Some people never die; they live on in the legacy they leave behind. This was the feeling of those who filled the chamber of the City Council of Joinville on March 5 to pay tribute to Comrade Francisco Lessa. Old and new comrades in arms, family and friends, from various cities and states, gathered to remember this great man, a convinced Communist, who died holding an unshakable faith in the future of humanity. His lifelong partner, our comrade Cynthia, and his daughter Petra Lessa, were present and joined the others who stood up to sing the Internationale at the end of the ceremony.
The banners at the front of the platform symbolised what Chico had helped to build in more than 30 years of struggle in the labour movement: Esquerda Marxista [EM, Marxist Left] in the middle, the CUT trade union confederation, the Landless Peasants Movement, and the PT [Workers' Party].
"On February 28 we lost our comrade, but we are sure that the death of Chico will help us build what he tirelessly fought for every day of his life, an international workers' party. In the words of Chico, Esquerda Marxista is not a club of friends, but our party, made of organised people who strike out, who make mistakes, but above all who fight for socialist revolution. With this perspective in mind, Chico will be present until the last days of our lives. We understand what it means to lose a communist leader, but we also have to understand that the teachings of our comrade are more than ever alive." These were the opening words in the tribute of the secretary of the Joinville Regional Committee of Esquerda Marxista, Maritania Camargo.
Also on the platform were the general secretary of EM, Serge Goulart, the coordinator of the Centre for Human Rights, Maria da Graça Braz, lawyer and Chico’s work colleague, Luiz Gustavo Rupp, and Councillor Adilson Mariano. A video produced by EM, putting together some of the history and the struggles that Chico was involved in, was shown (see below). The Human Rights Centre also paid their respects.
Luiz Gustavo said Chico was always a comrade, a friend, a father and a brother. "In 20 years of working with him, sharing the same office and sometimes even the same desk, we never had a single disagreement, because it was practically impossible to get into an argument with Chico" he said. "Chico was all heart, a heart ready to welcome the world." He showed everyone a copy of the Communist Manifesto which Chico had given him back in 2001 with the dedication "So as to always remember."
Dozens of organisations were represented at the gathering. Many of them had seen Chico Lessa take part in their foundation, with either legal or political advice. Among these were Sintrasem, Sinsej, PT, Simetasc, MST, CDH, OAB, the Adhemar Garcia Neighbourhood Residents Association, Conlutas, SinSaúde, PSOL, the Anita Garibaldi neighbourhood Residents Association, CUT, Flaskô/Movement of Occupied Factories, UJES, the Paulo Medeiros Students Associations, Councillor Adilson Mariano, O Trabalho Current, Sindiquimica of Pernambuco, EMBAP Strike Committee/Unespar, Sinte, Maritime Workers Union of São Francisco do Sul, the Electricity Workers' Union of North Santa Caterina and Aprasc.
"Chico Lessa was our advisor, but he was not only a brilliant lawyer, he was a point of support in the most difficult times that we faced," said the president of Sinsej and EM activist, Ulrich Beathalter. "Chico was a companion, a comrade, friend, brother, father, counsellor, confidant, probably to the majority of people here, but he was able be all of these at the same time because he was a convinced activist in the struggle for socialism, the struggle for a more just and equal society. Chico had complete confidence in the workers and their ability to organise and fight, and that is what motivated our comrade. For Chico his philosophy of Marxism and the emancipation of the working class were his biggest goal," he said in an emotional speech.
After the intervention of several comrades, the ceremony was closed by Serge. He recalled that Chico believed from his youth in the need for an independent and uncompromising struggle of the workers against the bosses, their parties and the capitalist system. It was against this background that he fought "against the military dictatorship, helped rebuild the student movement, a genuine party of the workers and a genuine trade union federation, organisations that have helped to change this country."
Serge also announced that messages of solidarity from the International Marxist Tendency (IMT), that Chico was a member of, had also been received, as well as from many countries and national and international organisations.
Serge explained that Chico, with the brilliant mind that he had, was able to grasp the deepest essence of communism. He read out a passage from the Communist Manifesto, which Chico deeply understood and that made him an incorruptible fighter, insuperable in his ability to engage in the struggle of the working class and against all class collaboration, but also against sectarianism that destroys and divides the unity of the working class:
“The Communists do not form a separate party opposed to the other working-class parties. They have no interests separate and apart from those of the proletariat as a whole. They do not set up any sectarian principles of their own, by which to shape and mould the proletarian movement. The Communists are distinguished from the other working-class parties by this only: 1) In the national struggles of the proletarians of the different countries, they point out and bring to the front the common interests of the entire proletariat, independently of all nationality. 2) In the various stages of development which the struggle of the working class against the bourgeoisie has to pass through, they always and everywhere represent the interests of the movement as a whole.”
Chico Lessa died believing in the power of the working class, and the comrades of Esquerda Marxista are absolutely convinced that his work will bear fruit. Our task is to continue his struggle for the construction of a genuine International and a world without borders, without exploitation, where people are joined together fraternally and all humankind becomes what Chico was.
As Chico Lessa always said, "Forward, comrades!"
Chico Lessa marches with us!