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The Brazilian MNN and the International Committee (WSWS)
By Rodolfo Kaleb
This is an excerpt from an article entitled “What happened to the MNN?” originally written in Portuguese in April 2012, which discussed the MNN’s (Movimento Negação da Negação) change of position during the elections for the students’ movement leadership of the University of São Paulo. During the elections, the MNN decided to suspend their independent campaign and urged the students to vote for the slate organized around the Morenoite PSTU (Partido Socialista dos Trabalhadores Unificado – associated with the LIT/IWL) and the MES (an internal tendency of the PSOL – Partido Socialismo e Liberdade). They also started raising calls for the “unity” of all left groups active on campus under a common banner, dropping their previous criticisms of them. The MNN was previously publicly associated with David North’s International Committee, but was never its Brazilian section. Starting around the time this piece was published, the MNN silently distanced itself from the IC. We translated the parts of the article dealing with the MNN’s then obscure relationship with the IC.
At the same time that the MNN was turning to the right on student politics, they were also distancing themselves from the American-based International Committee (ICFI), led by David North, and its World Socialist Web Site (WSWS). The MNN did most of the Portuguese translations posted on wsws.org. We noticed a gradual reduction of such translations in the recent period.
The last article translated by the MNN (and posted on their own website) was about Putin’s election in Russia, dated March 11. But (curiously!) it wasn’t posted on the International Committee’s website, which last Portuguese article dates March 1st. Since the beginning of this project, in 2006, the MNN had never had such a long gap of translations from the group they claim represents the “continuity of Trotskyism”.
Despite the fact that the MNN has been translating articles from WSWS for all these years, it has not become the Brazilian section of the International Committee, whose main section is the American SEP (Socialist Equality Party). If there are fraternal relations between the MNN and the IC, they are of an obscure and non-public nature.
While the MNN states that the IC is the continuity of Trotskyism and has done a lot of propaganda about them in Brazil, the IC does not seem to share the same amount of enthusiasm for their Brazilian supporters. After a search on wsws.org, we found only one reference about the MNN. It is in a short article about the student struggles in the University of São Paulo in 2009:
“The MNN (Movimento Negação da Negação, a socialist group which identifies itself with Trotskyism in Brazil) participated actively in the assemblies, pickets and demonstrations, defending the continuation of the strike without any negotiation with the rector Suely Vilela.”
Brazil: students resist attacks by shock troops at University of Sao Paulo
http://wsws.org/articles/2009/jul2009/braz-j11.shtml (our emphasis)
It appears that for David North’s IC (at least publicly), the MNN isn’t more than just a “group which identifies itself with Trotskyism”. It is impossible for someone from the outside to say what exactly this vague comment means.
While some members of our own group were part of the Coletivo Lenin (see our split statement), they went through a situation with the International Bolshevik Tendency (IBT) that, at least superficially, resembles this one. The situation was described in the document in which the Coletivo Lenin broke relations with the IBT (dated December 2010):
“For almost three years, we used an adaptation of the IBT document ‘For Trotskyism!’ as our main programmatic statement. We regarded and publicly argued (until two months ago) that the IBT represented the programmatic continuity of Trotskyism on our website and in our activities in the workers’ and students’ movement. We translated all of the documents they used for the Portuguese language section of their web site. Despite this, the IBT refused to publicly acknowledge having any relations with us or even our existence. We considered their behavior strange since public recognition of fraternal relations is usually a first step for a future fusion perspective with another organization.”
In this case, the “strange behavior” of the IBT was a way to avoid engaging the Coletivo Lenin and honestly debating the differences between the two groups as a way to proceed to a fusion. Instead, the IBT wanted to gain time and maneuver with the younger Brazilian comrades. While claiming to have a perspective of fusion with the entire CL, the IBT tried to split it. As the CL wrote at the time:
“The day after the conference, while still claiming to desire moving towards a fusion, the IBT secretly ‘invited’ a couple of comrades from the faction closer to it to resign from the CL and become the IBT’s representatives in Brazil… While claiming to have close comradely fraternal relations with us, they were secretly maneuvering to split us, treating us in reality as a hostile enemy.”
While we cannot assert what exactly is the relationship between the MNN and the IC like, we can certainly say that the MNN’s acknowledgment of the International Committee as a revolutionary organization is one-sided.
It won’t be a surprise if the political shift of the MNN on the students’ movement is related to a departure from their association with the IC. It is possible that, after years of stagnated discussions with the International Committee, the MNN leaders decided to take a new path. But instead of searching for an alternative to the left of the IC, they seem to be taking an easier and more attractive road of seeking opportunist “unity” with the rest of the Brazilian left. That’s what happened with the Coletivo Lenin: some members left the group while others who remained became demoralized and open to going along with a senior member’s conclusion that the IBT’s bureaucratism and dishonesty was rooted in Trotskyism.
The International Committee defends some pretty degenerated political positions, some of which are discussed in an article we recently translated into Portuguese (Being determines consciousness). This document was written when we were still aligned with the IBT by a current member of Revolutionary Regroupment who is also a former supporter of the IC. The idea of translating this article to Portuguese was to warn the Brazilian public of how far the IC is from a perspective capable of building a revolutionary party and preparing the proletariat to successfully smash capitalism.
Despite our historical differences with both the IC and the MNN, we believe that at least part of the MNN members may have been attracted to the positive aspects of the tradition of struggle against Pabloite revisionism that the IC claims to represent. We believe that the most important contributions of the MNN are related to their opposition to the historical role of Pabloism since the 1953 split of the Fourth International. For instance, The MNN was the group that translated James P. Cannon’s “Letter to Trotskyists throughout the World” into Portuguese. In our opinion, this document represents a correct and historically important (although late and very imperfect) struggle against the revisionism formulated by Pablo and Mandel, which dominated the Trotskyist movement in the beginning of the 1950s.
Now, however, the MNN seems to be putting their criticisms against Pabloites and Morenoites under the rug in order to defend the politics of “unity” with them (without ever clarifying on what political basis). It seems that the MNN is now going through a process of ideological disintegration. Its dive away from the ICFI/WSWS is not leading the group towards a genuine critical review of David North’s group, but simply towards the swamp of opportunist politics.
For those MNN members who understand the importance of the anti-Pabloite struggle held by the International Committee in its first years and want to build a revolutionary party in a successful manner, it is necessary to split from the politics represented by the WSWS, as well as from the MNN’s recent shift. Revolutionary Regroupment’s politics are based on the original struggle of the International Committee against Pabloism. We also learned from those who fought the IC’s degeneration under Gerry Healy’s leadership. Thus, we imagine that many MNN members, disoriented by the political turn of their organization, would benefit from studying some of the historical documents on our website.