1964: Coup d'état and democracy

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The fallacies of revisionism

“This they do not know, but they do” (Karl Marx).

On the occasion of the 40th Anniversary of the political-military movement that overthrew the constitutional government of João Goulart (1961-1964), most public universities[I] and some private colleges, cultural entities, public agencies, workers' unions and the media promoted lectures, seminars, round tables, interviews, testimonials, iconographic exhibitions about this crucial moment in recent Brazilian political history; new books and some reprints about this period were also published[ii].

It should be noted that it was the newspapers and weekly magazines that devoted the most space to the debate around the 40th anniversary of the Coup d'Etat. Reports on the ides of April 1964, editorials, articles and interviews with scholars (academic or not), testimonies of former protagonists (civilian and military) – published in regular editions and in extensive special sections – contributed to the discussion about the reasons and circumstances of the coup; they also constituted enlightening material for a critical examination of the military regime that prevailed in the country for more than 20 years.

In a first approximation, it is possible to state that two postures or ideological positions – due to the “novelties” of their formulations – were evident in this debate. On the one hand, that of military sectors and, on the other, that of some progressive or left-wing academics.

The purpose of this article[iii] is to comment on the confluences and conflicts between the interpretations of the 1964 coup formulated by these protagonists. Conceiving the ideological terrain as the space in which there is an extensive transit of representations, symbols, images, values, etc., we seek here to examine the oppositionsThe denials and appropriations between the meanings that progressive intellectuals and military sectors gave to the discussion about April 1964.

An ideological defeat of the conservative sectors

Na Day order Issued by the Commander of the Army, General Francisco Roberto de Albuquerque – read in barracks across the country on the morning of March 31 – the expression “Revolution of 1964” is largely absent throughout the text.[iv]. Contrary to similar occasions, this note does not exalt the performance of the Brazilian Armed Forces which, in April 1964, intervened in the political process in order to “save” the country from political “subversion” and “anarchy”, from “economic chaos” ” and the “atheist and communist totalitarianism” that flourished and threatened democracy in the so-called times of populism. Soberly and without any eloquence, the Day order, addressed to young Army soldiers, vaguely alludes to the “difficult moments” experienced by the country on March 31, 1964. In it, the customary enemies or opponents of the Homeland were no longer named, giving way to the recognition that – without resentment from any nature – we live today in a society “whose children are not divided by ideological passions and are not exposed to the worries of the past”.

With spirits pacified and fratricidal divisions overcome, the “Revolution of 1964” would turn a page. In the words of the Commander: “See March 31, 64 as a page in our history, with a heart free of resentment”[v]. Thus, in this new version of March 31, no commemoration would be made. Rather, it would be fitting to express to heaven the gratitude of the country for having achieved the modernity that would be identified with the emergence of a democratic Republic: “Blessed by God, you (young soldier, NTC) has come down to modern times. It arrived at an independent and free Republic, in continuous improvement, on the democratic path”[vi]. If, today, the 40th anniversary should not be celebrated, however, it is worth reiterating permanent and sacred values ​​for the Institution: “Reverence, on this date, discipline and order”.

Certainly, not all military personnel accept the break with a tradition that had been established over the last 40 years. Many still disagree that this date – which would represent a decisive moment for our nationality – is no longer exalted. Thus, on the Brazilian Army's official page, two officers defend opinions that contradict the Commander's serene allocution. Returning to the spirit and spirit prevailing in previous years, the weapons here are not entangled: the words of the officers are burning, hard and threatening. Against those who wish to diminish the highest purpose of military intervention – “the reestablishment of full democracy in the country” – they also consider that it is imperative to emphasize the importance of the “Revolutionary Movement of March 31, 1964”[vii].

It can be observed that the opinion of the officers was also endorsed – sometimes, in a less forceful or Manichaean way – by other military personnel and civilians, in articles, testimonies and reader letters, published in newspapers with national and regional circulation.

It is beyond the immediate purposes of this text to carry out an in-depth assessment of the ideological changes/permanences in the thinking of the leaders of the current Brazilian military bureaucracy. To what extent would there be a strong and consolidated commitment to democratic values ​​in them today? Or, would a latent resistance to accept political initiatives from the popular classes that question the limited and restricted institutions in force in representative liberal democracy predominate in them? Certainly, these are questions that are still difficult to receive conclusive answers today.

Taking into account the historical and particular problem that we are addressing here, a question would also arise: would the Brazilian military elites have convinced themselves that the military dictatorship was an experience that should no longer be repeated in our political and social history? The balance and moderation expressed in the Day order of the Army Commander would be dominant feelings and convictions within our Armed Forces?

Although the message clarifies that the “March 31st movement” is a “turned page” in our history – to the point of not having been officially commemorated – it would be a hasty, reckless and disproportionate conclusion to believe that the entire Military Corporation today deny the “Revolution of 1964”. This eventual self-criticism would only happen as a result of an eventual radicalization of political democracy in the country.

Until that day arrives, one cannot, however, fail to recognize that progressive and democratic thinking in Brazil managed to impose a defeat on the “winners” of April 1964. In terms of ideas, the coup supporters were defeated.

An example of this defeat at the ideological level can perhaps be summarized by resolving a symbolic issue: Bang ou Revolution? On the occasion of the 40th anniversary, the whole of the great Brazilian press – which in its vast majority supported the overthrow of Goulart and had an ambiguous and complacent behavior in the face of the military dictatorship – did not fail to use the appropriate notion to designate April 1964: coup ou political-military coup[viii]. Thus, the prestigious designation of “Revolution of 1964”, coined by the protagonists of the military regime, is gradually ending its (inglorious) ideological career[ix].

On the other hand, in the political and historiographical literature about 1964, only those that have a clear and inescapable critical sense stand out as relevant works from a scientific and intellectual point of view. Unlike apologetic or commemorative texts, only works (books and magazines) that openly question the political-military coup and military dictatorship have been editorially successful. In the still restricted Brazilian publishing market, it is works with a critical or progressive orientation that have reached a more significant readership.

Thus, shortly after the coup, it was the books and magazines of the Civilização Brasileira publishing house – thanks to the boldness and intellectual courage of Ênio Silveira – that achieved re-editions and sales success, not the pamphlets and books largely financed by businessmen and the North American Embassy. American. Let us remember, for example, the victorious experience of the Brazilian Civilization Magazine and the huge editorial repercussions of The Act and the Fact, by C. Heitor Cony (recently reprinted). Subsequently, there are, among others, the books by Moniz Bandeira (The João Goulart government. Social struggles in Brazil 1961-1964), by René Dreifuss (1964: Conquest of the State), by Jacob Gorender (combat in the dark), of the Archdiocese of São Paulo (Brazil: never again) and the works of Elio Gaspari (four published books that have the word dictatorship in the title) that contribute to shaping and building the Brazilian political culture about 1964[X].

On the other hand, the legitimizing and rationalizing accounts of the actions of the military and civilians in 1964 are not successful works from an intellectual and editorial point of view. Among them are the books of gen. Meira Mattos (Castelo Branco and the Revolution), from gen. Poppe de Figueiredo (The Revolution of 1964), by Jayme Portella (The revolution and the Costa e Silva government), by former minister Armando Falcão (All to declare), the frequent articles by cel. Jarbas Passarinho etc. Only scholars, due to their research objects, have any documentary interest in these works.

This obvious defeat at the ideological level[xi] continues to be deplored by the Brazilian military elite. Some soldiers have used the expression “betrayal” to express their feelings of frustration at the “injustice” they would have suffered; after all, they believe, the Armed Forces would have been called upon by “civilians” to intervene in the political process, but, despite their boldness and sacrifice, they are now called “coup leaders”…

This defeat in terms of ideas has invariably been attributed to the presence of leftists in the direction and control of the country's media and editorials.[xii]. In the article by cel. Little bird, it is the “cynics”, the “tartufos” and the “fakes” who rewrite History in their own way; in the testimony of journalist Ruy de Mesquita, a prominent ex-conspirator, we have a peculiar explanation about this defeat: “It is said that history is always written by the winners. The history of the 64 coup was written by the defeated”.

However, in the text of the cited officials, who defend the entire validity of the 40th anniversary celebration, this defeat would only be circumstantial.

“The true judgment of the Revolution will be made by the generation of the XNUMXst Century, uncompromised with the emotionalism typical of losers, who seek revenge today. The version of history that has been constructed by the left, based on inconsistent ideological references and through the use of socio-Marxist categories will certainly be disqualified. All those who, in an impartial way, analyze the period covered by the governments of the Revolution will verify that that was a time of accelerated progress and concrete achievements, in all fields of power (…) History will do justice”[xiii].

In this formulation, then, a battle has been lost, not the war for "truth". On the day that reason prevails in history, the “Revolution of 1964”, say these soldiers, will be recognized as a decisive moment in the construction of nationality.

From a critical and democratic perspective, one can only hope that, in the near future, sectors that are convinced that the coup d'état must be banished from military culture and practice will become dominant – within the Brazilian Armed Forces. Only in this way, April 1964 will come to be seen, by the military corporation as a whole, as a definitively turned page in our political history.

Revisionism and ideological retreat of the progressive sectors

Around the age of 40, former political activists, writers, journalists, artists, trade unionists, etc. – in the field of the left – also demonstrated. While most of these interventions reiterated the critical analysis that blamed “hard” sectors of the Armed Forces and conservative and liberal sectors of the so-called civil society for the 1964 coup, some academics defended revisionist theses about the events of April. Expressed in articles, interviews and academic debates, these formulations were well received by conservative sectors. Symptomatically, they contributed to bring “water to the mill” of the ideologues who still justify the political-military movement of 1964.

In the view of these academics, in the context of 1964, all relevant agents of the political process were committed to the coup: the military, sectors of the right, left and Goulart – for “not dying of love for democracy” – were ready to launch a coup d'état.

In an interview, historian Marco Villa stated that there is a political identity between these agents: what unites “both sides is that everyone wants to come to power through (sic) coup, be it the military, be it Brizola and even Jango (...) so much so that the coup came”[xiv]. In an article, the author opined that pre-64 democracy had many enemies, being “attacked from all sides”; “living on the rocks”, ended up being destroyed[xv].

For Villa, what should be highlighted in the context of 1964 was the destructive action of various forces, little committed to “democratic values”; that is, it would be relevant to highlight the lack of a democratic political culture in Brazilian society. From this analytical perspective, it would not be appropriate, therefore, to privilege the fact that political agents, very concrete and defined, did not hesitate to put soldiers and tanks in the streets to suppress the political democracy in force in the country.

Not bothering to distinguish the specific motivations and actions of each of the political agents – nor to assess the material and symbolic resources they held –, the author imposes on us the conclusion that everyone (the military, the civil right, sectors of the left and Goulart) were on equal terms and absolutely level in terms of responsibility for the destruction of the democracy instituted by the 1946 Charter.

Thus, for the academic, the effective experiences of the Brazilian right (responsible for attempts and effective coups in 1950, 1954, 1955, 1960, during the JK government and in 1961) did not put it at an “advantage” in terms of conspiracy against democracy . Making a tabula rasa of this ingrained coup tradition, Villa puts all political agents in an identical situation. For the historian, in pre-64, all political forces were identical in terms of coup d'état.

Another academic, Jorge Ferreira, when analyzing the context that preceded the coup, understands that, in Goulart's time, there was a reduced commitment of the Brazilian left with the democratic question. Defending “at any price” the carrying out of social and economic reforms, the left was even willing to adopt non-democratic solutions so that changes in society would take effect. Right and left, therefore, were equivalent in terms of anti-democratism. In the author's words:

“The central question was the seizure of power and the imposition of projects. Supporters of the right would try to prevent economic and social changes, without concern for respecting democratic institutions. Leftist groups demanded reforms, but also without valuing democracy (…) The former was always willing to break with legality, using it to defend its economic interests and social privileges. The second (the left, CNT), in turn, fought for reforms at any cost, including the sacrifice of democracy”[xvi].

Ferreira does not use the term coup – as Villa and Konder do (as will be seen below) – to identify the “non-democratic” positions of the pre-64 lefts. This terminological prudence, however, does not prevent him from stating that: “(…) from a defensive and legalistic position in 1961, the left adopted an offensive strategy and institutional rupture”. The word is not spelled, but the idea of coup dominates the scene with the aggravating factor that it was the left in general that acted to break institutional legality. In the author’s assessment, the left was represented by Brizola’s “revolutionary” action and by “union, peasant, student, subaltern leaders of the Armed Forces, Marxist-Leninist groups, nationalist politicians”[xvii].

In turn, Leandro Konder, in a recent article, opined that “the coup d'état, ingrained in the customs and political culture of Brazilian society, was also manifested in the field of the left”. He maintained, for example, that the coup from the left was expressed by the support of Luis Carlos Prestes (general secretary of the PCB) for the proposal to reform the Charter of 1946 aiming at the re-election of Goulart. The author did not hesitate to write: “(…) given the circumstances (decreased deadlines, lack of consensus), the proposal was certainly a coup d'état”[xviii]To the surprise of the reader – since there is no argument for the serious conclusion – Konder stated: “Thus, the reaction against the coup d'état on the left resulted in a coup on the right”.

In terms of historiographical review – it must be recognized – this sentence goes the furthest in terms of blaming the left (or the “field of the left”, as Konder prefers) for the 1964 coup[xx].


What evidence do these authors present to corroborate their theses? As we will see, in addition to the lack of empirical or factual evidence, the interpretations they offer are theoretically fragile. Strictly speaking, these are fallacious ideas that come to have clear and precise political and ideological meanings in the historiographical debate; strictly speaking, they endorse a conservative and reactionary view of the 1964 coup.

Let us take a closer look at the theses and “arguments” of the aforementioned authors.

In pre-64, they proclaim, “they were all scammers”: the civil right and the military – because, after all, these were the “victories” in 1964; but they were also putschists the “losers” – Goulart and sectors of the left.

It is certainly possible to speculate that, at some point – in the face of fierce opposition from Congress and important sectors of civil society –, the President of the Republic would have considered the idea of ​​a coup d'état.[xx]. If successful, social and economic reforms would be imposed and carried out by decree, with Congress closed or fully tutored. At the time, this was what the right-wing trumpeted in the press, making a clear analogy with the coup that, in 1937, instituted the new state. For the reactionary sectors, Goulart did nothing more than be faithful to the “caudilho” Vargas.

However, after 40 years, not even a simulacrum of Cohen Plan it was discovered (or forged) by the harsh repression that befell the “subversives”. Progressive and democratic military personnel (some of them linked to Jango's vaunted “military device”), civilian cadres directly linked to the Presidency of the Republic, left-wing sectors, entities (CGT, UNE, ISEB, etc.) had their files seized; frequent military political inquiries (MPIs) scrutinized the activities of left-wing and nationalist political leaders and organizations. However, no document (even in the form of a simple sketch or draft) – revealing Goulart's alleged coup or continuation plans – was discovered by repressive intelligence. Not even the North American security services (CIA, State Department) – which collaborated intensely with the Brazilian authorities – presented, after 40 years, any evidence of Goulart's decanted coup plot.[xxx].

Goulart's “military device” – extolled in verse and prose – turned out to be a fiasco at the exact moment when efficient action was demanded of him in defense of the constitutional order. Could Goulart then have planned a coup d'état with forces of proven incompetence and ineptitude? On the other hand, how to interpret the president's total abulia that offered no resistance to the seditious military who came from Minas, even knowing that, at that first moment, they did not have full support from the high officials? He preferred exile's capitulation, under the pretense of not wishing to witness a civil war among his people. Could a politician with such a psychological profile and political hesitation, days before, be involved in the articulation of a coup d'état?

But, in addition to Goulart, some sectors of the left would also be planning a coup. For some of the cited authors, Brizola, national leader of the infamous Grupos dos Onze, also conspired against democracy.

What then are the proofs? Here they are: Brizola's long speeches broadcast by Rádio Mayrink Veiga, in Rio de Janeiro, and his articles in the newspaper Pamphlet. In them, the federal deputy spoke in defense of the reforms, attacked the reactionaries of the UDN and the PSD and encouraged the organization of the Groups of Eleven[xxiii]. "Proof" also coup would have been Brizola's fiery speech at the March 13 rally when he called for the "derogation of Congress" and for the convening of a Constituent National Assembly; with a majority popular composition, the new Congress would have to draw up a new Charter that would enable in-depth basic reforms.

For the historian Jorge Ferreira, Brizola's leadership summarized the non-democratic vision and actions of the pre-64 leftist group. “If he was radical, sectarian, intolerant, made revolutionary preaching and defended institutional rupture, it was because the left was equally radical, sectarian, intolerant, preached revolution (sic) and advocated institutional rupture”[xxiii].

The Peasant Leagues are also part of the supposed script scammer. After all, the peasants in their marches, street demonstrations, rallies, meetings, in the plenary of the National Congress, as well as in their pamphlets and banners, did not brandish threatening slogans such as “Agrarian reform, by law or by force!”? We know that after the occupation of unproductive lands, the newspapers and magazines of the time boasted in their headlines that a “peasant war” was underway in NE Brazil.[xxv].

The same coup script also mentions the numerous manifestations of insubordination by corporals, sergeants and sailors whose leaders radicalized their speeches in defense of the reforms and contested their commanders whom they invariably called Gorillas[xxiv].

Need I remind you that the Groups of Eleven were weakly organized, tiny, and devoid of any firepower? Wouldn't it be pointless to remember that this incipient organization was a minority within the group of lefts, in addition to its small political representation in the pre-64 period? Similar to the Grupos dos Onze, the Peasant Leagues were endowed with precarious staff and limited financial resources for their activities and political mobilizations.[xxv].

As the 1964 coup amply evidenced, neither the Leagues nor the Groups of Eleven were able to fire a single rocket against the seditious. On the other hand, Julião's burning threats and Brizola's “revolutionary preaching” proved, in practice, to be true bravado or mere “fireworks”, without any effectiveness in terms of regimentation and political organization of the popular sectors.

However, it is the PCB that receives, in a concentrated way, the criticism of the coup from the left. On two occasions, on the eve of the coup, the general secretary of the PCB, Luis Carlos Prestes, would have stated that the right-wing forces would have the severed heads, in case they dared launch the coup... It is also remembered that, in a TV program in São Paulo, in early 1964, Prestes would have supported the proposal for a Constituent Assembly, to be convened before the presidential election scheduled for 1965.

About the severed heads, it must be agreed that the expression was used in a clearly defensivist. From the end of 1963, the coup was in the headlines of newspapers and in all political conversations. The right not only called for the coup (on the radio, on TV, in newspapers with wide circulation) but also acted truculently, preventing demonstrations and publicly coercing nationalist and leftist leaders. Faced with an imminent coup threat, it was understandable that a political leader would repudiate it in his speech. However, Prestes's metaphor, formulated in a political context of exalted and heated emotions, was inappropriate and exaggerated. Thus, like Brizola and Julião, the communist leader, in the heat of the moment, also produced his political bravado.

Regarding the second point, one cannot but agree with the historian Marly Vianna when she ponders, in the previously mentioned article, that "the convening of a Constituent Assembly, which implied a very broad national political mobilization and more general elections, could be seen as a mistake at the time, but it is impossible to identify a coup d'état in it”.

A coup d'état is imposed with words, but not only with them. Often, street troops and heavy combat weapons are also required for coup actions to be successful. We can also add: financial resources, extensive media counter-propaganda, international political support, etc. they can also be decisive for the overthrow of constitutional regimes.

Aside from words, what other resources – not just symbolic, but material – held back the left? Wouldn't it be the case to observe that, to a certain extent, the mistakes and failure of the lefts resided exactly in the excess of words and in the rhetorical abuses of their leaders' speeches?

Criticisms of Prestes and the PCB also question the defense of the proposed constitutional reform aimed at establishing the right to re-election of the President of the Republic.

In the full force of a presidential term, the proposed constitutional amendment certainly had a case-by-case dimension. It was believed that, re-elected, Goulart would have a better chance of approving the basic reforms contested and blocked in Congress by the conservative bloc. But here too, the political inconvenience of the initiative was evident.[xxviii]It had the frontal condemnation of the majority of the political parties and of important national leaders that were postulants to the presidential succession of 1965 – among them, Juscelino Kubitschek, Miguel Arraes and Carlos Lacerda.

However, it would be reasonable to call coup a proposal that – to be approved by the national Congress[xxviii] – demanded quorum qualified? Before going to the plenary, the constitutional amendment project should have a long process in parliament while being intensely debated (and certainly contested) by the so-called civil society. Again, the question would arise: are institutions hit when a political proposal – even if it is unreasonable and inopportune – is formulated in the political debate?

It should also be clarified that the communists, in an official PCB document released on the eve of the coup, did not support the thesis of the amendment for the re-election of the President of the Republic. In the “Theses for Discussion”, which were supposed to define and guide the political line of the party in the following months, no line was dedicated to the theme. If Prestes supported the thesis of the re-election amendment, it is necessary to register that, officially, the PCB did not endorse the controversial proposal[xxix].

The real scammers and their reasons

Contrary to the above interpretations, it is possible to argue that the 1964 Coup was the culmination of initiatives by political and military sectors that, since 1950[xxx], were systematically opposed to the consolidation and expansion of political democracy in Brazil; in the short period of Goulart's presidential term, these sectors began to radically question the carrying out of the so-called basic reforms and measures that affected foreign capital. In the view of the protagonists of the coup, the growing political mobilization and the advance of the ideological conscience of the popular sectors and of the workers, which was accentuated in the conjuncture, could imply the questioning of the political system and of the economic and social order that, strictly speaking, should remain under the strict control and dominion of the owning and owning classes[xxxii].

The coup d'état was not a bolt from the blue sky… Over the course of decades, it was plotted by liberal and conservative forces (the so-called “barrack firefighters”) and “hard” sectors of the Armed Forces. Among other factors and motivations, these forces were identified by the anti-popular character of their convictions (contrary to a democracy with greater and active popular participation), by social anti-reformism, by the uncontested acceptance of the economic, military and ideological supremacy of North American imperialism. , by radical anticommunism, etc.

It cannot be disputed that the nationalist and left-wing sectors – PCB/Prestes, Brizola/Grupo dos Onze, the Peasant Leagues, the CGT, the Nationalist Parliamentary Front, the Movement of corporals and subordinates of the Armed Forces, the UNE, etc. – and the President of the Republic, João Goulart[xxxi], are partly responsible for the aggravation and radicalization of the political process that culminated in the coup d'état.

At a time of extreme polarization on the political scene, in which the right openly defended the overthrow of the constitutional government, leftist groups were unable to build political agreements and social alliances with progressive and non-coup supporters. The attempt almost in extremis Goulart's decision, in early 1964, to form the so-called Frente Ampla (led by the progressive minister San Thiago Dantas) was undermined by radicalisms from all sides and shades. The so-called “conciliation policy” was intensely condemned by the left, wearing down and further weakening the government, hostilely repudiated by conservative and reactionary forces.

Getting used to and accommodating themselves in the antechambers of power, left-wing leaders were ineffective in organizing and preparing popular and working sectors in the struggle to resist the coup that, since the end of 1963, had been looming on the horizon. Abusing revolutionary rhetoric and radical slogans, these leaders, on the contrary, contributed to mobilize and unify the civil and military right. The ease found by the coup leaders in deposing Goulart – surprising Brazilian civilians and the military and the intelligence agencies of the US government – ​​revealed in a meridian way the political fragility of the left. To some extent, the leftism played an important role in the resounding and demoralizing defeat of the progressive sectors. But, from a theoretical and political point of view, it is unacceptable to confuse leftism com coup.

I understand that it is also abusive and unacceptable that political responsibilities for the 1964 coup be leveled. scammers – based solely on the strident words and eloquent speeches of these leaders – it does nothing to contribute to the knowledge of this complex and troubled period of Brazilian social and political history.

As we showed earlier, the cited authors end up converging with the thesis of Leandro Konder, for whom "the reaction against the coup d'état on the left resulted in a coup on the right”. kickback. That is, in order to avoid the “coup” that was being organized by the left (or by Goulart), the military – compelled by “civil society” – counteracted, defensively, in defense of the threatened democracy.[xxxii].

Critical historiography and political science in Brazil have consistently documented the political and ideological action of civil and “hard” sectors of the Armed Forces – supported by the US government’s intelligence services – in planning and carrying out the coup d’état. 1964.

However, our “revisionists”, without the support of documentary sources, only speculate and give free rein to imagination. They interpret the frequent bravados, brandished by left-wing leaders, as unequivocal passwords announcing the final assault on power. Behind the red flags of the workers, the scythes wielded by the Peasant Leagues, the incendiary speeches of the corporals and sailors, and also behind the songs, plays and “radical” films shown by UNE student caravans and committed artists, there are unquestionable pre-insurrectionary acts.

As in the mythical account, they mistook the cloud for Juno. But these speculations are not innocent.

The statement of coup from the left has precise ideological effects; immediately, it helps to reinforce the versions spread by the apologists of the political-military coup of 1964. More than that: it contributes to legitimize the victorious coup action or, at best, attenuates the responsibilities of the military and the civil right for the suppression of the political democracy in 1964. The coup right could only applaud this historiographical “revision” proposed by some progressive and left-wing intellectuals.

While it is still auspicious to perceive signs of self-criticism coming from the Armed Forces, ironically, the propagated thesis of coup of the left walks in the (exact) opposite direction: it contributes to fuel reactionary fallacies. While military sectors, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the coup, retreat and recognize the ideological defeat they suffered, progressive authors give ground by reintroducing, through the back door, theses and meanings that conservative sectors forged to justify the coup and the military regime .

That the ideologues of the civil and military right reiterate fallacies and mystifications is understandable. It is unacceptable for progressive or left-wing intellectuals to endorse obvious falsifications of history[xxxv].

As taught by a relentless critic of ideologies, these interpreters, perhaps, “don't know, but they do”.

Democracy and/or Reforms?

For some of these scholars, the “radicalization” of social and economic demands – synthesized in the struggle for basic reforms (agrarian, banking, fiscal, university, etc.), in the nationalization of public service companies, in the control of foreign capital (investments, remittance of profits) etc., – ended up compromising the political democracy in force in the country. If social movements, led by the left, were less maximalists and accept more reforms moderate – which, for these authors, would certainly be approved by the non-reactionary sectors of Congress[xxxiv] –, the right would not have perpetrated the coup. Brazilian society, they conclude, would have gotten rid of the bitter experience of the military dictatorship.

Researchers who published decisive texts on the 1964 conjuncture, among them R. Dreifuss, Moniz Bandeira, Werneck Sodré, J. Gorender and others, demonstrated that the hypothesis does not hold due to the repudiation of the big national bourgeoisie and the multinational business community, of sectors of the Armed Forces and the US government (willing to avoid a “new and grandiose Cuba below the Equator” at any cost) to reform attempts, “economic chaos” and growing social mobilization during the Goulart government. The most vigorous opposition transcended Congress, taking place within the so-called Brazilian civil society. As it constituted only one of the spheres in which the political and ideological struggle took place in the period, would it not be Congress – where it was supposed that “moderate” reforms could be agreed – that would make the coup, in progress from 1961, unfeasible. against the “reformist government” of Goulart.

A second comment has to do with the question of the relationship between democracy and reforms implicit in the positions of these scholars. For some of these, demands for social and economic reforms were still legitimate; however, in their understanding, the changes should be conditioned to the preservation of democratic institutions. Reforms should be postulated, but not those that, due to their radical nature, could threaten the established democratic order. From this perspective, social struggles – which are always class struggles – must not be exacerbated if we want to maintain political democracy. As seen earlier, for these authors, non-moderation or maximalism in the struggle for reforms resulted in the military coup[xxxiv].

The theoretical-political position of these authors thus implies conceiving, in a reticent and moderate way, the struggle for substantive reforms in the capitalist order. Consequently, the possibility of building a democracy that – through broad political participation by workers and popular sectors – is far from the political and strategic horizon of these scholars, leads to significant social gains for the dominated classes.

In my interpretation, they will not be reforms moderate that will allow transcending the formalist dimensions that characterize, in depth, democratic regimes in dependent and peripheral capitalism. Historically, we know that it is the ceaseless political struggles of workers and popular layers that can produce significant material and cultural benefits for the dominated classes. Thus, questioning “radical” reforms in the name of preserving “democratic institutions” objectively implies justifying the actually existing democracies; in a word, it means legitimizing exclusionary liberal democracies in which freedoms and political rights have reduced effectiveness in terms of mitigating the profound social inequalities and the different extra-economic oppressions (of gender, race, sexual etc.) existing in society. Unlike the so-called “democratic left”, socialists do not fail to recognize the value of representative institutions of a liberal nature, however they refuse to identify the struggle for democracy – which, at its limit, would imply “power of the people” – with the defense of liberal democracy.

On the other hand, it appears that the theoretical-political assumptions of these revisionists lead them to conceive the relationship between reforms and democracy in a disjunctive way. They deny, therefore, that there can be a relationship of complementarity/reciprocity between political democracy and social and economic changes. That is, broad and mass political democracy is an important condition for in-depth reforms of social structures, while democratic institutions only acquire some consistency when relevant social and economic changes are implemented for the dominated classes.

It is in this direction that the socialists act. They neither deny nor underestimate the significance of representative institutions even knowing their limits in the capitalist order. Socialists strive to expand these institutions and fight so that political freedoms do not have, for the exploited classes as a whole, an abstract or merely formal value. More than that: socialists claim that the expansion of political freedoms and social rights is an indispensable resource in the battle for hegemony and in the struggle to overcome the capitalist state and society.

However, if we admit the theoretical and political assumptions of the so-called “democratic left”, we are not reintroduced to the classic question of socialism: Reform ou Revolution; yes, we go back to the dilemma Refurbishment ou Democracia. In my interpretation, with their formulations, these academics retreat ideologically to the extent that their formulations fit within the frameworks and limits of liberal-democratic politics. In addition to not proving the thesis of the coup, impute a non-democratic political culture to the left because they are critical of liberal democracy.

In the conjuncture of 1964, the lefts were politically defeated; without complacency, its errors and misconceptions must be pointed out and questioned. However, contrary to the judgment of these revisionists, they should not be censured for the decisive influence they had on the social movements of workers (workers and peasants), subordinates of the Armed Forces, students, intellectuals, artists, etc. In those years that preceded the military dictatorship, as an essayist recalled, the country began to become “unrecognizably intelligent” due to the intense debate of ideas, the confrontation of different political-ideological projects and the participation of new protagonists in political and cultural life.[xxxviii]. In Goulart's time, sectors of the left contributed to an undeniable advance and intensification of social struggles in Brazil, making the situation of 1964 a unique moment in our entire republican history.

In summary and to conclude, it can be said that these struggles aimed at expanding political democracy and carrying out profound reforms of the capitalist order in Brazil[xxxviii]. As the critic noted above, it was about an “unarmed pre-revolution” although, we add, the word Revolution was also exalted (and desired) in speeches and in generous verses.

The reasons for the downfall of the left – in terms of their political and strategic objectives – must be discussed and deepened. From a critical perspective, it is always possible to learn from the mistakes made. But, in my reading, the left should not be criticized for the undeniable merit they had: contrary to what happens today with parties and progressive intellectual sectors, in the ideological struggle of the pre-64, active sectors of the left were not captive of the discourse of democracy liberal[xxxix].

* Gaius Navarro of Toledo he is a retired professor at Unicamp and a member of the editorial committee of the marxismo21 website. He is the organizer, among other books, of 1964: Critical views of the coup (Unicamp).

Article originally published in the magazine Marxist Criticism, No19, 2004.


[I] Ten years ago, debates around the “30 years of the coup” were rare. Due to its results, objectified in books, two events can be mentioned: one held at the State University of Campinas (Unicamp) – seven round tables, iconographic exhibition, artistic activities; the second, held in the city of Rio de Janeiro. In 1997, Editora da Unicamp published the book CN de Toledo (Org.), 1964: critical views of the coup. Democracy and reforms in populism which brought together the main works presented during the five days of the event. In 1995, Eduardo Raposo (Org.) was published, 1964 – 30 years later, Editora Agir, RJ, collection of texts discussed at the Seminar held at the end of March 1994, at PUC-RJ and at Cine Clube Estação Botafogo.

[ii] As it constitutes a broad balance sheet and evaluation of studies on the 1964 coup, the book by historian Carlos Fico, In addition to the blow. Versions and controversies about 1964 and the military dictatorship, Rio de Janeiro, Ed. Record, 2004. In a didactic way, the author discusses the main interpretations of the coup and the military regime. In the last part of this work, the reader has access to several relevant documents (speeches, manifestos, projects, laws, institutional acts, etc.) for the knowledge of recent Brazilian political history.

[iii] The editorial colleague, Armando Boito Jr., encouraged me to write this text. Needless to say that inaccuracies and misinterpretations are entirely my responsibility.

[iv] The simple title of Order of the Day isMarch 31", informex, no 11, March 25, 2004. In: www.exercito.org.br. As an epigraph, the verse of the soldier's song: “We want peace fervently. War only causes us pain.”

[v] In a similar direction, the Minister of Defense, José Viegas Filho, published an article on March 31, 2004. In “Armed Forces and democratic plenitude” (Folha de S. Paul, P. 3) the victorious action in April 1964 is never mentioned. The central theme of the text is the appreciation of democracy; in the same spirit evoked by the Army Commander, an appeal is made for national comprehension and understanding. In both texts, there is also a significant word in common: resentment. It is asked – in order to achieve “a fairer country” – that “the wounds of the past” do not bleed. Putting aside resentments, in the Defense Minister's text, means, very concretely, preventing investigations into the dead and disappeared during the military dictatorship. This seems to be the “stone clause” imposed by the Armed Forces that, until now, the Lula da Silva government has accepted without question.

[vi] Three years ago, on the occasion of March 31, 2001, in a note entitled “The story that is neither erased nor rewritten”, published in the Sítio From the Army, the style and rhetoric were different: “At the beginning of 1964 (...) agitators infiltrated legal institutions carried out a destructive work of structures. They sought to replace the Armed Forces with militias. They spread anarchy. Virtues, legal authority and national conscience faltering. It took courage to defend and preserve them (…) Victorious, the 1964 Revolution assured us clearer prospects for coexistence and tolerance with limits. It sends us the silent message that, at any time, attentive and prepared, we will be ready to defend democracy”. Thus, 37 years later, during FHC's second term – whose government boasted of having contributed to the consolidation of democracy in the country –, the military elite insisted on reiterating its commitment to the “defense of democracy”. Always alert, the Armed Forces, if circumstances required it, would once again take up arms.

[vii] “It becomes clearer every day that, on that date, the Brazilian nation chose the right avenue in history, saying definitively no to the socio-Marxist proposal, the true inspirer and guide of the 'grassroots reforms' that, on that occasion, the forces of populism and anarcho-syndicalism , dominant in the Goulart government, intended to impose on the country. They wanted to impose on the nation, via intimidation of parliament, pressure from the unionized masses and dissociation of the Armed Forces, a type of State that the nation neither asked for nor wanted; on the contrary, it repudiated, that is, the Marxist State of the dictatorship of the proletariat”. “Revolution of 1964”, article originally published in Mail Braziliense of 29/03/2004. Source: www.exercito.org.br

[viii] In this regard, it is exemplary that The State of S. Paul e The Globe – newspapers that best represent civil conservatism and which openly conspired against Goulart – opened up extensive space for opinions critical of the “civil-military coup”.

[ix] In a lucid moment, the former dictator E. Geisel stated: “What happened in 1964 was not a Revolution” (apud Elio Gaspari, The ashamed dictatorship, Cia.das Letras, São Paulo, p. 138). Today, faced with the difficulties in sustaining the pertinence of the notion of “Revolution”, civil and military ideologues counterattack. For them, in 1964 there was a counter-blow or a preemptive strike. This is what the military-writer Jarbas Passarinho and the military-politician Meira Mattos state, respectively, in “O contra-golpe de 1964”, The Globe, 30/03/2004 and “March 31, 1964”, Folha de S. Paul, 31/03/2004. In turn, journalist Ruy Mesquita, from the family that owns The State of S. Paul, states: (1964, CNT) “in reality it was not a revolution, it was a counter-revolution; It wasn’t a coup, it was a countercoup.” Special notebook “40 years tonight”, The State of S. Paul, March 31, 2004.

[X] Regarding the work of Elio Gaspari, enthusiastically received by the Brazilian media, perhaps one of its greatest virtues lies in its unequivocal clarification on the systematic practice of torture throughout the military regime. The expression dictatorship, in all titles, thus contradicts an academic tendency that prefers the ambiguous and imprecise denomination of “authoritarian regime” to characterize military governments. In Fico's book, mentioned above, an observation about the open dictatorship should be underlined: “A militarist reading prevails, with the coup being reduced to episodes of military conspiracy and action. It is also surprising that there is no dialogue with the readings that favor other agents such as businessmen or the political system. The absence of Dreifuss' revelations is puzzling”, p. 56, op. cit.

[xi] Perhaps a decisive proof of this defeat lies in the current editorial behavior of Rede Globo de Televisão, the most efficient ideological apparatus of the military regime and, even today, the most important communication vehicle in the country. Although its journalism – like that of the great Brazilian press as a whole – never names the former presidents of dictators, the military period is no longer praised in his historical reports. Worthy of mention are Rede's telenovelas and miniseries. When dealing with the military period, these productions are invariably critical of military repression. The miniseries “Rebel Years”, shown in 1992, even exalted the “heroic” action of students, political leaders and intellectuals who, in the so-called “years of lead”, fought for the country's redemocratization. On that occasion, the leader of the Collor government, the conservative senator Jorge Bornhausen (PFL), angrily stated: “Roberto Marinho has just shot himself in the foot”. It was a metaphor, as Rede Globo did not fail to take material and symbolic benefits from the great audience success achieved by the miniseries. In literary fiction, music and cinema, works critical of the military regime are also successful. On any level of artistic or cultural creation, would there be any work of proven value that supports the military regime?

[xii] Well-known columnists who have guaranteed space in the mainstream press also furiously invest against the plots – of “philo-communist orientation” – supposedly existing in the newsrooms of weekly newspapers and magazines. Thus, we learn from them that, in Brazil, the media follows capitalist standards, but the editors-in-chief and worker-journalists are insidious leftists, endangering the private property of their bosses.

[xiii] In: www.exercito.org.br In the combative texts of these military ideologues, the Italian Antonio Gramsci – no longer the “perfidious” Russian Lenin – is attributed the intellectual responsibility for the creation of socio-Marxist categories that would result in the mystification of history.

[xiv] Interview to the newspaper Folha de S. Paulo, 13/03/2004.

[xv] “The Cauldron of Turbulence”, Folha de S. Paul, 01/04/2004, p. 3.

[xvi] Jorge Ferreira, “The Revised Rally”, in: Our History, year I, no 5, March 2004, Rio de Janeiro, National Library. The article is a summary of another more extensive work, published in Jorge Ferreira and Lucília de Almeida Delgado (Eds.). Republican Brazil, the time of the democratic experience, 3rd ed. Rio de Janeiro. Ed. Brazilian Civilization, 2003.

[xvii] “The Goulart government and the civil-military coup of 1964”. In: Op. cite, P. 381.

[xviii] L. Konder, “Cow in uniform”. In: Left margin. marxist studies, on May 3, 2004. In this new meaning of the term, coup comes into existence when a proposal – considered inadequate and inopportune by the official “political agenda” – is presented for debate. If, in advance, the dominant consensus (or common sense) condemns the proposal, then we know that it is not “democratic”; Or rather, it's a "coup". Thus, the proposal to “fora Collor”, initially launched on the political scene by a significant minority, could only be called a “coup d'état” insofar as it went against the then existing consensus in political circles. Another academic, coinciding with Konder's formulations, synthesized the revisionism ongoing: “In the context that preceded the coup, the political leaders of the left and right increasingly radicalized their discourse, giving a clear demonstration that they had low conviction in the existing democracy in the country. Both sides, in fact, conspired against representative democracy and prepared a coup against its institutions: the right to prevent the advancement and consolidation of reforms; the left to eliminate the obstacles that stood in the way of this process (...) the coup, conception and practice already ingrained in the Brazilian right combined dramatically with the absence of a democratic tradition on the left, leading to a confrontation that would be fatal for democracy.” Alberto Aggio, in: Aggio, A. et alii – Politics and society in Brazil (1930-1964), Ed. Annablume, Sao Paulo, 2002.

[xx] Other academics, from another angle, also did not spare the lefts. Contesting the opinions of the revisionists, the historian Marly Vianna observed that, during a recent academic debate, a scholar, by “predicting the past”, raised the hypothesis that “the repression would be great”, if the left were victorious in 1964 … M. Vianna, “40 years later”, in: Folha de S. Paul, 22/04/2004, p. 3. In the same direction of criticism of the left, sociologist Leôncio Martins Rodrigues maintained: “(…) the right won and the coup represented a terrible setback; if the left won, there would be another setback, perhaps worse, deepening the populist model”. The State of S. Paulo, special section “40 years tonight”, March 31, 2004, p. 1. These formulations about the “dangers” represented by sectors of the left, should they reach power, do nothing more than resume, 40 years later, the “arguments” of the coup right.

[xx] In October 1963, pressured by the high military hierarchy, Goulart asked Congress to approve a decree imposing a state of siege on the country. The serious “internal commotion” – which justified the request – referred to an insulting and aggressive interview by Carlos Lacerda to a North American newspaper in which he openly preached the coup d'état and attacked the military ministers. He also referred to frequent workers' strikes and acts of insubordination by subordinates of the Armed Forces. Right and left, suspicious of Goulart's intentions, denied support for the proposal. Two observations: Goulart, making use of a constitutional device, which provided for the enactment of the measure of force, sent the proposal to Congress for approval. Not having been successful, he backtracked, withdrawing the order. Would a head of state, determined to carry out a coup – and supported by military commanders – passively accept Congress's refusal without reacting energetically? I owe these observations to Duarte Pereira.

[xxx] Historian M. Villa had the book Jango. A profile (1945-1964) published in the days when the coup completed 40 years. In the work, at no point is the thesis of “Goulart's coup d'état” or of the lefts, announced in the interview to the newspaper, examined with rigor and criteria. Only vague allusions to Goulart's continuityist purposes are made in the book. On p. 190, as well as in the article by cel. As mentioned above, we are informed that the Brizolistas feared a coup from Jango…On p. 191, it is stated that the active US ambassador (Lincoln Gordon), in a memo to Washington, reported that Goulart was “engaged in a campaign to acquire dictatorial powers”. Two “proofs”, therefore, not convincing. Other than that, nothing else is offered to the reader about the coup de Jango – in the words of the author, a “lucky man” or even a politician “empty of accomplishments and ideas”. Thus, in the 270 pages of the book, no solid evidence about coup is presented; however, in the brief interview with the newspaper, the historian preferred to be polemic by giving free rein to his imagination. Also the sky. Birdie, in the article at The Globe, appears with his version of the coup by Goulart; for him, the Grupos dos Onze, on the eve of March 31, would have concluded that “the coup does not come from the right, but from Jango”. The military also does not deign to inform us of its documentary source. In his book, Villa confirms the Coronel's version (Jango, P. 191).

[xxiii] Em Jango, Villa, on p. 191, also speculates on the coup from Goulart's brother-in-law, Leonel Brizola: “They expected (the brizolistas, CNT) form 100 'Group of Eleven' within six months and, then, yes, be able to also articulate a coup with the support of sergeants and sailors”. In which public or private archive would the privileged information of the historian have been gathered?

[xxiii] The author's interpretation of Brizola's leadership within the left is excessive; the deep divergences that he – a prominent figure in the nationalist movement – ​​maintained with the line of action of the main leftist organization (PCB) in the period are well known. If Prestes did not speak for the entire left, Brizola would not represent it either. In Ferreira's understanding, Brizola's “revolutionary preaching” seems to be summed up by his strident words in Congress, on the platforms and on the microphones of Mayrink Veiga (whose radio waves had only regional reach). On the occasion of Brizola's recent death, journalist Jânio de Freitas recalled that few politicians, in the country's recent history, had their lives so investigated. In the military archives there would be documents, not yet revealed, that would prove the coup from Brizola?

[xxv] Some eloquent speeches by Julião are remembered. In the same direction as others, uttered in public squares, on March 31, 1964, in the middle of Congress he threatened: “(...) I decided to frequent this House more, because mine in the Northeast is already arranged. If tomorrow someone tries to raise the gorillas against the Nation, we can already have (...) 500 thousand peasants to respond to the gorillas”. Apud M. de Nazareth Wanderley et there. Reflections on Brazilian agriculture.

[xxiv] At the rally on March 13th, one banner stood out from the rest for its radicalism: “Forca para os gorillas!”

[xxv] Cf. Moniz Bandeira, in the preface to the 7th edition of his book The João Goulart government (Revan), observes that in 1962, “(…) militants from Ligas Camponesas had been arrested, because, apparently, they were doing guerrilla training on a farm in the interior of Pernambuco”. In addition to being fragile and inconsistent, this experiment in preparation for armed struggle did not have any support or continuity in the pre-64 leftist strategy. In the opinion of Moniz Bandeira, “an adventurous and irresponsible policy, to which the leaders of the PCB were opposed, considering that, objectively, it acquired the character of provocation”.

[xxviii] As J. Gorender pondered: “The continuous ambition of the head of the Nation was particularly encouraged by the communists. Although devoid of party legal registration in the Electoral Court, the communists constituted, at that time, an influential left-wing current. In repeated demonstrations, Luis Carlos Prestes defended Jango's second term and publicly proposed the initiative for a constitutional amendment that would allow it. Such a proposal further heated up the already quite heated temperature of the political climate”. “A divided society”, in: Revista Theory & Debate, no. 57, March/April, Fundação Perseu Abramo, 2004.

[xxviii] In recent times, the National Congress approved a constitutional amendment that favored the then President of the Republic, Fernando Henrique Cardoso, in the full exercise of his mandate. Circumstances were different now, but casuistry was no less. There were many complaints from the opposition and the media about corruption involving the vote on the constitutional amendment; however, would anyone call the approval of re-election by the National Congress a “coup against democracy”?

[xxix] The “Theses for Discussion” were published in the Special Supplement of New directions, from 27/03 to 02/04/1964. Obviously, the newspaper cannot circulate widely, as it was seized by repression. In the “Theses”, several constitutional reforms are proposed: p. e.g. art. 217 (enable basic reforms), art. 58 (electoral reform) etc. In the PCB document, constitutional reforms were defended in order to “conquer the expansion of democracy and an effective defense of the national economy and workers' rights”.

[xxx] The facts are well known; let us cite some of them: in 1950, conservatives and liberals questioned the tenure of Vargas, elected according to the rules of liberal democracy; in 1954, pressure from military sectors provoked Vargas' resignation and suicide; in 1955, a new attempt to veto the inauguration of Juscelino Kubitschek; in 1961, the military junta's veto of Goulart's inauguration was followed by an authentic “white coup” (constitutional reform in an insurrectionary context) that imposed the parliamentary regime at a stroke. Powers are withdrawn from the one who – according to the current democratic rules – should be sworn in as President. Strictly speaking, Goulart's presidential government begins in January 1963, after the resounding electoral defeat of parliamentarianism.

[xxxii] A more extensive development of this thesis can be found in CN Toledo, The Goulart government and the 64 coup, 19th printing, São Paulo, Editora Brasiliense, 2004 and in the book article organized by the author (cf. note 1).

[xxxi] In the last days of March, Goulart's gestures and attitudes – openly confronting the high military hierarchy and the right – seemed to reveal, as Paulo Schilling interpreted it, that the President was opting for political suicide. On the other hand, as pointed out by Prof. Antonio Carlos Peixoto, during a recent debate at Unicamp, Goulart, after the Rally of the 13th, could have mitigated suspicions about his continuing intentions if he had publicly declared that he rejected the idea of ​​re-election. His silence did him no favors at that juncture where rumors were seething and counterpropaganda flourished.

[xxxii] In the cited article, cel. Passarinho states: “There was nothing more to wait for, if not the preventive blow or counter-coup”. On the occasion of Brizola's death, journalist Clóvis Rossi, who could never be labeled a “leftist”, did not allow himself to be carried away by the theses spread by the liberal and conservative press. Openly questioning the counter-coup fallacy, he pondered: “The fact is that, in Brizola’s time, as today, those who have to prove they are democratic, in Latin America, are much, much more the right than the left. ”. "Brizola and democracy”, in: Folha de S. Paul, 23/06/2004.

[xxxv] From intellectuals of the left, one can only demand rigor and no complacency towards consecrated “truths”, even within the left field itself. In the theoretical and ideological struggle, they should also not fear confrontation with opposing or antagonistic currents. It is not acceptable, however, that they fail to question – as the debate on the 40th anniversary of the Coup revealed – the ideological assumptions of the adversaries. Admitting the thesis that the left, by principle, were not “democratic” is certainly a serious concession to the thinking of the right.

[xxxiv] What to think of the fact that, after 40 years, the agrarian question has still not been resolved in Brazil? Land reform proposals non-radicals are, since 1964, indefinitely postponed by the National Congress. It would be up to these authors to ask: why, then, an agrarian reform – moderate whatever it was – would it be approved by a Congress whose majority sectors, in the pre-64 period, supported the economic and political bloc that fought to make the “reformist” government unfeasible?

[xxxiv] The texts cited above by Ferreira and Aggio illustrate this point. In this sense, these academics coincide with the conservative self-criticism made by the PCB in 1966. Theses for Discussion at the VI Congress, comments Gorender: “The Theses rejected what was highly positive and relevant in the actions of the communists in the pre-64 period: the struggle for basic reforms and against Jango's conciliation policy (...) the Theses condemned the reform of the Constitution and advocated the freezing of social relations and the political situation as a remedy to avoid a right-wing military coup”. J Gorender. combat in the dark. 2nd ed. São Paulo: Ática, 1987, p. 90. In the author's judgment, the Theses constituted an authentic reactionary capitulation.

[xxxviii] The expression is from Roberto Schwarz, The father of the family and other studies. In a later book, the author resumes the point: “It would not be an exaggeration to say that since then a good part of the best production in cinema, theater, popular music and social essayism owed the impetus to the half-practical and half-imaginary break down of class barriers, outlined in those years, which demonstrated an incredible potential for stimulation (...) today it is not easy to explain to students the beauty and the breath of renewal and justice that at the time had been associated with the word democracy (and socialism)”. Brazilian sequences. Sao Paulo: Cia. das Letras, 1999, p. 174.

[xxxviii] In addition to economic and social reforms, progressive political forces defended an expansion of exclusionary liberal democracy: the extension of votes to illiterates and subordinates of the Armed Forces, broad party freedom, the expansion of freedom of union organization (Right to strike), the repeal of the National Security law, the elimination of legal devices that affected women's activities, the end of religious and racial discrimination, etc. About these proposals, the revisionists are silent, who only see “anti-democratic” positions in the political culture of the left.

[xxxix] For a critique of the notion of democracy that guides the so-called “democratic left”, I refer the reader to, among others, two articles published in this magazine. CN de Toledo, “The democratic modernity of the left. Goodbye to the revolution?”, in: Marxist Criticism, no 1, São Paulo, Brasiliense, 1994 and J. Quartim de Moraes, “Against the canonization of democracy", in: Marxist Criticism, no 12, São Paulo, Boitempo, 2002.

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