History of the PCB

Izaak Brodsky, Lenin's speech at the Putilov factory in May 1917, Oil on canvas, 1929


Commentary on the book edited by Lincoln Secco & Luiz Bernardo Pericás

In the year in which the centenary of the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB) was celebrated, a work appeared that, in order to help in the process of understanding the performance of the left in Brazil and its political impasses, as well as the historical and social formation of our country in the period that the Republic is formed. It is not new that the history of the PCB is intertwined with the more recent history of Brazil. In that regard, History of the PCB it comes to contribute to the debate that had already been inaugurated a few decades ago and that is reinvigorated with each passing year; with research, articles and books.

In the first part of the book, the authors offer the reader a large and extensive bibliography regarding the history of the PCB, the mediations within the historiography of the PCB, as the title of the chapter points out, has several lineages that are related to the field of memory , biographies[I] and autobiographies[ii] from former militants and people with some connection with the party, moving to the field of art and literature, among others. In addition to carrying out an expanded work to situate those who already know the subject, in addition to directing the readings and works to those who are entering the debate at the time of the book's launch, they bring to the debate the great work of historian Edgar Carone (1923- 2003), which has a unique work for all who seek to understand the social and labor movements, as well as the history of the PCB.

Women also gained a space in the book, in addition to the publications of the militants, with emphasis on Ana Montenegro and her trajectory and importance for the Brazilian communist movement. It is important to remember, even though emphasized by the authors, precisely the need to deepen the theme in later works, an opportunity placed there for those who intend to start researches related to the theme!

The same problem is extended to the figures of black communist militants, intellectuals, for example. “Edison Carneiro and Clovis Moura are still waiting for further studies, as well as intermediate staff, union members and graphics”.[iii]

The Comintern's relations with Latin America gain space for a broad reflection in the text by Victor Jeifets and Lazar Jeifets. The Comintern is structured in Mexico for its political insertion in the Latin American continent, but this decision would be strange, according to the authors, since Argentina would already have a certain political consolidation, the example could be the Argentine Socialist Party (PSI) that had been created since the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917 and which gave broad support to the Soviets, in addition, the socialist base was more consolidated through the clashes of the industrial proletariat, which was growing at the time and more organized in the period.

The authors also carry out a debate on the Comintern's relations with the CP's on the continent, opening an assertion that much was preserved from national texts and from the very ideas of the CP's, therefore, not characterizing them as a mere "belt of broadcast” of the Communist International. Ups and downs mark this political relationship an analysis of the main conflicts, involving the main local leaders and the members sent by the Comintern, in a way that realizes the difficulty encountered in various political situations, confronted with the particular concrete reality of the continent, the leaders placed themselves their way of resolving these questions, at least as the authors demonstrate, with or without any mediation by the Comintern. The analyzes that the readers will have access serve to even think, mutatis mutandis, the present day.

Moving on to the third chapter of the book, the genesis of the PCB is outlined, the text covers a more general movement that is not limited to the date of the party's founding, but which includes the political movements that encompasses from 1917 to 1919 as being crucial for the agglutination the idea of ​​creating a party. The General Strike in São Paulo, inaugurated a cycle of mobilization throughout Brazil, in view of its success in the basic conquests demanded by the working class, followed by other strikes in Rio de Janeiro, Porto Alegre and Belo Horizonte and other cities.

The Russian Revolution of 1917 will also play a fundamental role in this mobilization and ideological strengthening, although incipient among the working class, in fact, it is an influx of information that arrived here, bringing with it news of a proletarian revolution against the czar power of Russia, synonymous with strength and courage that in a way inspired the workers at that moment “thus making the cycle of general strikes that took place in the winter of 1917 a moment of inflection and opening of new possibilities for the working class”[iv] the creation at that time of the Proletarian Defense Committee (CDP), according to the author, also played a very important role in these conquests of basic rights and also acted as a political organizer.

The dissemination of information also through newspapers will have an important development materialized in the main ones: the common people of Sao Paulo, the Spartacus from Rio de Janeiro, the People's Tribune from Recife and the unionist from Porto Alegre. All this intellectual effort to recapitulate the preceding trends of 1922 leads to a greater understanding of what was being pointed out in the future PCB and its relations with the working class.

The following chapters of the book continue to deal with burning issues in the history of the PCB and the problems surrounding it, the debate on the Insurrection of November 1935 that Marly Vianna makes and places this event with a great political mistake of the party, this is demonstrated in the article of his authorship tracing the connections between the leaders of the party and the dialogue between the Communist International, the weaknesses that led the party after this episode in a great period of repression and exile from Brazilian political life.

But this did not mean the party's period of immobility, as we see in the article by Edvaldo Correia Santana – O PCB e a Luta pela Paz Mundial – that the conditions for the party's performance in the Brazilian scenario fluctuate according to the external conditions of world politics and the events that would become keys to understanding the oscillations in the political line of the party, which in the 1940s headed towards a more classist line confronting the Dutra government and its full support of foreign capital, we see that in that decade the party adopted a line of fact more combative, however, this never crystallized into a maximum plan (strategy), after the XX Congress of the CPSU, in 1956, there was in fact a political crisis in the communist movement that reordered the political line of several Communist Parties around the world to outside.

We also see that the PCB, during the end of the 30s until the end of the 50s, largely took two paths, either based on a revolutionary line or on a step-by-step line. This difficulty in establishing a lasting political line is, as highlighted in the article, a major weakness in its history.

If we can speak of a political weakness, we say that the party did not draw a single clear line of confrontation with the contradictions of Brazilian capitalism, something that crystallized into a kind of “politicism ruse”.[v] The chapter that makes an accurate analysis of the VI Congress of 1967 is that of Milton Pinheiro – The VI Congress of the PCB and the Construction of Tactical Politicism - which aims to analyze the structural and conjunctural process in the early 60s, the program adopted at that time was considered leftist by some, as it criticized João Goulart's government to the point of destabilizing it, instead of focusing criticism on Lacerda's government and of Adhemar de Barros, in this sense, Milton Pinheiro assesses: “Therefore, deviations to the right of the political line contributed to the party's inability to react to the 1964 bourgeois-military coup and fueled politicism” (p. 183).

The acceptance of the theses was not unanimous, on the contrary, many intellectuals linked to the party elaborated theses thinking about new forms of political confrontation and analysis of the Brazilian conjuncture, a vision that eliminated any alliance with the national bourgeoisie given its own position in Brazilian dependent capitalism . The most blunt criticisms were given by Caio Prado Júnior and who confronted the official theses offering a more concrete interpretation and which over time proved to be the most accurate, according to the author.

Complex political processes in a complex society, as soon as the PCB had to act, a country that has its own way of being and continues to be with changes always on top, preserving the old, does not have a direct democracy as a horizon with the participation of the working class and marginalized social segments, in this sense, the PCB acted in a way to give political awareness and incentive for the direct presence of these layers, through the creation of popular committees, union movement and broad front demonstrated unequivocally, so much so, who, after the party's repeal in May 1947, were the first to be persecuted and destroyed.

Themes with the party's relationship with youth appear, as well as the feminist and black movement, something essential for a greater understanding of the very structures historically shaped by the ruling class in the repression of these two groups, one through patriarchy and the other through racism. Race and class were not always synonymous in the Brazilian movement, so that ideas would only have some penetration after the 30s with external influences advocated based on the analyzes of the Communist International and which reflected the PCB's change in relation to black people, written article by Gabriel dos Santos – The Racial Question in the Communist Party - which comes to broaden the debate and reflections regarding the incorporation of these guidelines in the general struggle of the revolutionary movement.

The PCB in its history went through many political movements, but in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro its most incisive performance was concentrated, the article by journalist Breno Altman – Uma Breve História dos Comunistas Paulistas (1976-1986) - offers the reader an analysis of the communist movement in three points related to the process of restructuring the party, after the great repression that lasted from 1974 to 1976 under the central committee and the process of reorganization of the party under the state committee of São Paulo, the clash between they and the central organs also without analysed.

The conflicts in which the party was involved in the late 50s led to a split that resulted in the creation of the PCdoB in 1962, which called itself a continuation of the party and authenticated its policy with a break with the Soviet Union. The article written by José Reinaldo de Carvalho can clarify many issues of the party, which was also important in the 60s and 70s in the confrontation between the dictatorship and the Guerrilha do Araguaia.

In summary, we can analyze that the book addresses many aspects of the life of the PCB and some that even go beyond its history, but that without them it would be difficult to analyze the work as a whole, a book that can instigate new research for those who are starting their academic life. at that moment or those that will still begin, the archives consulted in this book contain a rich collection for the study of the history of the left in Brazil and also of the labor movement. I quote one of them that has a major tonic which is precisely the Historical Archive of the Brazilian Opera Movement – ASMOB, curated by Unesp and cited in several articles in the book, for historians and researchers alike, it is a great opportunity for research and investigation into the most varied themes involving the party.

*Lucas Pereira da Paz Bezerra is majoring in History at the University of São Paulo.


Lincoln Secco & Luiz Bernardo Pericás (eds.). History of the PCB. Cotia, Ateliê Editorial, 2022, 432 pages (https://amzn.to/3sdAKNF).


[I] FALCÃO, João. Giocondo Dias. The life of a revolutionary. Rio de Janeiro: Act, 1993 (https://amzn.to/444Rmo5).


COELHO, Marco Antônio Tavares. Inheritance of a dream: the memories of a communist. Editora Record, 2000 (https://amzn.to/3KIysfH).

[iii] History of the PCB – organization Lincoln Secco, Luiz Bernardo Pericás. – 1st ed. – Cotia, SP: Ateliê Editorial, 2022. (p.37) (https://amzn.to/3sdAKNF).

[iv] Ibid., p.80

[v] This category was elaborated by the Marxist philosopher José Chasin (1937-1998), who, analyzing the texts of Marx's youth, through an immanent reading of the same, captures in them what will become known as the “ontonegative determinations of politicity”. Analyzing the Marxian texts, he finds that “since it is a configuration of ontological nature, the essential purpose of this theory is to identify the character of politics, clarify its origin and configure its peculiarity in the constellation of the predicates of the social being” (Chasin, 2009, p. .64). The prevalence of political discourse as opposed to economic discourse is part, according to Chasin, of the opposition in Brazil. And this makes the economic model advocated and imposed on the general corporate framework, therefore, under the aegis of capital, functional. In this sense, the ontonegativity of politics is revealed through the “autonomization and political prevalence in the 'political' to the detriment of the anatomy of the social, that is, the economic foundation” (Chasin, 2000, p.8). For a deeper understanding of these categories, see: CHASIN, José. Marx: ontological status and methodological resolution. São Paulo: Boitempo, vol. 2, 2009. See also CHASIN, José. Brazilian misery: 1964-1994: from the military coup to the social crisis. Ad Hominem Studies and Editions, 2000.

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