Comrade Serge Goulart is one of 6 candidates for national president of the Brazilian PT (Workers’ Party) which will contest the party’s internal elections (PED) on November 22. The “Turn left, back to socialism!” list is standing him as a candidate and asking for your support to bring their ideas to the party as a whole.
Serge Goulart is a founding member of the PT, was a leader of the party in Santa Catarina and member of its National Leadership. Since 2003 he was elected as Coordinator of the Factory Committee of CIPLA and Interfibra, worker occupied factories, as well as coordinator of the National Movement of Occupied Factories. He is a leading figure in the international “Hands off Venezuela” campaign.
Serge is a leading member of the PT’s Marxist Left (Esquerda Marxista), and author of books “Give us back our social security”, “Racism and class struggle”, “FTAA, NAFTA, MERCOSUL and Free Trade Agreements”, as well as being the editor of the “Class Struggle” (Luta de Classes) newspaper and the America Socialista magazine, amongst other publications.
We present here Serge Goulart’s views in order to discuss with the party as a whole the need to break with the right wing and the parties of the ruling class, creating a government of the workers of the city and the countryside, in struggle for socialism.
What is the key political point of the Theses “Turn left! Back to socialism!”?
Serge: The massive economic crisis affecting the world makes the origins of the PT more relevant than ever as it shows in a crystal clear way that there is no way forward for the working class within this system. The majority of the comrades in the National Leadership of the party chose the line of reforms within capitalism, as if this could solve the problems facing humanity. This is completely false from an historical point of view and also from the point of view of the day to day life of the masses. Crises take place cyclically and they are ever more devastating. Everything that was achieved in the past through hard work and struggle is violently taken away in one sweep by the capitalists. On top of this, the gap between rich and poor, between those who own the means of production and those who only have their labour power to sell, is growing larger. This is the reality. And the current leaders are taking the party and the working class to a cul-de-sac, selling illusions and attempting to block the class struggle in the name of class collaboration with the bourgeoisie. This is what we want to break with, attempting to show the whole party that instead of moving to the right it is necessary to turn to the left and take up again the socialist banners of the labour movement.
And we have legitimacy to demand this, as we always opposed the coalitions and the policies implemented by the leadership of the party and by the government. The shift of the party to the right accelerated when it came into government, and this is breaking apart the party from its social base, and taken to its limits might lead to a permanent rupture. The social base of the party is composed of millions of workers from the cities and the countryside who gave their best to transform this country and bring Lula to the presidency.
To take up again the struggle against capitalism and for socialism: This is the key political tenet of our Theses and of our list.
How is this translated into the political platform?
Serge: The leadership of the PT must be accountable to the working class, and therefore must struggle to organise, to mobilise in order to achieve the most pressing economic and social demands which are needed to get the social progress which capitalism is blocking. For this reason we stress that the PT must turn to the left and take up again the historical banners of socialism.
This should start, in practice, with the breaking of the coalition with Sarney, Collor, Maluf, Quércia, Jader Barbalho, José Alencar, that is, with all the right wing capitalist parties. Only in this way it would be possible to go down the road of nationalising the financial system and all of the big national and international capitalist companies, in order to carry out an agrarian reform, to renationalise all the privatised companies, like CSN, Vale do Rio Doce, etc. Only in this way a 100% state-owned Petrobras could be defended, cancelling the oil concessions and to bring back the state monopoly of oil.
Only with class independence and with an independent policy can we mobilise the working people to defend free State Education for everybody at all levels and guarantee a State-owned social security system based on solidarity. Only in the struggle against the bosses can we achieve job security and put an end to mass lay-offs.
The only way is through the de facto control over the economy to decide on foreign exchange controls, the state monopoly of foreign trade and the non-convertibility of the Brazilian currency.
Without these measures it is not possible to plan the economy on the basis of peoples’ needs. Under capitalism production is for profit, not for peoples’ needs. We must turn the world upside-down so that the weight of the enormous base of this pyramid smashes the corrupt, privileged, socially degenerated and cynical peak. The pyramid must be transformed into a massive plane, from an economic and geometric point of view.
What is your appraisal of the current leadership of the PT?
Serge: The majority of the party leadership have a reformist and stage-ist conception. Like the old communist party, the PCB, and today the PcdoB, they argue that Brazil, being a backward country dominated by imperialism, we should form an alliance with certain sections of the bourgeoisie who allegedly are in contradiction with imperialism, in the struggle for a “national development of Brazilian capitalism”. This would be a “stage” of capitalist development that we should necessarily go through, like it happened in France, England, the US, Italy, and other developed capitalist nations.
This is a Menshevik, Plekhanovist conception of history and politics. This is what explains their acceptance and support, as they all did at the 10th National Gathering of the PT, for the sending of Brazilian troops to massacre the people of Haiti, under the command of US imperialism and the cover of the UN.
Since they cannot find any native bourgeoisie willing to face imperialism, they themselves play the role of the bourgeoisie, from the point of view of the policies they implement. This is clearly explained in the Political Resolution passed by the 3rd PT Congress in 2007:
“We must create an internal market which, with the Latin American integration, gives Brazilian capitalism dynamism and promotes another kind of reform. Only at that point other matters, which are apparently banned today, could be brought into the discussion, like social ownership and the character of private companies. A socialist perspective would be created, not just one of reforms within capitalism”. (3rd PT Congress).
This is a “revolution by stages” clearly defined as the political orientation. This leads to an impasse, as it led to the destruction of the old PCB. The PT was formed and grew fighting against this.
These reformist and stage-ist conceptions were imposed in the party on the back of the economic growth of the last few years (which seemed to allow a gradual improvement of living conditions, slowly but surely), and on the back of the intellectual collapse of many who previously supported Stalinism and who with the collapse of the Berlin Wall and the end of the USSR passed onto the camp of “democracy”, that is, of capitalism. We should not underestimate the enormous pressure of the international apparatus of social-democracy to “domesticate” the PT, but this only happened because there was a social basis for it. That is, an improvement of the living conditions of many layers of the workers, and particularly the adaptation of wide layers of the trade union leaders to the trade union machinery, and the parliamentary and executive apparatus of the bourgeois state.
The revolutionary left within the party also contributed to this by adapting itself to the “parliamentary” life within the party and concentrating ever more in the electoral life every two or four years and increasingly limiting its resistance to the defence of the economic demands of the workers. This adaptation helped, or at least allowed, the leadership to shift even further to the right. This led the big left wing currents of the party to an increasingly mistaken position, to end in the current situation in which it is very difficult to find important political differences amongst them, or between them and the practical programme of the government of Lula and his capitalist ministers itself.
Furthermore, the majority of the leadership of the PT refused to lead the party as a left wing party of the class, and did the same with the government. Lula does what he wants without consulting anybody and reports to the party leadership, which immediately supports him unconditionally, through the newspapers. The majority of the leadership of the PT (composed of an alliance of different tendencies) supports the alliance of the PT with the capitalist parties. These alliances are destroying the party, as everybody can see.
Mensalão (a corruption scandal which affected the Lula government in 2005) and other similar events are the result of these policies which at the end of the day do not allow for any demands of the workers to be met. For this reason, from time to time, when things get very serious, a scapegoat is found and in the name of “ethics in politics” a PT member is sacrificed in the altar of the ruling class. Whatever his mistakes and amoral political attitudes (and they are responsible for their actions), all of this is the logical consequence of a political orientation which leads the party leadership to use methods which are alien to the interests of the working class and the struggle for socialism. This must be corrected immediately or it will continue to happen.
Finally, they did not foresee the crisis; do not understand its origins and its implications. One only has to see their support for the economic and theoretical nonsense espoused by minister Mantega, by Lula himself and by his colleagues in government. Since we cannot believe that they were fooling the Brazilian people, we can only conclude that they really believed that Brazil was “bullet proofed” against the crisis, and that it would only be a “small wave”, etc. As if it were possible to have “capitalism in one country”. Unbelievable.
As a matter of fact, they have no idea of what to do to spare Brazil and the workers from the suffering without end because of the capitalist crisis.
The leadership of the PT as a whole supports Dilma Roussef as a presidential candidate. What is your position?
Serge: Dilma Roussef is not yet the PT candidate. This will be decided at the PT Congress in 2010. She was proposed by Lula without any discussion within the party and the leadership supported her without discussing with the party ranks. Dilma has no history within the party, and her political positions do not express in any way the needs of the working class and even less the struggle for socialism.
Obviously, everybody can change, but Dilma already has a fairly coherent political history defending the idea of “national capitalism”. The only change that we can observe is that she is progressively abandoning this idea, which clearly has no basis in reality, of building a “national capitalism”, and accommodating herself to managing the “real existing capitalism”, that is, the Brazilian businesses of the multinationals and financial capital.
The support of the majority of the leadership to the candidature of Dilma, without discussion with the party as a whole, without discussion about the programme and with their support for the continuation of the alliances with Sarney, Collor, Maluf, etc, only demonstrates that the majority of the current leadership has no intention of opening a debate with all the petistas to decide the future.
The question is very serious, and the leadership does not seem to realise that the candidature of Dilma threatens to sink the party and to give the government to the PSDB, with all the consequences that this will have nationally and in the states, as well as for the PT parliamentary group. Without enthusiastic members, the PT is not able to face the electoral machine of the bourgeoisie and this will mean further pressure to use bourgeois methods of election campaigning with all the consequences this has already had.
The candidature of Dilma will have as a consequence an enormous crisis within the PT, which will open the way for the return of the reactionary right wing. This capitalist right wing, if it manages to win, after the elections will have full support from the current “allied ranks” of Lula, the PMDB, PP, PRTB, PDT, PR, etc.
The PT has some very good figures that are recognised as genuine petistas, like Eduardo Suplicy, Olivio Dutra, and many others. The lines that we propose for the candidate that will be chosen at the PT Congress in 2010 are summarised in our platform “Turn Left! Back to Socialism!” Our platform is to be implemented in full by the party and by the government of our party.
For this reason, the only possible alliances are with parties which claim to be socialist. But, at this time, the most important task for the PT is to rebuild its classic features, working class and socialist, showing that it has nothing in common with other parties. For this reason the PT should have its own candidates in all of the states and for the national presidency.
And what is your opinion about the crisis in the Senate?
Serge: First of all regarding the manoeuvres of everybody against Petrobras. The aims of the right wing with the CPI (Parliamentary Commission of Enquiry) are very sinister. But the government also adds to the confusion because its policy opens the door to the giving up of Petrobras to private capital. And we are talking about the control of the company, because the government today allows 65% of non-voting capital, which gives substantial profits, to be already in the hands of national and international capitalists.
The only serious thing to do is to defend Petrobras, cancelling and suspending all the auctions of oil, re-establishing 100% of its shares as state-owned and putting the company under the collective control of Petrobras workers. There is no other way out. Otherwise we will continue to see the manoeuvres of the capitalists and their parties to stifle Petrobras and the proliferation of rotten agreements and bad deals.
For these and other reasons, the PT is being pushed to defend, even though in an embarrassed way, [former president] Jose Sarney.
It is a shame for the petistas to see their parliamentary group and president Lula defending Sarney. But it is not just about Sarney. When Lula embraces Collor and recognises him as a great man he is humiliating the party as a whole and the remarkable struggle of the majority of the people during the Fora Collor campaign. [Collor defeated Lula in the 1989 elections and then resigned in 1992 to avoid being impeached.]
At Palmeira dos Indios, on July 14, 2009, Lula embraced Collor and compared him to former president Juscelino Kubitschek and declared: “I want to make justice to the senators Fernando Collor and Renan Calheiros, who have given great support to the work of the government in Senate”. Those attending the rally were given a magazine with the following headline: “President Lula da Silva supports Collor de Mello for the government of Alagoas”. Not to speak of the efforts made to have Ciro Gomes as a candidate to the Sao Paulo government.
The Senate is like the Augean Stables, so full of dried excrements, layer upon layer, that only Hercules, or a revolt of the people, can clean it fully. What the Brazilian people need is different institutions, another ruling class, the working class, and another policy, the revolutionary policy of Marxism, or socialism. What Brazil and the whole world need is to put an end to the regime of private property of the big means of production and to establish a regime of common ownership of the factories, the land, the companies and the banks, that is, to establish a political economy of the workers.
This is what my candidature and my list “Turn Left! Back to Socialism!” are fighting for. We hope to gather all the militants who want to remain loyal to their own class. We hope to have the vote and support of thousands of socialist petistas who want to see their party, the party that we founded 30 years ago, to continue the struggle for socialism.
Read the original interview in Portuguese.