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First Pan-American Marxist School of the IMT

From February 27 to March 2, more than 100 revolutionaries from the American continent gathered in Mexico City to take part in the first Pan-American Marxist School of the International Marxist Tendency. Present were comrades from the Corriente Socialista El Militante in Argentina, the Brazilian Marxist Left, the Venezuelan Revolutionary Marxist Current (whose delegation included Jorge Paredes a leading member of the factory committee at Inveval, the factory nationalised and run under workers' control), a representative of the BPJ (Peoples' Youth  Block) from El Salvador, the US Workers International League, the Canadian "Fightback" tendency, as well as a comrade from Ecuador, one from Cuba, one from Guatemala, comrades from Spain, Italy and Austria and Alan Woods, Ana Muñoz and Jorge Martín for the international leadership of the IMT.

Apart from these international delegations, many comrades and sympathisers from the Mexican "Militante" Marxist Tendency were present, some having travelled long distances from other states (Puebla, Hidalgo, Coahuila, San Luís Potosí, Chihuahua, Edo Mexico) to take part in this important event. There were also comrades from Bolivia, El Salvador, Costa Rica, Colombia and Cuba, who were unable to attend because they were denied visas by the Mexican authorities. As a matter of fact, the Mexican government, following instructions from Washington has de facto turned Mexico into the southern border of the US with a vicious immigration policy against poorer Latin American countries.

Before the official opening of the school the comrades had already organised a very successful book launch meeting for Alan Woods' "Reformism or revolution" [1] and a meeting on the role of the youth in the struggle against the crisis of capitalism [2] which was hosted by the Mexican Polytechnic Student Struggle Committee – Committee in Defence of State Education (CLEP-CEDEP), an organisation which was originally founded during the 1968 students movement.

The meeting opened on February 27 at the Journalists' Club in the historic centre of the Mexican capital. The comrades had taken great care in the decoration of the meeting hall which was presided by a banner with the slogan "The spectre of socialism is haunting America". There was also another banner from the "Red and Black" Democratic Current in the Mexican Electrical Workers' Union (SME) which read, "Against the crisis of capitalism the only solution is Socialist Revolution".

The first session was a discussion on the crisis of capitalism and the perspectives for working class struggle throughout the world, which was led off by Alan Woods. He stressed the depth of the current economic crisis, a fact that is recognised by bourgeois economists and commentators themselves. This will have and is already having a deep impact on the consciousness of millions of ordinary working men and women who were never interested or involved in politics before. The task of Marxists is to patiently explain that the only solution to this crisis is the struggle for socialist revolution and starting with the most advanced layer, win over the masses. Many comrades intervened in the discussion and touched on issues like the impact of the economic crisis in Latin America, particularly in relation to the collapse of the remittances by immigrant workers which are going to be the first to lose their jobs in the advanced capitalist countries.

Francisco Rivero (CMR) explained how the Venezuelan masses have shown enormous revolutionary potential and a very high level of consciousness, but warned that, ten years after the election of Chavez, the revolution had not been completed.

The same day in the afternoon we had a session on Venezuela, introduced by Francisco Rivero, a member of the leadership of the Revolutionary Marxist Current (CMR) and a spokesperson for his local battalion of the PSUV. Francisco explained how the Venezuelan masses have shown enormous revolutionary potential and a very high level of consciousness, but warned that, ten years after the election of Chavez, the revolution had not been completed. This could lead to demoralisation and scepticism among some sections of the masses thus providing the oligarchy with the opportunity to defeat the revolution. Warning signs of this were the defeat in the constitutional reform referendum in December 2007 and the loss of important states in the December 2008 regional elections. He also explained the situation of the trade union movement, where none of the different wings of the national leadership of the UNT has really taken up seriously the struggle for socialism and workers' control, despite the opportunities offered by repeated appeals by Chavez.

Other comrades from Venezuela also spoke and explained the role that the CMR is playing in the workers' movement, including playing a leading role in the occupations of Vivex and Mitsubishi, in Barcelona, Anzoategui, and the positions won in SIDOR and among the oil workers, as well as through the work of FRETECO in the occupied factories movement.

Jose Carlos Miranda (Esquerda Marxista) spoke on the situation in Brazil, giving an overview of the history of the labour and socialist movement in this country as well as dealing with the current situation.

On Saturday 28th, comrade Jose Carlos Miranda, from the national leadership of the Brazilian Marxist Left and the Socialist Black Movement spoke on the situation in Brazil, giving an overview of the history of the labour and socialist movement in this country as well as dealing with the current situation. He paid especial attention to the history of the Workers' Party (PT) and the United Workers' Confederation (CUT) in the revolutionary period of the struggle against the dictatorship. These organisations have deep roots among the masses that see them as tools they have built in order to advance their interests. For this reason, Marxists must participate and struggle within them in order to build a bridge between the small forces of Marxism and the broad masses of workers. He also explained the role played by the Marxist Left (the Brazilian section of the IMT) in the Occupied Factories Movement, where only Flasko is now resisting, after seven years of occupation. With the wave of mass sackings as a result of the crisis we will see more factory occupations and Flasko can become a point of reference. Comrade Miranda also explained the struggle of the Black Socialist Movement against the attempt of the Lula government to introduce racial-based quotas and a system of racial identity, which he warned is a very dangerous attempt to divide the working class along racial lines.

In the afternoon, Jorge Martin introduced the discussion on Cuba and explained how the main feature of this country's revolutionary history in the 20th century was the permanent revolution, that is, the inability of the local bourgeoisie to carry out the national democratic tasks (including genuine national liberation and agrarian reform) and how attempts to solve them had inevitably led to a break with capitalism.

He explained how this had been the policy of Julio Antonio Mella, the founder of the Cuban Communist Party, but how even revolutionary leaders who had not started out from an anti-capitalist position had been forced to break with it, like Antonio Guiteras in the 1930s and the leadership of the July 26 Movement during the 1959 revolution. Contrary to this, the policy of Stalinism had always been one of seeking alliances with alleged "progressive" sections of the Cuban ruling class. This had led them to betray the 1933 general strike against Machado, to participate in Batista's cabinet with two ministers in 1940-42, and to oppose measures of nationalisation after the 1959 revolution.

After dealing with the difficult situation that arose on the island after the collapse of Stalinism in Russia, he stressed that the only solution to the problems facing Cuba today is through workers' democracy and the spreading of the socialist revolution to other countries.

A Cuban Communist who is currently studying in Mexico also participated in the discussion. He explained that attitudes towards Cuba range from demonisation to uncritical apology, none of which help the revolution. The genuine revolutionary attitude towards Cuba by revolutionaries in other countries should be one of support but also comradely criticism, he said. During his intervention, he said that there should be more space opened up to market measures which should be combined with the democratic planning of the economy. This led to a very lively but comradely debate in which many comrades expressed their views or asked questions. Clearly the Cuban revolution is a key subject for revolutionaries throughout the American continent and the whole world.

Jorge Martín summed up by explaining that the position of the IMT is one of defence of the revolution and its conquests against imperialism, against Stalinism (which as shown in Russia, eventually leads to capitalist restoration) and against those who on the island advocate the "Chinese way" of introducing pro-market reforms which would also inevitably lead to capitalism.

On Sunday March 1, we had simultaneous commissions on Bolivia and El Salvador. Comrade Ricardo Ayala led off the commission on El Salvador in which he attempted to give an overview of the history of revolutionary struggle in that country, from the struggle of Farabundo Marti in the 1920s and 1930s with the formation of the Communist Party, to the guerrilla and mass struggle of the 1980s. Ayala explained that the FMLN, the mass organisation of workers and peasants, is likely to win the next presidential election in March, and how the ruling class is terrified that this might lead to a revolutionary situation in El Salvador. The FMLN candidate, Funes, is not really a revolutionary, but more of a reformist, however he would be quickly put under enormous pressure from the masses that see in him hope for fundamental change. Comrade Ricardo warned that the Salvadorian ruling class would probably resort to electoral fraud to prevent this from happening and that the BPJ is agitating around the need to be alert and respond to any fraud with mass mobilisations.

The discussion on Bolivia was led off by Jorge Martin and dealt both with the 1952 revolution, and the current wave of mass mobilisations starting with the victory in the Cochabamba "Water War" and ending with the attempted coup by the oligarchy against the government of Evo Morales in September 2008. Throughout the history of Bolivia, he said, the masses have had many opportunities to take power, including recently during the revolutionary uprisings of October 2003 and May-June 2005. What was missing on all these occasions was a revolutionary leadership. The debate in this commission was again very lively and dealt with a wide range of subjects, including the Indigenous question, the role of the working class and the attitude of Marxists towards the MAS and the Evo Morales government.

Jennie Ernewein, John Peterson and Ubaldo Oropeza explaining the political situation in Canada, the USA and Mexico.

The commissions were followed by reports from the US, Canada and Mexico. John Peterson from the US Workers' International League, explained the depth of the economic crisis that the US is facing, pointing out that GDP had collapsed by 6.2% in the 4th quarter of 2008. John explained how the enthusiasm generated by the Obama campaign reflected a deep-seated desire for change amongst the US population and a rejection of Bush's policies, the war in Iraq, etc. However he also stressed that Obama is just as much a representative of the ruling class and that no fundamental change would come from him, as had already been shown by his Cabinet appointments and the first announcements of his government. John explained the significance of the factory occupation by workers at Republic Doors and Windows in Chicago, which was directly connected to the 2006 movement of immigrant workers and also to the occupation of Inveval in Venezuela. Revolution does not respect borders, he said.

Comrade Jennie Ernewein then explained the situation in Canada, including the factory occupations that had taken place in Ontario and Quebec, the students' struggle for free education as well as the militant strike of the York University Teachers' Assistants.

Ubaldo Oropeza, a leading member of the "Militante" Marxist Tendency in Mexico explained how the US State Department is seriously worried that the country might become a "failed state" because of the impact of narco-terrorist violence, the discrediting of the political institutions and the mass mobilisation of the people in 2006. The economic crisis is hitting Mexico particularly hard and he explained that after the revolutionary movements against electoral fraud and the Oaxaca commune in 2006, now the workers, having been blocked on the political front, may turn to the trade union struggle. He explained the struggle of the Olympia workers in Edo Mexico, which have been on strike for more than 50 days now in defence of their jobs and how this could even lead to the occupation of the factory by the workers. A delegation of Olympia workers was present at the school and their trade union leader Gerardo addressed the meeting, which held a collection in support of the workers.

The afternoon was taken up by a discussion on the building of the IMT on the American continent. Ten years ago, the International Marxist Tendency had only one group of around 70 comrades in Mexico. Now we have comrades in Canada, the USA, Mexico, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru, Brazil, Argentina and Bolivia, as well as close contacts or sympathisers in Chile, the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama, Uruguay, Paraguay and Ecuador, covering almost all of the continent's countries. This had come not out of chance but out of a conscious decision to intervene from the beginning in the process of the Latin American revolution, starting work in Venezuela and Argentina, and more recently in Bolivia. The development of the Revolutionary Marxist Current in Venezuela and its role in the occupied factories movement had put us in contact with the comrades of the occupied factories in Brazil, opening a discussion which led in 2008 to the fusion between the IMT and the Marxist Left. Similarly, the development of the Mexican section had put us in touch with the Peoples' Youth Block in El Salvador. Comrades gave very enthusing reports of the work in their countries, where there is a clear thirst for ideas.

The interventions were followed by a collection, which following the best traditions of the revolutionary movement raised 25,000 Mexican pesos (US$1600) which added to the 80,000 Mexican pesos (US$5,200) already raised by the different participant sections meant that the school financed all its costs, including travel subsidies for comrades from Argentina, and El Salvador, accommodation, food, internal transport of the cost of the hiring of the meeting halls.

Alan Woods closed this very enthusiastic session explaining that revolutionary movements come in waves and that we had entered one such wave. We are privileged to live in this epoch and to do so as active members of the International Marxist Tendency, which allows us to understand events around us and to intervene to transform society. The session ended with a heartfelt rendition of the Internationale, which reflected the mood of enthusiasm of the meeting.

Closing session of the school in the Leon Trotsky Museum with Esteban Volkov, Trotsky's grandson, and Alan Woods speaking.

On Monday 2, the closing session of the school took place in the Leon Trotsky Museum, located in the house where he lived until he was assassinated by a Stalinist agent. We have to thank the staff of the Museum which opened it especially for us so that we could hold the meeting and visit the house, as the Museum is closed on Mondays. The meeting was on Trotsky's Transitional Programme. Before the beginning of the meeting the Chargé d'Affaires of the Venezuelan Embassy in Mexico said a few words explaining the electoral victory in the constitutional amendment referendum and thanking the comrades for the solidarity work carried out.

Esteban Volkov, Trotsky's grandson, was the first one to speak. He stressed the relevance of the ideas of Leon Trotsky and particularly his struggle against Stalinism. Alan Woods followed him explaining the context of the Transitional Programme. He said that Trotsky himself considered the work in the last part of his life as the only one in which his role had been indispensable. This was a very serious statement considering the role he had played in the 1905 revolution, in the 1917 revolution and in organising the Red Army during the civil war. The idea of a transitional programme had not been Trotsky's but was part of the tradition of the programme of the Bolshevik Party and the first congresses of the Communist International. The key point of such a programme is to attempt to open a dialogue between the small forces of Marxism and the broad masses of the working class. It is false that Marxists are against reforms. On the contrary, Marxists are the most consistent fighters for any advance in the conditions of the working class, while at the same time explaining that these cannot be guaranteed unless the capitalist system is overthrown. Marxists oppose reformists not because we are against reforms, but rather because reformists are not even able to wage a serious struggle to defend reforms that have been won by the working class in the past.

First of issue of America Socialista, the magazine of the IMT on the American continent

Sectarians think that the building of a revolutionary party is a simple task: all that is required is to proclaim it and call on the masses to rally to its banner. This has nothing to do with Marxism and never leads to anything. Without engaging in a genuine dialogue with ordinary working people, starting from their current level of consciousness and understanding, one can never build a revolutionary organisation. All comrades who spoke expressed how moved they felt at being able to meet in the house where Trotsky had lived and worked in the last few years of his life.

In replying to the discussion, Alan explained that Stalin believed that he had managed to kill the revolutionary ideas of Trotsky in August 1940, but that this was a mistake. "His ideas are alive in this room" he said. The meeting closed with the singing of the Internationale, which was followed by a visit to Trotsky's house.

That same afternoon a final meeting was held at the Technical School of the Mexican Electrical Workers' Union (SME) to launch the first of issue of America Socialista, the magazine of the IMT on the American continent. Comrades from Mexico, the US, Brazil and Venezuela spoke and the meeting finished once again with the singing of the Internationale.

Without any doubt this School represents an important turning point in the building of the forces of the International Marxist Tendency on the American continent. The mood throghout was one of enthusiasm. We must also congratulate the Mexican comrades, who did an excellent job in organising the event down to its last details.


For more photographs, open the Gallery [3]