The history of People's Action

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The trajectory of the AP according to Duarte Pereira


This article aims to analyze how the trajectory of Ação Popular (AP), a left-wing organization of the 1960s and 1970s, is interpreted by Duarte Pereira,[I] one of the most influential leaders in its history.

Founder of the AP, member of the team that prepared its “Base Document”, approved at its first congress, leader of the National Union of Students (UNE) in the context of the coup d’état that deposed President João Goulart, Duarte Pereira was a member of the nucleus leader of the organization from 1965 to 1973, despite the variations in forms and names of instances. In this period, there was a radical process of political, organic and ideological transformation of the PA, which broke with its eclectic origins, influenced by Christian humanism, existentialism and Marxism, and adhered to Marxism-Leninism and the objective of the revolutionary conquest of power through of the armed struggle.

Filled with disputes over positions around what would be the most consequential steps to transform the AP into the vanguard party of the Brazilian revolution, this process was characterized by internal divisions and splits. For this very reason, the interpretation of events and the meaning of the organization's history is subject to tough memory disputes. In the editorial universe, with varied systematization, examples are available of the different narrative focuses of the meaning of this experience, elaborated by other former directors: Herbet de Souza, Luiz Alberto Gómez de Souza, Haroldo Lima and Aldo Arantes.

From 1962 to 1973, Duarte Pereira directly experienced all phases of the AP's history, engaging in the various dimensions of militancy brought about by the organization's praxis: he was a student or union leader, articulator of intervention with the labor movement, coordinator of training activities politics and the party press. Possessing a solid intellectual background, he is recognized by his contemporaries and academic researchers as one of the main creators of the AP's political line.[ii]

As a member of the leading core in the period of Marxist-Leninist definition, he was one of the protagonists in the debate about the rapprochement with the Communist Party of Brazil (PC do B), which culminated in the adhesion of the majority of the AP to the mentioned party in 1973. Another sector , seen as a minority, sought to reorganize the AP in the next phase. A member of the majority wing in most of this process, due to differences that will be addressed below, Duarte Pereira distinguished himself in the outcome, not joining the PC do B.

In 1999, he produced the essay “Estêvão and the Communist Party of Brazil”, systematizing his position regarding those events. Attached, he incorporated an interpretative scheme on the history of the AP, entitled “Eleven years of struggles and advances on the road to the revolution”, produced in 1973, which contains a commented periodization. Still in 1999, he decided to donate a large collection of documents that he preserved, even in clandestine conditions, to the Edgard Leuenroth Archive (AEL), of the University of Campinas (Unicamp). Shortly afterwards, he granted an extensive interview to a team of professors from that university, incorporated into the documentary collection, analyzing central aspects of the AP experience.

This documentary background has become an important source for researchers. Some of them, in addition to consulting the archive and accessing the interview, were successful in direct dialogue with Duarte Pereira. In one way or another, the academic production regarding the history of the PA did not dispense with the dialogue with this political protagonist.

This chapter systematizes the specificity of Duarte Pereira's interpretation. It is not just a question of clarifying some facts, but of inferring the meanings that his peculiar narrative attributes to the AP experience, considering the period in which he maintained an organic bond. Due to the relationship between the elaboration of memory and the influence of the lived moment (HALBWACHS, 1990), it is necessary to compare the testimonies and manifestations with the documents from the time of activity in the PA.

The analysis is supported by: a) testimony given to AEL (PEREIRA, 2001); b) interview with the author of this article (PEREIRA, 2011); c) lecture he gave on the history of the AP, in the calendar of the series of events “Sábados Resistências” (PEREIRA, 2014); d) the documentary fund bearing his name, available at the AEL; e) the document “Estêvão and the Communist Party of Brazil” (PEREIRA, 1999) and its annexes (PEREIRA, 1973); f) documentary funds available in other archives.

Approaching and entering the AP

Duarte Pereira reports that his approach to the AP, then in its formation phase, took place in July 1962, during the XXV UNE Congress, in which he participated as a delegate for the Academic Center Ruy Barbosa, of the Faculty of Law of Salvador (PEREIRA, 2001 ): “I had a certain influence on the Bahia bench, of which I was part. That's when I started to establish contact with Betinho (Herbet de Souza), with Vinícius (Caldeira Brant), with Aldo Arantes. They invited me to participate in AP meetings, even though I was not a member of the AP, in an attempt to form a larger support area”.

The allusion to Herbet de Souza and Aldo Arantes is representative of the role played by the Juventude Universitária Católica (JUC) in the formation of the AP. As a wide bibliography demonstrates, whether of an academic nature or authored by former leaders, although it was a broader process, the genesis of the AP is associated with the political radicalization of the Catholic left, especially the sectors linked to the JUC.

The previous year, on the occasion of the XXIV UNE Congress, JUC leaders had risen to command the student body, represented by the election of Aldo Arantes to the presidency. Inserted in a context in which Brazilian society registered the rise of left-wing movements and projects, the radicalization of Catholic youth came up against the limits tolerated by the leadership of the Church, since, in the field of ideas, there was an approximation with the socialist horizon and with projects of the Brazilian revolution and, in concrete action, there was an alliance with the communist party, necessary, for example, to conquer the leadership of the UNE. At the end of 1961, the ecclesial hierarchy censored such movements, prohibited the participation of JUC militants in national student organizations and expelled Aldo Arantes, then president of UNE, from its ranks (LIMA & ARANTES, 1984).

For Catholic youth, the institutional limits were very narrow and did not meet the objective of articulating a movement that united by political identity and not by ecclesial ties. In 1962, articulations and meetings were triggered with a view to founding such a movement.

The first meeting took place in early 1962 in São Paulo. The embryonic organization approved a document in which it affirmed its commitment to socialism and the Brazilian revolution and adopted the name Grupo de Ação Popular (GAP). The “groupão”, name as the collective was then known, a way of distinguishing itself from the acronym of the conservative Patriotic Action Group, was consolidated during the strike period by 1/3 of student representation in the collegiate bodies of direction of universities and colleges , triggered by the management of Aldo Arantes at the head of UNE. In the course of the UNE Volante caravan, in parallel with the activities of the student entity, the articulation in favor of the new movement was expanded (SOUZA, 1978).

In June 1962, in Belo Horizonte, there was the second meeting, with representation from 14 states (LIMA & ARANTES, 1984, p. 36). The name Ação Popular and the acronym AP were implemented. The congress that formalized the foundation would take place in February 1963, in Salvador, but the AP had a concrete existence since the middle of the previous year. It was between this second national meeting and the founding congress that Duarte Pereira approached and joined the AP. He adds: “It was in the second half of 1962 that I received an invitation to formally join the AP. I was invited by a student at the Faculty of Engineering called Severo Salles, one of the important figures of the AP in Bahia. He had the particularity of, already at that time, declaring himself an atheist. He did not belong to the JUC and already declared himself a Marxist. He was the one who recruited me for the AP, not a leading figure from JUC. […] I entered via Severus. In the second half of 1962, I became part of the AP in Bahia” (PEREIRA, 2001).

Duarte Pereira emphasizes the specificity of his trajectory and the nuances that characterized the formation of the AP. In the quotation above, concerning his ticket, there are two variations. First, the presence of a leader who declared himself a Marxist; second, the entry of Christians not linked to Catholic Action. This was also his case (PEREIRA, 2001): “Everybody thinks I was from JUC. I never went to JUC. I have another trajectory”. He detailed the university environment he experienced and its links: “There was the JUC, but it didn't have a very expressive leadership in the Faculty of Law. There was another group, which we called the independent left, that I joined and worked with for a long time. This group brought together Christians, as I still was, Catholics or Protestants, young people who no longer called themselves religious and who followed the existentialist influence a lot” (PEREIRA, 2001).

His schooling and the world view he held at that time were, however, influenced by the ties he had with Catholic institutions. Born in Santo Amaro da Purificação, Bahia, Duarte Pereira was a student at the Liceu Salesiano da Bahia, located in Salvador. Given the financial difficulties experienced by his family, aggravated by the death of his father, he was a scholarship student.

Originally, in line with its nature as a lyceum, the institution was supposed to combine humanist education with professional training, but a rigid dual structure prevailed, partly aimed at elite students and partly at poor students, with priority given to the former. The contradiction sharpened his political sensitivity: “That shocked me because it was the opposite of Dom Bosco's proposal” (PEREIRA, 2001). This perception had consequences: “Around the 3rd year of high school, I decided to be a Salesian priest to do what the Order had stopped doing” (PEREIRA, 2001).

In this new phase, he took his first steps in the student movement. “I started my militancy as a high school student, at the Central Seminary of Bahia, where I held positions in the guild, founded the newspaper 'O Acadêmico' and helped to organize the first meeting on the reform of the seminary” (PEREIRA, 2001).

However, the crisis in his relationship with Catholic institutions worsened. First, “I realized that there was an emphasis on liturgical formation, on church rites”. Second, it differed from the emphasis on the virtue of obedience and submission. Third, selected to develop activities with the cardinal, testified that the leader acted as “a prince of the Church” and favored “the rich elite of Bahia” (PEREIRA, 2001). He vents: “I was convincing myself that this was not the church I wanted. It was not the life project I had nurtured” (PEREIRA, 2001).

During this seminary period, he started the Philosophy course. His intellectual horizon was then broadened, as he came into contact “with the progressive theological literature that was beginning to exist in the Catholic Church. Not within seminary courses, but in parallel, sometimes even hidden, with the help of colleagues. I started to get in touch with Henry duLubac, with (Yves Marie-Joseph) Congar, with (Antonin-Dalmace) Sertillanges, with other theologians who would play an important role in the Second Vatican Council, which represented a renewal in Christian thought, another form to face that faith that I still shared” (PEREIRA, 2001).

Upon leaving the seminar, he decided to spend a year without studying. He then worked at an airline, Varig, where he had his first union experience and participated in the general strike of aeronauts and airline workers. Another fact was his participation in the creation of the trade union newspaper “Variguionando”, a harbinger of his journalistic verve. After this phase, he entered the Faculty of Law of Bahia, even without intending to pursue the profession of lawyer, attracted by the humanist training of the course. He soon joined the Ruy Barbosa Academic Center, first as Secretary of Culture and later as president of the entity. The ticket he led stood out in the CA's history. On the one hand, it was presided over by an independent student who maintained an “alliance with the PC and […] with the JUC, but not coming from the ranks of the PC” (PEREIRA, 2001). On the other hand, given the strength of the coalition, the traditional sectors of the right did not present themselves for the dispute.

It was at this juncture that he was incorporated into the formation process of the AP. He reiterates that he remained a Christian and would remain so for several years, but had established the conviction of no longer being linked to ecclesiastical institutions or to a movement led by the Catholic hierarchy. He sought to act through broader institutions, aiming at the development of a “secular action, involving people of different religious denominations and people who had no religion” (PEREIRA, 2001). This is how he defines his identity at that time: “I still considered myself a Christian, increasingly an ecumenical Christian and increasingly a Marxist Christian” (PEREIRA, 2014).

Such demarcations do not remove recognition of the leading role of the JUC in the formation of the AP. In a statement to the AEL, he stated: “The AP, as is known by those who have studied its history, was born fundamentally from university youth and JUC” (PEREIRA, 2001). However, if the JUC was the main trunk, he emphasized, in a recent lecture, that “there is no direct link that is sometimes widely publicized. Not only did a good part of the JUC militants not join the AP, as part of the AP militants were not from the JUC” (PEREIRA, 2014). It formulates the relationship as follows: “The AP was born from the political crisis of the JUC […], when the JUC found its limits for progressive action in the hierarchy of the Catholic Church” (PEREIRA, 2014).

In addition, it identifies other influences. Within left-wing Christianity, his interventions record the interface with Protestant strands: “Another observation I would make is that evangelical youth – not only Presbyterian, but Methodist, Anglican and Baptist, there are several denominations – was already experiencing a renewal process prior to that of the JUC. They already had organizations that were similar to the JUC and the JEC: the Uceb (União Cristiano dos Estudantes do Brasil) and the ACA (Associação Cristiano Acadómica). With these observations, which I could extend further, I want to emphasize that a part of the evangelical youth also participated in this process of creation of the AP (PEREIRA, 2014)”.[iii]

Another aspect that points to the formation of the AP was from a sector that it calls the independent left: “It was neither from the JUC nor from any of these progressive evangelical organizations” (PEREIRA, 2014). In short: “The AP did not come in a direct line from the JUC. It also had a line that came from the progressive evolution of the evangelical church and another from independent sectors that adhered” (PEREIRA, 2014).

When scrutinizing the social composition, he points out that, although there was a prevalence of youth and students, “the AP had lawyers, sociologists, economists. The organization already had trained staff. And it had, from the beginning, workers, few, but it did. It also had peasant leaders from the beginning” (PEREIRA, 2014). According to its balance sheet, “the overwhelming majority were university students, but the AP already had ramifications in other social sectors. And it will make every effort to evolve in that direction” (PEREIRA, 2014). To the interpreters who underestimate this diversity in the formation of the AP, he assures: “The approximation of these sectors helped the AP to advance in its formulations. Just compare the documents of the first two meetings of 1962, so imprecise, where there is no real option for socialism, with the Base Document” (PEREIRA, 2002).

In this vein, in his last interventions, he suggested that the phase prior to the congress could be seen as a kind of “prehistory” of the AP, because it did not yet exist as an organization. He understands that “the formalization of the AP with a program, with direction, as an organization, etc., takes place in the Congress of Salvador” (PEREIRA, 2014). This does not mean that he does not consider the previous period, incorporated into the periodization he composed in 1973, but that he attributes a different characteristic to it.

The AP founding congress and the Base Document

Duarte Pereira not only participated in the founding congress of the AP, but also had organizational responsibilities and was part of the team that prepared its resolution, the “Base Document”. According to his mapping, “the AP was born from an articulation that fundamentally involved Minas Gerais, Rio de Janeiro and, secondarily and further ahead, São Paulo”. The presence of Bahia was growing: “So much so that the congress was held with our material support at the Veterinary School, on the Ondina campus, during the 1963 carnival” (PEREIRA, 2001).

In his evaluation, “it was a congress not yet very formalized, there was no great national debate, there was no election of delegates” (PEREIRA, 2001). This was reflected in the process of formulating the theses: “On the eve of the congress, when Luiz Alberto (Gómez de Souza) arrived to help, there were no draft resolutions. He arrived to try to write these general blueprints. We found that extremely precarious” (PEREIRA, 2001). The initial idea was to compose a preliminary project with three parts: philosophical perspective, historical perspective (worldwide, Latin American and Brazilian) and socialism. Due to his academic background and prior knowledge of the ideas of Father Henrique Vaz, who inspired the generation that came from JUC, Duarte Pereira was in charge of developing the section on philosophical perspectives.

Duarte Pereira points out that Fr. Vaz, even without organizational ties, was the intellectual leader during this first phase of the AP. The ancestry would be verified in the elaboration of the “Base Document”. He clarifies how his personal participation and the influence of the philosopher in the formulation of the congress resolution occurred: “Fr. Vaz was giving a seminar for the JUC in Aracaju. We got authorization for me to attend the JUC seminar, even though I was not a member, because those were the ideas that permeated the Catholic left at the time” (PEREIRA, 2001).

Back in Salvador, with subsidies collected in the courses and in direct dialogues with the philosopher, Duarte Pereira, alongside Luiz Alberto Gómez de Souza and Herbet de Souza, participated in the preparation of the draft of the “Base Document” and, later, joined the team responsible for its final writing. In the dynamics of the congress, there was a subdivision into four thematic groups of debates, which corresponded to reports for approval in plenary. Thus, a chapter on the evolution of the Brazilian reality was dismembered. To the three members already mentioned, Vinicius Caldeira Brant, rapporteur for the new thematic axis, was added. In the initial plan, the document would open with the chapter on philosophical perspectives, but there was a change in order, leaving the section on world and Latin American historical perspectives at the beginning. Anticipating the analysis of reality, the resonance of the “See, Judge and Act” method, present in the imagination of students of Catholic origin, is identified.

The final version still had the assistance of Fr. empty. However, Duarte Pereira (2001) informs that the philosopher “did not write before and did not write after. He only committed to giving a final edition, to give more consistency to the document approved at the congress. The basic ideas were the ones he had been defending.” In the transition phase from JUC to AP, Fr. Vaz would have contributed to overcoming the hitherto influential conceptions of Jacques Maritain and more traditional neo-Thomist thought, introducing a dialectical vision. As he was one of the most important Hegelian philosophers of his generation, “from the Marxist point of view, it was a dialectic with an idealist base, with a Christian base” (PEREIRA, 2001).

The “Base Document” systematized the AP's identity around the elaboration of its own ideology and paths, seeking to formulate a new political synthesis, in which influences from Christianity, existentialism and Marxism could be recognized. The key concept was “socialism as humanism”, through which the AP criticized left-wing dictatorships and so-called real socialism. The thesis was defended that, in the complex socialist world in gestation, there could be experiences with plural ideological orientations. Reality included the possibility of different conceptions of transition to socialism (AP, 1963).

In the formulation of the political strategy, in contrast to the PCB's line, it rejects the conception that there should be a phase of consolidation of capitalism as a necessary step for the Brazilian revolution. However, it did not suppose that an immediate socialist revolution was possible. The AP was willing to trigger what it called a “revolutionary preparation process”, generically defined as “mobilization of the people, based on the development of their levels of consciousness and organization” (AP, 1963, p. 13). The “Base Document” states that it was not up to the AP to anticipate how the revolutionary process would take place. He recognized, however, that “history does not record the breakdown of structures without violence generated by these same structures, which ultimately produce this consequence” (AP, 1963, p. 10).

In the following phases of the AP's history, the “Base Document” would come to be criticized in direct proportion to its transformation into a Marxist-Leninist organization. Duarte Pereira was the protagonist and one of the creators of this process of self-criticism. In 1973, in the debate on the adhesion of the majority of the AP to the PC do B, he systematized a commented periodization of the history of the organization. The objective was to subsidize the production of a global evaluation of the experience, but this other document was never written, due to the disagreements between its position and that of other members of the majority.

This periodization systematized themes present in documents that the AP elaborated in the post-1964 period, when it revised its initial positions. Indeed, it is defined that the AP emerged “as a combative democratic party, but impregnated with reformist illusions” (PEREIRA, 1973).[iv] There would be a strong reformist influence, anticommunism and an ambiguous definition of socialism. The description of these documents written in the self-criticism process, contemplated in the sequence of this chapter, will contribute to the understanding of the meaning of these topics in the core of the general elaboration of the AP.

In any case, in the interviews he has given in recent years, Duarte Pereira offers a rather nuanced view of those beginnings and the political line that governed them. He thus highlights aspects that he considers advanced in the “Base Document”. In the first place, “what this generation of JUC and AP represents is that it breaks with a conception of Christian Democracy, with any political project that was specifically Christian-only and that also formed a Christian-only party or that was based on that reference. Therefore, this generation refused to be part of the Christian Democratic Party that existed at the time, which had a Christian Democratic Youth and which, in some states, even had a left-wing sector within this youth, as in Paraná” (PEREIRA, 2001).

Secondly, “we broke with a tradition that marked even the Christian left, the Catholic left, which was to seek the so-called third way, neither capitalism nor Marxist socialism, socialism as it was already practiced in several countries of the world, but to seek a third way, an entirely different path” (PEREIRA, 2001).

He emphasizes that the AP clearly placed itself in the socialist field, with distinct divergences: “Although still criticizing the socialist experiences that were in progress, not very precise and not well formulated, but that had to do with cultural policy, religious policy, with anti-democratic aspects that we identified in this experience, with certain aspects also of the very centralized economic base. But we placed ourselves in this field, even from the point of view of international politics” (PEREIRA, 2001).

He formulates the list as follows: “It is a document that clearly defines the organization for socialism, intends to criticize the left to the really existing socialist experiences. It does not adhere to a Marxist perspective, but it does not adhere to a clearly Christian perspective. He wants to create a broad socialist movement that could be joined by both Christians and non-Christians” (PEREIRA, 2001).

In the social doctrine of the Church, he explains, “socialism is intrinsically bad, because it is atheist, because it translates a materialist conception of life, while capitalism is reformable” (PEREIRA, 2001). In the “Base Document” (PEREIRA, 2001), “the problem is transformed. It becomes socialism that can be reformed, that can eliminate its tyrannical elements of religious persecution, of lack of democracy. It is capitalism that is structurally perverse. Our Christian generation makes this inversion and, with that, breaks radically with capitalism and places itself in the socialist camp”.

Regarding the political strategy, Duarte Pereira seeks to circumscribe the sense in which it was elaborated at the time, criticizing formulations, present in the memoirs of other former leaders and in later documents of the AP, which classify that phase only as reformist, a result of the redefinitions experienced in the post-1964 period (PEREIRA, 2001): “In reality, this document had an initial political vision that spoke of revolutionary preparation. That was our perspective. We participated in the struggles for the so-called basic reforms, not with the perspective that the reform was a substitute for the revolution, but as a way to prepare the revolutionary transformation. From this point of view, we supported the Jango government with a more critical perspective [...]. We supported the government, but critical support, seeking to strengthen the actions of forces more to the left”.

It is recalled that this theme was the object of dispute in the Congress of 1963: “A sector of São Paulo proposed the option for non-violence. This was the subject of an explicit deliberation by Congress, which rejected this option. Therefore, it remained open whether the path would ultimately be through armed means” (PEREIRA, 2001). He ponders: “If there wasn't a clear solution regarding a perspective, which at the time was already being discussed in Latin America, of guerrilla struggle, of armed struggle, there wasn't the opposite either. It's good to record this. In the book that Aldo Arantes and Haroldo Lima wrote about the history of the AP, they classify this initial period as a reformist phase. There is an idea that there would have been an option for a gradual transformation, carried out through elections. This was not the reality. So much so that the AP was not organized as a legal party. Did not try to register. She did not participate in elections with candidates registered in her name. She supported candidates from other parties” (PEREIRA, 2001).

In July 1963, Duarte Pereira became vice-president of the UNE, in a board headed by José Serra, in which the AP allied itself with the PCB. Coordinator of the AP bench, he was vice-president of Educational and Cultural Affairs at UNE in the term interrupted by the military coup. This institutional rupture prevented him from taking office, as a student representative, in the Federal Council of Education. Humberto A. Castelo Branco, the first president of the dictatorial cycle, revoked the nomination.

The 1964 coup, the dismantling and reorganization of the AP

In the period that followed the 1964 coup d'état, the AP suffered a drastic process of disarticulation, similar to what happened to the other leftist movements. For security reasons, some of its main leaders, Herbet de Souza, Aldo Arantes and Jair Ferreira de Sá, went into exile in Uruguay, where there was a community of Brazilian political agents. Rooted in São Paulo, it maintained a provisional direction. Added to the organizational fragility, there was a crisis of perspectives, due to the political defeat that the left forces had experienced.

In exile, under the leadership of Leonel Brizola, AP leaders approached the idea of ​​a quick armed reconquest, echoes of the influence of the Cuban Revolution (SOUZA, 1978). As a result of internal rearticulation, an event to reorganize the AP took place in 1965, in São Paulo, the Extraordinary National Meeting. In the mapping of Duarte Pereira (2001), “we organized a national meeting of Popular Action, with representation of the main poles of ongoing reorganization – Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Minas Gerais and Bahia – and with some companions who were abroad and gathered mainly in France, in Paris”.

The results were systematized in the document “Political Resolution” (RP). Considered as the “first response to new challenges”, according to the terms with which it was written, the RP had the objective of defining a revolutionary policy for the organization, to be applied without delay, aiming to insert it into a new phase of its history, rigorously popular and revolutionary (AP, 1965). However, it did not promote a total rupture with the “Base Document". Preserving the philosophical foundation, he rectified the political strategy and tactics. In this regard, Duarte Pereira discusses: “That is why the document approved in 1965 is called 'Political Resolution'. This is intended to mark continuity with the 'Base Document'” (PEREIRA, 2001). Elsewhere, he added: “It was not a general repeal of the Base Document, from its philosophical perspective. We thought that this had to be the subject of a later, calmer, more developed debate. The main issue was its last chapter, an assessment of the country's new political situation and the development of our policy orientation towards this new situation. We placed the Political Resolution as a complement to the Base Document, not as a revocation” (PEREIRA, 2011).

PR preserves, on the one hand, the horizon of “socialism as humanism”, informed by the understanding that the struggle to overcome capitalism involved the most diverse experiences and with different ideological orientations. On the other hand, it defines the objective of conquering power through insurrection. The conception of revolution approved at that time encompassed the tasks of national liberation and socialist tasks (AP, 1965), influenced by the Cuban and Chinese revolutions.

In a recent lecture, Duarte Pereira demonstrated the connections with the previous formulation, stressing that violence was also inscribed in the “Base Document”: “The reasoning that was made there was the following: this does not depend on us, it cannot be prescribed in advance whether social transformations will take place through a peaceful path or through an armed path. The issue was this: once the possibilities for a peaceful transformation had been exhausted, one had to face the inevitability of a violent transformation. And that came faster than we expected with the coup d'état. With this “Political Resolution”, therefore, the AP gives consequence to what it had already foreseen in its “Base Document”: once the possibilities of peaceful action had been exhausted, one had to have the courage, the courage, to face the need to make transformations through armed means” (PEREIRA, 2014).

Particularizing his personal condition, recalls Duarte Pereira (2001): “I participated in the meeting as a chosen representative of Bahia and nominated, also by Bahia, as a possible member of the new board that would be elected”. Linking the facts of the context of the coup with the moment lived at the time, he continues (PEREIRA, 2001): “I graduated at the end of 1964, in Law, from the University of Bahia. I moved here (SP) in the first half of 1965, when we were already engaged in the effort to reorganize the AP. The military coup had already taken place. It was a transition phase of the military regime. I had responded to the IPM regarding the UNE, but it was released. The process had been taken to court and I had a legal life”.

He managed to pursue a professional life, articulating it with militancy: “I transferred to São Paulo as a political task. At the same time, I worked as a university professor and journalist. I joined Editora Abril, where I started my life as a professional journalist. He was part of the team that launched a magazine that had quite an impact at the time. It was called “Reality”. At the same time, I started teaching at PUC, in an experimental subject that was being created, called “Brazilian Culture”, which was intended to integrate the various courses, to promote debate on the main interpretations of the reality in Brazil. I joined the incipient movement of professors at the Pontifical Catholic University and the opposition that was forming to the accommodated leadership of the Union of Journalists” (PEREIRA, 2001).

Through a balance prepared at that juncture, the AP stated that the movement left the aforementioned national meeting united, approving the “Political Resolution” unanimously (AP, 1966a). However, according to Duarte Pereira, there were tensions that would not take long to cause consequences. He asserts that, before the extraordinary meeting, “the national board was divided between some members of the old board – such as Betinho, Aldo and Jair – and the members of the state board of São Paulo”, to whom responsibility for coordination had been transferred in the period in which that those leaders were exiled. There was strong political tension between the two wings. The main pole of resistance to the rectification of the line of action would reside in São Paulo (PEREIRA, 2001).

The corollary was what Duarte Pereira (2001) defined as the first major internal struggle in the AP: “As a result of this, there was the first split, the removal of several leaders and militants who did not accept this perspective, which we called the need for 'reoption ', make a new option in the modified country table”. However, he points out (PEREIRA, 2001): “The “Political Resolution”, which I had to write in the end, reflects the clash between these two wings and the prevalence of a third position, still not well developed and based on an alliance essentially from Bahia. and the group from Paris (Vinícius Caldeira Brant, Carlos Aumond, Sérgio Menezes etc. did not attend in person, but sent contributions in writing) with the group arriving from abroad (Aldo Arantes, Betinho, Jair Ferreira de Sá, Paulo Stuart Wright, Alípio de Freitas, etc.). Later, a sector of the São Paulo wing, if we can call it that (it had ramifications in other states), differentiated itself and, under the leadership of Sérgio Motta, started to support the decisions of 1965”.

In addition to being in charge of writing the final wording of the RP, Duarte Pereira became, at the end of the meeting, a member of the then-formed National Command, alongside Aldo Arantes, Herbet de Souza, Sergio Mota, Paulo Stuart Wright and Carlos Aumond (representative of the Paris base). Aldo Arantes became the AP's national coordinator.

In the context of such accentuated conjunctural changes and reformulation of its political orientation, Duarte Pereira comments that the AP experienced a change in its composition: “The organization is undergoing a major change in its student area. The number of Christian students is decreasing, due to the very change that is taking place in the situation of the student movement, and a new generation is emerging that no longer comes from this experience of JUC and the Evangelical area. It was born within the framework of that new student movement after the coup, both in the university area and in the secondary area” (PEREIRA, 2001).

Soon after the Extraordinary National Meeting, as a way of subsidizing the organization process, a kind of sociological research was carried out to assess the profile of the militants. Despite the difficulty of carrying out such a task in that context, the available data contribute to the understanding of the reorganization process. Among the members who responded, 68% had joined post-1964. Militancy originating in Catholicism remained influential, but it was not the main path. The student movement was still the most effective recruitment channel (AP, 1966b).

At the height of these debates, Duarte Pereira coordinated the editing of a set of texts, aimed at deepening the training of militants. As can be seen in the collection he donated to AEL, the range was still heterogeneous, covering themes such as guerrilla warfare, people's war, Marxism and humanism, etc. Later the study would focus on Marxism.

The challenges of the new conjuncture, in which AP guided its self-transformation, are described by Duarte Pereira (2001): “From (19)65 to (19)67, this effort that will put us before the new problems, the discussion of how to carry out armed struggle, puts us in contact with Cuba and China and, necessarily, with the Marxist discussion that takes place in the world between the Soviet Union and China. At the same time, our growing contact with the working class, with the labor movement, with the peasant movement, confronts us with new problems, the question of classes, the class struggle, etc. We need to study Marxism to be able to have categories to study this new reality. This is where the discussion of Marxism is born. But it was initially very marked by the study of the classics of Marxism. For a certain moment, there was even a strong Althusserian influence, which comes from our companions who were in Paris”.

* Reginaldo Benedito Dias Professor at the Department of History and the Graduate Program in History at the State University of Maringá.


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[I]His full name is Duarte Brasil Lago Pacheco Pereira. In clandestinity, he used two names, Heleno and Estêvão (PEREIRA, 1999). It was as Estêvão that he became associated with the memory of the AP.

[ii]Lawyer Marcelo Cerqueira, member of the board of directors of the UNE between 1963 and 1964, chaired by José Serra, commented in an interview with the project Memória do Movimento Estudantil (2004, p. 10): “The relationship on his board was very good. I think the most intellectually prepared was Duarte Pereira”. According to the testimony of Marco Aurélio Garcia, conveyed by a book by Bernardo Kucinski (1991, p. 193), Duarte Pereira “was considered a genius by his companions when he was elected to the board of UNE”. In a book of memoirs, Aldo Arantes (2013, p. 194), founder and one of the main leaders in the history of the AP, noted about Duarte Pereira: “From the founding congress of the AP, he took over, more and more , a political and intellectual leadership role in the direction of the organization. He went on to draft all major decisions adopted by the AP. […] He had a prominent role in the adherence to Marxism ”.

[iii]An expression of this mobilization of evangelical youth, in 1962 the Conference “Christ and the Brazilian revolutionary process” took place in Recife. It was presided over by the Social Responsibility sector of the Church, from the Evangelical Confederation of Brazil.

[iv]According to a note that he inserted in the document “Estevão and the Communist Party of Brazil”, to which he incorporated these schemes elaborated in 1973 as annexes, this formulation had the objective of seeking unity in the majority wing (PEREIRA, 1999).

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