BRAZIL: THE POPULAR FRONT AND COUNTER-REVOLUTION VS. SOCIALIST REVOLUTION
The international crisis of capitalism hit Brazil late but with savage blows. The country is experiencing the worst recession in decades. Workers suffer delayed wages, inflation and unemployment. The bourgeoisie and their media resorted to the campaign for impeachment creating the illusion that if the Workers Party (Partido de Trabalhadores–PT) was forced to leave government the situation would improve and that the end of corruption would be guaranteed by “Justice” applied in the course of the operation “Car Wash” investigation.
The fallacy of the popular front and its inability to withstand even a parliamentary attack from the right was built into the Dilma Rousseff 21st century Brazilian case. As in so many others, this Popular Front was a transparent cross class alliance of guaranteed fragility, attempting the impossible, i.e. serving two class masters. The agreement to abide a popular front means the ruling class has to accept some appearance of accommodating the wishes of the working class. But the program of the popular front is to defend capitalist power and property for the duration of its periodic crisis. In the Brazilian case the crisis has taken so sharp a turn that the bourgeoisie needs to find a culprit even more than it needed the popular electoral confirmation of 2014. With no way out from the late but inexorable effects of the global crisis of capitalism, making Dilma Rousseff ‘walk- the-plank’ was the method chosen to hide the adoption of the entire neo-liberal austerity program required by the pro-western-bloc of the comprador bourgeoisie.
For the PT to retain power and be re-elected in 2014, it had to bloc with the PMDB (Party of the Democratic Movement of Brazil-a neo-liberal party of the capitalist class.) A deal was made to run Michel Temer of the PMDB for vice president, and it is he who has been installed in her place. This has brought no social peace and the masses remain on the streets in protests of Temer’s every political move, while there is neither social peace among the right, for whom his elevation has proved to be no panacea. Where Dilma’s piecemeal adoption of neoliberal economic measures was as ineffective as it was unpopular, Temer’s wholesale application finds no mass support what-so-ever.
The Past Catches Up
The election of the popular front in 2014 garnered 54 million votes for Dilma/Temer against the 51 million cast for the conservative PSDB (Brazilian Social Democracy Party.) Which is to say inside the popular front bloc the PT only received a plurality; Dilma was only the first choice of some of the 54 million. In less than two years she was removed from office by the votes of 55 senators on May 12. Vice President Michel Temer took office during the “suspension” and within 18 days lost two cabinet ministers, forced to resign due to charges of ‘being on the take.’ The masses can see that the PMDB is just as, if not more implicated, than the PT legislators in the various corruption cases. Of the 24 ministers appointed by Temer, seven are cited in the complaints.
The Petrobras scandal reaches deep in all directions within the realm of bourgeois politics. There isn’t even any evidence of a will to install personalities who are not involved. It now seems the ruling class would be happy enough to install a leadership that has not been exposed. Recent leaks have exposed a parliamentary effort that can be called a conspiracy to use the Dilma impeachment as a smokescreen for suspending any further Operation Car Wash investigation. And so the protests continue as they have from day one. ‘THROW TEMER OUT!’ is the cry in a number of cities, such as in Porto Alegre, a city of 1.5 million where more than 20 thousand people protested. Artists protested against the closure of the Ministry of Culture and managed to reverse the measure and in several states the students have occupied the schools protesting the poor conditions of education. On June 8th, the Wall St. Journal reported that Temer has an approval rating of 11.8%.
Ineffective strike action by PT-allied trade union bureaucrats shows they never had any other strategy than class collaboration, as represented in the popular front. Their announced one-day strike at Petrobras on June 10th, against Temer and for Dilma, was a flop. Instinctively, the workers look for a different, adequate leadership whose call they will answer. Too late an appearance of a revolutionary workers’ leadership with its class-for-itself, internationalist program will only embolden the anti-parliamentary far right. This far right has hardly been heard from to date, contrary to the commentary by Dilma apologists, Stalinists generally and the liberal and reformist “Bolivarian socialism” cheerleaders. Workers in the main know there has been no coup d’etat, noting the absence of tanks in the streets.
The toothless response by the official trade union leadership attests to the explosion of the project of the BRICS, which was sold to the working masses as an alternative to socialist revolution, as a way to insulate the participant nations from the 2008 economic crisis. The promise of a ‘Market-Socialism’ in place of a revolutionary dictatorship of the proletariat was presented by Lula/Chavez/Morales and the Bolivarian Bourgeoisie as a ‘21st century socialism’ and the ‘Win-Win’ play which would link semi-colonies to the emerging China/Russia imperialist bloc. This was supposed to deliver the workers out from under the thumb of U.S. and EU imperialism. The BRICS countries and the semi-colonies who sought protection under their umbrella were to be protected from the crisis affecting all super-exploited workers in the semi-colonies by switching their allegiance to the China/Russia bloc.
The PMDB program, “A Bridge to the Future,” is the platform used to unite the sectors of the bourgeois opposition and the defecting PT right to form a new government to put into practice the demands of the neoliberal austerity program. The interim government announced that it will make pension reform and budget cuts in health and education. There is little difference between these measures and those proposed by the popular front.
On the surface, the chief difference appears to be the elimination of the bolsa familia, the food stamps program. But the cuts go deeper and the main difference between the immediate goals of the Temer clique and Dilma is in relation to Petrobras. Temer wants to change the current system of sharing the pre-salt geological layer offshore in favor of the private concessionaries. They call this Petrobras’ new deliver system for international oil companies. The current operating regime has Petrobras as the sole operator of the oil and gas extraction. Petrobras as the sole extraction operator has made many deals with international companies and has received loans from Chinese banks. Temer seeks to sell development leases for parcels of the concessionaire to international oil companies to do their own drilling. A leader of the Oil Workers Federation linked to the Communist Party wrote a proposal which calls for Petrobras to be the sole operator with a further capitalization of the company seeking funds and selling shares to Chinese banks and companies represented by the BRICS alliance.
The crisis and the fragility of the interim government demonstrate the difficulty of the bourgeoisie to implement its program and resolve the political crisis in its favor. Demonstrations against the impeachment and now against Temer are controlled by organizations linked to the PT, such as CUT (United Confederation of Labor), UNE (National Union of Students) and the MST (Landless Workers Movement). All of the political “fight” staged by the PT against the impeachment was based on agreements and frustrated maneuvers in parliament and the judiciary, while within the labor movement they acted to dismantle the strikes and keep the battles within the boundaries of economism, promoting the depoliticization of the masses. The PT subordinated the interests of workers to their reformist politics of alliance with the bourgeoisie and now propose to limit the fight against impeachment and the interim government to proposals for agreements with the bourgeoisie that restore the popular front regime, enhance their interests in the municipal elections of October of 2016 and to save the PT from the Car Wash fallout, threatening especially to Lula.
Workers who have been fighting against impeachment and the threat of coup, going out, taking to the streets to kick out Temer, those who go on strike, students who take over their schools and the many other popular movements now in action all need to break with the Popular Front and the reformist politics of the PT! We see the call by CONLUTAS (National Struggles Coordination -trade union federation) for a general strike against the Temer government and we support it. We would obviously intervene in a very different way than the Moreno LIT-CI (Liga Internacional de los Trabajadores – Cuarta Internacional) because the possibility exists that the 180 day suspension will elapse without the senate impeachment of Dilma. So our comrades in Brazil insist first, last and always for class independence and no support what-so-ever for any popular front formula.
A government slogan must be popularized that unmistakably advocates the dictatorship of the proletariat. No confusion on this score is permissible. Where in the U.S.A. today the slogan “For a Workers’ Government” cannot be confused with any Kautskyan project that preserves the rule of the bourgeois parliament and fails to expropriate the capitalist class materially as well as politically. In south America, because of the failure of social democracy and the popular front to deliver socialism in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Bolivia, Venezuela and Brazil, these forces have poisoned the concept of a workers’ government. Therefore it may be necessary to raise an even more explicit and transparent slogan to rally the workers and farmers to build their own assemblies, to arm themselves both politically and figuratively and to seize all power into their own hands and create the government of the workers and poor farmers’ councils.
Only the class-independent struggle of the self-organized workers and the oppressed offers a comprehensive relief from the local effects of the world capitalist crisis. What is required is the elaboration of a revolutionary workers program that links every partial struggle to the conquest of all political power by workers democratic organs of the class as a whole. These organs, workers councils based on elected factory committees and popular organizations’ representatives, will build workers’ political general strikes defended by workers’ militia to stop Temer’s sociopathic neoliberal program of imperialism’s dictates and stop the daily assaults on workers, on the favela, students and the landless. Workers must prepare to face down not only social control enforced by the Military Police but also the subsequent attempts by the ruling class to employ the armed forces and the extra-parliamentary right to massacre the workers’ revolutionary struggle for emancipation.
Kautskyans defend the popular front: or The Boy who Cried coup!
We watch with a certain amusement the mutual recriminations of the Internationalist Group (IG) and the Spartacist League (SL) headquartered in the U.S.A. as they accuse each other of serving as props for the PT. In the real world real trouble is made by real defenders of the popular front who even have generated a new 21st century theory of the United Front to cover for cross class alliances.
The instability of the Temer government has increased the possibility that the impeachment will not pass in the Senate. In early June Dilma was interviewed on TV speaking of new elections. The main centrist groups, the PSTU (United Socialist Workers Party), PSOL (Socialism and Liberty Party) and PCB (Brazilian Communist Party) say there is no coup and not to fight against the impeachment. They say DON’T participate in the demonstrations for fear of being seen as wanting to bring Dilma back and getting their hands dirty from the Car Wash scandal.
In October, 2016 Brazil will have municipal elections. In Porto Alegre, the PSOL, PSTU and PCB are discussing a joint slate for these elections (where the PSOL candidate appears first in some polls) with the network (Marina Silva), “Root” (a group calling themselves “new left”,) and PPL (the national developmental program group, a PMDB break-off from 2011.) These groups are creating their own Popular Front cross class alliance; they want to keep this rotten tradition alive to sell out the socialist revolution.
For the better part of two years the Liga Communista of Brasil (LCT) and the Revolutionary Communist Internationalist Tendency (RCIT) have been warning the masses of the threat of a coup in Brazil. Then under some tough questioning in the interview with Glenn Greenwald of The Intercept, Lula rendered the concept more profound pronouncing it to be a ‘soft coup’. Noam Chomsky added another qualifier by pronouncing the process “an institutional coup” and not to be out-qualified for non-use of class terms the misnamed RCIT pronounced what is going on as “an authentic coup,” their proof, the fact that it is “soft” al la Lula and “institutional” a la Chomsky! All these qualifiers are methods of defending the popular front to the masses.
RCIT is crowing that now the coup is proven because not just the politicians but the courts and military are behind the impeachment. Any communist understands that the bosses’ state is a front for the ruling class. But plotting a coup, or flag waving during an impeachment is not the same as carrying it out.
The fact that these “astounding revelations” (RCIT is easily astounded it seems) prove that a coup plot is underway (but not made public except for leaks) says no more than the ruling class is preparing a coup that will be activated only if the impeachment fails.
We have to fight the impeachment not to stop the coup plot, but to have the forces capable of defeating it when it arrives. If left to the PT they will try to negotiate their political careers (elect Lula in 2018) and leave the workers exposed to the coup plotters. Of course it is our task to split the PT from below on the basis of a workers United Front against a fascist plot.
There are no circumstances where Trotskyists call upon workers to shed blood for a capitalist state even when led by a cross class alliance. We tell the workers that the impeachment is to carry out the wishes of the bosses’ international masters and that the time to organize against a fascist coup is right now, before it is hatched. The impeachment is proceeding, but while it is likely it is not guaranteed. The RCIT believes the Armed Forces leaders have spoken based upon their assent to what was pronounced constitutional by the Supreme Court. This may take in the credulous on other continents where the military coup is an historical anomaly. The Armed Forces have not spoken, the fascists have not paid, fed, uniformed, and set on foot a mass movement and the modernistic palaces in Brasilia are not filled with troops. Dilma and Lula have their freedom of movement and association… and of course the police are attacking the favelas neither less nor more than under the popular front.
The Consequences of the Popular Front
The fake socialist Workers Party (PT) of Brazil has brought impeachment down upon itself. For decades the leadership of the PT has told the working class that they do not need to maintain class independence, that they do not need to expropriate the capitalist class and that social justice can be won by gaining electoral victories via the mechanisms of the ‘democracy’ won in the overthrow of the military junta.
Instead of fighting for socialist revolution, in a revolutionary Marxist sense, by occupying the factories, mines, mills and farms, nationalizing the commanding heights of the economy and putting them under workers’ control and self-management, the petty bourgeois ex-guerrillas made common cause with the social democratic leaders of the metal workers union, telling the workers that social and economic justice is an incremental process of reform that can be won by political wheeling and dealing.
Unable to win political power on its own, the Workers Party formed the Popular Front government (a.k.a. the People’s Front) for 14 years by making alliance with “radical” and “progressive” capitalist parties. In so doing the PT told the workers that they had to surrender class independence in order to get BOTH a shot at power and a piece of the pie. That piece of the pie arrived as a “family grant” (bolsa familia) to make a modicum of food available for the poorest of the poor. The ‘21st century socialism’ offered by the PT was not unlike President Lyndon Johnson’s ‘Great Society’ food stamps program. Not unlike Aristide’s Haiti, Lula’s government lifted the poorest up from total destitution to an economic condition best described as misery. This, the opportunist left in Brazil and elsewhere, tells workers, was the best we should expect and a great step forward. This chatter was repeated ad nausem by the imperialist left, happily cheering on the PT, the Bolivarian “revolution” and the rise of the BRICS as the ‘Win-Win’ path toward “21st century socialism.”
While the first world plunged into depression in 2008, China’s economy was able to sustain world capitalism for a time by the use of massive governmental investments in housing and infrastructural projects, but the “Chinese engine” could not sustain its independence from the global crisis of the world economy forever and the respite it provided to the BRICS eventually evaporated.
Many of the “leftist” organizations who are against the impeachment defend the Popular Front government as the “lesser evil” in relation to the right and the Temer government. They argue that the right wing government is more linked to U.S. imperialism and they defend China, Russia and the BRICS as an anti-imperialist alternative (read Anti-Imperialist United Front.) But China and Russia are imperialist countries. The current capitalist crisis is shaking the U.S. world hegemony and intensifies the competition between the U.S./EU imperialist blocs, and that of China and Russia. The increase of the influence of Chinese capital in Latin America is not an anti-imperialist alternative for the working class. In the face of inter-imperialist struggle the workers must maintain class independence and fight against both imperialist blocs.
The Bankruptcy of “21st century socialism” has been exposed for years in Venezuela, Argentina and Cuba. The life of workers today in Venezuela is not socialism, but a capitalism in deep crisis, in which a government said to be “left” manages capitalism without the approval of the U.S. ruling class. This faux socialism offers only destitution for the workers. The U.S. ruling class has continuously connived at toppling the PSUV government in Caracas, longing to tighten the screws on the Venezuelan masses. In Argentina, where the government of the “left” opened the country for investments from China, the masses did not escape the damage caused by the capitalist crisis and the Peronists eventually lost the elections to the “conservative” right. Today, the Peronist bureaucracy that controls the main organizations of the workers is a major obstacle to the independent struggle against the Macri government. The destruction of the Cuban deformed workers state at the hands of the Bolivarian “market socialism” backed by Chinese imperialism is an historic defeat for the working masses of Latin America and the international working class at the hands of this international class collaborationist Anti-imperialist United Front.
The Revolutionary Path Forward
Unlike the ultra-left and sectarians who run from the fight against impeachment because they do not want to be associated with the Dilma/Lula cabal leading the PT and their petty corruptions, and in particular their crimes against the working class and poor, the LCC (Liaison Committee of Communists) internationally and our sister organization the RWG (Revolutionary Workers Group) in Brazil fought against the impeachment and the continuing threat of a coup. At all times we warn the masses that the PT-led popular front has been imposing the austerity, has run a war against the poor in the favelas and favored the developers in the build up to the world cup and Olympics. Favored them over the needs the people and has been allying itself with the rising imperialist bloc of China/Russia and the BRICS.
We fight against the impeachment because the impeachment is not about Dilma, but is the preferred method of the ruling class to assert an alliance with the U.S./E.U. imperialist bloc to roll back the social gains the masses won over the last 14 years, such as Bolsa Familia, the Prouni (university for all), and Mi Casa Mi Vida (home ownership program). We defend every social gain won by the masses and never attribute them to the party in power but to the pressure the masses exerted for change. Just like the “Great Society” in the U.S.A. under Johnson, which brought Food Stamps, Head Start, the Civil Rights Act, and “fair housing,” we know the gains were won by the masses in the streets demanding economic and social justice, not by the benevolence of the ruling class. The pre-salt oil and gas, which promised to be a bonanza for the state treasury has suffered under the falling energy pricing and the impeachment leaders and big sectors of the bourgeoisie want to privatize Petrobras and the social resources as part of the neo-liberal drive. These big capitalists funded and put their white middle class and techno-managerial layers into the streets forming massive anti-corruption demonstrations which have since faded away as the corruption exposes the right wing politicians, the chosen darlings of U.S./EU imperialists and the big Brazilian capitalists.
It is not unlikely that the truth of the corruption may defuse the impeachment and that the Temer government will not be able to sustain itself, again raising the threat of a military coup to enforce and extend the privatizations, the deconstruction of the social gains and a shift of global alliances. But for communists this does not mean we embrace another popular front cross class government.
The popular front and the bloc with China/Russia cannot deliver and sustain social gains. This can only be done by independent working class mobilizations that build organs of workers power in every factory and work place, among the landless and poor and create popular assemblies that arm the masses against the coup both programmatically and figuratively.
The alternative for the working class in Latin America is class independence from the bourgeoisie, dual power organs such as factory committees and self-defense militia and their own internationalist revolutionary party to fight for the dictatorship of the proletariat. This would be a workers’ government that expropriates the bourgeoisie and the imperialists properties and foreign direct investments. This is the only way for the working class to stop the advance of the right and fascism and free itself from the crippling yoke of imperialism, both imperialist blocs and the wage-slavery system.
- Down with any future popular front of the PSTU/CUT/UNE/MST et.al. with the PT and the bourgeoisie!
- Build Working class councils and militias to defend the class from the state forces!
- Repudiate the national debt! Repudiate the Cup and Olympic debt!
- For a living wage, free education, health, housing and social security!
- Unite all the workers and peasants in struggle in a national conference to prepare for a general strike!
- For the indefinite Political General Strike to unite the proletariat and to fight for a Workers and Peasants Government!
- For a mass Revolutionary Party and Revolutionary Program!
- For a New World Party of Socialist Revolution!
- Expropriate all imperialist and national capitalist property!
- Institute workers control of the means of production. For a national plan of production for need not profit!
- For a Workers’ and Peasants’ Government and a Socialist United States of the Americas!
 Upstream, “’No impact’ from 24-hour Brazil strike”
 Vermelho, “Aldemir Caetano: Petrobras deve renegociar dívida e se capitalizer”
 Remarkably, the RCIT and Liga Communista have validated the terminology of Lula (“soft coup”) and Chomsky (“institutional coup.”) This gets more renegade all the time, but as hard as they try to cover up their adaptations, each attempt is just as transparent! To wit…,
“The history of the class struggle is not familiar only with outright military coups. It also has experienced “soft” or “institutional” coups. Hitler, by the way, came to power in an “institutional” way, with no formal coup. The same happened in Honduras in 2009 and in Paraguay in 2012. Those who contend that only a military coup is an authentic coup are guilty of formalism.”
And if you haven’t tossed your lunch yet, check out this Kautskyan drivel from further down in the same number…!,
“The Process of Impeachment is Provided for by Bourgeois Democracy
Indeed it is; on this we have no doubt. But is this a good argument to be neutral? What about the need to analyze the class struggle motives behind such an initiative? We repeatedly say that the PT, based on its origins, could never have been able to completely implement the tasks dictated to it by western imperialism. Neither could a Popular Front government, just like some now-deposed populist governments couldn’t, like those of Honduras, Paraguay, and Argentina; nor will this be possible for governments for which the road to a coup d’etat is still ahead of them, like in Ecuador, Bolivia, etc. And note, we are only talking about Latin America! If we take examples from the rest of the world, or even from history, the list would be far longer. In any event, shouldn’t the defense of impeachment or the toppling of a government be contingent on the existence of a revolutionary (or pre-revolutionary) process, (emphasis ours ed.) with the guidance of a revolutionary party with a revolutionary program? Where is there such guidance in Brazil? Of course, the extent of attacks now being waged against the workers in our country can in fact open the road to a revolutionary process in Brazil; and not only must we believe in this possibility, but we must help in bringing it about, even if the present conditions are less than optimal, because instead of the Popular Front government headed by Dilma Rousseff we will now have to go up against a thoroughly bourgeois regime backed by social-democrats, Stalinists, and opportunists of all kinds, to say nothing of religious and other reactionaries.”
 The Intercept, “Exclusive Interview by Glenn Greenwald With Former Brazilian President Lula da Silva”
 Oil Price, “Pre-Salt Bonanza Begins In Brazil With First Oil Produced”
“…The Brazilian pre-salt bonanza has now officially begun, with Norway’s Statoil and partners announcing production of the first oil and gas from the offshore Gavea field in Brazil—part of the largest-ever oil and gas discovery in the Campos Basin’s pre-salt layer.
The project is controlled by state-run Petrobras, but Statoil holds a 35 percent interest and will assume the role of operator later this year, while other partners include Spain’s Repsol and Chinese Sinopec….”