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Osvaldo Coggiola

Trotskyism In Brazil


Trotskyism in Brazil was born at the end of the 1920s, when several fractions of the Latin American communist parties shifted towards the International Left Opposition led by Leon Trotsky. The Communist Party of Brazil (PCB, Partido Comunista do Brasil) suffered major blows in 1928. Joaquim Barbosa and João da Costa Pimenta, old militants who had taken part in the party’s founding congress and were leaders of the Rio de Janeiro Federação Sindical Regional (Regional Trade-Union Federation), led the “Trade-Union Oppositon” that eventually split from the party. [1] Their disagreements were basically over the party’s trade-union policy. These leaderships accused the party of transforming the unions into political instruments: “As the party was illegal, its tactic was to transform the unions in organs of mere legal expression of its own policy. The union headquarters led by communists were transformed into party cells”. [2]According to Barbosa and Pimenta, there were times in which this orientation acquired grotesque aspects: “In this period, the party’s slogan in every strike was ‘free Thaelmann’. [3] Just imagine the workers having to shout that”. [4]

There was also a group of intellectuals that split from the party, due to their dissatisfaction with the party’s general orientations, which they considered excessive nationalism, and because they disagreed with the proposal of approximation with the Prestes Column. Among these were many well known individuals such as L’vio Xavier, Fúlvio Abramo and Rodolfo Coutinho. Xavier was a writer and had joined the party one year before. According to Dulles, he was in contact with the anti-stalinist opposition in the French communist party. Coutinho was an influent name in the party. He was member of the CC, had a Marxist formation, studied in Moscow from 1924 to 1926, and had been a substitute member of the Central Executive Commission (CCE) elected at the PCB founding congress in 1922. Both had large influence over the Communist Youth and won to their positions Aristides Lobo and Hilcar Leite, 16 years old at that time. According to Leandro Konder, “one could identify echoes of Trotsky’s positions in, among others’, Rodolfo Coutinho’s and Xavier’s critiques to the line adopted by Astrogildo [Pereira]”. [5] At that moment Rodolfo Coutinho already had some knowledge of the Left Opposition’s theses. He went to the V Congress of the III International, in 1924, as the PCB delegate (the party was now recognized) and stayed in Germany until 1927 and contacted many oppositionist militants. Back in Brazil, he reentered the CCE, became responsible for organizing the rural workers of Rio de Janeiro, and wrote for the PCB controlled newspaper, A Nação. Following the events of 1928, he quit the CCE on April 27 and left the party on May 8. [6] On the other hand, his influence over the Communist Youth (JC, Juventude Comunista) determined that the crisis also hit this section, at its very birth. Aristides Lobo, who was organizing the JC in São Paulo, joined the Opposition, and four members of the CCE of the JC split from the leadership, including Hilcar Leite. [7]

These splits had a large impact on the party life and the CCE decided to publish a review, to be distributed only among party members, up to the date of the III Congress of the PCB (eight numbers were published), to debate issues concerning the party. According to Astrojildo Pereira, the CCE took this decision due to the amount of criticism and the birth of an “organized oppositional movement, with a few dozen party members”. [8] None of the two groups developed into organizations, in or outside the party (Astrojildo Pereira, who refers to the “oppositions” without relating them to Trotskyism, said “the new Central Committee was in charge of examining the question of readmission to the party on the basis of individual declarations”). [9] But these were the individuals influenced by the documents of the International Left Opposition, sent by Mario Pedrosa from Europe. The historian Edgard Carone refers to Mario Pedrosa, together with Livio Xavier, Leôncio Basbaum and Mário Grazini as members of the first generation of a Marxist formation in the PCB. [10]

Mario Pedrosa was an outstanding member of the party. In 1989 Pedrosa was in Germany, on his way to Moscow where he would study at the Marx-Engels-Lenin Institute, [11] when he came across documents and militants from the Left Opposition. Having changed his plans, he then went to Paris. From Paris, he sent documents and reviews to Brazil which influenced Livio Xavier, Hilcar Leite and Rodolfo Coutinho favorably to the already so-called Trotskyist positions. Pedrosa brought back from Europe the left oppositionists’ program: “Sent by the PCB, in 1988, to the Moscow Leninist School, Mario Pedrosa was sick as soon as he arrived in Germany and could not continue his trip to Moscow. So he stayed and was active in the German PC, including street fights against the nazis. He then went to Paris, where he met Benjamim Péret, Pierre Naville e other writers in the surrealist movement. Back in Berlin, he maintained correspondence with Naville (director of the review Clarté) and joined the German oppositionists. He decided to definitely abandon the project of studying in Moscow and became a follower of Trotsky”. [12] Back in Brazil at the end of 1989, Pedrosa was expelled from the PCB on he ground of his “European liaisons”. He then started to work to establish links between the Brazilian opposition and the international movement.

Pedrosa managed to unite elements from both groups to form, in Rio de Janeiro, the Lenin Communist Group, which edited, beginning in May 1930, the newspaper A Luta de Classe (Class Struggle). The groups’ orientation and actions were similar to those of related groups in other countries. They focused on the “vanguard elements” in the working class and proposed to change the PCB’s political line. The editorial in the first issue of A Luta de Classe stated that this newspaper didn’t intend to combat the PCB, but to “reestablish the lines drawn at the party’s foundation”. [13] The existence of the Internationalist Communist League (Leninist Opposition of the Communist Party of Brazil – Brazilian Section of the International Left Opposition) was only formalized the next year, on January 81, on the anniversary of Lenin’s death. The group also published the Boletim da Oposição. Its aim was to draw closer together the revolutionary proletariat and the International Opposition, a left fraction of the Communist International”. [14]

The new organization functioned in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo during the first half of the 1930s and held considerable influence over trade-unions. They controlled the Graphic Workers Union (founded by João da Costa Pimenta, founding member of the League) and other categories by means of the Federation of Unions: carpenters, metal workers, retail workers, weavers. A commentary published on August 31 1931, by the organ of the Red Union International confirms the “Trotskyist” influence over several important unions in São Paulo: “The Trotskyists have assumed the leadership of many unions – not only small unions but some important organizations such as the new union of transport and electricity station workers, with thousands of members-and the old revolutionary graphics union. They definitely gained influence in the Union of Textile Workers of São Paulo. [15] The League always stressed the threat that the varguist (Getúlio Vargas, President of Brazil) policy represented for the workers’ movement: “The Labor Ministry was especially created to promote continuous mistification among the workers. The political police could not do the Labor Ministry’s job, but the latter is no less perverse than the former, and deserved the workers’ permanent hostility. Every trade-union in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro has had the chance to clearly see the real objectives of this ‘technical’ organ of the bourgeois ‘revolutionary’ administration”. [16] Pierre Broué describes Plínio Gomes de Mello’s activities: “Journalist, organizer of the Communist Youth, party member in 1987, sent to Rio Grande do Sul to run in the local elections as candidate from the Workers and Peasants’ Bloc. Imprisoned and tortured, fled to Montevideo, where he participated in the meeting of the Latin-American Bureau of the Communist International in May 1930. Excluded because he opposed the ‘Third Period’ policy, he reorganized the PCB legally in São Paulo in november 1930, for which he was accused of ‘renegade’ and ‘trotskyist’. Joined the Left Opposition in 1931 and led the major Light & Power strike in São Paulo, when he was arrested by the police. In the following years he was one of the leaders of the Journalists’ Union”. [17]

Aristides Lobo and then Mario Pedrosa tried to maintain contact with Luis Carlos Prestes in this period. In 1930 Aristides Lobo was sent to Buenos Aires to discuss with Prestes and try to convince him to enter the PCB and defend the Left Oposition’s line in the party. According to Michael Löwy, “during a certain period Prestes was attracted to the Trotskyist theses, and it is possible that Aristides Lobo influenced some of the texts the ‘Knight of Hope’ published in 1930, particularly the August Manifest, in which he announces the creation of an organization, the Revolutionary Action League (Liga de Ação Revolucionária, LAR), and proposes that it should lead the insurrection of workers and peasants, in a united front with the PCB. In this document, proletarian hegemony is already viewed by Prestes as a necessary condition to avoid defeats such as those in China and Mexico. In an autobiographic article Prestes published in 1973, he admits this document contained ‘typically Trotskyist’ [18] opinions; the text does in fact correspond to the period he came closest to Trotskyism. The LAR was rejected by the PCB, viewed as a ‘confusionist’ and, failing to establish itself in the country, was limited to a group of Prestes’ friends in exile”. [19] Prestes and Lobo were close collaborators in the beginning, being the latter Prestes’ political adviser. Some versions say Lobo actually wrote Prestes’ famous August Manifest, calling for a national anti-imperialist insurrection: Lobo was, together with “Lieutenant” Siqueira Campos, one of the four leaders of the LAR. [20]The stalinist opponents of the LCI took advantage of Lobo’s trip to Rio Grande do Sul (he was sent by Prestes to study the situation there) to convince Prestes to join the PCB, after having criticized the Manifest, repudiated “Trotskyism” and dissolved the LAR.

Still in 1930 circulated the International Bulletin of the Left Opposition in the III International, which registered the convocation of seventeen organizations from different countries (including Brazil) for a meeting to launch the International Opposition, held in April this year, in Paris, and that created a Bureau and a Secretariat. [21] It was in fact due to this that the Lenin Communist Group, in São Paulo, became the Internationalist Communist League. Present at the foundation act, were Aristides Lobo, João Mateus, Manuel Medeiros, Mário Pedrosa, Benjamin Péret (French surrealist poet living in Brazil at that moment), [22] Lívio Xavier etc. The same happened later in Rio de Janeiro, with the participation of Rodolfo Coutinho, João Dalla Dea, Otavio du Pin Galvão, José Neves and Salvador Pintaude (director of the Unitas Publisher, responsible for the first translations of Trotsky’s books into Portuguese). [23] The newspaper A Luta de Classe became its theoretical organ. Apart from this, the League began publishing the Bulletin of the Opposition, as mentioned above. The first number of the Bulletin, issued in January 1931, presented an analysis of the Revolution of 1930 and the international communist movement. Faithful to the principles of the Trotskyist Opposition, it declared itself struggling for the regeneration of the PCB. At the end of 1933, the Trotskyists created the Coalition of Proletarian Unions, an organization that strove to unite the union movement in São Paulo. According to Robert Alexander, in this period the Trotkyists had more influence in the unions than the PCB. Prestes’ declaration seems to confirm this: he accused “the treason of the Trotskyist and anarcho-unionist leaders, who weren’t capable of leading the proletariat to victory in the strikes of 1931 and 1938”. [24]

Contrary to the Communist Party of Brasil, the Internationalist Communist League (ICL) thoroughly analyzed the revolution of 1930: “In October 1930, it was the first time that national economy expressed itself in a clearly political manner, through the revolt of productive forces against the hegemony of the coffee economy ... Without making the same mistake as the bureaucratic leadership of the PCB (that identifies) every political group in the struggle with the two imperialist groups, that act as an external factor in relation to the class struggle in the country, the process of political differentiation of the classes, that came from the movement, reacted over its own social base, widening it and preparing opportunities for the independent intervention of the proletariat in the party struggle”. After an analyses of the problem of national unity in Brazil, the ICL advanced the demand of a Constituent Assembly, for which they were qualified as “servants of imperialism” by the PCB (a denomination they would have received anyway). For the ICL, the democratic demands derived from the structure itself of the country: “the combined development of the industrializing nation, in the framework of a colonial economy, means that the forms of political domination of the bourgeoisie cannot realize themselves in the normal framework of democracy. The democratic demands are transformed in weapons in the hands of the party of the proletariat, uniting in this manner the oppressed masses”. It is well known that the PCB considered the 1930 revolution simply as an episode in the inter-imperialist struggle, which completely isolated the party from the political situation, and caused a crisis in its ranks (Leôncio Basbaum, among others, criticized the schematic and primary nature of the PCB’s analysis).

Based on the analysis of the historical formation of Brazil and of the political tasks deriving from the contemporary period, the ICL defended a Constituent Assembly. According to the League, this should be a proletarian Constituent Assembly, different from the bourgeois and petit-bourgeois forms of Constituent Assemblies. How would this be possible? The PCB and the proletariat should struggle to build “soviets” (councils) parallel to the Constituent Assembly, together with municipal autonomy and the direct government of the people. From the ICL’s point of view, the social and political framework after 1930 presented certain developments unfavorable to the proletariat, unless the PCB changed its politics. If, according to the Communist League, the events of 1938 were related to the political unity of the country in the camp of the governing class, national unity itself could only be realized by the proletariat: “Under the control of the bourgeoisie and imperialist oppression, productive forces in Brazil cannot develop any further on a national level. Only the dictatorship of the proletariat, liberating Brazil from the claws of imperialism, will be capable of preserving national unity, to guarantee the harmonious development of productive forces in the whole country and the systematic improvement of the conditions of life for the exploited masses. The struggle for national unity is thus a direct struggle against imperialism and against the secessionist bourgeoisie”. [25]

The Portuguese colonization of Brazil did not count with the idea of free territories and a free colonial people and barred the development of an economy based on small propriety: “The class of small proprietors, factor of the small production generally prior to the capitalist regime, and whose expropriation is one of the determining factors of this regime, wasn’t able to develop in the economic formation of Brazil. The Brazilian state has always been characterized by class schematicism”. This production regime, which generated slavery in Brazil, surpassed slavery in another moment of its development, opening a specific camp for its relations with European capitalism, mainly English. The Brazilian bourgeoisie, contrary to European, originated from the countryside, not from the town: “The formidable development of coffee production is a typically capitalist development. Through the analysis of the coffee production, one may grasp the secrets of Brazilian capitalism, its mentioned specificities such as slavery, and its qualitative rupture with the immigration of the wage-earning worker. Once the contradiction slave/capitalist production is solved, and value is generated with the presence of the wage-earning worker, all the necessary conditions for a large exploitation are assembled: virgin soil, virtually unproductive land, the possibility of a larger specialization in production, in one word, the possibility of monoculture. Thus, the coffee producer directs, simultaneously, all his means of production, to one sole objective and, therefore, obtains unprecedented results. Therefore, the type of production determined a prosperity favorable for capitalist development in all forms. In this manner, the credit system, the growth of mortgage, trade at exportation ports, everything contributed to prepare a national capitalist basis. The labor that lacked was imported, and from then on immigration acquired an industrial enterprise character”.

Therefore, coffee production and finance capital redefined the economic policy, internationally and inside the country, where certain regions developed more than others. The stagnation and incorporation of certain regions in the uneven and combined development of Brazilian capitalism, impeded the comprehension of this enormous differentiation as the formation of two “Brazils”, that is, a dualist interpretation: “But the economic process slowly extended to the whole territory, and capitalism penetrated in the whole of Brazil, transforming the most backward economic bases. As economic progress advances, Brazil integrates itself more and more into world economy, and enters the sphere of imperialist attraction”. The national bourgeoisie depended on a strong executive, a well structured state, with bureaucracy and ministries supporting this kind of capitalist industrialization: “More than that, the industrial development demands, as an essential condition, the direct support of the state: industry is born connected to the state by its umbilical cord”. Thus the Federation implanted with the proclamation of the republic in 1889 was in practice neglected with the centralization of political power by a state that defended the needs of the growing bourgeoisie. For Pedrosa and Xavier, this framework explained why the governors depended on the central power and not the opposite: “The secondary states’ parliamentary representatives become representatives of the central power in their own states, instead of – as says the constitutional fairytale-representing their states before central power”. Political instability and the clear exposure of its contradictions, were explicable by an economic development in constant change, playing avant-la-banque as Marx would say, without the control of the national bourgeoisie, that was finally able to do without the national political parties. [26]

In the unions, the ICL developed the line of the United Front. It concentrated its efforts in São Paulo, considered the country’s proletarian center, in which it grew to be stronger than the PCB. João da Costa Pimenta’s activity in the leadership of the graphics union was fundamental, but the Trotskyists also gathered considerable strength among weavers, railway and bank workers. Together with the Anarchists, they built the Trade-Union Coalition, in 1934. This same year, the Left Coalition was built, thanks mainly to the trotskyists’ efforts, but uniting also the anarchists, socialists, foreign workers’ groups and the São Paulo Committee of the PCB, directed by “Paulo” (Hermínio Sacchetta), to fight against the “green shirt” fascists: the Integralismo. This was probably the ICL’s main achievement. Several Trotskyists (such as Mario Pedrosa and Fulvio Abramo) had been for some time participating in a democratic anti-fascist journal: O Homem Livre (The Free Man), which published, among other texts, Pedrosa’s pioneer analysis of fascism, that took as a starting point the film by Howard Hawks, Scarface (it was an analogy between fascism and the mafia, a kind of lumpenproletariat that takes control of the state with the consensus of the dominating classes, to get rid of the revolutionary threat). Together with the Trade-Union Coalition and the Socialist Party of Brazil (PSB, Partido Socialista Brasileiro), the ICL participated in the so-called Proletarian or Left Coalition, that was formed to run for the elections for the São Paulo state constituent and the House of Representatives. In this front, the ICL presented a program of forty-two points, divided into three parts: political and democratic demands (expanded right to vote, anti-fascist militias, right to divorce, recognition of the USSR), immediate economic demands (shorter workday, changes in the labor legislation, salary increases, a minimum salary based on a mobile scale etc.), economic demands to benefit workers in general and specially peasants (nationalizations, non consideration of foreign dept, organization of farms by the rural unions). The Left Coalition obtained a small percentage of the votes compared to the major parties, but came ahead of the Ação Integralista Brasileira (Brazilian Integralist Action) and the PCB, that ran as the Union of Workers and Peasants. The PCB had 1716 votes for federal deputy and 1709 for state deputy, while the Left Coalition obtained, respectively, 8.508 and 8.889 votes. [27]

The Trotskyists also took part in the anti-fascist struggle. The May 1 demonstration in 1934 represented a significant moment in this struggle. It was directed against the Integralistas and organized by the League, the PSB and anarchists. This day, Mario Pedrosa announced, for the first time in Brazil, the need to build the IV International – after the capitulation without struggle of the German PC in 1933 opened the way for the rise of Hitler. According to Mario Pedrosa, “the campaign to build the anti-fascist front developed throughout the year 1934. The ICL, anarchists and socialists launched the journal O Homem Livre. The PCB did not take part in the United Front, preferring to lead its own campaign. It only took part in the big struggle against the Integralistas, on October 7, 1934, at the Sé square”. [28]

The united left called a counter-demonstration, against a meeting organized by the Integralistas on that date, at the Praça da Sé, the main central square in São Paulo. Fúlvio Abramo (at that time practicing Trotskyist “entrism” in the PSB) was the spokesman for the left: he was hardly able to pronounce himself before a battle exploded, which included shooting. One communist student was killed and Mario Pedrosa was shot in the leg. But the Integralistas aelso suffered losses. They fled in panic from the anti-fascist reaction of the working class organizations, and scattered green shirts along the streets of São Paulo. Soon after, the PCB organized the ANL, Aliança Nacional Libertadora (Liberating National Alliance), that launched a military putsch in Natal (Rio Grande do Norte) almost exactly one year later, in November 1935. The failure of the 1935 putsch, through which the PCB tried to organize a national upsurge with a bourgeois program, was a mortal blow over the growing workers’ movement. The highest point in this movement had been precisely the anti-fascist struggle at the Sé square, when the workers columns transformed the triumphant march of the “green shirt” fascism in what the press called “the flight of the green chickens”: the petit-bourgeois followers of Mussolini, organized by Plínio Salgado, who abandoned their own shirts in fleet. The following year, the Trotskyists attacked the PCB’s “adventurism”. This did not free them, nor the rest of the left, from the state oppression which followed the failed ANL putsch. Their leaders were sent to prison on the island of Maria Zélia (where the trotskyist working class leader, Manuel Medeiros, died in terrible conditions) or to exile (Mario Pedrosa managed to escape from the country; Fulvio Abramo took to exile in Bolivia, together with Mariano and Inês Besouchet, [29] remaining there for many years and accompanying the first steps of the POR, Partido Obrero Revolucionário, the Revolutionary Workers Party of Bolivia). However, his political struggle led an important fraction of the PCB (the majority of the Central Committee of São Paulo, including Hermínio Sachetta and the poet Pagú, Patrícia Galvão) to enter Trotskyism, guaranteeing its continuity as the Partido Socialista Revolucionário (Revolutionary Socialist Party) under the regime of the Estado Novo.

As mentioned above, the failure of the 1935 upsurge had led to a brutal attack against the working class movement and the Trotskyist organization was dismantled: “The ICL broke in 1935. Sacchetta published an article in A Classe Operária (The Working Class) entitled A Liga se desliga (The League’s end). In another article, he called Aristides Lobo a “senile old man with pus running down his brain”. In the end they became good friends. They met almost every day. On his way home from work at the Folha de São Paulo, Aristides would stop at the office of the Shopping News for a chat with Saccheta. I met him there several times between 1965 and 1967, when I was living in São Paulo, after exile in Uruguay. [30] The remaining cadres of the ICL, seeking articulation, founded, in Rio de Janeiro, 1936, the short lasting POL, Partido Operário Leninista (Leninist Workers Party) and circulated, in July this year, the review Sob Nova Bandeira (Under a New Flag). The ICL was also undergoing a deep political crisis. There was a political rupture, and some militants (Aristides Lobo, the future novel writer Raquel de Queiroz, Vitor de Azevedo) objected against the ICL’s “adventurism” and “militarism”. The POL attempted a strict assessment of the 1935 failure, and stated in a public document:

“The proletariat did not take part in the alliance’s November coup but suffered the consequences of its defeat. The rising tide of the working class since 1934 (year of great strikes) was broken. The petit-bourgeoisie, that was beginning to side with the left, either recoiled under the governmental wings, or fell into political indifference, or even entered the “integralist” camp. If the revolutionary vanguard realizes how to draw the lessons from this defeat, it shall be not more than a stage – and a progressive one-in the struggle.
“The November events shifted the debate about the class character of the revolution in Brazil, from the abstract field of theory to the field of practice. Before the coup, the debate was between two opposite conceptions: that of the bureaucratized CI and that of the revolutionary Marxists. According to the former, the character of the revolutions in the semi-colonial, colonial and dependant countries is measured by a very complicated scale, where each degree represents a different kind of revolution. The first degree in the scale represents the ‘agrarian and anti-imperialist revolution’, the last, the proletarian socialist revolution. Only one step can be taken each time. Since the formation of the ANL and the Popular Fronts (1935), official communism added one degree, more inferior, the ‘national popular revolution’. Its class character remains a mystery. This total abstraction, regardless of reality, was opposed to the real Marxist conception: the revolutionary struggle is a permanent process which, once initiated, overcomes all the degrees in the scale. This conception, theoretically formulated, was confirmed by the revolutionary experiences of 1905 and 1917 in Russia, by the revolutionary events in China (1985-88) and Spain. Finally, in November 1935, it underwent its main practical experimentation in our country with the political failure of the ANL and the PCB.
“What were the real motives of the November defeat? On the one side, the impotence in mobilizing the workers with exclusively vulgar democratic slogans. On the other side, the hostility of the bourgeoisie and even the petit-bourgeoisie in relation to the ANL and its coup. They didn’t realize the opportunist slogans nor the attempts to tranquilize them, nor the concessions made by the ‘alliancists’ and followers of Prestes. Their eyes could only see the soldiers, workers and militants, considered communists, in arms; their ears only heard the insistent calls that the insurrection, hit by an insurmountable contradiction, was forced to launch to the exploited masses to try to win the support of the workers”.

In its conclusion, the document presented a very interesting historic characterization of the political configuration of contemporary Brazil:

“It was only now, after the Brazilian proletariat proved its capacity in leading an independent struggle (strikes, trade-union movement) and political consciousness (formation of the PCB, mass demonstrations) that there finally appeared, for the first time, a party on the national level. Decisive coincidence, this party was the Integralismo, a national fascism, set up and financed by the capitalists to crush the Brazilian proletariat and its future revolution. On the other hand, faced with a coward and backward national bourgeoisie, the proletariat was, in Brazil, the first class to organize itself nationally and constitute its own political party. Decisive coincidence!, this party was the CP, Brazilian section of the III International. This means that, in Brazil, there are no other “left” or democratic political traditions other than those born from the masses, under the influence of communism, of the Russian Revolution and anarchism. The absence of petit-bourgeois traditions answers to a great extent for the fact that the ANL was born from an agreement between the leaders of the CP and some petit-bourgeois military and politicians, and had no other life than that given to it by the CP itself. The ANL never had an autonomous existence. Its rank and file were formed by vanguard militants, communist sympathizers and enthusiasts of the USSR, petit-bourgeois and advanced workers. Its actions were directed to those spheres already influenced by communism, and its successes were obtained in the most advanced layers of the working masses in the cities. But so exaggerated as they were, the ‘alliancist’ leaders convinced themselves that they had already won the profound masses of the workers and peasants in the whole country. They interpreted their victories as the confirmation of the correctness of their policy, as the proof of the lack of a class character in the ‘alliancist’ movement. But what motivated the masses in the ANL’s committees was actually the banner of communism and not of the ‘alliance’. The November defeat destroyed the vanguard; deposited part of it in Getulio’s dungeons and islands, and the dispersed the rest. We must reunite this vanguard, under a new banner. The time has come to rebuild the necessary instrument for the victory or emancipation of the working masses in Brazil. The new vanguard regroupment shall not be the invention of a half dozen of discontented persons, but the result of the past experiences of the proletarian movement up to the November ‘alliancist’ putsch. From a historical point of view, the PCB is not the party of the victorious revolution – the bolshevik party of Brazil-but the precursor, just as the anarchist movement ... Its shift to the right today is decisive, and it will not be able to return to its former class positions. Its present line was formulated by the Congress of the CI itself (1935), which was, one may say, the Congress of the dissolution of the III International as the world party of the proletarian revolution ... ”. [31]

Contrary to other parties’ analyses and to historiography itself, that state that the upsurge was defeated because it was “militarily unfortunate”, the Leninist Workers Party (POL, Partido Operário Leninsta) analyzed the defeat of the ‘alliancist’ coup from the point-of-view of its program: “In Recife, some elements from the masses participated in the upsurge, accepting the guns they were offered. But they were not willing to go deep into the struggle ... In Natal, a typically petit-bourgeois town, in spite of the statements by the Revolutionary Committee declaring that the revolutionary forces would maintain themselves in absolute loyalty and respect to proprieties and homes, the ‘honorable merchants’ were weary and kept their shops closed. In the hands of soldiers and workers in arms, the ‘alliancist’ scheme of a national popular revolution couldn’t erase the class contradictions and open the doors to the bourgeoisie”. The organ of the POL, Sob Nova Bandeira, also reassessed Integralism: “(In Europe) the fascist movement had to operate with entire autonomy in relation to governments; it couldn’t place itself in direct connection with the state apparatus without condemning itself to isolation. Precisely the opposite happens here. Integralism is, ultimately, nothing but the renewal of the old and very well known red carnation, that reached its glory during the presidency of Bernardes. Were it not for their shirts, gesticulation, demonstrations, and speeches, these second-class police assistants, professional snitches, gangsters of the powerful and demonstration entrepreneurs, would have long ago been identified as mere pay-check agents of unpopular politicians. The POL theses establish their scarce chances of rising to power by their own means”.

The “New State” (Estado Novo) was set up in November 1937: Mario Pedrosa then went to France, where he worked with people he had met in 1988, to prepare the founding congress of the IV International. The congress was held in September 1938, and Pedrosa (under the name “Lebrun”) was indicated to the Executive Committee (CEI) of the new international organization, as representative for Latin America. Pedrosa traveled the same year to the United States, to where the CEI headquarters were transferred due to the war in Europe. [32] Before this, in 1937, in Brazil, the presidential election campaign had begun (canceled soon after) and the state of repression improved slightly: some militants were released, and the PCB was able to reorganize. Under the leadership of Bangu (Lauro Reginaldo da Rocha), a fraction of the party decided to support the semi-official candidate José Américo de Almeida, but met resistance mainly from the São Paulo Regional Committee, that supported the candidacy of Luis Carlos Prestes, who was in jail. [33]

The Comintern’s direct support (in radio transmissions directly from Moscow to Brazil) allowed Bangu to defeat the opposition fraction and then expel it from the party. This group left the party and took with it the majority of the State Committee of São Paulo, the communist organization of Paraná and sections of the party in Minas Gerais, Rio Grande do Sul and Pernambuco. [34] The leader was Herm’nio Sacchetta, one of the main writers for A Classe Operária, official organ of the PCB, and leader of the São Paulo State Committee. Sacchetta’s group, called the pro-regroupment Vanguard Dissidence, first denied but later accepted Trotskyism. Together with the POL, they formed the Revolutionary Vanguard Pro-Regroupment Committee of Brazil (Fulvio Abramo had advised the POL not to join Sacchetta’s group, for it would be swallowed by the ‘hyper-activity’ of Sacchetta, whom he called ‘a volcano’). [35] The definitive fusion happened in August 1939, during the First Conference of Fourth Internationalist Militants, when they built the Revolutionary Socialist Party (PSR, Partido Socialista Revolucionário). Entered the new party militants such as the poet Pagu (by means of a letter sent from the prison she was being kept in) and Florestan Fernandes, at the time a young assistant Professor at the Faculdade de Filosofia, Ciência e Letras, nucleus of the future University of São Paulo. Having met Sacchetta, he was attracted to the “greater complexity of the intellectual debate” inside the Trotskyist group. Florestan left the PSR at the end of the 1940s, after having participated in the Radical Democratic Coalition, the PSR’s “section” for legal activity. This provoked a crisis of consciousness in Florestan (he had received a grant to study at a foreign University, and was advised to do so by his friend, Antônio Càndido), to which he indirectly referred, when characterizing his intellectual activity as “self-punitive”. [36]

Mario Pedrosa supported Max Shachtman’s fraction that split from the Socialist Workers’ Party (SWP), North American section of the IV International, over the debate concerning the policy of “unconditional defense of the Soviet Union” defended by Trotsky and the majority of the CEI. [37] Pedrosa was excluded form the International Secretariat when it was reorganized the following year (Luiz Alberto Moniz Bandeira mentioned that “Pedrosa hardly, or not at all, influenced the formation of the IV International in Brazil. It was born from a split in the PCB, led by Herm’nio Sacchetta and supported by the old militant Alberto Moniz da Rocha Barros, called “Cintra”). In 1940, Pedrosa went on a tour to Latin American countries. In Buenos Aires, he won militants for the “anti-defensive” international fraction, such as Pedro Milessi, a worker and pioneer Argentine Trotskyist, but was looked down on by another important Trotskyist, Liborio Justo [38], the son of the Argentine president, Agustín p.Justo (1938-1938). In Lima, he held a Latin-American meeting of the new and short-lived political current, at Victor Raúl Haya de la Torre’s house (leader of the APRA, Acción Popular Revolucionaria Americana – “American Revolutionary Popular Action”). [39] After this, Pedrosa dropped his support for Shachtman, and influenced by the ideas of the North-American social-democrat Norman Thomas, returned to Brazil in 1941 determined to found an “independent” Socialist Party. His efforts led to the foundation (together with other former ICL militants and ex-Trotskists) of the periodical Vanguarda Socialista, in 1945. [40]

In 1943, the II Congress of the IV International officially recognized the PSR as the “Brazilian section” of the IV International. During the “redemocratizing” period in Brazil, after the fall of president Vargas, the PSR published an article in Vanguarda Socialista criticizing Pedrosa’s group’s support (defended by Arnaldo Pedroso d’Horta) for the presidential candidacy of Eduardo Gomes. The PSR defended the idea of either a class candidacy or null vote, following the example of the São Paulo Committee of the PCB in 1937: the Sacchetta group was the precursor of a position that became one of the issues in debate among the left groups in 1964, at the beginning of a military dictatorship. In October 1946, the PSR began to publish its own newspaper, Orientação Socialista (Socialist orientation), that published a series of articles by Sacchetta (“Prestes and the Agrarian Problem”) attacking the roots of the PCB’s political concept of “phases”. [41] The PSR had headquarters in Rio de Janeiro, Paraná and mainly São Paulo, where it controlled the Journalists’ Trade-Union as well as the Glaziers’ Union, whose president was the militant Domingos Taveira. [42]

In 1946, the main political problem was the transition from the dictatorial regime of Vargas to a “democracy” without revolutionary consequences in the interest of the dominating classes. The PCB’s “democratic revolution” project included class collaboration, which the Trotskyists viewed as a consequence of stalinist influenced analyses of Brazilian reality. According to the Night of Hope (Prestes), “several conditions are necessary to transform a possibility in reality, among which the Party line and its correct practice are one of the most important”. [43] And this “correct line” included the agrarian problem. The PCB’s project for land confiscation did not reveal the character of the proposed transformation of rural Brazilian. On the one hand, because the peasantry could intensify its antagonism against capital, making impossible an alliance with national-industrial bourgeoisie (defended by the PCB). On the other hand, because they did not know how value was extracted from the land (the problem of “semi-feudalism”). The PCB believed the national industrial bourgeoisie was opposed to the participation of the semi-feudalists in the social formation of Brazil. The big landowners represented, according to the party, a form of implementation of imperialism in countries like Brazil. The idea of land confiscation for the peasants, defended by the PCB, didn’t clarify if it meant to establish a price for production in agriculture, that would be the exact difference between the individual price of production and the highest one. At the end of the hard years of the varguist dictatorship, that disorganized the social movement and fragmented the left organizations, the PCB (with the Conferência da Mantiqueira since 1943), proposed “national unity and struggle against fascism” – namely, unity around Vargas: “Thus there is no National Unity without the continuous and permanent movement of public opinion and popular forces around the national problems connected to the war and the comprehension and solution of these problems. It is evident that the center of this unity will be the government of President Vargas”. [44]

Under this reasoning, it was considered that the best thing to do (the “just line”) would be to oppose the workers’ strikes, which they did. The PCB defended the thesis of the building of national peace as the condition for combating fascism. In their view, the ecstasy of a country undergoing national conciliation should be lived by the proletariat itself, above all because it should know that its social effort would contribute to the defeat of the major enemy, namely, fascism. Prestes actually said that once fascism was defeated, imperialism would disappear and finally foreign capital might even contribute to national development, if international agreements were observed (mainly the Letter of the Atlantic). How would this be possible? Overcoming “feudalism”, developing a national bourgeoisie, and sweeping feudal aristocracy from the political scene. Dictated at a moment of collective material and military efforts against fascism, and release of political prisoners including communists, the PCB’s “just line” led the party to strengthen the struggle for its legality and for some bourgeois reforms. The party’s project was opposed by the national and international bourgeoisie (the USA Ambassador was partly responsible for the fall of Getúlio Vargas), weary of the PCB’s alliance with the dictator, during a period of worker’s strikes. The legality, release of political prisoners, and expressive number of votes in the first election after the dictatorship, stimulated the party’s self-confidence and its efforts for national unity. But the cycle of the democratic bourgeoisie would soon finish with the coalition between PSD-UDN-PR. The result was that the PCB lost its legal right to function in 1947. This was denounced already in 1945, by Pedro Motta Lima in the Tribuna Popular.

When Prestes expressed his ideas on the Brazilian revolution, sometimes getting mixed up between productive consume and final consume of the produced goods, the national bourgeoisie (that the PC wanted to reach) was viewed as the creator of capitalist production demanded by a more and more vertical and excluding market, regardless of the people who remained out of the scope of production. Thus, the “popular policy” did not clarify the proletariat, but made it more confused. The Trotskyists, on the contrary, never defended the “democratic revolution” for Brazil. A backward capitalist country with a strong proletariat could not be seen as semi-feudal. In 1946 the contradictions of the social regime of production had reached a high and non retreating level – the workers movement shouldn’t content itself with a national revolution. The PSR struggled against imperialism, but not with capitalist measures. Capitalism in Brazil preserved distinct modes of accumulation, and found in the state the possibility of avoiding their profound antagonism. Although distinct, these modes of accumulation of capital were not separated one from the other. It wouldn’t be possible to have an alliance between agrarian capital and imperialism, against industrial capital. The Orientação Socialista’s critics of the PCB’s “anti-imperialist theses” included drawing attention to the unconcreteness of the social reality of Brazilian feudalism. A great intellectual effort wasn’t needed to distinguish latifúndio (large land propriety) from feudalism. Moreover, one should not compare the latifúndios in Brazil to the feuds in Europe. The thesis of Brazilian feudalism defended by the PCB, was a kind of belief that projected the possibility of progressive capitalism in Brazil. The PSR’s analysis of capitalist industrialization in Brazil tried to point out the possible links with international capitalism. This analysis implied a former identification of the kinds of accumulation in Brazilian economy: what were the real relations between agriculture and industry? Thus, the PSR made efforts to understand the production in the latifúndio from the point of view of capitalist production itself. The uneven and combined development of Brazilian production made it necessary to verify the forms of accumulation of capital and their specificities. Avoiding the duality – “new” and “backward”-one could suppose a synthesis of these differences under the hegemony of finance capital. International capitalism created limits to production, even in periods of greater possibilities of importing such as the post-war period: the slow development of the industry of durable products was determined by imperialist interests. However, for the Trotskyists, the revocation of the “Malaia law”, the problem of technology transfer in a country without many financial resources in the private sector, did not condition linear radical antagonisms between the national industrial bourgeoisie and international capital.

For the PSR, backward capitalism was under the pressure of the general crisis of the social system of bourgeois production. This crisis would show different forms of manifestation: fascism was one, but not the last. Against the PCB, the Orientação Socialista exposed the impossibility of a formal bourgeois democracy in a late capitalist system like the Brazilian. It wasn’t a conjunctural problem, but one of an endemic institutional crisis: the bourgeoisie couldn’t create more or less lasting mechanisms to face the proletariat in the social and political arena, due to the structure of capitalism in Brazil. It was delirious on the part of The PCB to believe in a form of backward jocobinism. The Brazilian legislative in the immediate post-war couldn’t create the conditions to balance the contradictions between capital and labor. The impression was that the executive and legislative acted in a practically monolitic manner. The democracy decreed by law, by president Dutra, was the first step for the constituents of 1946. The workers strikes terrorized capital: the national bourgeoisie demanded from the Dutra government the end of the paredista movement. Finally, the PCB itself condemned the workers strikes in the name of progressive capitalism. The PCB adopted a revolutionary project for Brazil based on the dimitrovist theses of the VII World Congress of the IC, 1935, that is, the Popular Front policy. Last but not least, it also adopted the struggle against the “enemies of the USSR”, the Trotskyists.

The Popular Front included the national bourgeoisie, and its tactics was adapted to the concept of a democratic bourgeois revolution. According to Orientação Socialista, if in Europe the Popular Front was a tactical mistake, in Brazil it was a “dialectics of the absurd”, considering the repression of the workers movement in 1946: undeniable proof of the historic impossibility of an alliance between the national industrial bourgeoisie, the petit-bourgeoisie, proletariat and peasantry. Through the line of class collaboration, the PCB confused the proletariat and handed it unarmed straight into the hands of capital. Thus, the national bourgeoisie felt free to refuse any social policy that corresponded to the interests of the proletariat. Through the Popular Front policy, the PCB lost its proletarian character, and was transformed into an element of proletarian discharacterization in the context of the petit-bourgeoisie. Distant from the “national unity”, the conflict between capital and labor was intensified. The PSR proposed a workers’ united front: with alliances that practically did not go beyond the working class itself. In the current scenario, one didn’t see a jacobin bourgeoisie, but conservative “liberal” bourgeois. The defense of the Workers’ United Front came together with the concept of political organization in the working place: it should be remembered that several strikes in 1946 were begun by workers organized in factory commissions. The PSR did not however see the United Front as a substitute for the revolutionary party.

The PCB’s successes in elections in the immediate post-war period happened when the bourgeoisie was more or less disoriented and disorganized. The bourgeoisie later rebuilt its domain, with recession and the destruction of part of the economy. President Dutra combated inflation with unemployment and the close-down of some factories. Orientação Socialista proposed to reopen these factories (for example, the textile factories) with a shorter working day and same salary – The proletariat shouldn’t have to pay for the capitalist crisis. The group presented its minimum demands: trade-union autonomy and liberty, extinction of the political police and repression organs, right to organize, meet and to manifest oneself orally and by written means, legal acceptance of factory committees, sliding scale for salaries and working hours, abolition of commercial secrecy, expropriation of commercial (private) banks, credit systems, expropriation without compensation of foreign monopolies and trusts, expropriation of fortunes built while in public appointment, centralization of retirement pensions in only one institute (social security) under the control of the tax payers, tax system with direct taxes for the rich and the end of indirect taxes which weighed over the poor, progressive income tax for the rich, abolition of this tax for the wage-earners, nationalization of land, complete reform of electoral law, the right to vote should be extended to soldiers, navy seamen and illiterate. The electoral law should effectively guarantee the register of proletarian and socialist organizations and of independent candidates.

According to Roberto Ferreira: “The PSR’s objective is to create a policy that reflects the needs of the workers’ social movement and advance, in some aspects, certain clearly revolutionary elements already manifested by this movement. The trotskyists weren’t able of organizing a big party, but they left a great contribution to the workers’ movement. Orientação Socialista represented an anti-illusionist moment of the workers’ movement, denounced the farse of capital’s proposals, apparently so seducing, to a society that seeked redemocratization. The Dutra government, of national unity and pacification, repressed the proletariat, especially when it was organizing to put forward its demands, fight for its rights, etc. What was at play was the possibility of political autonomy for Brazilian workers and proletariat. Orientação Socialista’s discourse expressed this expectation”. [45]

According to Luiz Alberto Moniz Bandeira: “In 1938, Trotskyism in Rio de Janeiro was represented by the Leninist Workers Party (POL, Partido Operário Leninista), in which participated Edmundo Moniz, who did not join the IV International. The POL’s positions on Vargas’ ‘New State’ diverged from the PSR’s positions, Brazilian section of the IV International. While the PSR considered Vargas dictatorship as fascist, the POL qualified it as a bonapartist and police-military dictatorship. I still have the documents written by Cintra (Alberto Luiz da Rocha Barros, father) and Edmundo Moniz, where the divergence of concepts is clear. The Trotskyists in Rio de Janeiro, such as Edmundo Moniz, Ilkar Leite, Cursino Raposo and others, tended to follow Mario Pedrosa’s positions. In 1945 they formed the Popular Socialist Union (União Socialista Popular, USP), participating in the Democratic Left, that was part of the UDN. They edited the newspaper Vanguarda Socialista. I had the whole collection and also the collection of Orientação Socialista, the organ of the PSR edited by Sacchetta. The Vanguarda Socialista (Socialist Vanguard) defended the idea that the USSR was state capitalism. The review was later edited by the Socialist Party of Brazil (Partido Socialist Brasileiro, PSB), founded in 1947 with the participation of Mario Pedrosa and his group. Edmundo Moniz and others disagreed with their positions and did not enter the PSB. In 1954 Mario Pedrosa supported the UDN candidate Juarez Távora, and was expelled from the PSB for “rightist deviation”. If I remember correctly, he actually took part in the Democratic Action and in the Movement for Freedom and Culture, that Julian Gorkin (former POUM militant) tried to extent to Brazil – we later came to know that the CIA was involved. So the IV International in Rio de Janeiro was reduced to 3 or 4 militants (I knew two of them). The rest of the so-called Trotskyists followed Mario Pedrosa and where either in the PSB or, as Edmundo Moniz and others, did not take part anymore in any organization at all. And as Edmundo Moniz wrote articles for Paulo Bittencourt’s Correio da Manhã (Morning Post), Prestes attacked the group, calling them “the Trotskyist scoundrels from the Correio da Manhã”. Mario Pedrosa was expelled from the PSB, I believe in 1956 or 1957, under the accusation of “rightist”, together with Ilkar Leite and others who had been Trotskyists”. [46]

Sacchetta, on the other hand, split with the IV International, and the PSR was dissolved in 1958 “in the midst of the divergences that divided the Trotskyist movement on the international level”. [47] Sacchetta’s political activities continued up to his death in 1988. His political writings were only grouped into one volume and published ten years after his death, amending a long injustice with he who had been one of the most significant characters of the left history in Brazil, [48] undoubtedly the main Brazilian trotskyist leadership in this period (especially after Mario Pedrosa left the IV International in 1940), founder and leader of other left groups active in the 1960s (the LSI and later the MCI) and an important journalist throughout almost half a century (he was chief editor of the O Estado de São Paulo). The texts chosen for this volume, although very representative, reveal that the author was indeed kept in the shadows, by the academy and by the left itself. The importance of his main text of polemics with the PCB is undeniable (Sacchetta had been part of its political bureau). In this text, written in 1937, he refuses the denomination of “Trotskyist” (which he assumed the following year in prison, victim of the political persecution of the Varguist regime), and attributes the party’s mistakes to “banguism” (from “Bangu”, the general secretary of the PCB) and not stalinism, which Sacchetta still defended in 1937. The presentation of this book was written by Heitor Ferreira Lima, a “historic” figure of the PCB (who later worked for FIESP, the Boss’ Federation of Industries of the State of São Paulo), and brings no clarification to this polemics. It states, concerning the facts that led to the expulsion of the São Paulo Committee from the PCB, that “(Sacchetta) was responsible for what happened, which I never completely understood”. Ferreira Lima doesn’t mention that Sacchetta was the sole member of the SP Committee who, leaving the stalinist party (after a period in which he tried to dispute with the Stalinist fraction the representation of the Communist International, denied by the Moscow Radio itself), entered trotskyism.

Another important article in this volume is Jorge Amado and the dungeons of decency, in which Sacchetta defends himself from the attacks of this well known Brazilian writer. In Os subterràneos da liberdade (The underground of liberty), Jorge Amado had pictured Sacchetta as a “cynical, betraying, corrupt and ... Trotskyist” character. In this period, the 1940s, Amado was identified with Stalin/Zdanov and their “socialist realism”. “Trotskyism” (the text of a conference given in 1946) is one of Sacchetta’s best articles, in which he exposes in rare depth the basis of the political thinking of the leader of the October Revolution, his Marxist affiliation, his objective and subjective proximity with Lenin, and his aptitude to grasp and transform contemporary world: this text, on its own, already situates Sacchetta, in our understanding, on a higher theoretical level than Mario Pedrosa (whose prestige was due more to his qualities as an art critic than to his political writings and deeds). [49] The unfinished article, O caldeirão das bruxas (the same title was given to the book) is an attempt to romance Sacchetta’s rupture with the PCB and clearly shows that Sacchetta had no skills as a novelist. Finally, the volume includes statements on Sacchetta by important intellectuals and politicians, such as Florestan Fernandes, Michael Löwy, Claudio Abramo, Jocob Gorender (by far the most interesting), Mauricio Tragtenberg and Heitor Ferreira Lima himself. No objection to the inclusion of these texts were it not for the exclusion of the writings produced between 1938 and 1958, when Sacchetta was the leader of the Brazilian section of the IV International (exception made for the already mentioned article “Trotskyism”). Essential articles for the comprehension of his political trajectory were therefore left out, such as those published in Orientação Socialista (specially the above mentioned series of articles “Prestes and the agrarian problem”, critical on the PCB’s positions on the agrarian question), organ of the PSR in the 1940s; or the polemic against Mario Pedrosa and Arnaldo Pedroso d’Horta published in Vanguarda Socialista in the same period, defending class independence and opposing the vote for Eduardo Gomes, the “progressive” candidate in the “redemocratization”, defended by ex-trotskyists transformed into “socialists” tout court.

Why did Sacchetta split with the IV International and dissolve the PSR? Michael Löwy, evoking his personal experience, remembers Sacchetta never mentioned the subject. Alberto Luiz da Rocha Barros, the son of a close companion of Sacchetta’s in the 1930s (the laborist lawyer Alberto da Rocha Barros) and he himself a comrade in militancy in the 1950s and 1960s, referred to Sacchetta’s disillusions with the resolutions of the III World Congress of the IV International, in 1951, when “Pablo’s” line was adopted, defending the critical support to the soviet bureaucracy and the sui generis “entrism” in the communist parties. [50] Sacchetta probably saw this line not as a total revision of Trotskyism and Marxism, but rather as an unexpected manifestation of Trotskyism. Only Jacob Gorender mentioned a text by Sacchetta (not included in the volume), Report on the question of organizational policy in the socialist domain, written “probably during that period in which some analyses pointed to the failure of Trotskyism”. Disillusioned, Sacchetta adopted “luxemburguism” (the ideology that oriented the LSI, Independent Socialist League, and the MCI, Internationalist Communist Movement, organized by Sacchetta in the 1960s). Anyway, this “luxemburguism” politically differed from the pabloist “Trotskyism” defended by the Brazilian group of the Latin-American Bureau of the IV International, led by J. Posadas (pseudonym for the Argentine Homero Cristalli), the POR, Partido Operário Revolucionário (Revolutionary Workers’ Party). The LSI uncompromisingly defended class independence against what was left of “varguism”, and against the PCB’s orientation, while the POR called the PCB to make the revolution and actually supported Jànio Quadros (called the workers to vote on him) because of his “nationalist program” (Sacchetta denounced this in the article “Neither Lott or Jànio, for a class politics”).

What were the limitations of the LSI (that never had more than a few dozen militants), and later, of the MCI? The texts in this volume, corresponding to the 1960s, contribute to an appreciation of the issue. From the point of view of the general principles, there was the defense of class independence, the critique of the revolution in stages and of the support to the “progressive bourgeoisie”, the struggle against imperialism (and against the military dictatorship) was an anti-capitalist struggle, which could only be victorious with the implementation of a workers’ and peasants’ government. The problem was in applying theses general principals to specific policies. The main political proposal was the “proletarian united front”, aimed at “Marxist organizations” and “socialists of several doctrines”. The “proletarian united front” tactics was launched by the Communist International in the developed capitalist countries. In the colonial, semi-colonial or backward countries, oppressed by imperialism, the tactics of the “anti-imperialist united front” was that which, considering the objective political relations among classes, allowed to fight for the proletarian leadership of the democratic and anti-imperialist struggle, that is, for a proletarian leadership of the oppressed nation. The socialist and “Marxist” organizations born in the 1960s were hardly the expression of proletarian radicalization, but of the progressive decomposing of the PCB, and secondarily the remnants of the failed attempts to organize a social-democratic party. The rupture with Stalinism was, in general, totally empirical, as shown by the fact that several of these groups adopted foquism and transformed the armed struggle in the main factor of differentiation with the PCB (which, in crisis, came close to supporting foquism, on a literary level).

Being a Marxist, Sacchetta had the necessary elements to criticize terrorism, isolated from the evolution of the masses (which he did). But his positions sometimes reflected the pressure of foquism, the search for a “common terrain” with the guerrilla organizations: “we are preparing for an armed struggle, but in a dialectical process, facing reality as it presents itself”. Therefore, the “proletarian united front” could only be the front of the “widows” of the PCB (and secondarily, of reformist socialism) and not the front of advanced workers that, splitting with nationalism and Stalinism, faced the impasse of “populist democracy” and then the repression of the anti-workers’ military dictatorship. Only the fight for an independent workers party could have attributed political expression to that tendency, which exploded with the strikes in the towns of the ABC (outskirts of São Paulo) in 1979/80. The “united front” on the other hand, was proposed (before the military coup of April 1964) under the political perspective of the “maximum growth of the current democratic institutions”. But under the military government, the “united front” became part of a program for “immediate goals” (tactical) together with a program for “strategic objectives”: [51] this meant placing the “united front” as the far-left camp of bourgeois democracy, not as the agent of the independent organization of the proletariat.

For Trotskyism, “tactical objectives” are not an end in themselves. The immediate demands, put forward as the lever for the formation of the proletariat as an independent class, are transformed into transitional demands. These slogans allow the struggle for vital demands to become the preparation for the struggle for strategic objectives (that is, for workers’ power) in a permanent process, that is, not separated into two historically different stages. The main factor lacking in Sacchetta’s political thought was the transitional program, precisely one of Trotsky’s last great political documents, the basis for the building of the revolutionary vanguard of the IV International. In the last document in the volume (one of the last before Sacchetta’s death), produced during the crisis of the military dictatorship and the emergence of the proletariat (1979), this concept was reaffirmed in the context of the demand for a Constituent Assembly: “the organization of the popular forces, led by the proletariat, must win the less conscious sectors of the population for the struggle to include in the future basic law, that is in the Constitution, the fundamental workers’ rights. It depends on the workers, and all the pressure they can exert, to assure the implementation of these rights ... The people, by means of its representatives, must take part in the creation of laws, consequently in the conduction of public affairs”. Thus the Constituent was proposed as the foundations of a democratizing regime, and not as a transitional demand, that would allow the birth of the organs of workers’ power. In this manner, Sacchetta expressed, up to its last consequences, the contradictions that permeated and tensioned his entire intellectual and political trajectory, and that illustrate very well the difficulties faced during four decades to build the Brazilian section of the IV International. Therefore, Sacchetta wasn’t merely one of the countries main journalists. [52]

Luiz Alberto Moniz Bandeira described, in the following manner, the situation that developed after the dissolution of the PSR: “The IV International, founded in 1938, practically disappeared when, around 1958, Sacchetta split with Pablo, on the basis of his disagreement with the “entrist” policy, and developed towards the thesis that the USSR was a form of state capitalism. He actually began to see in bolchevism – and make it responsible for-the origins of Stalinism. Around 1953/1954, when the IV International had practically disappeared in Brazil, the BLA (Latin-American Bureau) sent militants to try to reorganize it, which was done with José Maria Crispim, who promoted a dissidence in the PCB and was expelled from the party in, I believe, 1951/58. This was when the POR was organized, and at the beginning of 1955 Manuel (the name adopted by an Argentine, I believe) [53] was in Brazil representing the BLA. At the beginning of 1956, Leôncio Martins Rodrigues, Marimbondo (can’t remember his first name), José Barroso, and Leon (a worker who had belonged to Sacchetta’s PSR) were arrested in Rio de Jeneiro – O Globo gave the news. I was living in Edmundo Moniz’s apartement when Manuel went to speak to him, and we both went to São Paulo (Manuel and I), where I met Crispim, the Fausto brothers (Rui, Boris and another one). But neither Sacchetta, nor I or Alberto Luiz [da Rocha Barros] accepted that the USSR was a degenerated workers’ state, nor this person’s positions which we considered sectarian. So we decided to create the Independent Socialist League (I wrote the program and Alberto Luiz the statutes). I remember Ottaviano De Fiori, also a Trotskyist and an active militant at the Maria Antonia Philosophy Faculty. Some time later, at the end of 1956, I met Eric Sachs, a man from Austria who claimed having been a disciple of [Heinrich] Bradler [former leader of the German PC] and who decided to organize the Socialist Youth, in Rio de Janeiro and Bahia (in 1954, when I was 18 and spent most of my time between Rio and Salvador, two colleagues and I organized the Socialist Revolutionary League). In 1957, an Uruguayan called Estrada (his real name I believe was Labat) came to Brazil representing the BLA, and the POR absorbed some militants from the UJC (Communist Youth) which had been dissolved because of Agildo Barata’s dissidence after the 80 Congress of the PCUS (Communist Party of the Soviet Union). Together with other Socialist Youth militants, we edited the newspaper Esquerda Socialista (Socialist Left). We had many meetings in São Paulo with militants from Agildo’s group, the Independent Socialist League, the POR. Almino Afonso, Paul Singer and many others took part in these meetings. Whenever Crispim came Rio, he stayed at my apartment although I didn’t belong to the IV International. The review, Novos Tempos, edited by Oswaldo Peralva and Agildo Barata’s group, in Rio de Janeiro, published some of my articles, including one about Trotsky, in which I answered the stalinist Calvino, who as the owner of the review, took it back. [54]

Brazil was actually was of the main regions for the BLA (Latin-American Bureau of the IV International) led by Posadas, who later formed “his” IV International, the “posadas IV International”, of which the most important section was in Argentina and had considerable strength from the mid-1950s to mid-1960s. In Brazil, the POR (Partido Operário Revolucionário, Revolutionary Workers Party) incorporated a dissident fraction of the PCB in 1956, led by José Maria Crispim. The POR influenced the metal workers struggles in São Paulo and participated in the organization of the rural trade-unions in the North-East, where one of its militants, “Jeremias” (actually Paulo Roberto Pinto) was killed by the farmers’ gun-men in 1963, while organizing the workers of També (state of Pernambuco). During the 1950s and 1960s, the POR published, almost regularly, the newspaper Frente Operária, under the legal direction of the well-known sociologist Leôncio Martins Rodrigues. Its political-theoretical elaborations, that necessarily underwent the authoritarian and later delirious “filter” of the all-mighty “world leader” J. Posadas, are considerably less interesting than the previous elaborations of the LCI, the POL and the PSR. [55]

In 1970, the POR lost an important militant, the metal worker Olavo Hansen, murdered by the military dictatorship. During the “populist democracy”, when the POR was the sole representative of organized Trotskyism in Brazil, its line was of support for the nationalist segments, up to the point that it supported, as seen above, the election of Jànio Quadros for Mayor of São Paulo in 1953, because of his “anti-imperialist program”. The “posadistas” elaborations were in this period influenced by the main leader of the International Secretariat of the IV International, Michel Pablo, characterized as “objectivist” because they tended not to consider the subjective obstacles against the revolution. The POR stated, in 1959, in its newspaper Frente Operária (Workers’ Front), that “the reversal of the situation, the defeat of the masses and the reestablishment of capitalist normality are practically impossible now”, or, in 1960, that “the bourgeoisie does not have the power to submit the sargents’ movement” ...

Even if we consider the POR as a school for future outstanding militants, it did not hold the monopoly of the matter in the 1960s. In his memoirs, Luiz Alberto Moniz Bandeira considers: “It was then that we founded the review Movimento Socialista (Socialist Movement) that published two numbers. In January 1961, the Jundia’ Congress assembled militants from the Juventude Socialista (Socialist Youth), Mocidade Socialista (another group of Socialist youth, with Teotônio dos Santos and Ruy Mauro Marini), the Independent Socialist League and the POR. The POLOP (Política Operária) was founded at this Congress, but without the POR, Sacchetta and a few other militants from the Independent Socialist League, all of whom decided not to participate. The Sader brothers (Emir and Eder) and Michael Löwy were very young and entered the LSI long after its foundation. We launched the review Política Operária (I was the director) that was transformed into a weekly newspaper in the beginning of 1964. At this moment there was a split in the IV International, with Posadas dominating the BLA. Crispim was expelled from the POR, for having adopted the nationalism of Agildo Barata (there are many funny stories of this period). And, curiously, in spite of all of the posadist sectarism, the POR grew in Brazil, with militants such as Tullo Vigevani, Maria Herm’nia Tavares de Almeida, and others”.

The POR began to loose strength in 1964, with the military coup and repression. Other groups were more active during the military dictatorship, such as the Communist Workers Party (Partido Operário Comunista, POC) and the POLOP. But under the military dictatorship they underwent a process of fragmentation that culminated, at the end of the dictatorship and beginning of democratization, in the formation of groups along the lines of the existing international Trotskyist organizations: Convergência Socialista (founded in Chili, 1974, as a “starting point”), the OSI (Organização Socialista Internacionalista, a new regroupment founded in 1975, it became well known for its student tendency, the “Libelu” and its newspaper O Trabalho), the Democracia Socialista that united what was left of the POC, POLOP and a few other “foquista” groups. But all this belongs to another political, and even historic, phase in Brazil.

For more than three decades, Trotskyism in Brazil made great efforts to build revolutionary organizations, even during very difficult periods and under severe repression. The results were of some importance, but ephemeral. As a political current, Brazilian Trotskyism was characterized by its discontinuity, added to the several splits which frequently reflected international debates and divisions. On the other hand, Trotskyism in Brazil constituted an important reference for the local left intellectuality, to the extent that several of the most well known revolutionary intellectuals during these four decades (from 1930 to the 1960s), such as Mario Pedrosa, Herm’nio Sacchetta, Pagu, Lívio Xavier, Rodolfo Coutinho, Florestan Fernandes, Moniz Bandeira, Edmundo Muniz, and others mentioned throughout this text, [56] found in Trotskyism and the IV International a fundamental framework of their experiences and political-theoretical elaborations. But these elaborations were hardly able to be established as a “theoretical tradition”, probably due to the discontinuity itself of the political-organizational party framework that formed the strategic reference. It is important today to recover this tradition – which certainly includes what best was produced by Brazilian Marxist thought-in a complete and critical manner, by means of the reconstruction of its political trajectory and historical origins.



1. John W. Foster Dulles, Anarquistas e Comunistas no Brasil, Rio de Janeiro, Nova Fronteira, 1980, chapter 3.

2. Mário Pedrosa, Um modelo de tenacidade revolucionária, Vanguarda Socialista 111, Rio de Janeiro, October 17, 1947.

3. Leader of the German PC, in prison at that time.

4. Mario Pedrosa, in: Andréas Maia, Da Oposição de Esquerda ôs Primeiras Organizaçoes, Em Tempo 103, São Paulo, April 3, 1980.

5. Leandro Konder, Astrojildo Pereira: o homem, o militante, o crítico, Memória e História 1, São Paulo, Ciências Humanas, 1981.

6. Rodolfo Coutinho, Correspondência, Memória e História 1, São Paulo, Ciências Humanas, 1981.

7. Leôncio Basbaum, Uma Vida em Seis Tempos, São Paulo, Alfa Omega, 1976, p.50.

8. Astrojildo Pereira, A formação do PCB, In: Ensaios Históricos e Políticos, São Paulo, Alfa-ômega, 1979, p.131.

9. Astrojildo Pereira, Formação do PCB (1922-1928), Lisbon, Prelo, 1976, p.159.

10. Edgar Carone, A Republica Nova, São Paulo, Difel, 1974, p.251. On Mário Pedrosa, see also: José Castilho Marques Neto, Solidão Revolucionária, Mário Pedrosa e as origens do trotskismo no Brasil, Rio de Janeiro, Paz e Terra, 1993.

11. Robert J. Alexander, Trotskyism in Latin America, Stanford, Hoover Institution Press, 1973, p.69.

12. Mário Pedrosa, Biografia. In: Jean-Jacques Marie. Os Quinze Primeiros Anos da IV Internacional, São Paulo, Palavra, 1981, p.7.

13. Nossos propósitos, A Lucta de Classe 1, Rio de Janeiro, 8 de maio de 1930.

14. Cf. Guerino Zago Junior, A Oposição de esquerda no Brasil (1928-1936), Estudos 6, São Paulo, FFLCH-USP, dezembro 1986.

15. RILU Magazine, August 31, 1931.

16. Repressão sistemática, A Lucta de Classe 7, Rio de Janeiro, May 1, 1931.

17. Pierre Broué, Le mouvement trotskiste en Amérique Latine jusqu’en 1940, Cahiers Léon Trotsky 11, Paris, September 1982. In 1939 Plínio Mello was “one of the few members of the first generation of Trotskyists to participate in the PSR Founding Congress. He split with Trotskyism in 1943 and became a militant in the Socialist Party.

18. Luis Carlos Prestes, Comment je suis venu au parti, Nouvelle Revue Internationale 174, Paris, February 1973.

19. Michael Löwy, Do movimento operário independente ao sindicalismo de Estado. In: Eder Sader et al., Introdução a uma História do Movimento Operário Brasileiro no Século XX, Belo Horizonte, Veja, 1980, p.28.

20. “Aristides Lobo, one of the founders of the UJC, lived with Luis Carlos Prestes in Buenos Aires. Prestes wrote him some letters, and I published some of them in 1957, in the Diário da Noite, in Rio de Janeiro. In one of them, Prestes manifests great sympathy for Trotsky’s positions, already defended by Aristides Lobo [...] Aristides Lobo gave these letters to a North American brazilianist, Timothy Harding, who published his Ph.D. in 1968 under the title A Political History of the Brazilian Labor Movement” (Letter from Luiz Alberto Moniz Bendeira to the author, March 2002).

21. Jean-Jacques Marie, El Trotskismo, Barcelona, Península, 1975, p.6.

22. Dainis Karepovs published many articles on Benjamin Péret’s activities in Brazil: Benjamin Péret et la Ligue Communiste, Cahiers Léon Trotsky 47, Paris, January 1992; Benjamin Péret: surrealismo e trotskismo no Brasil, In: Osvaldo Coggiola, Trotsky Hoje, São Paulo, Ensaio, 1994.

23. “Only rarely, as was the case with O que é o trotskismo, edited by Wenleski, were the books not published by Unitas. The publishing house, directed by Salvador Pintaude (founding member of the League), was responsible for distributing books by Trotsky and other Marxist theoreticians. What characterized it was that it received direct orientation from certain Trotskyists such as Mário Pedrosa, Aristides Lobo and Lívio Xavier, responsible for selecting the books, translating them, and writing prefaces to many of them ...” (Edgar Carone, op. cit., pp.278-279).

24. Luis Carlos Prestes, A Luta contra o Prestismo e a Revolução Agrária e Antiimperialista, Brazil, 1934.

25. The League’s social-economic analyses are to be found in texts such as Esboço de uma análise da situação econômica e social do Brasil (Draft analysis of the social and economic situation of Brazil), by Mario Pedrosa (signs M. Gamboa) and Lívio Xavier (signs M. Lyon), published in October 1931 in La Lutte des Classes 28/29, February-March 1931. This article, together with the books A Evolução Política do Brasil by Caio Prado Jr., and A caminho da Revolução Operária e Camponesa by Leôncio Basbaum, are considered the three most important texts written by the Brazilian left in the 1930s.

26. Cf. Pedro Roberto Ferreira, O trotskismo no Brasil (1930-1946), Estudos 22, São Paulo, FFLCH-USP, agosto 1991.

27. Edgar Carone, op. cit., p.246.

28. Mario Pedrosa, op. cit., p.12.

29. Back in Brazil, Inês Besouchet published an important book on the Viscount of Mauá.

30. Letter from Luiz Alberto Moniz Bandeira, to the author, March 2002.

31. A fundação do partido revolucionário do proletariado, declaration by the Leninist Workers Party, January 31, 1937. For a commentary about the declaration see: Aldo Ramirez (Osvaldo Coggiola), Os trotskistas e o putsch do PCB, Causa Operária 48, São Paulo, November 1985.

32. Robert J. Alexander, op. cit., p.76.

33. Cf. Dainis Karepovs, Os Subterràneos da Clandestinidade, Um estudo sobre a cisão de 1937-1938 no PCB. Dissertação de Mestrado, FFLCH-USP, São Paulo, 1995.

34. Ronald H. Chilcote, O Partido Comunista Brasileiro. Conflito e integração (1922-1972), Rio de Janeiro, Graal, 1982, p.87.

35. Stated by Fulvio Abramo to the author, 1984.

36. Cf. Florestan Fernandes, a pessoa e o político (entrevista), Nova Escrita Ensaio 8, São Paulo, December 1980, pp.9-39. Also mentioned in statement by Florestan Fernandes to the author, 1982.

37. Cf. Leon Trotsky, Em Defesa do Marxismo, São Paulo, Proposta, s.d.p.

38. After the assassination of Leon Trotsky, Liborio Justo split with the IV International and tried to form a “Revolutionary IV International”, with the help of a Brazilian militant, “L. Rodrigues”, who we haven’t succeeded in identifying.

39. Fulvio Abramo to the author, 1984.

40. Cf. Isabel M. Loureiro, Vanguarda Socialista (1945-48), A busca de um caminho independente, Dissertação de Mestrado, FFLCH-USP, São Paulo, 1984.

41. Concerning the PSR and Orientação Socialista, see: Pedro Roberto Ferreira, Os Trotskistas (PSR) em 1946: uma Ultra-Esquerda Brasileira?, Dissertação de Mestrado, PUC-SP, São Paulo, 1985; and Imprensa Política e Ideologia, São Paulo, Moraes, 1989.

42. Cf. Vanguarda Socialista, February 8, 1946, and Orientação Socialista, November 5, 1946, about his activities in the trade-union of the workers of the glass, crystal and mirror industry of São Paulo.

43. Luis Carlos Prestes, Os Problemas Atuais da Democracia, Rio de Janeiro, Vitória, 1948, p.201.

44. Apud Edgar Carone, O PCB, São Paulo, Difel, 1981, vol. 2, p.14.

45. Pedro Roberto Ferreira, Os trotskistas, o PCB e o fim do Estado Novo, Estudos 25, São Paulo, FFLCH-USP, November 1991.

46. Letter from Luiz Alberto Moniz Bandeira to the author, March 2002.

47. Wilson Almeida Liima, Oposição de Esquerda e Trotskismo no Brazil (1930-1952), Estudos 6, São Paulo, FFLCH-USP, December 1986.

48. Hermínio Sacchetta, O Caldeirão das Bruxas, e outros escritos políticos, Campinas, Pontes-Editora da UNICAMP, 1992.

49. Pedrosa’s political texts are published in the book by Dainis Karepovs and Fulvio Abramo: Na Contra-corente da História, São Paulo, Brasiliense, 1982.

50. Statement by Alberto Luiz da Rocha Barros to the author, 1990.

51. Hermínio Sacchetta, op. cit., pp.106-133-140.

52. By initiative of the author and of Alberto Luiz da Rocha Barros, Hermínio Sacchetta was declared the honorable president of the International Symposium to celebrate the death of Leon Trotsky, held at the University of São Paulo in September 1990, eight years after Sacchetta’s own death.

53. Manuel was certainly Guillermo Almeyra, Trotskyist “posadist” militant, who later worked for the FAO, in Rome.

54. Letter to the author, March 2002.

55. The best study on the POR is that of Murilo Leal Pereira Neto, Outras Histórias, Contribuição î história do trotskismo no Brasil (1952/1966), Dissertação de Mestrado, FFLCH-USP, São Paulo, 1997.

56. Including Paulo Francis, who marked Brazilian journalism for four decades (1960s-2000): he frequently mentioned his past as a Trotskyist militant (or supporter) and referred to Trotsky in his articles.


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