Jacob Gorender

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By LINCOLN SECCO*

A XNUMXth century communist with all the implications of that condition

São Paulo City Council. 1995. Osvaldo Coggiola, Lincoln Secco and Jacob Gorender

Jacob Gorender (1923-2013) was a XNUMXth century communist with all the implications of that condition. Between the police pursuits and the tactical oscillations determined by the Central Committee that forced the militants to perform theoretical pirouettes in order to justify the new line, he went through all the vicissitudes of his party without losing his Marxist conviction. A member of the Brazilian Expeditionary Force in Italy, he was one of the first Brazilian intellectuals to learn about the ideas of Antonio Gramsci.

From the Mantiqueira Conference, when the “Bahian group” to which he would belong won the leadership of the PCB, passing through support for Getúlio Vargas, opposition to him, legality, impeachment, the rural guerrillas of the 1950s, Jacob Gorender played a prominent role in all those phases. He was one of the drafters of the famous declaration of March 1958 that adapted the PCB to an “era of peaceful coexistence”. Later, Jacob Gorender courageously broke with the PCB, helped to found the PCBR, and the entire subsequent story is known and narrated in his great book combat in the dark, in which the eyewitness of history merged perfectly with the historian, although we need not agree with his judgment about Luiz Carlos Prestes.

Jacob Gorender and Caio Prado Junior

As a historian, Jacob Gorender established himself by merit rather than title. He was self-taught and matured the theses of his book colonial slavery in prision. Along the lines of Caio Prado Junior, he tried to understand the failure of the PCB in 1964 by turning to the history of Brazil, but few people understood that he did not separate himself from the general framework in which this reading took place, namely: the Marxism of the PCB .

Unlike Caio Prado, Jacob Gorender sought to classify the colony's internal production relations and find the “dominant mode of production”. That's why he was methodologically closer to Nelson Werneck Sodré, with whom he was an opponent, than to Caio Prado Junior, with whom he was a friend. This fact has not yet been studied. One explanation is that perhaps we let ourselves be carried away by the violence of language that characterized the relationship between Gorender and Sodré and that can be gauged in the methodological reflections that begin the book. colonial slavery and in Werneck Sodré's response in the article “As Desventuras da Marxologia”.

From the work of Caio Prado, Jacob Gorender highlighted the emphasis on the export structure that permanently characterized the Brazilian economy since the beginning of colonization. But he denied the idea that our country can be explained by analyzing its commercial structure, that is, within the scope of the distribution and circulation of goods, whose dynamic center was exogenous to the colony, located in the central European countries.

Without denying our dependence and the importance of the slave trade, he gave importance to the internal colonial market and, like Nelson Werneck Sodré (albeit in opposition to it) sought to describe the internal relations of production. Thus, Jacob Gorender places himself within the same problematic as Werneck Sodré and Alberto Passos Guimarães, although he saw with more sympathy the only one who, in fact, polarized the debate with those authors: Caio Prado Junior.

The political expression of the rupture with the PCB on the part of Jacob Gorender was the armed struggle. In this respect, Caio Prado Junior, who did not advocate this line of action, was closer to the PCB (from which he never left) and to Nelson Werneck Sodré, who wrote about the unfeasibility of military confrontation, than to Jacob Gorender.

Jacob Gorender and Florestan Fernandes

But that rupture was still not informed by his new reading of Brazilian history, made later, in prison. The political consequences of this reading on his later militancy have not yet been analyzed, especially when he supported the left wings of the Workers' Party (PT) and the MST struggles in the 1980s and 1990s.

Some data are significant: he considered that the persistence of the small property contradicted Caio Prado Junior's agrarian theses (or the reading that was made of them). Could this explain his support for the MST?

It was in the 1980s that he opposed those who wanted to “rehabilitate slavery”, rescuing the conciliatory subjectivity of the dominated, when it came to accentuating the collective and anti-systemic subjectivity of the quilombolas. Was this conception not quite close to the radical sectors of black protest at that time?

He defended the idea that the bourgeois revolution in Brazil had already taken place in a historically concentrated process that involved the struggle for abolition. Wouldn't he be opposing Florestan Fernandes' conception, on the one hand, and the PT's policy of alliances on the other?

Jacob Gorender didn't flirt with what he suspected was eclectic. It is possible that he saw aspects of eclecticism in both Caio Prado Junior's and Florestan's training. And that didn't stop him from deeply admiring the two of them. He brought him closer to Caio Prado, in addition to friendship, the devastating criticism of the PCB made in the book The Brazilian Revolution. And from Florestan the status of revolutionary publicist who led an entire generation.

Both were independent Marxist intellectuals within the PT. And both on the left wing, although with no organic link with trends. In Gorender's case, he wasn't even affiliated, he only signed an affiliation form after Florestan Fernandes' death.

Gorender and the PT

Photo: Ciro Seiji Yoshiyasse. Bank Workers Union (SP). unknown date

The popular democratic program that most of us supported in the PT was a policy that aimed to create the national economy through the formation of an internal mass market, the increase of wages, the organization of the landless and the unionization of rural workers, with emphasis on for agrarian reform.

Certainly, the creation of the internal market would solve the impasses of the “inorganic sector” of the population, of the unemployed, helpless and disconnected from the main productive activities. But what Gorender and Florestan saw above all of us is that without the perspective of Social Revolution, the PT's popular reformism of the 1980s would become conservative reformism, from top to bottom.

Fluent in the Russian language, Jacob Gorender accompanied the Perestroika of Mikhail Gorbachev and the attempted restorative coup in the Soviet Union (in loco). He was assisted by Florestan Fernandes to obtain documents and diplomatic support for his trip to Moscow. In the 1990s, he still surprised everyone with his discussions about neoliberalism and the theses of Robert Kurz and published a daring work: Marxism without utopia.

In homage, I can only speak of the historian, whom I read since my adolescence, and the man I met, already in his old age in the PT and on his trips to USP. Old, but fighter. Tough and generous militant. How many times did we go to his house in the 1990s to talk and to help him put his books away. I often went there with my friend Luis Fernando Franco. There we met his valiant companion Idealina. Sometimes we met Jacob Gorender together with comrades Carlos Santiago (with whom he corresponded) and Ciro Seiji.

I remember when my partner Marianne Reisewitz and I took him to a meeting of the Association of University Professors of History in Campinas. He shared a table with me (a simple undergraduate student), Luis Fernando and with our friend Paulo Henrique Martinez who was an advisor to Florestan Fernandes in his office on Rua Santo Antônio, in the Bixiga neighborhood, in São Paulo.

Very friendly with our Nucleus of Studies of The capital, Gorender gave us a portion of his library (annotated books about slavery). We met sometimes at the cinemas on Avenida Paulista, where he went a lot. Jacob Gorender also frequented Teatro Municipal and Sala São Paulo, as he loved classical music. When he worked for Editora Abril he wrote several of those inserts that accompanied the vinyl records of Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin etc.

At the time of his death we felt abandoned. Who would teach us to study the difficult political conjunctures we are experiencing? Who would have the courage to shake the dust off ossified theories and, in the battle of ideals, dare to fight, dare to win?

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

Originally published on the Boitempo blog, in 2013.

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