Class Struggle Against
Readers of The Internationalist are well aware of the battle over the last three years in the Brazilian industrial center of Volta Redonda for cops and courts out of the unions. Our comrades of the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil (LQB–Fourth Internationalist League of Brazil) have tenaciously fought for the ouster of guardas (local police) from the Municipal Workers Union (SFPMVR) and for removing all cops from all unions, as the police are "the armed fist of the bourgeoisie." The expulsion of the police from the SFPMVR was voted by an assembly of the union ranks on 25 July 1996, in the face of heavy police presence. In response to its courageous struggle, the LQB and in particular Geraldo Ribeiro, an LQB supporter who was elected president of the SFPMVR in late 1995, have been the object of unrelenting repression by the capitalist courts, as well as of gangster attacks by pro-cop elements installed by the bourgeois state to police the combative municipal workers.
In late October, the pro-police provocateur Artur Fernandes and one of his thugs assaulted Ribeiro as he was walking down the street, threatening to kill him and invade the offices of the Class Struggle Caucus (CLC) and the LQB. The provocation was part of the run-up to a pseudo-"election" staged by Fernandes attempting to give a veneer of legitimacy to his brazen usurpation, which was carried out through court orders and with the armed force of police sent by the Popular Front city government. This latest cowardly attack took place in broad daylight in front of witnesses. Fernandes and his goon were repulsed and the CLC issued a four-page bulletin in newspaper format (18 November) denouncing the aggression and calling for class struggle against "police unionism," for a boycott of Fernandes' phony plebiscite and for opposition to intervention in the SFPMVR by the bourgeois state.
Now, in what has become a well-worn pattern, after the gangster attack by Fernandes & Co. comes another barrage of lies about the LQB in the pages of Workers Vanguard, newspaper of the Spartacist League. For more than two years, the International Communist League, of which the SL/U.S. is the leading section, has regularly trumpeted the smears and fabrications against the LQB spewed out by the pro-police elements in Volta Redonda–and their advisors in the Brazilian LBI (Liga Bolchevique Internacionalista)–who seek to excuse their thug violence, the police repression and endless court actions (nine so far) against LQB supporters. While adopting "a plague on both your houses" stance, cynically equating the victim and the perpetrator, the ICL actively seeks to sabotage campaigns for international labor defense of the Brazilian Trotskyist workers.
What's striking about WV's steady diet of mud is how brazenly it serves up claims which are easily shown to be false, while recycling old concoctions that have already been disproved. Thus WV No. 702 (4 December), in an article ostensibly on the Brazilian elections which took place two months earlier, repeats its constant refrain that the Trotskyist LQB and the LBI advisors to pro-cop provocateur Fernandes are just "competing bands of trade-union opportunists," and that "the LQB and its LBI rivals invited the bourgeois courts. . .to 'settle' the union's affairs." Yet Geraldo Ribeiro was elected union president in 1995 with 62 percent of the vote over bitter opposition from city hall, while Artur Fernandes was the instrument of a judicial coup which installed him in the union hall against the wishes of the membership, in an attempt to block Ribeiro's campaign to remove cops from the union. And the LQB has regularly been the target of cop and court repression which the LBI's ally Fernandes has initiated.
The ICL shamelessly makes up charges out of the whole cloth, claiming for example–as an alibi for breaking relations with the LQB in June 1996–that the LQB had "refused" to put out a party press, even though the ICL's own internal reports show this is false. When the first issue of Vanguarda Operária appeared less than a month later, the ICL claimed that would be the last issue. As succeeding issues of the LQB paper are published, the ICL now claims that "the LQB and its 'party press' are simple window-dressing for an operation which is really about doing anything to capture positions of influence in the unions behind the backs of the members" (WV No. 702). This smear, using language reminiscent of J. Edgar Hoover's Masters of Deceit, is not only demonstrably false but downright grotesque, since the LQB has been the object of a vicious red purge, in which pro-police forces have used every slimy anti-communist device in the book to remove Ribeiro and suppress LQB/CLC propaganda, by legal action and/or thug violence. But they have not been able to silence the Trotskyists.
The LQB has consistently opposed all state intervention in the union, while it was police supporter Fernandes & Co. who brought the bosses' courts into the SFPMVR. But you would never know this from reading WV. In one smear job after another, the ICL simply "disappears" the police invasions, the multiple court orders to remove the elected leadership of the union, the court order to seize LQB/CLC leaflets, the threat to seize militants' belongings and demand a list of CLC members, the gangster attacks on Ribeiro–while obscenely pretending that key union meetings and votes in the campaign to expel the cops "never happened." Yet in the court suit which "suspended" LQB supporter Ribeiro from the SFPMVR presidency, one of the key charges against him was that the union general assembly of 19 June 1996 began with the proposal "to disaffiliate the municipal guarda" (see "ICL Takes Slander Campaign to Brazilian Labor Congress," The Internationalist No. 4, January-February 1998).
These facts are not unknown to the ICL. In early 1996, Fernandes issued a provocative leaflet calling to "defend the guarda"; his faction then called the Military Police to get shotgun-wielding MPs to shut down the meeting, and on a radio program Fernandes openly bragged that he was "oriented by the police." WV desperately seeks to hide the fact that the LQB and CLC are waging an on-going campaign for cops out of all the unions, not just in Volta Redonda but nationally. Most recently, CLC delegates to the Rio de Janeiro state teachers congress presented and fought for a motion stating: "We demand the expulsion of every kind of police from the CUT and all unions, and the end of unions' support to 'strikes' by the police, the armed fist of racist capitalism against the workers and oppressed." At the same congress the CLC put forward a motion calling for freeing Mumia Abu-Jamal, the former Black Panther sitting on Pennsylvania's death row, which was unanimously supported by the assembly.
Now WV 702 escalates its slanders to the grotesque claim that the LQB is "delivering the unions into the hands of the capitalist state"! While the ICL keeps repeating the slander that Ribeiro supposedly sued the union, readers of one WV article after another would have no idea that comrade Ribeiro has consistently opposed all court intervention into the SFPMVR; that he in fact refused the court's offer to rule in his favor; that when he learned that his former lawyers had filed requests for injunctions to block summary court action in the suits against him, and that they had erroneously and without his knowledge listed the union as defendant, he ordered the lawyers to immediately withdraw those requests; and that this was carried out months before the ICL mounted a phony exposé based on the lies of Fernandes (spread by his LBI advisors) who actually has done and continues to do what the ICL falsely accuses Ribeiro and the LQB of doing. (See The Internationalist No. 3, September-October 1997 for the statement of the LQB, "Once Again on the ICL's Campaign of Defamation Against the LQB and the Anti-Racist Unionists of Volta Redonda," 24 June 1997; the Internationalist Group statement "ICL Leaders Escalate Smear Campaign Against Brazilian Militants," 29 June 1997; and letters to the ICL from members of the LQB.)
WV keeps repeating these shopworn lies, despite our detailed refutations, because they can't answer our political attacks on their shameful desertion from a key class battle and their escalating revisions of fundamental Trotskyist positions on everything from permanent revolution to the popular front and the nature of the Stalinist bureaucracy.
WV Caught Red-Handed
To these old lies, the latest WV article adds some new ones (see also our accompanying article, "WV's New Crop of Fabrications"). In particular, it claims that supporters of the Internationalist Group, whom it sneeringly refers to as "IGlets," now "call the SFPMVR a court-rigged formation" and say that it "is no longer a trade union–because they no longer control it." No, as any reader of our press can ascertain for themselves, we have repeatedly insisted that Artur Fernandes' gang is not the SFPMVR but an apparatus imposed by the capitalist state to police the workers. The ICL accepts the claim by the bourgeoisie and its agent Fernandes that his court-rigged outfit is the union. Then, after this cynical distortion, WV asks with mock indignation: "Don't the Volta Redonda municipal workers have a right to know that their union is no longer a union? We challenge the IG/LQB: bring your self-serving new line out into the open–put it in writing for the Brazilian proletariat!"
The reader is supposed to think that the IG and LQB have been hiding our position from the workers in Volta Redonda. Yet the LQB has repeatedly emphasized that Fernandes represents the cops, courts and capitalist politicians who installed his gangster operation against the militant workers. For example, The Internationalist No. 5 (April-May 1998) reprinted in full the January 1998 Class Struggle Caucus bulletin which states: "Artur Fernandes is the pro-police stooge imposed by the bourgeois courts against the will of the SFPMVR ranks with the objective of ousting the elected president, Geraldo Ribeiro, and subjugating the union." The bulletin was reporting on international solidarity with the CLC in the face of a court order for the "search and seizure" of its leaflets in yet another suit brought by Fernandes' lawyer. The CLC explained that Fernandes' brand of "police unionism" is not peculiar to Brazil but has a long history:
"The LBI as 'theoretician and advisor' and Artur [Fernandes] as the 'practitioner' not only 'defend' the guardas, but revive 'Zubatovism' in the labor movement. (At the beginning of this century, Zubatov was the inspirer and organizer of Zubatovism or 'police socialism' in Russia. He founded phony workers organizations under the tutelage of the police, with the aim of keeping the workers away from revolutionary activity. Zubatov acted directly inside the unions, scheming against the Bolsheviks and the lives of all those who had revolutionary political objectives in organizing the workers.) During the recent 'strikes' of the cops (the armed fist of the bourgeoisie against the exploited and oppressed), the LBI wanted the 'lower echelons' of the Military Police to 'accept the discipline of an anti-capitalist orientation'."Two thousand copies of the CLC bulletin were distributed in Volta Redonda, and it was subsequently reprinted in Vanguarda Operária No. 3 (April-July 1998).
The LQB and CLC have emphasized that the fight against such "police unionism" can only be waged by revolutionary class struggle against the capitalists' anti-working-class offensive and in particular against the popular front of class collaboration. In Volta Redonda, this is no abstract matter, for the city government, formally called the Popular Front, links the reformist PT (Workers Party) of Luíz Inácio Lula da Silva and the ex-Maoist, ultra-reformist PCdoB (Communist Party of Brazil) to the bourgeois Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB) of fazendeiro (large landowner) Miguel Arraes, the equally bourgeois Democratic Labor Party (PDT) of long-time populist caudilho (political boss) Lionel Brizola, the eco-bourgeois PV (Green Party) and the PFL (Party of the Liberal Front), the voice of the large landowners locally led by Lima Neto, former boss of the CSN steel plant. As is always the case in such popular-front coalitions, going back to Spain and France in the 1930s, while launching attacks on the workers the class-collaborators concentrate their fire against the Trotskyist opposition.
This point is made in the recent (18 November 1998) CLC bulletin titled, "For a Class-Struggle Fight Against Gangsterism and 'Police Unionism' (Zubatovism)!" The bulletin begins:
"The most recent gangster attack against the CLC and Geraldo Ribeiro (legitimate elected president of the SFPMVR) is not an isolated fact. It is part of an offensive by the bosses. The events of the last month have underlined the urgent need to intensify the struggle against the pro-police clique imposed by the bourgeois 'justice' system against the municipal workers. Now the bosses' puppets Artur Fernandes & Co. want to provide themselves with phony legitimacy in the form of a plebiscite to straitjacket municipal workers. His occasional performer's postures cannot hide the fact that he has always prepared the way for attacks by the Popular Front administration of [Mayor Antônio] Neto. Now public employees throughout the country are threatened by the frontal attack decreed by the IMF and Cardoso, with their lackeys in Congress, while the ‘Union of the People’ popular front sabotages the necessary workers mobilization through an alliance with sectors of the bourgeoisie. To crush all opposition to this, puppets and police accomplices like Artur use the worst gangsterism against revolutionaries. The 'elections' called by this clique are a farce which must be rejected through a workers boycott."Pointing to crucial lessons from the history of the international workers movement, the CLC bulletin notes that what the pro-cop faction "seeks to introduce into the SFPMVR is police unionism, called Zubatovism in tsarist Russia at the beginning of the century, which engaged in traps, informing, assassinations and betrayals against the Bolsheviks who fought it vigorously and made the victorious October Revolution in 1917." Quoting Lenin's insistence on the need to "unmask Zubatovism," the bulletin calls for a revolutionary workers party and a reforged Fourth International, ending with the appeal: "Down with Zubatovism! Expel all kinds of police from the unions and the CUT! Out with the intervention in the SFPMVR! Boycott the election farce called by the Artur pro-police clique!"
Stung by this denunciation, Fernandes and his LBI advisors have now responded in a frenzied leaflet claiming the CLC bulletin was "Made for Outside Consumption"–the same theme sounded by the ICL. Yet this is belied in the very first paragraph of this leaflet which says that the LQB "distributed a bulletin of the CLC among the ranks" of public employees. As for the sham "election" staged by Fernandes, his slate ran unopposed and the commandant of the Municipal Guard granted Fernandes' request to have the ballot boxes guarded by municipal police! So once again with WV's insinuation that the LQB said nothing to the Volta Redonda workers about the fact that Fernandes' outfit is not a union, the ICL has been caught red-handed in an outright fabrication.
Crisis of World Capitalism, Crisis of the Brazilian State
The fight over ousting cops from the unions is not some isolated local issue peculiar to Volta Redonda. Over the last two years, the role of the police in the unions has been a key issue nationally as the government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso seeks to impose draconian cutback plans ordered by international finance capital. This fall, as financial panic seized stock markets around the globe following the Russian default, bankers worried that Brazil–the world's ninth largest economy–would be next to go. "The Rubicon now is basically Brazil," declared Citicorp executive William Rhodes (Wall Street Journal, 18 September 1998). "Brazil is the linchpin of the world financial system right now, and the effort to put together credibility for the Brazilian bailout is central to the world financial system now," said a Latin American investment strategist (New York Times, 7 October 1998).
A lead article in the Wall Street Journal (16 October 1998) began: "The world is watching. Brazil is seen as a firebreak in the financial conflagration that has swept through Asia and Russia. If Brazil gets it right, the worst of the crisis may be past. If it gets it wrong, the odds of world-wide financial calamity increase." Rubicon, linchpin, firebreak–the imperialist bankers declared that everything hinged on Brazil holding. And the bankers' cartel, the International Monetary Fund, decreed that the price for its $41.5 billion "bailout" (in the name of "defending" the real, Brazil's currency, and U.S. speculators' profits) must be paid by "sacrifices" by Brazilian workers. Avoiding a global stock market crash supposedly depended on laying off tens of thousands of Brazilian government workers, while slashing the wages and gutting the benefits of those who remained.
Meanwhile, as the LQB stressed in a leaflet on the recent U.S. attack on Iraq, Brazilian president Cardoso is using the blood of the Iraqi people to "toast his class alliance with the U.S. bourgeoisie," backing the imperialist aggression.
Cardoso, the bourgeois "social-democratic" lapdog of Washington and Wall Street, declared in his reelection campaign that civil service retirees were "lazy bums." Bills were drawn up to increase pension deductions from the paychecks of federal government employees–except for the president, cabinet members and judges, as well as the 81 senators, 513 deputies and 277,129 members of the armed forces. (In early December, plans were announced for a 60 percent increase in the Congressmen's salaries!) While the pension "reform" was defeated in Congress, plans are afoot for firing up to 30,000 federal civil servants and tens of thousands more at the state and municipal levels. And the Brazilian bourgeoisie is well aware that in the face of growing unemployment and poverty, outbreaks of workers’ resistance and a wave of peasant land seizures may lead to a social explosion. To head this off, they have moved to beef up the capitalist state apparatus, in particular the bloody Military Police.
Well aware of the capitalist rulers' desperate need for their services, in July-August 1997 the cops staged a nationwide armed mutiny, disguised as a "strike," demanding higher pay. In a display of suicidal reformist illusions in the bourgeois state, the PT-aligned CUT labor federation and virtually the entire Brazilian left grotesquely supported the cops' bonapartist action. The Morenoite PSTU (United Socialist Workers Party) bragged of their support to the murderous Military Police, and the Lambertist O Trabalho group counted among its members the leader of a cop "union." The LBI, mentors of pro-cop provocateur Artur Fernandes, pretended to oppose the police "strike" while ostentatiously defending arrested military police and calling for "red unions" of the MPs! Our comrades of the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil were unique in opposing any support to the cop "strike." The LQB warned:
"The military police's armed action is not a workers strike but a military revolt which, if successful, will increase the power of the police. The guardians of capital demand more money from the bosses to carry out their dirty work and carry out even bigger attacks on the workers and the poor of the countryside and favelas (ghettos). Today they talk deceitfully about 'unity' between the police and the people: tomorrow once again they will pull the trigger of capitalist repression."
The support of the Brazilian left and labor leadership to the police "strikes" was a betrayal of the working class. It was all the more dangerous because the military and cops have long played a key role in strangling Brazilian unions. Both under the Estado Novo ("new state") of bourgeois "populist" strong man Getúlio Vargas during 1937 to 1945 and under the military dictatorship that ruled Brazil for two decades, from 1964 to 1985, unions were regularly "intervened." An academic analyst noted that Brazil's "bureaucratic authoritarian" regime of state control of labor became a model for dictatorships in Chile, Argentina and Uruguay. "Operating within the corporatist legal system," codified in the Consolidated Labor Laws (CLT) of 1943:
"The president, the Ministry of Labor, the labor courts, the social security system, and the unions themselves policed the workers. The government collected union dues, oversaw elections, approved or removed all union officials, forbade most collective bargaining and strikes, and set minimum wages."During the 1970s and early '80s, the author noted, "The armed forces intervened in most of the major unions and placed them under the command of government loyalists, the so-called pelegos" (Paul W. Drake, Labor Movements and Dictatorships: The Southern Cone in Comparative Perspective [Johns Hopkins University Press, 1996]). He added, "The government mainly aimed to drive out the Communists."
This system of corporatist control of labor is not limited to the Southern Cone of South America but is common to bonapartist and semi-bonapartist regimes, whether open military-police dictatorships of the right or those in some semicolonial countries which occasionally strike "leftist" postures as they try to balance between imperialism and a combative working class and the poor peasants. Thus Mussolini's fascist Italy, Hitler's Nazi Germany, Franco's Spain, Salazar's Portugal as well as the Mexican PRI regime that has ruled continuously since 1929, Perón's Argentina, Vargas' Brazil and other bourgeois "populist" regimes have all had state labor fronts masquerading as unions. This in turn reflects a broader trend in the 20th century, as Leon Trotsky noted in his essay "Trade Unions in the Epoch of Imperialist Decay" (1940):
"There is one common feature in the development, or more correctly the degeneration of modern trade union organizations throughout the world: it is their drawing closely to and growing together with the state power. This process is equally characteristic of the neutral, the social-democratic, the Communist, and 'anarchist' trade unions. . . . By transforming the trade unions into organs of the state, fascism invents nothing new; it merely draws to their ultimate conclusion the tendencies inherent in imperialism."Trotsky noted that this trend was pronounced in countries under the sway of imperialism:
"Inasmuch as imperialist capitalism creates both a labor aristocracy and bureaucracy, the latter requires the support of colonial and semicolonial governments as protectors, patrons and sometimes as arbitrators. This constitutes the most important social basis for the Bonapartist and semi-Bonapartist character of governments in the colonies and in backward countries generally. This likewise constitutes the basis for the dependence of reformist unions upon the state.This heightened state control of labor in countries of belated capitalist development is closely related to Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution. Because of the uneven and combined character of these countries' development, a tiny domestic bourgeoisie often faces a huge mass of proletarians and impoverished peasants and rural semi-proletarians. In such conditions even limited bourgeois democracy is a mirage, as foreign and domestic capitalists (whether open "comprador" agents of the imperialists or the "national" bourgeoisie mythologized by the Stalinists) require a bonapartist or semi-bonapartist "strong state" to keep the exploited and oppressed in thrall. Corporatist control of labor is part and parcel of such a "muscular" regime, and often persists in diluted form during the occasional pseudo-"democratic" interludes as in Brazil today. This is another reason why, as Trotsky insisted, genuine trade-union democracy and independence from the capitalist state are impossible under a reformist program, but can only be achieved under the revolutionary leadership of the Fourth International.
Smears to Cover ICL's Betrayal
This underscores that the fight by our comrades of the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil against "police unionism," demanding courts and cops out of the unions in Volta Redonda and throughout Brazil, is a key battle for Trotskyists worldwide. For the ICL, it was an excellent opportunity to fight for a longstanding programmatic position, not just in words but in deeds. This would have been the first time the ICL had engaged in an all-out fight to actually implement this position. (While Workers Vanguard calls for removing police from the unions, SL supporters in public employees unions where the bureaucracy "organizes" cops and prison guards have not undertaken a major struggle to throw them out.) But the experience in Brazil shows definitively that the ICL's claim to stand for the independence of the working class from the capitalist state has become a mere factional posture, gutted of its revolutionary content.
The fight to oust the police from the SFPMVR was at first encouraged by the ICL, but it then precipitously abandoned the field of battle at the height of the conflict. Fleeing the country on the eve of a 19 June 1996 union assembly scheduled to vote on the expulsion of police from the SFPMVR–a meeting that was shut down by armed police sent by the city government to enforce a court order–the ICL alleged "unacceptable risks to the vanguard" and said it was necessary to "pull our hands out of the boiling water," calling on the LQB to "publically disassociate themselves from the municipal workers union leadership" and advocating "getting out of town now before someone is framed up on charges, jailed or killed" (from International Secretariat motion, 5 June 1996; presentation by ICL spokesman in meeting with the LQB, 16 June 1996; and report by ICL international secretary Parks, 15 June 1996). When the LQB refused to go along with this ignominious desertion under fire, the ICL abruptly broke fraternal relations with it.
Ever since, the ICL press has heaped slanders on the LQB and the Internationalist Group in order to alibi its own betrayal. Not only that, the ICL has refused to defend the Brazilian Trotskyists, even as a Volta Redonda court ordered the "search and seizure" of CLC leaflets in September 1997, and has vilely sought to sabotage their defense, calling it a "sham" and describing this group of largely black workers who have engaged in years of struggle against the military dictatorship and the popular front as "dangerous hustlers."
Workers Vanguard disgustingly equates the LQB targets of police and court repression with the pro-police thugs of Artur Fernandes & Co. who have repeatedly spearheaded the state attacks against them. It repeatedly ignores or denies the concerted state action against the Brazilian Trotskyists, or if it mentions any aspect of this, it vilely blames the victims. Now, in falsifying our denunciation of Fernandes' cop-"oriented" outfit and equating his court-rigged apparatus with the union it was installed to police, the ICL endorses this apparatus as a legitimate union. In its factional frenzy, the ICL accepts the line of the pro-police provocateur and his bourgeois masters. What's more, this line is now part of a pattern, since the ICL has recently decided that in Mexico, the government party's corporatist "labor" front, the CTM–used by the state and employers as labor police and labor contractors to repress any independent workers' struggle–is a "legitimate" union.
The Bolsheviks' Struggle Against Zubatovism
This raises interesting questions. What would the ICL have said of the corporatist "unions" established in Brazil by the military dictatorship, which mass workers' struggles pulverized in the early 1980s? The SFPMVR was in fact the product of such a struggle, in which Geraldo Ribeiro played a key role, leading combative strikes in the face of heavy police repression. Moreover, by legitimating Fernandes' operation as a bona fide union, the ICL takes a treacherous position directly counterposed to that of Lenin’s Bolsheviks as they fought tooth and nail in the period leading up to the 1905 Russian Revolution against the "police unionism" that became known as the zubatovshchina (Zubatovism). It is worth going into this history in order to understand the broader implications of the ICL's new position, and the revolutionary fight it is now renouncing.
Alarmed at the rapid growth of revolutionary ideas among industrial workers at the end of the 19th century, the tsarist interior minister V.K. Plehve, Moscow police chief general F.F. Trepov and gendarme colonel N.V. Vasilyev adopted a plan proposed by one Sergei Zubatov, a former radical turned police spy who gained notoriety in the nationwide police raids of 1897 against the Marxist movement grouped in the nascent Russian Social Democratic Workers Party (RSDRP). Having risen to chief of the Moscow Okhrana (secret security police), Zubatov was acutely aware of the autocracy’s need to divert Russia's workers from the path of revolution. To this end he established police-controlled "unions," beginning with the foundation of the Moscow Society for Mutual Aid for Workingmen in the Mechanical Industries in May 1901.
In a 1931 study on "The Police Labor Movement in Tsarist Russia," published as an introduction to the Spanish edition of the memoirs of Father Gapon, Andrés Nin–a former member of the bureau of the Red International of Labor Unions and future leader of the centrist POUM, who at the time was a supporter of Trotsky’s International Left Opposition–noted:
"The increase in strikes in the '80s and '90s of the last century induced the tsarist government to pay more intense attention to the workers movement than it had heretofore done. The government understood perfectly that if the mass of the workers joined the fight against the autocracy being waged by isolated revolutionary groups, principally made up of intellectuals, this would represent an enormous danger. How to contain the advance of the movement which was daily becoming stronger and more aggressive? Combatting it with repressive measures proved insufficient. It was better to undertake an effort to divert it from its natural revolutionary aims to put it in the hands of the police."Nin cited General Trepov’s explanation that for the tsarist authorities, it was necessary to "regulate the workers movement, differentiating between its various manifestations and determining what we need to fight and what we need to orient." In Brazil today, the police seek to differentiate what they "need to fight" (that is, the Trotskyists of the LQB) and what they seek to "orient," namely the modern Zubatov, Artur Fernandes.
While preaching the need for workers to concern themselves only with small economic gains, the Zubatov "unions" helped turn revolutionaries over to the secret police. During 1901-03 Zubatovism experienced rapid growth in Moscow, Minsk and Odessa, even carrying out a number of strikes. While revolutionary Marxists (who still used the name Social Democrats) adopted a range of tactics towards the Zubatov "unions," depending on concrete circumstances, they constantly fought to unmask and defeat these "police unionists." In his seminal work What Is To Be Done? (1902), Lenin wrote of the tendency demanding the legalization of labor organizations (prohibited until then by the autocracy), in which the Zubatovists were active:
"Henceforth, we cannot but reckon with this tendency. How we are to reckon with it, on this there can be no two opinions among Social-Democrats. We must steadfastly expose any part played in this movement by the Zubatovs and the Vasilyevs, the gendarmes and the priests, and explain their real intentions to the workers."Lenin also attacked the "economist" current among social democrats who by praising spontaneity and simple trade unionism were in fact renouncing socialism and surrendering the field of action to those who would drag the workers along the path of bourgeois trade-unionism, "or to the Zubatovs, who are dragging it along the line of clerical and gendarme 'ideology'."
In July-August of the following year (1903), the RSDRP held its second congress, which witnessed the historic split between Lenin’s Bolsheviks (the majority faction at the congress) and the Menshevik minority led by Y. Martov and F. Dan–a split which proved crucial for forging the vanguard party of the proletariat which would lead the first successful socialist revolution 14 years later. The congress adopted a resolution "On the Trade Union Struggle" declaring in part:
"In view of the increasingly obvious endeavours of the Tsarist government to get control of the economic struggles of the proletariat, under the guise of 'legalising the labour movement', and by corrupting it politically to turn this movement into a pawn in its own political game; in view of the fact that this so-called 'Zubatov policy' not only has a reactionary political inspiration and is implemented by police-provocateur methods, but is a policy of systematic betrayal of the interests of the working class for the benefit of the capitalists, the Congress recommends that all comrades continue the unremitting struggle against Zubatovism in all its forms, that they lay bare before the workers the self-seeking and treacherous character of the tactics of the Zubatovist demagogues, and that they call on the workers to unite in a single class movement of struggle for the political and economic emancipation of the proletariat."At the same time the RSDRP congress was being held in exile, the tsarist government decided to put an end to the Zubatovist experiment when the "police unionists" lost control of a spreading strike movement in Odessa. After a general strike broke out, spreading throughout southern Russia and into the Caucasus, the interior ministry police sacked Zubatov and dissolved his "unions." But Interior Minister Plehve continued to subsidize Zubatov's disciple Father Gapon, who was to become famous as a result of the Bloody Sunday Massacre of 9 January 1905 that ushered in the 1905 Revolution. As for Zubatov, he wound up committing suicide immediately after the overthrow of tsarism in February 1917.
From Russia at the beginning of the century to Mexico and Brazil today, the struggle for the revolutionary independence of the proletariat requires a merciless fight against every form of corporatist "unions" and Zubatovist "police unionism." The League for the Fourth International and its Brazilian section, the LQB, carry forward Trotsky's insistence that "the independence of the trade unions in the class sense, in their relations to the bourgeois state, can, in the present conditions, be assured only by a completely revolutionary leadership, that is, the leadership of the Fourth International." Supposed socialists and even "Trotskyists" who claim that modern-day Zubatovism is a legitimate part of the labor movement can only be an obstacle on the path of forging the Leninist vanguard party that is key to victorious socialist revolution. n
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