Brazilian Esquerda Marxista joins International Marxist Tendency: A breakthrough in the unification of international Trotskyism

At the beginning of February the Esquerda Marxista (Marxist Left) group in Brazil held its congress, where they unanimously voted in favour of their affiliation to the International Marxist Tendency. The addition of this important grouping, which gathers within its ranks leaders of the occupied factories, of the Black Socialist Movement, important trade unionists and many revolutionary youth, marks a major milestone in the building of a genuine Marxist International in Latin America and the world.

The Brazilian group, Esquerda Marxista (Marxist Left), held a cadre school and congress with about 60 members and a few sympathisers attending the event. At their congress Esquerda Marxista decided unanimously to join forces with the International Marxist Tendency. This represents a major milestone for Marxism on a world scale. Esquerda Marxista is the Marxist Left of the PT, and gathers within its ranks the leaders of the Occupied Factories movement in Brazil, the Black Socialist Movement, several important trade union leaders and many revolutionary youth.

Congress of Esquerda Marxista We linked up with the comrades of Esquerda Marxista as a result of the work of the CMR (Corriente Marxista Revolucionaria), the IMT in Venezuela. Our work in the occupied factories in Venezuela is very similar to the work that was being done in Brazil. It was through this channel that the group in Brazil came closer to us. As we got to know the group better we also discovered that they had developed an analysis of the ongoing revolution in Venezuela very similar to ours. In subsequent discussions we found that we agree on practically every major issue.

The comrades come from a "Lambertist" tradition (after the name of Pierre Lambert, the leader and founder of this tendency). What led to their break with Lambertism was their work in the occupied factories, the analysis of the Venezuelan revolution and their method of work within the labour movement. These same elements brought them towards the International Marxist Tendency. We can say quite clearly that the revolution in Venezuela brought the Brazilian group and the IMT together. Revolution separates reformists and sectarians from the genuine Marxists. It also unites the true revolutionaries.

The Esquerda Marxista is now joining the IMT. This is a development of immense importance in the building of a genuine revolutionary international. It also goes against the tradition that bedevils the sectarian grouplets on the fringes of the labour movement, the constant factionalism and splitting of forces. Here we have an example of genuine revolutionary tendencies coming together and joining forces. The addition of the Brazilian group to our international tendency marks an important step forward in the building of the Marxist Tendency across the whole of Latin America. We are also sure that there must be many more such groups that will eventually link up with us in Latin America.

Prior to the congress there was a cadre school that lasted four days. The agenda was the following: 1) Report from the recent meeting of the IEC of the International Marxist Tendency, mainly concentrating on the development of the International; 2) Marxism and the State; 3) the theory of the Permanent Revolution; 4) World Perspectives; 5) Collection. Prior to this there were special meeting to coordinate the fightback against all the attacks on the Occupied Factories Movement, which involves a lot of legal proceedings, court cases, etc.

The Occupied Factories

Last year there was a concerted attack on the occupied factories, with CIPLA and Interfibra at the centre of this attack. As has already been reported in previous articles the state organised a thorough military operation against the factories. At CIPLA all the main political and trade union activists were sacked immediately after the police took over the plant and many are now facing legal proceedings. Since then around 250 in total have been sacked.

However, even in these terrible conditions the flame of working class resistance has not been totally extinguished. An example is what happened during the elections of the National Committee of the PT. There are a number of members of the PT still working in CIPLA. Of these more than 40 voted for the Esquerda Marxista. They turned up at the local PT headquarters, stated clearly that the only serious people are the comrades of the Esquerda Marxista and they took stickers of the comrades and brandished them for all to see. This little fact in itself was a great morale booster for all the comrades involved. Even in the midst of the almost police-state-like conditions in the factory, the views of the more advanced workers are clear.

Congress of Esquerda Marxista
Roque Ferreira, a railways workers' leader
in Sao Paulo, speaking

Now the Administrator that has been imposed on the factory by the courts is proceeding to sack technicians and white-collar workers. This is significant, as this was always the layer that was never completely solidly behind the occupation. Now they are seeing from the real concrete facts of life that their jobs are not guaranteed by the bosses. Meanwhile, the Administrator is giving himself a very inflated wage, far beyond what would be acceptable even from a bourgeois point of view.

Just to give one example of the level of repression. Esquerda Marxista has a councillor elected on the lists of the PT in Joinville, comrade Mariano. He has been involved in organising rallies, protests, etc., in support of the CIPLA workers and on other issues, such as the cost of public transport. This comrade alone faces 19 different court cases that have been brought against him, including such things as disrupting public transport. He has come under attack within the PT, but he also has big support among the working class in the town. Later this year he is up for re-election, and one of the battles the comrades are facing is making sure he gets re-elected.

The comrades have discussed the situation thoroughly. What is surprising is not the attack on the factories, but how long they were able to continue running the factories under workers' control, nearly five years. The comrades always had the perspective that unless the movement of occupied factories spread to other workplaces, then sooner or later they could be isolated. Flaskô is still holding out in spite of attempts on the part of the state authorities to take the factory. And other factories that belong to the movement are still in dispute. It is also true to say that the objective situation has changed somewhat since the Occupied Factories movement was first set up. A brief outline of the position in Brazil will also help to understand this.

Objective situation in Brazil

Brazil is experiencing a very high level of economic growth, more than 5%. Huge Foreign Direct Investment is coming into the country. The comrades reported that last year this was higher than what has gone into China! New factories are being opened up and thousands of workers are being taken on. In some areas there is actually a shortage of skilled labour, and the level of unemployment, although still relatively high, is lower than it has been for years. This has two sides to it. On the one hand it explains the relative lull in the class struggle. On the other hand it is strengthening the Brazilian proletariat. There is in fact a contradictory situation in the Brazilian working class.

The Lula government has introduced what is known as the "Bolsa Familia". This provides a minimum subsidy for the poorer layers of the population. Before Lula was elected he had promised that once in power he would make sure that all Brazilians ate three meals a day. That was not the case in the past. Thanks to the Bolsa Familia it is a fact that all Brazilians do now eat three times a day. This fact alone explains why Lula's support remains strong among the most downtrodden layers of the population.

On the other hand, there is privatisation of state owned enterprises, cuts in welfare, attacks on pensions, attacks on working conditions, a rolling back of many of the conquests of the past. Thus, although many workers have jobs, and some layers have even had wage increases above the level of inflation, there is a feeling that things are getting worse in the workplaces. All this is preparing a backlash at some time in the not-too-distant future. But for now the situation seems to be one of relative calm.

Congress of Esquerda Marxista On the other hand we have the attitude towards the PT. Although the poorest layers are solidly behind Lula, among an important layer of the organised working class there is a mood of cynicism towards him. This can be seen in the falling membership of the party. In many areas the party is a shell of its former self. Last year this was seen quite clearly in the elections of delegates to the national congress of the PT. There were supposed to be 2000 elected delegates from the ranks of the party. Because in many areas they did not get the required turnout, i.e. the quorum, only about 950 delegates could be elected.

We must also remember that the present Lula government is a coalition of the PT with several bourgeois parties. In fact this government has shifted further to the right than the previous Lula government, and many active workers can see this quite clearly. In this the bureaucracy of the CUT, the main trade union confederation, is trying to hold back the growing level of discontent within its ranks.

This is also reflected in splits from the CUT. Although, the overwhelming majority of the organised working class has remained with the CUT, a significant number of trade union federations have broken away in the recent period. This reflects the frustration of a certain layer of the class with the present leadership. Unfortunately some sectarian political forces have used this to break these layers away from the CUT, rather than organising them as an opposition from within. In this way they separate the more advanced layers from the pass, demonstrating that they have no understanding of the relationship of the advanced layers with the mass. Lenin must be turning in his grave!

This situation as a whole helps to explain why the Occupied Factories Movement has been isolated and why the state has decided that this is the moment to attack. However, it would be wrong to underestimate the level of support and authority the Occupied Factories Movement has built up within the labour movement in Brazil and throughout Latin America. Whole trade union federations and regional trade union bodies have come out in support of the Occupied Factories. Beyond the borders of Brazil, we have the huge respect they have built up among the Bolivian miners, who have invited the leaders of the Brazilian Occupied Factories to their congress later this year.

Origins of Esquerda Marxista

As we have mentioned, Esquerda Marxista in Brazil emerged from a split in the section of the Lambertist International. This is one of the various sectarian currents that emerged from the collapse of the old Fourth International. This grouping has attacked the IMT in the most unscrupulous manner, which we have dealt with in What the International Marxist Tendency really stands for - Reply to the Lambertists.

The Brazilian group, in reality, had been in conflict with their international leadership for many years. It wasn't a sudden split that blew up from one day to the next. What brought things to a head, however, was the work in the Occupied Factories and the analysis of the situation in Venezuela. The Lambert group, although giving formal support, didn't actually mobilise political or material support for the Occupied Factories movement.

During the split the group suffered bureaucratic manoeuvres and attacks at the hands of what they believed were their comrades. As they faced attack from the state and from within the PT, they were also being attacked by their own International.

They had managed to build up a sizeable tendency and the majority went with what is now known as Esquerda Marxista. In reality the split came about because one wing of the group - which has remained with the Lambertists - had adapted in an opportunist manner to the PT. From a series of discussions the comrades finally reached the conclusion that although it was necessary to break with this opportunist tendency, it was necessary to maintain a balanced position towards the PT, with an understanding that in spite of the shift to the right on the part of the leadership the party remains the main party of the Brazilian working class.

After a difficult period, particularly with the brutal police attack on the occupied factories, the tendency has emerged steeled by the experience of the past few years. They have survived both the brutal attacks of the state and the attacks of what they perceived to be their comrades. The mood now is one of enthusiasm and determination to build a genuine Marxist Tendency in Brazil.

Cadre School and Congress

This mood emerged in a very eloquent manner during the Cadre School and the Congress. On the first day of the school a representative of the IMT gave an International Report to the comrades, outlining the development of the IMT in the many countries it operates in. It is not an exaggeration to say that the comrades were overwhelmed by the report. There were comrades who came up to the speaker thanking him with tears in their eyes!

Congress of Esquerda MarxistaWhat emerged from the discussions with the comrades was the fact that in the Lambertist International they had never received this kind of report. They were kept in the dark about the situation in other countries. They said that they had never had such a detailed report, with membership figures, progress of each section, an explanation of the work each section is doing, etc. It gave them the feeling that this International, the IMT, is a serious outfit, and that things from now on are going to be very different for them.

This was followed by two days dedicated to two themes, the State and the theory of the Permanent Revolution. During the discussion on the state - led off excellently by comrade Castro - all the Marxist classics on the question were brought into the discussion, from Marx and Engels through to Lenin. The question of the role of the state fitted very well with the experience the comrades faced last year with the police intervention at CIPLA and the other factories. This was followed by a thorough discussion of the theory of the Permanent Revolution - very relevant to Brazil ‑ which was introduced by an excellent lead off by comrade Daniel. This also provoked a widespread discussion.

The collection

But we believe that one of the most striking moments of the cadre school was the collection. It was not part of the tradition of the group to hold collections at their congresses. The comrades who attended last year's international school of the IMT thought it would be a good idea to try the same thing at their congress. They also introduced another new element: a detailed balance sheet of last year's income and expenditure and a budget for 2008. The collection was introduced by comrade Caio who explained the various targets they had for the year in terms of expenditure. This was followed by interventions from the floor where each comrade made a commitment to the collection.

The amount collected was 15,000 Reals, about €6000 (roughly £4000), which is a huge amount of money if one considers the level of average incomes in Brazil. On top of that figure many comrades committed themselves to increasing their monthly subs. The overall increase in annual subs came to around 10,000 Reals, about €4000 (roughly £2700), which would allow them to strengthen their apparatus. Some comrades stood up and doubled their subs. Others promised significant sums of money. Just one example suffices: a young comrade who had not been paid for three months explained that he would shortly be getting his back wages and that he would give one month to the collection. Particularly striking was one comrade who had been sacked from CIPLA and was still struggling to survive, who gave the few notes he had in his pocket. There was a genuine feeling of a collective effort, from the smallest contribution to the biggest.

The enthusiasm that was palpable throughout the school was confirmed concretely by the collection. The comrades have come through a tough period, with a split and the attacks by the state on the Occupied Factories. This has put to the test the whole organisation. But they have emerged strengthened. The amount of money raised shows that they are serious about building a strong Marxist tendency in Brazil.

Their commitment to the International was also confirmed in the plans they have to help spread the ideas of the IMT to other countries in Latin America where we do not yet have a presence, but where we have possibilities, such as Paraguay, Uruguay and several other countries.

The Congress

The cadre school was followed by the congress of the organisation. The main document on the agenda was a general analysis and perspectives of the situation in Brazil, which also raised the question of their international affiliation. The document states clearly that they wish to affiliate to the IMT and are making an official request to the IS, IEC and World Congress for this to be accepted. This proposal had the unanimous approval of all the delegates and visitors. There was not one word of disagreement or even doubt on this question. Once the World Congress approves the affiliation, the Esquerda Marxista group will be the official Brazilian section of the International Marxist Tendency. In practice it is already acting as the Brazilian section of the IMT. We have been working with the comrades for a couple of years now and it is merely a question of formalising the fusion. Already in Venezuela, where they had formed a small group, these comrades have fused with the CMR to form one single organisation.

Congress of Esquerda MarxistaThis represents a major step forward in the development of the International throughout Latin America and on a world scale. Brazil is an extremely important country. It is the fifth largest country in the world; it has a population of around 200 million; but more importantly it has a sizeable working class with a very militant tradition. In spite of the present Lula leadership, we must not forget that the PT itself was born out of the militant struggles of the metal workers, mainly in the Sao Paulo region. The comrades of the Esquerda Marxista have a long tradition and have among their ranks founder members of the PT, such as Serge Goulart. The social make up of the group is also very important. As we have already mentioned, it has the leaders of the Occupied Factories Movement, many other important trade union leaders, the leaders of the Black Socialist Movement, and a wide layer of youth.

The group is also involved in spreading the ideas of Marxism on an international level. They have close contacts in Paraguay among the leaders of the occupied factories, who had linked up with the Brazilian Occupied Factories. These leaders are also interested in the IMT. They also have contacts in Uruguay and very close ties with the leaders of the Bolivian miners. Thus, the Brazilian group will also play a key role in helping the development of the International Marxist Tendency in the whole of Latin America.

Orientation

The question of orientation came up during the discussions. The comrades corrected their orientation in the last congress of the group in 2007, reaffirming the aim of building a Marxist tendency in the PT. Prior to that they were on a trajectory that would have led them to abandon the work in the PT. It was the concrete experience of the election at the end of 2006 that convinced them of the need to stay anchored to the PT.

However, this correction in and of itself does not solve the problem of how to build in the immediate circumstances. As was explained above, the PT is at a low ebb at the present moment in time. It has been losing members. To some of the most advanced workers and youth it is not an attractive option. This poses the question of how to attract the best layers while at the same time building up the position inside the PT. In this, the situation in Brazil is very similar to the situation many of our sections are facing, and therefore poses the question of independent work.

One of the campaigns they have decided to concentrate is the Venezuela solidarity campaign, which they have decided to step up. They have promoted the Hands Off Venezuela campaign in Brazil, Tirem as Mãos da Venezuela. They also have their youth front "Juventude Revolucao" (Revolutionary Youth) which has been operating as on open youth front. This is a channel through which they can attract youth directly to the tendency. They voted a resolution on how to strengthen this work.

Other resolutions were also voted on: Organisation, Election Commission, campaign to re-elect the councillor in Joinville, Trade Union work, Occupied Factories, Political Education, and Black Socialist Movement. All of these are available in Portuguese.

Overall conclusions

In 1992 our tendency in the whole of North and South America was limited to the small group of comrades in Mexico. Since then we have spread to Argentina, Venezuela, Peru, Bolivia, El Salvador, Canada and the United States. We also have contacts in Paraguay, Uruguay, Honduras, Guatemala, Colombia and Chile. In Cuba also we have been contributing to the debate on the island about the fate of the revolution and have been participating each year in the Havana Book Fair, this year with the presentation of Trotsky's book, The Revolution Betrayed.

When we first started our work 7-8 years ago, we were attacked by several Latin American sects as being a "European" group that did not understand Latin America and could not build there. This reflects on their own narrow outlook and lack of genuine internationalism. We are proving in reality, with the concrete results on the ground that we can build in any country. It is not a question of which continent you are based on. It is a question of having the correct analysis, understanding, perspectives and methods. We are Marxists, internationalists, and it is our duty to build the tendency in all countries. The affiliation of the Brazilian group represents a major milestone in this historical task.


This is the end of the congress with the comrades chanting

Uniâo Comunista,
CMI e Esquerda Marxista,
Avançar Revolucâo,
Venezuela, Brasil e Paquistâo

Translation: 

Communist Union,
IMT and Marxist Left,
Forward the Revolution,
Venezuela, Brazil and Pakistan

 


Here we are enclosing a letter from the Executive Commission of Esquerda Marxista to the International Secretariat of the IMT

To the International Secretariat of the IMT

It is with great satisfaction that we formally communicate to you the decision of our National Congress, which took place on 1st and 2nd of February, to fuse with the International Marxist Tendency. For us it is an important step in the construction of the Brazilian Marxist organization and we believe that this unification is also an important step for Marxism on an international scale. In fact, the general feeling is that we are already members of the same organization. We are in agreement that we must find the best way to concretize this important step, giving it the publicity that it merits in the Labour Movement in Brazil, Latin America and the World.

The participation of comrade Fred Weston in our Congress and Cadre School was extremely valuable, confirming our convergence on the historical and dialectical understanding of reality and on organizational methods. It is, of course, evident, that we do not think the same on every little detail – that would be impossible – and it is certain that we have much to learn in the next period through an organic relation with the International and we also hope that we will be able to help with our own experience.

We will have to send a delegation to the World Congress of the IMT, in July, and this will be decided in the meeting of our Central Committee of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th of May.

We are already organizing the distribution to all the members of the Brazilian organization, of the World Perspective document that opens the debates of the World Congress. We are in agreement with the general lines of the analysis made by the comrades on the analysis of the world situation and the main tasks of the Marxists in the present period. This is very important for us and confirms that the road is open before us. We take note of the stated deadline of 1st/June for sending of ammendments.

From now until the Congress of Barcelona, we will remain at your disposal to help in any way necessary and in accordance with our possibilities, with the international campaigns organized by the IMT and its sections, in addition to our financial contribution to the International.

With Marxist Greetings!
The Executive Commission of Esquerda Marxista
23 of February, 2008