The upcoming presidential election in Brazil is polarized between the two candidates Lula and Bolsonaro. The pre-candidacy of Vera, a black worker and socialist, for the PSTU (Partido Socialista de Trabalhadores Unidos) and the PSR (Polo Socialista y Revolucionario, Socialist and Revolutionary Pole), offers a left alternative against Bolsonaro, and also against the class conciliation of Lula and Alckmin.

By Eduardo Almeida

However, there are also other left pre-candidatures, such as those of the PCB (Partido Comunista do Brasil, Communist Party of Brazil) and the UP (Unidade Popular, Popular Unity). And many activists ask themselves: what are the differences between these pre-candidatures and why did they not unify in a left front?

This is a legitimate question, asked by activists we respect. In this article we will focus more on the PCB issue, leaving the UP candidacy for another article.

On the differences between direct struggles and elections

There is a fundamental difference between the need for unity in the direct struggles of the workers and an electoral front.

In strikes, in mobilizations against the bourgeoisie and the governments, the broadest unity is often needed to make possible more chances of victory. For example, we defend the broadest unity of action for the mobilizations for Bolsonaro Out (Fora Bolsonaro).

In the case of elections, it is very different. This is explained in the first place by the Marxist definition that there is no possibility of reaching socialism by the electoral road, but only through revolution. In the Leninist conception, elections are for us to present our revolutionary program. In this case, the need for revolutionaries to present their own programs predominates and not the unity of the different sectors.

This has nothing to do with sectarianism, as some activists interpret it, but because there is a qualitative difference between direct struggles and elections. And when there are fundamental programmatic differences, it is often not possible to compose electoral fronts. Sometimes, because of tactical problems, these fronts are possible. But this is not the case with respect to the PCB currently.

Is the defense of class independence a principle, or is it simply a provisional tactic?

There is an important agreement between the pre-candidatures of Vera of the PSTU and the Pole, and that of Sofia Manzano, of the PCB. Both oppose the Lula-Alckmin candidacy, which expresses a governmental proposal of class collaboration with the big national and multinational bourgeoisie.

However, this agreement has explicit limits. For us, the political independence of the workers in relation to the bourgeoisie is a principle, and very important to orient all our political actions. For the PCB, it is not so.

This manifests itself in three issues that are often overlooked by activists. First, historical precedent. The PCB supported the bourgeois government of João Goulart in 1963 and 1964, preventing the working class from playing an independent role against this government and disarmed the reaction of the masses to the military coup.

The PCB directly supported Lula’s first government, between 2002 and 2005. In that government, Lula had as vice-president José Alencar, owner of Coteminas, one of the biggest textile industries in the country. The PCB maintained its support for the PT government, even after the political crisis provoked by the pension reform in 2003. This episode led to a confrontation with public employees and the expulsion of three parliamentarians who voted against this reform, which led to the founding of the PSOL in 2004. It was not until 2005 that the PCB stopped supporting the PT government.

Both the support to the government of João Goulart and to Lula were based on the ideological matrix of Stalinism, which introduced in the workers’ movement the strategy of the “popular fronts,” that is, the alliance with “progressive bourgeoisies”.

Now, the PCB launches a pre-candidacy manifesting itself against the alliance of the PT with the bourgeoisie, without saying anything about the support it gave to a similar government in 2002. Is it because the Lula-Alckmin formula is more to the right than the 2002 government? Definitely, it is more to the right. But that does not change the bourgeois class character of the first Lula government. This is only justified if class independence is not a principle but a tactical policy.

Some activists may think that this is a problem of the past. It does not seem so to us. In a recent interview with Breno Altman, on February 21, Jones Manoel, one of the PCB’s leading public figures, declared that “at no time did the party announce that it would oppose a future PT government.”

We believe that a possible Lula-Alckmin government will be a bourgeois government, which will implement neoliberal plans against the workers. We have no doubt that, in case of electoral victory of the PT, we will be opponents of its government. Therefore, we are not only talking about the past but also about the future.

The international positions of the PCB are, in many cases, opposed to ours

Often, checking the international positions of parties allows activists to identify their strategies. Thus, it is possible to see in history what they defend in the face of more advanced situations of struggle between revolution and counterrevolution. This helps to understand what these parties would do at the national level in a similar situation.

Today, between us and the PCB there are greater differences in international politics than at the national level. First, on Ukraine. The PCB defends Putin’s invasion of Ukraine. We defend the Ukrainian resistance against the Russian invasion. We directly support the workers’ unions that are part of this struggle in Ukraine.

The PCB defends its position with the same arguments as Stalinism on the world level. They say it is “Putin’s struggle against imperialism and NATO.” If Putin were fighting against imperialism, we would be on his side. But, in truth, he is invading a semi-colonial, much weaker country, destroying homes and killing Ukrainian workers, just as Tsarism did in the past.

With this invasion, Putin is actually strengthening imperialism in Ukraine and, globally, in the consciousness of working people.

Wars are never won or defeated by numbers of weapons and military tactics alone. The consciousness of the masses in struggle, whether defending or attacking, has enormous political and military value. Right now, workers in Ukraine are suffering directly from Putin’s invasion and see Biden’s statements against this Russian aggression. Do you think the invasion of Ukraine helped advance the anti-imperialist consciousness of the Ukrainian masses or brutally set it back?

Germany has just decided, with broad mass support, to triple its armed forces for the first time since World War II. With the Russian invasion, has the consciousness of the European masses advanced or regressed in relation to their own imperialisms?

Sweden and Finland applied for NATO membership after the Russian invasion, also with mass support.

The political strengthening of imperialism by Putin’s actions is undeniable. Biden and NATO are gaining support among the workers of the world for “defending an oppressed country” when in fact they are cynically doing the opposite across the globe. The Biden administration, an ally of Israel in the genocide of the Palestinian people, is being seen by the masses of the world as a defender of an oppressed country because of Putin’s criminal action.

The PCB also argues that Putin “fights Nazis in Ukraine.” In fact, it is Putin who has the support of the far-right around the world, including Bolsonaro, Trump, Orban (Hungary), and Le Pen (France).

Indeed, there are fascist groups in Ukraine, such as the Azov battalion. There are also those in Russia, such as the Wagner battalion, involved in the Ukrainian war and directly supported by Putin.

We have no illusions about Zelensky or the Ukrainian state. It is a bourgeois government in a bourgeois state. We support the struggle of the Ukrainian trade unions against the labor reform being implemented by this government. But Putin is a Bonapartist government, in power for 23 years. Recently, he changed the Constitution to stay until 2036. He is attacking the Ukrainian state, a state with serious authoritarian characteristics because of its bourgeois character, but which, at least, has regular elections (Zelensky was elected in 2019), unlike Russia. Only the Stalinist farce can defend “democrat Putin against Ukrainian Nazism.”

In fact, the PCB supports Russian aggression, like much of Stalinism worldwide, because it considers Putin’s government, as well as China, as “progressive.”

They ignore that these governments are led by big bourgeoisies, arising from the state apparatuses. These bourgeoisies have nothing “anti-imperialist” about them, as the Stalinist farce claims. Putin was the main agent of the entry of the big imperialist multinationals into Russia. And the Chinese state partnered with the imperialist multinationals for the restoration of capitalism. The conflict that now exists between the U.S. and China has nothing to do with “Chinese anti-imperialism,” but with disputes between big business, both enemies of the workers.

Abysmal differences are also expressed in our different understandings of Cuba. We defend the Cuban youth and workers who on July 11 took to the streets to protest the social consequences of the harsh neo-liberal plan imposed by the Díaz-Canel government. In Cuba, as in China, a new bourgeoisie emerged from the state apparatus and restored capitalism to the island.

But the PCB, as well as world Stalinism, believes that all those who protest against the “progressive governments” of Cuba, China, Venezuela, Nicaragua, and Syria are “agents of imperialism.”

That is why the PCB supported the repression against the Cuban people, including the sentencing of underage youths to years and years in prison for the crime of participating in these street demonstrations. That is why Jones Manoel, the PCB’s top public figure, supported the massacre of 500,000 Syrians by the dictatorship of the genocidal bourgeois Assad, the murder of 400 people by the bourgeois dictatorship of Ortega, and the systematic repression of the Venezuelan people by the bourgeois and corrupt dictatorship of Maduro.

The PCB ignores that a strong bourgeoisie emerged in these states that applies neoliberal plans against which the workers are confronted. Here it is shown that, for the CP, the defense of the independence of the working class against the bourgeoisie is not a principle. On the contrary, it defends the repression of these bourgeoisies against the workers.

With these international positions, it is legitimate to be concerned about would happen in Brazil if the PCB were to come to State power.

Socialism has nothing to do with the Stalinism defended by the PCB

Today, capitalist exploitation is brutal, with elements of barbarism increasing in the world. Socialism or barbarism is a disjunctive more current than ever.

To make categorically explicit the defense of socialism has become an imperious necessity. This obliges us to explain our vision of socialism. Unfortunately, the socialist flag was stained by Stalinism, and by all the monstrosities imposed by the leading bureaucracies of the former workers’ states.

Stalinism expressed a political counterrevolution that put an end to the historic Soviet experience of workers’ democracy of the first seven years of the Russian revolution.

Imperialist propaganda, however, spread the lie that “Stalinism equals socialism.” And Stalinist propaganda helped spread the same lie, calling these Stalinist dictatorships “socialism.”

There is enormous confusion among activists on this issue. And it is even greater because it is still present today. Both Stalinist and capitalist propaganda continue to claim that China, Venezuela, and Cuba are “socialist”.

We defend revolutionary socialism, which has nothing to do with Stalinism and even less with the bourgeois dictatorships of China, Cuba, and Venezuela.

The Brazilian Communist Party made a self-critical review of the past, admitting a mistake when it identified itself completely with the Stalinist bureaucracies that commanded the former workers’ states.

However, this self-criticism did not identify the role of the old bureaucracies in the restoration of capitalism in the former workers’ states. And, from there, it continued to defend China and Cuba as “socialist”.

Furthermore, it maintained the vindication of Stalinism and the ideological matrix of the leading bureaucracies of those States responsible for the most serious betrayals of the workers’ struggles throughout the world.

In its XIV Congress, the PCB approved a document entitled “Socialism: balance and perspectives,” in which it makes a balance of the former workers’ states. In it, it says: “It is also worth remembering that the current socialist countries, which even facing serious difficulties, like Cuba, or with adaptive or mixed policies, of world integration and internal coexistence with market structures and private property, like China and Vietnam, present a high standard of development and quality of life for workers.”

This is the assessment of China, a country dominated by big capitalist companies (Huawei, Alibaba, TikTok, Tencent, as well as multinationals like Apple), which uses the ferocious Stalinist bourgeois dictatorship to impose reduced wages on Chinese workers. This dictatorship was responsible for the Tiananmen massacre in 1989, when thousands of protesting youth were killed.

Last year, the PCB hailed the centenary of the Chinese CP: “One hundred years of struggle, sacrifice, and devotion to the cause of freedom, justice, and social equality.”

For us, it does not seem difficult to identify a bourgeois dictatorship in China, which is “communist” in name only.

Communist parties around the world were the arms of the Stalinist bureaucracies that ran the former workers’ states. With the restoration of capitalism, these same Communist parties now defend bourgeois dictatorships (like China, Russia, and Cuba) as well as the “progressive governments” of other bourgeois dictatorships, like those of Syria, Venezuela, and Nicaragua.

They go so far, even with crises, as to justify the unjustifiable, like the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

The PCB, like Jones Manoel, claims “not to be Stalinists”. But Jones Manoel is a defender and disseminator of the works of the Italian historian Domenico Losurdo. This Italian intellectual, who also calls himself a “non-Stalinist”, is the main ideological source of the revival of Stalinism worldwide.

Losurdo wrote his most famous book Stalin, History, and Critique of a Black Legend, polemicizing the image of Stalin constructed by the liberal bourgeoisie as a “tyrant.” For this, he relied on the comparison of the crimes of Stalinism with similar crimes of imperialism.

We have no doubt that imperialism uses, used, and will use enormous violence against workers and opponents. But this in no way justifies Stalin’s crimes, which were not against imperialism but against the workers of his own country.

Stalin massacred more than a million left-wing opponents in the USSR, including almost the entire Central Committee of the Bolshevik Party that led the 1917 revolution. He did it not to defend the USSR from imperialism, but to carry out a political counterrevolution that wiped out the world example of workers’ democracy of the soviets of the first seven years of the Russian revolution.

The Stalinist bureaucracy violently repressed LGBTQI people, who were sent to concentration camps; it imposed a setback in the fight against machismo, with the loss of women’s rights; it put an end to artistic freedom and scientific research.

And he did it to ensure the power of the bureaucracy against the workers. The same bureaucracy that later, through Gorbachev, led the restoration of capitalism in Russia.

Putin, former head of the Stalinist KGB, has been leading Russia for 23 years, in a totalitarian way, defending the interests of the new bourgeoisie arising from the capitalist restoration, of which he himself is one of the maximum expressions.

Losurdo makes the maneuver of questioning imperialist repressions in order to justify those carried out by Stalinism. And he justifies them, as if they were expressions of legitimate violence against imperialism.

This ideology is present in today’s PCB. This is how the youth of this party is educated. Last year, in an act in Porto Alegre, the UJC sang a song on the students’ day, with a refrain that said “Stalin killed few”.

Jones Manoel, on December 18, 2020, published a tribute to Stalin on his birthday, reviving the Stalinist farce of his “great role” in the defeat of Nazi-fascism in World War II. This is another copied Losurdo maneuver, which also echoes this Stalinist lie.

The truth is that Stalin, to the dismay of the entire world left, made a pact with Hitler in 1939, which only strengthened Nazi Germany. Along with that, he severely weakened the Soviet armed forces with Stalinist repression against its leaders. Of the 85 members of the Military Council, 68 were shot, two committed suicide, two died in prison, and four were sentenced to long terms. The German invasion of the USSR took Stalin (who believed until the end in the agreement with Hitler) completely by surprise, and his armed forces had been weakened by the repression. The heroic victory of the Soviet people against the Nazi invasion cost 26 million lives, far more than would have been necessary otherwise. The victory of the USSR took place in spite of Stalin.

Neither Losurdo nor the PCB nor Jones Manoel explains the role of the Stalinist bureaucracy in the restoration of capitalism in China, Russia, and Cuba.

It is not by chance that this happens. The ideological basis of these parties, including the Brazilian Communist Party, continues to be Stalinism.

In the debate among the left candidates, organized by Contrapoder last April 22, Sofia Manzano, presidential pre-candidate for the PCB, explicitly vindicated a concept of Mao Tse Tung, prioritizing the “principal contradiction and not the secondary one.”

This is one of the best known traditions of Stalinism, a mechanical determinist view. This is how the “principal contradiction” is characterized: progressive governments against imperialism. And all those who oppose progressive governments would be, then, agents of imperialism.

This mechanical determinism allows leaving aside the Marxist theory of analyzing reality on the basis of social classes, replacing it with “progressive camps.” And it makes it unnecessary to analyze the concrete reality, which includes the gestation of these new bourgeoisies from the state apparatus, the concrete policy of these governments (their neo-liberal plans), and against those being confronted (the workers fighting against these plans in these countries, the Ukrainian people, etc.). Everything is justified by this Stalinist mechanical determinism, because “all are enemies of the progressive governments, therefore all are agents of imperialism.”

By not breaking with Stalinism, the PCB cannot leave aside the defense of these bourgeois dictatorships which have nothing to do with socialism.

Still less can they have as a principle the defense of class independence. Stalinism is the ideological matrix of the “progressive camps,” which justify supporting bourgeois dictatorships. Stalinism was the one who introduced in the mass movement the strategy of the “popular fronts” of collaboration with “progressive sectors of the bourgeoisie,” which today are still present in the PCB, as well as in the PT and the PSOL.

We understand that an important part of the activists do not draw these same conclusions on the differences with the PCB because they prioritize the immediate agreement between the candidacies of Vera and Sofia Manzano in the rejection of Lula and Alckmin.

We hope to have presented the theoretical and programmatic foundations and the dimension of the strategic differences existing between the PSTU and the PCB. This does not mean that it is wrong at all times to make an electoral front with the PCB, and even less that there is any problem of principle in such fronts. But at this moment, the fundamental thing is to present our program in the elections and there are marked differences, especially concerning Ukraine.

Besides, at this moment, the PSTU is part of the Socialist and Revolutionary Pole, an electoral front with sectors of the PSOL and independent activists, articulated around a manifesto that rejects the bureaucratic authoritarianism of the Stalinist experience. For these reasons, we do not see an electoral front with the PCB as correct.

Article originally published on on 5/25/2022