Hunger's Victory

image: Paolo Scheggi Inter-ena-cube 1970


Considerations on Pausilippo da Fonseca's novel-feuilleton

Text and context

In the edition of August 25, 1903, the newspaper the father presented the following note: “One sheet said that Mr. Pausilippo da Fonseca, Italian, was being sought by the delegate of the 17th district, as an instigator of riots and a dangerous anarchist. The person sought is not Italian, nor has he instigated riots, nor is he an anarchist. He is Brazilian and was a student at the Military School. He can only be persecuted for the fact that he edits the periodical The strike, socialist organ, sympathetic to the wall. Also Mr. Dr. Cardoso de Castro is a socialist. That's not a crime, Mr. Delegate!"[I]

I could not find the aforementioned “sheet” in the government-run newspaper, but, due to the ironic tone of the passage – Mr. Dr. Cardoso de Castro is a socialist. That's not a crime, Mr. Delegate! – most likely it must have been some working-class newspaper that came out in defense of Pausilippo, mistakenly presented as being of Italian nationality and, therefore, subject to expulsion from the country.[ii] Regarding the “accusation” of being an anarchist, the denial may also have been a way of preserving the integrity of the partner, as there was nothing more heinous, at that moment, than being an anarchist.

In the book by Francisca Nogueira de Azevedo – Desolate rascals: the diary of the first general strike in Rio de Janeiro – we have the description of the same circumstance, added with information about the arrest of the journalist: “The chief of police informed that Mr. Francisco Pausilippo da Fonseca, Italian and dangerous anarchist, wanted by the delegate of the 17th as an instigator of riots. According to the workers, Mr. Pausilippo is not Italian, nor did he instigate disorder, nor is he an anarchist.”[iii]

Historical research allows us to arrive at a first finding about the serials of Hunger's Victory: it is from the combination of characters with a greater fictional content [or inspired by individualities that fell into anonymity] and other identifiable characters with real people who lived in Rio society at the time, in addition to his own testimony, that Pausilippo da Fonseca reconstitutes, literarily, the most dramatic moments of the general strike that took place in Rio de Janeiro in August 1903. And, within this broader frame, there is the thematization of the role of anarchists in this movement, the condition of women and children at that time, the initial steps of the type of organization known as revolutionary syndicalism, of the systematized repression in the articulation between the State and the bourgeoisie, in addition to the impasses arising from the political organization of the proletariat in Rio de Janeiro at the beginning of the XNUMXth century.

The 1903 general strike – the uprising of the child proletariat

The wall movement that began in the city of Rio de Janeiro had as its starting point the paralysis of workers at the Cruzeiro fabric factory, located in the Andaraí neighborhood and acquired by Companhia América Fabril in 1891.[iv] The reason given by the strikers, in addition to low wages, was the custom practiced by industrialists to charge workers for the use of instruments suitable for carrying out the trade, mainly aprons, feather dusters and bags to pick up cotton. Against this practice, male and female workers crossed their arms after lunchtime on August 11 of that year: “There were about 200 workers, mostly minors, who worked in the spinning section. Among them were many young women, also factory workers.”[v]

The next day, workers from all sections of the factory, including women and children, went on strike. [vi] In a study published in 2020 on child labor in Rio de Janeiro's textile industries during the First Republic, Isabelle Cristina Pires and Paulo Fontes comment on the participation of children (minors) in the outbreak of the 1903 general strike. Cruzeiro, with the aim of expanding the reach of the movement, “a group of minors went to the front of the Fabric Fabrics Confiança, located in Vila Isabel, and began to stone the gate in an attempt to seek the solidarity of the colleagues employed in that activity. factory. The minors anticipated their adult companions from Fábrica Cruzeiro, who only sought support from the workers of Fábrica Confiança the following day”.

After the end of the strike, in the last week of August, “the considerable number of dismissed minors, even greater than that of adults, demonstrates that children and adolescents, in addition to initiating the strike, played a prominent role in the wall movement, as they were able to the support of their co-workers, visited other factories in search of joining the strike and paralyzed production at the establishment for about two weeks to demand fairer working conditions.”[vii] Marcela Goldmacher informs that Cruzeiro’s board “dismissed those it judged to be the leaders of the movement, a total of 18 workers, including 13 minors.”[viii]

Immediately after the explosion of the 'wall', Cruzeiro's management contacted the police, who sent a contingent of cavalry and infantry with approximately 40 men to the factory surroundings. The next day, the factory partially functioned and was under the care of the military force all day. The participation of children in the outbreak of the strike clearly shows the incorporation of the child labor force in the productive process of these and practically all the factories and industries that emerged in Brazil, mainly in the second half of the XNUMXth century[ix]. In the textile industry, among many others, “entrepreneurs recruited their unskilled labor from orphanages, juvenile courts and Charity Houses. By using these sources of labor, the factory owners ensured the development of an industrial segment of the Brazilian economy (the textile sector), becoming, at the same time, benefactors and philanthropists; Both roles were intertwined, and the businessmen and observers of the time were fully aware of that – foundlings and orphans worked at the Todos os Santos factory, in Bahia, in the 1850s, replacing the teenagers who were assigned to attend mechanic schools.”[X]

If, on the one hand, there was a certain belief on the part of these first industrialists that “the poor were a class given to indolence if they were not coerced to work”[xi], on the other hand, factors of a strictly economic nature enter into the calculations of these meritorious actions. A group of textile businessmen wrote enthusiastically in 1870 that there was “no more humanitarian and philanthropic enterprise than to provide suitable and permanent employment for this large and growing portion of the community, forming good, intelligent, and able citizens.”[xii] In this understanding, children who worked in factories gave a few years of their useful life at an age when their character is being formed and regular habits of diligence can be acquired. Four years later, the same group of businessmen expressed their satisfaction, in an official bulletin of the Companhia Brazil Industrial (Paracambi, Rio de Janeiro) with young boys engaged in their factories as machine cleaners; “the directors saw this as an auspicious sign, as in the future it would be easy to find workers of both sexes for low wages.”[xiii]

The labor problem was one of the biggest thorns in the shoes of industrialists during most of the second half of the nineteenth century. The definitive prohibition of the slave trade in 1850 caused the price of the enslaved worker to increase a lot, becoming one of the main assets in the hands of merchants and capitalists, who began to speculate on “captive labor” at the whim of who paid the most. In 1853, a report by the Commission charged with revising the legislation on customs tariffs in Brazilian territory, with a view to creating encouraging conditions for industrial undertakings in the country, complained that the “illegal slave trade tended to attract people with an industrial acumen, leading them to abandon their projects for the possibility of colossal wealth.”[xiv] In 1864 there was a “slave owner in Rio de Janeiro who had more than 300 slaves exclusively destined for leasing. This 'entrepreneur' used slaves like any other asset: he is a large slave owner who is not a slave producer.”[xv]

To have an idea of ​​how valuable this market was, in a transaction that took place in 1868, Jacinto Bernardino sold a farm called Pau Grande [future Fabric Factory Pau Grande, of Cia América Fabril], in the region of Magé, Rio de Janeiro, to the American named James B. Johnson, for the amount of 65 contos de réis: “According to the deed of sale, the farm included land, a villa, pottery and other improvements, with 40 slaves, cattle and pigs as accessories. Of the 65 contos de réis, 40 were related to slaves and the remaining 25 the equivalent to land, houses, cattle and improvements.”[xvi]

The price of enslaved people did not stop increasing in the thirty years following the end of the slave trade; on the contrary, “always pressured by the shortage of manpower, it suffered a sharp process of inflation until 1880, when it reached its peak and began to fall due to the age of the slaves and the symptoms of the imminent end of slavery.”[xvii] The extremely high price of slaves still in the year 1880 led a great scholar of the subject to assume that slaveholders harbored hopes for another generation for slavery: “which provoked, soon after, a rapid change in expectations on the part of slaveholders, registered in the fall in slave prices, was the resurgence of the abolitionist campaign.”[xviii]

The Paraguayan War (1864 – 1870) contributed significantly to withdrawing from the labor market a huge contingent of workers, free, freed or enslaved. The campaign for enlistment almost did not receive more volunteers and before the end of 1865, compulsory recruitment began to form the Volunteer Corps of the Fatherland. It was five years of a true god helping us to get rid of the war: “Citizens of the empire had several ways to dodge the summons. The most wealthy, used donations of resources, equipment, slaves and employees to the National Guard and Volunteer Corps to fight in their place; those who could afford less, offered family members, that is, they listed their relatives, children, nephews, relatives, etc. For the dispossessed, there was no other resource left to escape conscription than fleeing into the woods.

The purchase of substitutes, that is, the purchase of slaves to fight on behalf of their owners, became common practice. Patriotic societies, convents and the government were also in charge of buying slaves to fight in the war. The Empire promised manumission for those who showed up for war, turning a blind eye to the fugitives.”[xx] In the words of Ricardo Salles, “the war in Paraguay was a remarkable event in our history; it was one of the elements – and not a small one – in the concrete historical process that marked the period of transition from slavery to capitalism, which began in the 70s.”[xx]

After the end of the conflict and throughout the 1870s, industrialists would compete with landowners and owners of commercial establishments for the labor market, which was becoming more and more dynamic. Male and female workers in the condition of enslaved, employed in various manufacturing and industrial enterprises[xxx], were gradually replaced by “free” and salaried workers. An example of this dynamic can be illustrated in the case of the candle factory Companhia Luz Stearica (Rio de Janeiro), which until 1857 employed exclusively enslaved workers and in 1858 began to hire Portuguese settlers and reduce the number of captives: “From 1874 Slaves began to be rented but, as rent was higher than wages, it was so advantageous to import the settler that the candle factory, which employed 20 slaves in 1856, only hired 7 in 1874 and no longer rented them in 1888.”[xxiii]

In Rio de Janeiro, as Luís Felipe de Alencastro demonstrated, “during the first three quarters of the XNUMXth century, landowners and urban employers fought for control of the labor market; functioning as a pole of attraction, the capital fixed in its bosom a part of the free and slave labor. In the years immediately following the definitive suppression of the slave trade, the arrival of foreign proletarians [mainly Portuguese] and the consequent fall in wages led urban slave owners – especially those who lacked qualifications or “crafts” – to sell these captives to rural landowners. .”[xxiii] Even so, the number of enslaved workers in the urban context of Rio de Janeiro continued to be quite high – 51% in 1874.

The development of the textile industry in Brazil took place in this extremely complex and nuanced context of a society still structured in the social formation of slavery, which was taking the first steps towards the institution of 'free work': “Railroad workers, civil construction workers, stevedores, dock workers, textiles and graphics, here are some of the first categories of Brazilian proletarians formed in the XNUMXth century, still during the Empire, in various cities and regions of the country; the first generation of Brazilian proletarians lived, in factories and cities, with slave workers for several decades. This fact characterizes the entire initial phase of the formation process of the proletariat as a class in Brazil, differentiating it from other countries, both European and South American (Argentina, Uruguay and Chile, mainly).”[xxv] According to Foot Hardman by Victor Leonardi, textile workers were the ones who constituted “the first category of true modern industrial proletarians to emerge in Brazil”[xxiv].

In this sector of the economy, the employment of enslaved labor, at least in Rio de Janeiro, almost did not exist or was quite small, even because the tree of the textile industries occurred precisely during the 1880s, when the slave regime entered its acute phase of decline.[xxv] Recruiting labor for the textile industry was not an easy task; as reported by Stanley Stein, “the textile factory Pau Grande, located on the outskirts of Rio, was short of workers after abolition, probably because it was located in a swampy area plagued by malaria, and sent an agent to recruit labor in a miserable region of the country, Paraíba do Norte.”[xxviii].

In a more detailed study of Companhia América Fabril, which controls the Pau Grande farm industry and four other textile factories (Cruzeiro, Bonfim, Mavilis and Carioca), researchers Elisabeth von der Weid and Ana Maria Bastos maintained that “the hand of -slave labor, who had worked on the farm [Pau Grande], no longer existed when it was acquired for industrial purposes [1878], ten years before the Abolition, and therefore such a working relationship was not used in the factory”. This finding, the authors continue, “confirmed in interviews with former employees of the Pau Grande factory, characterizes well the industrialist mentality of the founding entrepreneurs and the emergence of the company already within the capitalist factory system, whose labor is free and salaried. ”[xxviii] Jacob Gorender comments, in passing, that the employment of slaves in modern manufacturing or extractive industry occurred in the “germinal phase” of our industrial capitalism, still trapped in the dominant structure of colonial slavery, as the structure of the free labor force market imposed “ partial recourse to slaves, bought or rented. Until the middle of the XNUMXth century, the presence of slaves in the manufactures and factories of Rio de Janeiro is notable, except in the textile sector, which only employed free workers. While coffee farms continued to attract slaves in the early 1880s, urban industry dispensed with them, which represented one of the harbingers of Abolition in Brazil.”[xxix]

To solve the labor problem, textile industry manufacturers resorted to hiring immigrants; at first, Englishmen with specialized technical training and then Portuguese, Spanish and Italian. With regard to Brazilians, as the number of free workers increased, “the repugnance undoubtedly intensified among them for any regime of uninterrupted, fatiguing and supervised work, associated with the prantation slaveholder.”[xxx] On the other hand, there was the cultural issue related to immigration, also seen as “an attempt to see the emergence of a disciplined workforce, with men more sober than nationals, seen as lazy and indolent, especially if they were mulatto or black; Portuguese, Italian and Spanish immigrants were also considered ignorant, fatalistic and backward by the elites of their countries. However, in Brazil, employers saw southern Europeans as hardworking, ambitious people, much more adaptable to urban life than Brazilians themselves.”[xxxii]

The high turnover of Brazilian workers, the shortage of labor prior to the great wave of immigrants, in addition to the high price of rent for enslaved people, affected practically all of the first textile industries in Rio de Janeiro. In a report by the Companhia Brazil Industrial, from 1875, the board pointed out, among the difficulties that contributed to raising costs, the notorious shortage of workers and the consequent rise in wages. It was in this context that manufacturers “did not take long to learn the game rules of the prevailing capitalist market in Europe – the introduction of women and children, receiving wages below or at the subsistence level, constituted the fundamental measure to establish the baseline from which the wages of the workers were considered in the negotiations.”[xxxi]

Valley expertise it was nothing new at the Companhia Brazil Industrial textile factory, already used in factories in Bahia, as Stanley Stein pointed out. Luiz Carlos Soares reports that even in the first textile establishment founded in the Rio de Janeiro region, in the 1840s, by the Prussian Frederico Guilherme, children were employed. “Frederico Guilherme was a merchant and, during the 1840s, he was a partner of Carlos Tanière, a Frenchman, in a consignment shop, buying and selling 'ladinos' slaves on Rua do Ouvidor. In the same year of its foundation, the establishment was contemplated with the product of 4 lotteries of the Imperial Government, being the owner, by virtue of the law, committed not to employ slave workers”. In 1848, the establishment employed 16 to 22 free workers; “In addition to these workers, Frederico Guilherme kept 10 boys free without salary, with government authorization, under the allegation of granting them 'elementary, religious and industrial instruction'. One can imagine what kind of 'philanthropy' this notorious slave trader practiced and what kind of 'education' he provided to the boys kept in his establishment.”[xxxii]

In 1874 there were 27 male and female workers hired in England by the Companhia Brazil Industrial; its directors already referred, however, “to the promising spontaneous offer of children, which, for modest retribution, could be used in services that demanded more dexterity than muscular strength. A year later, the company published the following information in the press: 'The factory service is carried out by 230 workers, 170 of whom are men, 126 men and 44 boys, and 60 women, 32 women and 28 girls. Among the boys and girls there are five-year-old children who are already providing valuable help with their small services, and thus the institution fulfills more than one noble purpose, taking advantage of the cooperation of these small forces, and getting children used to work that the wandering of the streets could only to become wretched before.”[xxxv]

The use of child labor remained firm and strong even after the period of abundant supply of labor, the result of the ruin of artisans who were forced into poverty, the increasing number of immigrants and the liberation of enslaved people, in short, “all the historical circumstances that made it possible for the manufacturers' wishes to become reality.”[xxxiv] The Cruzeiro factory, where the uprising of this child proletariat in 1903 began, operated in 1895 with 450 workers, of which 100 workers were minors.[xxxiv]

The policies aimed at solving the labor problem, implemented by the textile industries, both in Rio de Janeiro and in the rest of the country, turned to the development of strategies related to the permanence, control and formation of the force of work. The use of the establishment of workers' villages was, among these strategies, the most efficient. In the last quarter of the XNUMXth century, textile manufacturers “began to house workers according to the English plan, in what became known in the country as workers’ villages.”[xxxviii] Such mechanisms were progressively developed and institutionalized, manifesting themselves directly in the daily lives of workers. In 1874, the Companhia Brazil Industrial “spent 29.743$000 in the construction of small houses for the workers and their families, with the objective of concentrating in the locality the qualified textile workers, who were hardly found in the incipient labor market that was beginning to be formed . In 1875, the number of workers employed was 239, between men and women, in addition to having 109 minors of both sexes in apprenticeship.”[xxxviii]

The manufacturing units of Companhia América Fabril rented housing around the factories for a large portion of the workforce; From then on, true disciplinary devices were created that covered the most diverse spheres of human activity: “in education, through the construction of primary schools for workers and their families; in health, in the provision of medical-pharmaceutical assistance; in religion, with the building of churches and spiritual assistance; and in leisure, through the creation of a workers' association, with committees in the various manufacturing units that promoted dances, picnics, walks, soccer games, cinema and theater sessions.” [xxxix]

At a conference held in 1882, Mr. José Pereira Rego Filho, one of the founders of Sociedade Auxiliadora da Industria Nacional, supported the idea that the workforce in factories should be understood “as a group of families living together under the truly paternal administration of managers and shareholders.”[xl] In this way, 'industrial paternalism' was able to aggregate the workforce of the entire family, including 'minors', boys and girls from 5 to 17 years old, who were subjected to exorbitant working hours: “The secret laboratory for the extraction of surplus value, represented by large-scale industry (textiles, for the most part) completely subjected the proletarian family to the conditions of factory production.”[xi]

Factories of this magnitude, such as Cruzeiro, in Andaraí or Aliança, in the Laranjeiras neighborhood, were transformed into veritable citadels, within which the most varied forms of tyranny, wage hoarding and the most varied discrimination were reproduced. Denunciations of mistreatment were constant, both in workers' newspapers and in the bourgeois press: “Men, women and children, factory workers were subject to a draconian order that brought to mind captivity. Worker activists used to compare factories to prisons, with uniformed and armed guards who subjected workers to humiliating searches. The large textile company became a nucleus, to a certain extent, autonomous, from which the worker practically did not leave. In the world created by the factory there was everything the worker needed – housing, schools, warehouses, health care, clubs, etc.”[xliii] It is the paradoxical world of the explicit bourgeois servitude of the free worker, so well studied by José Sérgio Leite Lopes: “... the stable proletariat immobilized by the company through housing, which makes the boss control other spheres of the worker's life beyond the sphere of work. ”[xiii]

And work in factories, in turn, obeyed an exhausting day of 14 or more hours of work, for men, women and children, with an hour for lunch and sometimes a short break for coffee in the afternoon. For those who lived in the working-class villages, a good part of the wages went to local businesses, which were also controlled by the factories. At the turn of the XNUMXth to the XNUMXth century, the large textile industry represented, in Brazil, the 'more developed' side of capitalist relations of production: “it was the sector that had the highest levels of concentration of capital, workforce and driving force per Production unit"[xiv]; the high degree of mechanization (steam, electricity [in some units], modern looms, etc.) increased labor productivity while reinforcing the devaluation of the workforce. From the 1890s, more or less, it was already possible to perceive, in Rio de Janeiro, the phenomenon of the industrial reserve army, “making the textile sector present the lowest wage rates, in relation to the branches of clothing. ”[xlv]

Even with the market fully supplied with adult labor to work in factories, industrialists continued to employ a significant number of children, with wages lower than other workers. The documentation of the Companhia América Fabril, between the years 1878 to 1930, especially of the Cruzeiro factory, showed that the presence of minors was always relevant in the workforce as a whole, “especially between 14 and 17 years old – ages included in the range established by the Minors Code of 1926 – although there was a considerable contingent under 14 years old.”[xlv] These workers were mainly concentrated in the spinning sector or admitted to other sections as apprentices or assistants. When the work was very heavy, older teenagers were employed, as they were more agile and stronger, but they always received lower wages than other workers, men and those over 18 years of age.

In January 1891, the Provisional Government of the Republic issued Decree 1.313, in an attempt to standardize labor relations involving minors in the factories of the then Federal Capital. It was signed by “Generalissimo Manoel Deodoro da Fonseca, Head of the Provisional Government of the Republic of the United States of Brazil” and by José Cesário de Faria Alvim, Minister of the Interior. The purpose of the Decree, as established in its opening text, was to meet “the convenience and need to regularize the work and conditions of minors employed in a large number of factories in the Federal Capital, in order to prevent, with to the detriment of themselves and the future prosperity of the country, thousands of children are to be sacrificed.”[xlv] What draws attention throughout the 17 Articles of the Decree is a certain emphasis on the employment of minors in textile factories. In Art. 2 it stipulated that “Children of either sex under 12 years of age will not be admitted to effective work in factories, except, as an apprenticeship, in fabric factories, those who are between that age and eight years old. complete.” And in Art. 4 added: “Of those admitted to apprenticeships in textile factories, those aged between 8 and 10 may only work for three hours, and those aged between 10 and 12 for four hours, with the working time for both classes being interrupted for half an hour in the first case and for an hour in the second”.

Generally speaking, Decree 1.313 was born as a dead letter, at least in relation to the situation of minors in the work process of textile factories. Even stipulating a minimum age of eight years and regulating working hours and conditions, especially hygienic ones, the law, in its organic nature, presented several loopholes and fissures “which put its own viability in check, mainly in terms of inspection and punishment to offenders.”[xlviii] The Minor's Code of 1926 prohibited the work of minors under 14 years of age. However, in the documents referring to the Companhia América Fabril, between 1878 and 1930, “emphasis is placed on the hiring of children under 14 years of age in the late 1920s, with greater concentration in the period of greater working-class population (1918 – 1924), when the factory even resorted to children under the age of seven. One third of all these children were younger than five years old, quite surprising data at the beginning of the 20s. In the late 1920s, the admission of children between eight and thirteen years of age intensified, this period coinciding with the increase in admissions of women . These data suggest the adoption by Companhia América Fabril of an expense policy in the face of the global economic crisis, since the wages of women and minors were traditionally lower than the wages of adult men. The data relating to the workforce at the Cruzeiro factory seem to clearly reproduce the situation of the working class in Rio de Janeiro at the time.”[xlix]

More than an 'appendix' or complement to the workforce necessary for industrial development in the country, children played a fundamental role in all the “gears” of the nascent urban working class. Source of resources and complement to the income of poor families, method of hiring cheap labor by industrialists, they are an integral [and most defenseless] part of the establishment of capital-labor relations along the lines of modern industry. It may cause us a certain strangeness, nowadays, some passages of Hunger's Victory in which Beatriz's two little brothers, "one aged 11 and the other aged 9" already worked in the fabric factory "from dawn until sunset." At the time the novel was written, this fact was basically a 'normal' fact of reality; although there was no lack of voices opposing this – criminal – practice of employing children in factories: “Among the various voices concerned about the presence of children in the world of work, the militant worker Albino Moreira, in a column in the newspaper The Voice of the Worker [in 1913], he addressed working-class parents: “It is shameful for men who live in this century, to make their 5 and 6-year-old children get up at 7 am to keep them in the factory earning 500 réis , in the long 10 hours of the day in extremely painful work for his tender age, annihilating the organism, thus preparing rachis and tubercular beings of which future humanity will be composed.”[l]

Families were perhaps the least to blame for this situation, or at least they faced a life condition so deplorable that it did not allow them to think about the damage they would cause to poor children by sending them to work at such a tenuous age: “The inclusion of minors in the factory work was considered advantageous for both sides, since the bosses benefited by admitting children and adolescents as apprentices and, therefore, paid cheaper wages to labor; while the parents counted on an increase in the domestic budget and the possibility of keeping their children away from the evils of the streets and idleness.”[li] There was a certain absorption by poor families of that ideology formulated by legislators, jurists, journalists, writers, medical hygienists and industrialists of the time, whose ultimate aim was to discipline the population in the ethics of work, order and progress: “…the oligarchy capitalist thought he was doing a great favor, practicing an act of benevolence in giving work to protect these poor starving people... the chest, bowing with a kiss of the hand, with the humility of a slave.”[liiii]

Being away from the streets, and therefore “protected from the dangers inherent in idleness”, children were sent to factories, either by their families or by charitable institutions (orphanages). And in the factories they faced situations that we can classify, at least, as inhumane. There are countless reports about the superhuman workloads to which these small workers were submitted. Also in the metallurgical or mechanical industry, remembers the militant Everardo Dias, “... the number of minors was predominant. With the exception of a very small number of technicians (mechanics, toolmakers, moulders, foundries) the rest was made up of charcoal burners, furnace feeders, performing almost suicidal jobs due to the bronchitis, pneumonia, and rheumatism they contracted.

The minors (which included eight-year-old boys) were employed in heavy jobs, some incompatible with their age and physical constitution and barely reached adulthood and when they did, it was to form queues at the free clinics of the Santa Casa de Misericórdia, as indigents. .”[iii] If the workload for children was enormous, there was also the recurrent practice of physical and psychological punishment. Here we find a true theater of horrors: “Verbal and physical abuse seemed to be a common procedure given to factory workers, especially with regard to women and minors.”[book]

The memoirs of Jacob Penteado, who worked as a child in a glass factory in the Belenzinho neighborhood of São Paulo, are paradigmatic in this respect: “... many of the boys had not yet reached ten years of age. There were seven years old. The environment was the worst possible. Intolerable heat, inside a shed covered with zinc, without windows or ventilation. Micidial dust [which causes lesions on the skin], saturated with miasms, of ground drug powder. The shards of glass scattered across the floor represented another nightmare for the children, as many worked barefoot or with their feet protected only by rope espadrilles, which were almost always punctured. The water did not excel in terms of hygiene or healthiness. Add to that the mistreatment of glassmakers, very common at that time. There was so much abuse and so frequent that, one night, the victims [all children] decided to take revenge. They gathered in a group and huddled in a vacant lot, located on the path that Casanova [the executioner's glassmaker] used to walk. Crouched down among the bushes, their hearts pounding, but firm in their resolve to apply a corrective to the man who tortured them daily, they stayed in wait. When they realized that Casanova was approaching, staggering under the influence of alcohol, they got up and unloaded such a hail of stones, pebbles and broken bricks, that he found himself impotent and, stunned and wounded, he fell down moaning, with his head cracked, writhing in pain. He spent several days in bed.”[lv]

With no one to turn to, it was up to the child proletariat itself to rise up against such a state of affairs. It was not uncommon for strike movements to emerge that claimed the end of physical punishment practiced in factories. Although the main reason given by the workers for the start of the stoppages at the Cruzeiro Factory, on August 11, 1903, was the charge that the industrialists made for the utensils used by the workers themselves, the hypothesis is not unreasonable, especially due to the large amount of minors involved, that there were motivations, on the part of small workers, to protest against the mistreatment they suffered in their day-to-day work. At the Carioca factory, which also joined the strike in 1903, among the demands that the strikers sent to the management of that establishment; 8-hour day, salary increases, readmission of dismissed colleagues, etc.[lv], most likely because of the mistreatment he practiced.

At Aliança, the factory represented in the serials of Hunger's Victory, we find mentions by the directors themselves insinuating that the strike was motivated after the dismissal of two minors. In an interview given to Correio da Manhã, director Joaquim Carvalho de Oliveira assured the reporter “that the cause of the strike was solely attributed to the dismissal of two minors, who, due to their behavior, disturbed the discipline of one of their workshops. Another director who arrived at the time, Mr. Alfredo Loureiro Pereira Chaves, corroborated the same information as Mr. Silva had ministered to us.”[lviii]

The information that circulated most in the press and that are in the research carried out on the strike movement of August 1903 sustain that “the strike [in Aliança] began after the director of the factory refused to reinstate a worker dismissed by the master of the looms. . The fired worker, a Polish widow, had been sexually abused by the master, named Ferreira da Silva, and had been abandoned and fired by him after the child was born.”[lviii] in the serials of Hunger's Victory The triggering motive for the strike at the Laranjeiras factory appears in the same spectrum of sexual abuse, although with less severity in relation to the news published in the press at the time: “the explosion [strike] was motivated by the dismissal of a married worker, for mere revenge from the master of the workshop where she worked, who was unsuccessfully trying to seduce her.”[lix] In any case, between the reports of the time and what actually went into the writing of the novel, there are not many discrepant points, except for the justification of the directors of the Alliance, who attributed the dismissal of two “minor” workers to the strike movement.

The situation of the junior working class was addressed in the serials of Hunger's Victory through the suffering of the character Beatriz and her little brothers. The objective of this article was to bring up this portion that is somewhat underrepresented in studies on the formation of the working class in Brazil, an almost invisible element in the complex 'passage' from enslaved work to free or salaried work, but no less fundamental or participatory. Evidently, the “command” of the 1903 general strike passed to groups of workers [men, adults] organized into various entities – unions, unions, guilds, associations, workers’ centers, etc. Within this clash, roughly speaking, two forces emerged to dispute the direction the movement should take: on the one hand, the anarchists; on the other, the socialists.

I could not fail to mention, at the end of this text, a note published in the Correio da Manhã on August 27, 1903: “Among 20 workers from the biscuit factory at Rua do Livramento, n. 130, eight minors worked, who, yesterday, decided to join the strike, after a long conference held around the black pastries board. Convinced of its importance, the commission of striking infantrymen followed to the aforementioned factory, where, with all the legal formalities, they sent a ultimatum to his older companions. "- If you don't accompany us on the strike we will throw stones at you, of which we have a sample in our pocket".

Thus ended the representation of the little ones, who actually made a large collection of stones, dangerous projectiles that they were going to use. The factory management, contrary to what they were supposed to do, which was to distribute cookies to the strikers, sought out Dr. Ayres da Rocha, from 3ª Urbana, who was made aware of the 'important' wall. The authorities aborted the strike. Yesterday it was reported that Dr. Ayres, delegate, was going to requisition a war company of apprentice sailors to prevent the children’s strike from taking place.”[lx]

The humorous tone of the news tries to sabotage a situation that, if on the one hand it may even be unusual, on the other hand, it reinforces the idea according to which these small workers, in addition to suffering all sorts of abuse and violence, and for that very reason, tried to to the extent of their strength, face situations of flagrant injustice. And let's not think that the "minor" were used only as a disposable workforce in factories and industries. At the “top” of society, among the layer of businessmen and industrialists, in the same year of 1903, Companhia América Fabril “registered more than a dozen new partners subscribing to shares, but almost all of them were linked to the old ones, such as the three eldest children of Domingos Bibiano [managing director and major shareholder of the Company], the five children of Alfredo Coelho da Rocha [one of the founders and majority shareholder of the Company] and the five children of Antônio Mendes Campos [the fourth largest shareholder] – the latter being all minors. Thus, the joint-stock company was expanded, however, keeping it restricted to relatives and friends.”[lxi]

*Alexandre Juliete Rosa Master in Literature from the Institute of Brazilian Studies at USP.

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[I] Loose notes. The Father, Tuesday, August 25, 1903. p. 02.

[ii] During the period of the general strike they circulated in Rio de Janeiro, in addition to The strike, other working-class newspapers, such as The worker's voice, Brazil Workers, Gazeta Workers.

[iii] Francisca Nogueira de Azevedo. Desolate rascals: the diary of the first general strike in Rio de Janeiro. Rio de Janeiro: Relume Dumara: 2005, p. 151.

[iv] Elisabeth von der Weid and Ana Marta Rodrigues Bastos. O Fio da Meada: expansion strategy of a textile industry. Rio de Janeiro: FCRB / CNI, 1986, pp. 65 – 68.

[v] Francisca Nogueira de Azevedo. Op cit., p. 41.

[vi] Marcela Goldmacher. The “General Strike” of 1903: Rio de Janeiro in the 1890s to 1910s. Doctoral thesis. Niterói: Fluminense Federal University, 2009, p. 124.

[vii] Isabelle Cristina Pires and Paulo Fontes. Children in factories: child labor in the Rio de Janeiro textile industry in the First Republic. Time & Argument. Vol. 12, No. 30, 2020, p. 28–9.

[viii] Marcela Goldmacher. Op cit., p. 124.

[ix] Eulália Maria Lahmeyer Lobo and Eduardo Navarro Stotz demonstrate that the employment of children was a recurrent strategy in several industrial segments, since the 1870s; in the factories of gloves, cigarettes, hats, artificial flowers and above all in the home work of various trades. In: Formation of the Workers and Workers Movement in Rio de Janeiro, 1870 – 1894. Economic Studies. São Paulo, Nº 15, 1985, pp. 57 – 60.

[X] Stanley Stein. Origins and Evolution of the Textile Industry in Brazil (1850 – 1950). Rio de Janeiro: Campus, 1979, p. 66.

[xi] Idem.

[xii] Ditto, p. 68.

[xiii] Ditto, p. 69.

[xiv] Ditto, p. 27.

[xv] Luiz Felipe de Alencastro. Portuguese immigrant proletarians and slaves and African captives in Rio de Janeiro, 1850-1872. São Paulo-USP. NEW STUDIES, nº 21, 1988, p. 40.

[xvi] Elisabeth von der Weid and Ana Marta Rodrigues Bastos. Op cit., p. 33.

[xvii] Maria Odília S. Dias. On the fringes of Urban Slavery: board and gain blacks. Economic Studies, Sao Paulo, Vol. 15 (Special Issue), 1985, p. 93.

[xviii] Jacob Gorender. Questioning the Economic Theory of Colonial Slavery. Economic Studies, No. 13, Vol.1, 1983, p. 15.

[xx] André Amaral de Toral. The participation of black slaves in the war in Paraguay. São Paulo-USP. Advanced Studies, 24, 1995, pp. 291–2.

[xx] Richard Salles. War in Paraguay: slavery and citizenship in the formation of the Army. Rio de Janeiro: Paz e Terra, 1990, p. 55.

[xxx] For an overview of the employment of enslaved workers in the urban context during the slavery period, see the chapter “Urban Slavery”, by Jacob Gorender, from the book Colonial Slavery. São Paulo: Editora Ática, 1985, pp. 472 – 489 and also the study by Hebe Maria Mattos de Castro. “Slavery outside the large export units”. In: Ciro Flamarion Cardoso (Org). Slavery and Abolition in Brazil: new perspectives. Rio de Janeiro: Zahar, 1988, pp. 32–46.

[xxiii] Eulália Maria Lahmeyer Lobo and Eduardo Navarro Stotz. Op cit., p. 57.

[xxiii] Luiz Felipe de Alencastro. Op cit., p. 38-9.

[xxv] Francisco Foot Hardman and Victor Leonardi. History of Industry and Labor in Brazil. São Paulo: Ática, 1991, p. 92–3.

[xxiv] Ditto, p. 93.

[xxv] Luiz Carlos Soares. The industry in the slave society: a study of textile factories in the Rio de Janeiro region (1840-1880). Travesía – Journal of Economic and Social History. Vol. 17, No. 1, 2015.

[xxviii] Stanley Stein, op. quoted, p. 68.

[xxviii] Elisabeth von der Weid and Ana Marta Rodrigues Bastos. Op cit., p. 24.

[xxix] Jacob Gorender. Colonial Slavery. São Paulo: Editora Ática, 1985, p. 484.

[xxx] Stanley Stein. Op cit., p. 67.

[xxxii] Carlos Molinari Rodrigues Severino. foreign masters; national working class: resistance and defeats in the daily life of the largest textile factory in rio de janeiro (1890 – 1920). Masters dissertation. University of Brasilia, 2015, p. 104 and 108.

[xxxi] Eulália Maria Lahmeyer Lobo and Eduardo Navarro Stotz. Op cit., p. 58.

[xxxii] Luiz Carlos Soares. Op cit., pp. 59–60.

[xxxv] Eulália Maria Lahmeyer Lobo and Eduardo Navarro Stotz. Op cit., p. 58.

[xxxiv] Ditto, p. 59.

[xxxiv] Elisabeth von der Weid and Ana Marta Rodrigues Bastos. Op cit., p. 137.

[xxxviii] Stanley Stein. Op cit., p. 69.

[xxxviii] Luiz Carlos Soares. Op cit., p. 69.

[xxxix] Elisabeth von der Weid and Ana Marta Rodrigues Bastos. Op cit., p. 157.

[xl] Stanley Stein. Op cit., p. 69.

[xi] Francisco Foot Hardman and Victor Leonardi. Op cit., p. 135.

[xliii] Francisca Nogueira de Azevedo. Op cit., p. 45.

[xiii] José Sérgio Leite Lopes: “Factory and Worker Village: considerations on a form of bourgeois servitude.” In: Social change in the Northeast – the reproduction of subordination. Rio de Janeiro: Paz e Terra, 1979, p. 45.

[xiv] Francisco Foot Hardman and Victor Leonardi. Op. Cit. p. 136.

[xlv] Ditto, p. 135.

[xlv] Elisabeth von der Weid and Ana Marta Rodrigues Bastos. Op cit., p. 229.

[xlv] DECREE No. 1.313, OF JANUARY 17, 1891. Available at the link:

[xlviii] Pedro Paulo Lima Barbosa. The work of minors in Decree 1.313 of January 17, 1891. Angelus Novus Magazine, Vol. 10, 2016, p. 65.

[xlix] Elisabeth von der Weid and Ana Marta Rodrigues Bastos. Op cit., pp. 230–1.

[l] Isabelle Cristina Pires and Paulo Fontes. Op cit., p. 19.

[li] Ditto, p. 20.

[liiii] Everard Diaz. History of social struggles in Brazil. São Paulo: Alfa-Omega, 1977, p. 46.

[iii] Idem.

[book] Isabelle Cristina Pires and Paulo Fontes. Op cit., p. 26.

[lv] Jacob Hairstyle. “The Little Martyrs of Industrialization”. In: Belenzinho, 1910 (portrait of a time). São Paulo: Carrenho Editorial / Narrativa-Um, 2003, pp. 100 – 108.

[lv] Correio da Manhã, “Agitação Operária”, August 17, 1903, p. 02. Link:

[lviii] Correio da Manhã, “Agitação Operária”, August 23, 1903, p. 02. Link:

[lviii] Francisca Nogueira de Azevedo. Op cit., p. 125.

[lix] Pausilippo da Fonseca. “The Victory of Hunger – Socialist Novel” (Chapter VI). Correio da Manhã, October 27, 1911, p. 6. Link:

[lx] PETIZED STRIKER. Morning mail, August 27, 1903. Link:

[lxi] Elisabeth von der Weid and Ana Marta Rodrigues Bastos. Op cit., p. 83.

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