SITUATION IN BRAZIL AND VENEZUELA: INTERVIEWS WITH CWI MEMBERS
SITUATION IN BRAZIL AND VENEZUELA: INTERVIEWS WITH CWI MEMBERS
Socialist Democracy (SD): when Lula was first elected as President, many working class and youth activists had hopes that a new political era has opened up for the working masses in Brazil, especially given the fact that Lula himself was once a factory worker. what is your assessment of Lula’s government vis-Å•-vis the general economic and political interests of the working masses five years in power?
Mariana: After his election, the President and his party (PT) have changed the direction, making a coalition with the Social Democratic Party. Both took the direction of neo-liberalism. For the first term, the working class had a lot of motivation and a lot of support for the new President but this time, they are not. They see Lula as lesser devil.
SD: In 2006, Brazil had a general election. In that elections, Revolutionary Socialism, the CWI Section in Brazil, participated within a left platform called PSOL, Party of Socialism and Liberty. One, how do you characterise PSOL politically? Two, can you give a brief explanation of the work of the comrades of the Revolutionary Socialism within PSOL?
Mariana: We must say that PSOL was formed after the widely publicised expulsion of the most radical left members of PT. The party became right wing. After expulsion of MPs who are leftists, PSOL started to be constructed as an alternative from inside the PT.
In pre-election period, PSOL grew among the Brazilian population. But our campaign was not so radical. The PSOL programme was more radical than our campaign. The first phase of our work in pre-election was to build a programme for national debate. Beside the participation in the leadership of the party at different levels, we had small group called the nucleus in the regional and at national levels. So, we participated at all these levels. After the election, our main work is again to build the national congress of PSOL and also to disseminate PSOL among the population, trade union, youth, etc. That means that after the elections, we have been concentrating our effort in disseminating socialist ideas among the population.
SD: What is the level of involvement of women in politics generally and within the Revolutionary Socialism in Brazil in particular?
Mariana: The involvement of women in the political activities inside the party is especially important in developing social class consciousness. Our major task is to increase the consciousness of women in capitalist society by having rights, e.g. work and responsibility at home.
We organise a commission for women’s rights inside PSOL and are involved in national women coordination on women’s question inside PSOL. The women in our organisation inside PSOL organise a national conference on women question and their rights, violence, etc.
In 2006, we are dealing with a national campaign on domestic violence against women. We’re participating in this campaign nationally. We fight for house protection for women that suffer violence. There was a woman who pronounced that she has no protection against violence and we’re working on that.
Socialist Democracy (SD): In Nigeria, the bourgeois media do not often give sufficient coverage to political development in Venezuela and on the few occasions when this is done, it is usually reported from the jaundiced viewpoint of American imperialism. However, amongst the most conscious layers of working class youth and activists, there exists a general feeling that the Chavez government represents a total revolutionary break with imperialism and capitalism. Can you give us a brief summary/balance sheet of what is actually happening in Venezuela?
Johan: In Venezuela we are entering new phase of revolutionary process. This phase has started with re-election of Hugo Chavez for the third term in office. He used the inauguration of the new term to propose a constitutional reform that will allow indefinite re-election as against the current arrangement that only accommodate only maximum of three terms in office. The proposed constitution will also include radical provisions that support the transformation of some private property to social property and give power to local councils and missions that implement social programme of education, health, jobs, etc. In the enterprises of social production there is now some degree of participation of workers and communities.
Also significant step is the re-nationalisation of the largest electricity firm and telecommunication giant that were privatised in the 1990s by the pre-Chavez pro-capitalist government.
He has also used his re-election to move nearer to socialist governance with the announcement of the establishment of the Socialist Unity Party that will include all the forces supporting Chavez.
Chavez has openly stated that Venezuela is moving towards a socialist republic and has come up with proposal to rename the country as Socialist Bolivarian Republic. He also openly related himself with Leon Trotsky and the ideas of permanent revolution. Though, at present, this is more a lip service as Chavez has not yet applied the method and programme of Trotsky, especially as regards the roles of the working class, workers’ democracy and revolutionary party in the socialist revolution. But Chavez’s open endorsement has put in the front burner the genuine ideas of Trotsky.
However it is not all a rosy picture with Venezuela. The working class is still split and lack proper organisation and leadership. The mass movements lack coherent leadership. The bourgeois state and capitalist system are still intact. The paramilitary forces of reaction from Colombia have got the province at border and some shanty towns of Caracas.
The re-election of Chavez has not meant the total defeat of opposition which has in fact begun to recover. The main reason is that the bureaucracy still tends to preserve capitalist economy. Some of government officers and Chavez’s supporters still engage in class collaborationism. They never truly fight against state bureaucracy. Corruption is still rampart in government. The opposition is posed to reclaim its influence having recovered some of its base. However, at the same time Chavez has experienced growth in support.
SD: For sometime now, you and other activists have been having some kind of political interactions/collaboration with the comrades of the CWI in relation to the political development in Venezuela. How would you assess the political and organisational perspectives being advocated by the CWI vis-Å•-vis the driving forward, in the interest of the working masses, the on-going processes in Venezuela?
Johan: The perspective of CWI in relation to Venezuela is that we have to look at approval of workers and masses for the new socialist party of Chavez, which is the central issue at the moment. Also important are the issues of nationalisation and Trotskyism. These three issues are very important to develop our works in Venezuela.
The first step is to consolidate our intervention in Venezuela based on a socialist programme in order to raise the consciousness of workers and masses on the three identified issues. The second step is coming together of organisations calling themselves socialist to fight together.
SD: What political group do you belong or represent within Venezuela?
Johan: Our group in Venezuela Colectivo Socialismo Revolucionario (Revolutionary Socialist Collective). It is not yet a formal section of the CWI, though we have embraced the method and programme of the CWI. We are working assiduously towards construction of a CWI section. We are also pre-occupied with work in trade unions. We want to get some of our members and sympathizers elected into local and national leadership of trade unions.