Brazil: Interview with comrades from the SJC-San Pablo Chemical Union, “how is our class struggle today inside the factory”

Brasil sindicato

The ISL interviewed comrades Davi Paulo de Souza Junior and Reginaldo de Souza, members of the leadership of the Chemicals Union of San José dos Campos and region, and militants of the trade union current Unidos Para Lutar and Luta Socialista-PSOL.

Veronica: Good morning comrades. Davi and Reginaldo, members of the leadership of the Union of São José dos Campos, comrades of Unidos Pra Lutar who are taking part today in this interview with the intention of sharing with the International Socialist League an experience that we as a current have followed and follow daily because it is part of a great experience here in the industrial belt of the State of São Paulo, one of the most important. And we believe that in this year, the 58th anniversary of the creation of the Union, recovering its history and its actuality is fundamental to strengthen all our struggles. So, welcome and let’s start with the first question.

This year you celebrate, I don’t have the exact date, but you celebrate 58 years of existence. And I saw a video you made in which you told the history of the union and talked about a union that, in addition to being committed to the causes of the category, is a union committed to the working class as a whole and also internationalist. Could you tell us why you define yourselves as internationalist, why do you bring that to the table?

Davi: First of all, it is a pleasure, a pleasure for us to be here. This is very gratifying and we are grateful for the opportunity to socialize and debate with our comrades, even more at the international level, and I think this is very important. The union has this internationalist element in two aspects. One is because we work in many multinational companies, so we have to understand the international issues, because these companies also have their headquarters outside Brazil. So, we have to understand internationalism above all, for the bureaucratic part, let’s say, but mainly our international participation is for the political part. We understand that among workers there should be no borders in the class struggle. We fight against a world system, which is the capitalist system, and it is the system that exploits the working class. So in this sense we believe that it is very important to organize not only the struggle of the Brazilian workers here, but of the workers at the international level.

The capitalist system is very unified, so the workers have to unify and strengthen the struggle. It is very important to have this international struggle to confront it. And revolutionaries as we are, there is no revolution in only one country, we have to organize the class to put an end to the capitalist system. I think it is in this sense that we prioritize and defend internationalism this much, also within the union itself, to be able to tell the workers that the struggle in a factory, in a Compas or in a Johnson is the same struggle in a Johnson in Venezuela, for example.

V: One thing that goes hand in hand with what you said, David, is the participation of chemists in politics. I saw that many of you were candidates and participate actively and fundamentally in leftist currents. I do not know of other experiences, but in the board of directors, in the directory, comrades who militate in leftist parties. Can you talk about this subject, about the relation between politics and the union question?

D: It is a strategy of the right wing to prevent workers from really understanding what politics is. Because it is a mistake, a complete mistake, not to associate both the union part and the political part. Because you organize the workers to confront the government and the bosses, you cannot confront the government if you are not discussing politics, doing politics. I was a candidate, I am a candidatefrom the Party of Socialism and Freedom and the Socialist Struggle, I am president of the PSOL in Jacareí. And here in our union, we prioritize the discussion of the current situation before even talking about wage increases. Even before talking about the distribution of benefits in an assembly, we talk about the current situation.

To denounce the government, to contribute strategies, it is no use just denouncing and not giving an alternative to the workers. So we have to organize politically, we have to give a political response and politicize the class. Precisely so that it can have more clarity about what is being attacked. To fight against a pension reform, to fight against a labor reform, to fight against an outsourcing law. We discussed many companies at the bargaining table, they bring the economic crisis to deny a PLR, for example.

Reginaldo: Yes, first I want to introduce myself here. Thank you for the invitation, I think the international element is important because this shows the world what our class struggle is like today inside the factory. I am Reginaldo, a worker at Compas, an American multinational, and I am a leader of the Chemicals Union of the São José dos Campos region and a militant of Unidos Pra Lutar e Luta Socialista, PSOL. When Davi talks about the political question, it is very important to discuss it at the base, in the factory, with the workers. If we discuss politics with the workers next to the machine. This strengthens the struggle. Because today the bosses apply their policies. Just like in a negotiation, as Davi said, politics is part of our life and that is why we bring this transparency to the workers.

V: Precisely on the question of politics. There are different policies on how to act in the labor movement and in the working class in general, and your history has a lot to do with the dispute against the policy of class conciliation. The CUT, and the departure of the chemists from the CUT is part of this struggle, or this history. Can you tell us something about the history and the current state of this dispute with the class conciliation sectors?

D: Our union was affiliated to the base of the CUT, when the CUT really became a Central Única dos Trabalhadores, with a very leftist policy together with the PT. The CUT was organizing and winning many unions, organizing the class a lot. But the CUT reached a moment when it lost its way, precisely when the PT took power in our country. When Lula was elected, of course elected in the capitalist system, in his letter to the Brazilian people he made it very clear that he would not fight for socialism and that he would govern for all. And when you say that you will govern for all, you already bring a representation that means: we will talk to all, we will be all friends and we will understand each other. And the CUT, the base of the PT and which precisely defends its policy so that its base will continue to vote for the PT, also began to apply the government’s own policy. And then it became bureaucratized and the negotiation of class conciliation began. Thinking that the worker has to accept crumbs and that you have to be friends with the boss.

Our union broke with the CUT, with Articulação Sindical, of which it was part, in 2000. There was a dispute and we took the CUT out of our union. Because we know that we have sides, those who exploit and those who are exploited. And you can’t reconcile with those who exploit you. How do we get the boss to pay what he really has to pay, by being conciliatory? No, exploitation is no longer conciliatory, because it is exploitation. So, in that sense, we are very much in disagreement with the CUT.

So this class conciliation, unfortunately, led the CUT to do this, towards the bureaucracy and, of course, towards the direct influence of the PT government that needed the workers to vote and the policy had to be very similar, both for those who organized the class and for those who organized the government itself. And when you want to talk to everybody, then you lose yourself in the line of classism. You stop being of one class and become a friend of another. For us, there is no way to reconcile this, we have to confront those who exploit us to guarantee rights and conquer even more. Otherwise, in the real confrontation, on the class line, the workers lose a lot.

V: We can continue talking about the CUT because the next question I had was about updating the situation that the chemists are living in today. Because we are in the middle of a pandemic, with a very big crisis in the world capitalist system and obviously the governments of each country are trying to apply this crisis on the backs of the workers to continue with the profit scheme of the 1% of society, which as Davi just said, are the enemy bosses of our class and the only way they have to maintain their profits is to maintain a level of exploitation and austerity. So the question has to do with this, how are the chemists acting today in the midst of this situation, what are the most important struggles or the main struggles that the chemists of São José dos Campos are carrying out?

R. Yes, I think it is a very critical scenario that we are suffering in this pandemic. But from the beginning of the pandemic, it was a challenge to act, a challenge for us. This pandemic scenario, this scenario of destruction in our country. Remembering that we were and still are facing a genocidal, denialist and homophobic government. A government that comes against the working class and the Brazilian population.

So we see that this government is a genocidal government, as I said here, a government that is not thinking about the Brazilian population. It is not thinking about the working class. It put provisional measures to reduce workers’ wages, provisional measures to help the bosses, and at no time did it put a provisional measure that would help the working class, a provisional measure that, for example, would say: we do not accept layoffs during the pandemic period. There was no interim measure of this type on the part of the government. On the contrary, we, together with the workers, demanded job stability in several companies.

We had several struggles in this pandemic. Right at the beginning of the pandemic, Compas, the company I work for, which is a U.S. multinational, received a report of workers infected with Covid-19. There were four infected workers. Immediately, a policy was applied within the base, with the base articulated and working, we managed to go on strike and we demanded a massive test from Compas, which included male, female workers and outsourced workers, and they did a massive test, we were there for three days. Until the company did not carry out this massive test, we did not leave the factory gate. And so it was done and when the massive tests were done, there was a surprise, there were 24 workers infected by Covid-19. So a company with 240 workers could have had many more people infected. And there were workers who ended up going to the hospital, and there were workers who ended up in the ICU. So, for us, it was a victory together with the workers. Because we managed to stop this and the company had to respect the workers and demand the workers’ demands.

In the meantime, we managed to do this massive testing and then take it to other big multinationals. Big multinationals like Bayer, which is the former Monsanto and is here in São José dos Campos (SJC) in the state of São Paulo. The massive testing was done through a mobilization with the workers. We also went on strike at Bayer, which wanted to fire workers during the pandemic. So this scenario of struggles, since the beginning of the pandemic, has not been easy, as I said. It’s been very difficult, but the workers are willing to fight for their rights and their health. Because what is really happening is that the workers are on the front line, they are producing the wealth of the company, so they are on the front line. But it’s not just the worker, it’s their whole family that’s on the front line. It’s their parents, their children, their partner.

At Compas we have a worker who got infected and passed it on to his whole family. So our union here in São José dos Campos, in the state of São Paulo, has been with these workers all the time in this pandemic and so are we. Because we know what a worker suffers in the factory, because I am a factory worker, comrade Davi is a factory worker, so here we live the difference between capital and being a worker. We felt the exploitation of a worker in the factory.

And the struggles were not only for the massive testing, we also had here in SJC, also in the state of São Paulo, the TI-Brasil, which, taking advantage of the pandemic, decreed the closure of the company with massive layoffs. Immediately, we also took part of the struggle at TI-Brasil in SJC. We voted for a state of strike and soon after we got a year and a half of job stability for all the workers, so that no one would be fired. Keeping in mind that chemical companies in this pandemic make fortunes and the fortunes that these companies made. And that the workers were in the front line from the beginning of the pandemic. And here we also have to dialogue with the workers so that in the wage campaigns a real wage increase is demanded. We also have to agree with the workers on a wage increase. Because here in our country everything is expensive, the worker is feeling in his pocket the price of rice, the price of meat, the price of oil, the price of gasoline, then this is the scenario that the workers are living in our country, this is the scenario of destruction of the working class that this Bolsonaro government is doing against the workers. In addition to the provisional measures that this government is putting in place, the Pension Reform, the Labor Reform, so there are attacks on the class that only the struggle will be able to fight.

And I also want to say here that we defend a unified campaign with the workers in the factories, organizing the multitudes, organizing the rank and file, strengthening our struggle in the strike command, calling for a general strike in our country. For the working class to take to the streets. That we can stop this country and tell this genocidal government of Bolsonaro that who governs this country is the Brazilian population, the workers, because without these workers, without this population that pays taxes the government cannot be, then we have the right to demand. We must not allow this government to end our rights. That is why it is important to call a general strike, to call together with the activists of the category. But I want to end my intervention at this point, making an appeal to the trade union movement. I think we have to call this union movement, the popular movements, and the social movements so that we can have a dialogue, have this open dialogue with the other movements. All of Brazil, we have to call on all of Brazil to support us so that we can overthrow Bolsonaro, so that we can overthrow this genocidal government. And I want to end this point by putting the words “Out with Bolsonaro and Out with Mourão”.

V: Do you want to add anything else to finish?

D: I think what needs to be added is the continuity of Reginaldo’s speech. It is to organize the population, to organize the workers precisely to confront this government, a government that is more dangerous than the virus itself. Therefore, we have to talk about the demonstrations that are taking place in the country. May 29 was very important, June 19 was bigger, now I think July 24 has to be even bigger, and we have to organize well, organize with strength, call the workers, call the whole movement to unify and fight against this government in the streets, because there is a need to go out to the streets, there is a need to make these mobilizations, make assemblies, we made an assembly before the 19th, on the 18th, we made an assembly voting with the workers. If an assembly is held in a factory, in a private industry, precisely to vote a demonstration without talking about wages, without talking about PLR, without talking about anything specific to the factory, but simply a political assembly, for the workers to say whether or not they agree with “Fora Bolsonaro” and “Mourão”, and the vote was very expressive, very beautiful, it is because we are on the right path.

We cannot fall into the idea of the CUT of moving the struggle to 2022, thinking only of the elections. We cannot make the class fall into this Lula-Bolsonaro polarization. We have to create alternatives and create the will to fight in the class now, at this moment, to confront all this that has been happening.

A: I just want to reinforce here at the end that on July 24 we will have the third very important act that we are doing here in Brazil. We want to make an appeal to all of Brazil, to the militants from all over the world who are supporting us also from abroad. ISL militants, if you could support us, to spread the word that this is a genocidal and negationist government in this country. We need to overthrow this government and we need all the support of all the militancy from all over the world, so that it spreads also in other countries, that this government is killing the working class and killing the Brazilian people.

D: I just wanted to add and congratulate the ISL for the acts in the embassies, it is very important, very significant to do these acts and that they have managed to unify in Argentina with all the movements. It was very nice to see. I want to congratulate the comrades. I believe that in this way, unifying all the struggles, all the fighters, we will become stronger.

I want to thank you. I think this interview was very good, this exchange of ideas, of positions, I think we got to know each other a little better. And really thank you for the space and here the doors will always be open for the fighters, the house of the fighters will always be open for them. I think this unity is always important, this commitment to the class struggle. So, you are welcome here and whenever you want, just show up. And once again I thank you for participating together with the comrades.

A: I also want to thank you for the opportunity. Count on us, we are here to fight. I think a unified struggle is never frowned upon. It is very well seen because the working class needs unification to be able to fight. Thank you.