Once Again on the ICL's Campaign
of Defamation Against the LQB and the Anti-Racist Unionists of Volta Redonda
The following is a translation of a letter by the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil responding to the latest lies and smears published by Workers Vanguard, newspaper of the U.S. section of the International Communist League (ICL).
The leadership of the ICL decided there were "unacceptable risks to the vanguard" and fled from the class battle in Brazil. Trying to cover this up, it launches one slander after another against those who rejected this betrayal.
Volta Redonda, Brazil
To the ICL:
We have read a translation of the 30 May 1997 Workers Vanguard article against the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil (LQB), the anti-racist trade unionists of Volta Redonda and our fraternal comrades of the Internationalist Group. The article talks about the need to raise the consciousness of the working class so it will understand its historic tasks. However, what you are doing is deliberately introducing confusion instead of clarity, and this can only lower the consciousness of the workers and particularly that of the ICL's own members. The attitudes you are encouraging go against the struggle for proletarian socialism. You are basing your campaign on lies and slanders against revolutionary workers picked up from enemies of the proletariat, in particular the pro-police clique of Artur Fernandes, his advisers--the bigoted centrists of the "Liga Bolchevique Internacionalista" (LBI)--and his friends in the local bourgeois press.
Thus, while you pretend that you "discovered" the new slander--that Geraldo Ribeiro is supposedly "suing the union"--we all know that you found this lie in the newspaper of the LBI, which reproduces whatever comes out of the mouth of Artur. The accusation that we are suing the union is a lie. We have not brought suit against the union or the pro-police provocateur Artur Fernandes.
Moreover, months ago, when one of Artur's lying court suits collapsed, the court asked us if we wanted it to rule in favor of the validity of the union meeting of 25 July 1996 that reaffirmed Geraldo as the union's legitimate president. We rejected this "offer" because it would be against our principles, as we declared publicly and as Geraldo and Marcello wrote in their letter of 31 December 1996. We have emphasized that the workers must reject any interference by the bosses' "justice" system in the labor movement, and we have done this while facing the pro-police elements who really do launch one court suit after another and are the source of the slanders that you spread.
It is obvious that in your campaign of defamation you are prepared to do anything, and that you are shameless. What is also clear is the reason for this base behavior: the leadership of the ICL will not forgive the LQB for refusing to follow its flight from the struggle to throw the municipal guardas (cops) out of the Volta Redonda municipal workers union (SFPMVR). The leadership of the ICL will not forgive the fact that when they stabbed us in the back, abandoning the struggle at the crucial moment, we called this by its right name: a betrayal. And since the ICL leadership is afraid it will face political problems because of these facts, it tries to "protect" itself by covering us with dirt.
Several weeks ago you declared that we and everything we do is a "Potemkin Village," in other words something that does not exist. Now you declare that we and everything we do is a "fraud" and a "paper dragon" manipulated with "rotten strings"; that our newspaper, of which almost 1,300 copies have been sold in various cities, is just an "adornment"; when we recruit militants from the unions and the youth you say, with petty-bourgeois haughtiness, that this is just a maneuver; that nobody knows about us here in Brazil and that it's all just for "international consumption." This logic of quantities and popularity is the same argument used by the reformists, centrists and other enemies of Trotskyism.
Our struggles are not "unknown" to the armed police who shut down the union meeting of 19 June 1996 and arrested comrade Marcello (a revolutionary black worker and student we recruited from the union) during the general strike of 21 June , during the same week the ICL fled from the class struggle in Brazil. Nor to the authors of the multiple prosecutions against us in the bourgeois courts. (The most recent interrogation of Geraldo at the police station occurred on 20 May  in the SEVENTH legal action against us. But this does not interest you.)
Unknown? Not to the hundreds of workers who signed the petition for the union meeting of 25 July 1996 and the 150 who attended and voted the disaffiliation of the municipal guards, in spite of the repression and the occupation of the union hall by the courts' puppet Artur. Yet when your representatives made a recent lightning visit to Volta Redonda in the attempt to get "dirt" on us, they did not speak to the workers at the municipal garage, the SMO [dispatch hall for road repair and other public works] or other places where city workers are to be found. They could have informed you of the reality of this struggle.
Would you dare to say all this to Regina Célia, whose defense against racism was answered by the Popular Front city government with a court case against Geraldo that could bring four years in prison? Or to the mother of Ernane da Silva Lúcio (a black child murdered by the police), who supported the campaign you call a fabrication; or to the residents of her neighborhood, Vila Americana, who followed and supported our efforts? In the face of the defense campaign for the anti-racist unionists who have faced police and court repression, you scream that it's all a "fraud." Only the enemies of the proletariat can benefit from this defamatory campaign.
In your article you quote letters from the ICL to the LQB. But you never published or even answered our letters to the ICL; for example, our 4 July 1996 letter protesting the disloyal break of relations in the midst of the struggle to remove the cops and answering the false justifications given for that break. Nor our letter of 17 October 1996 refuting the slander that we supposedly made a "deal" with the cops. Or is this new slanderous article supposed to be the answer? You quote selectively from your letter of 26 October 1996, without mentioning that it began with more grotesque slanders against the Internationalist Group, and you pretend that it just requested "proof" of the repression against us. In our answer (30 December 1996), we wrote:
"You pretend we made a 'deal' with the police, when the truth is the exact opposite: we have fought for the disaffiliation of the police from the union, and the courts and cops did everything to throw us out and repress us. So now, when you have been unmasked and your lies have been revealed, now you demand 'proofs'! At the same time you launch new slanders. How ironic! The slanderers demand 'proofs'! But the proofs are not and will not be to your taste! We have documented and will continue to document not only the anti-communist repression against class-struggle trade unionists and the LQB, but also the disgraceful role of the current leadership of the ICL, which acts against that organization's honorable traditions and program."
It is incredible that you pretend that we refused to provide documentation and proof. Way back in July 1996 we faxed the ICL many pages of documents, leaflets, articles from the press, and also written accounts by comrades Geraldo, Ildefonso, Cerezo, Marcello, R and MC, all of it describing the campaign to remove the cops and the repression against us. You did not respond, but you never mention these materials publicly, and we think you probably never even translated them for the ICL's own members. We know directly that other materials which were translated, such as the 6 May 1996 leaflet (which begins "The Rank and File Is Deciding: Police Out of the Union"), were not distributed to the ICL's membership.
Later, when the Internationalist Group, in collaboration with the LQB, published a dossier showing graphics and documents on six court cases against us, you disregard this, call it a "fraud," pretend the meetings never happened, etc.
You use similar methods in your new article. For example, the article includes various supposed quotations from comrade Cerezo of the LQB. First, according to you, Cerezo said the head of the guardas' association was "killed" by a guarda. He did not and could not have said this, because that individual, although he was shot, continues to be very much alive.
Then you state that Cerezo said Artur controls the union. But the fact, which Cerezo explained, is that Artur controls the union hall because he was installed there by the intervention of the bourgeois courts, with repeated interventions by the cops and Military Police, "invited" by Artur, to oust Geraldo! Your supposed spectacular revelation is nothing more than what is known in Brazil as "raining where it's already wet." And you try to use this as "proof" that the members of the union did not vote the disaffiliation of the cops. Shame! This only reveals that you accept that "reality" is defined by the class enemy.
Nevertheless, the workers voted democratically to reaffirm that Geraldo is the legitimate president. As stated in the 31 December 1996 letter from Geraldo and Marcello on their defense:
"...what decides is the organized will of the workers. This will was expressed in the election of Geraldo in November 1995 with 62 percent of the votes. It was reaffirmed in the 25 July  union meeting, which affirmed that Geraldo is the legitimate president of the SFPMVR. The mobilization of the ranks will impose the democratic decision that the workers have repeatedly expressed."
--"Anti-union lawsuits." This is supposed to be the main dish offered by your article. Shamelessly, the authors of the article do not mention Cerezo's answer when the ICL representatives asked him if we are suing the union, because he clearly stated that this is a lie and a slander from Artur Fernandes spread by the bourgeois press and the LBI. Artur and the LBI do this in order to cover up the fact that it is the pro-police clique which "invited" the "justice" system to intervene against the class-struggle-anti-racist leaders. The LQB categorically rejects any use of the capitalist courts in the workers movement. This is also one of the principles of the Comitê de Luta Classista (Class-Struggle Caucus) founded by our comrades. But you twist facts in order to slander us.
Your article cites the same 31 December 1996 letter by Geraldo and Marcello where they declare that we reject any interference by the bourgeois "justice" system in the SFPMVR and the workers movement as a whole. You attack the defense letter for this, saying "these people lie to the world," a false accusation which can only harm our defense. But you suppress the first part of the same sentence, which showed this was not just a general statement but something with a very concrete content. Referring to the fact that in early December 1996, the Artur grouping had to desist from one of its court suits against Geraldo since it could not prove its accusations, the complete sentence in the letter states:
"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."
In other words, the courts offered to intervene "in favor of" Geraldo and he refused this offer of "aid" from the bourgeois state. This matter of public record dates from December of last year. You know this, but you do not mention it because it refutes your accusation that our words were empty. The LQB and comrade Geraldo have said exactly the same thing to the workers in Volta Redonda and the organizations which defended us, as well as to the capitalist courts themselves.
In your article you refer to "evidence" from the Diário do Vale claiming that Geraldo used the "justice" system against the union, and you dramatically ask: "If this were not so, where then is the necessary refutation by the LQB or the IG?" The incredible thing is that you never asked us this question before publishing your article. If you had had the elementary honesty to ask, we would have told you: When the Diário do Vale claimed this, Geraldo immediately, on 26 July 1996, sent them a letter refuting this accusation. When this newspaper of the CSN [National Steel Company] bosses refused to publish the letter, Geraldo did an interview with Opção newspaper (9 August 1996), denouncing the "justice" system's intervention in the union, stating the justice system is "bourgeois" and comes from the military dictatorship. Then, when the accusation was repeated by the pro-police faction, Geraldo published a "Declaration" (31 January 1997), which was widely distributed to the workers, refuting this slander once again and citing his 26 July 1996 letter to the Diário do Vale. Workers Vanguard says nothing of all this, and in reality your theatrical question, like your entire defamatory campaign, is a condemnation of yourselves.
It is very curious that when you write about "lawsuits [which] are a matter of public record," you fail to mention that months ago the Diário Oficial (official daily gazette) of the State of Rio de Janeiro recorded that the cases you enumerate were stopped, and this was at Geraldo's insistence. In July 1996, Artur's pro-police grouping got the courts to oust Geraldo as president of the SFPMVR. Geraldo's then lawyers asked for two injunctions to block the implementation of the summary decisions which the court decreed even before holding a hearing in which Geraldo could present his defense in the face of this judicial coup against the union. In December 1996, the Artur grouping had to withdraw from its main suit against Geraldo because they had no evidence. When Geraldo went to the union hall, the Artur group organized another physical attack against him, went to the police to press new charges against Geraldo (case number 327456), and in order to cover this, accused him of suing the union. Geraldo refuted this in a public statement and reaffirmed his principled opposition to any intervention by the courts in the labor movement. When Geraldo asked the lawyers about the cases mentioned by Artur, they informed him that instead of being directed only against the decisions of the court itself, the two requests for injunctions were registered as actions with the union as "defendant," something which he, as president of the union, would never have permitted, since his fight has been to defend the SFPMVR against the "justice" system's attacks. So Geraldo immediately insisted on the complete withdrawal and nullification of these actions. On February 17, the lawyers turned in the formal withdrawal--in other words, more than four months ago, long before the WV article and its real source, the article by the LBI advisers to the pro-cop clique of Artur Fernandes.
Artur's lawyer asked that Geraldo declare that the actions would not be revived over the following years, and this was accepted by Geraldo, who also made an official declaration to the court refusing to have anything to do with any lawsuit against the union and explaining that we reject any intervention by the "justice" system in the unions.
Our defense of this principle produced an open break with the lawyers, who did not understand it and only because of our insistence agreed to nullify the actions which were erroneously filed. Despite running the risk of having no lawyers at all at a time when even more new charges were pressed against us by the gangsters of the pro-police grouping, we continued to defend the principle of "Courts out of the unions." You claim that we sued the union. The truth is the opposite of what the ICL says: We have been the target of repression by the bourgeois state's "justice" system and police. The LQB and Geraldo have not sued the union or even the pro-cop grouping installed by the courts, and we insisted on the nullification of the suits which WV accuses us of carrying out.
In addition to this smear taken from the mouth of the king of the union-suers, Artur Fernandes, there is a veritable cornucopia of falsehoods and distortions.
--Dishonest game regarding dates. Workers Vanguard tries to confuse its readers by citing various dates having to do with the disaffiliation of the guardas and asking sarcastically: "June 13? June 19? July 25?" This is really grotesque. The ICL's newspaper tries to present the situation as if the Internationalist Group had invented different dates for the same event. However, as the ICL is fully aware and as anyone can see in the dossier, what is involved here is a series of events in the disaffiliation campaign. In early May , as part of preparing the ranks and increasing their consciousness, delegates were elected by work sector to the union seminário (conference), and one of the points was "Police out of the union." The seminário was held on 13 June  and the delegates voted in favor of disaffiliating the guardas, as preparation for a union membership meeting with decisive power.
This union meeting was called for 19 June 1996, as the ICL's representatives knew perfectly well. The workers attended, Geraldo was reading the resolutions of the seminário, but the Popular Front mayor sent the police with a court order to dissolve the meeting and begin the process of ousting Geraldo from his post as president. It is grotesque that the ICL tries to make a joke out of it in order to "disappear" this fact.
In the face of the judicial/police coup against the union, we organized meetings in the work sectors. A petition from hundreds of workers and an official notice called the 25 July  union meeting, which voted the disaffiliation of the guardas. Artur did not want to recognize this official decision of the ranks, but the guardas began the formation of their own "association." What is scandalous is that the ICL too does not accept that this was the democratic decision of the workers. You use the fact that the court-installed coup-maker Artur has support from the cops in order to deny the convulsive struggle of the last year and a half in Volta Redonda. Basing yourselves on the "facts" created by the bourgeois state, you seek to deny the reality of the class struggle.
The claim that what we did was "slip in" the disaffiliation of the guardas "at the end of a long meeting centered on an economist wage campaign" is a total invention. The disaffiliation campaign was the subject of preparatory meetings, many leaflets (at least twelve items had print runs of 1,000 to 3,000 copies each), and even articles in the local press. At the 25 July 1996 meeting, this point was moved from number six on the agenda to Point 2 on the agenda (as shown by the minutes from that meeting which you had in your hands because they were sent to you), long before the wage campaign point, and it was introduced by a minute of silence in homage of Ernane as a symbol of racist police terror.
--"Deal with the cops." Ten months after making this slander (at a forum in New York after the break), now for the first time the ICL tries to justify it publicly. The supposed "proof" is that the MEL (Municipários em Luta--Municipal Workers in Struggle) slate in the November 1996 union elections included "the pro-cop agent Artur Fernandes." The idea you seek to put forward is that Fernandes was already known as such when he was included in the slate. But this is false, and the truth is that the same ICL representative cited as the supposed "discoverer" of our "opportunism" had political discussions (a contact session) on Eastern Europe with Fernandes in August 1995, which is something one doesn't do with pro-police agents. Fernandes turned out to be an opportunist element who, when he saw after the union elections that the MEL program was going to be put into practice, aligned himself with the cops and the Popular Front.
As you know, Geraldo began negotiations for the disaffiliation of the guardas in December 1995, immediately after taking office as president of the union. Artur proposed that [the union] take 10 percent of guarda association's dues, and Geraldo immediately refused. Fernandes' attack underlines the fact that Geraldo sought to disaffiliate the guardas. Fernandes published a leaflet (13 March 1996) citing the part of the MEL program which called the guardas and other police the "armed fist of the bourgeoisie." Fernandes' leaflet said "Geraldo clearly wants to exclude the Municipal Guards and watchmen from the union movement" and sought a provocation, calling on "everyone to defend the guardas" at a union meeting.
The ICL's slander about a supposed deal with the cops in November 1995 was only invented nine months later, in order to deny the LQB's struggle against the presence of cops in the union and justify the International Secretariat's abandonment of this struggle. The ICL's letters (for example from April 1996) recognized the "hard and principled fight" for the disaffiliation of the cops, a fight which "has drawn our organizations closer together." But after breaking relations, the I.S. cynically "discovered" this fictitious deal with the cops.
It is absurd to accuse us of a "deal" with the cops on the basis of an MEL program which denounced any "alliance" with any kind of police (explicitly including the guardas) "since they bring men armed and trained by the bourgeois state into the unions." We have critically analyzed that period, but as we wrote in our 4 July 1996 letter to the ICL: "It is not logical to make (correct) criticisms about the way the MEL slate was put together and to say (correctly) that, while the MEL program originally talked about the question of the police in general, it did not explicitly call for the disaffiliation of the guardas and then run away from the struggle when we try to improve the MEL program and put the program of Trotsky and the ICL on this question into practice." Today we would add that you are trying to bury the historical truth of this fight under a pile of falsehoods.
--"Hasty" recruitment as a maneuver. The WV article claims that we brought Geraldo and other SFPMVR activists into LQB membership as part of a fraudulent maneuver to justify "control" of the union. You talk about these comrades as if they were ignorant people who are not interested in Marxism. Yet despite the attitude of petty-bourgeois contempt which you express, the truth is that these comrades had worked with us for a long time (for example during the demonstration in defense of Mumia Abu-Jamal in August 1995), and they were won to the LQB through study and struggle, in particular the struggle to throw out the cops.
These comrades joined the LQB in a period when our organization was the target of a campaign of hatred and repression directed against us by the bourgeoisie, its agents and the popular front. It was obvious that they could not attain any "privileges" by becoming members of our small Trotskyist organization. But you launch the dirty statement that we "covet" and protect "posts." Far from coveting posts, privileges and influence in the union bureaucracy, we have fought for the Marxist program. You speak indecently when you know perfectly well that our comrades live in poverty because they decided to become revolutionaries. The bourgeoisie has put LQB comrades on its "blacklist," including in the racist sense of this term, after firing them for fighting for the workers' interests, and many remained unemployed for years. And when the popular-frontist members of the "CUT [labor federation] Opposition" let themselves be corrupted by CSN, forming their "CUT Independent Investment Club," Luta Metalúrgica (as we were called at that time) was known for refusing to buy privatization stocks and rejecting this corruption.
And in the face of the LQB's fight for Marxist principles, the response of the bourgeoisie, with direct or indirect support from the various popular-frontist bureaucrats, has been to use the cops, courts, thugs and the bourgeois press in order to expose our comrades to beatings, arrests, court suits and slanders. We continue to recruit young comrades and on 17 June 1997, thirty students participated in the demonstration that the LQB organized at the university where comrades M. and S. study, against a fascist from the University of Juiz de Fora (in Minas Gerais) who went on the Internet to call for the extermination of blacks and homosexuals.
--"Nobody" knows about the LQB. You say everything is a fraud for "international consumption" and the LQB has no support "in Brazil." This accusation could be taken straight from the mouths of the anti-communists and the local bourgeoisie, who always say the same kind of thing.
Supposedly the ICL "knows" this among other things because it talked with the regional CUT. But the regional CUT is led by union bureaucrats who are part of the popular front which tries to smash us because of our proletarian opposition to this class collaboration and which is the boss exploiting the municipal workers. Moreover, the regional CUT which the ICL visited to request information is the very one which had so much hatred for our struggles that it closed its doors when our positions won 40 percent at the seventh regional [CUT] congress in late 1993.
What you do not mention is that during the "Police Hands Off the SFPMVR" campaign we received the support and reproduced solidarity statements from the oil workers, Belo Horizonte and Rio de Janeiro municipal workers and CUT and others, particularly sectors which have had conflicts with the popular front.
Another absurd "proof" in the WV article is that on May Day in São Paulo, supposedly nobody knew that "the LM/LQB even continued to exist after the ICL broke fraternal relations!" In other words, when we had fraternal relations with the ICL these people knew we existed, but later they forgot? What incredible arrogance! You carried out a kind of "lightning opinion poll" there, but your sample was taken from the run-of-the-mill practitioners of class collaboration: CUT leaders, fake-left groups, etc., and you came up with the "discovery" that we are not popular or "known" among them. At bottom this is an anti-communist method.
You know, because we informed your representatives who carried out their 20-minute interview with us, that on May Day we were at the rally in the city of Rio de Janeiro. At that demonstration, our comrade Ildefonso (known in the Brazilian workers movement as one of the organizers of metal workers strikes starting with the illegal mass strike against CSN in 1984) was a speaker in the name of the LQB, and he spoke about the counterrevolution in the USSR and East Europe and its impact in the privatizations and mass layoffs in Latin America.
But the ICL leadership keeps on slandering, saying that we did not inform the workers of the struggle against the guardas. At a public meeting in Mexico, you screamed that we had no propaganda on the attacks by the São Paulo police and that nobody knows of our existence. False. At the same Rio de Janeiro demonstration we distributed our declaration against the government's repression of the Santos dockers, which also talked about the "attacks and murders carried out by the Military Police in the slums of Diadema (state of São Paulo) and Cidade de Deus (state of Rio de Janeiro), which are part of the constant police attacks against workers, the poor, blacks, homosexuals, the oppressed and exploited in general" and talked about the example of the struggle to disaffiliate the guardas in Volta Redonda.
The ICL leadership does not forgive the fact that the LQB did not disappear after the ICL's betrayal of breaking fraternal relations with us one day before the union meeting which was to vote the disaffiliation of the guardas; that we publish a Trotskyist propaganda newspaper; that we carry out work among the university youth, recruiting young people (two of whom were recently elected delegates to a national student congress fighting on our program against the popular-frontists); that we established a local of the LQB in the city of Rio de Janeiro but did not accept the position of abandoning Volta Redonda, the city with the largest steel plant in Latin America, and not to "set foot" here again (as put forward in an ICL document); that we did not accept the position of hiding our international links and that we continue to fight, together with the Internationalist Group, to reforge Trotsky's Fourth International.
We add today, given that we were originally drawn to the ICL in good part because of its opposition to the popular front, that we reject the revision of historic conceptions which the ICL leadership is carrying out now with its "discovery" that no popular front even exists in Mexico.
What the ICL leadership did in Brazil was a betrayal, as any worker who ever participated in a difficult struggle would understand. First it correctly encouraged us to organize a struggle to separate the guardas from the union. But when the struggle heated up, especially after Artur Fernandes invented the fake "armed attack" on himself, you decided that the struggle posed "unacceptable risks to the vanguard." You said we had to abandon the struggle, which also meant abandoning the workers involved in this fight, and leave town. We did not agree to commit this betrayal. So you cut relations and abandoned the struggle. To cover this up, you repeat any lie that comes out of the mouths of Artur and the LBI and the pages of the bourgeois press.
Having committed this dirty act, you have tried to justify yourselves by covering us with slanders, hoping that our voice will be suffocated under the weight of so much dirt. You try to blame us for the repression directed against us. Now you try to declare us pariahs in order to silence any doubt or question about the path you are taking. We have always sought the unity of words and deeds, even at great cost. Now you heedlessly spew words in order to sow confusion. We learned from you the question from the American miners' song: "Which side are you on?" This question applies to your behavior towards the bitter struggle in Brazil. And it has profound implications for your future course.
In defense of communist principles, for the revolutionary independence of the working class,
Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil