|.||Statement of the Internationalist Group
A Postscript to the 25 July Internationalist Group Statement
ICL Takes Slander Campaign to Brazilian Labor Congress
The national congress of the Brazilian Central Única dos Trabalhadores (CUT--United Workers Federation) labor federation was held in São Paulo this August in the aftermath of "strikes" by the murderous Military Police across Brazil. The MPs were demanding more money for carrying out the bourgeoisie's dirty work of repressing workers, blacks and landless peasants. From CUT leader Vicentinho, linked to the reformist Workers Party (PT), through virtually all of the "far left," the tendencies at the labor congress had supported the bonapartist cop revolt. One particularly cynical outfit, the "Liga Bolchevique Internacionalista" (LBI), called for "red unions" of the Military Police! At the same time, it presented theses co-signed by one of its leaders and Artur Fernandes, the pro-police stooge who has been point man for repression by the capitalist cops and courts against class-struggle unionists in Volta Redonda.
In sharp opposition to the betrayal of the reformist and centrist left, a team of militants from the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil was outside the CUT congress selling the new issue of the LQB's newspaper Vanguarda Operária. Its lead article calls for revolutionary opposition to the cop "strikes," labels the police "the armed fist of the bourgeoisie," and demands the expulsion of cops of all kinds from the unions. The LQB is the only tendency in the Brazilian left to uphold this crucial position, which is key to the fight for workers' class independence and against racist, anti-labor police terror. Their tenacious and principled fight for this fundamental principle has earned them the enmity of the popular front and a barrage of judicial actions against them.
Two representatives of the International Communist League showed up at the CUT congress on August 16. They came to distribute a leaflet in Portuguese that says not a word on the burning issue of opposing the CUT's support for cop "strikes," nor against the popular-frontist left which ties the workers and oppressed to the bourgeoisie, nor against the LBI advisors for the pro-cop provocateur Artur Fernandes. Instead, the leaflet smeared the LQB and comrade Geraldo Ribeiro as engaging in a "squalid struggle for control" of the Volta Redonda Municipal Workers Union (SFPMVR), charging the LQB and the Internationalist Group with "class betrayals" and sneering about a phony "union 'struggle'" in Volta Redonda. The leaflet was a translation of the latest smear attack on the Internationalist Group and the LQB in Workers Vanguard No. 672 (8 August 1997).
The previous issue of WV (No. 671, 11 July 1997) claimed that "the Ribeiro faction in the union was every bit as squalid as the pro-cop faction led by Artur Fernandes." On one side is Fernandes, his armed cop cohorts and the bourgeois courts who installed him. On the other side are the revolutionary workers of the LQB and the class-struggle unionists, led by the legitimately elected union leader Ribeiro, who fought to remove cops from the union. Because of that fight they have been the object of repeated acts of cop repression, gangster violence and no less than seven court actions against them, including by the police commander and the Popular Front city government. In the face of all this, they defied the courts and cops in voting to oust the guardas (police) from the SFPMVR.
Yet WV says both sides are the same. This is a betrayal and a cover-up for the class enemy. And as we have pointed out, the neutrality is phony: the ICL leaders have retailed one smear after another against the LQB from the mouth of Fernandes and the bourgeois press.
At the CUT congress, as if to display their tacit bloc with the LBI against the Brazilian Trotskyists, the ICL representatives hung around the LBI's literature table for many hours of amicable discussion. This table was quite openly the command post for the LBI's dirty operation inside the congress based on the "theses" cosigned by Artur Fernandes.
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So, once again, let's take a look at the latest smears from WV's slander mill of supposed spectacular "revelations" against the IG and LQB. First of all, readers should note that while Workers Vanguard obscenely gloats that Geraldo Ribeiro was "booted out" of the union hall, it has sought to disappear the fact that this was carried out by the jackboot of police repression. One article after another failed to mention that armed police shut down the 19 June 1996 union meeting, imposing a court order that initiated a judicial coup to oust Ribeiro from his elected position. This means that anyone reading Workers Vanguard would have no idea of the real course of the struggle in Volta Redonda.
WV first claimed that the LQB was suing the union, on the basis of claims by Fernandes and the LBI. Not only did Ribeiro not sue the union, when he learned of the requests for injunctions his then lawyers had filed, he immediately instructed the lawyers to withdraw them, which was done, as WV is now forced to admit. WV doesn't mention: 1) that this occurred months before their phony exposé; nor do they mention 2) his statement to the court explaining that those legal actions had been erroneously introduced in his name and that he was categorically opposed to bringing the courts into the unions; nor do they mention, 3) that last December, when the court offered to rule on the validity of the union membership assembly that reaffirmed Geraldo Ribeiro as union president, he refused the court's offer; or that 4) his ex-lawyer confirms in a signed statement that this is what happened, and it was because of Ribeiro's refusal on principle to sue the union that he resigned as Geraldo's lawyer.
Geraldo Ribeiro has stated repeatedly, from the beginning, that he is opposed to all court intervention in the unions. He has done so in leaflets, on the radio, in statements to the courts, as well as to international supporters. If Geraldo Ribeiro wanted to sue the union, as the ICL dishonestly claims, then why would he have made the lawyers withdraw the requests for injunctions? Why did he refuse the court's offer last December to rule in his favor?
WV says that if Geraldo signed power of attorney papers, he must have known what his lawyers were doing. WV claims that the fact that Ribeiro didn't know about these legal actions for seven months is "not possible." But it is true, so why isn't it possible? Underlying WV's claim is the idea that lawyers usually do what their clients want them to do, which is very far from the case when the clients are working-class and poor people, let alone revolutionaries. Lawyers are agents of the courts, and behind WV's haughty remarks is a form of confidence in the bourgeois state.
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What is going on here is that the ICL leadership committed a betrayal in Brazil, which they are now brazenly trying to cover up. The ICL correctly encouraged the LQB to undertake a fight to remove the police from the Volta Redonda municipal workers union, and then when the struggle reached the boiling point, the ICL leaders told the LQB to "pull our hands out of the boiling water," pull out of the union leadership and even pull out of town. When the LQB refused this shameful request and continued the fight to remove cops from the union, the ICL broke off fraternal relations and pulled out. While waxing ironic about our "passion" for defending the Brazilian comrades, the ICL leaders are out of control in a real frenzy to defame the Brazilian militants in order to alibi the documented fact that the ICL stabbed them in the back and deserted this key class battle.
Much as they have tried, the ICL leaders have not been able to blot out the fact that they abandoned the struggle in Volta Redonda in the midst of the fight to remove the cops from the SFPMVR, so now they try to pretend that it never happened. In answer to WV 671's claim that the call for the 19 June 1996 union meeting--the day after they broke relations with the LQB--had "nothing about cops," we pointed out that the first agenda point was "Report of the resolutions of the 1st seminário [conference] of the SFPMVR" and that "the resolutions passed at that seminário called for removal of the police." Now WV 672 shrieks "No they didn't!" and repeats that "workers were not mobilized for that purpose, and in fact it didn't happen." In fact, the workers were mobilized for that purpose, and in fact it did happen.
The ICL leaders have become so blinded in their frenzied vendetta that they believe they can simply decree an alternate reality. Unfortunately for them, the public record shows what really happened. In the first place, there was a whole campaign by the union leadership to mobilize the ranks for the disaffiliation of the police. One of the reasons the ICL leaders hate our February 1997 Brazil dossier (Class Struggle and Repression in Volta Redonda, Brazil) is that it reproduces materials they sought to suppress. Thus, on page 10 of the dossier we show a union bulletin of 6 May 1996, which the ICL leadership translated but did not distribute to the membership. This bulletin is headlined "The Rank and File Is Deciding: Police Out of the Union" and reports: "A meeting of the [municipal] garage workers voted unanimously: The police should not be part of, and should not interfere with, the SFPMVR or the workers movement in general. Because they are the instrument and armed fist of the bourgeoisie."
That bulletin published a schedule for elections of workplace delegates to the union seminário. Even WV's favorite source, the steel bosses' paper Diário do Vale (17 May 1996), reported that in early June, "the union will hold a conference where it will discuss the removal of the guardas from its membership, Geraldo Ribeiro said yesterday." And it did. The main resolution from the seminário declared that "the affiliation of guardas and police to workers' unions is incompatible with a class program." WV rants that this was from the "preamble" and came in the midst of "more than a dozen paragraphs of economist verbiage." It is bizarre and grossly dishonest that they call "economist" a highly political text that, among other things, refers to "the Transitional Program of the Fourth International" and the "counterrevolution in the planned and collectivized economies of the USSR and East Europe," and calls for "a revolutionary workers party which fights for the end of capitalism and for socialism" while stressing that "this party must be internationalist with a multiracial composition of men, women and youth."
The main resolution, quoted above, provided the overall political motivation for the motions passed during the ten agenda points. The question of the municipal guardas was point 7 on the seminário agenda. And as we reported in our dossier, "a motion was overwhelmingly passed calling for the ouster of the guardas." That motion, as recorded in the seminário minutes, voted that "a letter will be sent to all the unionized municipal guardas explaining that they will no longer be part of the membership of the SFPMVR." The motion was passed with one vote against. Will WV claim this didn't happen as well? We are reproducing this point from the minutes of the June 13 SFPMVR seminário so that readers can see for themselves.
And what of the 19 June 1996 union membership assembly? We have already cited the 28 June union bulletin which reported that, in defiance of a court order, as the cops moved in to shut down that meeting, "Geraldo read the resolutions of the 1st seminário, and among the main points is: To disaffiliate the municipal guardas from the SFPMVR, because they are not part of the working class...." The front page of this bulletin is reproduced in our Brazil dossier. But WV still pretends that this didn't happen either. So we will cite a source their reporter had in his hands (because it is part of the court papers he "personally examined" in Volta Redonda). The court suit by Fernandes's flunkey Sebastião Passos includes the minutes of the meeting of Fernandes' court-rigged "executive board" held on 27 June 1996. In a bill of particulars against union president Ribeiro, the minutes state:
"It was also public knowledge that the general assembly called by the union president on 19 June 1996, at the Municipal Hall, despite being canceled judicially, decided to disobey judicial orders and at the beginning of the assembly presented the following proposals: To disaffiliate the municipal guarda, disobeying 'Article 6' of the statute...."
This supposed violation of the union rule that membership is open to all city workers (the Fernandes clique calls cops "workers") was then cited as one of the reasons for the "suspension" of union president Geraldo Ribeiro, originally decreed by the court on 19 June 1996. Will the ICL leaders continue the lie that "it never happened" to cover their shameful desertion the day before the June 19 meeting?
We have shown that WV's claim that at the 13 June 1996 union seminário "the Ribeiro/LQB faction did not call to remove the cops" is false. We have shown that WV's claims that the agenda for the 19 June 1996 meeting did not deal with the question of removing the cops from the cops from the union and that "workers were not publicly mobilized for that purpose, and in fact it didn't happen" are also false. Now WV 672 pretends that there was no vote at the 25 July 1996 union assembly to remove the cops. This, too, is demonstrably false.
After the 19 June 1996 meeting was dissolved by armed police, the LQB comrades used leaflets, workplace gatherings and a petition signed by hundreds of workers to mobilize for the union meeting of 25 July 1996, held despite police intimidation, as the Brazilian comrades have powerfully described in letters published in The Internationalist No. 3. At that meeting a motion was passed to disaffiliate the police from the SFPMVR. An excerpt of the minutes of that meeting is printed on page 14 of our Brazil dossier, stating: "We proceeded to the motion to disaffiliate the municipal guards from the union. The proposal was accepted by a majority vote of those present."
We want to call attention to a particular aspect of this slander published by Workers Vanguard. We are not dealing here with a reckless disregard for the truth, but a conscious, deliberate lie. When WV's editors wrote their latest fabrication they had in their possession the minutes of the 25 July 1996 meeting showing in black and white that this vote was held. How do we know? Because an ICL spokesman requested them, and we sent them to him, even before our Brazil dossier was published.
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A side point, but a telling one as to the cynicism of the ICL leadership: The leaflet that the ICL distributed to the CUT labor congress says "labor donated" at the bottom. Those who have closely followed WV's campaign of defamation will recall the vicious smear a year ago when they implied that our bulletin on the ICL's purge of leading cadres and its desertion from the struggle in Brazil was printed by scab labor, when in fact our bulletin said it was labor donated! But consistency is no concern of the ICL leaders.
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In an article on Mexico in issue No. 672 (devoted to a polemic against the IG), WV repeats the smear that the Brazilian comrades are trade-union opportunists and that "the LQB went on to drag this union [the SFPMVR] through the capitalist courts." Wait a minute. Who was dragged through the courts? Who was repeatedly beaten, including in one instance while Artur Fernandes' right-hand man held a gun on him? It was Geraldo Ribeiro. Who was dragged in handcuffs to the police station after military police fired a shotgun in the air? Marcello Carega. Who was "booted out" of the union hall by court order after the popular front mayor sent cops to shut down a union meeting? The LQB comrades.
The ICL leaders not only try to obscure this but are running a smear operation denouncing as a "fraud" and a "diversion" the international effort to defend the LQB and anti-racist unionists in Volta Redonda against this repression. Words have meaning--the ICL leadership is actively opposing defense of the Brazilian militants. Make no mistake: the ICL leaders' drive to isolate and destroy the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil and the Internationalist Group weighs in the balance of the class struggle--on the bosses' side. Those who seek to advance the proletarian struggle for socialist revolution must reject and expose this dirty smear campaign.