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Letter to the international labour movement

by By Serge Goulart Friday, Jun. 08, 2007 at 7:10 AM

On May 31, at 7:00 am, 150 police armed to the teeth invaded Cipla, a factory controlled by the workers, and "installed" an administrator appointed by the federal judge at the request of the INSS (Social Security). The management elected by the workers along with other selected workers were expelled or prevented from entering the plant. Armed terror has been imposed in the factory. One of the first measures taken by the administrator was to cover with a black canvas the plaque at the entrance of the factory which said: "CIPLA, company controlled by the workers." A marvelous national and international compaign demanding the end of the intervention at Cipla was launched just a few hours after the Federal Police carried out their war operations. Messages began to arrive to the Lula government and the Minister of Justice, Tarso Genro, who is responsible for the Federal Police and Luis Marinho, Minister of Social Security, from whose ministry the request for the intervention in Cipla came. Messages were also sent to the Minister of Labour and Employment, Carlos Lupi. This strong and immediate reaction gave us the strength and energy to organize the resistance against these riduculous events.

Hours after the invasion, on May 31, while in contact with the Minister of Labour, Carlos Lupi, we were told that he was against the intervention and that his ministry would work to get the police to withdraw and the INSS to withdraw its intervention request. Today, June 5, the Lula government has not expressed a concrete attitude on these issues and the intervention continues, now with dozens of contracted armed men controlling everything inside the factory.

A climate of terror has been established in the factory. And as in the times of the dictatorship, a "black list" has been drawn up triggering the political persecution of the main activists. All of this is taking place in the presence and with the active support of the president/gangster of the plastics union in Joinville, who abandoned the CUT and is known as an agent of the bosses and an enemy of the factory occupations. This fake trade unionist has dedicated himself to the hunting of activists in the factory along with helping the police to draw up this "black list".

Now, a despicable slander campaign is being carried out against the members of the Factory Committee on the part of the administrator and his subordinates in order to demoralize the workers and prevent any resistance. The administrator has asked the judge to charge more than 40 workers with being members of a "gang", "obstruction of justice", and "disturbing social order and peace", amongst other terrible things. The judge has gone with the prevailing wave today in Brasil in criminalizing social movements.

However, less than 24 hours after the invasion, a meeting was held with more than 100 attending, establishing the Committee for the End of the Intervention in CIPLA, formed by the CUT (United Workers' Organisation), the MST (Landless Peasants Movement), CDH (Centre for Human Rights), shop stewards, councilors, parties and dozens of political and popular organizations and associations. The MST, a long-time ally, invited us to speak in their National Congress which will bring together more that 16,000 delegates on June 12-15 in Brasilia. The CUT published our press releases on their web site. The National Chemistry Confederation of the CUT -CNQ- which organizes the plastic, oil, chemical, paper and rubber sectors, has invited us to speak at their congress and guaranteed their support. Federal deputies have spoken on the subject. Factories occupied by workers have called us and are organizing campaigns in Argentina, Venezuela, Bolivia, Uruguay, Paraguay and other countries.

The solidarity campaign has spread throughout the world with pressure on the embassies in many countries (which is very important) and with thousands of messages to the ministers in the Lula government, and to the federal judge responsible for the police/military intervention in Cipla. The solidarity we have received from the population in Joinville has also been impressive and reassuring. At this time we are preparing a national day of action at Cipla on June 13, demanding an end to the intervention. Other events are being organized in other countries at Brazilian embassies on June 12.

Against this immense campaign, Judge Oziel has sent an automatic reply by email attempting to justify his unjustifiable acts. The objective of this military/judicial intervention is to close Cipla and liquidate the national movement of occupied factories, which is so formly united with the whole of the working class movement. Our central demand has always been "Nationalisation of Occupied Factories" (social and public operation of factories) under the democratic control of the workers. However, for the bosses and their lackies, the practical demonstration of the fact that the capitalists are unnecessary and that the workers can manage and control the factories without these parasites, is intolerable. If this can be done in the factories why not throughout all of society?

The intervention was carried out to end all this. As Judge Oziel says in his decision:

"Fifth, and probably the most important negative effect of the social cost of the attitude of the company: by using the argument that all is allowed in the defence of the one thousand jobs, it is legitimising the most gross lack of respect for the law and throwing away the whole basis of the rule of law. Imagine if this becomes fashionable?."

From our point of view, gross lack of respect is not respecting the workers and treating them as the slaves of capital. Gross lack of respect is seeing men and women humiliated by the power and interests of the ruling class. Gross lack of respect is seeing working people not able to feed their families while the rich get richer. Gross lack of respect is seeing the judges and others acting in the service of the ruling class and using all possible police/military force to invade a factory and terrorise the workers.

Further below we will respond to this gross lack of respect sent by way of automatic email by Judge Oziel. However, it is not possible to forget that the request for intervention was carried out by the INSS, the Lula government's Minister of Social Security, who we, along with all the workers of Cipla helped to elect on two occasions. This is also gross lack of respect and shameful.

On the slanders-cum-judicial decision with the aim of closing Cipla

On May 31, 2007 Cipla, in Joinville/Santa Catarina, a pioneer and important company in the occupied factory movement, was invaded on the decision of the Federal Justice Department, and 150 armed men imposed the judicial intervention on the company.

As is known, since October 2002 the workers at Cipla have occupied and assumed the management of the company as the only way to guarantee their jobs in the long-term and effect payment of wages and respect of their rights.

Since then, the Occupied Factory movement, especially Cipla, has suffered daily threats of closure, which would leave 800 workers unemployed. Such threats, such as the seizure of assets and pressure on the Factory Committee, were made because the old bosses did not pay taxes, social services, or suppliers for 15 years. These debts were more than 600 million Reales and with interest and fines works out to more than 1000 million Reales.

This debt is in practice entirely with the Union and the State, making negotiations necessary. Good sense should prevail, with the aim of maintaining the factory open, guaranteeing some one thousand jobs - not to mention that the State could one day recover part of what it was owed over two decades by the former-owners.

When it was occupied, Cipla was broke and closed. This is public knowledge and was known by the authorities who signed the Labour Agreement giving control to the workers. They offered us the shares of the company and we refused. We are workers and brothers and sisters of our class, and not the owners of a broke company.

Without capital and without the assistance of the government, we started from zero and today have a monthly turnover in Cipla of 3 million Reales. With this we have been able to pay wages, purchase raw material and recover more than 90% of unpaid wages and benefits.

Furthermore, we arrived at an agreement with the labour justice department and payed the debt to former workers sacked by the old bosses, which was approximately 2 million Reales. We paid what was owed by the workers to the INSS and Income Tax, declaring the impossibility of paying what the company owed. This was done publically and we communicated this to the ministries of Social Security, Labour, and the Treasury Department as well as to the President of the Republic, Luis Ináxio Lula da Silva, on more than one occasion since 2003.

For this reason a commission was set up by the Presidencial Office of the Republic with advisors from the BNDES, BRDE and BADESC (state and development banks) which came to the conclusion that:

"These companies (Cipla and Interfibra, ed.) are viable and are very well managed. The problem is the non-payment of debt... The recommended solution to save these one thousand jobs is that this debt, almost all of it with the federal government and state, be transformed into shares assumed by the BNDES, BRDE and BADESC, resolving thus this social problem and making these companies viable" (Report for the Presidencial Office of the Republic by the Superintendant of the BRDE for the Commission)

In 2004 we managed to establish Saturday as a non-work day, reducing the workweek to 40 hours, and in December 2006 we reduced the workweek to 30 hours. This was done without any reduction in wages or turnover.

All the main decisions were taken in assemblies and the factory was run by a Commission and a Council, elected by the workers. Administrative and financial decisions were taken daily by an Administrative and Financial Committee (CAF), made up of 10 members, appointed by the council. The different shifts elected representatives to participate in the CAF. These elections were held annually, always in the month in which the factory was occupied, and everyone voted by name or list, according to the decision of the Sovereign Assembly.

And now the State, through the INSS (Executive Power) requests an intervention through the Federal Justice department. These institutions, for so many years negligent and inactive, did not monitor or penalize those responsible for more than 20 years of fiscal fraud, unjust attacks on social rights, and who remain unpunished and rich.

Until now, "justice" has not sought the personal wealth of the former bosses. Judge Oziel knows that he could take the wealth of the partners, by means of social responsibility. However, he is also aware that this legal perogative is not in his interest.

Judge Oziel has not delivered any "justice", but rather played the role of the boss, placing the value of private property above any other social value, and alleges to be respecting the "rule of law". We reproduce here a section of the message sent from Sao Paulo to the ministers and president by a well-known intellectual:

"This judicial and police action is not only injust and morally intolerable: it is also illegal. The Constitution of Brazil protects private property, but emphasizes that this property is only legitimate when exercising a social function. In the hands of the old owners, Cipla and Interfibra carried out anti-social functions, since they served as an instrument for the crimes of management, making the continued creation of wealth and jobs impossible. Under the control of the workers, Cipla and Interfibra have irreplacable social functions in the context of the city of Joinville."

Afterwards the Judge says that:

"...Brazilian society in general, and Joinville in particular, can not be taken in to support this high social cost based only and exclusively on the arguments of the workers' council, lacking any empirical basis, that there is no other solution for the preservation of these jobs other than the non-payment of taxes."

Non-payment?! The desire of the workers was to take care of the debts owing, always within the reality of the company and while seeking the personal wealth of the old administrators, the true non-payers. It is impossible to cover all the payments of a broke company.

Social cost? What does the judge understand by this?

"One, the price of these one thousand jobs is, in the last instance, the total and ample exemption, without restrictions, of the payment of tax obligations and social services of the company, something which cannot be tolerated in an honest society, whose members pay to the day their taxes and contributions".

What exemption is the Judge talking about? We paid all we could and fulfilled the agreements made with the labour justice department, the treasury and the state government. What taxes would be raised by the closing of the company?

The judge continues in a delirious way:

"Two, not having collected the millions of Reales that the company and others from the group owe to the public finances in terms of federal taxes, they are preventing these resources from going back in the form of essential services and benefits to the Joinville community. In fact, it is with the income from taxation that the State fulfils its task of guaranteeing the most basic rights of the citizens. Since the money from the Cipla Group has not been paid into the coffers of the Union, the citizens of Joinville, indirectly, suffer, in so far as it has now less chances of getting improved investments in the public health service, for instance. It is enough to turn on the TV and listen to the midday news to realise how much Joinville society is in need of investment in health. There are not enough ambulances, hospital beds, drugs, doctors, ..."

So, Cipla and its workers are responsible for the chaos in Health, Education, Housing, which make this country a disgrace?

Why doesn't the judge talk of the billions from the Federal Budget which are diverted from the poorest sections into the hands of bankers, multinationals and land owners!?

Why doesn't he speak of his friends in business who owe millions in social security payments, and who are left to walk free, be wealthy, enjoy their Scotch whiskey, French wine and travel in their private jets!?

It was the workers themselves who always denounced tax evasion, a common practice amongst Brazilian businesses. It was the workers who always defended that taxes had to be paid so they could be invested in order to solve the most urgent demands of the population.

The workers from the occupied factories did not benefit from tax exemption, like so many other companies which received them and ask for or receive state subsidies and investment. These hypocritical arguments of the judge do not have a leg to stand on.

And the judge continues:

"Four, the social cost caused by unlawful competition cannot be calculated. Because it does not pay any taxes, the company manages to place its products in the market at a price which is much cheaper, damaging those businesses which fulfil their social duties. Were it not because of the illegal and disloyal competition from Cipla, they could certainly grow to the point of being able to absorb, with ease, the one thousand jobs of which the debt-ridden company is so proud."

The judge talks of "unlawful competion". What is he talking about, without any knowledge of the matter?

Our table of prices is public and is in competition and in most cases loses in the face of competing companies. These include multinational giants like Tigre (1,3 billion Reales last year) and Amanco, the largest in the world in its sector, amongst others. It is absurd to say that without Cipla these companies would grow and would employ the one thousand workers. This is ridiculous.

Finally, the judge reveals his conservative, reactionary and criminal point of view and shows clearly the ideology which determines his actions:

"Fifth, and probably the most important negative effect of the social cost of the attitude of the company: by using the argument that all is allowed in the defence of the one thousand jobs, it is legitimising the most gross lack of respect for the law and throwing away the whole basis of the rule of law. Imagine if this becomes fashionable?"

The judge knows well what he is talking about when he says: "Imagine if this becomes fashionable". The judge understands that the "negative effect of the attitude of the company" is a practical example that Cipla gives to the working class as a whole. This is the main problem.

Cipla is an example of struggle and a conquest of the workers, which took over control and administration of a company that was completely bankrupt and improved the living and working conditions of the workers. They armed themselves with courage and acquired the necessary consciousness to occupy and restart production, turning control of the means of production upside-down, "expelling" the bosses which had damaged society and all of the Cipla workers for more than 20 years.

The judge speaks of "the rule of law" and sends troops at the request of the INSS (National Social Security Institute), i.e. the government, and implements terror.

His aim is to close down Cipla and this can be clearly seen in the decision of Judge Oziel:

"In other words, maybe the time is right for the Joinville society to think about this: is the maintenance of the Cipla Group, under these conditions, to the benefit of society? Would it not be the case that, under these terms, its existence would be more detrimental than beneficial to society, since it benefits only a few to the detriment of the majority?"

If Cipla is something evil, it must therefore be extirpated. And this has to be done through armed terror. It could not be clearer.

And for this the judge prepared a secret judicial-police conspiracy from May 21st, the date on which he signed the "Judge's decision". For 10 days he organised and gathered the federal troops to be able to carry out the "operation". The judge carried all this out, hypocritically accepting all the slanders of the political gangster who is known as the president of the plastic workers' union, knowing that all these slanders had been rejected by the tribunals and that this business trade unionist now faces more than 10 legal cases for slander and libel. The judge based his decision on absurd slanders and libellous accusations in order to justify his real position: the defence of the bosses and his aim of closing down the occupied factories.

For this reason, together with the national and international campaign of mobilisations, we are taking all necessary legal measures demanding the immediate revocation of the intervention at Cipla, and the reinstatement of the leadership of the factory which was elected by the workers.

Also, we are asking president Lula, and the Minister of Social Security, Luis Marinho, to take the decision of withdrawing immediately the demand for intervention made by the INSS.

We are also hoping as well to open a new round of negotiations in order to reach proposals and agreements, not only with the INSS, but also with the other creditors, in the understanding that the State has the obligation to accept its part of the responsibility in all these aspects.

Do not have any doubt: we will carry out our resistance and the struggle until the end of our forces. This is about the working class and its inalienable right to struggle for decent jobs and a decent life. Our conception is socialist, and socialists have no right to abandon the struggle to liberate the working class from this world of oppression and exploitation.

Long live the struggle of the working class in Brazil and throughout the world!

Long live the struggle of the Occupied Factories for a future for humankind!

Joinville, June 5, 2007
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