. Statement of the Internationalist Group

Why They Lie:

WV's Frenzied Slanders Can't Hide
ICL Leaders' Brazil Betrayal

Following the pattern they have set over the last year, the misleaders of the International Communist League have responded to our exposure of their latest lying smear against the Internationalist Group and the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil (Fourth Internationalist League of Brazil) by shovelling out still more lies. Workers Vanguard substitutes mudslinging for Marxist political debate, resorting to slander and wholesale falsification, because they are frantically seeking to cover up their desertion from a key class battle in Brazil. Having been caught in a shameful betrayal, they accuse those who stood and fought of themselves committing a betrayal. The WV editors' cynical calculation is transparent: they figure that many readers will throw up their hands and conclude that it's a dirty business all around. But serious Marxists will not be deterred by such obfuscating tactics. Anyone who honestly studies the facts will see who is defending the revolutionary program in struggle and who is flinching before the pressure of the bourgeoisie.

The ICL leaders' recourse to falsification and frame-up is nothing new in the history of the degeneration of revolutionary organizations. Rather, it is a recurring historical pattern. As Trotsky wrote in 1929 in introducing the newspaper of the French Left Oppositionists, La Vérité (The Truth):

    "The reformists deliberately lie to their readers in order to preserve the bourgeois system. The centrists employ lies to cloak their vacillations, their uncertainty, their capitulation, and their adventures."

Those who resort to such anti-Marxist methods figure they can crush the voice of authentic communism under the weight of a mountain of lies. WV certainly has a much greater circulation to spread its filth than The Internationalist does for refuting it--as we have done with every single one of their attacks while they just duck and dodge. But the ICL is no organizational juggernaut. In following this disastrous course, it is gutting the most precious capital of the Spartacist tendency, its fidelity over more than three decades to the Trotskyist program.

Let's recapitulate how this "discussion" came about. In June of last year, the Spartacist League/U.S. expelled several long-time leading cadres in a bureaucratic political purge that flagrantly violated the SL's own organizational norms of Leninist democratic centralism. The significance of this "cleansing" was underlined ten days later when the ICL leadership broke relations with the Brazilian LQB and ostentatiously exited from the struggle to remove the police from the ranks of the Volta Redonda Municipal Workers Union (SFPMVR), headed by a supporter of the LQB. The ICL leaders' treacherous flight from a struggle they had at first encouraged occurred the very day before a union membership assembly that was scheduled to vote on the disaffiliation of the cops. That meeting was banned by court order and shut down by armed police, but the Brazilian comrades took the fight forward, leading to a historic vote by the union ranks on 25 July 1996 to oust the cops. Today they continue their struggle to become the nucleus of the Trotskyist party in Brazil, joining with the Internationalist Group in the cause of reforging the Fourth International.

The ICL has spent the last year spinning out one lie after another against the LQB and the IG in attempting to justify its ignominious flight. The ICL leadership's catalogue of smears and slanders includes:

  • The lie that the LQB had "refused" to undertake party-building tasks, such as putting out a newspaper and extending to a major metropolitan center, and instead was wedded to "trade-union opportunism." This fiction was the ICL's central pretext for breaking fraternal relations, yet within a month the LQB published the first issue of Vanguarda Operária (Workers Vanguard), and it now has a nucleus in Rio de Janeiro.
  • The lie that LQB leader Cerezo was refusing to give up a post as an "unelected adviser" of the union. Even the LQB's enemies in Volta Redonda stated months beforehand that he was not an advisor to the union.
  • The lie that the LQB supposedly had a "deal" with the cops in the SFPMVR. Yet the program of the Municipários em Luta (MEL--Municipal Workers in Struggle) slate supported by the LQB stated that the cops, at all levels, like the armed forces, are part of "the armed fist of the bourgeoisie" and thus "no alliance with them is possible." As union president Geraldo Ribeiro moved to disaffiliate the police from the union, the cops have relentlessly gone after the class-struggle leaders of the SFPMVR.
  • The lie that the ICL did not know about the 19 June 1996 union meeting. When we quoted internal ICL documents showing that they knew of the meeting, they switched stories to claim that they didn't know that the question of the police was to be voted there. We have reproduced union leaflets and newspaper articles in the ICL's possession which state that this issue was to be decided by the union membership assembly. ICL representatives were also informed of this beforehand by the LQB.
  • The lie that the union ranks' vote to disaffiliate the police "never happened." We have reproduced union minutes, MEL leaflets and articles from Workers Vanguard's favorite source, the steel bosses' mouthpiece Diário do Vale, reporting on the fact that the 25 July 1996 union assembly voted the cops out.
  • The lie that the LQB never publicized this "great victory" in the Brazilian labor movement, when in fact the LQB has said that "partial victories" had been won and underscored the importance of the union ranks' historic vote in numerous leaflets and statements.
  • The lie that the IG supposedly tried to hide that the court-appointed pro-cop clique around Artur Fernandes "controls the union." The dossier, Class Struggle and Repression in Volta Redonda, Brazil, published last February by the Internationalist Group, reproduces a letter from Geraldo Ribeiro and Marcello Carega stating that the Fernandes clique was occupying the union hall, and that the "mobilization of the ranks will impose the democratic decision that the workers have repeatedly expressed" in reaffirming Ribeiro as SFPMVR president.
  • The lie that the LQB refused to provide information or documentation on the struggle against the cops and the repression against its militants. Yet the LQB sent the International Secretariat of the ICL dozens of pages of leaflets and reports on this, followed by the extensive documentation in the dossier published by the IG.

The latest from the ICL leaders' in their frenzied vendetta is the fraudulent claim in Workers Vanguard No. 669 (30 May) that Liga Quarta-Internacionalista member Geraldo Ribeiro supposedly sued the very union of which he is the elected president, and that the Internationalist Group is supposed to have covered this up. In statements by the LQB (24 June) and the IG (29 June), we refuted this frame-up, taking apart their whole lying construct and demonstrating its falsity point by point. In the face of a barrage of repression by the capitalist state, including no less than seven judicial actions against LQB supporters, Ribeiro has steadfastly opposed all court intervention in the unions, both in repeated public statements, in statements to the courts and in his actions. We showed that what's actually going on here is that the ICL is repeating the lies spread by pro-cop elements, the company press and the popular-front left in opposing the LQB's campaign for police out of the unions and justifying the onslaught of cop and court repression against the Brazilian Trotskyists.

This is no idle academic debate. Over the last two weeks Brazil has witnessed several armed confrontations between the military police and the army. The cops who are infamous for massacring street children, slum dwellers and peasants are "striking" to demand higher pay to enforce the bourgeoisie's bloody rule. And now the leaders of the CUT labor federation and the PT (Workers Party) are joining together with the cops. This poses the greatest danger to the workers. CUT leader Vicentinho recently appeared on the same platform with a notorious killer from the ROTA police commandos in São Paulo. MST landless peasant leaders have praised the murderous military police whose troops gunned down their comrades at Eldorado dos Carajás last year. The main leader of the military police in the state of Alagoas is a member of O Trabalho, the tendency in the PT that follows the French pseudo-Trotskyist Pierre Lambert! With virtually the entire Brazilian left openly or in a barely veiled manner supporting the bonapartist police mobilization, this underscores the vital importance of the struggle waged by the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista to remove cops from the unions. The LQB alone is fighting to drive home the lesson that the police are not "public servants" or allies of the workers but the armed fist of the bourgeoisie, the enemies of the exploited and oppressed.

ICL's Vendetta Escalates

Following our exposure of their role as a trumpet for the campaign of lies emanating from the bourgeoisie, the ICL leaders have responded with a new escalation. WV No. 671 claims of Ribeiro and the LQB that "Court Papers Prove They Sued the Union." No, they do not. What they show is that the ICL is falsely accusing Ribeiro--the target of the anti-union court suits--of doing what was in fact done by those who went to the bourgeois "justice" system to remove him as union president. Like the articles that have preceded it in the ICL's smear campaign, the whole article is shot through with one fabrication and falsification after another, once again beginning with the graphic they use to illustrate the article. In WV 669, they claimed that a headline from Diário do Vale, the mouthpiece of the steel bosses in this steel company town, proved that Ribeiro had been removed as president of the union. Yet the subtitle said this was done by a meeting of 25 people--only four days after a union assembly of over 150 reaffirmed him as president and expelled the police. This time around WV shows a clipping from the Diário do Vale of the SFPMVR announcement of the 19 June 1996 union assembly which was to vote the exclusion of the cops, purporting to show that the agenda had "Nothing about cops!" This is a cynical lie.

As the graphic printed in WV itself shows, the first point on the agenda of the June 19 meeting is "Report of the resolutions of the 1st seminário [conference] of the SFPMVR" held on June 13. The resolutions passed at that seminário called for removal of the police. The agenda for that meeting, including point 7 on the "Municipal Guard," was published in a union brochure distributed to the membership beforehand. It was reproduced on the front page of a June 17 union broadsheet building for the June 19 meeting. The other side of the tabloid-size sheet is headlined, "Campaign is Growing for 'Cops Hands off the SFPMVR." And the next day, June 18, a four-page union tabloid printed the text of the main resolution of the seminário, which stated that "the affiliation of guardas and police to workers' unions is incompatible with a class program."

The class-struggle union leadership waged this struggle politically. The June 17 union bulletin included an editorial on "The Capitalist Offensive and the Crisis of Leadership," which states:

    "In addition, there is an increase in racism and male chauvinism in the context of a general offensive against the working class. But this capitalist offensive, which the fake- leftists call 'neo-liberal policy,' is in reality the ongoing crisis of capitalism, further exacerbated following the capitalist counterrevolution in the planned and collectivized economies of the USSR and East Europe.

    "At the same time, despite the innumerable manifestations of its struggles, the proletariat is being defeated by the politics of popular-front class collaboration and because it does not have a revolutionary leadership which fights for the end of capitalism and for socialism, a task which is only possible if the working class has its revolutionary workers party."

Remember that this is in a union bulletin produced by militants that the ICL labels "trade-union opportunists"!

All of this material is available to the public. Reproductions of those union bulletins are to be found on pages 11 and 12 of our dossier Class Struggle and Repression in Volta Redonda, Brazil, and the ICL has the full text. Now consider the statement in WV 671 that "here is the public advertisement for that union meeting: there is no mention of removing the cops from the union. Workers were not publicly mobilized for that purpose, and in fact it didn't happen." You don't have to travel to Brazil to find out the truth about this--all a reader has to do is look at the material published by the ICL and at the material published by the IG to see for yourself that WV's claim is a flat lie.

And what about WV's statement, that "in fact it didn't happen." The ICL leadership knows full well, as we underlined in our recent statements, that the 19 June 1996 meeting was banned by court order. Armed police moved in to shut it down just as Ribeiro was reading the resolution that called for removal of the guardas from the SFPMVR. The vote was not held on June 19 but a month later, because of the action of the capitalist state. Yet in its sneering account, Workers Vanguard never mentions this fundamental fact. The ICL deliberately hides the bourgeois repression against the class-struggle unionists from its readers.

Incredibly, the ICL continues to play three-card monte with the date of the vote by the union ranks to disaffiliate the cops. "June 13? June 19? July 25?" they sarcastically asked last time, claiming, as they do again, that "it didn't happen." But it did happen. In addition to the responses from the IG and the LQB, we have circulated a letter from LQB member and SFPMVR union activist Marcello Carega describing the 25 July 1996 meeting that voted the removal of the police and how it was prepared.

In its previous smear, WV sought to hoodwink readers into believing that Geraldo and the LQB had never answered the claims in the bourgeois press that he was taking the union to court. We pointed out that Ribeiro had immediately written to Diário do Vale, on 26 July 1996, stating unequivocally that he opposed appealing to the courts and that in fact it was the usurper Fernandes who had brought the bosses' "justice" system into union affairs. Now WV gives it another try with the same technique, alleging that Ribeiro's letter is a fraud ("Neither the IG nor the LQB has ever published [the] letter to Diário do Vale," it pretends) and that "neither had the LQB issued any propaganda directed at the working class in Volta Redonda" on these claims. Not so. The IG response to WV No. 669 noted that faced with the systematic distortion of his views in Diário do Vale, Ribeiro gave an interview to the other local paper, Opção (9 August 1996), which reports that he says "the city's justice system is bourgeois and he does not believe in it." And we noted that on 30 January 1997, Geraldo issued a declaration quoting his letter from last July that the Diário do Vale refused to print. This declaration was issued as a leaflet and widely distributed to workers in Volta Redonda.

This issue was also addressed in a recent (26 June 1997) leaflet by Ribeiro calling for united workers action against layoffs by the local Popular Front government. The leaflet points out that the elected SFPMVR leadership had called for "no vote for any candidate of the Popular Front," and that he had warned that the new mayor planned mass layoffs. It also stressed the importance of the disaffiliation of the guardas voted by the union ranks last July, noting that the layoffs have been facilitated by the attacks of the pro-cop Fernandes clique, "which maintains itself by force in the union under the protection of the 'justice' system and the police." He adds: "My lawyers wanted to resolve the question in the bourgeois courts, but even though this could have benefited me, I opposed this, since it is against our principles. We fight for class independence and it is the workers who must resolve their own problems." Meanwhile, the response to the slanders of the ICL takes up four pages of the second issue of the LQB's paper, Vanguarda Operária. This is how the LQB supposedly hasn't issued "any propaganda directed at the working class in Volta Redonda" on these questions. Not only does WV simply lie about and suppress facts we have reported, it simply invents "facts" out of thin air.

WV's "Irrefutable Evidence" Refuted

This brings us to the latest of WV's supposed "proofs" that Geraldo Ribeiro supposedly brought in the bourgeois courts against the union of which he was the elected president. In justifying a thug attack against Ribeiro in January, the court-installed puppet Fernandes accused Ribeiro of suing the union. As we explained in the IG answer to WV's lying smear, when Geraldo inquired of his lawyers what the cases cited by Fernandes were about:

    "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."

Now WV is forced to admit the fact that Ribeiro indeed ordered these suits to be withdrawn, yet in the next breath it claims that the appeals by the LQB and the Internationalist Group for solidarity to demand that the cops and courts keep their hands off the SFPMVR and its president were "an international diversion." Our campaign was supposedly nothing but "camouflage" to hide the fact that "they had sued the municipal workers union in Volta Redonda in the capitalist courts." This is a lie, and a very dirty lie in the service of the popular front, intended to undercut solidarity in the face of the barrage of state repression against the SFPMVR and Ribeiro.

While admitting that Ribeiro had the suits withdrawn long before their article claiming that he was suing the union, the WV editors do not even mention his statement to the court explaining that these legal actions "were erroneously introduced as a defense in my name," and emphasizing that "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." Ribeiro stated there that "I do not participate in any case of that kind" and pointed out as well that five months previously he opposed the courts ruling even to confirm him as president of the SFPMVR. That was at the beginning of last December, and there is no mention of that important fact in the WV article either, even though Geraldo explained his principled stand in a letter to international supporters and in a leaflet to Volta Redonda workers.

Since Workers Vanguard claims to base themselves on court papers and the public record, why is it silent about these facts? And if the "real" purpose of the IG and LQB was to sue the union, and appeals for solidarity against repression were only a "diversion" and "camouflage," then why did Ribeiro repeatedly, both in public statements and in responses to the courts, insist on his opposition to all court intervention in the unions, not only in word but also in his deeds?

To bolster its fraud, WV now claims that "files in the courthouse prove the IG and LQB are lying," that Ribeiro had to know what his lawyers were doing. First, the article claims, there are "power of attorney" documents signed by Geraldo. These documents only state that the lawyers "can represent him in any trial, jurisdiction or government office, in the entire national territory," saying nothing about these cases. Secondly, the article charges Ribeiro with "concealing" a third case. How is he supposed to have concealed this? Artur Fernandes referred to two cases, WV referred to the same two cases. The "third case" was a continuation of the second, and when Ribeiro instructed his lawyers to withdraw all such cases, it was withdrawn.

Then comes WV's supposed KO punch, claiming: "In order to back up Ribeiro's claim that the capitalist state should recognize him as the legitimate leader of the municipal workers union, he submitted union bank statements, account books, statutes and minutes of union meetings to the bourgeois court as 'evidence'!" This, too, is a lie, and a very telling one, because here WV is accusing Ribeiro of actions that were in fact the result of the court suits by Artur Fernandes & Co. to oust Ribeiro as president of the union.

The WV article purports to provide "irrefutable evidence that the LQB dragged the SFPMVR union through the bourgeois courts," when in fact it was the pro-cop element Fernandes (the original source of many of WV's lies) and his camarilla who appealed to the bourgeois courts to remove Ribeiro from his elected position and to shut down the union meeting that was to disaffiliate the police. In the entire WV article, there is no mention of these fundamental facts. The article asks rhetorically: "how could his lawyers get their hands on the union's financial records and other sensitive internal material and append them to Ribeiro's lawsuits unless he himself turned them over to the lawyers?" The answer is simple: these materials were demanded in the court suits by Fernandes' flunkey Sebastião de Fátima Batista Passos which carried out the judicial coup against Ribeiro.

The first of those suits (detailed in our Brazil dossier), case no. 30.421, accused Ribeiro of violating the union statutes by calling the 19 June 1996 union assembly, and initiated court proceedings to remove him as union president. The second suit, case no. 30.545, introduced on 18 July 1996, established a "jurisdictional receivership" by the courts over the union, with Fernandes acting as the administrator, and ordered the removal of Ribeiro as president of the SFPMVR. The suits press charges against Geraldo related to the payment for union bulletins, including the 11 April 1996 bulletin reprinting the statement by Mumia Abu-Jamal, "Police: Part of, or Enemies of, Labor?" As part of his defense against this frame-up, Ribeiro provided his lawyers with copies of bills showing that the suit against him used crudely falsified bills as "evidence." The suits against Ribeiro called on the court to rule on the union statutes, which were quoted extensively. As for the SFPMVR financial records, bank accounts, etc., Ribeiro never had these. In fact they were demanded in the first Fernandes/Passos suit which sought (and got) a court order to seize the union's books, calling for "granting a preliminary order for a financial investigation of the books of the Union Body which are in the possession of the accountant Vera Lúcia Nunes Ferreira."

Here WV is falsely accusing Ribeiro of turning over union records that in fact came from Fernandes & Co. or which were demanded in the court suits these pro-cop elements introduced to suspend and then remove Ribeiro as president of the SFPMVR, the suits that WV never talks about! It was Fernandes, not Ribeiro, who "invited the class enemy to scrutinize the SFPMVR's internal documents" and "appealed to the capitalist state to determine who should be the legitimate representative of the municipal workers." And like Fernandes, the ICL accepts the verdict of the capitalist state, declaring with great bombast and even glee that this pro-cop usurper "controls the union." Perhaps they would like to tell this to union militants angry over how Fernandes abandoned workers who participated in a recent work action. This court-installed puppet is still in the union hall because of the diktats of the bourgeoisie, not the will of the union membership. In every respect, the ICL's "irrefutable evidence" shows precisely the opposite of what it pretends.

In sneering at "the IG's lame claim that Ribeiro didn't know what his lawyers were doing," WV acts as if lawyers always and only do what their clients want. This is hardly the experience of communists historically. For those who do not have access to party lawyers, and even for those who do, Lenin's injunction (in a January 1905 letter to imprisoned Bolsheviks in Moscow) applies: "it is better to be wary of lawyers and not to trust them." Lenin emphasized that even when liberal lawyers were defending and praising their clients, they did not understand their revolutionary convictions and thus were liable to misrepresent them.

Let us return to Ribeiro's action in December 1996, after Fernandes & Co. were forced to drop their case no. 30.545 for lack of any evidence for their trumped-up charges. Ribeiro refused the court's offer to rule on the validity of the July 25 union assembly that reaffirmed him as president of the SFPMVR and voted the disaffiliation of the police from the union. Again, if Ribeiro was "appeal[ing] to the capitalist state to determine who should be the legitimate representative of the municipal workers," as WV claims, why didn't he accept this offer? The ICL leaders can't explain that, which is why they must vigilantly disappear this fact. In order to do so, they doctor quotes from Ribeiro by chopping a sentence in half, cutting out the reference to this action, not just "fine words," in a 31 December 1996 letter by him and SFPMVR activist Marcello Carega to unionists and others who have defended them internationally (the letter is reproduced in our dossier on Class Struggle and Repression in Volta Redonda, Brazil).

Ribeiro's action in December demolishes the ICL leaders' elaborate lying construct. But you don't have to take our word for it--here is what Ribeiro's then lawyer has written:

    "I declare that at the time of the publication in the Diário Oficial [Official Gazette] of 3 December 1996, which stated the following:

      'In view of the approved withdrawal of case no. 30.545/96, the plaintiff and defendant must each state whether he continues to lay claim and pursue the present lawsuit. Deadline: five days, silence indicating agreement with the withdrawal.'

    "On that occasion, during the period of 05 (five) days, being one of the lawyers of Geraldo Ribeiro, I insisted to him that in view of the withdrawal by Sebastião de Fátima Passos (case no. 30.545) which called for the removal of Geraldo from the presidency of the SFPMVR after slandering him, that this was the big chance for Geraldo to sue him for slander and defamation and to retake the presidency of the SFPMVR by means of a judicial sentence.

    "But Geraldo Ribeiro was intransigent and said that he was against any intervention of the judicial system to resolve differences among workers.

    "This being the case, I withdrew as his lawyer."
    [signed] Roberto Henrique dos Reis, 19 July 1997

ICL Leaders' Tissue of Lies and Smears

The ICL leaders stick together their patchwork of distortions and fabrications with a whole lot of smears, slanders and mud. Thus they have several times now referred to Ribeiro as an "ex-cop." Once again, this comes from Artur Fernandes, who accused Geraldo of "demagogy" for leading a campaign to disaffiliate the police from the union when he was a former cop. The fact is that Geraldo was for a short period in the early 1980s a municipal guarda. For the last dozen years he has been a printer and a leader of the Municipal Workers Union since its inception. He has led the union in six strikes. In a 1988 general strike Ribeiro was subjected to a vicious beating with riot sticks by the military police while he was defending a strike barricade on the picket line. And he has led a campaign to remove the cops from the union in order to defend the class independence of the workers movement, the fight that the ICL leaders fled from.

If Ribeiro's background would disqualify him, perhaps ICL leaders would care to comment on the fact that Marshal Tukhachevsky, who rose to become commander of the Red Army and deputy Soviet minister of defense before being murdered in Stalin's purges, was a lieutenant in the tsarist army in World War I. In the past WV rightly published articles hailing Marshal Tukhachevsky, but now...?

Then there is the following gem, a classic in the genre of dirty innuendo and mudslinging. WV writes that since Norden and Negrete were "quite exclusively in control of our contact with the LQB prior to January 1996, the question must be asked, did they know about the cops [in the municipal workers union] and keep that secret from the party." Previously they had similarly "asked" if Norden and Negrete perhaps secretly wrote the MEL program; they also voiced "hefty suspicions" (in the charges against Norden and Stamberg in their frame-up expulsion "trial") of "political collaboration with non-members" and even an "outside source of political funding." The idea that Brazil was an exclusive preserve is pure fiction; it is belied by the fact that Brazil together with South Africa was repeatedly singled out as one of the ICL's top priorities in the period of 1994 to 1996. There were numerous extensive reports by Norden and Negrete to the rest of the ICL leadership on discussions with LM. These are cited in the "Brazil Report for the IEC" by Negrete (21 December 1995), as well as in "On Relations with Luta Metalúrgica (Brazil)" and "Once Again on Fraternal Relations with Luta Metalúrgica," by Jan Norden (17 April and 5 May 1996). For that matter, the supposed discoverer of the LM/LQB's alleged "trade-union opportunism" in 1996 had made an extensive visit to Brazil in 1995, together with Negrete, a trip from which there were dozens of pages of reports, all duly circulated to the IEC.

As for supposedly knowing about the presence of cops in the SFPMVR and keeping this a secret from the party, not only is this a paranoid fantasy, it was Negrete who first learned about the cops at the January 1996 IEC meeting, and immediately initiated a discussion about this question with Luta Metalúrgica representative Cerezo (who said that LM was committed to removing the guardas from the union). This is attested to in 25 January 1996 reports on the conversation by both Negrete and John B. What's next? Will the ICL leadership now "discover" that the party leadership had been harboring "nests of spies and traitors" who for years were allegedly secretly plotting against the party in alliance with imperialism (or in this case the cops)? Their whole scenario has a distinct quality of "déjà vu all over again," in the immortal words of Yogi Berra.

This brings us to the charge of running a "wrecking operation," and an inside-outside job at that. WV writes: "Norden & Co. ran a wrecking operation inside the party, engineered their own expulsions and now run a wrecking operation against us from outside the party." "Trotskyite splitters and wreckers," anyone? How exactly did we carry out such a "wrecking operation inside the party" and engineer our own expulsions? By "declining the opportunity to form a faction" to "change the party's program and perspectives," WV says. No, what we did was calmly answer the frenzied smears and bureaucratic sanctions against us, refusing to be cowed by them. We have consistently defended the historic Spartacist program and fought to implement those perspectives, while the new ICL leadership abandoned that program in practice at a key moment.

As for running a wrecking operation against the ICL from the outside, and rushing to form "an anti-Spartacist bloc" with the LQB (as claimed in WV 669), nothing of the sort is true. We have repeatedly defended the ICL against anti-Spartacist slanderers such as the picket-line crossers of the Bolshevik Tendency and others of their ilk. What we did was continue the fraternal relations with the LQB and continue to support the struggle for cops out of the unions, a key element of the Trotskyist program for working-class independence from the capitalist state. It is the ICL leaders who are wrecking the party with their escalating vendetta, miseducating the membership in the anti-Marxist methods of cynicism and lies. It is they who are beginning to revise the program on key issues such as the Russian question, abandoning in practice the Trotskyist understanding of the contradictory character of the Stalinist bureaucracy, and on the popular front.

We pointed out in a May 5 Internationalist Group leaflet in Mexico that the Grupo Espartaquista de México is now denying there is a popular front around Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas' party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD). Not only has this has been a position of the ICL since 1988, before the GEM was formed, this question has come to the fore in the recent Mexican elections in which the PRD emerged as the main opposition party and Cárdenas himself was elected mayor of Mexico City. In the 1994 Mexican elections, the GEM put out a supplement warning working people and opponents of imperialism not to be hoodwinked by the Cardenista popular front. However, for this vote, in which there has been a popular-frontist upsurge as never before in Mexico, neither the GEM nor Workers Vanguard put out any propaganda on the issue. Instead, they issued an Espartaco supplement denouncing...the Internationalist Group and the LQB. As the ICL's perspectives become increasingly narrowed to pursuing its dirty vendetta, it is progressively abandoning the tasks of any tendency that claims to be acting as a vanguard of the proletariat.

Meanwhile, there are some politically significant and ominous new elements in the ICL's latest slanders against the IG and the LQB. Grotesquely, WV declares that "the Ribeiro faction in the union was every bit as squalid as the pro-cop faction led by Artur Fernandes"--an "even-handed" characterization whose purpose is to justify the ICL leaders' own treacherous actions. Here we have a fight over ousting cops from the union--as far as we know, the first time this has occurred in Latin America--a struggle led by the LQB that the ICL previously described as principled and which it encouraged, against a provocateur who brags of his support for and advice from the police, and who has repeatedly brought armed police in to shut down union meetings. We have a struggle of union leaders who have insistently called for courts out of the union, and acted in accordance with that principle, against the same pro-cop clique that has repeatedly brought in the courts as a club against the class-struggle militants. And in this battle, the ICL leaders declare all sides equally "squalid." This is their response to the question in the LQB's 24 June letter to the ICL: "Which side are you on?"

Neutrality in such a fight is itself a betrayal, but the ICL's "neutrality" is phony, for in practice they dish out the lies from the pro-police elements, the popular-front government and the bourgeois press. Who benefits from such actions? Only the class enemy.

In addition, the ICL leaders have reached a new low in blaming the victims for repression. The latest WV article claims that the LQB and the Internationalist Group "helped make" Fernandes' operation a court-rigged outfit, when in fact Geraldo Ribeiro and the LQB have been the target of a concerted campaign of police and judicial repression, as well as thug attacks. At the same time, WV describes the LQB and IG as "unscrupulous and dangerous hustlers." Readers of WV and The Internationalist will recall the ICL leaders' earlier claim that the IG is "for sale" and its comparison of the fight for cops out of the Volta Redonda union with the Stalinist adventure of the 1927 Canton Commune. As the ICL now repeats the lies spewed out by the popular front, the steel bosses and their agents in Volta Redonda, who have long sought to destroy the communists of the LM/LQB, they are trying to isolate these Trotskyist comrades and stop people from defending them against continuing repression and assault.

The precedents for this kind of dirty operation are well-known, from the Healyites acting in concert with the bourgeois media against British miners leader Scargill to the BT's smear campaign against the Spartacist League calling the SL violent gangsters at a time when we were suing the FBI over its description of the SL as terrorist. Since the ICL leaders have traveled so far down this well-travelled road, one has to ask: what is their next step?

The claim of the ICL leaders that they are defending Marxist principle is manifestly false. Their vicious vendetta is driven by factional frenzy, and a desperate search for an after-the-fact alibi to salvage their badly damaged reputations. They believe that they are accountable to no one, that they can lie and spread smears without being exposed. They think they can urge a difficult and dangerous struggle on comrades and then abandon it and them when the stakes are rising, and it will have no political consequences. But they are wrong. A communist party true to the program of the Lenin and Trotsky is answerable to the revolutionary interests of the working class. It wins its role as leader of the exploited and oppressed through its intervention in the class struggle, where Bolshevik cadres are tested and steeled. In fleeing from a key class battle, alleging that the danger to the vanguard was too great, and then justifying that betrayal with a welter of lies, the ICL leadership is undermining the struggle to forge that leadership, the vanguard party of the proletariat that is the key to world socialist revolution.

What we are seeing is the political degeneration of the tendency which for more than three decades upheld the banner of revolutionary Trotskyism. It reflects the pressure of the capitalist offensive, buying into the lies of bourgeois triumphalism and seeking to find a protected niche in the "new world order." The ICL leadership's recent actions would gut the historic Spartacist program, turning it into empty paper. They increasingly treat the principles and rules of the Fourth International with cynical disregard. This political degeneration is what is behind WV's substitution of mudslinging, character assassination and lies for Marxist political debate. This is behind the ICL's growing revisions on the key issues of the Russian question and the popular front, and its shameful actions as purveyors of the lies of the popular front and its agents against the Trotskyists. The smears and slanders are the handmaidens of a deeply unprincipled course, which can only be fought by building an authentically Leninist-Trotskyist vanguard in struggle against all those who drag the principles and program of the Fourth International into the swamp of class collaboration.

Internationalist Group
25 July 1997