On the evening of Thursday 5 November, Comrade Renato Rabelo, National President of the PCdoB, declared the party’s 12th congress open. After the members of the Central Committee had taken their places on the platform, the rules of the congress had been approved and various committees had been endorsed, the names of 49 fraternal parties from 32 countries attending the congress were read out, at the end of which the congress delegates gave the foreign guests a standing ovation to the accompaniment of shouts of ‘Down with imperialism!’ and ‘Long live socialism!’
The above ceremony was followed by the opening speech of Comrade Rabelo, who pointed out that the 12th congress was the largest in the party’s 87-year history, with 1,087 delegates in attendance, an achievement that was solely attributable to the fact that “we have responded to the challenges facing our people”. He went on to point out that the PCdoB was “working towards the Brazilian road to socialism during a difficult historical time” and, taking advantage of the current capitalist crisis, conducting ideological struggle and adopting correct tactics with the aim of effecting global re-ordering.
The ideological debates, said Comrade Rabelo, had been conducted at party schools and in Principios (Principles), the party’s theoretical organ, the results of this being reflected in the Fifth Programme, submitted to the congress for approval. This programme pointed out the path to be followed – socialism for Brazil, as well as the road to be traversed to achieve it. It was a class-based programme which underlined that only socialism can result in the salvation of Brazil.
Comrade Rabelo went on to emphasise the importance of the New National Development Project (NPND being its Portuguese acronym), which the PCdoB was promoting and which was characterised by its opposition to imperialism, neo-liberalism, the latifundia and the financial oligarchy, hand in hand with its support for strengthening national sovereignty, democratisation of society, social progress and solidarity, and integration with South and Latin America.
Neo-liberalism, he went on, had caused stagnation in Brazil. The victory of Luiz Inácio Lula de Silva (Lula) in the 2002 presidential election began to make a break with the preceding neoliberal phase. In this context, Lula’s second term was far more successful than the first. While the reactionary and conservative forces vehemently opposed the Lula administration, the PCdoB supported it with the aim of ending the neo-liberal stranglehold on the Brazilian economy and society.
But, he continued, “loyalty to the Lula government does not mean giving up our independent position. Criticism of the government, where we have serious differences, is essential to our support for it”.
Surveying the world political scene, Comrade Rabelo said that US imperialism was in a state of progressive decline, with its position severely undermined in Latin America and the Caribbean. Barack Obama, the new US President, had adopted the tactics of flexibility, but for the sole purpose of maintaining US dominance with a diplomatic façade. The revival of the Fourth Fleet and the US-Colombia accord presented clear dangers to the nations of South and Latin America, whose people must maintain constant vigilance against them.
Looking to the 2010 presidential election in Brazil, in which Lula will not be a candidate, due to the constitutional limitation on presidential terms, Comrade Rabelo stated that the neo-liberal opposition was busy mobilising its vast material and media resources to capture the presidency so as to revert to the old neo-liberal order. The PCdoB had the duty, he said, to fight for a progressive successor to Lula.
The ultimate goal of the party was the transition to socialism through the implementation of the NPND. In this context, he said, the victory of the progressive forces in the 2010 presidential elections was an essential step along that long road.
Finally, he said, the PCdoB’s international relations had been greatly strengthened over the past few years. The party had successfully hosted the 10th International Conference of Communist and Workers’ Parties in Sao Paulo in 2008, and it was proud to have the presence of so many foreign delegates to the present 12th congress of the party.
At the end of his opening speech, Comrade Rabelo received a standing ovation.
Rabelo’s speech provided a useful introduction to the documents submitted to the congress – the Socialist Programme for Brazil, draft resolution on the international and national situation and the crisis of capitalism – and a setting for discussion and debate over the following two days.
The PCdoB upholds the Marxist stance that the crisis presently engulfing the capitalist world is a crisis of overproduction, resulting from the contradiction between social production and private appropriation.
After the crisis of the mid-1970s, Keynesianism gave way to liberalism; in the 1990s, neo-liberal policies took the form of the Washington Consensus of wholesale privatisation, alongside financial and trade liberalisation. The present crisis, with the near-collapse of the imperialist financial system, it says, has served to discredit neo-liberalism, forcing the governments and central banks in the imperialist countries to pump thousands of billions of dollars into bailing out banks and providing liquidity.
The position of US imperialism is particularly dire. While the US government had to provide $1.5tr for bank bail-outs and economic stimuli, the US budget deficit in the coming fiscal year has reached the astronomic sum of $1.7tr – a burden on taxpayers and the total subordination of their interests to those of a tiny clique of monopolies, which furnishes eloquent proof of the total subservience of the capitalist government to monopoly capitalism.
While 13 million workers in the US are unemployed, it has to attract 65 percent of global savings to keep afloat. China has become the biggest creditor and funder of US deficits, acquiring in effect the position of being the US’s bank manager.
Sovereignty and socialism
There is no solution to this crisis within the bounds of capitalism. Only socialism, through the overthrow of capitalism, can provide the solution and usher in a period of prosperity.
As for Brazil, the PCdoB strives to work for a sovereign, democratic and socially just country integrated with its South and Latin American neighbours as an intermediary step towards socialism with Brazilian features, which alone can help realise the nation’s potentialities, defend it from the depredations of foreign monopoly capital, and guarantee its people a decent and happy life.
“Socialism is the course. The strengthening of the nation is the road.” Hence, it says, the need for “a New National Development Project as a means and a road through which to make the country progress and advance”.
Three civilisational cycles
The PCdoB divides Brazilian history into what it calls three civilisational cycles. The first of these cycles witnessed the formation of the people, the nation and the state. While seeing the expulsion of the Dutch in the 17th century and independence from Portugal in 1822, this cycle, nevertheless, left intact the edifice of the latifundia and slavery – the latter not being abolished until 1889.
During the second cycle, following the 1930 revolution, the “national developmentalist” state took hold and “ushered Brazil into the 20th century”. It established women’s suffrage, a minimum wage, social security and the Labour Code.
The period between 1930 and 1980 was Brazil’s most expansionary development phase, it being the capitalist country to “grow the most”. During this period, the state was the chief driver of development, with state capital funding the economy, although local and foreign private capital also participated in this development.
During these five decades, Brazil was transformed from being an export-oriented agrarian country into an urban industrial economy. The population more than trebled and urbanisation, along with the proletariat and the industrial bourgeoisie, registered a remarkable growth. Already, with the founding of the Communist Party in 1922, the Brazilian proletariat had announced its tumultuous arrival into the arena of class struggle.
While the 1964 military coup put a stop to the implementation of reforms, the world capitalist crisis of the mid 1970s brought in its train high inflation, a mountain of foreign debt, unprecedented levels of unemployment, swingeing wage cuts, submission to the dictates of the IMF, neo-liberal dominance and national decadence. The years between 1981 and 2002 were a period of stagnation, their only positive legacy being ridding Brazil of military rule in 1985.
Lula’s victory in the 2002 presidential election gave rise to the power of democratic and progressive forces, setting in motion the process of resistance against neo-liberalism and the reversal of national decadence. It created better conditions for strengthening sovereignty, signalling a new road to development, which was actually resumed in 2005.
Notwithstanding the limitations and compromises forced upon it, Lula’s government began to implement the “transition toward a new national development project” to meet the contradictions of Brazilian reality, ridding the country of the neo-colonial FTAA (Free Trade Area of the Americas) project, putting an end to the dominance of the IMF over Brazil, and enabling it once again to take the road to development (albeit with limitations), sovereignty, democracy, income redistribution, and integration with South and Latin America.
Brazil, says the PCdoB, needs, and has the capacity, to implement the NPND, which promises remarkable results. This project is needed so as to overcome the distortions stemming from Brazil’s political, social and economic past.
The implementation of this project calls, among other things, for the overcoming of the condition of a subjugated and “peripheral” nation that Brazil has come to suffer; the assertion and defence of the Brazilian nation against imperialist hegemony; the celebration of the union of patriotic struggle with the democratic and social demands of the people; the removal of social and regional inequalities; the emancipation of women; taking steps to stop environmental degradation; and upholding and deepening “the current South American and Latin American formula of strategic partnership with countries and regions of the ‘periphery’ and of foreign trade diversification initiated by the Lula government”.
Overcoming the above distortions and limitations, says the PCdoB, is “tantamount to a strategic conquest” and “a condition of advanced development and a future of social wellbeing”. Failure to follow this road to civilisational advance would mean surrender “to the yoke of the great powers and to social-economic decadence”. The New National Development Project offers the only solution – “the Brazilian road to socialism”.
Convinced of its feasibility, the PCdoB presents its programme to the Brazilian people. The essence of this programme is the transition from capitalism to socialism and removing the basic contradiction of capitalism – that between social production and private appropriation.
The starting point, and the core issue, for this transition “is the conquest of the state’s political power by the workers of the city and countryside”. And the PCdoB, “an avant-garde political organisation of the working class, backed by Marxist-Leninist revolutionary theory”, strives for the triumph of this “revolutionary undertaking”, being of the view that socialism alone is capable of guaranteeing the “nation’s sovereignty and the valorisation of labour”, and being equally convinced that “socialism in turn will not triumph without absorbing the cause of sovereignty and national affirmation”.
According to the PCdoB, its programme of transition to socialism through the implementation of the NPND, with its assertion and strengthening of the Brazilian nation, democratisation of society and social progress, represents the “third great civilisational affirmative leap of the Brazilian nation … The combination and advance of the national, democratic, and people’s struggle, which complement each other, are the main condition for the preliminary transition to socialism.”
This being the case, the PCdoB calls for the victory of “the democratic and people’s forces” in the 2010 presidential election, for such a victory would facilitate the implementation of the NPND. It will be supporting the candidature of Dilma Rousseff as the person chosen by Lula to contest for the Presidency.
On 6 November, the Brazilian president, Lula, addressed the congress with a wide-ranging, informative and entertaining speech.
The congress re-elected Rabelo to the position of National President; it also elected a new 107-strong Central Committee to replace its predecessor, which had a strength of 89.
On Sunday 8 November, the congress held its closing ceremony, with a closing speech by Comrade Rabelo. The congress ended, as it had opened, with the singing of the Internationale.
As the reader can see from the above account, the PCdoB’s plan for the transition to socialism is predicated on a mix of patriotism with socialism, hand in hand with an alliance with progressive forces, including Lula’s Workers’ Party (PT). Time alone will pronounce on the success or failure of such a strategy. No attempt has been made here to give an evaluation of it on the part of the CPGB-ML. Instead, every attempt has been made to give a succinct account of the programme of the PCdoB.
It only remains for us to thank the PCdoB for the warm and generous hospitality accorded to our chairman during his stay in Sao Paulo.