Wash”: An Attack by the Police and
Judiciary Threatening Democratic and Labor Rights
Break with the PT and All the
Reformist Parties –
Forge a Revolutionary Workers Party
Fight for a Workers and Peasants
the Start of Socialist Revolution
For the past month, Brazil has been engulfed in a deep-going political crisis. A million people marched in right-wing protests around the country on March 13 demanding impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff of the Workers Party. In response, a half million protested in the streets on March 18 against impeachment, followed by tens of thousands on March 24 and 31. Meanwhile, a runaway corruption investigation threatens basic democratic rights. At the same time, the popular front government continues to push anti-working-class policies in its attempt to conciliate the aggressive right wing, and the left is divided between pro- and anti-government blocs. The following article, translated from a special supplement of Vanguarda Operária (April 2016) published by our comrades of the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil, underscores why revolutionary Marxists call for workers mobilization against impeachment and the bonapartist threat, and at the same time to use that power against the attacks on working people by the both the feuding bourgeois forces.
MARCH 30 – The train is underway, the clock is ticking. The countdown to the showdown over the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff has begun. The big business press is howling for the jailing of former president Luiz Inác Lula da Silva. In the name of fighting corruption, “Operação Lava Jato” (Operation Car Wash)1 has given the green light to the repressive apparatus. The judicial power and the police have slipped the leash of civilian control, ignoring laws, placing themselves above any body elected by popular vote. Today they are attacking Dilma and Lula, tomorrow their targets will be the pensions, wages and jobs of working people – and the organizations of the workers movement. Make no mistake, democratic and labor rights are under attack. To defeat this sinister bonapartist offensive, we need a powerful revolutionary mobilization of the working class.
For the last 13 years, the Workers Party (PT – Partido dos Trabalhadores) has governed together with the PCdoB2 and with bourgeois parties in a popular front, a class-collaborationist coalition that chains the workers to capitalist sectors, their class enemies. The biggest of the bosses’ parties is the PMDB (Party of the Brazilian Democratic Movement), the eternal party of government for which the be all and end all is burrowing into the state apparatus in order to secure its sinecures. Now these rats are jumping ship as they see it going under. If this leads to a domino effect, other parties supporting the government may follow suit. The bourgeois “allies” are abandoning the PT. What will the PT do? Is it putting forward a more radical program in order to mobilize its working-class ranks? Not a chance. Lula, now acting as an informal advisor of Dilma, is doing everything possible to keep some PMDBers on board, and offering hundreds of positions given up by the deserters to the more than 20 smaller rent-a-parties in Congress. Those who play by the rules of phony bourgeois “democracy” will die by the rules of this fixed game, and the PT has made its choice.
For the popular front government, the departure of the PMDB will probably prove fatal. The PT dug its own grave, and chose the gravedigger. But if Dilma goes down, it will be difficult for the leaders of the “picaretas” (crooks) in Congress – Vice President Michel Temer, Chamber of Deputies president Eduardo Cunha and Senate president Renan Calheiros (all of them PMDB) – to take office. On the other hand, the barons of the PSDB3 like Senator José Serra, São Paulo state governor Geraldo Alckmin, former presidential candidate Aécio Neves and even ex-president Fernando Henrique Cardoso are facing legal charges on scandals like the “Banestado” scandal4 and the “trensalão” scandal5. This gang has already been kicked out of demonstrations accused of being opportunists.
If the federal Supreme Court supports an interim government and the Superior Electoral Court calls new elections, Rede Globo (the right-wing press and TV behemoth) will try to get Marina Silva elected. Legislators of the PT and PSOL6 are already fleeing to her. Since Silva was formerly in the PT, they will try to calm the labor federations and set up another form of class collaboration. At the same time, she was the candidate of the evangelical right wing, maintaining good relations with agribusiness and the São Paulo bankers. In short, the perfect anti-PT candidate. And after a transition under Marina, with Judge Sérgio Moro of Operation Car Wash in the forefront, you can see the outlines of a bonapartist strong state dominated by courts and cops.
Be that as it may, the coup against working people – the deadly “fiscal adjustment” (budget cuts), the pension and labor “reforms” – are plowing ahead with the wind in their sails, whether under the command of the PT or the right, or of a “technical” government. Therefore, at the same time that it’s necessary to mobilize the power of the workers movement to block the road of the bonapartist offensive, we must use this power against the anti-worker policies which unite the bourgeois forces in conflict, both the right-wing opposition and the popular front which is still in office. We need class actions – not vague “movements,” but concrete measures – such as real, not symbolic, strikes and plant occupations to sink the budget cuts, the privatizations and the “reforms” ordered by big capital and imperialism, which is applying in Brazil the same program as in Greece. And to come out victorious, all this must be guided by a program of transitional slogans and measures which prepare the way to socialist revolution.
For that reason, our response to the ominous judiciary/police offensive amid the current deep political crisis in Brazil must be against the bourgeoisie and the labor lieutenants of capital within the workers movement. We inscribe on our battle standards:
No to impeachment!
For workers mobilization against the bourgeois rightist offensive, no political support to the bourgeois popular-front government!
Forge a revolutionary workers party! Fight for a workers and peasants government, the beginning of the socialist revolution!
Rightist Bonapartist Offensive Against the Popular Front
At this moment, the workers, the impoverished black residents of the favelas (slums) and outskirts of the big cities, the students and women, the landless in the countryside and homeless in the cities cannot remain indifferent in the face of an offensive by the most reactionary forces of the country who want to throw the exploited and oppressed into absolute poverty. It is impossible not to see the hand of big business behind the large demonstrations. The Federation of Industries of the State of São Paulo (FIESP) has for some time been pushing for impeachment, with its gigantic inflated duck as a complaint against the taxes that would result from reintroducing the CMPF (a tax on financial movements by investors and speculators). Now there is an outpouring of statements by business entities, such as the “Communiqué to the Nation” by the National Confederation of Industry denouncing “chaos” and demanding “reestablishment of governability.” The anti-Dilma hard core meets in front of the FIESP headquarters on the Avenida Paulista in São Paulo where the leaders receive coffee, free Internet and lunch with filet mignon, while the pawns in the street get beef stroganoff.
It is also impossible to ignore the ostentatious participation by the militarized police in the rightist actions. Whether they are Military Police with guns, horses and caveirões (vans for transporting prisoners) or Federal Police delegates proclaiming, “I am from the Republic of Curitiba,” the city that is base from which super-judge Sérgio Moro directs his Operation Car Wash, the threat is unmistakable. Out there in “Moroland” a teacher who dares criticize on social media that students dressed in black are calling for a coup d’état is persecuted as a “leftist” and “communist” and driven from her school. And at the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo, when a sizeable crowd protested a noisy pro-impeachment rally, the Military Police attacked with pepper gas and fired rubber bullets at those opposing the rightist provocation. If in the dying Roman Republic the rulers sought to silence the plebs by offering them “bread and circuses,” the decaying Brazilian bourgeoisie wants to impose its dictates by offering filet mignon and stroganoff to its people, and bullets for their adversaries. For now made of rubber. And if the country goes up in flames over impeachment?
Concerning that fraud, we are about to witness the spectacle of a trial of the president, who has not been accused of personal corruption, by a congress in which 60% of the deputies and senators – 351 out of 594 of the members of those august chambers – are under investigation for criminal activity, ranging from Car Wash and dubious campaign expenses to homicide. The big business right wing is seeking to grab what it was unable to win at the polls: as soon as PTer Dilma began her second term, the tucano (PSDB) losers began the marches trying to overthrow her. In the Congressional den of thieves, horse-trading and vote-buying among the 25 parties is so flagrant that they have a “party window,” a period of a couple weeks in which legislators can change their party without penalty if they get a better offer. In this year’s parliamentary auction, some 90 legislators switched parties. But there remains a minor problem by the name of Eduardo Cunha, the president of the Chamber of Deputies who will be leading the impeachment process, and who is being investigated for his millions stashed away in secret accounts in Switzerland.
But this chief of the parliamentary bandits is taking advantage of the party swapping to push a bill to alter the composition of the Ethics Commission in order to get a majority in favor of burying the procedure that would expel him from the Chamber. And since the basis for the original articles of impeachment is quite weak, if not to say non-existent, the Order of Attorneys of Brazil (OAB) has just submitted another bill with different charges. Forget about the alleged “crimes” (of “responsibility,” i.e., the president is not accused of personally doing anything), at bottom this is on the one hand an act of political revenge, a clash between two factions of the bourgeoisie, the traditional right wing and the popular front. On the other hand, it offers the chance to shatter the PT, a reformist workers party – or as Lenin described the British Labour Party, a “bourgeois workers” party – and thereby weaken worker resistance to the economic reforms seeking to jack up the profit rate. As a banner in front of the FIESP duck said during the right-wing occupation of the Avenida Paulista, “Exterminating the PT: Priceless.”
As for the Car Wash “investigation,” Judge Moro assumes messianic airs in raising the Public Prosecutor’s Office on high, placing the judiciary above the Three Powers of the Republic, far beyond anything imagined by one of those who thought up the separation of powers, Enlightenment philosopher Montesquieu. Intimately aware of the visceral crisis consuming the other two powers of the Republic, the would-be master judge has shown partiality and obstinate ideological intent: the effort to destroy the PT while causing the least possible damage to the PSDB jumps out before your eyes. This new Batman with his black cape has judged with equal emphasis the PT leadership and leaders of all the top concerns with whom he collaborated. The judge of Curitiba is able to pull this off this because he has the backing of powerful national and imperialist forces, and the support of these companies’ competitors who want to return to the feeding trough so that they can savor the tasty main dishes which the top contractors were able to enjoy instead of having to content themselves with leftovers.
The charges against Dilma and Lula, suffice it to say, are based on absurd pretexts. The president is accused of transferring money from one state financial agency in order to temporarily cover expenses of another agency, and thereby avoid an interruption of service: these are the famous “pedaladas” (financial finagling). Governments around the world do this all the time. The ex-president, on the other hand, is accused of being the “true” owner of an apartment of 215 square meters in Guarujá, and of a seaside property in Altibaia which has peddle boats and which he visits from time to time. In both cases he denies being the owner, with documents in hand, and even if they were true, they are hardly crimes. The other charge, that he was paid hefty sums by the Odebrecht construction firm, also is not a crime according to bourgeois law. But his justification gives stunning proof of how the mentality of the “simple worker” of the past has evolved. “People get upset that I charged US$200,000, but it doesn’t bother them that Clinton charges a million dollars to come here to speak to the National Council of Industry,” he remarked. Lula is speaking like a true Paulo Maluf.7 But Bill Clinton is not the leader of a party which claims to represent the workers.
If today Judge Sérgio Moro considers himself to be above the other powers, with strong elements of bonapartism, the PT is all to blame and now is itself experiencing the poisonous effects of its class collaboration. The constituent assemblies which produced the Magna Carta of 1988, where Lula played a leading role as the candidate who received the highest number of votes, designed within the limits of bourgeois democracy a strong public prosecutor’s office supposedly to protect citizens against excesses by the state. Now the Car Wash judge is using the practically untouchable status of the federal prosecutor’s office to project himself as the supreme arbiter of the nation. Moreover, almost the entire judiciary of the country was appointed by the popular front government. The PT didn’t reform the judiciary precisely because it sought to collaborate with the bourgeoisie, principally over labor cases or those that could bring a modicum of justice to those down below, yet take decades before a verdict is rendered.
In order to secure its position in government, the PT made a bloc with the top companies including Odebrecht, OAS, Cmargo Correia, Andrade Gutierrez and other construction contractors which were founded or gorged themselves during the military dictatorship. We have here one more proof that the popular-front governments not only allied themselves with imperialism, but also with big capital nationally, causing resentment to fester everywhere among the medium-sized and small capitalists and their party representatives in Congress.
In truth, the leaders of the PSDB are the true fathers and mothers of the “mensalão”8, “trensalão” and “petrolão”9, where the evidence and proof against that party are as strong as that which Moro has used to condemn the PT leadership. The scales of Judge Moro intentionally tilt to one side. However, accusations of corruption are more problematical for the PT, which arrived in the Palácio do Planalto (Brazil’s White House) with middle-class votes promising “ethics in politics.” And the reality is more instrumental for the PT governments because it is not simply a matter of personal enrichment but served as a key means of maintaining the popular front and its coalition with the bourgeois elements that are the base of its government. As we wrote at the time of the “mensalão” scandal:
“The innovation of Lula’s government was to convert the ‘presents’ into a monthly subsidy, in order to ‘rent the allied parties’ that the government relied on in Congress, as [former PT treasurer] Jefferson put it. This was the direct result of the government’s lack of a parliamentary majority, and was part of an effort to extend the popular front to include notorious rightist elements such as Antônio Carlos Magalhães [leader of the Northeastern landowners], Orestes Quércia and Paulo Maluf, dinosaurs left over from the military dictatorship, all of them accused of corruption and under investigation by parliamentary commissions (which were then dismissed, when they reached agreement with the PT leadership). The mensalão (fat monthly payoff) was the counterpart of the ‘frentão popular’ (the expanded popular front).
“Corruption is a constant in bourgeois politics. It is the axle grease that makes the gears of the capitalist state machinery function, so that the government of the day can serve as the executive committee of the ruling class, meshing the interests of its different factions. It particularly annoys the ‘proper’ petty bourgeoisie and social-democratic reformists because it reveals the dirty reality behind the mythology of the ‘neutrality’ of the state, providing concrete proof of how this state defends the interests of capital, not of ‘everyone’.”
–“Brazil: Lula Against the Workers – Forge a Revolutionary Workers Party!” The Internationalist, May 2006
Our indictment of Lula, Dilma and the PT is diametrically opposed to that of the bourgeois right: they charge corruption in order to get rid of a government which was hesitant in imposing anti-worker policies. The accusation of class-conscious proletarians is that with its “tips” (bribes), the PT bought bourgeois support so that its popular front could attack the workers.
The Betrayals of Lula and Dilma’s PT
the Workers and In Favor of the Bourgeoisie
(Bottom) The FNS occupies Morro Santo Amaro in the Catete district of Rio de Janeiro, May 2012.
From its beginnings, the PT saw itself as a parliamentarist party, its feet firmly planted on the capitalist terrain. Even the original PT, so beloved of pseudo-Trotskyists today, never declared itself socialist. Its slogan was “perfecting democracy.” The lesson that Lula and his advisors drew from his two previous (unsuccessful) presidential campaigns was to shift his program even further to the right in order to reassure the bourgeoisie of his reliability. They carried out purge after purge – the most notable being of Causa Operária (Workers Cause), today the PCO, and Convergência Socialista, today the PSTU (United Socialist Workers Party) – in order to cleanse the party in preparation for becoming the bourgeois government with a minimum of ideological constraints. Lula wrote his famous “Letter to the Brazilian People” (June 2002) – which was really addressed to the International Monetary Fund and Wall Street bankers, and their junior partners in the Bovespa (São Paulo stock market) – promising to continue the policies of Fernando Henrique Cardoso (of the PSDB), with a primary budgetary surplus (i.e., before debt payments).
At the same time as they kicked out leftist elements from the PT, the architects of the popular front, Stalinist ex-guerrilleros José Dirceu and José Genoino, along with the clerical left (Frei Betto), sought to attract elements of the capitalist parties to the PT. In the energy sector, for example, they recruited Dilma Rousseff, who today is mainly known for being an ex-guerrillera but who for 20 years was a cadre of the PDT10, a populist bourgeois party in the “trabalhista” (labor) tradition led by Leonel Brizola; and Delcídio Amaral, who was a political operator for the PSDB in Petrobras and then assumed the same role for the PT, and who recently submitted a bought confession (delação premiada) in return for lenient treatment by Judge Moro. Direceu, who was president of the PT from 1995 until he was succeeded by Genoino, dreamt up the “mensalão” scheme, and after his fall as Lula’s chief of state founded JD Consultancy in order to continue the lucrative work. He probably dreamed of converting the PT into a bourgeois party.
Immediately upon assuming office, the popular front under Lula’s presidency pushed through a “reform” of the pension system, attacking the benefits of public sector workers, and expelled another slice of the PT left around the Democracia Socialista current. It was leaders of this tendency who in 1990 purged the leadership of the PT in Volta Redonda who opposed the first Frente Brasil Popular (and who went on to form the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil in 1996). But after flinching over the subsequent (late 1990s) expulsions, a large part of the DS later found itself outside the PT for disagreeing with that reform. In the same period, Lula figured out how to gain favor with Washington. Following the kidnapping of the elected president of Haiti, Father Jean-Bertrand Aristide, in a coup carried out by troops of the U.S., France and Canada, the PT president sent Brazilian troops to serve as mercenary forces in imposing an imperialist occupation on the only country in the world where a revolution of former slaves was successful. It was in Haiti that Lula sealed his alliance with imperialism.
From then on, the attacks have not ceased. The “Bolsa Familia” (Family Stipend) is frequently cited as the great achievement of the PT government, even though it was a continuation of the “Bolsa Escolar” (School Stipend) of Henrique Cardoso and was a recommendation of Milton Friedman, the economic advisor of the Pinochet dictatorship in Chile and father of neo-liberalism. Such programs fit right in with the free-market ideology which approves of welfare programs “in order to ameliorate the life of the neediest” in exchange for eliminating the rights of working people, such as public health, pensions and public education. That is why the United Nations has recommended Bolsa Familia for poor countries. The same could be said of the ProUni (“University for All”) program, which has only enriched the sharks of private education while public schools, from the criminal abandonment of the CIEPs (Centers of Integrated Education) to the universities, were left to decay. Education workers fighting against wage slashing and poverty have led some of the most militant demonstrations and strikes, such as the strikes of the Rio de Janeiro teachers in 2013 and 2014, and in São Paulo and Paraná in 2015.
The peasants and indigenous peoples were already and are still being brutally attacked by the big landowners, who ever since Lula won the support of orange juice exporters in his 2002 election campaign have enjoyed privileged access in Brasília. From 2010 on, Dilma gave the PMDB control of the Agriculture Ministry, currently being run by the direct representative of agribusiness, Kátia (“Chainsaw”) Abreu. As a result, the numbers of expropriations for agrarian reform settlements under the popular front governments have been well below those of Henrique Cardoso, and in the last year there have been none. The union and labor reform is being carried out piece by piece, and the government has already sent to Congress a series of bills which will undo decades of gains by the Brazilian working class. Even amid the tumult of recent days, on March 17 Dilma signed the anti-terrorism law to inhibit social protests, above all by the working class, which will be used to prohibit demonstrations against the August Olympics, to suppress mobilizations against fare hikes for public transportation, and – why not? – may even be used in the case of demonstrations against impeachment.
In the favelas and poor districts, the killing of poor people and black people is increasing. With the National Security Force (FNS) formed by Lula, the popular front has attacked social protests. The privatizations, tax breaks and preferences for big business continue, as shown by the cases of CSN (the privatized National Steel Company), Petrobras and Samarco11. The internal and foreign debt are paid on time and to the letter, sucking resources out of the country. These facts could be multiplied at length, but this is already more than enough proof that ever since taking office the PT adopted the most far-reaching bourgeois plans, including some that even the military dictatorship did not dare undertake. This proves that the function of the popular front is not to carry out reforms, but rather to wear down the workers movement and demoralize working people to the point that the traditional bourgeois parties no longer need the help of a workers party, even with a pro-capitalist leadership, and can return to the feeding trough in order to directly control the “public” tax receipts. Evidently, the Brazilian bourgeoisie thinks it has reached that point.
Oil workers strike, November 2015. Operation Car Wash is aimed at complete privatization and imperilaist control of Petrobras. The LQB calls for a strike occupation of Petrobras facilities and those of all the private oil c opanies and to impose workers control.
What Is To Be Done?
What, then, should be the policy of revolutionary Marxists in this context of sharp class struggle?
At bottom what we are experiencing in Brazil is a variant of the right-wing offensive that is taking place pretty much everywhere in South America and elsewhere around the globe in the wake of the defeat of uprisings and defensive workers struggles within traditional frameworks (street demonstrations, one- or two-day “general strikes, the rise of bourgeois populist politicians and parties) set off by the capitalist crisis which exploded in 2007-2008. Today and over the past year, part of the Brazilian left sought salvation in the arms of the dying popular front while another part has lined up with the antediluvian right, and a smaller section wants to sit atop the fence in the dispute. Despite their differences, all of these groupings place themselves on the terrain of “democratic” struggles within the bourgeois regime.
Most likely there will be no coup, since with impeachment the right wing will have obtained its primary goal. But meanwhile we are faced with a dangerous offensive by the judicial and police powers, and the offensive by the entire bourgeoisie against the working people is proceeding at top speed. It’s is fundamental to understand that there is no solution under capitalism to the deep economic crisis which gave rise to the Brazilian political crisis. Only by fighting for workers mobilization leading to socialist revolution can we defeat the attempts to shield capital against the resistance of the workers who are bearing on their backs the entire weight of a system that is degenerating into barbarism, where democratic rights and the rights of workers and the oppressed are giving way to the reactionary offensive. We urgently need a revolutionary proletarian response.
Today in Brazil Lula and Dilma have heavily attacked the interests of the working people in defense of the bourgeoisie, which their popular-front government represents. There is utterly justified rejection of the PT among important layers of the youth and proletarian sectors. Thousands feel that Lula betrayed those who voted for him. One must acknowledge that at least part of this sense of betrayal comes from the belief that Lula, Dilma and their pals discredited the workers movement: that is, it reflects the pressure of the cynical bourgeois media campaign. But this should not keep us from seeing the capitalist offensive behind the mask of the struggle “against corruption,” which is preparing an attack against the workers, the poor, the youth and all the oppressed.
Currently there are at least 55 bills and constitutional amendments in Congress which threaten the interests of the working class: unlimited contracting out of jobs, allowing individual contracts, preventing fired workers from appealing to the labor courts, giving negotiated contracts priority over law, regulating rather than prohibiting slave labor, etc. If the popular-front government headed by Dilma and Lula remains in office, they will be pressuring and attacking our rights on a daily basis as they seek to conciliate the right wing and its political partners of the PMDB, the PP12, and to defend capital. But if the bonapartist right wins, they will proceed with the entire weight of the judicial police apparatus behind them. For that very reason we must use our own class strength to block these executioners.
There are contradictions which revolutionaries can make use of between the working-class base of the union federations and bourgeois workers parties on the one hand, and the tops in the popular-front government. Even though they are “chapa branca” (subservient to the regime), the national leadership of the CUT (United Workers Confederation) is formally opposed to the new pension reform, even though in reality it stands in the way of a genuine mobilization against it. The leadership of the Metal Workers Union of the ABC Region had the workers in the Ford, Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and other assembly plants vote a motion pledging the “fight against the coup and in defense of labor rights.” At the same time, it nixes struggle, saying “For now, our framework is resistance. Later it will be to advance.” All these bureaucrats are sellouts, labor lieutenants of capital, an obstacle to workers struggle. Workers should reject the call for a truce with the bosses and the bourgeois government, and instead:
–Prepare escalating work stoppages, factory occupations, blocking of highways and intersections, and taking over public buildings (city halls, etc.) beginning immediately at the local, regional and national levels, by all unions and labor federations to quickly arrive at an
–Unlimited general strike to smash the judiciary/police right-wing threat, block impeachment by the nest of corrupt politicians in Congress, prevent the budget cuts and sink the privatizations and labor and pension “reforms;
–Form elected strike and occupation committees, recallable at any time at the factory and industrial area level, in the schools and universities, the hospitals, banks and stores, followed by unifying these committees into workers councils at the municipal regional and national levels; formation of workers defense guards to defend against repression;
–Work out in these committees and councils a platform of demands to be achieved by workers action to put an end to contracting out jobs, raise the minimum wage to above the cost of the basket of basic necessities as calculate by the DIEESE, ban layoffs and implement a workweek of 30 hours without any cut in pay (the sliding scale of workers and hours) in order to eliminate unemployment;
–Against Operation Car Wash and the phony investigation of corruption which in reality seeks the destruction and privatization of the former state-owned company, now in the grip of Wall Street, undertake a strike and occupation of all facilities of Petrobras and all private oil companies in order to impose workers control, expelling the top managers and opening the books to workers inspection, to reveal who is profiting from the product of the workers toil; and, above all,
–For proletarian opposition against the bourgeois right wing and the bourgeois popular front in power, no vote for any party participating in such a political alliance of class collaboration; break with the PT, the PCdoB and all the bourgeois workers parties whose bought-off leaders have sacrificed the workers gains; and forge the nucleus of a revolutionary workers party on the basis of the program of permanent revolution, to fight for a workers and peasants government, the start of the international socialist revolution! ■
of History: Trotsky and Lenin
on Kornilov and Kerensky
Simply rejecting the policies of the right-wing opposition and of the popular-front government while doing nothing about the threatening advance of the judicial and police power – which is the main characteristic of the Brazilian conjuncture at this moment – would be to abdicate the responsibility of defending the proletariat and the oppressed. We are confronting a situation in which the lessons of the Kerensky-Kornilov clash in Russia in 1917 are relevant, but without soviets and without a revolutionary Marxist party recognized by the masses such as the Bolsheviks.
Even though the situation is quite different in many respects, the question of how to respond to a deadly threat to the workers is the same. Trotsky explained the situation in his pamphlet What Next: Vital Questions for the German Proletariat (1932) in the face of the fascist escalation of the Nazis.
“During July and August 1917, Kerensky, then head of the government, was in fact fulfilling the program of Kornilov, the commander-in-chief of the army. He reinstated at the front military court-martials and the death penalty. He deprived the duly elected soviets of all influence upon government matters; he repressed the peasants; he doubled the price of bread (under the state trade monopoly of the foodstuffs); he prepared for the evacuation of revolutionary Petrograd; with Kornilov’s consent, he moved up counter-revolutionary troops towards the capital; he promised the Allies to initiate a new attack at the front, etc.”
But at the end of August, Kornilov broke with Kerensky, “because of the latter’s vacillation”.
“What course did the Bolshevik Party take? Not for an instant did it hesitate to conclude a practical alliance to fight against Kornilov with its jailers – Kerensky, Tseretelli, Dan, etc. Everywhere committees for revolutionary defense were organized, into which the Bolsheviks entered as a minority. This did not hinder the Bolsheviks from assuming the leading role: in agreements projected for revolutionary mass action, the most thoroughgoing and the boldest revolutionary party stands to gain always. The Bolsheviks were in the front ranks; they smashed down the barriers blocking them from the Menshevik workers and especially from the Social Revolutionary soldiers, and carried them along in their wake.”
Russia at that moment was at war, there was a revolutionary situation, the risks were even greater than in Brazil today. But the fundamental lesson, that in the face of a mortal threat, one can make a military bloc, in action, without giving any political support to the bloc partner, is relevant. However, many pseudo-Trotskyists have deliberately misinterpreted the policy of Lenin and Trotsky at that moment, claiming that the Bolsheviks politically “defended” the Kerensky government. Quite false. As the League for the Fourth International quoted in 2009 in calling for for a military bloc with supporters of Honduran President Zelaya, a conservative large landowner, against a coup d’état being mounted by Hillary Clinton, Lenin was quite explicit in the case of Kornilov vs. Kerensky:
“Our workers and soldiers will fight the counter-revolutionary troops … not to defend this government … but to independently defend the revolution as they pursue their own aim, the aim of securing victory for the workers, for the poor, for the cause of peace, and not for the imperialists, for Kerensky…. A Bolshevik would tell the Mensheviks: ‘We shall fight, of course, but we refuse to enter into any political alliance whatever with you’.”
–“Rumors of a Conspiracy” (August 1917) ■
- 1. The judicial “investigation” of kickbacks on contracts of the semi-privatized Petrobras oil company – now mainly owned by Wall Street investors but with the Brazilian state still controlling management – in which politicians of all major parties received payoffs, mainly to finance election campaigns. The earliest cases involved transfers of money at a car wash, “Lava Jato” (jet wash).
- 2. Communist Party of Brazil, formerly Maoist, now thoroughly social-democratized.
- 3. Party of Brazilian Social Democracy, a “center-right” bourgeois party and main opposition in Congress.
- 4. Over billions of dollars of tax evasion funneled through the Bank of the State of Paraná.
- 5. Over bid-rigging on contracts for the expansion of the São Paulo subway.
- 6. Party of Socialism and Liberty, a social-democratic split-off from the PT.
- 7. A notoriously corrupt politician who during the military dictatorship was named governor of São Paulo and later ran for president with the junta’s backing, and who in recent years has supported Dilma’s popular-front government.
- 8. The scandal over monthly payoffs to bourgeois parties and politicians in Congress, principally to buy their support for the PT-led popular-front government. See “Brazil: Lula Against the Workers – Forge a Revolutionary Workers Party!” The Internationalist, May 2006, and “Brazil: The Election Racket of the Bourgeoisie,” The Internationalist No. 38, October-November 2014.
- 9. An earlier name for Operation Car Wash.
- 10. PDT: Democratic Labor Party, a split from the PTB (Brazilian Labor Party) founded by Getúlio Vargas, the nationalist strong man who after coming to power in a 1930 coup d’état ruled the country until 1945 and was later elected president in the 1950s. Since Vargas’ time, populist politics in Brazil have traditionally adopted a labourite rhetoric even though the parties are solidly bourgeois.
- 11. The giant mining conglomerate was responsible for the 2015 dam break that dumped millions of cubic meters of iron waste and poisoned water supplies over much of the state of Minas Gerais in the worst environmental disaster in Brazilian history..
- 12. Progressive Party, a right-wing party until recently headed by Maluf, which includes ultra-rightist and militarist elements.