ICC Public Meetings in Brazil: A strengthening of revolutionary positions in Latin America

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The ICC recently held a number of public interventions in Brazil, which we describe in this article. It was in fact three successive public meetings in three different towns (Salvador da Bahia, Vitoria da Conquista and Sao Paulo) and a presentation followed by a debate at the University of Vitoria da Conquista, on the occasion of the “2nd meeting of history students of the state of Bahia” (the theme of this meeting was: ‘Social struggles and their expressions in history’).

The theme of the public meetings was: ‘Faced with the mortal crisis of capitalism, the future belongs to the working class’, and the presentation at the University was on ‘The origins and essential characteristics of the international communist left‘.

Such an intervention in Brazil constitutes a first for the ICC; it was only possible thanks to the sterling initiatives of sympathisers there and to the collaboration with the Brazilian proletarian group by the name of “Workers Opposition” [1] who were the organisers of the public meetings. For this first intervention in Brazil, the ICC chose the themes that allowed it, as much as possible, to express its historic vision of the necessity and possibility of the proletarian revolution. Thus, the common presentation to the three public meetings, which can be consulted on our website in Portuguese, developed the three following aspects in particular:

  • like all systems of exploitation which preceded it, capitalism is not an eternal system;
  • the hour of its overthrow by the proletariat, the only revolutionary class in society, struck a long time ago and if the latter is not up to its historic task, the situation will lead to the end of humanity;
  • the perspective contained in the present situation is the development of the class struggle.

In one of the public meetings, in Salvador, following a presentation by the ICC, Workers’ Opposition made a presentation putting forward the fundamental need for organisation of the working class into workers’ councils for the overthrow of capitalism.

The presentation at the University was based essentially on the article on our website: ‘Left communism and the marxist tradition’ and was articulated around the following axes:

  • what distinguishes the left fractions from other organisations claiming the name of marxism;
  • the communist left has never been a unique current but was always constituted by different political expressions, corresponding to a whole historical effort of the working class with an aim of theoretical/political clarification;
  • the contribution of the communist left to the development of the theoretical/political heritage of the proletariat is irreplaceable.

In order to give an account of these four events, we think it preferable not to treat them separately but rather report the main questions and preoccupations which were expressed and gave rise to some debates. Nevertheless, before that, we think it essential to bring out the importance of these meetings, both because of the numbers who took part in them and because of the animated and lively character of the debates, which each time continued beyond the allocated time.

A huge participation and a promising dynamism

Revolutionaries are sometimes surprised by the scale of the interest aroused by their positions, even though they have the highest confidence in the revolutionary capacities of their class. We must say that the breadth of participation in these meetings very pleasantly surprised us, as some of them outstripped the ordinary attendance at public meetings in towns where the ICC usually intervenes. In fact, close to a hundred people participated in the three public meetings. As to the meeting on the communist left at the University, it drew around 260 people in a large room for the whole of the first part of the debate. The meeting was extended by almost two hours with about 80 remaining when we had to close, before we were able to reply to all the interventions that had been made.

There were a number of circumstances that favoured such a big attendance. The first public appearance of an international revolutionary organisation that does not exist in Brazil is naturally likely to arouse a particular local interest. Further, the public meetings benefited from an effective publicity, taken in charge by Workers’ Opposition, on its own or else with the help of sympathisers, according to the venue. We can also point to a certain academic and not exclusively political interest that motivated some students and teachers from the University to participate in the debate on the history of the communist left: for reasons linked to the Universities’ rules, that this was announced as a presentation by a historian [2]. It nevertheless more and more openly took the form of a political meeting presided over by the organisers of the debate, the Workers’ Opposition and the ICC, with a table presenting the press of the ICC at the entry to the room.

But more importantly, the success of our meetings can be put down to the existence in Brazil of a favourable hearing to a radical critique of society and of its democratic institutions. Particularly because the country is currently being run by the government of Lula, the ‘great workers’ leader’ of the left, whose name is indissolubly linked to the PT (Party of the Workers, founded in 1980) and the CUT (United Workers’ Centre, the main ‘independent’ union since the end of the dictatorship, founded in 1983). Today, the governmental alliance of Lula, the PT and the CUT must openly assume the role of spearheading the attacks against the working class. These attacks are required for the defence of Brazilian national capital on the international arena. A government or party of the right would have to implement the same measures, and they expose the real nature of these leaders as the enemies of the working class that they have always been. In Brazil, as in any other country, the response of the working class is still far from corresponding to the scale of the capitalist attacks. Nevertheless (and it’s here that the interest in the public meetings essentially resides), there also exists in this country a growing preoccupation about the future, and this is being shown in a revival of interest in an alternative to the present society.

Far from being received as dogmas, the analyses of the history of our class, the idea of a political struggle with a perspective of a future communist society, which we put forward in our presentations and interventions, aroused a lot of enthusiasm, a great deal of questioning, and sometimes also scepticism, but there were also clear expressions of sympathy that moved some to come up to us and explicitly say so at the end of meetings. Also to further pose questions that they hadn’t time to put during the meeting itself.

If the large audience at these meetings took us a little by surprise, it nevertheless confirmed the growing tendency of young people to ask questions about the future. This was underlined in one of the meetings, at Vitoria da Conquista, where more than half the participants were made up of the young or the very young.

The main discussions

We report below on the main questions posed to us and which allowed the whole richness of the debates. We can’t give the responses we made due to lack of space. However, we invite our readers who have access to the internet to log onto our site to find the essential elements of our replies ( http://www.internationalism.org – at present this extended version is available in French, Spanish and Portuguese: offers to help with the English translation would be very welcome). We want to specify here however that certain of these responses were not undertaken by ourselves but by Workers’ Opposition. Nevertheless, as they corresponded to what we would have said, we fully endorse them. In other respects, this doesn’t mean that all the responses provided by the ICC or by the Workers’ Opposition were totally shared by both. The main discussions thus related to:

  • the nature and role of the unions - on the organisation of the working class into workers’ councils and the role of revolutionaries;
  • the Russian revolution, its degeneration and the weight of the counter-revolution;
  • the role of the party and the international communist left;
  • the class nature of Social Democratic parties, the ‘Communist’ parties and of the Trotskyist currents;
  • the notion of decadence, and the phase of the decomposition of capitalism;
  • the struggles of the oppressed and non-exploiting layers;
  • the bourgeois nature of ‘Chavism’ and of ‘alternative worldism’;
  • the revolutionary perspective.

The main questions raised on these themes were:

“How can we see a revolutionary perspective within a consumer society?”

“Doesn’t the anti-democratic nature of the revolution risk repelling the working class?”

“How can we make the world revolution while the proletariat in the United States supports its own bourgeoisie?”

“How can the unemployed be mobilised?”

“Isn’t the working class of today different from that which made the revolution in 1917?”

“Isn’t revolution an idea that has now been transcended?”

An experience to be followed up

 The ICC draws a very positive balance sheet of these four public interventions. As well as being a first for the ICC, simply by the fact that they took place in Brazil, this whole experience was one of the rare occasions where the ICC made a common intervention with another proletarian organisation [3]. This in itself was a very positive feature of these interventions, both because of the quality of the collaboration with Workers’ Opposition and the because of the impact such a unified intervention had on the meetings. In effect, the fact that two distinct organisations, with differences and divergences existing between them, jointly addressed themselves to their class prefigured the capacity of different elements of the revolutionary avant-garde to work together for the defence of their common cause, the victory of the revolution. To this end, it was understood by both organisations that, in the interventions at public meetings, the priority would be given to question of the proletariat’s organisations of revolutionary struggle, the workers’ councils, and to the denunciation of the democratic and parliamentary mystifications and of the counter-revolutionary role of the unions. But it was equally understood between us that we wouldn’t try to hide different approaches concerning the explanation of such and such a situation; these differences were effectively expressed in the discussions. It was also agreed that these differences would be the object of a deepened debate between us, aimed at drawing out their implications.

For our part, we are eager to renew this experience. Once again, we thank our sympathisers for the quality of the support they gave us, and we salute Workers’ Opposition for its attitude of proletarian solidarity and openness.   ICC (2nd December 2005).

[1] This group, with which the ICC has developed a relationship of discussion and political collaboration, clearly belongs to the proletarian camp, defending internationalist positions with a view to the victory of communism. Moreover, it demonstrates a significant clarity concerning the nature of the unions and the democratic and electoral mystifications. For its website see: http://opop.sites.uol.com.br/

[2] The militant objective was however clearly present from the outset in the title of our presentation, since the latter had as a subtitle “The future belongs to the class struggle”.

[3] A precedent was made with a common meeting with the CWO (Communist Worker’s Organisation), the representative in Britain of the IBRP, at the time of the 80th anniversary of the 1917 revolution. Unfortunately this experience was not followed up, the CWO and more generally the IBRP considering it impossible to carry on because of the alleged idealism of the ICC, ‘revealed’ in its analysis of the existence of a historic course towards class confrontations.