Trotsky once wrote that reading Bukharin was like eating chopped bristles. Today, readers of the "new Workers Vanguard" are expected not only to take it with a grain of salt but to swallow whole bucketsful of mud. Once the voice of authentic Trotskyism, WV is now the mouthpiece of the centrist degeneration of the International Communist League (ICL). As such, its falsifications keep getting cruder, since justifying duplicitous politics requires treating the truth as a matter of convenience.
Over the past year, publications of the Internationalist Group/League for the Fourth International (IG/LFI) have posed fundamental political issues regarding the ICL’s revision of the central thesis of the Transitional Program, the founding document of Trotsky's Fourth International; its abandonment of the Leninist demand for independence for all colonies and of the call for workers action against imperialist war mobilization; its "discovery" that the Mexican state’s corporatist labor front is supposedly a "legitimate" union–to name a few. Yet WV follows its script to the letter: ignore the real political arguments at all costs, and every time the IG provides detailed, documented refutations of the last pack of smears, launch new ones. So now we find WV hip-deep in muck raising a new crop of fabrications against the LFI, this time on…our line on the agrarian question in Brazil. And once again, it has provided readers with an opportunity to see for themselves how the falsifiers operate.
In an accompanying article on the struggle against "Zubatovism" (police "unionism") in Brazil, we unmask the ICL’s latest variations on its old smears seeking to disappear the tenacious struggle waged by our comrades of the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil (LQB) for "cops and courts out of the unions." Meanwhile, in its recent article on Brazil, Workers Vanguard (No. 702, 4 December 1998) adds a new ingredient, feigning a polemic on "Agrarian Revolution and Permanent Revolution" as a pretext for new slanders. This foray into the countryside is more than a little foolhardy coming from the folks who barely a year ago made a laughing stock of themselves with one "polemic" after another furiously insisting that the permanent revolution was inconceivable without a struggle against supposed "feudal peonage in the countryside" which according to their fantasy "continue[d] to plague the countries of Latin America." Then suddenly they dropped this claim like a hot potato when the Permanent Revolution Faction in the ICL’s French section unmasked this anti-Marxist thesis borrowed from the Stalinists.
As a preface to its latest pseudo-polemic, WV 702 notes the class-collaborationist reformism of the Workers Party (PT) of Luíz Inácio Lula da Silva and that the Brazilian Landless Peasants Movement (MST) is "a petty-bourgeois formation fully in the grip of Lula’s program." It goes on to claim: "The posture of the IG towards the MST peasant movement has been a textbook case of centrist amorphousness and tailism." Pumping itself up with ersatz indignation, WV accuses:
"So it seems that the Pabloite IG has found in this volatile petty-bourgeois sector a potential ‘new mass vanguard’–a substitute for the conscious proletariat. Through such centrist ploys big and little, the IG/LQB takes its place in the ‘syphilitic chain’ of opportunists who tail the popular front."Just one problem with this whole construct: it is literally the opposite of the truth, and demonstrably so.
To back up its claim, WV writes that "the left portrays the MST as some sort of revolutionary leadership, and the LQB/IG in turn refuses to criticize it when it is so popular. The latest issue of the LQB’s Vanguarda Operária (April 1998) is silent about recent struggles of the landless peasants." Oh really? Anyone who opens that issue of Vanguarda Operária will see the following in the lead article that begins on the front page:
"In reality, all these groups [Stalinists, Morenoites, LBI, etc.] are mere appendices of the PT and as such, their activities in this electoral period will be fundamentally electoralist, even when they claim to be anti-electoralist.So from the very outset, any reader can see that WV’s indictment is a crude and shameless fabrication.
WV’s next "proof" is that in an article defending arrested MST leaders, the previous issue of Vanguarda Operária (August-October 1997) quoted a speech by MST spokesman João Pedro Stédile referring to the need to "mobilize the people in rebellion against the government, as the Bolsheviks did with their slogans of ‘peace, land and bread’ which thus implanted communism in Russia." WV foams: "Thus the LQB introduces the MST to its readers as Bolsheviks!" What the authors grotesquely leave out is that Stédile’s statement was quoted not because the LQB considers him a "Bolshevik" (in fact the article opposes the MST leaders’ reliance on "the bourgeoisie and its agents the capitalist politicians")–but because the speech was the basis for the government’s "case" against Stédile, accusing him of "inciting to violence." The VO article’s first paragraph states this in citing Stédile’s reported statement, but a reader of WV’s account would have no inkling of this basic fact. What does WV care that this was the pretext for a McCarthyite witch hunt? After all, the ICL refused to defend the LQB and the CLC (Class Struggle Caucus) when a Brazilian court ordered their leaflets seized and their office searched!
So what WV says about Vanguarda Operária No. 3 is a lie and what it says about issue No. 2 is a truly vile distortion. What about Vanguarda Operária No. 1? Perhaps it "refuses to criticize" the MST? In a back-page article denouncing the massacre of landless peasants at Eldorado de Carajás, VO’s premier issue stated:
"The MST’s pro-capitalist structure and its deep-going adaptation to the bourgeois state have generated large contradictions; it is not uncommon for the leadership to turn over ‘radicals’ for repression. While we call on the proletariat to mobilize in defense of the struggle for the land, we Marxists warn that the petty-bourgeois conception of self-enrichment through ‘small property-holding’ is reactionary….Now WV No. 702 claims that the "unexplained reference to ‘agrarian revolution’" in the LQB’s October 1998 statement on the Brazilian elections "could mean the program of the MST!" WV’s editors must hope its erstwhile readers will be stricken blind. Headlined "You Can’t Combat Capital with the Popular Front–Against the Cardoso/IMF Onslaught: Fight for Workers Revolution!", the LQB statement (distributed as a leaflet in Brazil, posted on the Internet in Portuguese and English translation, and published in the current issue of The Internationalist) raises the call for agrarian revolution in counterposition to "agrarian reforms [which] are decreed in laws by bourgeois governments," which is the program of the MST and virtually the entire Brazilian left (PT, PC do B, PSTU, CO). The article also stresses "our program is for revolutionary expropriation of the bourgeoisie" and calls for a "revolutionary workers party which can lead the masses of landless peasants in a fight for a workers and peasants government and the extension of revolution to the imperialist centers." What WV dishes out as "facts" would be declared unfit even for hogwash on any self-respecting collective farm.
WV then goes on to froth: "And in place of the Trotskyist perspective of permanent revolution…the LQB calls vaguely for a ‘worker-peasant alliance under the leadership of the revolutionary proletariat.’ This differs little if at all from the Maoist-Stalinist formula of ‘proletarian hegemony’ in the ‘bloc of four classes’!" As a rule of thumb, the more exclamation points WV uses, the less relation it has with the truth. The "bloc of four classes" (i.e., the "national" bourgeoisie, the proletariat, peasantry and urban petty-bourgeoisie) was the Stalinists’ formula for subordinating the workers and peasants to bourgeois politicians, from Chiang Kai-shek in China to the Maoists’ popular front with nationalist strongman Sukarno in Indonesia. The phrase WV quotes (which occurs not in the LQB’s October statement, as implied, but in the front-page article of Vanguarda Operária No. 3) is directed against the popular front. The very next sentence reads: "What the PT does is exactly the opposite: it subordinates the workers and peasants to bourgeois politicians."
In the previous paragraph, the same Vanguarda Operária article stresses:
"It is necessary to bring the working class the consciousness of the role it must play as leader of the peasantry’s struggles. In practice the MST is following the reformist CUT [labor federation] leadership, which leads it to join in the internal struggles of politicians of the bourgeois class. Thus while in hundreds of places around the country landless peasants confront the police and landlord goons who try to expel them at gunpoint from the occupied lands, the political response of the MST is to participate in this rotten broad front [Lula’s "Union of the People"] with the landlord Brizola, representative of the large landowners of Rio Grande do Sul, and Arraes, chief of the landowners of Pernambuco."The article raises the slogans "For a socialist revolution; proletarian opposition to the popular front! Not one vote to any candidate of the popular front!" while denouncing every species of class collaboration (specifically including the so-called "anti-imperialist united front") and calling for a revolutionary workers party to "fight for a workers and peasants government as part of the Socialist United States of Latin America and the extension of revolution to our class brothers in the ‘belly of the beast’ in North America, Europe, Japan and the entire world."
In a report on "Blood on the Second Anniversary of Eldorado de Carajás," another article in Vanguarda Operária No. 3 denounces the assassination of two MST activists who led landless peasants in occupying a large estate in the south of Pará, a state whose governor "is supported by the PT in a popular front of class collaboration," VO notes. The article states:
"It is necessary to organize workers and peasants self-defense and the urgent mobilization of the power of the workers movement under revolutionary leadership, which can place the proletariat at the head of the peasants and all the exploited and oppressed in a struggle for socialist revolution accompanied by a genuine agrarian revolution."It ends: "True solidarity is shown in acts, in the struggle for class independence and to reforge a revolutionary workers party."
"Silent about recent struggles of the landless peasants"? Tailing the MST? "Unexplained reference to ‘agrarian revolution’"? A "bloc of four classes"? In each case, what the LQB says and does is the opposite of what WV claims. This is so utterly clear that it lays bare the cynical method behind WV’s mad fabrications. The ICL is banking on its readers never seeing our answers to its smears or the LQB articles it lies about.
To leave no stone unturned, let us suppose that some ill-informed reader deduces from WV’s article that the call for a worker-peasant alliance under revolutionary proletarian leadership is somehow alien to the Trotskyist program of permanent revolution. The best answer is to go to the source, a text which states:
"Not only the agrarian, but also the national question assigns to the peasantry–the overwhelming majority of the population in backward countries–an exceptional place in the democratic revolution. Without an alliance of the proletariat with the peasantry the tasks of the democratic revolution cannot be solved, nor even seriously posed. But the alliance of these two classes can be realized in no other way than through an irreconcilable struggle against the influence of the national-liberal bourgeoisie."The author goes on to state that "the revolutionary alliance between the proletariat and the peasantry is conceivable only under the political leadership of the proletarian vanguard, organized in the Communist Party." He insists that "the victory of the democratic revolution is conceivable only through the dictatorship of the proletariat which bases itself upon the alliance with the peasantry" and solves the bourgeois-democratic tasks while carrying out the revolutionary expropriation of the bourgeoisie and extending revolution to the imperialist centers.
The author is Leon Trotsky; the source, his theses "What Is the Permanent Revolution?" (in The Permanent Revolution ). It is the program of Lenin and Trotsky that the Internationalist Group and the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil defend, as sections of the League for the Fourth International, against the epigones whose unending fabrications are the symptom of profound political degeneration. n
To contact the Internationalist Group and the League for the Fourth
International, send an e-mail to: email@example.com