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New International, May 1938


The Crisis of Stalinism in Brazil

From New International, Vol.4 No.5, May 1938, pp.153-154.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


THE CONSEQUENCES of the defeats of the Stalinist policy in Brazil have not yet been fully revealed. The final result of the Stalinist “putsch” of November, 1935, is the present Vargas dictatorship. After the putsch, last year, during the short so-called legal period (legal save for the workers’ parties, naturally), the Communist party, pursuing a beaten-dog policy, began to run after one of the two so-called democratic bourgeois candidates for the presidency (the president of the Brazilian republic was to have been elected by direct suffrage, as in the United States; the elections were to have taken place on Jan. 2, 1938, and Vargas’ mandate expired in May of this year).

Against the bourgeois candidates, the Bolshevik-Leninists of Brazil raised the name of Luiz Carlos Prestes, who was going to be sentenced by the tribunal expressly created for that purpose. The trial aroused an enormous interest among the people. It was a real trial against communism. Prestes declared himself to be a communist before the judges; it is as the “leader” of communism that the judges have sentenced him to almost 20 years in prison. In advancing Prestes’ name, the Bolshevik-Leninists said plainly that Prestes himself was not a genuine communist since he was a Stalinist, but that circumstances have made him, in the eyes of the bourgeoisie, the representative of communism and of the oppressed and rebellious working masses. To vote for Prestes in these circumstances, they said, was to pose class against class, was to draw the balance-sheet of the communist and revolutionary forces of the country, was to struggle for the creation of a mass movement independent of the bourgeoisie, for the legalization of workers’ and revolutionary parties and for the amnesty.

By means of this position the Brazilian Trotskyites threw the CP into a very difficult position. The base of the Stalinist party vacillated. The party, which was lined up with the bourgeois parties, had been forced to abandon the struggle for amnesty for the thousands who were imprisoned and sentenced as a result of the unfortunate putsch, including all its own principal leaders. The Stalinist party confined itself to asking the bourgeois “democratic” candidates, through private delegations, whether they promised an amnesty; neither of the two wished to compromise himself: amnesty for Berger (Ewert, the secret envoy of the Executive of the CI, former member of the Reichstag from the CPG) and for Prestes was a slogan whose revolutionary and class character was too evident for the bourgeois to be able to adopt it. And for that reason this slogan was suppressed in the electoral campaign. Only the Trotskyites openly supported it.

The effects of this infamous position of the Stalinist leaders were not slow in appearing. As a final touch, the bourgeois candidate who was supported by the Communist Party capitulated miserably to the reaction, consenting to have his friends in the chamber of deputies vote for the promulgation of the “state of war” as demanded by Vargas in a message sent to the chamber. The promulgation of the “state of war” with the suppression of all constitutional guarantees was the beginning of the Bonapartist-fascist coup d’etat prepared by Vargas, a group of generals, and the Integralistas (fascists). The Stalinist leaders were as shameless as their candidate and all the self-styled “leftists” and petty-bourgeois democrats. They fell into passivity and refused to call the masses to struggle against the “state of war” in order to avoid “provoking” the reaction and “accelerating” the coup d’etat. (The very day of the promulgation of the “state of war”, the ministers of war and navy – a general and an admiral – solemnly swore, in a manifesto to the people, in the name of the armed forces, that the elections would take place on Jan. 2 because, they said, the “state of war” had no purpose other than the definitive extermination of communism and the prevention of a new uprising such as that of November, 1935, prepared by the Comintern, according to the documents seized by the general staff. But the whole world knew that these documents had been forged by the fascists, with the complicity of certain generals and of Vargas himself. All the petty-bourgeois cretins lived in the illusion that in the end the elections would still be held on Jan. 2, because it was necessary to have confidence in the word of the leaders of the army and the navy. All the petty-bourgeois cretins, it is true ... but the Stalinist leaders also. And they refused joint action with us.)

All this could not but have produced certain repercussions in the CP, entirely monolithic though it was. The divergences blazed up in the Political Bureau itself. Two of its members, not wishing to consider the bourgeoisie as the principal leading force of the “revolution of national liberation”, opposed CP support of the bourgeois candidacy of Jose Americo de Almeida. They foresaw the formation of a “democratic front”, “independent” of the two so-called democratic bourgeois candidates (there was also a third bourgeois candidate, the leader of the “Green Shirts”, the open fascist candidate).

Almeida’s shameless capitulation aggravated the differences in the Political Bureau. The region of Sao Paulo (in all probability the most important of the party) stood with the two members of the PB in the minority and demanded the convocation of a national conference. The majority of the PB refused and responded by expelling the two dissenting comrades. Already, after Vargas’ coup d’etat, the region of Sao Paulo has held a regional conference which adopted political and organizational theses. These elements criticize the policy of the “bureaucracy” (a term which they themselves apply to the majority of the party leadership), and consider the present official leadership illegal. With the support of six regions, the regional conference of Sao Paulo set up a provisional Central Committee instructed to convoke a national conference; the official leadership is considered removed until the national conference is held.

The factional struggle has taken on a very violent character. In the southern and central regions of the country it seems that the dissenting wing has the great majority of the party. But it has no connections with the regions of the North. Moreover, it holds the technical apparatus of the party in its hands, and continues to publish the party organ, A Classe Operaria. It has already published several brochures. The leaders of the dissident wing hold a centrist and very inadequate position. Their criticisms bear especially upon the last period, that of 1937, of CP policy. They want a return to the ANL (National Liberational Alliance) of 1935. Their positions are very confused and full of contradictions. So far they have taken a position only on national problems. They even consider themselves the faithful and legitimate interpreters of the line of the Seventh Congress of the CI. On every occasion they cite Stalin and Dimitrov. In answer to the accusation of being “Trotskyites” they have begun a violent anti-Trotskyite campaign. This is a general view of the situation.

The dissident movement is far from being politically homogeneous. Many tendencies exist side by side with all the nuances of centrism. There is even an ultra-leftist tendency.

It is unnecessary to emphasize the importance of this dissident movement formed inside the monolithic Stalinist bloc. It is the first time that a movement of rebellion against the leading bureaucracy has been organized with such amplitude in the CP itself, and from top to bottom. Only with difficulty will the Stalinist party survive such convulsions, which are only the culmination of a catastrophic policy.

In order for the dissidents to be able to arrive at the elaboration of a correct policy, all the lessons from the experience of past errors must be drawn. But only the Bolshevik-Leninists can do this. The Brazilian comrades, organized in the Leninist Workers’ Party, have done it in their theses, their documents and publications. The success of the oppositional tendency of the Brazilian CP is assured only to the extent that it can evolve toward the Bolshevik-Leninist position. Our Brazilian comrades are working, and must persevere, along this line. It may be that, thanks to exceptional and local ‘circumstances, the first historic split of the Stalinist monolithic bloc, corresponding to the needs of regroupment of the new phase of the world revolutionary movement in which we are now living, will take place in Brazil. In any case the full significance of the split lies in the fact that it broke out on the basis of fundamental principles of the Stalinist strategy in the present epoch.

A part of the leadership, under the blows of successive defeats and under enormous pressure from the proletarian base of the party, breaks with discipline, breaks with the dogma of the infallibility of the leadership and dares to discuss. It denies the progressive and revolutionary character of the bourgeoisie in the anti-imperialist movement of national liberation of the oppressed peoples. The leaders of the op-positional movement are still one-hundred-percent Stalinists. But they have engaged in the struggle with decision, and the process of the struggle can lead them much farther than they thought. Before long they will come to understand that the problem is neither local nor national, but international. In the revolutionary and proletarian movement in Brazil, no other tendency apart from ours – Trotskyism – is known outside of the Stalinist party. Aside from us there are only the tightly-closed anarchist circles of Sao Paulo. No other intermediate grouping exists. The socialists were only a small group of petty bourgeois far away from the masses, who existed only in legal periods, on the eve of elections. In this sense one can say that the road towards the Bolshevik-Leninist position is a little smoother in Brazil than in other countries. The comrades of Brazil must hold themselves in readiness to follow all the tactical turns necessary to aid the dissident movement in finding the best entrance, and with a minimum of losses, to the path of revolutionary Marxism and Bolshevik-Leninism. Whatever may be its final results, this split has a progressive character and opens up new perspectives.

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