The PT's tripartition



The PT may even reconstitute itself as the main party expression of the popular block. But politics, like war, involves chance and depends on the mistakes and successes of leaders.

Outside of revolutionary situations, we can understand by the left those groups that give strategic centrality to the electoral dispute. Strictly speaking, they are parties that accept the current Order or declare themselves for a Revolution within it. Small revolutionary and clandestine groups and anarchist collectives continue in the field of propaganda and political education against the Order and can play a relevant role in political crises such as in June 2013. But that historic opportunity was lost and the horizon of the left was lowered.

The Brazilian party system, when seen only formally, is unstable and discontinuous. But when read from the angle of History and the notable permanences, it is surprising. The comparison of PT, PMDB and PSDB with PTB, PSD and UDN is trivial because of this. On the left, one could still add the PCB, which acted indirectly through other parties and maintained a remarkable work of propaganda with courses, cultural activities, book publishing and a network of newspapers. Its impact on the economic debate was never negligible and its program mobilized national intelligence.

The 1964 Dictatorship intended to stifle that semi-democratic experience, but a mass left emerged again in the 1980s. PT, Psol and PC do B. Politicians of the Network, PDT, PMDB and PSB eventually moved to this field constituting a second grouping of opposition forces with a lesser degree of organicity.

Within this political arc there are ideological differences. The PC do B bears greater resemblance to a cadre party with some mass influence, emulating the old PCB. The Psol stands on the left, but as an organization of tendencies, its function (not its program) is perhaps similar to that of the former PSB, which housed independent Marxists, Trotskyists and reformist socialists; and the PT is a more complex association because it combines a little of each of these associations.

For a history of ideas, it would be interesting to compare resolutions, programs and parliamentary proposals of the parties, but this would say little about structure and social foundations. For a social history it doesn't matter much if a party claims to be communist and in practice plays a role typical of a reformist electoral organization. The case of the PT is exactly this: its leaders rejected (and some still do) the seal of “social democracy”. His opponents on the left and right accused him of being populist or social liberal. Others defined it as a party of order.

These characterizations are a legitimate resource of political dispute, but they have no theoretical relevance and no historical basis. Social Democracy dates back to the XNUMXth century, but its decisive government experience (with a few exceptions) post-World War II and coincides with thirty years of world economic growth.

Interestingly, this “experience” in many cases was more indirect than direct. Outside solidly social democratic Scandinavia the welfare state it was built by conservatives cornered by trade unions and left-wing reformist parties. At some point in the 1950s, the politicians in power in the main countries that represented the social democratic pact were conservative: Eisenhower (USA), Harold MacMillan (Great Britain), De Gaulle (France), Adenauer (West Germany), Diefenbaker (Canada) and Italian Christian Democrat prime ministers. None dared to dismantle social policies [1].

An inversion took place in the 1980s after the fiscal crisis of the State and the fall in the average rate of profit in developed countries and who implemented the liberal economic policy was both the socialist left of François Mitterrand in France and Felipe González in Spain, as well as the “new ” the right of Margareth Thatcher and Ronald Reagan in Great Britain and the United States.

It was not customary to call the social democratic and labor parties social liberals, a term that has a very elastic use and can refer both to the left liberals of the Italian resistance and to centrist leaders attacked by the new right, as is the case of French President Macron. Now, the word “democrat” that forms the name of some European parties could be replaced by “liberal”, since the democracy to which they have historically committed themselves was liberal.

three times PT

The PT is the tip of the partisan iceberg of a vast popular field that was formed in the 1980s with sectors of the Church, the leadership of Lula, CUT, MST, etc. PTism, therefore, is more than the PT and is sometimes in contradiction with it. It is a phenomenon as complicated as Peronism, because you can find politicians who believe they are only efficient managers, even militants who consider themselves Marxists.

By way of mere didactic and historical analogy, it could be said that the party is like the old PSD at the top, where the leaders are articulated in the established world of agreements; it is the old PCB in the intermediate frames where leftist tendencies survive; and looks like the old PTB at the base.

It is not just a question of three watertight levels [2], but of three dyads marked by nuances, tensions, provisional agreements, ruptures and sometimes open conflict. On the first floor, it is common to see specific right-wing actions taken by an executive representative and an attempt by the National Directorate to contain them.

On the second level is the internal bureaucratic machine. There, the clientele of the first level occupies most of the positions, but since it lacks an articulate and coherent discourse, it submits to the intellectual and moral direction of left-wing cadres. This dispute is fundamental because it is from this internal contradiction that the leaders and the bases are linked. The example of São Paulo in 2020 with the choice of a candidacy with no ties to the cultural and intellectual circles of the city has a lot to do with the formation of an internal opinion that filters and thickens at the base.

Finally, the third level concerns the capacity that leaders and cadres have to make individuals and the party (re)known by the popular field. This is not given and every electoral ritual needs a baptism ceremony in which Lula's presence has been fundamental [3].

People do not consciously experience politics in their daily lives, and neither does the party have spaces for permanent sociability. When the elections approach, the PT can come back into existence beyond its first two levels. It is for no other reason that the party preference for the PT in election years is greater in the second half. The party has no guarantee that it will represent its social base. Can be punished. However, in all presidential disputes and also in the city of São Paulo, he occupied first or second place.

It is because of this that all your internal ruptures have not yet given rise to an alternative to your left or to your right. There were some attempts from the beginning. Among the rural workers of Acre, Osmarino Amâncio left the party on the left, but lost recognition. The groupings that broke through on the left formed revolutionary parties with no electoral intent.

More common was the rupture by the “right”, but in this case it was made by depositors of relevant mandates: Luiza Erundina, José Fortunatti, Cristovam Buarque and Marina Silva sought parties more to the center than the PT but did not manage to win more important positions than the PT. those who already had. The same happened with Heloisa Helena and Luciana Genro who broke to the left. Marina Silva had a good performance in the 2014 campaign, managing to capture votes from an inorganic political spectrum that already had other representations such as Mario Covas, Enéas, Heloisa Helena and later Ciro Gomes. There is no ideological assessment here of the candidacies, but of the electoral base.

Certainly the other leftist parties have similar experiences. There is a deputy in them who seeks to become autonomous from the more programmatic internal machine; another who breaks with some revolutionary grouping; there is a social base that is concerned with issues that may be neglected by management, etc. But none of this happens to the same extent as the popular field in which the PT developed.

Part of the PT anecdote is a sentence that David Capistrano Filho would have said: “The PT is composed of Vietnamese soldiers, North American captains and Paraguayan generals”. The soldiers will remain there, it remains to be seen whether there will be a Giap to lead them.

The PT may even reconstitute itself as the main party expression of the popular block. But politics, like war, involves chance and depends on the mistakes and successes of leaders on the battlefield. Already overcoming the PT would require a historic crisis combined with a new leadership capable of taking advantage of it.

* Lincoln Secco He is a professor in the Department of History at USP. Author, among other books, of History of the PT (Ateliê).


[1] Levinson, Marc. An Extyraordinary Time. London: Penguin, 2017, p.24.

[2] Although Gramsci highlighted the three elements of the party as a modern prince, the analogy would only make sense if social democratic parties aimed at a revolution against order. See: Magela, G. Gramsci and the modern prince: the theory of the party in the prison notebooks. São Paulo: Academic Culture, 2012, p. 183.

[3] If a deeper analysis were to be carried out, it would be necessary to point out that these would be ideal types. The PTB, for example, to a lesser extent than the PT, had labor and social democratic intellectuals and important union cadres, and at its base there was also a permanent tension between the elected mandates and the immense popular mass of the party's inorganic margins. The PT inherited few labor politicians when it emerged, but many cadres from the former PSB and PCB.

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