At least 200 members of P-Sol (Part of Socialism and Liberty), from 15 states, participated in the first international seminar of the recently formed party, in Rio de Janeiro, from 20-21st of August.
A broad discussion was held, between organisations but also with rank and file members about the general political situation and the perspectives for socialism.
The CWI actively participated in the seminar, with a strong delegation from Socialismo Revolucionário/SR (CWI’s section in Brazil), which is part of P-Sol, and also with Alexandre Rouillard, a representative of the CWI from Europe.
During some debates everybody was free to speak, but with limited time. Many of the debates were quite new for many participants. These discussions helped clarify more about the Brazilian situation and on the international questions.
The absence of the production of a common declaration with concrete proposals at the end of the meeting flowed from the important political differences between the organisations that were present.
Of all the international visitors, the CWI was the only organisation presenting itself as an international organisation. All other international organisations attended as representatives of national organisations: Socialist Workers Party (SWP, Britain), Ligue Communiste Revolutionnaire (LCR, France), International Socialist Organisation (ISO, USA), MAS (Movimiente al Socialismo – Movement towards Socialism, Argentina), MST (Movimiento Socialista de los Trabajadores – Workers’ Socialist Movement, Argentina) etc. Representatives from the National Union of Workers (UNT) and the new Party of Revolution and Socialism (PRS) from Venezuela were also present.
On the Friday before the seminar, the LCR representative held a meeting that was supposed to deal with anti-imperialism, (and which was also the subject of the first session of the P-Sol seminar).
In fact, this meeting appeared to be more a discussion on the attitude of the LCR and its international (the United Secretariat of the Fourth International, USFI) on the situation in Brazil and the participation of their affiliated party there (Socialist Democracy, DS) in the PT (Workers’ Party) and in Lula’s government, despite the huge corruption scandal in which the PT is involved.
The LCR argues, that while it is sceptical about participating in Lula’s government, they did not want to dictate a decision to their members in Brazil (the DS), as it was a decision which their Brazilian members should make. They now argue that the DS should leave the PT government, but seemed to have had no success in convincing the DS to take this course of action. Officially, the links between the USFI and the DS are being maintained, as there is “[no] organic rupture with the leadership of DS". But, the LCR gave no advice as to what the DS should do in relation to the situation in Brazil and to the P-Sol.
The seminar was opened by Milton Temer, President of the P-Sol in Rio, who with some irony explained that he regarded himself as on the right-wing of P-Sol. He explained that he had been part of the PT since its birth and saw it move to the right with the result he ended up on the left of the Party, eventually leaving it as a result of its implementation of neo-liberal policies. He said he hoped that the same would not happen in the P-Sol.
The first discussion on Saturday morning was on imperialism at the beginning of the 21st century. Introductions were given by the ISO, the LCR and the SWP. Later, in the discussion, Francois Chesnais from the French Marxist review, ‘Carré rouge’, spoke.
While all speakers said that capitalism was on the offensive but reaching certain limits, as in Iraq, the three main speakers did not go further than that in terms of perspectives and proposals. They all spoke about the necessity of new broad anti-capitalist formations, hardly referring to socialism. At least the LCR attempted to go into the details of the differences that exist amongst the left a bit more (taking the example of Fabius in France and the WASG (Electoral Alternative Work and Social Justice) in Germany but did not explain how revolutionaries should participate in these broader left organisations to win workers and youth.
Chris Bambery from the SWP seemed to have no real concrete proposals. At one moment, he spoke about the debate in the anti-globalisation movement against the ‘Holloway thesis’ (i.e. a revolution without taking the power), then spoke about the resistance in Iraq. At another time, the SWP speaker warned about the dangers that could face any new party today, taking the example of the PRC (Party of the Communist Refoundation) in Italy, which is on its way to participating in a capitalist ‘centre-left’ government. However, he never explained how to avoid these dangers through fighting for genuine socialist demands and a programme within parties like this. He also compared reformism to Dracula, as it is able to return, unless a stake is driven into its heart. But, once again, at no time did Chris Bambery explain what political programme is needed to "kill" reformism.
He also gave a very confused parallel between the P-Sol, Respect or the WASG. The implication seemed to be given that the only important thing was that "new" formations are developing without really commenting on perspectives for their development and what kind of programme they were advancing. At no time, did he deal with the concrete programme, nor how to develop socialist ideas as a viable alternative against reformism. He referred to a broad anti-capitalist formations but nothing more.
The CWI from Brazil spoke twice, and also the representative of the CWI from France.
While insisting also on the limitations facing US imperialism, and the difficulties of capitalism today, we insisted on the need of a genuine, class based, socialist and revolutionary mass party, and the potential that exists for that today in many countries, especially in Europe. We gave the example of our activities in support of the strike of the telecom workers in Pakistan, or for the Turkish workers of the Gama multinational building company in Ireland [see recent reports on this site]. We also stressed the limits of formations that did not go further than an anti-capitalist position. At the time of a huge offensive by governments and bosses against workers and the masses in the neo-colonial countries, the lack of real mass struggle – despite resistance in countries like Bolivia but also in Europe – the need for clear perspectives and tactics is crucial. We emphasised also the need of a revolutionary international and not just a broad ‘network’.
On this last point, all the members of Latin American organisations, like MAS from Argentina, for example, spoke about broad ‘regroupments’, attracting different existing political forces to a new broader formation. When socialism was mentioned, by the MAS, for example, it was only in a broad sense, and without dealing with its concrete implication for the present situation.
Which way forward for P-Sol?
The debate on Brazil had the biggest audience. Introduced by members of the Executive of P-Sol (including, SR/CWI member, André Ferrari), it dealt with the recent events (corruption of the governing party, the PT, and debates in the main trade union federation, the CUT, which is linked to the PT).
Once again, the type of debate allowed a very democratic exchange from both currents and "independent", or rank and file, members.
The two main trends could be summed up as this: one around the MES of the Federal Deputy, Luciana Genro, but dealing mainly only with the election campaign and the possible good results for the P-Sol, with the candidature of Heloísa Helena for the presidential election in 2006. The supporters of this trend are the most “optimistic” about the possibilities for the P-Sol but in fact are referring to purely its electoral potential.
The other trend, while correctly opposing such an electoralist approach which would not transform the P-Sol into a truly combative party advanced a more pessimistic appraisal pointing to the absence of widespread mass struggle.
Currents such as C-Sol (Coletivo Socialismo e Liberdade – Socialism and Liberty Colective), which has an important base in the unions, but which has had a more passive approach in recent times, are reluctant to defend the idea of a "plebiscito revogatório", a popular vote that would recall all the corrupt MPs and call for new elections. They are supported by the Liberty and Revolution (LR) current, formed mainly by ex-members of the DS.
Both in the introduction, and in the debate, CWI members participated, explaining on the possibilities for P-Sol to build, accumulating forces on a working class political base, and building the party with a socialist perspective. We emphasised the depth of the present political and social crisis and also underlined the possibility for this to deepen even more. We also explained that the PT and its political allies have played a role of holding back more widespread movement of the working class.
We called for P-Sol to play a leading role in organising struggle in advance of the election. We warned about the dangers of electoralism, and called for a party that is based on working class struggle, a combative and democratic party, aiming to overthrow capitalism and fight for socialism. Commenting on the debate about what demands to raise concerning the government corruption scandal, CWI members explained that we believed that the "plebiscito" would be the only way today for the mass of people to express themselves democratically on the issue. This is because it is clear that the official Parliamentary investigation procedure will only recall a few MPs, while at least 100 and certainly nearly 200 are involved.
During the contributions of CWI members, we explained the importance of not just general propaganda about socialism but also the importance of a more detailed programme of demands on the different issues facing youth and women, for example.
Many of the representatives of currents such as João Machado from LR or the CST insisted mainly on the tasks of regrouping the left but never spoke about the program. While it is possible that a few other groups and even MPs from the PT will join the P-Sol, such developments can only be useful if it helps the building of a clearly socialist party which seeks to sink roots amongst the working class and youth.
The debate was open to international delegations, but only the CWI and a few Latin American organisations intervened. We once again stressed the need to have a correct program, for example against corruption, which needed to advance demands of workers control and the possibility of recalling elected representatives. We emphasized the huge international impact that the development of P-Sol would have as a genuine socialist and class struggle party, a task that all the larger left organisations in Europe have failed to achieve up to now.
New developments in Mexico and Venezuela
The Sunday was supposed to end with a discussion on the possibilities of further work and initiatives but this was cancelled. General proposals such as to develop maximum cooperation on campaigning issues, participation in the anti-war day of demos on 24 September and to discuss the possibilities of having a common web page were raised by the P-Sol executive.
As we can see, while speaking often of the possibility, and even the necessity, of reunifying the left internationally, the lack of a genuine political agreement on programme, perspectives and strategy makes this somewhat of an obstacle.
The second day saw discussions on the situation in other Latin American countries. While the debate on Mexico was confused, due to the lack of an explanation of the significance of the new political initiatives taken by the Zapatistas, the one on Venezuela was very instructive.
A new party, the PRS, reflecting the rise in the political consciousness of the Venezuelan working class and the emerging debate on socialism (see other reports from the CWI), is in formation. This development is also the political reflection of a growing questioning in the working class about Chavez’s policies. This new party, clearly broad but open and aiming to discuss socialism is at its very beginning. The debates within it are both on how to put forward an independent policy under Chavez but also how to take account of the important support for Chavez within the working class.
The interventions by representatives of the UNT were a bit more contradictory, reflecting its broader base but also a less clear approach on the question of the nature of the Chavez regime. While a few speeches in this session were more pro-Chavez, many others reminded the seminar of his last declaration which stated that the present accusations against Lula and the PT were part of a right-wing conspiracy to destabilise Lula’s presidency.
On the corruption of Lula and the PT, on imperialism etc. SR members put forward the necessity to call for the masses to go into action, to create instrument that would lead to workers control democratically the economy. It was the ability of SR members to answer to the demands of the working class, educating it in the need to go on struggle and to control its struggle, to present socialism as the only real alternative and by putting it in practice that we will build new and powerful working class mass parties.
Overall this seminar was a good initiative of the P-Sol leadership, and shows the potential that this party has both nationally and internationally if it develops in the direction of being a party of working class struggle which puts forward a rounded out socialist programme.
Socialismo Revolucionário’s success
Twenty members of SR (CWI in Brazil) attended the seminar and played an important and visible role in its discussions on developments in the unions, building a strike movement in the universities, youth, women and racism. Seventy copies of SR’s newspaper were sold.
We appeared as the most dynamic organisation, and as a sympathiser said "the only one that is really serious in terms of building and organising its intervention”.
From that intervention we really appeared as an openly socialist organisation, ready to take advantage from the situation to build a genuine socialist and revolutionary mass party. In each debate we put forward an analysis of the objective situation of the capitalist system to determine the tasks for socialists today.
One concrete example of the effect of this approach has already been shown in Rio where SR has recently started work: a branch of over 50 members of the PT in one of the poor favelas in the north of the city wrote to SR saying they were considering joining the P-Sol and wanted to discuss particularly with our organisation.