An example of principled unity against a background of splits and fragmentation on the left
The reading of the poem "Vamos juntos" (Going together) by the recently deceased Uruguayan writer Mario Benedetti, set the tone to the opening rally of the Congress of Unification between Socialist Liberty Collective (CLS) and Revolutionary Socialism (SR), which took place on the evening of 22nd of May in São Paulo. The example of a principled unity against the background of splits and fragmentation on the left was hailed as an important step forward by all those present.
Apart from members of SR and CLS, many other guests took part in the opening rally. Amongst those represented were; Conlutas (a central organization for trade union and social movements), PSOL (the new left "Party for Socialism and Liberty"), militant intellectuals like Oswaldo Coggiola and Plínio de Arruda Sampaio Júnior. Other currents and parties like C-SOL, Socialist Conspiracy and the PSTU also sent representatives.
A distinguished appearance was made by the old left militant Plínio the Arruda Sampaio, who greeted the unification of the two organisations. Although the CWI was not able to be represented, a video greeting by Tony Saunois, on behalf of the International Secretariat, was played at the rally. Greetings were also received from other parts of the country and from different parts of the world.
In the two days following the rally, the members of SR and CLS agreed to form a new united socialist current, the LSR – Liberty, Socialism and Revolution. The new organisation has from its launch a presence in 8 Brazilian states and is intervening in a number of trade unions, social movements, such as the landless peoples, the students, the women’s and LGBT movement.
After a broad discussion the congress voted to accept the basic documents to constitute the new organisation: a declaration of principles, a programme, statutes and a resolution agreeing to affiliate to the Committee for a Workers’ International, and establish the new organisation as the new Brazilian section.
The congress also reaffirmed its support for active participation in Conlutas and the effort to build a new, united central for trade unions and social movements in the country. It also endorsed a policy of fighting to build a left revolutionary wing of PSOL. On both fronts, Conlutas and PSOL, LSR will participate in the Socialist Resistance Bloc that brings together different left groupings such as, Socialist Alternative (AS), Socialist Revolutionary Alternative (ARS) and Socialist Response.
The LSR also declared its political support for "Free Earth", a city and rural popular movement and agreed to respect its autonomy while at the same time working to help to strengthen it.
The socialist activists present in the congress sought to take decisions that reflected the new, historic moment which has begun, marked by the global capitalist crises and the necessity to reorganise and strengthen a new coherent socialist left, capable responding to the enormous challenges that lay ahead for the working class and poor.
The enthusiasm of the members about the unification of the SR an the CLS and the opportunities for rapid and solid growth for the new organisation marked the whole congress.
The LSR is born in the midst of struggle
The Brazilian working class is severely affected by the most serious crises of international capitalism since 1945. This is despite the triumphalist speeches of president Lula. The wave of mass sackings in industry and other sectors of the economy in the last few months is far from over. It is enough to see the threats hanging over the workers of the mining giant Vale to recognise what is still to come. We will see new mass sacking, and also attempts to cut the wages of public sector workers.
The government and the bosses are trying to avoid wage increases at any cost. They use the crisis to justify this. The wage negotiations together with new layoffs, together with the despair of workers who were sacked in the beginning of the year and are now running out of unemployment pay, can provoke new radicalised mobilisations in the coming months.
However, the development of the political consciousness about the way out of the crises depends largely on the role and intervention of conscious socialists. The ongoing struggles, the perspective for more mobilisations in the next semester and the elections in 2010 will be important opportunities to strengthen a working class and socialist alternative to the crises.
The LSR has been born and is directly involved in these struggles and processes. The comrade from the state of Goiás arrived at the congress after participating in the leadership of a victorious mobilisation and struggle. Here hundreds land-less workers organised by the "Free Earth" movement occupied the offices of INCRA (the National Institute that deals with settling land-less people and land reform) for five days in state capital Goiânia.
LSR members, who are part of "Struggle Alternative" (an opposition within the water and sewage workers union in São Paulo state), left the congress to immediately go to mobilisations underway for a strike that began on the 26th of May. The workers are struggling against redundancies and for an increase in wages.
In the University of São Paulo (USP), where the university staff are in the third week of a strike, LSR members helped in mobilizing for a big protest on 25th of May of the state universities.
Vale do Paraíba, also in São Paulo state, was the scene of struggle of mass sackings of General Motors and Embraer (air plane constructor). Here, LSR members, during the congress, were preparing a new struggle against attacks in the food and beverage industry in the regions in factories like InBev (now Anheuser-Busch InBev).
Some comrades were absent from the congress because of the mobilisations that are taking place in their areas. This included comrades involved in the building for a public servants’ strike in the city of Hortolândia (São Paulo state). Here a new layer of workers are entering into struggle for the first time. This is an example of what can happen in others areas as has already been demonstrated in Campinas, Limeira and Taubaté.
LSR members in Apeoesp (teachers’ union in São Paulo state) in several branches of the union are directly involved in building and leading a strike set to begin on the 29th of May.
LSR members in the student movement in several universities are involved in the election of delegates to two different national student congresses taking place in June and July. In both, we defend a policy of opposition to the government and their supporters in the student movement. We demand the unity of all sectors that are independent of the government and in a struggle against neoliberal student policies.
The path that led to the formation of LSR is part of the process of a broader reorganisation of the socialist left after the loss of PT (Workers’ Party) as a party for workers’ struggle.
The formation of PSOL gathered most of the left groups that didn’t capitulate and adapt to the capitalism. However, a turn to a more moderate policy by PSOL, which is leading to a repetition of the mistakes of the PT in the past, led to new struggles and debates in PSOL. Practically all the national tendencies and groupings of the party have suffered from splits and new currents were formed that drew lessons from their own experiences.
From those experiences, together with a joint work within the process of reorganisation of the trade union and social movement, emerged the possibility of a political agreement between SR and CLS, and the process that led to the building of the Socialist Resistance Bloc.
After three years of discussions, common initiatives and building of common relations and political confidence, the Congress of Unification of SR and CLS resulted in a political and organisational synthesis that is superior to the former two organisations. The LSR has a potential to become a pole of attraction for broad sectors of left activists in the social and workers’ movements that seek a clean socialist, democratic, coherent banner for struggle.
The unification was the conclusion of a important phase of the struggle to build a new socialist left that draw the lessons of the mistakes of the past.
Solid political basis
The resolutions voted on at the congress give a solid political basis for the constitution of a new united current. The LSR presents itself as a socialist and revolutionary alternative, based on the independent struggle of the workers, clearly internationalist and committed to the building of broad formations to rebuild the forces of our class.
However, beyond that, the process of unification showed the commitment to build a new political culture that is democratic, frank, honest and tolerant in relation of political debate. In opposition to the bureaucratic and sectarian methods present in the Brazilian left. The new current seeks to combat the remnants of Stalinist practices that affect even those that place themselves in the anti-bureaucratic camp.
The statutes agreed define the character of the organisation based on active members, democratic, based in the rank and file and in class struggle. The statutes put an emphasis on the building and renewing of political cadres and a healthy honest atmosphere in the internal debate.
The unanimous decision to affiliate the new organisation to the Committee for a Workers’ International (CWI) reflects a commitment with an internationalist practice and support for the CWI politically and an important tool in the strategic struggle for a mass revolutionary International. The different trajectories of the past do not impede building a common international in the present and in the future where a principled political agreement is reached.
The name of the new organisation was decided following discussion of many possibilities which linked together three elements that express the idea of a socialism that is distinct from reformism and the terrible practices of Stalinism. ‘Liberty, Socialism and Revolution – LSR’ was the agreed name by a majority of delegates and was received with enthusiasm by all delegates and observers present.
Plans and targets were also agreed for the step to be taken to produce a new monthly paper called "Socialist Offensive". It is hoped that this will be produced on a monthly basis by the beginning of next year. However, in addition to that, plans were laid out for a bold offensive in communication and other publications, using the Internet, to reach broad sectors.
The targets of growth includes building a new strong basis in the south, north-east and in the capital city, Brasília, as well as strengthening our work in São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Minas Gerais. The congress also decided a plan for political studies for its members, including a national cadre school in conjunction with a new Latin American school of the CWI at the beginning of next year.
The finances of the new organisation reflect the militant and class character of LSR. In contrast to what is common practice on the Brazilian left, our resources come from the contribution of members and campaigns amongst workers.
The new current will also participate in the political struggle of the II Congress of PSOL, through the joint congress document "Put socialism in the agenda – for a PSOL capable of fulfilling the tasks of the historic moment". We will struggle for a socialist programme for PSOL, for it to be rooted in the social struggles, for internal democracy and for a policy based on class independence. In the same way, we will make efforts to strengthen and develop the Socialist Resistance Bloc, stimulating a strategic debate about the future of the Bloc.
Our intervention in Conlutas is based on the construction of a new united Central with other sectors, which should take place in the first half of 2010. We defend the idea that this Central should not only be for trade unions, but also incorporate all organisations of struggle of the working class, social movements and student movements that have a working class orientation.
As the comrades closed the congress by singing The Internationale, it was clear that an important step was being taken, not only in their individual trajectories as activists, but also in the building of a coherent socialist alternative in Brazil.