Attempt to block electoral alliances with ruling parties fails
The Party of Socialism and Liberty (PSOL) held its third national congress between 2 and 4 December. During the congress 332 delegates, over 600 observers, and 26 international guests participated. The main discussions of the Congress were the new phase of the international crisis, the Brazilian working class’ struggles against the attacks of the government of Rousseff and the Partido dos Tabalhadores (PT, “Workers Party”), the policy for the municipal elections of 2012, party building and the participation of women in the leadership and party and a policy for union and popular movements.
Among the international visitors to the congress were Alec Thraves of England & Wales and Laura Fitzgerald of Ireland, both members of the CWI. They also attended PSOL’s second international seminar, two days before the party congress. They spoke along with other international visitors and explained the analysis of the CWI about the current international crisis.
Laura Fitzgerald addresses the congress
The growth of electoralism in PSOL
PSOL was founded in 2004 as a result of the definitive degeneration of the Workers Party (PT) and its total integration into the capitalist political system. It has become an extremely effective instrument for finance capital, big Brazilian and foreign corporations in the country and also agro-business.
As a left opposition to the two terms of the PT governments led by Lula, PSOL got almost seven million votes with Heloísa Helena’s candidacy for presidency in 2006. It also received nearly one million votes when Plínio de Arruda Sampaio stood in 2010. PSOL has also participated in the major struggles of the Brazilian working class, like the campaign against corruption, the fight against the reform of the Forest Code for the benefit of agro-business, the struggle for an audit and suspension of payment of the public debt to speculators and more.
However, gradually the party has succumbed to the pressure for “electoral pragmatism” and eventually it made some alliances with political parties not involved in the left opposition. In 2008, in the municipal elections, in two state capitals, and more than 30 cities across the country, PSOL allied itself with parties of the government which had a capitalist social base. This was the case of the Green Party (PV), who fielded the candidate for vice mayor in Porto Alegre (state of Rio Grande do Sul) and the Brazilian Socialist Party (PSB), with PSOL standing for deputy Mayor in the election in Macapá (In the state of Amapá).
In the 2010 elections, the main public figure of PSOL in the state of Amapá, the current senator Randolfe Rodrigues, made an informal alliance with the right wing in the state. This was despite the fact that a formal alliance was opposed by the party National Executive Committee. Senator Randolfe was one of the coordinators of the campaign for the candidature for Govenor, of Lucas Barreto a member of the populist Brazilian Labour Party (PTB). The PTB more closely resembles a political mafia than a political party and is involved in major corruption scandals throughout the country.
In 2010, a wing of PSOL tried to prevent it from running its own presidential candidate and advocated an alliance with the then presidential candidate of the Green Party, Marina Silva. Marina had just broken with the PT and left Lula’s government after having been minister of the environment. The break with the PT led Marina to embrace the right-wing opposition to Lula, in a very close relationship with the PSDB (Party of Brazilian Social Democracy). This is the party of former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso, and the main openly neo-liberal party in the country.
The proposed alliance with Marina was defeated by pressure from the ranks of PSOL. It also compelled the current majority to accept the candidacy of Plínio de Arruda Sampaio for the presidency. Plínio aligns himself with the left-most sectors of the party. He ran a campaign that, despite the difficult conditions which existed, of divisions within the party and widespread illusions in Lula, managed to reconnect the party to the traditions on which PSOL was originally founded. He defended the suspension of payment of the debt, a radical agrarian reform under workers’ control, the re-nationalisation of companies that were privatized and the nationalisation of health and education.
Coalitions in 2012
At the third National Congress of PSOL, the ghost of a coalition with Marina Silva, the parties of the government and the right rose threateningly over the debates.
The state wide party congress in Rio de Janeiro voted by a narrow majority to endorse a policy that aims to build a coalition with the Green Party (PV) in Rio. Here PSOL’s candidate, the state deputy Marcelo Freixo, has widespread popular support because of the strong fight against the "militias" – armed criminal groups of former police officers who take the place of drug dealers in the slums and favelas (massive slums). In 2010, however, the PV of Rio de Janeiro was allied to the neoliberal right of the PSDB and the "Democrats," a party that came from the political forces which supported the military dictatorship that existed between 1964 and 1985.
In Belém, the capital of the Amazonian state of Pará, the PSOL’s pre-candidate for mayor, Edmilson Rodrigues, now has more than 40% support in the polls. But in this case, PSOL discussed the possibility of a coalition with the PCdoB (Communist Party of Brazil). A long way from their history of armed struggle against the dictatorship, PCdoB is now part of the federal government. Its Minister of Sports, Orlando Silva, has recently resigned as a result of allegations of serious corruption. Six ministers of President Dilma Rousseff’s government, from different parties, have fallen for the same reason since the beginning of the year!
Totally distant from left-wing politics, PCdoB is today one of the main supporters of the reform of the Forest Code, reflecting the interests of agro-business that want to use protected areas for livestock and planting of soya beans and other export products. The giant agro-business firms are major funders of PCdoB’s electoral campaigns!
PCdoB is willing to make a coalition with the PSOL in Belém, because PSOL has a good chance of winning in the city. However, for PSOL to make an electoral coalition with the party of agro-business in one of the most important cities in the Amazon region would be a disaster.
The most serious case of coalitions debated in PSOL, is in the state of Amapá, also in the Amazon region in the north. In the state capital, Macapá, the leaders of PSOL intend to expand the range of alliances not only to parties like the PT and PCdoB, but also to the right-wing parties like the PTB (Brazillian Labour Party) and other corrupt parties.
In all these cases, the justification for the broadening of such electoral alliances is that the party mustn’t be isolated and without real chances of electoral victory. In practice, however, this policy not only dirties the image of the party amongst the active and conscious layers of workers and youth, but also puts PSOL in the same camp of opportunistic politics as various other existing parties. PSOL would gradually be seen as another electoralist party with the word "socialist" or "communist" in name.
Marina Silva once again
The biggest threat of this policy of expansion of electoral alliances refers to the relation of PSOL with Marina Silva. In the elections of 2010, Marina, who appeared as a novelty on the electoral scene, occupied part of PSOL’s ground as presidential candidate as the Green Party candidate and got almost 20 million votes (19% of the votes). Many of these votes, however, came from a socially conservative base that sympathized with the fact that Marina is evangelical and opposed the legalization of abortion and same-sex marriage.
After the elections, Marina decided to break with the Green Party and form her own party. PSOL leaders were invited and participated in some meetings of the new political movement created by her and openly advocate that the PSOL seek an alliance with her during the presidential elections in 2014. Some even went further and raised the possibility of a unification of PSOL with this new party.
Marina Silva has a history of struggle in defence of the Amazon forest and its people together with left leaders like Chico Mendes (murdered at the behest of landowners) and Osmarino Amancio (PSOL member today and now in open opposition to Marina). Long ago, Marina came to represent the capitalist vision of environmental sustainability. The candidate for vice president along with Marina in 2010 was a big businessman Guilherme Leal – one of the fifteen richest people in Brazil – who uses environmental questions to market his products.
The Silva project represents the creation of a political reserve for the Brazilian ruling class in the event of a diminishing or decline of "Lulismo" in the next period. Marina’s “eco-capitalism”, as Plinio of PSOL explained during the election campaign, does not respond to the key environmental issues that strongly affect the working class of Brazil and the world.
The proposed alliance with Marina Silva directly threatens the future of PSOL. Unfortunately the Third Congress of the party was not sufficiently conclusive in rejecting this.
The decisions of the Congress on alliances
The resolution on electoral tactics agreed at the Congress indicates that any coalition that goes beyond the Left Front, with left parties in opposition to the government, like the PSTU (Unified Socialist Workers Party) and PCB (Brazilian Communist Party) should be reviewed and approved separately by the party’s National Board of Directors.
At the same time, most of the delegates decided to reject all resolutions proposed by the left of the party (including LSR, the Brazilian section of the CWI) that vetoed the proposed coalitions in Rio de Janeiro, Belém and Macapá. This means that the current majority coalition in the party tend to accept these or, in the worst case of Macapá (a coalition with the right that even the majority of PSOL doesn’t support), trying to postpone a decision. They hope to do this to try to negotiate a solution to the problem without major conflicts with senator Randolfe Rodrigues.
In relation to Marina Silva, the resolution adopted at the congress raises criticisms of the political movement created by her. However it does not explicitly declare that PSOL will have its own candidate in the presidential elections of 2014. This was proposed by the left of the party. This means that the threat of the party supporting Silva in 2014 still exists.
The resolutions adopted by the congress reflect the positions of the bloc of forces closer to the centre of the internal political debate inside PSOL. The resolutions of the explicitly right-wing of the party in favour of Marina in general were rejected. The clear and firm position of the left, in favour of a Left Front and vetoing opportunistic coalitions, was also unfortunately defeated.
The Third Congress of PSOL also voted for a union resolution that was supported by the LSR together with other forces. This resolution reaffirmed the need to reconstruct the conditions for unity of the militant trade union movement independent of the government and employers. This included unions affiliated to CSP-Conlutas and the Intersindical (major trade union federations) as well as other forces. It correctly supported the idea of a united trade union federation of all these forces.
This resolution is important following the failure and split of the Congress of the Working Class (CONCLAT) in 2010. Following the split which took place at that congress, sectors of the party began advocating the construction of a trade union federation with exclusive links to PSOL. Through this they hoped to strengthen its position in regard to other left parties, like the PSTU.
After a proposal by the womens’ caucus of the party, the Congress decided to work for a perspective of achieving gender parity, with 50% women and 50% of men in the ruling bodies. For the elected leadership in this Congress, there will be a mandatory minimum of 30% of women in the National Executive and 40% in the National Board of Directors.
We did not vote for the 50% to be implemented immediately because we believe that this policy cannot be applied automatically and artificially. We defended the idea that the party must develop the discussion on the expansion of role of women internally and take steps to educate female political activists enabling them to effectively participate at all levels in the party.
The debates on electoral coalitions and the threat of an alliance with Marina Silva, along with other factors, led to a general realignment of the internal currents of the party.
Two major national currents experienced internal divisions leading to the emergence of new trends and new alignments. The Enlace current, which originates mainly from sectors of the PT left who joined the PSOL in 2005, after the party was established, divided into two groups. One sector of Enlace aligned itself even more firmly with the current that today runs PSOL, APS (Socialist Popular Action). This is main force in the majority bloc in the party leadership.
The other sector of the Enlace (which also uses the same name), formed mainly by supporters of the international tendency formerly known as United Secretariat of the Fourth International (now identified only as Fourth International) moved to the left. It has rejected broad coalitions and voted with the left of PSOL in all decisions.
The MES current (Socialist Left Movement) also suffered a split. It was once part of the right wing of PSOL. It supported the alliance negotiations with Silva in 2009. In 2008 it made a coalition with the Green Party in Porto Alegre and accepted – against the party rules – donations from large private companies for their candidate in that election,.
The right wing of the MES (based in north-eastern Brazil) split and formed together with the PP / MTL (People’s Power / Land, Work and Freedom Movement) and a group from Rio, who are the extreme right wing of PSOL and are most linked to the attempt to form an alliance with Marina Silva.
The sector that remained in MES adopted positions more to the left internally. This was due to a dispute with APS over the control of the party and the choice of candidate for mayor in São Paulo in the 2012 elections. They also wanted to prevent themselves from being isolated, and to pull together their rank and file following the right-wing split. This "left turn of the month”, however, was not sufficiently consistent.
The MES has positioned itself against the coalition in Belém and Macapá, but accepted the coalition with the Green Party in Rio. They also came to see an alliance with Marina as the greatest danger to the future of PSOL. Without a clear self-critical assessment of their previous positions, they started to seek an internal alliance with the left of the party. At the end they managed to split the left and formed a slate with CST (Socialist Workers Current), the group that MES originated from.
The logic that led the MES, in the past, to align with the Green Party in Porto Alegre and receive funds from private corporations, has not changed. This becomes even clearer as they continue to defend an alliance with the Green Party in Rio in 2012. The student organizations run by them continue to receive sponsorship from private companies.
LSR have advocated and defended, since the foundation of PSOL, that the left should provide a common platform, in defence of a socialist program, against broad coalitions and against the proposed alliance with Marina. LSR has also staunchly advanced the conception of a party of active members, which is democratic and focused on the struggles of the working class and youth, not just the electoral process. We fight for this as a clear alternative for the activists and supporters of PSOL.
For us the congress was not about trying to opportunistically form the second biggest slate at Congress. Instead, we wanted to lay a solid foundation for the struggle for a genuinely socialist PSOL, organized by the rank and file and oriented to the class struggle.
Without the CST (with whom we formed a slate at the Second Congress in 2009), a left slate was eventually formed by the LSR, Enlace (Fourth International) and the Collective Socialism and Freedom (CSOL).
The votes for each slate were as follows:
- APS, part of the Enlace, TLS (centre) – 139 votes (42.2%)
- MES, CST (centre left) – 77 votes (23.4%)
- MTL, former MES, militants from Rio (right) – 67 votes (20.4%)
Liaison, CSOL, LSR/Reage Socialista/GAS (left) – 46 votes (14%)
To read the thesis LSR presented to the congress entitled "For a left turn in PSOL" (in Portuguese) click here