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The Internationalist
  April 2016

Brazil’s Opportunist Left
Tailing After the Bourgeois Blocs

Translated from Vanguarda Operária No. 13 (May 2016) published by the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil, Brazilian section of the League for the Fourth International.

For the last year, Brazil has been shaken by an acute political crisis pitting the bourgeois popular-front government of President Dilma Rousseff of the Workers Party (PT, Partido dos Trabalhadores) against the traditional right-wing opposition which wants to throw her out of the Palácio do Planalto (the presidential palace) by parliamentary means (impeachment) or in some other way. However, the government and opposition share the same fundamental program, of resolving the capitalist economic crisis by attacking the working people, while they may differ (at times) only over the rhythm and degree of the attacks. In this context of a dispute between two bourgeois forces, the Brazilian left is divided into two major camps: the pro-PT camp, which chants “não vai ter golpe” (no to a coup d’état), and the anti-PT camp which chants “throw them all out.” Despite the claims of political independence by each camp, in reality they are both appendages of the conflicting capitalist forces within the framework of bourgeois democracy. Now with the addition of escalating arbitrary judicial and police actions on the part of the prosecutors of Operação Lava Jato (Operation Car Wash)1, what’s needed is not an illusory “third camp” on the terrain of bourgeois democracy but a working-class opposition with a program of revolutionary struggle against the entire ruling class and against the danger of an authoritarian outcome.

The Camp of the PT Left: Seeking to Camouflage the Popular Front

Ex-president Lula (center, in red shirt), at rally against impeachment called by the PT, the CUT and CTB union federations and the PCdoB on the night of March 18. Claiming to fight against the “coup” and an imminent seizure of power by “fascists,” the Partido da Causa Operária and other tendencies in the PT “camp” give political support to the bourgeois popular front. Genuine Trotskyists draw a class line by opposing impeachment and simultaneously calling for sharp class struggle against the anti-worker measures of the government and the right-wing opposition. (Photo: LBI)

For the PT and pro-PT left, impeachment is the coup. This is the constant theme of articles published by the Partido da Causa Operária (PCO – Workers Cause Party), repeating the same refrain of the PT and of the social-democrats of the Partido Comunista do Brasil (PCdoB). The PCO insists that “imperialism wants the overthrow of the PT government,” which is not only an exaggeration, it is political praise for the popular front. Even if opposition forces and strong elements of the state apparatus are pointing to a fateful bonapartist solution, at least for now this doesn’t necessarily imply a coup d’état or fascism (which are two different things).

Consider the analogous situation of the French Third Republic, which during the great capitalist Depression of the 1930s was sinking in a sea of corruption. The fascist and monarchist riot of 6 February 1934 resulted in the installation of  a right-wing government under the Radical Gastón Doumergue, but also five days later set off an enormous mobilization of working-class united-front opposition. Leon Trotsky in his pamphlet Whither France? (November 1934) explained that Doumergue’s bonapartist government was raising itself above parliament, basing itself not on a parliamentary majority but instead on the police and army:

“The essence of Bonapartism consists in this: basing itself on the struggle of two camps, it ‘saves’ the ‘nation’ with the help of a bureaucratic-military dictatorship…. The Doumergue government represents the first step of the passage from parliamentarianism to bonapartism…. French Fascism does not yet represent a mass force. On the other hand, Bonapartism finds support, neither sure nor very stable but nevertheless a mass support, in the Radicals. Between these two facts there is an inner link. By the social character of its base, Radicalism is the party of the petty bourgeoisie. Fascism can only become a mass force by conquering the petty bourgeoisie. In other words, fascism can develop in France above all at the expense of the Radicals. This process is already under way, although still in its early stages.”

Fascism seeks to smash the working class, annihilating its organizations at the same time as it eliminates parliamentary institutions and democratic freedoms. Brazil presently finds itself in an initial, transitional phase marked by the evolution of this state in a bonapartist direction, not a military barracks revolt or a fascist uprising to overthrow it.

But let us suppose that the situation is as the PCO describes it, that we are on the verge of fascism or an imminent coup d’état (which, we repeat, are not the same thing), what then does it propose? It calls for “permanent mobilization,” “intense mobilization in the universities and, at some point, to take the university into the street,” “mobilize the people now against the coup,” “take the people into the street, make demonstrations, big and small, every day,” “multiply actions throughout the country,” etc. (“The Coup at High Speed: What Is to Be Done?, Diário Causa Operária, 22 March). Really? The fascists or coup plotters are (supposedly) on the brink of taking power and we’re going to stop them by going into the streets marching and chanting? There’s no class criterion, it’s always “the people” or, at the most, “the productive people.” And if that isn’t enough? The PCO recalls that in the past workers have carried out factory occupations and general strikes, but it doesn’t make any concrete appeal, only a vague suggestion that in that case, “we’ll raise the bets.”

Any class-conscious worker would say, “The gentlemen are playing games, they don’t take their own words seriously, you can’t have confidence in them.” On top of that, the pseudo-Trotskyists of the PCO, far from combating the popular front, have joined it. In 1989, when the PT formalized its popular-frontist course, the internal tendency Causa Operária criticized the Frente Brasil Popular acerbically (although confusedly). Now we read that the March 18 action was called by the CUT (PT-allied union federation), the MST (Landless Rural Workers Movement) and the “Frente Brasil Popular (PCO, PCdoB and PT along with other groups).” If the PCO dreams of obtaining some position of sub-sub-secretary in order to improve its meager electoral score, it has already paid the admission price. It denounces those who “put forward ‘leftist’ criticisms of the Dilma government” and preaches that “at this moment, all struggles are subordinated” to the struggle against the “coup.” A CUT bureaucrat couldn’t have put it better. Will the PCO be rewarded for its words?

In subsequent days the PCO extended its defense of the government to embracing its worst bourgeois politicians. Thus it hailed the continued presence of the representative of agribusiness at the head of the agriculture ministry:  “Kátia Abreu breaks with the PMDB and stays in the government” (Diário Causa Operária, 30 March). That’s the same fazendeira (large landowner) who is known by the landless workers as “chain saw.”

There are several minor groups, which like the PCO abuse the name Trotskyists, that are headed in the same direction. One of the most cynical, the Frente Comunista dos Trabalhadores (Communist Workers Front), has gone so far as to call “For Lula and Dilma to put the government apparatus in the service of fighting against the Coup!” (Declaration of the FCT, March 17). Not even in your dreams! It couldn’t be more clear that the opportunists depend on the capitalist state. Unfortunately for them, the government apparatus is already headed in the opposite direction, and the reach of the president is not at all clear. Another variant of this deluded PT left, the Espaço Marxista (Marxist Space) group, part of the Frente de Resistência, is more modest: it writes that “the Dilma government also needs to react through the available institutional means,” and calls for “judicial and administrative measures,” such as making a complaint to the National Council of Justice against the “Torquemadas of the PSDB2 [Judge] Sergio Moro and [Supreme Court justice] Gilmar Mendes.” Later they admit: “Even though such measures won’t result in the least punishment (“Considerations About the Coup Plotting Now Underway,” 20 March).  In contrast, authentic Trotskyists call to combat the bonapartist danger by mobilizing the working class to the fight against the bosses’ state.

Less delirious but in the same camp is the centrist Liga Bolchevique Internacionalista (LBI). The LBI mislabels the rightist demonstrations and demonstrators as “fascist,” and the axis of its policy is the call for a “united front of anti-fascist action.” On March 18, in response to a call by the PT, the CUT and others in the PT retinue, some half million supporters took to the streets “in defense of democracy, the rights of the working class and against the coup” (from the CUT call). In a “Preliminary Balance Sheet,” the LBI admits that “Lula used the rallies to attempt to again seek a ‘broad agreement’ with the national bourgeoisie.” It also said that “the March 18 demonstrations clearly served as an element in the bargaining by the Popular Front, a demonstration of relative political strength in the framework of its policy of class collaboration.” But if on that occasion the LBI urged participation in the rally “without supporting the program it was called on,” by the time of the next rally of the PT camp, it declared that “we support the call of the ‘People Without Fear Front’ for March 24.”

Despite its rhetoric of “united front of action,” what the LBI is advocating is the formation of a “fighting” popular front, as some socialist groups did in France in the 1930s as Blum’s popular front was losing steam. If the LBI wanted a real united front, in the meaning that the Communist International gave to that slogan, what would be the concrete common action that it is proposing? In reality what it is proposing is a political propaganda bloc with sectors of the left around the PT. Thus it calls on the “People Without Fear Front to join this United Front of Anti-Fascist Action as part of the political-programmatic combat to forge an alternative revolutionary leadership.” This sleight-of-hand of mixing up a political bloc with a united front goes back to Lula’s presidential campaign in 2002. At that time, when the entire left was trying to sidle up to the PT, the LBI, after formally calling to cast a blank ballot, claimed to have discovered “the biggest fraud in history” and called to “unleash a broad mobilization” to insist that the Higher Electoral Court proclaim the victory of the popular front on the first round of voting. We in the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista do Brasil (LQB), in contrast, underlined our “Proletarian Opposition to the Popular Front” and our refusal to vote for Lula and his vice-presidential candidate, the multimillionaire capitalist José Alencar (see The Internationalist No. 14, September-October 2002).

The Anti-PT Camp: “Car Wash” Left Tails After the Rightist Opposition

  Banner of the Conlutas trade-union federation, led by the PSTU, calling for “Throw them all out, general elections now,” which in the context of the pro-impeachment and “Dilma out” mobilizations would likely result in the replacement of the bourgeois popular-front government with the traditional bourgeois right. The slogan is hardly democratic, much less revolutionary, but instead is an an attempt to disguise the support by this anti-Trotskyist tendency to the reactionary right wing.  (Photo: Sindmetal São José dos Campos)

On the other side of the barricade we find the Partido Socialista dos Trabalhadores Unificado (PSTU, United Socialist Workers Party) and the trade-union and “popular” federation it leads, Conlutas, with its slogan “Throw Them All Out!” On its banners it always puts the names and photos of Dilma and Lula in first place, so that in practice it coincides with the right-wing protests demanding “Dilma Get Out!” At times the PSTU claims to oppose impeachment, but it is only a façade: recently it refused to accept the slogan “No to impeachment” as a demand for the rallies of the Unity and Action Front which it dominates. And the call by the PSTU for “General Elections Now!” in the current situation amounts to a call to install a right-wing government. This is also advocated by Luciana Genro (ex-presidential candidate of the Party of Socialism and Freedom, PSOL) and even the Folha de S. Paulo (a leading “liberal” bourgeois newspaper). Even if it is disguised with the face of Marina Silva, the puppet of the evangelical far right, the agribusness interests, the bankers and arms industry – in other words, the “BBBB (bible, beef, banks and bullets) parliamentary fraction” – there is nothing democratic about it, given the control of the elections by capital which determines the results of the voting.

However, it’s not very likely that the other parliamentary parties will call new elections, since they are also in the crosshairs of Operation Car Wash. Almost everyone in Congress is corrupt to the core: the way Brazilian bourgeois democracy works is through bribes and the “caixa 2” (second set of accounts). If the president isn’t ousted by parliament via the impeachment process, resulting in a government of Michel Temer (who gets 1% of voters’ preferences in opinion polls), it will be up to the Superior Electoral Court to call new elections. And if that court, not elected by anyone, declines to annul the 2014 elections when Dilma won with 54 million votes, then how does the PSTU intend to expel her from the presidential palace, since we are quite far from a leftist workers uprising? In fact, the slogan “throw them all out” (referring to the politicians, of course) could be used by the ultra-reactionaries who want a bonapartist government under Judge Sérgio Moro (based on the Federal Police).

Let’s take a look at the history of the watchword “fora todos” translated from the Spanish, “¡Que se vayan todos!” which arose during the Argentine protests in the popular revolt of December 2001 against President Fernando de la Rua of the conservative Radical Civic Union (UCR) party. Prior to a brief intermission of two years of a UCR government, there had been a decade of the regime of the Justicialista Party (Peronists). And after 18 days of pot-banging (cacerolazos), strikes and massive protests that have come to be known as the “Argentinazo,” on 1 January 2002 a new Justicialista president (Eduardo Duhalde) was sworn in, who was then succeeded by two more Justicialista presidents (Néstor Kirchner, followed by Christina Fernández de Kirchner) who governed the country up until December 2015. This is supposed to be a victory or a guideline to be followed?! The slogan “throw them all out!” served to divert a potentially revolutionary situation, by limiting it to the bourgeois-democratic framework.

At bottom, there is little to discuss with the PSTU, which is merely a puppet of the right-wing opposition to garner support from the left.

Still, there are two points worth mentioning. For months the PSTU formed a cheering squad applauding the Car Wash “investigation” and the so-called “petrolão” (oilgate), just like ten years ago the PSOL acted toward the “mensalão” (the fat monthly paycheck, of bribes to congressmen). Recently, in the face of the adulation of Judge Moro, the PSTU published on its Internet site an article (17 March) with the title, “No confidence in the judicial system” and a subtitle, “Double standards.” It criticizes the “partiality” of the justice system (which it never characterizes as bourgeois, among other things because under the leadership of the PSTU, Conlutas unionizes employees of the capitalist courts, as well as police, the armed thugs of capital, whom it calls “workers in uniform”). It asks, “Why doesn’t Moro go all the way and reveal all the dirty linen of the PSDB?” This accepts the fiction that the “Curitiba Republic”3 is investigating corruption, when in fact it is serving as a vehicle for the judicial/police apparatus to impose itself on the other powers of the bourgeois republic, in the service of the traditional right wing which wants to grab a bigger slice of the juicy pie of Petrobras for the Brazilian bourgeoisie and imperialist sectors (and its front men, like PSDBer José Serra), by further “opening” the national petroleum market.

The second point to be stressed is that the position taken by PSTU/Conlutas is not any kind of lapse, on the contrary it is the finished expression of its supposedly third-campist politics that in reality serve the most reactionary bourgeois sectors and imperialism. In Venezuela its international tendency, the International Workers League (LIT), went so far as to state in an article (9 January) on its site that, “The electoral victory of the right wing,” led and financed by imperialism in the elections of last December, “expresses in a distorted way the outrage” (of the masses) against the bourgeois nationalist government of Chávez-Maduro. In Libya in 2011, the LIT openly supported the NATO attack to overthrow the erratic nationalist Qaddafi. In Egypt in 2013, it gave its support to the coup by General al-Sisi, who was supported by the United States. In Ukraine in 2014 it gave support “from the left” to the nationalist and fascist coup in Kiev, which was supported by the imperialists. In Syria, it supports the bloody Islamist mercenaries of the Free Syrian Army, the mercenaries of the Pentagon and the CIA. As we noted in our article, “Brazil: Leftists in the Camp of Pro-Imperialist Syrian Islamists” (The Internationalist No. 36, January-February 2014), “The LIT ‘critically’ tails after ‘democratic’ imperialism.”

The Morenoites of the LIT hailed Yeltsin's August 1991 counter-coup, supported by U.S. imperialism, which led to the destruction of the Soviet Union and the restoration of capitalism in the land of the October Revolution led by Lenin and Trotsky. Shown here is the LIT magazine from November 1991.

The “theoretical” foundation of the bourgeois “democratist” politics of the PSTU and the LIT are to be found in the counter-revolutionary heritage of its founder, the pseudo-Trotskyist Nahuel Moreno and his calls for a “democratic revolution” (or “February revolutions”). This policy is diametrically counterposed to Trotsky’s perspective of permanent revolution, which holds that in countries oppressed by imperialism, revolutionary democratic tasks can only be achieved by workers revolution extending to the imperialist centers. Let’s also not forget that with this “democratist” line, the Morenoites of the LIT hailed Boris Yeltsin’s counter-coup in August 1991, which was the historical turning point for the counterrevolution that restored capitalism in the Soviet Union. The LIT sang the praises of the “August Revolution” and the “Great Revolutionary Victory in the USSR” (Correo Internacional No. 56, November 1991). The authentic Trotskyists, at the time in the International Communist League, struggled inside the USSR itself, distributing 50,000 copies of a leaflet in Russian calling for “Soviet Workers: Defeat Yeltsin-Bush Counterrevolution.”

The authentic Trotskyists, at the time in the International Communist League, fought inside the USSR itself against the destruction of the bureaucratically degenerated workers state that led to the restoration of capitalism, distributing 50,000 copies of a leaflet in Russian calling for “Soviet Workers: Defeat Yeltsin-Bush Counterrevolution.” 

Another Morenoite tendency in Brazil, the CST (Corrente Socialista dos Trabalhadores, Socialist Workers Tendency) inside the PSOL, also calls to “Throw them all out!” The CST doesn’t even hide behind the fig leaf of a call for new elections. They praise the “thousands in the streets [who] are demonstrating their opposition to the government of Dilma/Lula and demand that they resign.” They pretend that the big middle-class protests, sponsored by business and industrial federations and egged on by the Globo media moguls, represent “the break of the masses with the Dilma government” (CST declarations of 18 and 26 March). A third Morenoite current, the MES (Movimento de Esquerda Socialista, Socialist Left Movement) of Luciana Genro, the PSOL candidate in the 2014 presidential elections, agrees with the CST and PSTU in the phony ploy of building a “third camp” (neither PT nor the right), but above all calls for new general elections and vociferously defends the Car Wash “investigation.” While the CST doesn’t bother to hide its attraction to the right-wing parades, the MES is quite open about sidling up to the candidacy of Marina Silva and her Rede (Network) slate (founded by ex-supporters of the MES. In her blog (March 30) Luciana Genro writes: “Marina is ahead in the opinion polls. So let’s get going in the struggle.”

Candidates Marina Silva (left) and Luciana Genro (right) along with Eduardo Jorge of the Green Party on TV Globo, October 2014. Today they are joining with the Folha de S. Paulo in the right-wing pro-impeachment camp, calling for new elections. (Photo: Extra)

As in the case of the PSTU, all the swamp denizens of the imaginary “third camp” of “throw them all out” are just toys in the hands of right-wing reaction and the authoritarian forces. Luciana Genro insists that the “government is using fear” when it claims “that there is a threat to democracy, to the democratic state of law. When, actually, there is none of that…. I disagree with the idea that these arbitrary measures against Lula are signs of a ‘coup by the judiciary’.” That interview stirred unease in the PSOL leadership, which put out a note warning against an “institutional coup” and a second statement disavowing Genro and stating that the demonstrations are not the product of a strategy of fear but instead the “response to abuses committed by the judiciary, by business entities, by the monopoly media and by the National Congress.” However, the PSOL leadership (in the hands of the Socialist Unity coalition) is in fact acting as a “lifeline” for the popular front, joining the People Without Fear front from its inception last October.

Like the PSTU, the PSOL is a thoroughly reformist social-democratic party which supports and depends on the capitalist state. It is an electoralist party par excellence, a kind of “substitute PT.” In contrast to a Bolshevik communist party, it is an absurd alphabet soup of internal tendencies with counterposed policies on just about everything, a guarantee that in the face of any crisis (such as the present one) it will be reduced to paralysis, or split apart. As we wrote at the time of the founding of the PSOL, “We Don’t Need a Social Democratic ‘New Party’ of Disillusioned Lulistas,” The Internationalist No. 20, January-February 2005. As for Luciana’s Genro’s posture as the heroic standard-bearer of the struggle against corruption, we recall the donations to her 2014 campaign by the Grupo Zaffari (for the details, see “Brazil: The Election Racket of the Bourgeoisie,” The Internationalist No. 38, October-November 2014).

The MRT on the Fence, Looking for a Mass Movement to Tail After

In contrast to the reformist social democrats of the PSTU and the PSOL currents, who with their “third-campist” policies serve as satellites of the right-wing opposition, the MRT (Movimento Revolucionário de Trabalhadores, Revolutionary Workers Movement), a centrist ex-Morenoite group, makes an effort to give the appearance of lining up against both sides in the current political crisis. In an article in its digital newspaper, Esquerda Diário (20 March), it claims to “Combat impeachment while not supporting the cutback government of Dilma.” While the PSTU calls for new general elections (to install a right-wing government), the MRT comes out in favor of a “free and sovereign constituent assembly.” This supposed neutrality completely ignores the bonapartist offensive, as if it was simply a dispute between two bourgeois tickets. In reality, the “democratist” policy of these ex-Morenoites is only a kind of shamefaced version of “Morenoism lite.” But if the PSTU is a fellow traveler of the judicial/police right wing, the MRT is a hitchhiker who climbed aboard the Car Wash Express, but after taking a look at the other passengers decided to hop off.

On the eve of the March 18 mobilization “against the coup, for democracy” called by the CUT, the CTB (labor federation led by the PCdoB) and pro-government coalitions, in an article explaining “Why the MRT won’t be part of the March 18 rallies,” it assured readers that “those pro-government organizations are going to focus solely on defense of President Dilma and Lula.” In the entire article there wasn’t a single indication of the existence of a bonapartist danger. Nor did it advocate being present while openly fighting against the anti-working-class policies of the government. The article caused considerable concern and furious rejection among its readers: among the dozens of comments, only a couple defended its line, while the rest said that they were opposed to “almost everything” the PT governments did, but they were still going to the demonstration. A worker at the University of São Paulo wrote:  “And what about the threat to democracy? It doesn’t exist? … And what about the explicit growth of the right, of conservatism? That also doesn’t exist?” However, in an article published after the 18th, the MRT did an about-face and wrote that, “Even though the leaders of the Frente Brasil Popular did everything it could to turn the character of the rally into defense of Lula and Dilma”:

“For the most part the chants, did not refer to defense of the government but rather a sentiment of ‘no to a coup.’ The most notable sector present was university youth, more prevalent than in the right-wing rallies of March 13… At various workplaces and places of study the distrust of the movements by the judicial power, the Federal Police and the right were not connected to defense of the PT.”

The MRT tacitly admits that it misjudged the sentiment of the masses, above all in the youth. As a result, it empirically changed its policies which was reflected in the report on its national conference, where it says:

“We judge that despite the new phenomenon of reactionary right-wing marches, the offensive of the institutional coup produced a reaction in the whole of society, which was partly shown in the streets in the March 18 rallies called by pro-government forces, but didn’t just come out in order to support Dilma and Lula, were critical toward their government, seeing the clear threat of the right further advancing in the country.”

So what is the programmatic conclusion of this? The MRT proposes to:

“work on the ranks of the big pro-government union federations like the CUT and the CTB, as well as on the student bodies, to require that they break their subordination to the government and call rank-and-file assemblies and a plan of struggle combining work stoppages, demonstrations and culminating in a general strike to block the reactionary institutional coups, the attacks by the governments, particularly of the PT, on the living conditions of the workers and the youth, and opening the way to an effective response to the crisis we are experiencing in the country.”

Here you have a classic example of the Morenoite policy of pressuring the current leaderships to adopt a class-struggle “plan of struggle,” which they are not going to do. In contrast to this illusory program, genuine Trotskyists call for concrete actions where one can demand of the unions and workers parties that they participate, as the LQB did in our 30 March article. This is what the united front means: a powerful common class action, beyond the profound political differences. But this also places on the agenda the struggle to break politically with the sellout leaderships who constantly act as an obstacle to workers struggle.

The tactic of the MRT (formerly the LER-QI), and of the international tendency to which it belongs, the Trotskyist Faction, whose main section is the Argentine PTS (Partido de los Trabajadores Socialistas – Socialist Workers Party), is one of constant maneuvers always seeking to be the left wing of some mass movement. They run into trouble when they can’t decide between two conflicting movements, when the object of their attentions is indisposed, and when they discover that they are the ones being used instead of the other way around. On the Brazilian terrain they have gone back and forth between tailing after the PSTU and the PSOL. From July until December, the MRT was asking to be admitted as an internal tendency of the latter party which consists of a conglomeration of tendencies, only to see its amorous advances rejected. More recently it concentrated its activity on the “Unity and Struggle Space,” which includes various groups of the extra-parliamentary left that, in the MRT’s imagination, “seek to build an alternative camp in the face of the conjuncture characterized by the dispute between the PT and the right-wing opposition over impeachment.” However, in the latest meeting of this propaganda bloc under the influence of the PSTU, the call to oppose impeachment was brushed aside.

In various polemics against the policies of the PSTU, the main difference the MRT pointed to was that instead of calling for “new elections” it wants a “Free and Sovereign Constituent Assembly.” It calls for a “a democracy where the working people themselves and the entire people decide the direction of the country and how to combat corruption and to put a stop to cutbacks.” Waving this banner of “radical democracy,” it pretends that there is a solution favorable to the workers under bourgeois rule, which is a lie. On the one hand, it proposes that its dreamed-of constituent assembly should decide that “all cases of corruption should be judged by a popular jury, that every public office, from judges to congressmen, be elected and recallable.” Popular juries and the election (and recall) of judges and prosecutors already exist in the U.S., and that doesn’t change a thing about the reactionary class character of the justice system, as one can see in the cases of the murders of young black men by racist police, who continue to enjoy impunity. Why? Because the courts are an essential part of the repressive apparatus of the capitalist state, along with the police and the army.

Like the slogan “throw them all out,” the call for a constituent assembly was also a battle cry of the pseudo-Trotskyist groups during and after the “Argentinazo” of 2001. As we explained at that time:

The ‘big fish’ in the pseudo-Trotskyist swamp in Argentina are all agreed in calling for a ‘constituent assembly.’ Do they claim that there are still holdovers from feudalism in Argentina, a country without a peasantry (the rural settlements are almost all of agricultural wage workers)? Nor is Argentina under the boot of a military dictatorship, having instead had a series of elected parliamentary governments. No, this slogan is expressing the desire of these opportunist groups to sidle up to the middle class on a ‘democratic’ (i.e., bourgeois) and not a socialist basis. It is the current expression of the so-called ‘democratic revolution’ preached by the late Nahuel Moreno – the godfather of the PTS, MAS and MTS - who raised this slogan echoing the anti-Soviet propaganda of the Reaganites in the 1980s.”
–“Mass Upheaval Rocks Argentina, Brazilian Workers Movement Under Attack,” The Internationalist No. 13, May-June 2002

On the other hand, in its bourgeois-democratic delirium, the MRT would like its imaginary constituent assembly to vote in the “nationalization of foreign trade, the expropriation of large landholdings,” “to impose the end of draining of resources from the country by imperialism through payment of the debt,” etc. A utopian fantasy, and ultimately reformist. They are attributing to a bourgeois body tasks which in this imperialist epoch can only be carried out by overthrowing the rule of capital. As we underlined in the same article:

“Thus in order to save the working people of Argentina from ruin, it is necessary not only to repudiate the foreign debt but also to expropriate the banks and the rest of the key companies in the country, something no capitalist government is about to do, whatever nationalist rhetoric it may employ. Even a revolutionary workers government would have enormous difficulty in the face of the inevitable reprisals by imperialism in carrying out these essential steps which require international socialist revolution.”

Responding to the (justified) worry that any constituent assembly today would facilitate the rise of the reactionary right, and that it would be worse than the one that gave birth to the 1988 Constitution, the spokesmen of the MRT insist that their constituent assembly would be “imposed by the mobilization of the working people.” But if the workers mobilize, the revolutionaries would offer them a “radical democratic” rather than a socialist program?! This isn’t Trotskyism, it is the reformist “two-stage revolution” so dear to the Stalinists, or in the case of the Morenoites, the social democrats.

Agrarian revolution, democracy for the working people, national liberation from imperialist domination: none of this can be carried out today under the rule of capital. In fact, it was this perception that gave rise to Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution and his insistence that in this imperialist epoch, only by means of a workers revolution and its extension into the heart of imperialism can the great tasks of the bourgeois-democratic revolutions of the past be achieved. While the Morenoites of the PSTU openly reject permanent revolution, following the footsteps of its master Moreno, the ex-Morenoites of the MRT say they uphold that thesis. But in practice they put forward the same program of “democratic” reforms, only proposing to radicalize them a bit, like a constituent assembly instead of new general elections. And as for its slogan of a “government of the working people that breaks with capitalism and imperialism,” they separate this from the socialist revolution that overthrows capitalism. The PT itself talks of a government of the working people, within the framework of the bourgeois state. We’ve already seen the result.

Two final comments on the MRT:  first, even while rejecting Moreno’s thesis of calling for a “democratic revolution,” they continue his methodology of looking at everything from a “democratic” viewpoint. And second, it sows utter confusion by comparing the PSTU’s policy to that with the German Communist Party when it lined up with the Nazi fascists in the “red referendum” of 1931. The Communist International was repeating the orders of the Kremlin under Stalin, who at that time was pursuing the temporary ultra-leftist line of the so-called “Third Period,” which he later abandoned in favor of the program of Popular Front. The PSTU today, which the MRT erroneously labels centrist, is a social-democratic tendency that is reformist to the core. Trotsky criticized the line of the German CP as an “error” and “adventurist,” but the fact that the PSTU’s policy today coincides with that of the bourgeois right wing is consistent with its overall outlook of class collaboration.

What is clear from this summary is that the entire Brazilian left – centrists and reformists alike – raises the banner of a bourgeois “democratic” program in the midst of a deep political crisis which requires a working-class and revolutionary response. Only the Liga Quarta-Internacionalista puts forward a program of proletarian opposition against the bourgeois right-wing and the bourgeois popular front in power. We call for work stoppages, plant occupations, the formation of elected and recallable strike committees, workers councils and mass workers defense guards to defend against repression. We say that it is necessary to prepare a general strike of unlimited duration in order to smash the judicial/police threat, to bloc impeachment, stop the cutbacks and sink the privatizations and labor and pension “reforms.” And to carry all this out, it is necessary to forge the nucleus of a revolutionary workers party, Leninist and Trotskyist, to fight for a workers and peasants government, the beginning of international socialist revolution.

  1. 1. See “Class Struggle Against the Bonapartist Threat in Brazil.”
  2. 2. Party of Brazilian Social Democracy, the largest right-wing bourgeois opposition party.
  3. 3. The “Operation Car Wash” investigation is based in the provincial capital of Curitiba.