Translator’s note: Brief descriptions of the many organizations mentioned in this article are included in an extended alphabetical list at the end of this document. The organizations of the Trotskyist Fraction–Fourth International are spelled out in the article itself.
The Virtual Conference of Latin America and the United States, convened by the Worker’s Left Front–Unity (FIT-U) of Argentina on July 30–August 1, was an important event for the continent’s anticapitalist and socialist Left.
Participants included all the organizations from or affiliated with the international groupings of the FIT-U’s different forces: the Partido de los Trabajadores Socialistas (PTS, Socialist Workers Party), which is part of the Trotskyist Fraction–Fourth International (FT-CI); the UIT-CI, of which the IS is part; the LIS, which is part of the MST; and organizations that issued a joint declaration with the PO, which, after the dissolution of the CRCI, is not part of a defined international group. Also participating were other individuals and groups that responded to the call to join the conference; these included the Liga de Unidad Socialista (LUS, Socialist Unity League) of Mexico, which is part of the left wing of the United Secretariat of the Fourth International, headed by one of the historical figures of Mexican Trotskyism, Manuel Aguilar Mora; Plinio de Arruda Sanpaio Jr., a militant of the left wing of the PSOL of Brazil and editor of the magazine Contrapoder; and the Partido Socialista Revolucionario (Revolutionary Socialist Party) of Bolivia.
There are significant differences among the 50 organizations that participated in the conference, not only in their political positions but also in their degree of activity. Some do not have a publication in which their activities can be followed. Others have only a Facebook page.
Based on a fraternal framework and starting from a common program, conference participants had a clear and public debate, unlike in mere diplomatic meetings. It was unprecedented at the international level. Still, the discussions illustrated that despite the important points of agreement reached in the documents calling for the conference and the resolutions adopted, there exist very significant differences.
The defense of class independence expressed by the FIT-U in Argentina does not extend to the continent as a whole. But we cannot agree with the PO that the conference “represented a political regrouping of the Left that claims to be revolutionary but that stops at the line of workers’ political independence.”1Pablo Giachello, “What the Virtual Latin American and U.S. Conference Leaves Behind,” Prensa Obrera, no. 1602, August 4, 2020.
In fact, the differences over class independence described in the PO article contradict this characterization. They do not mean we cannot promote common class-struggle actions with other currents in other countries whenever possible — beginning by carrying out the action plan approved by the conference participants. We can explore the possibilities for making agreements, like the one that created the FIT-U or other organizations, that go in the same direction. We even proposed to continue the debate through a common postconference discussion bulletin, but the MST-LIS stood in the way of the conference’s approval.
The PTS and the organizations of the FT-CI, which had just held a very important online event against racism and police violence on July 11, were active promoters and participants of the conference. All our organizations are part of the international network La Izquierda Diario, which has publications in 14 countries in seven languages, and which together have 13 million visits per month — unique for the Left anywhere in the world.
They are militant, fighting digital newspapers that intervene in the class struggle, defending a transitional program and a socialist revolutionary strategy. At the panel discussion titled “The World Crisis and Rebellion in the Empire,” our panelist was Jimena Vergara of Left Voice in the United States. The panel “The Latin American Workers’ Movement” featured Lester Calderón, a leader of Union No. 1 at the Orica factory in Antofagasta, Chile, who is also a member of the leadership of the Confederation of Metalworkers of Chile (CONSTRAMET) and a leader of the Partido de Trabajadores Revolucionaria (PTR, Revolutionary Workers’ Party). And on the “Latin American Situation” panel, we had André Barbieri, international editor of Esquerda Diario of Brazil and part of the leadership of the Movimiento Revolucionário de Trabalhadores (MRT, Revolutionary Workers’ Movement). Also speaking on these panels were Christian Castillo and Claudio Dellecarbonara of the PTS and Javo Ferreyra of the Liga Obrera Revolucionaria por la Cuarta Internacional (LOR-CI, Revolutionary Workers League–Fourth International).
In the general plenary on Saturday, our opening speech was given by Christian Castillo of the PTS. Our closing speech was by Nicolás Del Caño. During the plenary, we had several speakers Dauno Tótoro (PTR, Chile); Julia Wallace (Left Voice, United States); Karina Rojas (Corriente de Trabajadores Socialista, CTS, Socialist Workers Current, Uruguay); Ángel Arias (Liga de Trabajadores por el Socialismo, LTS, Workers League for Socialism, Venezuela); Diana Assunção (MRT, Brazil); Violeta Tamayo (LOR-CI, Bolivia); Cecilia Quiróz (Corriente de Socialista de las y los Trabajadores, Socialist Workers Current, CST, Peru); Jorge Medina (PTS, Argentina); Myriam Bregman (PTS, Argentina); Aldo Santos (Movimiento de los Trabajadores Socialista, MTS, Mexico); and Esteban Fernández (Organización Socialista, OS, Socialist Organization, Costa Rica).
The TF-CI, an international league of propaganda and action, showed ourselves to be a dynamic organization, with cadres and leaders implanted in the class struggle in our respective countries. Our politics and our interventions can be found in the publications that make up the international network La Izquerdia Diario.
These digital newspapers demonstrate their importance in each aspect of the class struggle in which they intervene. It explains why they are attacked by governments, such as by the Bolivian coup leaders or the Chilean government, which tried to prosecute Dauno Tótoro for “sedition” — only to have to drop the effort after a tremendous national and international defense campaign. Recently, correspondents of La Izquierda Diario in Chile were arrested amid the repression of mobilizations in defense of the Mapuche people.
In the United States, Left Voice has undoubtedly earned its place in the fighting vanguard, just as Esquerda Diario did in Brazil in the runup to the institutional coup against Dilma,2Translator’s note: In 2015, the Brazilian bourgeoisie engineered an institutional coup d’état against Dilma Rousseff, the Brazilian president from the Workers’ Party (PT) through an impeachment by the legislature. See MRT, “A Decisive Step in the Reactionary Right-Wing Coup,” Left Voice, April 19, 2016. the ban on Lula,3Translator’s note: Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, known as Lula, was a founding member of the PT and was elected as Brazil’s president in 2002 and 2006. In 2017, out of office, he was convicted of corruption and money laundering as part of Operation Car Wash (see translator’s note below), imprisoned, and then was banned from running for president in 2018 under the country’s “Clean Slate Law,” which had been put in place to hamper PT candidates. See Juan Cruz Ferre, “Lula in Jail: What You Need to Know,” Left Voice, April 7, 2018; see also Juan Andrés Gallardo, “Brazil: Lula’s Imprisonment Was Never about Corruption: Now There Is a Smoking Gun,” Left Voice, June 12, 2019. and the mobilizations against Bolsonaro. In France, the role of Révolution Permamente has been recognized by media such as New Left Review, Mediápart, and Arrêt sur images.4See “Révolution Permanente in France: A Militant Newspaper on the Rise,” the translation of the article published in Arrêt sur images. The article speaks eloquently of one example of the role RP has played in the class struggle and its appreciation among worker activists:
Before the current movement began, the news website wrote of the troubles faced by Ahmed Berrahal, an RATP machinist and CGT militant. As a member of the committee for health, safety, and working conditions, he had inspected buses leaving Belliard depot in the 18th arrondissement [district of Paris] and found that 70 percent of the vehicles did not meet safety standards. RATP management’s response to the inspection was to summon the employee and threaten him with dismissal.
“I had talked about my situation on Facebook,” Berrahal told Arrêt sur images. “Flora Carpentier saw it and called me about it. At the time, I didn’t know RP. But after they ran articles on my case and the state of the buses, the big media came [e.g., the France 3 and BFMTV TV channels, and L’Humanité and Ouest-France newspapers]. The first deputy mayor of Paris even had to react.”
The upshot was that while Ahmed Berrahal risked dismissal, he was suspended for only one day. “It was thanks to the media uproar caused by RP that the RATP could no longer punish me,” the trade unionist says. He’s become an unconditional fan of the website as a result.
“The journalists from Révolution Permanente are on the picket line with us from 4 am, voluntarily. They are almost more motivated than us,” Berrahal continued. “They were also the ones who advised us to set up a strike fund for our depot, assuring us they’d spread the word. Since then, we’ve collected 50,000 euros!”
For Berrahal, RP is a new tool that provides information quickly about the entire struggle. “In previous social movements, we didn’t really know what was happening elsewhere.”
The effectiveness of this tool, he says, can be measured by the aggravation it arouses in the management of RATP depots. “They can no longer bear to see RP people on the picket line every morning.”
As we pointed out, there were a number of discussions during the conference, some of which had been set out in the convening document and others that emerged during the course of the gathering. Here we review what we think were the main discussions over the three-day period.
Crisis, Wars, and Revolutions
The conference’s first debate concerned the character of the current epoch of capitalism. Perhaps without drawing all the conclusions of its proposal, the IS and the UIT-CI maintained that they do not see the current confrontations between the United States and China turning into war because, fundamentally, both powers share a common interest in increasing the exploitation of workers. They don’t rule out the possibility of military skirmishes between the two countries, they said, but since both countries are capitalist there are no structural contradictions between them, and they characterized as dangerous those who glorify China and Russia by referring to them as progressive in contrast to the United States, because doing so could lead to “campist” positions.
In our opinion — and this is how we put it in the closing speech — this view of the contradictions between the United States and China implies that there is within capitalism some sort of “super-imperialism” or “ultra-imperialism.” That was the perspective developed by Kautsky and Hilferding after the internationalization of the productive forces that preceded the outbreak of World War I. Lenin criticized them rather harshly for this view.
The capitalist “globalization” that accompanied neoliberalism and the emergence of the United States as a transitory unchallenged power at the end of the Cold War and the implosion of the Soviet Union also created the illusion of overcoming the contradictions between different imperialist states.
Many theorists on the Left and Right have pushed this false view of the end of nation-states (Hardt and Negri’s Empire5Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001 was an emblematic text in this respect) and the idea that virtuous cooperation between the United States and China will be around forever. But while it is true that this period saw an integration of value chains in production as well as of trade and global finance, integration that was unprecedented in the history of capitalism, the 2008 crisis broke the consensus on neoliberal globalization. Trump and the increasingly anti-Chinese policies of the entire U.S. ruling class have spawned directly from that crisis.
Last year, the Pentagon was pointing to China and Russia as the two main threats to U.S. national security, far more so than the so-called new threats of “drug trafficking” and “international terrorism” that had been at the top of the list previously, especially since the September 11, 2001, attack on the Twin Towers, and that had been the justification for the imperialist wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The George W. Bush “neocon” offensive that pushed for “regime change” and “nation-building” in the Middle East, the Gulf states, and the territories of the former USSR represented a shift from the “humanitarian interventions” that had characterized U.S. imperialist policy during the Clinton years, but without confronting China. Obama’s push for the Trans-Pacific Treaty, to encircle and gradually isolate China economically, was a transition to what with Trump became a qualitative leap in trade and market control of “high technology” and “artificial intelligence,” along with various diplomatic clashes and larger military deployments by the United States and its allies in the territory surrounding the China Sea.
The reality is that the United States, despite some transitory recoveries, has been unable to halt its decline. Meanwhile, China has slowly but steadily been rising as an increasingly worrisome geopolitical and economic competitor for the Yankees, even though in almost every arena China is far behind what the United States achieves. U.S. aggression takes place not because China has a power similar to its own, but to try to strike before China continues to grow and gain more areas of economic and political influence in the international arena. This structural contradiction presents the possibility of worsening trade confrontations, wars by proxy, and even hot wars between these states in the future.
Does this mean that a trend toward war is now the most dynamic element in the international situation? Not at the moment, in our view. The dynamics of this confrontation depend on many factors, including how the current economic crisis develops.
Methodologically, however, we must act as Trotsky did between the two world wars, when he pointed to the strategic nature of the antagonism that was developing between the United States and Europe. These contradictions were reinforced by the crisis of the 1930s. Trotsky dealt with the subject in four articles and manifestos, in particular, dated 1930, 1934, 1937, and finally in 1940. As he did then, we must point out with strategic clarity that if victorious socialist revolutions do not prevent it, capitalism will produce wars that are as or more catastrophic in this 21st century as those humanity went through in the 20th century. Our era is still one of “crises, wars, and revolutions,” not just “crises and revolutions.”
The PO, for its part, tends to put forward a view that war is practically imminent, which does not seem likely. That could lead to justifying agreements with Stalinists who hold “campist” positions, seeing the Russian and Chinese states as progressive because of their differences with the United States. This is what happened with the United Communist Party of Russia, an organization that reclaims Stalin and has good relations with Putin, and with which the PO, before the break with Altamira,6Translator’s note: Jorge Altamira, one of the founders of the PO, broke with the PO in 2019 after organizing what he characterized as a “public faction” and the party leadership characterized as a “split.” had been participating in common international events, such as the international conference the PO hosted in Buenos Aires in April 2018. On the PO’s website, you can read the speech PO leader Darya Mitina gave at that very conference. We do not know whether the current PO leadership still claims this, but we have yet to see any public criticism of the policy.
Adding to this is the PO’s insistence that capitalist restoration in Russia is incomplete, a position that it confuses with characterizing Russia as semicolonial. Can anyone seriously claim that Russia has not been a full-fledged capitalist state for many years now?
In China, where the Communist Party’s continuing grip on power can be confusing, the process of restoration has had another dynamic, linked to the penetration of international capital in the country and the growing association between the bureaucracy and the new Chinese bourgeoisie, which, far from having fundamental contradictions with the bureaucracy, relies on it to continue developing. The ranks of the Chinese Communist Party include some of the country’s leading businessmen, some of whom are genuine mega-millionaires. While areas of the economy and land remain predominantly state-owned, it is the pursuit of capitalist profit rather than planning that explains what drives the Chinese economy. The healthcare system, for example, has been largely commodified, as evidenced during the initial coronavirus crisis in Wuhan.
Moreover, China has taken on some imperialist features in its relationships with various nations, primarily in Africa. This, however, does not mean that we define China as just another imperialist country or that in the event of war with the United States we should call for “defeatism” of both sides equally. Rather, the actual circumstances of such a confrontation must be looked at.7We are developing in the Trotskyist Fraction–Fourth International a discussion of the specific character of China today, starting from our belief, in principle, that the process of capitalist restoration has not yet been completed.
Another debate centered on the “Out with Trump” slogan raised by the PO, to which Jimena Vergara of Left Voice responded by pointing out that in the current presidential election and with the pressure to support Joe Biden’s Democratic candidacy as the “lesser evil,” this approach does nothing to confront all the illusions.
In our opinion, the same problem exists with the “Out with Macri”8Translator’s note: Mauricio Macri was the president of Argentina from 2015 to 2019. slogan raised by Altamira in the midst of the 2019 Argentine elections, when he and his group set aside any criticism of the Peronist opposition candidate for the same reason the “Out with Trump” slogan omits criticism of the Democratic Party, whose role is clearly denounced in the conference convening document.
It is true that a process of popular rebellion and mobilizations is continuing to develop in the United States. But is it the PO position that the mobilizations are of such an intensity that they directly pose the fall of the government and the open boycott of elections? No sensible observer would say that’s the case, and therefore the slogan put forward by these comrades is not about replacing the imperialist regime altogether; rather it simply supports Biden’s candidacy and putting a Democrat back in the White House.
In the debate, one of the PO speakers tried to link our criticism of that slogan with our supposed opposition to calling for bringing down the government in France or other Latin American countries. This, of course, is completely false. We supported the “Macron must resign” call both in the struggle of the “Yellow Vests” and in the battle over pension reform. The same goes for Ecuador with the rebellion against President Lenín Moreno or in Chile against President Sebastián Piñera. Mixing things together and falsifying the positions of others does not contribute to the clarification of differences.
Finally, we must mention the issue of police unions. The FT-CI participants raised several times that there is a movement at present by combative sectors of the U.S. working class to expel police unions from the AFL-CIO and other labor organizations. These “unions” exist to defend cops when they are accused of being “trigger happy” and corrupt; that is their true character, and they have no place in the labor movement. This has been an important point of difference, both in Brazil and Argentina, with the UIT-CI and the LIS, as well as with the PSTU and the LITCi, but despite our entreaties no other organization raised this issue.
How Should We Respond to the Coups and Right-Wing Protests?
Another debate took place on the politics of coups and right-wing uprisings against “national and popular” governments. In the opening speech of the final plenary, we stated, “For us, national and popular or center-left leaderships cannot be beaten by merging political banners flags with the right. Neither Maduro’s authoritarianism nor criticisms of Evo Morales can justify marching alongside Guaidó and the different groups of the Venezuelan right, or with the Bolivian coup. Uprisings fueled by the Right and imperialism cannot be considered ‘popular rebellions’.”
That is a liberal, bourgeois-democratic, non-Marxist position. The same thing in Brazil: opposition to the removal of Dilma and the PT government from office does not justify endorsing the institutional coup or the banning and imprisonment of Lula, based on Operation Car Wash,9Translator’s note: Operação Lava Jato (Operation Car Wash), so named because it was first “uncovered” at a car wash in Brasília, is a criminal investigation into corruption by the Brazilian federal police that began in 2014 and was initially centered on the Brazilian state oil company, Petrobras. See Tatiana Cozzarelli, “Against Corruption and Privatization: Brazilian Oil for Brazilian Workers,” Left Voice, July 16, 2015. which was driven by U.S. imperialism. We have had this debate with the organizations that are part of the UIT-CI in Venezuela, Bolivia, and Brazil, in particular.
In Venezuela, even though both José Bodas and Miguel Hernández10Translator’s note: José Bodas is the general secretary of the oil workers’ union in the Venezuela state of Anzoátegui. Miguel Hernández is a professor at the Central University of Venezuela. of the Partido Socialismo y Libertad (PSL, Socialism and Freedom Party) pointed out that they did not merge political banners with the right wing and that they opposed imperialist attacks, the truth is that on Thursday, PSL activist Simón Porras called the uprising triggered by the right wing in 2017 a “popular rebellion.”
More strategically, Ángel Arias of the Venezuelan LTS proposed that in the case of both the now PSL and Marea Socialista11Translator’s note: Marea Socialista (Socialist Tide) is a dissident group that emerged in Maduro’s ruling party in 2015. (in this case a member of the LIS), both went from championing Chavism — Marea Socialista was even an organic part of the governing Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela (PSUV, United Socialist Party of Venezuela) — to no longer differentiating themselves from the Right (in the case of the PSL, maintaining union agreements with sectors that answer to Juan Guaidó, the puppet of imperialism) or presenting themselves as “critical Chavistas.”
At the same time, Arias called for “a regroupment of the forces of the anticapitalist and socialist left, of those who resist demoralization and the pseudo-democratic chants of the pro-imperialist Right and those who are open to overcoming Chavism on the left.”
In the case of Bolivia, the representative of the Alternative Revolucionaria del Pueblo Trabajador (ARPT, Revolutionary Alternative of Working People), the local section of the UIT-CI, defended its position of equating the coup government of Jeanine Añez with that of the MAS of former Bolivian president Evo Morales — something consistent with its initial neutrality on the Añez-Camacho coup. This position puts them completely outside the struggle against the new postponement of elections, a mechanism the government is using to keep itself in power because the polls show the people will not vote for it.
Harshly criticizing the role of the MAS and its demobilizing role (its members of the Chamber of Deputies voted to accept Evo Morales’s resignation rather than reject it when resistance was at its height), and maintaining complete independence from it, can in no way lead to equating the racist, pro-imperialist government of Añez — which emerged precisely from a sustained coup d’état — and the legislature that emerged from the previous election with the majority support of workers and peasants. “Out with Añez and the legislature — all of them together,” declares the cover of the ARPT’s newspaper Fuerza (no. 60, May 28, 2020). It is a completely bourgeois-democratic policy that fails to confront the coup government.
Finally, in the case of Brazil, the facts proved us right when we denounced both the impeachment of Dilma and Operation Car Wash as part of a policy orchestrated by imperialism. To maintain that there was no coup of any kind in Brazil when Rousseff was removed from office, and to propose later “jailing Lula and all the corrupt” in chorus with Sergio Moro12Translator’s note: Moro is the judge who spearheaded the impeachment process. and all the right wing, as the CST (UIT-CI) did, only helped apply the policies that ended up bringing in the Bolsonaro government.
The comrades of the MST were, at the time, in a common grouping with the MES that had similar politics. But this wasn’t what caused their break (we read that it had to do with whether broad parties are a tactic or a strategy, but not about politics in Brazil).
Today, struggle against the Bolsonaro government is not about impeachment, which is a trap that would simply bring General Mourão, the vice president, to power. It is about sweeping away Bolsonaro, Mourão, and the entire coup regime and calling for a Free and Sovereign Constituent Assembly, as Diana Assunção articulated in her speech, calling both the PSOL Left Bloc and the PSTU to join us with this approach.
That’s why it’s not true, as Izquierda Socialista says in its balance sheet, that our central criticism of them is for being inside the PSOL (that’s the PO’s criticism, not ours). Our fundamental criticism has to do with their politics.
A Noncorporatist Strategy for the Labor Movement
With respect to the Latin American labor movement, we raised — based on our own experiences — some of the central issues we believe are up for debate. We take note of the interventions of both Lester Calderón of the PTR in Chile, who is also a member of the country’s metalworkers’ confederation, and Claudio Dellecarbonara, a leader of the minority in the subway workers’ union and currently PTS provincial deputy in Buenos Aires province.
Calderón summarized the experience in Antofagasta over the course of the Chilean uprising. This experience included setting up a vanguard organization, the Emergency and Rescue Committee — an alliance with people in the neighborhoods — and forcing the bureaucratic leadership of the CUT to adopt the workers’ united front on several occasions. Dellecarbonara explained that for the PTS, the strategy is for the important leaders from the labor movement who have held or hold legislative seats won by the Left Front to act as “tribunes of the people” and not as mere union or parliamentary leaders.
In Saturday’s plenary session, Jorge Medina from Madygraf (a Buenos Aires graphics plant under workers’ management) — who is also a member of the PTS national leadership body — pointed out the contradiction between the lip service different currents pay in defense of union democracy and their lack of any policies on revising union statutes to guarantee, for instance, proportional representation of minorities in the union, as in the SUTNA in Argentina.13Translator’s note: The PO is in the leadership of the Sindicato Único del Neumático Argentina (SUTNA, United Tire Workers’ Union of Argentina). By contrast, the ceramic workers’ union of Neuquén did just that when, after the great Zanon struggle, when the union was reclaimed from the bureaucracy.14Translator’s note: For the history of the Zanon struggle, see “Zanon: Under Worker Control since 2001,” Left Voice, April 11, 2017.
“Broad Fronts” and “Broad Anticapitalist Parties”
One of the most important debates that ran through the conference was over what tactics are correct for developing revolutionary parties. We differ from those who think class independence can be defended by joining in center-left blocs or popular fronts— such as the Frente Amplio (Broad Front) of Peru today, Proyecto Sur of the past,15Translator’s note: Proyecto Sur (Project South) was a “progressive” bourgeois Argentinean political party, the remnants of which are now part of another Argentine political coalition. or the new bourgeois party established by Luis Juez in Argentina. Uníos, the Peruvian group of the UIT-CI, participates in the Frente Amplio; the MST was part of Proyecto Sur.
The IS accused us of sectarianism for pointing out the difference between promoting the FIT-U in Argentina, which advocates class independence and the perspective of a workers’ government, and participating in a center-left front such as the Frente Amplio in Peru, which according to its program fights for “good government” and “against corruption.” The IS justified its approach by arguing that the Frente Amplio brought together the “best of Peruvian progressivism.” And it reaffirmed that it is “proud” of its membership in this political coalition, which among other things called for a second-round vote in 2016 for Pedro Pablo Kucinsky, the Peruvian equivalent of Macri, as the lesser evil against Keiko Fujimori.16Translator’s note: Kucinsky, the candidate of the Peruvians for Change party, was elected as Peru’s president in 2016. He served until 2018, when he resigned amid corruption charges. Fujimori is the daughter of former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori; she ran for president in 2016 as the candidate of Fuerza Popular (Popular Force).
Where is the class independence? How does it help build a revolutionary party to promote the Frente Amplio, whose joint leadership, headed by Marco Arana17Translator’s note: Marco Arana is a priest and the founder of the Land and Freedom party in Peru. sanctions criticism of its own policies and activities? In Argentina, Izquierda Socialista criticized the MST for participating in center-left fronts and argued that there is a limit to alliances. In Peru, by contrast, the UIT-CI justifies adopting the very policy for which it criticized the MST: “It’s tactical.”
The PO, for its part, conflates participation in these center-left fronts, opposed to the struggle for class independence, with the tactic of intervening in so-called “broad anticapitalist parties.” It does not analyze each concrete situation and set clear class limits (for example, whether these parties assume executive responsibilities or are fully integrated into popular fronts), in particular with respect to the PSOL in Brazil and the New Anticapitalist Party (NPA) in France. Of course, if there is no concrete intervention in these countries; declaring that “revolutionary parties must be built” seems to be enough.
But no one who is a member in Brazil or France, and who is interested in influencing regroupings of the left-wing vanguard, can avoid seriously considering having an active policy toward these two parties (parties that are, it should be added, not comparable).
We have participated in the NPA from the beginning, while fighting for it to build a revolutionary party of the working class based on active intervention in the intense class struggle that has rocked France. At the same time, we’ve audaciously developed Révolution Permanente, the French publication that is part of the international network, which has strengthened our Courant Communiste Révolutionnaire (CCR, Revolutionary Communist Current) within the NPA and the entire left wing to the point that the leadership majority that came out of the old LCR threatens to split the party. The battles that have taken place have brought worker leaders from the vanguard into the CCR, such as Anasse Kazib, one of the best-known figures in the struggle against the pension reform.18See, for example, Left Voice, “Anasse Kazib: The Socialist Worker Captivating the French Media.”
The PO’s further criticism of us concerns our approach in Brazil toward the PSOL. The PO actually confuses two policies. One has to do with the two times the MRT has asked to join the PSOL: first, after the June 2013 uprising, when the PSOL had clearly become the best-known group to the left of the PT government, and second after the coup d’état against Dilma. The other criticism has to do with employing the PO’s ballot line (which we have requested of the PSTU on other occasions), which is not a commitment to a party but is — in a country where electoral laws are profoundly prohibitive — what allows us to run candidates and participate in electoral campaigns with our own politics. For that reason, we have given no support to candidates such as Luiza Erundina19Translator’s note: Luiza Erundina was affiliated with the PT until 1997, switched to the Brazilian Socialist Party, and is now a member of the PSOL. in São Paulo or to others related to the more right-wing politics of the PSOL. Nor have we used the ballot line in states where the PSOL is in coalitions with bourgeois parties.
The MRT asked to join the PSOL to wage a political fight against the openly opportunistic wing of that party, which today seeks to converge with the PT and other forces outside the working class in a sort of “anti-Bolsonaro” front. That is the only reason the PSOL leadership has refused to let us join — thus demonstrating that it is a “broad party” open to various opportunists and groups with no influence, but not revolutionaries who fight consistently for their strategy. The PSOL leadership knew it would mean having to deal with public challenges from the MRT that would reach hundreds of thousands through Esquerda Diario.
Finally, there was also a discussion on how to advance the building of a revolutionary party in the United States, with the MST and LIS insisting that this could not be done without actively engaging the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA). But while it is true that a dialogue with the DSA militants and sympathizers is key, the DSA leadership is focused on promoting candidacies mainly of the Democratic Party — something that, although the MST takes it lightly, cannot be ignored. Are the comrades of the LIS going to campaign for the Democratic Party candidates supported by the DSA? In addition, there is a broad vanguard that has been developing since the murder of George Floyd that is challenging the DSA from the left for the way it dilutes criticism of the structural racism that characterizes U.S. imperialist capitalism.20Translator’s note: The reference is to the DSA leadership’s “class reductionism.” See Tatiana Cozzarelli, “Class Reductionism Is Real, and It’s Coming from the Jacobin Wing of the DSA,” Left Voice, June 16, 2020.
Both Jimena Vergara and Julia Wallace of Left Voice raised their active interventions in the people’s rebellion against racism and police violence, the need to fight against the DSA’s support for Democratic Party candidates, and the need to call on the DSA membership to raise the struggle for a new working-class party that fights for socialism.
A resolute strategy is indispensable to advancing the revolutionary program, organizing the vanguard, and opening a path to the mass movement, as is the audacity to deploy tactical alternatives, as Trotsky advised to the revolutionaries in France, Spain, and in particular to the American Trotskyists, with whom he discussed a battery of tactical initiatives that included, among others, the fusion that led to the formation of the Workers Party, the entry into the Socialist Party that led to the founding of the Socialist Workers Party, the section in the Transitional Program on a labor party, and the possibility of giving critical support to the Communist Party’s presidential candidate in 1940.
Those who adapt to opportunist and centrist leaderships dismiss strategic resoluteness and thus are liquidated as revolutionaries. Those who refuse to develop tactics and instead adopt sterile, self-proclamatory positions abstain from the political struggle necessary to win over the most left-wing sectors — whether or not they are organized in “centrist parties” — to a revolutionary perspective.
The Paths to Reconstructing the Fourth International
Linked to the issue of the tactics that need to be developed to advance toward the building of revolutionary parties was the discussion of how to advance the reconstruction of the Fourth International. The PTS proposed the inclusion of this point in the declaration convening the conference, but the PO would not accept it because it is not part of the FIT-U’s program.
As Nicolás Del Caño pointed out in his closing speech before the vote on the resolutions, the “PO comrades state that they vindicate the method they carried out in the CRCI. But that organization was dissolved, and we’ve seen no balance sheet of what caused it to fail.”
In our opinion, no international can be built on the PO’s “four general points.” In the past, the PCO, which had been linked for many years to the PO, broke with the CRCI without clarifying the political reasons. That group went on to support the PT, completely.
The truth is that the CRCI has never really been an international current outside Argentina, has been in crisis since long before Altamira’s break with the current PO leadership, and could not bring along any of the organizations with which it had been in a loose grouping with very limited programmatic agreements.
The PO, together with other organizations that participated in the conference, presented a common text on Latin America. Most of these other groups are fledgling ones without regular publications or even a web page (with the exception of the Mexican GAR and Juventud Obrera [Workers’ Youth] in Costa Rica). That helps explain why almost every speaker from the PO’s international current was from the Argentine group; even its members from Bolivia reside in Argentina. This gives a sense of their own project to reconstruct the Fourth International.
The PO situation is what it is — an initial declaration signed by various groups after the CRCI’s dissolution, but one that does not clarify the political differences that motivated it. For its part, the Trotskyist Fraction–Fourth International, still a small organization, is today one of the most dynamic tendencies of the Trotskyist movement internationally.
This did not come out of nowhere. It is the result of ongoing, dedicated theoretical and practical development that includes the publication of more than 25 books by our comrades on central themes of Marxist theory, strategy, and tactics in our time; foundational programmatic theses of our different groups; particular tactics adapted to the reality of the class struggle in each country; and the impetus of the international network La Izquierda Diario.
The PO would have you believe that the network is just a bunch of informational websites. But that is far from the truth. Not only has the network played a role in every important struggle that has taken place in the countries where we are present, but the work is carried out according to the best Leninist traditions — combining both information and political and theoretical positions.
The FT-CI was not established on the basis of diplomatic or very general agreements, but — as Del Caño pointed out — through “the method of uniting ourselves with a shared program and drawing revolutionary lessons from the most burning elements of the class struggle, which in our view is the path on which Trotsky was taking steps to found the Fourth International.”
It is clear to us that reconstructing the Fourth International will not be a process of evolutionary growth of the FT-CI, but that it will be linked to mergers and breaks, depending on the real processes unfolding in the class struggle. That is why everything our tendency gathers together is put at the service of advancing this objective, at the service of the reconstruction of the World Party of Socialist Revolution, the Fourth International.
With respect to the MST and the LIS, MST national leader Alejandro Bodart argued that the existence of diverse traditions justifies lax programmatic agreements and leaves room for all manner of tactics — where the notion of “tactical flexibility” is stretched to allow for joining clearly center-left political movements.
Let’s not forget that the MST in Argentina, when the FIT-U was being organized, was part of Proyecto Sur with founder Pino Solanas (now the Argentinean government’s ambassador to France) and the party of Luis Juez in Córdoba. When it was part of the USec, which rejects the strategy of building revolutionary parties, it celebrated Syriza’s victory in Greece, just before it adopted its brutal adjustment program. At the time, it was excited about the idea of a “new left … that would leave behind the dogmas of the past.”
The failure to find shortcuts led the MST to propose last year that it join the FIT, something we celebrate because it allows us to strengthen the pole of class independence we’ve been building since 2011. But just as with the PO and the CRCI, we have not seen a public balance sheet by the MST regarding these experiences. And, as the saying goes, those who do not learn from their mistakes are likely to repeat them.
Finally, the comrades of Izquierda Socialista and the UIT-CI insisted on their proposal for an international Revolutionary United Front, pointing out that they were addressing organizations coming not only from Trotskyism but also from other traditions. Nahuel Moreno proposed the same tactic shortly after founding the LITCi in 1982, and it led to completely opportunistic agreements in Colombia and Mexico that exploded soon thereafter.
The issue is not “ideology” or whether one is considered Trotskyist, but rather it is political and programmatic. Revolutionary United Front–type agreements of the sort Moreno proposed are too minimal to form a solid strategic and programmatic basis to advance the reconstruction of the Fourth International.
Promoting the Resolutions Passed
Everyone at the conference discussed these and other differences at — even if only partially, in some cases. This is part of why we consider the conference valuable. This is especially true since the deliberations were based on quite progressive programmatic texts and the promotion of common actions, which all the participating organizations must ensure are carried out.
Unfortunately, the comrades of the MST and the LIS did not agree with the proposal from the PTS and FT-CI — with agreement from the PO and IS-UIT-CI — to publish a common postconference bulletin in which the debates could be continued. We will continue to raise this proposal in the FIT-U national board. Meanwhile, on August 21, we will hold a panel discussion to commemorate the 80th anniversary of the assassination of Leon Trotsky by Stalinism. There, we will once again discuss how to advance in the reconstruction of the Fourth International, a strategic task that the current crisis makes more urgent than ever.
First published in Spanish on August 7 in La Izquierda Diario.
Translation by Scott Cooper
Organizations Mentioned in the Article
CRCI — Coordinadora por la Refundacíon de la Cuarta Internacional (Coordinating Committee for the Refoundation of the Fourth International). A Trotskyist organization founded in 2004, with member sections in Latin America and the Middle East.
FIT-U — Frente de Izquierda de Trabajadores–Unidad (Workers’ Left Front–Unity). An electoral alliance in Argentina of Trotskyist organizations that now includes the PTS, PO, and IS (founding members) and MST (which joined later).
GAR — Grupo de Accíon Revolucionaria (Revolutionary Action Group). The Mexican section of the CRCI.
IS — Izquierda Socialista (Socialist Left). The section of the UIT-CI in Argentina; it was founded by a minority that split from the MST.
LCR — Ligue communiste révolutionnaire (Revolutionary Communist League). The section in France of the United Secretariat of the Fourth International until it officially abolished itself in 2009 to merge with other groups to form the NPA.
LIS — Liga Internacional Socialista (International Socialist League). A regrouping of Trotskyist groups from Latin America, Europe, the former Soviet Union, and the Middle East that was founded at a conference in Barcelona in May 2019.
LITCi — Liga Internacional de los Trabajadores–Cuarta Internacional (International Workers League–Fourth International). An international Trotskyist organization from the Nahuel Moreno tradition.
LUS — Liga de Unidad Socialista (Socialist Unity League). A Trotskyist group in Mexico linked to Socialist Action in the United States and to the United Secretariat of the Fourth International.
MES — Movimento Esquerda Socialista (Socialist Left Movement). A faction within the PO that left that party to help form the PSOL.
MST — Movimiento Socialista de los Trabajadores (MST; Workers’ Socialist Movement). A Trotskyist party in Argentina; it was founded by a group that split from the Movement toward Socialism (MAS) of Nahuel Moreno. It is part of the FIT-U.
NPA — Nouveau Parti anticapitaliste (NPA; New Anticapitalist Party). A multitendency French left political party founded in 2009.
PCO — Partido da Causa Operária (Workers’ Cause Party). A Brazilian Trotskyist organization.
PO — Partido Obrero (Workers’ Party). The CRCI’s section in Argentina and the international group’s largest section.
PT — Partido dos Trabalhadores (Workers’ Party). A major political party in Brazil and one of the largest political parties in Latin America.
PSOL — Partido Socialismo e Liberdade (Socialism and Liberty Party). A large left party in Brazil that describes itself as socialist and democratic. It was founded by expelled members of the Brazilian PT.
PSTU — Partido Socialista de los Trabajadores Unificado (United Socialist Workers’ Party). A Trotskyist group in Argentina, from the Moreno tradition, and the LIT-Ci’s section in Argentina.
UIT-CI — Unidad Internacional de los Trabajadores–Cuarta Internacional (International Workers Union–Fourth International). An international Trotskyist organization with member groups in Latin America, western Europe, and some countries of the former Soviet Union. It claims the political tradition of Nahuel Moreno.
UNÍOS — The Peruvian section of the UIT-CI.
USec — the United Secretariat of the Fourth International. The international group established in 1963 when the majorities of the two main public factions of the Fourth International, which had split in 1953, came back together. While officially the USec was replaced by an “executive bureau” and an “international committee” in 2003, most Trotskyists still refer to this current as the USec.
|↑1||Pablo Giachello, “What the Virtual Latin American and U.S. Conference Leaves Behind,” Prensa Obrera, no. 1602, August 4, 2020.|
|↑2||Translator’s note: In 2015, the Brazilian bourgeoisie engineered an institutional coup d’état against Dilma Rousseff, the Brazilian president from the Workers’ Party (PT) through an impeachment by the legislature. See MRT, “A Decisive Step in the Reactionary Right-Wing Coup,” Left Voice, April 19, 2016.|
|↑3||Translator’s note: Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, known as Lula, was a founding member of the PT and was elected as Brazil’s president in 2002 and 2006. In 2017, out of office, he was convicted of corruption and money laundering as part of Operation Car Wash (see translator’s note below), imprisoned, and then was banned from running for president in 2018 under the country’s “Clean Slate Law,” which had been put in place to hamper PT candidates. See Juan Cruz Ferre, “Lula in Jail: What You Need to Know,” Left Voice, April 7, 2018; see also Juan Andrés Gallardo, “Brazil: Lula’s Imprisonment Was Never about Corruption: Now There Is a Smoking Gun,” Left Voice, June 12, 2019.|
|↑4||See “Révolution Permanente in France: A Militant Newspaper on the Rise,” the translation of the article published in Arrêt sur images. The article speaks eloquently of one example of the role RP has played in the class struggle and its appreciation among worker activists:
|↑5||Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri, Empire (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2001|
|↑6||Translator’s note: Jorge Altamira, one of the founders of the PO, broke with the PO in 2019 after organizing what he characterized as a “public faction” and the party leadership characterized as a “split.”|
|↑7||We are developing in the Trotskyist Fraction–Fourth International a discussion of the specific character of China today, starting from our belief, in principle, that the process of capitalist restoration has not yet been completed.|
|↑8||Translator’s note: Mauricio Macri was the president of Argentina from 2015 to 2019.|
|↑9||Translator’s note: Operação Lava Jato (Operation Car Wash), so named because it was first “uncovered” at a car wash in Brasília, is a criminal investigation into corruption by the Brazilian federal police that began in 2014 and was initially centered on the Brazilian state oil company, Petrobras. See Tatiana Cozzarelli, “Against Corruption and Privatization: Brazilian Oil for Brazilian Workers,” Left Voice, July 16, 2015.|
|↑10||Translator’s note: José Bodas is the general secretary of the oil workers’ union in the Venezuela state of Anzoátegui. Miguel Hernández is a professor at the Central University of Venezuela.|
|↑11||Translator’s note: Marea Socialista (Socialist Tide) is a dissident group that emerged in Maduro’s ruling party in 2015.|
|↑12||Translator’s note: Moro is the judge who spearheaded the impeachment process.|
|↑13||Translator’s note: The PO is in the leadership of the Sindicato Único del Neumático Argentina (SUTNA, United Tire Workers’ Union of Argentina).|
|↑14||Translator’s note: For the history of the Zanon struggle, see “Zanon: Under Worker Control since 2001,” Left Voice, April 11, 2017.|
|↑15||Translator’s note: Proyecto Sur (Project South) was a “progressive” bourgeois Argentinean political party, the remnants of which are now part of another Argentine political coalition.|
|↑16||Translator’s note: Kucinsky, the candidate of the Peruvians for Change party, was elected as Peru’s president in 2016. He served until 2018, when he resigned amid corruption charges. Fujimori is the daughter of former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori; she ran for president in 2016 as the candidate of Fuerza Popular (Popular Force).|
|↑17||Translator’s note: Marco Arana is a priest and the founder of the Land and Freedom party in Peru.|
|↑18||See, for example, Left Voice, “Anasse Kazib: The Socialist Worker Captivating the French Media.”|
|↑19||Translator’s note: Luiza Erundina was affiliated with the PT until 1997, switched to the Brazilian Socialist Party, and is now a member of the PSOL.|
|↑20||Translator’s note: The reference is to the DSA leadership’s “class reductionism.” See Tatiana Cozzarelli, “Class Reductionism Is Real, and It’s Coming from the Jacobin Wing of the DSA,” Left Voice, June 16, 2020.|