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Brazil: CONLUTAS congress

by FLT Monday, May. 29, 2006 at 11:09 PM

A new setback for the Brazilian and Latin American workers at the hands of the ex-Trotskyist left of the World Social Forum

CONAT creates a new union to contain the revolution

The National Congress of Workers (CONAT) met in Sumare (San Pablo-Brazil), on May 5, 6 and 7. It was convened by the National Coordination of Struggles (CONLUTAS), a group of workers organizations that arose two years ago during the big wave of strikes against the pro-imperialistic policy of the government of Lula. Most of these groups are led or influenced by the PSTU and the PSOL –parties that claim to be Trotskyist. More than 2700 delegates representing over 1.700.000 workers; some 100 international delegations representing organizations in the United States, Russia, France, Argentina, Bolivia, Costa Rica, etc were invited along with other special guests and observers. CONAT thus had the enormous potential to become a solid strongpoint for the unification of the Brazilian workers and the workers in the whole American continent.

The unity of the working class is an urgent necessity to face the attack launched on the workers and landless peasants by imperialism, the big monopolies and the bosses in Brazil and all Latin America. It could have stood up to defend the struggles of the exploited of the continent, and in particular the Bolivian revolution under seige. It was a great opportunity to launch a counter-offensive of Brazilian workers and peasants against the pro-imperialist policy of the popular front of Lula-Alencar-Marinho and its regime of the Social Pact backed by the bureaucratic traitors of the CUT, Union Forza and the CGT. Such a counter-offensive is necessary to break with these bureaucratic leaders of the workers and landless peasants’ movement.

This potential was deliberately squandered and the opportunity was lost. A new "broad" central union, "in the style of the CTA of Argentina" was created instead. This type of union opposes real workers democracy, the development of factory committees, or other forms of self-organization of the masses, and prevents the coordination of struggles. It therefore cannot adance a program to challenge the regime or the treacherous bureaucracy that props it up.

This congress was used instead to create a new central union under the leadership of a ‘new left’ bureaucracy, cementing the divisions in the Brazilian working class. It was a congress designed to create an electoral front of the PSOL and the PSTU, and nothing to do with the creating the fighting organizations that the masses need. Thus the enormous majority of black workers, workers in precarious, underpaid jobs, unemployed, rural workers and landless peasants, remain outside the unions. On the contrary, when the CONAT resolved "to organize the non-organized", it merely dressed up the old slogan of the union bureaucracy of the AFL-CIO in the US, which leaves the vast majority of non-unionized workers separated from the small layer of workers who are unionized.

Congress controlled by World Social Forum

Why? Because this congress was controlled by the World Social Forum and the Castroite restorationist bureaucracy and its ‘representative’, the Cuban intellectual Celia Hart Santamaria. When the three main WSF spokespersons, Petras, Antunez, and Arcari, spoke of the need "to organize the non-organized", they showed that the WSF is well aware that today many of those entering the struggles, the most exploited, broad sectors of the working class – the French worker youth, the Latino immigrants in the U.S.A., casualized contract workers in Argentina, etc., -are outside the control of the unions and workers’ organisations. The WSF is conscious of the need to build new institutions to organise and contain these newly emerging militant layers of the working class. That is why, to contain these layers, CONAT created a new union.

While the new union is designed to contain the new layers of fighters from organising independently of the left bureaucracy, it still leaves around 80% of the Brazilian working class, some 50 million workers, un-organised. The declarations of solidarity with the struggles of the landless etc., and attacks on the regime and imperialism were hollow words, because no specific proposals arose to unify the struggles and prepare for a general strike to defeat the regime. Moreover, CONAT has even reneged on the fight against the union bureaucracy of the CUT for the leadership of those unionized sectors under the latter’s influence.

So the congress of CONLUTAS was designed to fulfill the tasks assigned to the PSTU and the PSOL by the WSF. The task of the PSOL is to contain, by forming an electoral alternative, those sections of the masses that have broken politically with the PT. The task of the PSTU is to contain that section of the militant workers vanguard that hates the union bureaucracy and wants to defeat the Lula-Alencar-Marinho regime, and to prevent it from developing in a revolutionary way. CONAT succeeded in these tasks of containing the vanguard within a new left bureaucratic union that will not challenge the regime or its bureaucracy.

Therefore, the P-SOL and the PSTU proved that they are opposed to workers struggles to defeat the regime of Lula and the treacherous bureaucrats that supports the regime, by forming a new central union that contains the militants and diverts them into pressuring the popular front of Lula-Alencar-Marinho. In CONAT there are political currents like the LER-QI – a sister group of the Argentinean PTS – who say that the CONLUTAS should be a "Fraction of the CUT". This position is a variant of the PSTU’s peaceful coexistence with the bureaucracy of the CUT allowing "room" for competing slates of the different ‘fractions’. That would still leave the majority of the workers and the exploited that are not organized in the CUT or other union centrals, in the hands of the bureaucracy and the workers aristocracy.

Against such reformist politics stood the comrades of the Fraçao Trotskista-Vanguardia Proletária (FT-VP), member of the Leninist-Trotskyist Fraction (FL-T), along with the companions of Partido Operário Marxista (POM) and other combative sectors. Before and during the CONAT they took a working class stand defending their position that the congress must create a "Soviet-style Proletarian Central Union". They argued that only the unity of the working masses and the rural poor through their self-organization can confront the pro-imperialist bourgeois regime of the popular front, re-creating the "Commandos of base" (“Rank and file committees”) – like those that existed in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s. In other words, organizations of direct democracy of the masses, the only way to fight for a program that unites and defends the interests of the whole working class.

Turn one’s back on the Bolivian Revolution and kneel at the feet of the “Bolivarian Revolution”

The CONAT was not only a setback for the Brazilian working class, but also for all Latin American workers. Because each and every one of its resolutions helped to force the workers to kneel at the feet of the "Bolivarian revolution" and Chavez’ “Socialism of the 21st Century", that is to say, at the feet of their respective national bourgeoisies.

It was the perfect ending to the preparatory meeting that the PSTU itself, with the attendance of the Venezuelan PRS and other organizations of ex-Trotskyists, held at the Caracas meeting of the WSF under the title of: "How to reorganize Latin American Unionism". At that meeting the plans were draw up for the CONAT. In order to fulfill this plan they decided to harass and smear any opposing opinion to the official line dictated by the Castroite think tanks. That official line was obediently applied by the LIT, and its leading section, the PSTU, in close collaboration with the PSOL and Stalinism.

This is revealed clearly is the class collaboration in the international resolutions at the congress. The resolution on Bolivia,for example, says: "1) To support the fight of the Bolivian people for the nationalization of oil and gas. 2) Proposing that CONLUTAS supports and organises the International Campaign for the Nationalization without compensation of oil and gas in Latin America”.

That is to say, a resolution that speaks in general of nationalization without compensation, but does not denounce the bourgeois semi-nationalization of oil and gas by Evo Morales – supported by Chávez, Castro and the WSF. This is a true betrayal of the Bolivian and Latin American workers since not only does it protect the property of the multinationals, it increases their profits, loading onto the backs of the masses of the continent the costs of the increased price of Bolivian hydrocarbons. The resolution of the CONAT does not denounce this deception as an essential part of the plan for strangling the Bolivian revolution. A congress summoned by a current that is said to be "Socialist" and "revolutionary", as the PST-U claims to be, does not raise much less discusses or vote on a resolution in support of the victory of the workers and farmers revolution in Bolivia, nor against Evo Moral and his popular front government that tries to hijack it and strangle it!

In politics, whoever stays silent… The PSTU and the PSOL, "blessed" Morales fraudulent semi-nationalization with their silence... that is, they gave the "nationalization" of Morales and Co a blank cheque to go on deceiving the masses. Thus they prostrated themselves at the feet of the "Bolivarian revolution" promoted by Morales, Chávez and Castro, which is nothing more than the hijacking of the anti-imperialist struggle of the masses. Thus they have turned their backs on the true revolution: the heroic revolution of the Bolivian workers and peasants that began in 2003.

CONAT fails to rally Brazilian workers to back the Bolivian Revolution

But the problem does not finish there. The PSTU did not insist that the first international task of the Brazilian working class must be to confront their own bourgeoisie and Petrobras, as the agents of imperialist oil companies in Bolivia. Thus the PSTU participates in the political, economic and military blockade that the client bourgeoisies have mounted against the Bolivian revolution. What kind of "socialist" and "revolutionary" movement is the PSTU which at the very moment that all the fractions of the Brazilian bourgeoisie are crying out for Lula to intervene militarily in Bolivia to guarantee cheap gas, it holds a congress of workers but does demand that the Brazilian working class face up to its most important international task!

In that sense CONAT was the continuation of the Continental Meeting held less than a year ago by the same reformist organisations and ex-Trotskyists in La Paz, Bolivia, where they hijacked the heroic struggle of the Bolivian masses who had just overthrown Mesa, and sold it to Chavez and Castroism, thus collaborating decisively in the plan to strangle the Bolivian masses.

In the resolution on free trade treaties like the FTAA and the individual FTAs, they refused to include the “ALBA” (Chavez’ own “free trade agreement” among the South American bourgeoisies) as one more treaty used against the workers. Even worse, they say: "6. To take advantage of the next elections and to demand again that Lula’s government holds an official plebiscite on the FTAA ". Thus they voted to turn the fight against the FTAA and the treaties that tie the semi-colonial countries to imperialism into an electoral demand on Lula for a… "plebiscite" (!!). This means they direct workers away from the fight against imperialism and its treaties in the streets, to the ballot box within the frame of bourgeois democracy. At the same time, they raise hopes that by putting pressure on Lula some victories may be won. This is the typical Menshevik politics of putting pressure on the bourgeoisie through the popular front to ‘pressure’ them to go to the left. Meanwhile, the workers are exploited, enslaved and oppressed by these treaties. The fight against imperialism and the revolutionary overthrow of the bourgeois governments and regimes has been completely abandoned. The truth must be said to the workers: - only by overthrowing these popular front governments with a revolutionary struggle will we be able to advance to win our demands, even the most basic ones.

With such precedents, the resolution on Venezuela, while it denounces "bourgeois nationalism", and says that it is necessary for the workers "to construct their own political alternative", it does not state that the working class must not support the government of Chavez or any other bourgeois government. Nor does it raise a program to unmask Chavez’ government as ultimately siding with imperialism against the working masses, to prepare the workers for the overthrow of the bourgeoisie and the victory of the socialist revolution. They don’t want to say to the Venezuelan workers that only a workers’ and peasants’ government would refuse to sell oil to allow the US imperialists to kill our Iraqi brothers and sisters! They don’t want to demand that the Venezuelan UNT (Central Union) - led by groups that also comprise the Brazilian PSOL- to break their support of Chávez and to organize a strong campaign for the sliding scale of wages and working hours in Venezuela!

On the contrary, when one of the commissions managed to pass a motion against Chavez’ government, the PSTU leadership reacted as if they had been stung, accusing anyone who raised such a motion of being “in favour of a pro-imperialistic coup de etat". What "coup"? Wall Street is more than content with the guaranteed supply of oil to keep the US military machine moving. It is no less content with the brake that, together with the Cuban bureaucracy and the ex-Trotskyists, Chavez and his “Bolivarian revolution” is putting on the US proletariat’s awakening to class struggle, and delivering it to the feet of the Democratic Party!

Finally, the resolution on Haiti takes the cake. Beyond the denunciations, the resolution ends up leaving everything in the hands of Lula. It proposes: "To demand Lula’s government’s immediate and uncondition withdrawal of Brazilian troops from Haiti". Again they raise hopes that Lula, who is the most faithful follower of imperialist plans, is going to break with his bourgeois partners and withdraw from Haiti.

The PSTU adopts the Stalinist theory of stages in the semi-colonies

The PSTU is demanding the national bourgeoisies of the semi-colonial countries break their ties to imperialism and complete the tasks of the bourgeois national revolution. Yet in the imperialistic epoch only the working class, seizing power as the leading class of the oppressed nation, can carry through these tasks as part of the socialist revolution. Thus the ex-Trotskyists provide a ‘revolutionary’ cover for these bourgeoisies, and act like the fox that guards the hen coop! There is nothing to be demanded from Lula while he is in a popular front! It is necessary to denounce him without equivocation and fight to get the troops out of Haiti with street mobilisations of the working class, in preparation for a general strike that will only finish when there are no soldiers left in Haiti!

The CONAT, far from being a congress that prepared to unite and strengthen the struggles of the Brazilian and Latin American workers, was a congress organised by the WSF to inject the working class with the old Stalinist politics of class collaboration that calls for support of supposedly "progressive measures" of the national bourgeoisies and to demand that they go “further with those measures”.

For this reason, the CONLUTAS Congress in Sumare was a great lost opportunity to create a Latin American peasants and workers’ congress for confronting and defeating the class collaborationist politics of the popular front which the reformists use to contain the Latin American revolution and the awakening of the North American working class.

The CONAT is one more link in a reformist chain that tries to tie the Bolivian workers to the defence of the bourgeois semi-nationalisation of Morales, and tie the Brazilian workers to the Sao Paulo’s bourgeoisie to defend jobs threatened by the increases cost of gas. It also tries to tie the Argentine workers to Kirchner and the Chilean ones to Bachelet, etc.

A bureaucratic congress with a reformist program to pressure the Lula regime to the left

In order to carry out this reformist program, against the interests of the working class, there had to be a strong bureaucratic control of the congress. The delegates were isolated from the real world for three days, lodged in a estate once owned by the Catholic Church. It was a closed congress without spectators, except for members of the PSOL and PSTU or course! Rank rank and file workers could not attent directly but had to vote for their delegates. So it was impossible for the rank and file workers of the unions to influence or control their delegates and make sure their mandates were ‘fulfilled’.

During the preceding weeks there was a barrage of falsifications of any opposing motions in order to weaken them. A regulation was introduced hindering the free expression of dissident positions. For example, the different "Theses" that had been presented by various organizations before the Congress could not be discussed in the plenary meeting, not even if a union had endorsed them by a rank and file majority. There were “discussion commissions” organized which worked as “filters”. Thus in order to win the right to be discussed in the plenary meeting, a thesis or motion had to obtain 10% of support in one of these “discussion commissions”. Workers’ delegations were bureaucratically "distributed" across different commissions, limiting the possibility of voting as a bloc in any of one of them. Thus, a delegation of 30 or 40 persons was spread among 10 or 20 commissions where the cadres that defended the official positions were in the majority. This guaranteed that most of the opposing positions could not get to the plenary to be discussed and voted on by the body of delegates.

And if some of these thesis or motions did survive this bureaucratic filter and reach the plenary, proposers of motions had only 4 minutes to speak, whereas “the panel” not only had three spokespersons with unlimited time for "clarifying" and "interpreting" the positions raised by the motions, but in addition they also had more time to defend "the official" positions. As well as this whenever a dissident tried to speak a section of the delegates were primed to respond with a chorus of whistles and hostile chants etc. All the groups of the reformist left agreed to this policy. Moreover, the apparatus of the PSTU produced a flood of motions to ensure the bureaucratic control of the congress.

The comrades of the Fraçao Trotskista (FT-VP) and of the Partido Operário Marxista (POM), who proposed the oppositional thesis in defence of a "Soviet-type Central Union", and who distributed a leaflet with a program against the popular front and class collaborationist politics, and for workers’ democracy, suffered all these "disadvantages" in having to fight for accreditation, having to disperse and weaken their forces, and the severe time limits imposed on their speakers.

The PSTU refuses to fight for workers democracy, the political revolution in Cuba, or against the Lula regime

To carry through its task to divide the workers and contain the new layers of militants, and ensure that the CONAT was part of the WSF politics of class collaboration at the continental level to put ‘pressure’ on the Lula popular front regime, it was necessary to guarantee a bureaucratic congress, completely alien to the Trotskyist tradition of the broadest workers democracy.

For that reason it was no accident that there was a deafening silence in the CONAT on how to defend Cuba from imperialism and the internal counterrevolution, that is to say, the restoration of capitalism promoted by the Castroite bureaucracy. In fact the fight for the political revolution in Cuba was not even mentioned. How could it be otherwise, when CONAT reneged on the broadest workers democracy, the fight against the bureaucracy, or for the self-organizing of the masses in struggle? At a moment when the Castroite bureaucracy is accelerating its march towards the completion of capitalist restoration and preparing its own transformation into a bourgeoisie, not a single word of the Transitional Program of the Fourth International on the political revolution could be heard from the PSTU right up to the end of the CONAT!

Nobody raised: Down with the privileges of the bureaucracy! Down with the workers aristocracy with its degrees and decorations! Equal wages for equal work! For the freedom of the unions and the factory committees! For the freedom of association and the press! For soviets, that is workers, peasants and red soldiers’ councils! For the legalization of the Soviet parties: determined and voted by workers, peasants and red soldiers’ councils! Only the victorious revolutionary uprising of the oppressed masses can save the workers’ state and oopen the road to socialism! It is necessary to defeat the restorationist bureaucracy! Long live the international socialist revolution!

The program of the 4th International for political revolution is the program for the fight against all labor bureaucracies and aristocracies. That is why the PSTU has renounced it and kept an absolute silence in the CONAT. It is not accidental because CONAT was organised by the WSF whose counterrevolutionary politics in Latin America walks on two legs: the workers aristocracy and bureaucracy of the PT and the CUT of Brazil; and the restorationist Castroite bureaucracy. While Lula and Fidel Castro respectively, were the founders of the Forum, today it walks on both legs in the person of their comrade Chavez.

Certainly no mention of the political revolution could be made at CONAT since the special guest was Celia Hart Santamaría, the representative of Fidel Castro and the Cuban bureaucracy. To speak about it would also have caused a rift between the PSTU and the Pabloite guests - the most faithful servants of the Castroite bureaucracy, Antunez and Heloisia Helena of the Mandelist faction. They were sent by the Pabloites as its representatives to the CONAT with its left hand, while with the right hand its leader Miguel Rosetto is the Minister of agrarian reform in the government of Lula, responsible for guaranteeing the interests of the large estate owners and the massacres of landless peasants at the hands of the paramilitaries.

PSTU and PSOL have broken with Trotskyism

It is clear that the PSTU - like the PSOL- has definitively broken with Trotskyism, and, like all the liquidators of the 4th International, it is subordinated to Castroism and organized under its centralized command in Latin America. So it renounces the fight for the political revolution and promotes "democratic" and "anti-imperialist" fronts with the native bourgeoisies, pressuring them to "fight imperialism to the end"; that is to say, the same old Stalinist policy of supporting any "progressive" bourgeoisie and "patriotic" military officers.

We have proven that they have made the Stalinist politics their own. This is not a "slander", as the PSTU members claim whenever the Trotskyists of the FLT criticise and fight their reformist politics: it is a pure and simple truth. The Morenoites of the LIT and the PSTU have embraced the Pabloites, and now hang from the apron strings of the Castroite bureaucracy and the national bourgeoisies! Holding hands with Celia Hart and Pabloism, you could not expect a different outcome.

For that reason, Celia Hart left the CONAT declaring that she had "great hopes" in what had happened in the CONLUTAS congress. How could she feel otherwise! Once again the PSOL and the PSTU did their duty following their Castroite chiefs’ orders, protecting their commanders’ left flank while the latter are preparing to complete the capitalist restoration in Cuba; they proved to be able to contain and divert the vanguard that had created CONLUTAS out of the many struggles against the Lula popular front!

Nor can the P-SOL or the PSTU, reneging on the political revolution and the dictatorship of the proletariat, untie the hands of the Brazilian working class now tied behind their backs by Lula’s popular front : they are hand in glove with the four musketeers that tied them in the first place!

The fight to create a revolutionary and internationalist party in Brazil is a task left to the principled Trotskyists who are not subordinated to Castrism, Morales, Chávez, and the WSF. It is left, also, to the revolutionary workers organizations that reject the politics of submission that the ex-Trotskyists peddle.

Against the four Musketeers of the WSF: for an internationalist working class bloc

This report demonstrates that the CONAT was an enormous opportunity lost and a big setback for the Latin American working class. The blame for this new defeat is clearly that of the ex-Trotskyists who have gone over definitively to the reformist camp.

We call on all honest workers and militant workers’ organizations that look for a way to unite our class to fight the national bosses, imperialism and the class collaborationist popular front governments. We call all those who refuse to kneel before Evo Morales or Chávez; those that want to defend the Cuban revolution and know that this means confronting and defeating the Castroite bureaucracy that wants to restore Capitalism in Cuba. We call all those that resist the reformist wave ridden by the ex-Trotskyists as cheerleaders for the continental popular front.

We call on them all to convene an internationalist Workers and Peasants’ Congress in Latin America with delegates directly elected by the rank and file, to rebuild the international unity of the Latin American working class, to fight against all the reformist leaders of the WSF and its ex-Trotskyists left wing, all of which are guilty of the betrayals and defeats suffered by the working class and the exploited of Latin America.

Martin Cesar
FLT Correspondant in Sumare, Sao Paulo, Brazil
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