the WV article's "case" against the LQB and the Internationalist Group--the charge of suing the union. First, the context:
Since late 1995, when Geraldo Ribeiro was elected president of the SFPMVR on a program against the popular front, Ribeiro and the LQB have been hit with: a suit accusing Ribeiro of defaming the police; a case charging him with defaming the city because he led a campaign against the blatantly racist firing of a black woman; an injunction to shut down the 19 June 1996 union meeting with police force, in an attempt to stop the disaffiliation of the municipal guardas; the court-ordered suspension of Ribeiro as union president and imposition of "jurisdictional receivership" over the SFPMVR, using as a pretext the union's publication of an article by black American death row prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal explaining that police are enemies of labor; the arrest of union activist and LQB member Marcello Carega on the charge of "disobedience" when he led 150 workers in shutting down the municipal garage during a nationwide general strike. Most recently, Geraldo Ribeiro was called into the police station on May 20 to be interrogated in yet another legal action against him by the Fernandes clique.
The initiators of these prosecutions have been the commander of the municipal guardas; the Popular Front city government, led by a bourgeois "Socialist" mayor, which correctly sees the LQB as its most intransigent opponent; and particularly the pro-police grouping led by Artur Fernandes, who was installed by court order as the city bosses' puppet in the SFPMVR. Who is it that "appeals to the capitalist state to decide who should lead the municipal union"? Fernandes vows that "the return of Geraldo to the presidency of the union is impossible," according to an article in the Volta Redonda weekly Opção (17-23 January), which quoted Fernandes as saying: "We will only accept him back with a judicial action saying he is president of the body." While Fernandes states that the capitalist courts dictate who will lead the union, and acts as their agent, Ribeiro emphatically stated in a 30 January "Declaration": "We reject any interference by the bosses' 'justice' system in the labor movement. The union belongs to the workers, not the bosses! They are the ones who decide!"
In December 1996, when some of the Fernandes group's suits against Ribeiro collapsed because they could not prove a single one of their false accusations, the courts told Ribeiro that this gave him the right to request a court ruling in his favor on the basis of the union meeting last July that had voted to reaffirm him as union president and to disaffiliate the municipal cops. Ribeiro refused this "right." A 31 December 1996 letter by Ribeiro and Carega on their defense campaign explained:
"When Artur withdrew from the legal case, the courts asked if Geraldo wanted the courts to rule on the validity of the July 25 union meeting, but this is against our principles: we reject any interference of the bosses' 'justice' system in the workers movement in general and the SFPMVR in particular. The union belongs to the workers, not the bosses!"
WV half-quotes this statement, leaving out the fact that Ribeiro refused a court invitation to rule in his favor, and then pretends that "these people lie to the world." The full quotation demonstrates the opposite of WV's smear that Ribeiro "appealed to the capitalist state to decide who should lead the municipal union."
On 20 January 1997, Geraldo Ribeiro went to the SFPMVR hall and was physically attacked by the Fernandes clique, who thereupon filed new charges of assault against him with the police. The next morning, the bosses' press reported Fernandes' cover-up claim that Ribeiro was suing the union. Ribeiro issued a leaflet with a statement refuting this charge and stressing:
"The workers must condemn and reject gangsterism and the use of the bourgeois courts in the labor movement. These methods violate workers democracy and only serve the bosses. They are the continuation of Artur's campaign to enslave the union to the 'justice' system, military police and guardas."
Ribeiro went to the lawyers, provided him by a local civil rights group, to inquire about the court cases that Fernandes alleged Ribeiro had filed against the union. They told Ribeiro that the cases referred to were requests for injunctions to block implementation of the court actions launched against him last July. Without his knowledge, they had been filed with the union listed as the defendant, something Ribeiro never would have permitted. When he learned of this, Ribeiro immediately gave instructions that these cases be withdrawn, which they were, despite the vociferous objections of the lawyers, who do not share the LQB's views. This was more than four months ago, and the notice of the dropping of the cases was published in the Diário Oficial of the state of Rio de Janeiro. But that didn't faze the authors of WV's hatchet job.
Moreover, when Fernandes' attorney then demanded that Ribeiro also renounce any "right" to future court action, not only did Ribeiro do so (which led to a break with the lawyers), but he appended the following statement to the record:
"I, Geraldo Ribeiro, legitimate president of the Volta Redonda Municipal Workers Union (SFPMVR), have been the target of continual attack by the Volta Redonda city government and the repressive forces of the police. This was their response to the campaigns I initiated with the support of the ranks of the SFPMVR, first and foremost for the disaffiliation of police (municipal guardas) from the union. The pro-police faction led by Artur Fernandes requested court intervention to suspend me from the post to which I was elected by the workers in November 1995 with 62 percent of the votes and which was reaffirmed in the meeting of the union's ranks on 25 July 1996. After six court cases against me, in which they were unable to prove a single one of their accusations, the coup faction had to 'desist.' Since I was guilty of nothing, I attempted to reassume my post in the union. However, in January of this year, the coup faction formally launched a new legal case to stop this in the 93rd District in Volta Redonda, and that case is continuing.
"Despite all of this, even when obliged to defend myself and the union on the hostile terrain of the bosses' courts, I have repeatedly affirmed in public statements that the workers must place their confidence in their own class power and not in the capitalist 'justice' system. We categorically reject the intervention of the bosses' courts in the workers movement. This is the opposite of the policy of the pro-police coup faction, which thereby attacks the class independence of the workers. I emphasize that I do not participate in any case of that kind. More than five months ago, we explained that this is our position: immediately after the pro-police faction of Artur Fernandes and Sebastião Passos ('Motorzinho') desisted from court suits they had waged against me, the court asked if I wanted the courts to decide the case in my favor, and I declared that this would be against our class-struggle principles.
"When I found out the nature of two requests for injunctions that were erroneously introduced as a defense in my name, in response to the attempt to remove me by court action from the post to which I was democratically elected by the union ranks, I immediately gave instructions to my then lawyers to declare my desistence from those legal actions, and this was done.
"I reaffirm here once again that the attempts at usurpation by the pro-police, thug and gangster elements who have brought the capitalist courts into the union with the objective of subverting the will of the ranks will not be fought by asking for intervention by the judicial system. To respond to these attacks requires that the working class impose its class power, independent of the bourgeoisie. The workers must clean their own house. The union belongs to the workers, not to the bosses' 'justice' system. These are the principles which I defend against those who have no principles. We fight for the class independence of the workers."
This is the real story of legal actions 30.831/96 and 30.833/96, which Workers Vanguard refers to as "a matter of public record." The public record shows that Ribeiro and the LQB have insisted on the principle "cops and courts out of the unions," while they have been the targets of cop and court repression backed up by a barrage of slander. Far from seeking to have the courts decide who will control the union, they have insistently rejected this and fought for the class independence of the workers. Far from committing a "class betrayal," they have defended class principles, at great cost to themselves.
LQB: "What Decides Is the Organized Will of the Workers"
In tandem with its charge that the LQB engaged in anti-union lawsuits, WV pumps out a series of other accusations which boil down to the claim that the LQB has no support in Brazil. Haven't we heard this taunt before? It's the classic reformist claim that revolutionaries are an "irrelevant," tiny minority. More generally, it's the jibe, "If you're so smart, why aren't you rich?"
WV 669 announces with great fanfare that comrade Geraldo Ribeiro does not "control" the union, and says that the cops are still in the SFPMVR under Artur Fernandes. The fact that Fernandes is in league with the police has been at the heart of the struggle in Volta Redonda, and he was placed in control of the union hall through court intervention last July to suspend and then remove Ribeiro. The events were extensively documented in our Brazil dossier. In a 31 December 1996 letter reprinted in that bulletin, Ribeiro and Marcello Carega reported exactly what the current situation was:
"As vengeance against [the] class-struggle campaign, the bosses' 'justice' system intervened in the union, as in the years of the military dictatorship, seeking to obstruct the organized will of the rank and file, who decided that the guardas are not part of the union, because they are not part of the working class. The courts maintained their puppet Artur Fernandes, head of the pro-police faction, in the union hall. But even under those conditions, the mobilization of the ranks and the pressure and international extension of the campaign made the municipal guards begin to withdraw from the structure dominated by the puppet Artur Fernandes, and they created their own association in November."
So much for WV's phony revelation! In this letter of thanks to international supporters of their struggle against capitalist repression, LQB members Ribeiro and Carega stated that the union hall was occupied by the court-installed Fernandes. They added that the dropping of some of the prosecutions against the class-struggle militants were only "partial victories" which "do not mean the end of the repression against us." They stressed: "As we have declared repeatedly, what decides is the organized will of the workers.... The mobilization of the ranks will impose the democratic decision that the workers have repeatedly expressed." But for the ICL leadership, what counts is who controls the office and who the bosses' press treats as head of the union. In WV's account what decides is not the will of the workers but the dictates of the bourgeoisie.
Moreover, as they undergo intensive on-the-job training in purveying disinformation, the WV editors assume that in making a "case" against us, they can determine what facts and "facts" will be communicated. Take, for example, the front-page headline from Diário do Vale used as a centerpiece illustration in the WV 669 article. Relying on readers' lack of knowledge of the Portuguese language, WV says it states that Ribeiro "was ousted as union president" while omitting the rest of the headline, which says that he was "assaulted." And if you look closely, you will see that the Diário subtitle says that the so-called "assembly" that approved Ribeiro's "ouster" consisted merely of "about 25 municipal workers." While the pro-cop provocateur Artur Fernandes managed to scrape together a few flunkies to "approve" a red purge carried out by the bourgeois courts, four days before that 150 municipal workers met in a union meeting convoked by a petition signed by hundreds of union members, and voted to reaffirm Ribeiro as their legitimate president and to disaffiliate the municipal guardas.
But Workers Vanguard haughtily decrees the non-existence of the 25 July 1996 vote to throw out the cops, declaring that the disaffiliation of the cops "never happened"! Not only did it happen, even the Diário do Vale (26 July 1996) reported on the union meeting of the previous day, noting: "Another decision of the assembly was to approve the disaffiliation of the Municipal Guard. The proposal has been discussed for several months." As Ribeiro and Carega note in their 31 December 1996 letter, under the impact of this vote guardas began handing in their resignations at the union hall occupied by the court-installed Fernandes clique. An association of municipal police was formed in November, but little has been heard of it recently after its leader was wounded by another cop (not killed, as WV misquotes LQB leader Cerezo as saying). Even so, of the approximately 100 guardas originally in the SFPMVR (out of a union membership of 1,400), less than two dozen of Fernandes' cop cronies are reportedly left in his court-rigged outfit. For WV, once again taking the same line as Fernandes, this renders non-existent the union ranks' decision to disaffiliate the cops. On the contrary, for revolutionaries this means that the struggle continues against state intervention in the union, which is aimed precisely at blocking the will of the ranks.
The ICL leaders' argument has an extremely rightist thrust. In the WV article, in talks with sympathizers and in exchanges with IG supporters, they put forward as the key issue that "Artur Fernandes controls the union." We have pointed out that Fernandes' "control" of the union offices is the result of court action, police force and gangsterism. But beyond this, what WV presents is a rather strange criterion for self-proclaimed revolutionaries. We seek to build a communist pole in the unions, in the struggle to root the revolutionary party in the working class.
LQB supporters recently launched the Comitê de Luta Classista (CLC--Class-Struggle Caucus) on the basis of a revolutionary program which begins with the call for "complete and unconditional independence of the unions from the capitalist state," demanding a "class-struggle fight against racist oppression and the oppression of women," a break from the popular front and "a revolutionary workers party that fights for a workers and peasants government." A meeting introducing the CLC held on June 18 was attended by municipal workers, metal workers, educational workers and students from the Volta Redonda area, and received a message of solidarity from the Rio de Janeiro oil workers.
WV Then and Now
The depths reached in the ICL leaders' vendetta are shown by the use of smears that Workers Vanguard itself refuted before the break in fraternal relations. An example is the repeated charge that LQB spokesman Cerezo held an "unelected post" in the union, that he was an "unelected adviser" to the union, that the LQB comrades were only "coveting their unelected positions," and that the whole fight to remove the cops was nothing but a vulgar "power struggle." As reported by WV (No. 639, 16 February 1996) before the ICL broke fraternal relations, Luta Metalúrgica (which shortly thereafter formed the LQB) was invited to advise the November 1995 campaign by the Municipários em Luta slate headed by Geraldo Ribeiro "precisely because LM was the only group which fought for the independence of the working class, refusing to vote for any candidates of a popular front tying the workers to sectors of the bourgeoisie." Following the MEL's victory, Cerezo was briefly an unpaid advisor to the union. This was ended already by February 1996, as was publicized by the Fernandes clique in a leaflet.
The McCarthyite hue and cry against Cerezo as an "outside" agitator and interloper in the municipal workers union was first whipped up in late January 1996 by Causa Operária (C.O.)--a fake-Trotskyist group that votes for the popular front--and then picked up by the LBI braintrusters for the pro-police camarilla of Artur Fernandes. In February 1996, an "ICL Statement of Solidarity with Luta Metalúrgica" denounced the "unholy alliance stretching from the bosses' press and company-union officials to opportunist left parties" that was "frantically seeking to drive revolutionaries out of the union." The statement noted that the popular-front mayor and pro-government labor leaders sought to stop Geraldo Ribeiro and the MEL from taking office, and when that ploy failed, the bosses' press began "trumpeting vile accusations" from a phantom outfit "appearing out of nowhere to demand that Cerezo be excluded from union meetings." The ICL declaration continued:
"To portray this veteran class-struggle militant--fired by the steel bosses for defending the workers' interests, and slandered by [the pro-company labor federation] Força Sindical and the class-collaborationist left alike--as an 'outsider' in Steel City is an abomination propagated by those who are at home in the antechambers of Popular Front mayor Baltazar and Lula's Frente Brasil Popular, if not in the front offices of the CSN [National Steel Company] itself....
"The history of the class struggle is replete with examples of such orchestrated attempts at defamation and repression of militant workers leaders, often with the connivance of the reformists, in order to destroy the capacity for resistance of the workers movement....
"The opportunists traffic in accusations of corruption and scandalmongering in imitation of the social mores of their bourgeois masters.... When their popular-front politics are unpopular, they resort to smears to divert attention from the fundamental questions at issue and to discredit those who do defend the workers' interests."
Workers Vanguard returned to the question of the Volta Redonda municipal workers when the Artur Fernandes group called military police and municipal guardas against a 13 March 1996 SFPMVR meeting. WV No. 642 (29 March 1996) printed a "Call for International Labor Solidarity" from the LQB, which noted:
"The timing of the police assault is particularly ominous, given that in recent weeks Geraldo [Ribeiro] has been working to separate the municipal police from the union, because the police are not part of the workers movement."
Anyone reading what WV printed then can see for themselves that it is entirely incompatible with the smears spewed out now. Just read WV's condemnation of the role of C.O. and the LBI in February 1996 and compare it with the actions of the ICL today.
Bosses' Press vs. Class-Struggle Militants
Workers Vanguard's "case" against the LQB and the IG is supposedly clinched by "supporting evidence" from the Volta Redonda newspaper Diário do Vale. WV admits that "Diário do Vale is a bourgeois newspaper in a company town" which is "hostile to any leftist opposition in the local unions." Yet WV cites articles published by that newspaper in July and August of 1996 alleging that Geraldo Ribeiro sought to have the courts decide who controlled the SFPMVR, and then asks in bold italic print: "If this were not so, where then is the necessary refutation by the LQB or the IG?" It is telling that WV did not have the Marxist honesty or simple journalistic integrity to ask the LQB or IG whether such refutations had been made before printing its smear.
The answer to WV's question is very simple: the "necessary refutation" was made at the time, not once but repeatedly! On 26 July 1996 Geraldo Ribeiro wrote a letter to the Diário do Vale to set straight its "incorrect reporting," stating:
"Those who resort to court intervention in the union are not us, the legitimate leaders and activists of the SFPMVR. The workers must 'clean their own house' and we categorically reject intervention by the bosses' courts in the workers movement. On the contrary, it is Artur Fernandes' pro-police coup group which attacks the elementary principles of workers class independence in this way. By placing the union under government intervention, as in the days of the dictatorship, they attack the democratic and trade-union rights of all the workers. The union belongs to the workers, not to the government or the bosses."
Yet Diário do Vale refused to print Ribeiro's letter, nor did it print any of his 30 January 1997 declaration. This is hardly a unique experience for any left-wing group, as the ICL knows well.
The steel barons' house organ, which WV elevates to the exalted status of "local paper of record," not only refused to allow Ribeiro to set the record straight, its reporters kept asking what legal steps he was taking against the court action to remove him as union president. When Ribeiro insisted that he was looking to the union ranks, they garbled his words and complained that he was "avoiding any comment, however, on what is being done to assure his regaining the presidency" (Diário do Vale, 2 August 1996). Faced with the systematic misrepresentation of his remarks, Geraldo gave an interview to the other Volta Redonda paper, Opção, which reported his denunciation of court intervention in the unions. After noting that Ribeiro denounced the mass layoffs carried out by the former president of the National Steel Company (CSN)--Roberto Procópio Lima Neto, the force behind Diário do Vale--with the complicity of the union bureaucracy, the article in Opção (9 August 1996) continued:
"The Volta Redonda justice system does not escape Geraldo's rebelliousness either. He says that the Municipal Workers Union is under court intervention, but this will not stop him from fighting for the members. In his own words, the city's justice system is bourgeois and so he does not believe in it. 'Today's justice system comes from the era of the military dictatorship and it will not work at all in favor of the workers,' he claims."
The ICL's sources are the very forces that have brought court and police repression down on the Volta Redonda Municipal Workers Union and its class-struggle leaders. This continues a pattern going back more than a year now: whenever the bourgeois press or the Brazilian fake left launch a slander against the LQB because of its fight for class independence, the "new I.S." of the ICL picks it up. This came to the fore immediately before the expulsions from the ICL, when Fernandes lyingly accused LQB leader Cerezo of seeking a salary from the union equivalent to ten times the minimum wage. In a 22 May 1996 draft letter to the LQB, ICL International Secretary Parks repeated this dirty smear. When Jan Norden, then still a member of the International Secretariat, was asked for his comments on this letter, he wrote that rather than accepting as good coin a charge coming from a notorious police mouthpiece, the I.S. should first find out the facts. For this, comrade Norden was grotesquely accused of "cop-baiting" the party, removed from all leading positions in the ICL, suspended from the Spartacist League two days later and then expelled.
In fact, Fernandes' charge was a lie, as attested by formal depositions from the union treasurer (who was not part of the MEL slate) as well as union president Ribeiro, stating that Cerezo never sought, let alone received, payment from the union. Yet at a 28 February 1997 New York forum, a leading Spartacist spokesman took the slanderous charge one step further and called Cerezo a "paid adviser" to the union. The technique is familiar: just keep escalating the lie and slinging the mud, calculating that eventually something will stick.
Today, Workers Vanguard refers to the Diário do Vale as the "local paper of record." But as noted by WV No. 639 (16 February 1996), this paper is "notorious as a mouthpiece for the privatized CSN steel company bosses, [which] gave prominent coverage to attacks on LM spokesman Alexandre Honorato (Cerezo) both by the CSN-sponsored 'union' Força Sindical and by the pseudo-Trotskyist group Causa Operária (C.O.)." Diário do Vale was set up to support the privatization of CSN (National Steel Company) and was formed with the backing of notorious right-wing politician and former CSN boss Lima Neto, who imposed 10,000 layoffs. The steel company directly finances this paper, to the tune of $250,000 a month ($3 million a year) until recently. Lima Neto is a federal deputy of the right-wing PFL party, known as the mouthpiece of the most reactionary sections of the bourgeoisie, notably big landowners. During the 1995 oil workers strike, he whipped up strikebreaking sentiment.
In the struggle against the privatization and layoffs, Luta Metalúrgica repeatedly crossed swords with Lima Neto. During the 1990 steel workers strike, he denounced comrade Cerezo in the company bulletin for using the strike "for political ends," to which Luta Metalúrgica replied: "Yes, our strike is political.... 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" (Luta Metalúrgica, August 1990). Two years later, Lima Neto's house organ Diário do Vale (27 June 1992) devoted its editorial page to denouncing LM as "Luta Medieval" (medieval struggle), a "fragment of the Berlin Wall fallen into Volta Redonda" that seeks "a repetition of the 1917 Russian Revolution." As documented in our Brazil dossier, Diário do Vale led the red-baiting chorus against Ribeiro and the LQB/LM during and after the municipal workers union election.
It is hardly surprising that this paper refused to print Ribeiro's refutations of the accusations against him. It is damning of WV that it treats Diário do Vale as an authority for "evidence" against Marxist militants, and assumes that if this house organ of the steel bosses didn't print these refutations, therefore they don't exist. One can easily imagine WV's justified indignation if political opponents quoted the Wall Street Journal as a "paper of record" for accusations against the Spartacist League. Yet today WV presents a collection of "evidence" selected from the pages of this steel company paper in a steel company town, a paper that has waged a vendetta against Luta Metalúrgica for years. For the ICL leaders, anything goes for the purpose of smearing the LQB and the IG.
Defend the Brazilian Class-Struggle Militants!
WV 669 derides the statement that the LQB waged a "principled fight" to remove the police from the municipal workers union. At the same time it advertises a new bulletin of correspondence between the ICL and the LQB from January 1996 through the ICL breaking of fraternal relations in June 1996 (carefully omitting prior correspondence, as well as the LQB's reply to the break in relations). In the future the Internationalist Group will publish materials from the discussion on Brazil inside the ICL which shed additional light on the expulsions and the ICL's flight from the class battle in Volta Redonda.
For example, WV 669 cites a 29 January 1996 letter to Luta Metalúrgica in order to imply that LM upheld a position in favor of using the courts in the union movement when it was slandered by the candidate of the company union Força Sindical. However, at the ICL's January 1996 International Executive Committee meeting, LM leader Cerezo stated: "After discussing with comrade Negrete, Luta Metalúrgica has reconsidered this. We decided not to go to the bourgeois courts, and instead to call a commission of workers." As for police in the union, not only did the LM-backed slate (MEL) declare in its program that police are "the armed fist of the bourgeoisie" and say that no alliance with them is possible "since they bring men armed and trained by the bourgeois state into the unions," LM agreed with the ICL's urgings to undertake efforts to oust the cops from the union. According to the ICL's own reports on the initial discussion with comrade Cerezo on this question, he stated that they were determined to remove the police from the union and that this was a question of principle. In fact, newly elected union president Geraldo Ribeiro had already taken steps to do so before the ICL raised the issue, and Ribeiro with the backing of the LQB continued that fight through to the end while the ICL abandoned the struggle as it reached the critical stage.
Yet even the ICL's own selective bulletin provides anyone who reads it with plenty of proof that Workers Vanguard's cover story is a fabrication. Where WV 669 charges the Brazilian comrades with "persistent refusal to take the necessary steps to constitute themselves as the nucleus of a Trotskyist party in Brazil," the bulletin prints a 3 April 1996 letter from the LQB outlining a series of concrete proposals for these key steps, and a 7 April 1996 letter back from the International Secretariat, saying that the comrades of the International Executive Committee "strongly concur with your proposals." This same letter from the I.S. states that "it has been you comrades who have withstood the pressures and dangers by waging a hard and principled fight" against "the presence of cops in the labor movement," and stresses: "Pursuing fraternal relations with Luta Metalúrgica in Brazil is a choice we made at our IEC meeting and we are generally pleased with the direction things have been moving in since then" (see pages 105-107 of the bulletin).
Subsequent correspondence in the bulletin includes an I.S. motion (25 April) reiterating "recent forward advancement of fraternal relations as evidenced in the collaboration between our organizations in the campaign against the incursion of the capitalist state in the union movement, as well as in the perspectives advanced to us by comrade Cerezo for party propaganda, cadre education, and extending the organization to a major metropolitan center" (page 119); and it features specifics on the work that was underway on producing the Brazilian group's newspaper (pp. 115- 116, 122-123), which WV later claimed the LQB did not want to produce and now derides as an "adornment." The claim that the LQB persistently refused to take steps to constitute the nucleus of a revolutionary party in Brazil is a pure invention to cover the ICL leaders' betrayal.
And once again, WV tries to obfuscate the issues by crudely misusing a historical analogy. The fight to remove the cops, initially encouraged by the ICL and repeatedly characterized as a principled struggle, is now compared by WV 669 to Stalin's 1927 "Canton Soviet"--in other words, an irresponsible adventure. The "Canton Soviet" was a foolhardy attempt at insurrection without adequate preparation, carried out following the devastating defeat of the Second Chinese Revolution in the Shanghai massacre of April 1927. It was intended to cover up Stalin's line of political subordination to Chiang Kai-shek's bourgeois Kuomintang, a betrayal that was directly derived from the reactionary dogma of "socialism in one country" and which led to that massacre. WV's comparison is positively ludicrous, not only in terms of scale. The fight to remove the cops from the Volta Redonda municipal workers union was systematically built with sectoral meetings, the election of delegates to a union seminário and then a membership assembly (19 June 1996). When that was shut down by court order and police force, the class-struggle union leaders came back with a petition, leaflets, a support statement from the mother of Ernane da Silva Lúcio (the black youth murdered by a municipal cop), and finally another union assembly (25 July 1996), attended by over 150 members, which voted the disaffiliation of the cops. Some "Canton Soviet"!
The real purpose of the ICL leaders' absurdly false analogy is to attempt to justify their own desertion from the struggle.
The comrades of the LQB have fought and are fighting for communist principles in the face of tremendous obstacles. Where there have been insufficiencies in this fight they have corrected them. Facing bourgeois state repression, they appealed for and received solidarity both internationally and within Brazil. WV declares that Geraldo Ribeiro has no support locally, basing themselves on hostile popular-frontist union bureaucrats. They should have spoken with those sectors who have run afoul of the popular front, such as the oil workers, whose 1995 strike was broken by army occupation of the refineries while Lula's PT (Workers Party) refused to mobilize in their support. The oil workers union, like the SFPMVR, was placed under judicial intervention following the strike as the government seeks to sell off the state petroleum company Petrobrás. And Brazilian oil workers have repeatedly declared their support for the struggle against police and judicial repression in Volta Redonda.
Further escalating its slanders, WV 669 obscenely accuses the Internationalist Group of having "damaged the tradition of internationalist, non-sectarian class-struggle defense." What cynicism! WV's latest diatribe is a flagrant assault on the tradition of internationalist, non-sectarian class-struggle defense. Driven by factional frenzy, the ICL leaders viciously attack the Brazilian comrades' defense statement, accusing them of "lying to the world" while the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil has faced an onslaught from the repressive organs of the capitalist state, in league with the popular front and pro-police provocateurs.
With all its talk of "unelected union advisors," its positively gleeful proclamation that the union is supposedly "controlled" by the pro-cop faction of Fernandes, its cynical claim that the fight to remove the cops was an irresponsible adventure (at the same time it pretends that it "never happened"!) and its dirty attack on the defense of the Brazilian class-struggle union militants targeted by the capitalist state, WV is trafficking in the vilest anti-communism.
The despicable smear-and-slander job in WV 669 poses point-blank the question: Where is the ICL going? What is one to say of an ostensibly revolutionary organization that will stop at nothing in its vendetta to defame and destroy this nucleus of the revolutionary party in Brazil which has fought to actually carry out the Trotskyist program of revolutionary working-class independence that the ICL claims to stand for? Far from being simultaneously adventurers and bureaucrats, as WV claims, it is precisely because the Brazilian comrades have fought to carry out this program in practice that they have been the target of concerted repression. After abandoning the struggle, the ICL leadership now blames the victims of this repression, crowing that "every danger we warned of came to pass." The very real dangers the Brazilian comrades face in waging the struggle have existed from the beginning, and they have taken them into account in systematically building support for this fight for working-class independence. The ICL's "warnings," about "pull[ing] our hands out of the boiling water" because of the power of the bourgeois state, came not when the ICL initially encouraged this struggle but as it prepared its treacherous desertion. Now WV illustrates the dangers by citing the London Review of Books about the number of street children killed by police death squads in Brazil. The Brazilian comrades know those dangers first-hand, and that did not lead them to betray this crucial class fight.
The party question is indeed the heart of the matter. A revolutionary party can only be built through intervention to bring the communist program into the class struggle, and by standing by this program in deed as well as word. The ICL correctly encouraged the difficult and necessarily convulsive struggle to remove the cops from the Volta Redonda municipal workers union, then withdrew at the last minute, covering its flight with smears against those it stabbed in the back. In the classic ploy of those who are unable to defend their politics, the ICL leaders resort to lies and defamation. At the same time they try to stifle what the LQB says in its own defense and smears the International Group as being "for sale."
At a May 18 public class in Mexico City, a local Spartacist spokesman blurted out what the ICL leadership seeks to accomplish with the new escalation of its slander campaign: "It's over. The discussion is finished." Some "discussion"! Internally, the ICL leadership responded with motions to limit circulation of documents, summary removal of leaders, trials, suspensions, expulsions--and always with the lies, slander and character assassination that lubricate the machinery of bureaucratic suppression. Following the purge, having been unable to refute the documented proof of what really happened in Brazil, their purpose in launching this new smear is to declare the Internationalist Group and Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil beyond the bounds of discussion. But the ICL will not be able to elude the discussion, and its members have the responsibility as Marxists to come to grips with the issues, carefully read all the documents and form their own opinion. For what is at stake is the course of their party, which is in flagrant contradiction with the historic Spartacist program.
From the beginning, we have systematically answered the ICL leadership's smears, because these methods are alien to Marxism and are an obstacle to a genuine struggle to reforge Trotsky's Fourth International. As the LQB points out, in seeking to bury the Brazilian comrades under a mountain of smears retailed by the bourgeois press, the bosses' labor lieutenants and their pseudo-socialist advisers, the ICL leadership condemns itself. For those who seek to advance the program of Trotskyism, upheld by the Spartacist tendency for more than 30 years, the struggle in Brazil has become a real litmus test. For the ICL leaders, the truth is an obstacle to be trampled underfoot in their flight from the struggle. Yet those who fight to reforge the Fourth International must be guided by the rules upon which it was founded:
"To face reality squarely; not to seek the line of least resistance;
to call things by their right names; to speak the truth to the masses,
no matter how bitter it may be; not to fear obstacles; to be true in little
things as in big ones; to base one's program on the logic of the class
struggle; to be bold when the hour for action arrives--these are the rules
of the Fourth International."
Read the LQB's response to ICL Smear Campaign: