Interview with Alejandro Bodart: conclusions from the Latin American and US Conference of the FIT-U

What follows is the transcript of the interview with Alejandro Bodart, member of the MST leadership and ISL coordinator, on the program “Dar Vuelta Todo” hosted by Cele Fierro.

Cele Fierro

Cele Fierro: Last Saturday, after three days of intense debate, the Latin American and US conference of the FIT Unidad concluded. It arrived to a very positive common resolution and common work going forward. On this subject we are going to speak with our comrade Alejandro Bodart of the national leadership of the MST and coordinator of the International Socialist League. Hello Alejandro, as I mentioned, the conference is over. The MST of Argentina was part of the organization, and the ISL participated with its Latin American and US organizations. What is the first evaluation that you have as coordinator of the International Socialist League?

Alejandro Bodart: We are satisfied with the participation that our comrades had in the event. I think that from our internal point of view it showed that there is an important advance of the International Socialist League. Not only because of the number of comrades who participated, representing a large number of Latin American countries and the United States, but also because I believe that there is progress that was shown in the quality of the cadres, the interventions, therefore, from that point of view I am very pleased. I think the ISL did a very good job at the conference.

Now going to the conference itself, we honestly expected more. At least more from the debates, a little more depth, fewer provocations and more content because we went to the conference to open strategic debates around many topics. On the labor movement with the intervention of Guillermo Pacagnini, where we suggested that we have to debate what model of trade unions has to be followed, and in the talks where our comrade from the US Luis Meiners or Joaquin Araneda from Chile participated, where we presented the most important debates, sadly there were few responses.

For example, we wanted to debate not only how we see the current situation but also the dynamics of the situation, something on which there has been much debate on the left in general and in particular among the FITU forces. Until very recently many comrades of the organizations that make up the FITU saw that not much was happening in the situation and that what prevailed was rather a turn to the right, a very negative situation. We even went on to state that we see the dynamic moving towards a possible pre-revolutionary situation at the world level. That does not mean taking power, but it does mean that there are going to be many rebellions and revolutions and we have to be prepared for that. No one answered on that topic, for example.

How do the other forces characterize the situation? Because we attend these instances to elaborate collectively. And fundamentally, we went on to propose that we had to discuss what to do with the change. What do revolutionaries have to do? How do we have to prepare to participate in the face of these changes and take advantage of the opportunities? Perhaps on this topic there was a bit more of debate, especially in what has more to do with the national realities, but we think the approach by some comrades was incorrect. We saw a lot of sectarianism, a lot of not wanting to participate in the processes as they are. And we believe that it is a mistake for revolutionaries not to participate in the processes that are taking place and to try to develop politics to dispute the leadership of the reformist sectors that often lead those processes and take them nowhere. We saw a lot of sectarianism in that, perhaps the sharpest expression is the PO that basically argued that if you are not a Trotskyist and you do not think exactly like them there is no possible unity, but also in the comrades of the PTS, who judge the situation based on whether they are present or not. Because where they are present, for example, they participate in broad experiences like in the NPA, or they have wanted to participate in the PSOL, in fact they have also had politics towards DSA, but where they are not present, in those processes they speak from sectarian approach. I am not going to refer much to IS because I see them as very dogmatic and they were the ones who led, perhaps, the most dogmatic debates even denying that there is an inter-imperialist confrontation between China and the United States.

We could have debated more. Because some (like the PO) even suggested that we should build left fronts everywhere, getting to the point of denying reality, because you cannot apply the same lines in all places without starting from national reality. But we went to suggest that there were places where this was a real possibility, because agreements exists with several of the forces that were there and we could advance, for example in Chile, Spain, Venezuela, even in France where there is a whole rearrangement of the NPA. But no one answered this point. It would have been positive to come out of the conference with the agreement to promote unity in those countries.

Cele Fierro: Nobody said anything about that …

Alejandro Bodart: We could have come out together on that point, on which apparently we all have an agreement. But many times in these conferences one thing is discussed, and in reality another is done. Another debate that no one answered is our proposal of how to build international organizations at this stage. Nobody referred to the balance sheet, which we think is very negative, of the mini-internationals that emerged from a reality, which was the disaster of revisionism in the ranks of Trotskyism in the post-war period, but which have become a very bad model. Because everyone wants to be the mother, I said it there, the mother, the uncle, the father of small groups in other countries, but nobody has the vision of a true international where, under equal conditions, and especially being open to work with other comrades who are very large parties, and who do not want anyone to lead them, what they want is to build a true international, with debates, with centralism, with principles, but at the same time where a new leadership can emerge. I think that in Argentine Trotskyism there is a lot of “national-Trotskyism”. There are those who directly do not draw conclusions. The PO does not draw any conclusions about not having anything in the world. I think it has a wrong vision of thinking that, from a national party, it can sometime take power and from there it will influence the rest of the world. But unfortunately this is proven to be completely wrong: the party and the Bolshevik leadership were defeated and the party became bureaucratized because the revolution did not spread. And where there were revolutions, as in Germany, one of the conclusions was that, not having a strong revolutionary party, not having a true international with cadres formed for a long time,  prevented it from being resolved positively. Therefore, it is not that a party in a country takes power and from there it quickly manages to spread. No. It can accomplish nothing. If there is no strong international organization to support any revolutionary process, opportunities may be lost even in places where the dispute of power is raised. But I believe that the others, the comrades of Izquierda Socialista, of the PTS, have a conception of a mother party, so from their parties they believe that they can influence, lead. I think that the only thing they achieve with that approach are small groups that say yes to everything they do but cannot connect with important parties.

We are demonstrating by way of reality that it is possible to connect with great organizations that come from different trotskyist traditions if one opens up to discuss a different international model. And that is what we are doing with our comrades from Turkey, from Pakistan, we are beginning to build a strong relationship with comrades from Australia, in Brazil itself. The task of building a great international is a real possibility at this stage, but if we change the methods inherited from an earlier, more defensive, stage. I will summarize this by saying: The conference was an important initiative but it could have given much more, although it showed what each one is and what each one wants in this situation.

Cele Fierro: What each current is building … Ale, in your interventions at the Conference, you just raised some of the main themes, you took on substantive issues, of perspectives, what you were just saying about international strategy, that international strategy needs to be built to intervene in the current reality. But, as you said, there were also, more than controversies, many “provocations” as response by the speakers of the other currents. For example, mentioning Pino Solanas, Juez, Syriza, quite low-level arguments we could say. What is your opinion in relation to this?

Alejandro Bodart: Those are low-level “provocations”. I insist again, I was surprised by the low level of some of the main leaders of the parties, who instead of facing the substantive debates and responding, because we have controversies and different visions, dedicated themselves to falling to these types of “arguments”, that demonstrate the perspectives they have. Because for example, as there are comrades who refuse to see reality as it is, they refuse to participate in the processes as they exist. And they criticize those of us who participate in the existing processes to dispute the leadership. We live in a country where there is a very militant trade union tradition, with a working class that fights, that overturns governments, but, unfortunately, politically backward due to the role of Peronism. It has instilled false ideologies in our class, the ideology of class conciliation, and so on. We do not have the same tradition that Chile has, where there was a very strong development of socialism, reformist but socialism, of the communist party at the time. Here the Communist Party betrayed in the 1940s and the left practically disappeared and this bourgeois nationalist current was installed, which later evolved into a traditional bourgeois party. And we can’t afford not having politics to dispute it. For example, when an important person such as Luis Juez or a Pino Solanas, who is not bourgeois, who comes from the petty bourgeoisie, falls off the branch. Pino Solanas is a well-known filmmaker. Juez was an anti-corruption prosecutor who broke with Peronism, won an election for governor which was stolen and developed an important process of organization, mobilization. Of course, we would like those processes to be led by Trotskyism, by us, but they are what they are. Not participating in them and not having politics towards them is giving them up for leadership to take them to a dead end. I believe that, of course, making the balance sheet of Juez from today, after a whole journey, or of a Pino Solanas, it isn’t worth much because, we are going to make the balance sheet of the DSA, of the PSOL itself, of all those processes, at one point all those processes end up anywhere, but the problem is when the boom period occurs, where the vanguard and a sector of the labor and mass movement follow them. What must we do then? All that denial does is slow down the process of advancing consciousness. I would say to the comrades, I want to refer two minutes to Venezuela and other countries where they try to count our forces, to tell us how things ended based on our tactics, because I believe that we have become stronger from that tactic in Córdoba, while the most sectarian are retreating, I think that even the unity of the Left Front with the MST was helped by the fact that the three parties of the old FIT ended in a significant setback in the last electoral process, and we moved forward with a comrade, Luciana, that became well known precisely as part of the tactic we had at the time to dispute for a part of the space Juez represented. And that’s why Juez did not take everything with him through his political debacle, because a part stayed with us. And that, added to other achievements, is what has allowed us to become one of the most dynamic expression of the left in Cordoba. They would have to draw conclusions from that process. The same in relation to Pino Solanas, whose program had nothing to do with a bourgeois program, because it raised precisely central, anti-imperialist points at a time when there was a turn in Latin America under those banners. Disputing that space was very important and we regret that this process didn’t last long enough. Because if it had lasted a little longer, it would have raised the possibility for a phenomenon to emerge that could lead to a mass organization that was turning to the left. We also grew out of that period becoming the most nationally extended left party, we won legislative representation, and so on. I think that denying reality is very bad because it makes it difficult for Trotskyism to become a mass reference because although the FIT Unidad is an important force, we cannot be confused, we continue to represent 2 or 3% of the reality of the country. We have to have politics to make a leap forward. We want to dispute power, we are not satisfied with this, therefore, we are not going to do it, ignoring the objective processes that are taking place in the vanguard and in the mass movement. So, I think some comrades approach this debate very incorrectly, without reflecting, without drawing conclusions.

And I wanted say something about Venezuela, because in Venezuela the comrades don´t start from analyzing reality to make the balance sheets. They do not see that there was a defeat there. So, truly, low level in the debate that only serves to buckle an uninformed or depoliticized base, but it is not useful between leaderships and between organizations to seek points of agreement and debates that make us all grow. Because we went to listen, we also went to see if there was any new idea that would allow us all to move forward. We did not see much of that, rather we saw more of the same. On the contrary, we went with the intention of putting out ideas for debate, which I hope the comrades will answer at some point, because they did not answer any of them.

Cele Fierro: Ale, the subject of the repressive apparatus was also present. What to do with the police? The slogan of unionization came out a lot, in short … What is a revolutionary approach on this point? What is your vision on this matter?

Alejandro Bodart: Look, I think we have to face this debate thoroughly because there is a lot of confusion. First of all, our policy is the dissolution of the current police, the current army, the current gendarmerie and all the repressive forces, dissolution. We want to make this structure disappear because we believe that the only role it has is, precisely, to be the guarantor of capitalist private property over the large means of production. I insist again, they are not there to protect the worker’s house, they let crime happen because sometimes it is they, the policemen, who send the youth to steal to raise money for the police forces. They are the guarantors of capitalist private property, and of the capitalist system, that is why we want to make those institutions disappear. We are for another type of security, completely different from this, and which is based on the self-organization of workers and popular sectors. That is the security that we promote. Completely different from this one. We want security to be in the hands of organized workers and the organization of the neighborhoods. That is why we are against the monopoly of arms being held by these repressive forces, we are for the right for the entire population to have the possibility of having and carrying weapons, that would greatly avoid the disasters that there are today. Not to go out and kill each other, as they want us to believe, but because those who speak of disarmament, speak of the disarmament of the people so that only these repressors have them, that is, the monopoly on the part of the bourgeois state.

Now I believe that the demand of unionization has to be part of the theoretical arsenal, of course, it is not a demand to apply everywhere, as no slogan is. For example the PO says we should raise Trump Out, because they extract it from what was used here against Macri, and makes a huge mistake because it is not a question raised at all, it ends up supporting Biden and the Democratic party. Many times the sectarians do that, same slogans applied everywhere. No. We believe that unionization is a slogan that has to be available, but, for example, today in reality, that slogan is not adequate anywhere. For example, we are against raising unionization in the US, where what we have to do is take advantage of the mobilization to see if we will sweep away that racist police, we are also against raising unionization here, in Argentina. But we are aware that we have to have politics towards the repressive forces, we are against ultra-leftism, and this is a debate from Lenin’s time to the present, with those who refuse to have politics towards the armed forces and the repressive forces. You have to have politics, because it has been proven that you cannot defeat them by having another army, it is proven that you have to defeat them on the basis of their division. When can slogans of this type be applied? When the revolutionary mobilization advances to such a degree that there is a revolution, a shift to the left of the masses and that shift to the left penetrates a part of the armed forces, in these situations raising this or other slogans may be at hand to try to make the verticality break, which is the basis of the structure of the repressive forces. We believe that it is a political debate that must be had. When can it be raised or not? There are some who flatly deny the possibility of certain slogans. Big mistake, because they end up favoring the bourgeois State, now, it is also wrong to raise it when the task at hand is to liquidate the armed forces and there is no progressive sector, or that is breaking the discipline and this is raised. There are small sectors within the forces that constantly fight but are very small minority. Today the armed forces are professionally constituted in the case of the army, which is why we were always against the elimination of military service, although we were against how it was applied at the time. In the case of the police, frequently sectors of the lumpenproletariat who cannot find a job enter there, a lot of desperate people. But today there is no process to say, “the division is at hand and this demand must be raised.” I think it is an important debate to do it seriously, not as a “provocation” as is often the case with this debate.

Cele Fierro: I think it’s very good and it is clear to those who have any doubts. It seems to me that you have made this debate very clear. Ale, a new event is coming up, a conference on the the relevance of Trotskyism on the 80th anniversary of the assassination of Leon Trotsky. What can we expect from this instance?

Alejandro Bodart: I think it will be another very important instance to see what each one interprets as Trotskyism. Because we Trotskyists in the world have many organizations, now, we agree on general policies, in defense of general programs such as the Transitional Program, the need for an international organization, independent class politics, but then when it comes down to the facts we were unable because we have different interpretations of what this is. I think we Trotskyists have had many problems. After the Second World War, revisionism made everything collapse, it is what has caused so much dispersion and this in turn caused that different currents advanced separately.

There was a very defensive stage, therefore the traits of sectarianism, of dogmatism, of self-proclamation to survive, developed. I believe that we are in another stage. Therefore today Trotskyism for me, what it means is to be a force open to new phenomena, that without any kind of dogmatism can build the tools to respond to this convulsed world. I hope that this instance will be useful so that at least those of us who are within the FITU, in this case, can elaborate well, and listen to each other, not to make these events a “deaf dialogue” in which one says one thing and does not listen to the other, and not to make it a place where the main goal of one Trotskyism is to differentiate itself from the other Trotskyism. I believe that Trotskyism is workers’ democracy, a debate that was raised at the conference. Because if we want to educate the working class in the need for it to govern, it is essential to educate it that it has to decide on everything. Because those who believe that they can decide for the working class in certain circumstances, as we heard at the last conference, do not believe that the working class can rule. And the working class must have the right to make mistakes too. I believe that Trotskyism is full workers’ democracy, and that is why we defend a certain trade union model. But it is also, for me, confidence in the working class, that the working class is not defeated, it has fought even without leadership for decades and capitalism has not been able to lead it to barbarism, that there are reserves in the working class, that’s why we have to move away from the skepticism that many times corrodes organizations that have little tradition and implantation in the working class, that are rather petty bourgeois and are shocked by the phenomena and see shifts to the right everywhere. And I think it is also synonymous with internationalism, but internationalism in the true sense, which is building international organizations, building revolutionary parties in the world, understanding that revolution cannot be made in one country, and therefore, that it is very important to think about how to strengthen the international even more than the parties themselves, and to open up to work with others to do so because Trotskyism was never sectarian, it was just the opposite. Leninism was never sectarian, that’s how the Third International was built, the first four congresses of the Third International were very rich. Marxism was never sectarian, hence all the policies that took place in the First and Second International. I believe that Trotskyism is more relevant than ever, but that unfortunately, there are many sectors that have to find their bearings again. We do not believe that we have the revealed truth, but we are confident that the method with which we can approach the truth is listening to each other and working with others, not in isolation. I hope it is something that also helps the young vanguard especially to see the different visions and to vindicate the figure of Trotsky, which is the most important thing.

Cele Fierro: Well, thank you very much Ale. You have raised many points of the debate. Thanks Alejandro.

 Alejandro Bodart: Thank you Cele, a big hug.