Brizola, 100 years old

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By JULIAN RODRIGUES*

Considerations on the political and administrative trajectory of the labor leader

I cannot write about Leonel de Moura Brizola with detachment or analytical coldness. It is always an emotional and affectionate effort. In 1989 I cast my first vote. That's when I met Brizola. I voted for Lula, perhaps out of class instinct. But what a campaign it was! It was impossible not to be enchanted by the person old Brizola, with his gestures, accents, rhetoric, authenticity. Those who lived through that election will never forget the “puppy of the dictatorship” that Briza stamped on Collor's forehead in a debate.

Lula overtook Brizola in the final stretch and went to the second round. A fierce dispute. Lula obtained 11.622.673 votes against Brizola's 11.168.228. At the same time that he coined an iconic nickname for Lula (“bearded frog”), Brizola’s support for Lula managed to transfer practically all of his votes to the PT in the second round in 1989.

The PT relationship with Brizola was one of mutual hostility for a long time. It was only in 1998 that there was a rapprochement and the pedetista was a candidate for Lula's vice president in the presidential election. The passing of the baton – antagonism between petism on the rise and brizolism. The dislike was always reciprocal.

It's not difficult to understand. The PT was born proudly boasting an idea of ​​breaking with all previous traditions of the left (from the PCB to Labour). Deliciously daring, but also pretentious, the PT proposal was to build a classist and disruptive party, unlike anything that came before.

This original mark distances the PT both from the tradition of the communist left majority and from the legacy of laborism. It made the Party's growth possible, on the one hand, but carrying a certain sectarianism that would only be overcome in the 1990s. A particularly incomprehensible thing, in today's eyes, is the opposition that the PT made in Rio de Janeiro to brizolism.

Brizola is missed. A leader of his historic dimension does not appear every day. He moved from getulist laborism to a kind of revolutionary nationalism in guaranteeing Goulart's inauguration in 1961 with the “chain of legality”. While Jango hesitated, Brizola led the fight, even attracting part of the Army. And he resisted armed at the Piratini Palace.

The 1964 coup broke a historical thread. Among many other reasons, they were afraid that the Gaucho governor would become president by popular vote.

Little is known about the history of the “groups of eleven” that he promoted in 1963-1964 – the embryos of the radicalization of democratic resistance and even of armed struggle. The military dictatorship forced the long exile of the former Gaucho governor. When he returned, after the amnesty, he felt the blow of the maneuver by Golbery do Couto e Silva, who gave the PTB caption to the conservative Ivete Vargas. He built his PDT from there.

In redemocratization, elected governor of Rio de Janeiro, Brizola formed with Darcy Ribeiro and Oscar Niemeyer the CIEPS (Integrated Centers of Public Education). Total avant-garde: bold and practical architecture, full-time teaching, breakfast, lunch and snacks, arts, sports, medical and dental assistance.

Dubbed “brizolões”, the CIEPS pointed the way to a quality education aimed at the poorest. Criticized from the right (too expensive, populist) and also from the left – the CIEPS were praised almost unanimously many years later. PT member Marta Suplicy created the CEUS in São Paulo, which are modernized CIEPS. Brizola built no less than 520 CIEPS in his two governments! Imagine that (and compare it to the achievements of current progressive governments).

Pragmatic, Leonel Brizola let his PDT run wild, which at many times made bizarre alliances and welcomed very strange people. On the other hand, it was the Brazilian politician who most denounced the Globe (it's good to never forget the Proconsult, in 1982, when the network Globe led a scheme to rig the counting of the elections for governor in Rio de Janeiro, won in the end by Brizola).

Brizola was more hated and opposed by Roberto Marinho's machine than Lula himself, After unsuccessfully trying to rig the elections, the system Globe of communication relentlessly opposed Brizola's first government in Rio de Janeiro (1983-1986). They went against everything: from CIEPS to the Sambadrome.

The right of reply that Brizola won against the net went down in history Globe in 1994. Cid Moreira had to read it in full National Journal the following text: “everyone knows that I, Leonel Brizola, can only occupy space in Globe when supported by Justice. Thursday, this same National Journal, on the pretext of quoting an editorial in the newspaper The Globe, I was accused on my honor and, worse, singled out as someone of a senile mind. Well, I'm 70 years old, 16 less than my defamatory Roberto Marinho, who is 86 years old. If that's how you think of white-haired men, let him use it. Everyone knows that I have long been critical of TV Globo, its imperial power and its manipulations”.

The radical anti-imperialism of the old gaucho is a legacy and an inspiration for the entire left. Leonel never compromised in denouncing “international losses” and defending our sovereignty. labeled by mainstream liberal as well as populist and caudillo (these concepts as vague as they are instrumentalized), Brizola has always been a thorn in the side of the elites and of the USA, which never swallowed the nationalization of Tram & Share and ITT – historic stroke of our engineer when he governed Rio Grande do Sul in the early 1960s.

Sometimes I wonder what a presidential election in 1985-1986 would be like, right after the mega-demonstrations for “Diretas Já”. Perhaps Ulysses Guimarães would be a competitive candidate. Perhaps Leonel Brizola, governor of Rio de Janeiro, would emerge as the favorite.

The fact is that the dictatorship tore up Brazilian history, interrupting trajectories and political processes. My feeling is that Brizola was hit hard by this delay of 25 years. When direct elections came, his time to lead the nation was over.

In 1992. Brizola, then governor of Rio de Janeiro for the second time, warned the country about the “hysteria” against Collor. Listening today to the considerations and precautions of the pedetista leader calls attention to his clairvoyance. Paddling against the tide, the experienced Brizola pointed out the risks of deposing the first directly elected president since 1960.

I remember that at the time, excited about the “Fora Collor” movement, we cursed Brizola (an ally of the corrupt neoliberal movement). Retrospectively, thinking about 2013 and 2016, the gaucho's reluctance with the impeachment (he drew attention to the position of the TV Globo and the magazine Veja, against Collor). He warned us against the risk of trivializing the deposition of presidents elected by popular vote. In 2016 we were able to reflect better – we suffered the blow of the parliamentary majority on duty.

If he was beaten a lot by PT, Brizola also hit hard. Talented phrase writer created acidic and unforgettable nicknames. The aforementioned “bearded frog”; for Lula or the stamp on the PT: “UDN in clogs”.

Anyway, the legacy of the engineer coming from the pampas is immense. It deserves to be studied, publicized and celebrated by the entire Brazilian left. In these current reactionary days, I keep imagining Brizola going after Bolsonaro, fighting the neo-fascists head-on (it would be epic). And there goes 100 years.

Long live Brizola! Brizola lives!

*Julian Rodrigues, professor and journalist, is an LGBTI and human rights activist, PT SP militant.

 

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