From 15 to 19 March the second Pan American School of the International Marxist Tendency (IMT) was held in Florianópolis, Brazil. Amid the greatest economic, social and political instability of the world capitalist system in decades, the American Marxists have come together to participate in a series of discussions on topical issues on the class struggle and the socialist revolution internationally.
The character of this school was different to the previous meeting, as attendance was strictly limited to experienced cadres. It brought together more than fifty leading activists of the IMT from Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia and Venezuela.
Also present in the School as special guests were leading members of the IMT Alessandro Giardiello, from the national leadership of the Rifondazione Comunista Party of Italy, who is the editor of the journal of the Italian Marxist tendency FalceMartello, and Alan Woods, political editor of the well-known web page In Defence of Marxism (www.marxist.com).
There were apologies from comrades in Mexico, Peru, USA and Canada who were unfortunately unable to attend because of economic problems and last minute difficulties in processing visas.
First session: The international situation and the Arab revolution
The first day of the school was devoted to a thorough discussion on the global situation, with special emphasis on the dramatic events that are shaking North Africa and the Middle East. Alan Woods introduced the discussion, noting that the revolution in the Arab world is not only a turning point in the international situation but in world history. The example of the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and elsewhere, is affecting the consciousness of millions of workers around the world. Before their very eyes the masses can witness the unfolding of the revolutionary struggle against tyranny and oppression, against imperialism and capitalism.
The mass demonstrations in the United States itself, in the State of Wisconsin, against the anti-working class policies of the Republican Governor Scott Walker, are a vivid confirmation of this fact. In the marches of more than 100,000 people in the state capital, Madison, one could see banners with the text. “Fight like an Egyptian”, or “Down with Hosni Walker”, comparing Scott Walker with the former dictator Hosni Mubarak. This mobilization of public employees in Wisconsin is sending shockwaves through the rest of the United States, where there have been acts of solidarity and mobilizations, warning the authorities of other States of the US of what they can expect if they try to apply the same measures.
The Arab revolution is not an isolated event. It comes in the wake of the mass awakening of the class struggle in Europe, where the workers have overcome their fear of the first effects of the crisis that began in late 2008 and are moving into action. In France, Greece, Portugal, Spain, Ireland, Italy we have witnessed the biggest strikes and mass protests of the workers since the seventies. There have been protests against the cuts in public spending in order to pay the unprecedented debts owed by states and to save the big banks and companies.
And the struggle continues. Following the struggle of the student youth in Britain in late 2010, now the British trade unions have called a mass mobilization for the March 26 against the bourgeois government of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.
Only a few weeks ago the 8th general strike in Greece was called in the space of just one year. On March 20 there is a national march in Madrid organized by leftist organizations and trade unionists in protest against the pension cuts agreed by the government, employers and the official union leaderships.
The Arab revolution is not a single act but a process that will last for years, with ups and downs, ebbs and flows. There will be revolutionary explosions, followed by refluxes until in the end matters will be settled decisively in one way or another – either by the victory of the socialist revolution or the counterrevolution.
The IMT has come out categorically against any imperialist intervention in Libya. The only force that can settle accounts with Gaddafi is the Libyan people, and particularly the working class and revolutionary youth, not the imperialists who seek only to impose a new puppet government, favourable to their interests.
The most urgent task at present is the development of a strong Marxist tendency in the revolutionary movement of workers and youth, able to give a clear direction to the revolutionary aspirations of the masses and lead them to victory.
The IMT does not confine itself to analyzing the root causes of the Arab revolution and the most likely course of development, but is actively involved in it. To the best of our ability we are striving to help resolve the contradiction between the extraordinary maturity of the objective conditions for the triumph of the socialist revolution and the immaturity of the subjective factor, the absence of a leadership and the revolutionary party.
The discussion on the international situation was enriched by the participation of many comrades, who filled out the statement of comrade Alan Woods. Among other questions dealt with were China’s situation, the Venezuelan revolution, the prospects for the government of Dilma Roussef in Brazil, and the situation of Bolivia and Argentina. All these issues were explained and analyzed in the discussion.
Finally, the different contributions were summarized by comrade Alan Woods who underlined the urgency of strengthening and developing the Marxist Tendency everywhere. He explained that the Arab revolution is the mirror in which we can see the future of the working class and youth in Europe, USA, Latin America, and in every country and continent in the world.
Commission on Italy
The first day's sessions ended with a special report by comrade Alessandro Giardiello on the crisis of Italian capitalism. Comrade Alessandro analyzed the terminal crisis of the Berlusconi government and the desperate attempts of the Italian bourgeoisie to seek a replacement favourable to their interests, as Berlusconi has become useless as a tool for implementing the harsh policies of adjustment that it needs to save Italian capitalism, as in the rest of Europe. Alessandro also spoke of the new and confident mood that is emerging in the Italian working class, as demonstrated by the mobilization of more than half a million workers in October, organized by the metalworkers' union, the FIOM, and the resistance of the workers of FIAT in the face of the attacks launched by the company.
Second session: The discussion on the United Front
The second day of school was devoted largely to discussion of the United Front and its practical application in Latin America. The exposition of this point was made by comrade David Rey, of the Socialist Tendency El Militante of Argentina. Comrade David Rey gave an historical account of the concept and practice of the united front from the Marxist standpoint.
In his leadoff and in the different interventions made by the comrades, it was stressed that the united front between different tendencies of the labour movement responds to the necessity of the maximum unity of the working class in the struggle against Capital to achieve specific objectives, whether economic or political. But it is also relevant in the struggle of the Marxists to demonstrate to the entire working class the superiority of their methods, ideas and agenda on the basis of common experience of struggle. The Marxists, while defending the need for the front united, always insist on maintaining their right to criticize the policy of the other trends that make up the front, and to defend freely their views and programme.
Comrade Ray pointed to the experience of the First International (The International Workers’ Association-IWA) as an example of Marx’s flexible approach to collaboration with other tendencies and in particular to the policy of the Communist International with relation to the Socialist parties in the 1920's. The bold application of the policy of the united front allowed the Communist Parties to emerge as mass organizations in the world labour movement.
The comrades also explained and analyzed the tactics of the Anti-Imperialist United Front, adopted by the 4th Congress of the Communist International in 1922. The application of this slogan played an important role in strengthening the role of the Communist parties in the struggle of the colonial and semi-colonial peoples for independence and against direct military rule of the imperialist countries, forging strong links between the working class and rural poor in these countries.
However, subsequently, this correct policy was distorted by the Stalinists into the policy of class collaboration between the Communist Parties and the national bourgeoisie, with the consequent abandonment of the struggle to transform the national democratic revolution into the socialist revolution. This led to bloody defeats of the workers and poor peasants in many ex-colonial and semi-colonial countries from the late 1920's onwards.
Today, the national bourgeoisie of all countries are tied up with the interests of imperialism, as Trotsky explained in his theory of Permanent Revolution. The task in these countries is, therefore, to build the party of the working class, linking the solution of the unresolved democratic national problems to the struggle for the expropriation of the capitalists and the imperialists under the democratic control of the working class, leading all the other oppressed classes and strata of the nation, whose demands must be incorporated into the revolutionary program of the working class.
The united front in Latin America
As far as the current situation in Latin America is concerned, the Marxists of the IMT link their united front policy to revolutionary work in the mass organizations of the working class, both trade union and political, even when the latter include other classes and oppressed layers of society. Such is the case of the PSUV in Venezuela, the MAS in Bolivia, the PRD in Mexico (especially the tendency that is developing around the left wing of López Obrador), the FMLN in El Salvador, the People's National Front in Honduras, or the Polo Democrático in Colombia.
In countries where the working class already has mass organizations such as the PT in Brazil, the Marxists, while working in these organizations, are also involved in a united front with the poor peasants as the case of the Landless Peasants Movement (MST). In Argentina, the Marxists of the CMI – while clearly understanding the limitations of the Kirchnerist government and agitating for a workers' party of the masses – have proposed a united front to all the workers and popular organizations, including those linked to Kirchnerism, against the destabilization attempts from the right wing and the bourgeoisie, which is trying to impose a political alternative to the right of the government of Cristina Fernández.
The discussion on so-called indigenism (the Native question)
The second part of the session was devoted to the issue of indigenism and racialism, particularly in regard to the black population in countries like the USA and Brazil. These topics were presented in separate contributions of comrades Jose Pereira, from the IMT of Bolivia, and comrade Miranda of Brazil's Black Socialist Movement.
Comrade Jose explained how the ideological current of "indianism-indigenism" has been gaining influence over recent decades in several countries in Latin America. Revolutionary processes and explosive events in countries such as Bolivia, Ecuador, Peru or Mexico – in parallel with the loss of authority of Marxism in these countries during previous decades, as a result of the crimes and betrayals of Stalinism – has given a certain impetus to the movement that calls itself indianista, but also in countries where the question of oppressed nationalities is secondary, such as Argentina and Chile.
Indianism covers a multitude of positions – from indigenism focused on education and integration of the indigenous population in modern society to "Katarism" in Bolivia, which demands a total break with modernity and the restoration of the society of the Incas.
Many of the positions of indigenist groups are reactionary because they seek to solve the problems of the indigenous and peasant masses, not by identifying the real causes of oppression in the structure of society, in private property, capitalism and imperialism, but in looking back through the centuries and imagining a remote past that they attempt to idealize as pre-Hispanic "community socialism."
The Marxists, while defending the most basic demands against discrimination, respect for culture and language, democracy and full political rights of the indigenous population, are opposed to any idea that leads to the division and balkanization of the Latin American countries. Our position is not to create new borders, but sweep away all frontiers. We defend the idea of a Socialist Federation of Latin America.
The question of racism
On the issue of racialism and the Black question, comrade Miranda gave a historical explanation of this phenomenon in the United States and Brazil. He explained how racism has its origins in the introduction of slavery and the brutal exploitation of black people, when millions were brought from Africa to the United States, Brazil, the Caribbean and elsewhere. Comrade Miranda, and other comrades who participated in the debate, insisted on rejecting the concept of "race" in reference to blacks, whites and other ethnicities. There is only one human race, which is divided into social classes, exploiters and exploited, oppressors and oppressed. We fight all forms of discrimination and privilege between one section of the population and another.
As in the case of Indianism, we oppose the reactionary slogan of territorial self-determination for blacks in the U.S. or Brazil. We are against so-called "positive discrimination" and the introduction of "quotas" to establish a threshold percentage of blacks in universities and jobs in businesses and public administration. We oppose the system of "quotas" for blacks, women and other specific sections of the population because in a crisis situation where there are not enough places for everyone in the universities or jobs in companies, this can only enhance competition, increase the venom of racism and sow hatred between ethnic groups, and divide the working class. As in all social issues, the problem of racism can only find an answer through the socialist transformation of society. Only the expropriation of the capitalists and economic planning will ensure homes, schools and jobs for all without having to resort to mechanisms of "positive discrimination".
Third session: The work of the Marxists in the mass organizations and the building of mass workers' parties in Latin America
The third day was dedicated to a discussion of the work of the Marxists in the mass organizations and the prospect of building mass workers' parties in Latin America. This session was introduced by comrade Serge Goulart, a member of the national leadership of the Workers’ Party of Brazil (PT) and leader of the Brazilian Marxist tendency Esquerda Marxista.
Comrade Serge gave a historical overview on the formation of socialist and communist parties in the late nineteenth and twentieth century. In every case he showed that the united front tactic and revolutionary work of the Marxists in existing mass organizations was the prior condition for these organizations to emerge in each historical period. And this is still the case in the present day.
There were many interventions in the debate. The discussion also raised a whole series of specific issues and challenges inherent in working in the mass organizations, but especially the huge opportunities offered to the Marxists to discuss with the most active layers of the working class.
The discussion also made clear that, as well as the work of the Marxists in the mass organizations, it is also important to develop one’s own fronts or work in other existing fronts, either among young people, the labour movement, and other layers of the class.
In his reply comrade Goulart explained the tasks of the Marxist tendency in the main countries of Latin America and the U.S.A. In countries where workers' parties or mass organizations exist, such as Brazil, the followers of the IMT work in the PT. We are active in the PSUV in Venezuela, in Bolivia, in the MAS, in Mexico, in the PRD and its left wing is grouped around López Obrador, in Uruguay in the Frente Amplio, in El Salvador in the FMLN.
It is the duty of Marxists to participate and work within these parties and organizations to defend the socialist program with a constructive and fraternal method, but without hiding our ideas and positions.
In the case of the U.S., the Marxists who are in sympathy with the IMT are agitating for the formation of a labour party based on the unions, which are the only mass organizations with the power and capacity to undertake this task. The same position is held by the Argentine Marxists, who while showing the inability of the Kirchnerist government to solve the fundamental problems of the working masses, maintain a friendly attitude towards their rank and file in the social movements and in the unions, explaining the need for an alternative working class policy independent of any wing of the bourgeoisie.
At the end of the session, the comrades of the Esquerda Marxista organized a collection among the participants to help develop their revolutionary work. The response was very enthusiastic and the collection raised US$3,400.
At the end of the day, comrade Alex, from the Esquerda Marxista entertained the audience with his guitar, singing Brazilian revolutionary songs and the day ended with the singing of revolutionary songs by all the comrades present.
Last day: Prospects for the Cuban revolution
The last session of the School, on Saturday March 19 was devoted to the situation in Cuba and the challenges facing the Revolution and the implementation of the economic plan proposed by the government of Raul Castro, to be discussed in the Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba in April.
The session was opened by comrade Alan Woods, and the first thing he emphasized was the IMT’s unconditional defence by of the Cuban revolution and its conquests. The Cuban Revolution aroused great hopes in the working masses of Latin America, and around the world. Great social advances have taken place in education and culture, health, housing and other fields thanks to the nationalized planned economy.
But the Cuban revolution was born with great contradictions within it, due in part to the isolation of the Revolution and the criminal blockade of imperialism. Alan explained that in Cuba the theory of the Permanent Revolution took place in a peculiar way. It was subsequently conditioned by Cuba's relationship with the Stalinist regimes that existed until the early 90's in the USSR and Eastern Europe. All this encouraged the development of bureaucratic tendencies in the State and Party.
The revolution now faces great dangers. The disappearance of the Soviet Union was a very hard blow for the Cuban economy, which has not yet recovered. Now Cuba faces the ruthless dictatorship of the world market. It is a small island with few resources that must buy 90% of its consumption abroad at international prices. On the other hand, bureaucratic tendencies exist, causing serious economic problems. To this must be added the emergence of sharp social differences due to easy access to the dollar from one part of the population (through Cuban emigrant remittances, the tourism-related sector, etc.).
The proposed measures, such as the laying off of a large number of public sector workers and their conversion into self-employed workers, the promotion of small cooperatives, the elimination of certain basic benefits, the promotion of foreign investments, etc., is explained by the serious deterioration of the economic situation. But they contain within them the danger of capitalist restoration, compounded by the absence of workers' control over the economy and society.
In the long term, the fate of the Cuban revolution will be decided internationally. If the socialist revolution does not extend to other Latin American countries, beginning with Venezuela, the fate of the Cuban revolution will be sealed.
Many comrades participated in the debate in a discussion that was very lively. In his reply, Comrade Alan Woods said the prospect of a capitalist restoration in Cuba was not yet settled. It has met with firm resistance in parts of the party and youth. The Cuban Communists and the youth must rediscover the ideas of Lenin on the organization of state and society in a nationalized planned economy. What is required is reconstruction on Leninist lines, with the introduction of workers' control and with an international appeal to the international working class to carry out the socialist revolution, starting with Latin America.
The second Pan-American School was closed by comrade Serge Goulart, who expressed his appreciation for the enormous sacrifices and efforts made by the comrades in Latin America in Argentina, Venezuela, Bolivia and Italy to participate in this school. In particular, he thanked comrade Alan Woods for his personal effort in being present in the School. Alan’s visit to our continent will be completed in the coming days with visits to Bolivia and Argentina, and finally a tour of Brazil to present a new collection of his writings on the Arab Revolution in Portuguese.
Comrade Goulart said that the School had made the correct choice of the topics for discussion: the Arab revolution, the united front and work in mass organizations, Cuba, and Indianism. These are all highly topical issues of practical importance for all Marxists and revolutionaries in Latin America.
The second Pan-American School of the IMT finished with the singing of The Internationale by all the comrades present with raised fists and tremendous enthusiasm. This Pan-American School will play an important role in developing the activities of the International in all countries where it operates in the coming weeks and months.