Latin America: 2nd CWI Latin American school

Building the forces of Marxism in a new period

For the second time, a five-day summer school, bringing together the Latin American sections of the CWI, is taking place in Brazil, from February 12 to 16. More than 100 comrades have participated in this important event.

2nd CWI Latin American school

On the day before the school began, ‘Socialismo Revolucionario’ (SR – CWI in Brazil) held a plenary meeting in which it voted on an important document and discussed the political situation in the country and the future work of the organisation.

During the school, CWI members from Brazil, Chile, Bolivia and Venezuela will discuss the world crisis of capitalism, the general political situation in Latin America, the revolutionary ideas of Ché Guevara and Mariátegui (Peruean revolutionary) and building the CWI. Those attending will also hear reports from Bolivia, Chile, Brazil and Venezuela. International visitors from Belgium, Germany, the US, Greece and a representative of the CWI International Executive Committee will also participate in the discussions

Brazil

In Brazil, the Lula government is facing an economic slowdown in 2009, possibly entering a recession. Even if Lula’s approval ratings are still high – due to the last period of economic boom and his image as a former factory worker and union leader – the ruling PT (workers party) is facing a difficult situation, approaching the presidential election of 2010. As Lula is concluding his second term, the PT must find a new candidate, which is likely to be Dilma Rousseff. But her support in opinion polls is still very low. Comrades discussed the government trying to postpone sharper attacks on the working class until after the elections. However, it will be econimic developments which will determine whether or not this will be possible

PSOL (Party of socialism and liberty), which emerged as a split from the PT in response to their neoliberal policies, is probably going to stand Helois Helena, a former PT senator, as a candidate, although there is also discussion in the party that she might stand for the senate again. In opinion polls, she gets between 14% and 27 %, which indicates widespread discontent with the pro-capitalist policies of the Lula-government. But PSOL, while being an important factor in keeping the forces of socialism together, has also failed to seize the full potential which exists for a new socialist working class party. Instead of prioritising the workers movement, trade union struggles and the youth movement, its leadership focuses on elections and work in the parliamentary institutions.

SR is part of PSOL and has formed a block (‘Resistancia Socialista’), together with four other Marxist forces inside PSOL. One of those groups, Colectivo Liberdade Socialiste (CLS), is preparing to merge with SR, following a process of discussion.

They aim to build a strong revolutionary force that can participate in the struggles of workers and the youth. In Sao Paulo, the CLS play an importnant role in the teachers union, Apeoesp, were comrades hold important positions. In the valley of Paraíba, resistance is developing against redundancies, with the participation of the alternative union federation, ‘Conlutas’. Public sector (water and energy) workers in Sao Paulo, where comrades of the CLS have build an opposition group inside the official union. CLS comrades recently lost an election for the steering committee by only 14 votes (with 4,600 in favour). After dozens of university sit-ins in 2007, comrades are preparing for new movements in universities and discussed this in a special youth meeting

World in crisis

Sascha Stanicic, International Executive Committee,

Political repercussions of the world economic crisis were discussed in the second plenary. Sascha Stanicic, on behalf of the International Executive Committee, opened the discussion by quoting a member of the German section of the CWI, who had said, ”Everything has changed”, referring to the impact of world capitalism’s worst crisis since the 1930s. This will have tremendous effects in society and on the lives of the working class. The capitalists try to prevent a 1929-like slump by bailing out the banks and pouring enormous amounts of state funds into the economy. They may succeed in limiting the dimensions of the current crisis, but this can also lead to a long stagnation of world economy, similar to what happened to the Japanese economy in the 90’s. The massive state interventions to sustain banks and companies will be paid for in the end by the working class. Jesse Lessinger, member of ”Socialist Alternative” (US section of the CWI), described that after eight years of the Bush administration, discredited both internationally and in the US, capitalism needs a new face and a different tone in it’s politics. But Obama has taken into government people who are identified with the past governments of Clinton and Bush. He is prepared to take troops out of Iraq to put them into Afghanistan and to bomb Pakistan. As comrade Dimitri Silveira from Brazil put it in the discussion, ”Obama is seen by many as a saviour who will solve all problems. But his honeymoon end when people want realise that Obama is lot of hot air”.

Comrades from Venezuela reported that Hugo Chávez at the beginning of the crisis stated that the crisis of capitalism will not affect the ‘21st century Socialism’ of Venezuela. But falling oil prices are already affecting the Venezuelan economy.

Consciousness and working class resistance

The effects of the crisis will be enormous. The discrediting of capitalism in the minds of the masses will lead to the re-emergence of socialism and Marxism and of the class struggle on a mass scale. In different contributions, it was pointed out that consciousness has begun to change, even in countries where there have not been big movements yet. Sales of Marxist and left-wing literature are rocketing worldwide and it was also reported that the reception to the ideas of the CWI has greatly improved.

At the same time, it was noted that the crisis does neither mean an automatic end to capitalism, or a straight-line-development to socialist consciousness among the masses. This was stressed especially by Brazilian comrades, who are faced with the assumption put forward by other left forces that the crisis means an ‘open avenue to socialism’. The idea that ‘the deeper the crisis, the better’ was also rejected, for two reasons. Firstly, because the working class suffers massively in times of crisis and secondly, because a deep slump can also have a stunning effect on the working class for a period.

In the discussion great emphasis was put on the many protests and movements which have already developed as a consequence of this crisis. From Iceland to Greece, Latvia and France, workers and young people have taken to the streets to defend their jobs and living standards.

Nikos Anastasiadis, a member of the Greek section Xekinima and the national co-ordinating committee of the new left coalition, SYRIZA, reported on the youth rebellion which shook Greece in December 2008.

The evident return of marxist ideas gives members of the CWI new confidence to establish an international Marxist organisation which is capable of offering an political alternative to world capitalism and transforming society along socialist lines.