Opposition within the Workers Party to Lula's Neoliberal Reforms
by Alan Benjamin
- The Organizer 3 January 2004
The URL of this article is: http://globalresearch.ca/articles/BEN401A.html
PT Leadership Expels Dissident Members of Parliament: A New Political Situation Has Opened in Brazil
On December 14 the National Directorate of the Workers Party (PT) voted to expel three PT federal deputies (equivalent to members of the House of Representatives) and one PT federal senator, Heloisa Helena. These expulsions mark a new political situation both within the PT and within Brazil as a whole.
These four elected officials were expelled on charges of "party indiscipline" because they voted in the Brazilian Congress against PEC 40, a law introduced by the Lula government (and supported by the PT national leadership) aimed at "reforming" the public sector workers' pension system in Brazil. This so-called reform -- long demanded by the IMF -- destroys these workers' pension, rolls back their rights, privatizes the pension system and opens it to the private pension funds.
The four dissident PT leaders stated that opposition to the privatization of the public workers' pension system had been the traditional position of the PT, voted as such at all PT national conventions. Opposition to what became codified in PEC 40, they explained, was a cornerstone of all past PT policy. They subsequently refused to abide by PT "parliamentary discipline" -- as they considered the PT's new stance on the issue of pension "reform," adopted under heavy pressure from the IMF and World Bank, to be a violation of the PT's historic position on the matter. They could not abide by the "parliamentary discipline" of the IMF, they explained.
The action to discipline these four nationally elected leaders of the PT was approved by the PT's National Directorate by a vote of 13-7, and was later referred to the PT's Ethics Commission for determination of the sanction to be applied. The Ethics Commission of the PT, by a 4-2 margin, called for expelling the four dissident PT leaders.
On three different occasions this fall, the PT leadership convened a meeting of its National Directorate for the purpose of voting these expulsions. But given the enormous pressure from below against the expulsions -- from the membership of the PT and from many of the PT's historic leaders, as well as from activists and leaders in the CUT trade union federation, the Landless Peasants Movement (MST) and beyond -- the three National Directorate meetings were postponed. The fight against these expulsions was spearheaded by a multi-tendency regroupment in the PT, Resgate do PT (or Reclaim the PT), that was initiated by O Trabalho, the Brazilian section of the Fourth International.
The PT National Directorate meeting was finally held on Sunday, December 14 -- though the venue was changed from Sao Paulo to Brasilia at the last minute. Not coincidentally, the meeting of the National Directorate was held two days after the Lula government signed its own country-selling agreement with the IMF -- an agreement that was signed on Friday, December 12 but was not disclosed publicly till Monday the 15th, the day after the expulsions of the dissident PT members of parliament.
Leading up to the December 14th meeting of the PT National Directorate, supporters of the PT majority position (or Articulation) were outspoken in their denunciation of the four dissident PT elected officials. "They were elected to office as members of the PT, not as individuals," one supporter of the Articulation stated. "According to our statutes, they are bound to carry out the decisions of the PT as decided by the PT's National Directorate." A top PT official was even more blunt: "There is plenty of room in the PT for people who have criticisms of the leadership. But there are limits to these criticisms. ... Militants who want to build the PT without supporting the policies of the government do not have their place within the party."
This last statement, in fact, was turned into an ominous motion that was submitted to a vote of the PT National Directorate -- a vote that foreshadows many more expulsions of so-called "PT Radicals" in the coming weeks and months. The motion was simple: "The Workers Party (PT) unswervingly supports the policies of the Lula government."
What have been the policies of the Lula government over the past year? What policies are the PT members being asked to support by the PT national leadership?
Lula Government Pushes "Reform" of Public Workers' Pension System
The answer to this question -- contrary to what has been written in the pages of The Nation magazine by people such as William Greider -- is unequivocal: The policies implemented over the past year by the PT government are none other than the policies of the IMF and World Bank; that is, the policies of U.S. imperialism.
This is not an overstatement. Even the Brazilian mainstream press regularly features articles and columns by writers and economists who have taken notice of the PT government's embrace of policies once openly deplored by the PT when it was out of the government. A front-page opinion article by Janio de Freitas published in the December 9, 2003, Folha de Sao Paulo, for example -- one of countless such articles -- notes that "everything that is being done by the PT government is being done against the average working person. The PT government, under its new doctrine, which can only be called 'absolute capitalism,' is hurting everyone who is not a capitalist boss."
The article goes on to enumerate many of these policies, the most recent of which includes the total liberalization of prices of pharmaceutical products demanded by the multinational corporations (thus overturning the price controls established under the previous administration of Fernando Henrique Cardoso). Freitas writes:
"This measure promises greater profits for the giant foreign-owned pharmaceutical corporations and greater hardships for those who can now barely afford to purchase medicines -- especially the retirees in the public sector, whose pensions have been placed on the privatization chopping block by the PT government with the full support of all the other parties in the National Assembly."
The so-called "reform" of the public workers' pension system (or Previdencia) which Freitas alludes to in his article was, of course, one of the biggest blows dealt to the Brazilian working class during this past year.
The World Bank and IMF -- at the behest of the big banks, financial institutions and speculators -- had long demanded of previous Brazilian administrations that they privatize the billion-dollar public pension system. When Lula was elected to office, the IMF made this a litmus test of Lula's willingness to implement the IMF austerity plan.
The previous rightwing Cardoso administration had attempted to introduce this pension "reform" -- but its plan was met with such widespread opposition from the PT and the CUT trade union federation that Cardoso was forced to withdraw the plan. Now it was the Lula government's turn to abide by the dictates of those who control the commanding heights of the world capitalist economy. And abide by these dictates they did.
Late at night on August 5, a night that has become known widely as the "night of shame," the National Assembly of Brazil (the equivalent of the U.S. House of Representatives) approved the basic text of PEC 40, incorporating all the pension "reform" provisions demanded by the PT-led government with a few minor face-saving modifications. On August 6, more than 70,000 people demonstrated in the nation's capital in response to a call by the public sector unions affiliated with the CUT, expressing both their anger and indignation, as well as their will to continue the struggle to halt that counter-reform.
One month earlier, on July 13, the nine-million member CUT trade union federation had called on the national deputies to vote against PEC 40. In fact, for six weeks the public sector unions of the CUT organized a nationwide strike to demand that the government withdraw its plan. Unfortunately, the Brazilian labor movement did not prevail, mainly because the CUT national leadership did not call on its entire membership to mobilize in a nationwide general strike -- which is what was needed to get the government to back down.
An August 8th editorial in the biweekly O Trabalho newspaper -- the publication of the O Trabalho current in the PT -- summed up the situation:
"The CUT's call on the deputies of all parties, particularly those of the PT, to vote against PEC 40 marked an essential lever to advance the struggle to prevent its adoption. It also reflected the growing rift between the government and the trade unions. But the CUT national leadership did not mobilize fully to promote the August 6th march, nor did it pull out all the stops to mobilize the entire labor movement against PEC 40. ...
"In the heat of the mobilization, the mass movement that voted overwhelmingly for Lula and for a PT government that would break with the policies of the IMF and Cardoso went through its first experience with the new government."
A week later, the leadership of the O Trabalho current published a statement which read, in part:
"The vote by the National Assembly of PEC 40 showed the will of the PT leadership to carry out faithfully the policies dictated by the IMF. The announced expulsions from the party of the PT members of parliament who voted against PEC 40 shows their willingness to destroy the PT such as it was forged in struggle 22 years ago. The Lula government is now taking on the public sector workers and is preparing a head-on confrontation with the Landless Peasants Movement (MST) and beyond them, with the entire working class -- all of this under pressure from U.S. imperialism."
The PT and the Question of Agrarian Reform
According to the official statistics of Brazil's National Institute for Agrarian Reform, 3 million people have been deprived of lands and must roam the Brazilian countryside looking for work in jobs where they are at the mercy of the jagun?os (or hired foremen), who abuse and harass the landless peasants to the point of assassinating those who dare to stand up for their rights. Every year, moreover, an additional 100,000 families swell the ranks of the landless peasants movement.
At the same time, 35,000 large landownders (or latifundiarios) -- often simple agents of the large banks or multinational corporations for whom the land's value is mainly speculative -- possess expanses of land in the tens of thousands of acres. In fact, 45 percent of all cultivated lands are in the hands of just 1 percent of the landholders.
What has the Lula government -- which promised a thorough and sweeping Agrarian Reform program in its 2002 election campaign -- done for the landless peasants?
During the one year of the Lula government, nothing has changed for the better for the landless peasants. The age-old demand for land reform went unheeded during the Lula government's first year in office.
The Landless Peasants Movement (MST), a longtime ally of the Workers Party (PT), had demanded that the Lula government turn over land to 125,000 landless peasant families in 2003. The government responded that because of budget constraints imposed by the IMF Agreement negotiated by the previous Cardoso government, it would only be possible to resettle 60,000 families in 2003. The bitter reality was that only an estimated 8,000 peasant families (6,500 according to the MST, but 8,500 according to the government) were given titles to the lands this past year. This is roughly half the number of families who were given the land in 2002, the last year of the rightwing Cardoso government.
Worse still, a Cardoso-era law -- PM 2.183 -- banning land distribution to landless peasants charged with "illegal land occupations" was maintained -- despite previous pledges that it would be overturned. Still, despite this unjust and immoral law, the landless peasants in Brazil continued to take matters into their own hands, occupying fallow lands they've been denied for decades. For them and for their families, it is a question of survival. During the first six months of the PT government, the landless peasants increased their land occupations by 140% over the previous six months.
Meanwhile, the violence in Brazil's countryside escalated this past year, as the landlords -- emboldened by the government's refusal to stand by the landless peasants -- let loose their "jagun?os" on the landless peasants, killing 71 people this past year alone, double the number of 2002. Meanwhile, 223 rural workers were jailed, 50 percent more than in 2002, for alleged violence -- when all they were doing was trying to fend off the attacks from the landlords and their hired thugs.
Responding to growing pressures from the MST to do something about the explosive land question, the PT government appointed a commission, headed by renowned PT leader Plinio de Arruda Sampaio, to develop a National Plan for Agrarian Reform (or PNRA). The Plan presented to the government by the commission called for giving titles to the land and farm credits to 1 million landless peasant families over four years. The commission called their proposal the absolute minimum that is acceptable.
But the PT government turned its back on the commission's plan, proposing instead to resettle 400,000 peasant families over four years. PT Minister of Agricultural Development Miguel Rossetto claimed that there was not enough money to resettle more families. But this number, assuming it were met, would barely respond to the claims by the 100,000 peasant families emerging onto the scene every year. It would barely maintain the status quo.
The plunder provoked by the repayment of the foreign debt leaves little doubt that even this more limited objective of 400,000 families will not be met. Indeed, as long as the PT government continues to pay US$52 billion -- or 64 percent of Brazil's national budget -- for debt repayment, as demanded by the IMF and agreed to by the Lula government, there will be little, if any, money for agrarian reform -- not to mention all the other social needs of the Brazilian people.
On these and so many other fronts, the PT government made it clear it was intent on carrying out all the dictates of the IMF.
Its pledge to fight the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) was abandoned, as the Lula government submitted a joint agreement with the Bush administration to the 34 trade ministers of the Americas gathered in Miami on November 20 that became known as "FTAA Lite." This agreement maintained the FTAA calendar and full negotiations agenda demanded by the Bush administration. This means that by January 2005 -- unless working people across the continent mobilize with sufficient strength to force their governments to withdraw from FTAA negotiations -- the FTAA, one of the most vicious attacks against the peoples of the Americas ever to come down the pike, could become a reality.
Not surprisingly, the child labor rate in Brazil increased by 50 percent in 2003 over the previous year; unemployment surged as more factories, unable to compete with foreign imports (in the wake of the IMF-imposed Structural Adjustment Plans), were forced to shut down. The unemployment rate in the greater Sao Paulo region, alone, skyrocketed to 20%, with all the ensuing problems of crime, rampant homelessness, prostitution and drug-trafficking.
All this and more is the direct result of the Lula government's failure to carry out the mandate of the people and break with the IMF and the bosses. [See additional effects of the Lula government policies in the appendices below]
As a worker from an occupied factory in the southern city of Joinville told the Western Hemisphere Workers' Conference Against the FTAA, held in Sao Paulo on December 13:
"The money to defend our jobs and workplaces exists. If the Lula government were to refuse to earmark 64% of our current national budget to debt-repayment, as the IMF demands, and instead made some or all of this huge sum of money available to job preservation, factory retooling, agrarian reform and farm credits, public schools and hospitals -- just to mention a few key budget items -- we wouldn't be in the mess we're in today. The resources exist. What is lacking is any resolve by the Lula government to do the right thing; that is, to carry out the mandate of the people who elected him to office. ...
"That is why, more than ever, we must hold this government's feet to the fire to demand that it break with the IMF, that it withdraw from all FTAA negotiations, and that it fund the urgent needs of the Brazilian people. This is a matter of life or death for millions of people across Brazil. ... Now is the time to organize. There is still time to force the government to heed the will of the people!"
The Heinous and Duplicitous Role of the United Secretariat and its Brazilian Affiliate: Democracia Socialista
One of the currents that wields considerable influence in the PT is Democracia Socialista (DS), the Brazilian affiliate of the United Secretariat. For those people unfamiliar with the USec, it is a current that fraudulently claims the mantle of the Fourth International, having thrown overboard all reference to the historic program of the FI. [For more on this topic, see list of readings below from La V?rit?/The Truth.]
Many longtime revolutionists in the United States -- some of whom waged a courageous struggle in the Socialist Workers Party to uphold the traditional Trotskyist program against the anti-Trotskyist Barnes leadership -- have presented in their publications a picture of DS that does not correspond to reality.
In pages of Labor Standard and Socialist Action newspaper one can find articles which, while differing in their degree of support for positions taken by DS, present DS as a revolutionary Marxist current that is holding up, by and large, the historic banner of the Fourth International and independent working class politics.
Nothing could be further from the truth.
True, DS -- from time to time -- issues public statements that can be highly critical of the Lula government and that can appear to be quite radical to an unwary observer. But, as readers will see below, these statements are simply aimed at providing left cover for their policies of support for, and subordination to, the PT government. As you will read below, DS has mastered the art of deception like few others.
For example, on the eve of the December 14th meeting of the PT's National Directorate, Democracia Socialista issued a statement titled "Balance Sheet of One Year of the PT Government" that includes strong attacks on the PT leadership's policies.
The DS text denounces "the growing enlargement of the governmental coalition through the integration of emblematic personalities from what can be called the worst sectors of national politics." The text even speaks of the "total subordination of the government to the orientations of the IMF."
To say that the coalition government includes "the worst sectors of national politics" is an understatement that masks the true character of this Popular Front government. Lula and the PT leadership appointed three leading figures of the Brazilian ruling class to top government ministerial positions:
1) Henrique Meirelles, a federal deputy from the PSDB opposition party in the state of Goias, became the new president of the Central Bank of Brazil. Meirelles is the former president for international affairs of the Bank of Boston, one of the largest banks in the United States.
2) Luiz Fernando Furlan, was appointed Minister of Development, Industry and Commerce. The appointment of Furlan, who is president of the Sadia financial group, was "greeted with great joy by the employers' associations," according to a press release issued by Horacio Piva, president of FIESP, the Sao Paulo employers' association.
3) Roberto Rodrigues, was named to head the Ministry of Agriculture. Rodrigues is the president of the Brazilian Agribusiness Association. He campaigned actively on radio and TV for Jos? Serra, the ruling-class candidate who lost to Lula in the second round of the election on October 27, 2002.
What is absolutely scandalous about the DS "Balance Sheet" report is that nowhere in the text is there any mention of the fact that Miguel Rossetto, a leading and public member of Democracia Socialista, is also a minister of the government -- yes, of this Popular Front government! Rossetto is Minister of Agricultural Development.
The DS can rail all it wants in its text, but its words have no meaning -- other than to provide "left cover" for the government -- from the moment one of its leading members is a cabinet minister in the very government it purportedly denounces. Rossetto -- and through him, the entire DS and USec -- bear political responsibility for the government they are part of and for the anti-worker policies the government has implemented over the past year.
Leon Trotsky, in his seminal writings on the Popular Front governments of the 1930s, explained that true revolutionists have no place in such cross-class governments. Joining such governments, he explained, involves crossing the class line into the camp of the enemy. Trotsky broke politically with erstwhile allies in the POUM of Spain, for example, when one of the POUM leaders, Andres Nin, joined the local Generalit?t government of Catalonia in the late 1930s.
Today, DS cabinet minister Rossetto -- and through his participation in the Lula government, the entire DS and USec, of which he is a member -- are directly responsible for shunting the Sampaio Commission recommendation to provide land and credits to 1 million landless peasants over the next four years. Sampaio's son, representing his father, who was ill, told the delegates at the Western Hemisphere Workers Conference in Sao Paulo on December 14th that the Rossetto-Rodrigues "agrarian reform" plan is, in fact, the plan of the IMF and World Bank. "The government's plan," he said, "was determined not by a sovereign decision of the Brazilian nation, but by what resources were left over for Agrarian Reform after heeding all the dictates set by the IMF for payment of Brazil's foreign debt."
But this is not all. Rossetto and the DS are directly responsible for all the attacks leveled against the Landless Peasants Movement (MST) this past year. In fact, on various occasions Rossetto went so far as to defend these reactionary policies.
On July 3, for example, the Military Police, under orders from the Justice Department, evicted violently the Chico Mendes encampment of the MST in Pernambuco. They were aided in this task by heavily armed jagun?os -- that is, goons hired by the landlords. For the past six years, 600 families have lived here. The destruction of the encampment was massive: 180 houses, numerous schools, a church and all the crops were destroyed. The same day, in the state of Paran?, another squatters' camp was invaded by the Military Police, again with the aid of the jagun?os, leaving many workers severely injured.
What was the response of the PT government to this dramatic situation? And what did the cabinet members in charge of the ministries of Agriculture and Agrarian Development say about the escalating violence and the struggle for the land?
In response to the large landowners' massive rearming, Minister of Agriculture Roberto Rodrigues declared publicly, "I consider that everyone who owns something has the right to defend it. Otherwise, that person is not worthy of owning it in the first place" (Folha de Sao Paulo, May 7, 2003). Minister Rodrigues's declaration revealed that he is a true representative of the latifundiarios, the exploiters, the assassins of landless peasants throughout the Brazilian countryside.
What about Agricultural Development Minister Miguel Rosseto?
Rosetto never took issue with Rodrigues' open endorsement of the rightwing violence against the landless peasants, nor did he ever propose any concrete measures to dismantle these armed militias. At no time did he propose that the government adopt measures to defend the Chico Mendes encampment. Nor did he propose any actions to stop the destruction of the encampments in Paran? and on the Rio Bonito estate in Pernambuco.
In San Gabriel (Santa Catarina), in the face of the suspension by the Justice Department of a land expropriation, the large landowners threatened physical violence against the MST, which mobilized to protest this unjust decision.
What did Minister Rossetto do to defend the democratic right of the MST to march and protest the government's decision? At a time when the landowners were hiring goons and unleashing waves of violence across the country, Minister Rosetto dared to declare, "We will not tolerate violent demonstrations of the landless peasants." (O Estado de Sao Paulo, June 4, 2003)
Further still, Minister Rossetto declared, "The task of the government is to ensure that the laws are implemented" (Ibid.). But whose laws? The PT government had resettled far fewer landless peasants than even the former rightwing government of Fernando Henrique Cardoso. The laws in Brazil's countryside all favor the landlords. Even PM 2.183, the presidential edict adopted under Cardoso that prohibits the expropriation of lands that have been occupied by the MST, is still in place.
Of this there can be no doubt: Rossetto, a member of Democracia Socialista and the USec, has been the direct instrument of the implementation of the pro-landlord laws and policies against the landless peasants and the MST.
The duplicity of DS's "Balance Sheet" text was expressed in yet another manner at the December 14th meeting of the National Directorate of the PT.
As mentioned above, as part of what could prove to be a "loyalty test" by the PT leadership of all the minority currents within the PT, the leadership submitted for a vote a resolution that stated, "The Workers Party (PT) unswervingly supports the policies of the Lula government."
Members of Democracia Socialista on the PT National Directorate submitted an amendment to this resolution -- an amendment that was accepted by the PT leadership. The DS amendment added one sentence to the majority text, so that its final and amended version reads as follows: "The Workers Party (PT) unswervingly supports the policies of the Lula government. The PT must be the most resolved supporter of the actions of the government that go in the direction of a democratic and popular program and that answer the aspirations and hopes raised by the victory of Lula, as well as the changes expected by the people."
The amendment by the DS members does not change in any way the overall character of the resolution, which calls for the PT to support the policies of the Lula government. It is also important to note that the PT leadership, which has backed all the reactionary measures of the government, has argued that all the government policies flow from the PT's "democratic and popular program" and that all such policies, by and large, respond to the needs and aspirations of the Brazilian people. This, of course, is not true -- but it is what the PT leadership claims to justify the government's reactionary policies.
Quite obviously, the two members of O Trabalho, the Brazilian section of the Fourth International, on the PT National Directorate voted against this resolution -- even after its shameful amendment by the USec. Support for the policies of the PT government -- no matter how "radical-sounding" the language deployed to confuse working people -- is a betrayal of the interests of working people and all the oppressed.
The USec and the Expulsion of DS Member Heloisa Helena
One of the most widely circulated claims to back the contention that the USec and its Brazilian affiliate can't be all that bed is the fact that Heloisa Helena, the PT federal senator who was expelled from the PT on December 14, is a member of DS and the USec.
This is just the surface of things. There is far more to the question of Heloisa Helena and the role of DS and the USec than has been reported in the radical press.
True, Heloisa Helena announced publicly her intention to vote against the reform of PEC 40 (the actual vote in the Brazilian Senate did not take place till December 12). She took a principled stance against the destruction of the Previdencia. She marched with the striking public workers in Brasilia and was even beaten and dragged by the police when she joined the CUT's public sector unions in an occupation of a government building to demand immediate response to the workers' legitimate demands.
But Heloisa Helena never challenged -- at least not publicly -- the presence of a representative of her own party in the very same government she was protesting and picketing. More important, when she announced her intent to vote against the "reform" of the public workers' pension system in the Senate, not only was this NOT a vote in accordance with the parliamentary fraction of the PT, it was NOT in accordance with the line of the majority of her own party, Democracia Socialista.
All the other national deputies of Democracia Socialista voted in favor of the pension counter-reform, with the exception of two DS deputies who abstained. As they cast their vote, the DS members of the National Assembly (with the exception of the two abstainers) explained their vote in a public statement which reads, in part:
"By electing Lula, the majority of the Brazilian people voted in favor of immediate changes. ... But these changes are not an easy task. ... We lament the fact there has been a confrontation with the CUT trade union federation and with the public sector workers over the reform of the pension system. ... Nonetheless, we wish to underscore that the social struggle and the action of the members of parliaments have resulted in great improvements in the reform text, even though the proposal is still insufficient and entails serious losses and takeaways, especially for the poorest public workers.
"Because of the imperative of party discipline and also because we consider that the discussion over the course adopted by our government is not closed but rather is becoming more defined and concrete in relation to the debate over economic policies, we are hereby voting in favor of the reform of the pension system."
The national leadership of Democracia Socialista, for its part, justified the vote for the IMF-imposed pension reform in a public statement that reads, in part: "DS defended the vote for the pension reform in conformity with the decisions of the national leadership [of the PT] and supported the vote explanation issued with other comrades in the quest of points of support to continue the struggle."
Shame, forever shame! The DS and its national deputies voted in favor of a reactionary reform -- a reform long demanded by the IMF and imperialism -- and then pretended that its vote represented a "point of support to continue the struggle."
Another important dimension of the expulsion of Heloisa Helena must be brought to light.
Democracia Socialista, by voting in favor of PEC 40, isolated their own comrade and contributed to the PT leadership's witchhunt against her.
If at the time of the vote on the pension "reform," the 12 federal deputies who identify themselves with DS had voted the same way as the three other expelled members in the National Assembly, there is no doubt that their action would have swayed the 30 PT deputies who had spoken out against the reform (but who buckled under pressure from the PT leadership and eventually voted in favor of the reform) to follow them -- and the situation today would be totally different.
This situation of isolation, which permitted the four expulsions, is the responsibility of the DS.
But there is more. On Thursday, December 11, Folha de Sao Paulo, one of Brazil's main newspapers, reported that the leadership of Democracia Socialista had sent a letter to the PT leadership pleading that Heloisa Helena not be expelled from the PT, but rather just "be suspended for one year."
Can anything be more pathetic? Heloisa Helena did the right thing by voting against PEC 40, but now her party leadership was announcing publicly that, yes, Heloisa Helena may have done the wrong thing, but her action should be forgiven and the sanction should be lessened. Pathetic groveling! There is no other way to put it.
It is therefore not surprising why Democracia Socialista did absolutely nothing for five months to defend their own comrade. It was only two weeks before the December 14th National Directorate meeting that DS organized its first public meeting in defense of Heloisa Helena. Prior to its November 22 National Conference, DS consciously desisted from carrying out any public campaigns -- or supporting any of the other initiatives under way -- in opposition to the expulsions. While USec supporters in France and other countries circulated an international petition in defense of Heloisa Helena, nothing of the kind was done by DS in Brazil.
The main campaign in defense of Heloisa Helena, in fact, was organized by Resgate do PT (Reclaim the PT), which was initiated by O Trabalho, the Brazilian section of the Fourth International. [See Appendix 1 below for the text of the Manifesto of Resgate do PT. Also see Appendix 2 for the report on Resgate's November 14th public forum against the expulsions.]
DS as an Instrument to Co-opt the Trade Unions into the Implementation of the Global Corporate Agenda
Much, much more could be said about DS. I urge all friends and supporters of Socialist Organizer, and all those interested in the struggles of Brazil's workers and peasants, to read all the backgrounds articles in the FI's theoretical magazine about the role of DS in promoting and implementing the "participatory budgets" in Porto Alegre and Rio Grande do Sul. These forms of so-called "participatory democracy" are the darling of the World Bank, just as they are tools to have working people "participate" in the implementation of budget cuts and austerity programs.
It is also necessary for readers to examine the USec's role in promoting the World Social Forums -- which are aimed at derailing the struggles of working people against capitalist exploitation and oppression into safe channels for the ruling class (through the concepts of "civil society" and "globalization with a human face," now transformed into "alterglobalization) and co-opting workers' organizations, primarily the trade unions, into corporatist structures.
The list of suggested readings on these essential questions -- which are among the major political questions of our time -- is listed below, following the various appendices to the article.
There is one aspect of this drive to co-opt the trade unions, however, that merits special attention.
The very weekend that the National Directorate of the PT was expelling the four dissident MPs (which just happened to be the same weekend as the Western Hemisphere Workers Conference Against the FTAA), a meeting of South American trade unionists was held in Montevideo, Uruguay, organized by the current international affairs director of the CUT, Rafael Freire.
Freire, who is a member of Democracia Socialista, organized this trade union gathering in Montevideo in his capacity as secretary of coordination of Southern Cone union federations. This was a meeting with top leaders of the European Trade Union Confederation (ETUC). The ETUC, which defines itself as a "social partner of the European Union" -- and therefore of the capitalist governments that constitute it, was in Montevideo to give "advice" to the union federations of South America on how to "incorporate a social dimension" into the "free trade" accords or treaties.
The ETUC's main function in Europe -- and now globally -- is to transform the trade unions into social partners of "free trade" treaties and accords. This is a direct threat to the CUT's independence, just as it is a threat to all the trade unions of the Southern Cone of the Americas, and beyond.
It is precisely because of the massive resistance to the corporate onslaught in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and across the entire continent that the promoters of the FTAA insist on the need to "associate" -- read co-opt -- the trade unions into the negotiation and implementation of their "free trade" agenda. This is done in the name of providing a "social dimension" to the "free trade" agreements and thus "providing a human face to globalization."
This is why it is a central task today to reaffirm the crucial importance of preserving the class independence of the trade unions.
As the Final Declaration of the Western Hemisphere Workers Conference Against the FTAA states:
"Unions were not built by workers to have them dissolved into some nebulous 'civil society' -- a notion that brings together exploited and exploiters, oppressed and oppressors, in the same 'social forums' or 'roundtable agreements.' On the contrary, unions were built to defend the workforce against exploitation by capital, and as such should be maintained to fulfill that role. The right of the working class to organize on their own terrain, distinct and opposite from the terrain of the bosses, independent of the governments and parties, is a primary condition for the existence of democracy!"
From the Fight to Reclaim the PT to the Fight to Build the Movement For a Workers Party (PT) That Is Independent of the IMF and the Bosses, For a PT That Is Faithful to Its Origins
Reports on the political orientation and activity of O Trabalho, the Brazilian section of the FI, have been presented regularly both in The Organizer newspaper and in La V?rit?/The Truth, the FI's theoretical magazine. The list of some of these articles is printed below.
From the time Lula announced his intention to run as the presidential candidate of the PT, O Trabalho launched a political campaign for a PT Government That Breaks With the IMF.
After Lula's election's and before the inauguration, O Trabalho leader Markos Sokol issued a statement to the PT National Directorate meeting of December 17, 2002, lambasting Lula's appointment of major bourgeois figures to key cabinet posts. "We must be clear," Sokol stated, "it will not be by pursuing the same policies that have led us to the current disastrous situation that we will be able to move forward and get out of this crisis."
"No one here in this room will say that the road ahead will be easy. It will not be simple to remove all the obstacles that are placed in the path of the establishment of a genuine PT government that can adopt measures that are essential to our people.
"But that is why, more than ever, it is necessary to preserve the PT as it was constituted historically; that is, as a genuinely independent political party of the workers of the city and the countryside. Key to this task is safeguarding the free expression of ideas and of diverse points of view inside our party."
On May 21, 2003, just after the National Directorate of the PT announced that it would take disciplinary actions against PT MPs Heloisa Helena, Luciana Genro, and Bab? for announcing publicly that they would refuse to vote in support of PEC 40, O Trabalho issued a declaration which reads, in part:
"What's involved [with the threats of disciplinary action] is a concerted attempt at preventing them -- and others in the PT -- from expressing their point of view. This is a blow to the PT's democratic traditions.
"For our part, we must repeat yet again that we are opposed to the so-called reform of the national retirement system (Previdencia). ... For the leadership to impede or strangle a discussion with administrative measures will only harm the party and prevent it from developing the kind of solution that can address the needs and aspirations of the Brazilian people.
"The positions of the targeted MPs are the historic positions of the PT. Up until recently, they were positions voiced publicly by PT national secretary Z? Dirceu.
"They are positions that express the people's resistance to the dictates of the IMF contained in all the recent Agreements signed between the Brazilian government and the IMF. The dictates of the IMF and World Bank on the question of reform of the pensions systems, in fact, have provoked mass demonstrations of millions of people in France, Germany and Austria.
"For people to explain that the PT now in office must make 'tactical shifts in relation to certain topics' is nothing but verbal gymnastics aimed at sowing confusion among those who have always fought against the attacks on the rights won by the workers through bitter struggles. Indeed, if we now have a Workers Party in power, it's because the Brazilian people voted to oust all those politicians who implemented the kind of measures such as the one now being proposed by the PT government.
"This past May 14th, in the Mobilization of the Excluded organized by the Contag, a banner read as follows: 'Lula: Listen to the People. Do Not Cave in to the IMF Pressures!' These words summarize the feelings of an entire people.
"Not one disciplinary action against the Members of Parliament of the PT!"
On July 8th, after the PT leadership won support from the National Assembly for its pension reform plan, the National Committee of O Trabalho issued a public statement which highlighted the two options available to the PT and the government in the new situation:
"Either the government submits to the pressures by Bush and turns the country over to the FTAA, destroying millions of jobs, liquidating rights and gains in the name of 'free trade'; either it submits even more to the pressures of the large landowners and allows the militias (jagun?os) free rein to evict and kill the landless peasants, including allowing Minister of Agriculture Roberto Rodrigues to defend openly the violence perpetrated by the landowners; either it submits to the pressures of the 'market' -- that is, the speculators and mafiosi who want to put their hands on the pension funds of the public-sector workers as they demand adoption of PEC 40; in a word, either the government goes down the path of the stepped-up dismantling of the Brazilian nation,
"Or, on the other hand, the government rescues national sovereignty; defends and extends our rights and gains; saves the threatened jobs; keeps open the factories facing bankruptcy (including, if necessary, nationalizing them to guarantee workers' jobs, as is being demanded by the workers of Cipla/Interfibra in Joinville (Santa Catarina); withdraws from the fake FTAA negotiations; revokes MP 2.183 [a law enacted under former President Fernando Henrique Cardoso to criminalize land occupations and ban distribution of lands taken over by the landless peasants]; begins immediate implementation of an agrarian reform program, legitimizing the lands occupied by the landless peasants and providing technical assistance, credit and commercialization to the new farm units; and withdraws its proposed PEC 40 'reform' of the public-sector pension system, creating the space for a solution that guarantees the rights of all public workers and increases retirement protection for all workers."
The O Trabalho statement went on to outline an Action Plan to address the most urgent demands of Brazil's working and poor people. It reads, in part:
"A government of the PT should not hesitate to go after the money where it can be obtained:
"- The money that is lacking to pay for agrarian reform, education, healthcare and infrastructure has been drained from the public coffers to pay back the foreign debt. Sixty-four percent of the public budget is earmarked for the payment of the foreign debt, with rollover loans from the IMF still 'contingent' on meeting IMF budgetary surplus goals. These goals are expected to increase even further next year.
"- The money needed to cover the pension payments to the public workers can be found in the US$192 billion that are owed to the National Social Security Institute by millionaires and corporations without scruples, all of whose names are well known as the list was disclosed publicly by the Minister of Previdencia himself.
"- The money to restore all public services can be found in the US$107 billion that fled Brazil during the past 10 years through the CC-5 accounts of the Central Bank, $30 billion of which left the country illegally and have already been located by the Federal Police and are currently being investigated by the Banestado, where there is already a $30 billion fine pending for illegal profiteering.
"If all this money were repatriated, the government would be able to provide solutions to all the urgent demands of the Brazilian people.
"The government, in fact, must place strict controls over the entry and exit of financial transactions and capital. No more loopholes for the speculators and racketeers! End the financial sweetheart deals demanded by the speculators and the IMF!
"It is clear and undeniable: To be able to chart a course that is favorable to the Brazilian people in this current situation, the government must adopt such measures -- which are simple, easily understandable and, in many cases, have already been implemented in other situations by various governments."
The O Trabalho statement concludes with a call for the PT to reverse course and support the legitimate strike of the public sector workers:
"The PT must continue to be the party it has always been -- a party where internal democracy is respected, a party that plays its role in championing the interests of working people and the oppressed.
"Today, the PT must support the legitimate strike which the public-sector workers were forced to carry out. The PT must ask the government to withdraw PEC 40 -- as the public-sector workers have requested, so that true negotiations can take place. The PT must support the landless peasants and demand that the government adopt measures of agrarian reform, beginning with the repeal of MP 2.183.
"If the PT continues to be the party it has always been, the PT will help the Brazilian people find the positive and urgent solutions that the current situation requires."
Once the threats of expulsion were imminent, and following the setback to the public sector workers, O Trabalho took the initiative to coalesce a broad regroupment of leaders and activists in the PT who sought to remain loyal to the founding socialist principles of the PT and who opposed the expulsions. This effort culminated in the founding of Resgate do PT (Reclaim the PT) in late August 2003. [See founding Manifesto of Resgate do PT below.]
Over three months, beginning with the August 30th meeting that founded Resgate do PT, more than 4000 PT leaders and rank-and-file members signed the Manifesto of Resgate. Together they organized meetings across Brazil and drafted statements from PT bodies at all levels against the expulsions. Entire citywide and regional PT bodies endorsed the campaign to protest the expulsions that was organized by Resgate.
Following the December 14th expulsions of the PT MPs, the leadership of O Trabalho issued a statement which reads, in part:
"These initial expulsions deeply jeopardize the very essence of the PT as it was founded.
"What is under way is a process that includes a major offensive to integrate the CUT trade union federation into the implementation of the government's anti-worker policies; it's a process that also includes the accelerated application of all policies aimed at destroying the Brazilian nation. The meaning of the expulsions is the total incompatibility between implementing the policies of the IMF and the very existence of the PT as a workers' party.
"The process under way is on the road to destroying the party -- but it is a process that has NOT yet been completed.
"Today, the question of the PT can only be raised in all arenas on the grounds of defending the PT's original historic demands and program. On the trade union level, this means developing the fightback against the policies of co-optation/integration of the CUT.
"The essential lever for these independent policies is provided by the resistance of the Brazilian masses through the increasing number of strikes, marches, and factory and land occupations. At the center of all these struggles is the need to promote the united-front struggle around the need to break with the IMF."
On December 20th, the National Conference of Resgate do PT was held in Sao Paulo. O Trabalho actively built this conference and participated in its proceedings. One-hundred ninety-three delegates from 10 states across Brazil, representing a wide array of left tendencies within the PT, came together to discuss the meaning of the expulsions and the new situation in Brazil. Most important, they charted a fightback strategy for the period ahead to advance the fight in defense of the interests of Brazil's working class and poor, in defense of the Brazilian nation.
In the Final Declaration of the National Conference of Resgate, the 193 delegates announced that in May 2004 they will convene a National Conference of the Movement For a Workers Party (PT) That Is Independent of the IMF and the Bosses, For a PT That Is Faithful to Its Origins. The May conference will be prepared by State conferences which will elect delegates to that gathering.
The December 20th Declaration states, in part:
"We want an Independent Workers Party (PT)!
"We want a Workers Party which, as the PT's founding documents put it, 'arises from the aspiration for the political independence of workers tired of serving as foot-soldiers for political parties committed to the preservation of the current economic, social and political order; a party that harbors within it the will for emancipation of the popular masses; a party that truly seeks to offer a political expression for all the exploited and oppressed in the capitalist system. We are a party of workers and not a party to fuel illusions among workers. We are a party open to all those seeking to help the cause of defending workers and their program, and this is why we want to build a structure of internal democracy where the collective decisions, leadership and program are decided by the ranks of the party.' (excerpts from the PT's February 1980 Manifesto, Collegio Sion, Sao Paulo)"
The full text of the Final Declaration will be translated soon and distributed widely. It is a call to keep alive the struggle for independent working class political action.
O Trabalho, the Brazilian section of the FI, is championing this struggle, loyal to the founding program of the Fourth International.
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