Long journey to democracy – 100 years of the party

Mona Hatoum


Comment on Eumano Silva's recently released book

After the launch of the first volume written by journalist Carlos Marchi in 2022,[I] the Astrojildo Pereira Foundation brings to the public, specialized or not, the second volume of the book “Long journey to democracy – 100 years of the party (1922-2022)”, written by journalist and writer Eumano Silva, also co-author of the Jabuti Prize winner, More Araguaia.

The volume commented here addresses the trajectory of the PCB (Brazilian Communist Party) from the IV Congress held in 1967 until 1992, a moment in which it was in tune with the winds of change occurring in Eastern Europe and inspired by the process that would culminate in the transformation of the PCI (Italian Communist Party). ) in PDS (Left Democratic Party).

It is in this troubled scenario that the majority group of the party chooses to change its political line, leaving aside the symbols of the hammer and sickle, the revolutionary lexicon, and adopting the acronym PPS (Popular Socialist Party).

The result of long and dense research, Eumano Silva shows over 844 pages the tortuous paths of the Party in the process of confronting the civil-military dictatorship implemented in 1964. The book also addresses the process of struggle for amnesty and redemocratization, the relationship between PCB with the new unionism that emerged in ABC São Paulo at the end of the 1970s, the emergence of the Workers' Party, a group that despite ideological affinities would be one of the causes (not the only one) of the Party's eclipse, and of course the crises and clashes themselves internal differences between different party conceptions and political strategies and tactics.

We historians generally view books like the one written by Eumano with a certain skepticism about possible qualities, whether due to the construction of the narrative of the historical fact, the framing of the characters or other issues that are dear to us. activity historiographical. However, given the analytical rigor, diversity of the characters interviewed, dense bibliographical basis and abundant documentary research, I would venture to say that since its release, alongside the first volume, the work has become a reference for those who wish to understand not only the tortuous paths of what was the great reference for the Brazilian left until the emergence of the Workers' Party,[ii] but also the paths and detours of our democracy.

As journalist Luiz Carlos Azedo, responsible for publishing the book, highlights, “the PCB survived because of its politics. Eumano Silva, through documents, testimonies and bibliographical research, reconstructs the trajectory of these almost anonymous heroes of the fight against the dictatorship, many of whom were kidnapped, imprisoned and savagely tortured. Few members of the Central Committee remained in the country, even if they were hunted dead or alive.”

In a party with eighty years of history, considering the period between 1922 and 1992, internal disputes would be something constant, at extreme moments even causing ruptures - it is worth highlighting that for researchers dedicated to the trajectory of the communist party, the richness of internal debates would be the engine for the formulation of policies that would give relevance to the Party throughout its existence. Dealing mainly with ruptures in collective organizations is not always an easy task, generally it is decided to tell only the version of the winning side, and here we have another merit to highlight in the work, as well as highlighting the stance of the author and the Astrojildo Foundation itself. Pereira.

In some cases, when trying to narrate the history of the Brazilian Communist Party, we see the prevailing perspective of the group that at the time claimed the symbolic memory of the party, almost always resulting in a Manichaean narrative, where the group holding the speech appeared with the air of a hero and the opposing group was almost characterized as a villain. The work proposed by Eumano Silva escapes this Manichaeism when the author chooses to show that even adopting the ill-fated democratic centralism, the party was internally seething, whether due to the clash of ideas or egos, after all we had human beings there.

Plurality becomes latent when verifying the diversity of characters interviewed to construct the narrative. Thus, the reader will have the opportunity to come into contact with the vision of figures linked to the current Cidadania, such as the São Paulo trade unionist Davi Zaia; historian and journalist Ivan Alves Filho; the aforementioned Luiz Carlos Azedo and Roberto Freire, one of the party's main names after the process of changing its name and conception, who would remain at the head of the party until 2023 when he was replaced by professor Comte Bittencourt.

Characters such as José Genoíno, a former member of the PCdoB, who took part in the Araguaia guerrilla and today continue to be active in the PT, and Frei Chico, a prominent militant of the São Paulo PCB in the 70s and brother of current president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva. The diversity of interviewees also includes characters such as Rio trade unionist Ivan Pinheiro, one of the leaders alongside Horácio Macedo of the group that opposed the process that took place in 1992, who would occupy the position of general secretary of the “reconstructed” PCB, and in 2023 he would be one of the organizers of a new rupture to the left within the small association.

Finally, in relation to the diversity of characters heard by Eumano Silva, we can still highlight names such as historian Marly Vianna, close to the credit life group; political scientist Marco Aurélio Nogueira, close to Armênio Guedes’ group; José Salles; Florestan Fernandes Júnior; Mauro Malin, Marcelo Cerqueira and the former governor of Rio de Janeiro, Wellington Moreira Franco.

Thus, covering the 181 chapters of the volume, Eumano Silva presents the reader with facts of fundamental importance not only for understanding the trajectory of the PCB, but also how the intricacies of repression worked throughout the civil-military dictatorship. Repression that ranged from torture carried out in the tenebrous basements to the infiltration of agents and informers, such as the notorious case of the “agent” Carlos and the alleged denunciation of Severino Theodoro de Mello, considered a fundamental figure in the persecution of the Party's Central Committee, resulting in of ten members of the party body.

Throughout the second volume of this long journey, the author also shows situations such as the discovery and dismantling of the PCB printing press, responsible for printing the newspaper Workers' voice, the operation that resulted in the transfer to Italy of the collection of Astrojildo Pereira, one of the founders of the party in 1922. There are also cases such as the much talked about “Moscow gold” and the dispute within the Central Committee that would culminate in the rupture of Luiz Carlos About the beginning of the 1980s.

It is also worth highlighting the investigation and reporting of the operations triggered by repression, especially between 1972 and 1976, when the PCB and its activism became the main target of these bodies. Once the attempt at armed resistance had been annihilated, the time had come to dismantle the organization that had chosen to confront the regime “from within”. Based on the vast documentation produced by security agencies, currently held by the National Archives, Eumano Silva brings new and important elements to understand not only the Party's actions in this historical period, but also how the repression sought to block such initiatives.

Despite the strong attack suffered by repressive bodies throughout the 1970s, the line of political action taken at the Congress held in 1967 began to show results. Even without stopping the political hegemony of the left and the consenting opposition – something clearly unfeasible – the slogans and battle flags proposed by the party are beginning to gain resonance in civil society, which starts to incorporate themes such as amnesty, free elections and direct rights at all levels, freedom of expression and organization, constituency, etc.

Another narrated fact that shows the author's seriousness in conducting the narrative is seen in the approach to the crisis that occurred in the Central Committee in the mid-1970s regarding the issue that involved the party leader, and Prestes' possible successor in leading the CC, José Sales . It is not possible to present the case in detail here, but what remains for the reader is the ability demonstrated by Eumano Silva in listening to the different characters involved and the different interpretative perspectives.

In the second case, the biographies of communist leader Luiz Carlos Prestes written by historian Daniel Aarão Reis Filho,[iii] launched by Companhia das Letras and the volume written by also historian and daughter of the knight of hope, Anita Prestes[iv] and placed in bookstores by Boitempo are compared by the journalist who seeks to bridge the divergence between the authors to weave a sober narrative of the episode.

As the historian José Antônio Segatto, responsible for the book's preface, rightly highlighted, “the author in turn – instead of using, mainly, the existing bibliography – made use, to a large extent, of the documentation, both from the PCB (manifesto resolutions , statements, etc.) such as those produced by government bodies (many of them unpublished, collected in archives), especially those in charge of police investigation and repression; many of these devices, it could be said, operate in the basement of the dictatorial regime or even clandestine. Furthermore, Eumano Silva made use of a variety of testimonies from leaders and activists, some with prominent roles and others supporting or merely lateral roles”.

Journalist Marcelo Godoy,[v] author of the back cover of the publication, highlights that the work done by Eumano Silva, “goes beyond illuminating facts and serving as the reader's eyes in places where we cannot be”. Still according to Marcelo Godoy, “Eumano Silva rediscovers a past, which surrounds us with its mantle and hides itself amidst the deceptive daily normality of forgetting conflicts and paths of the long journey to the present. Understanding this set, without anachronisms, was the next step. Lucien Febvre said that where there is no problem there is no history. Without it, there are only narrations and compilations. A problem is the beginning and end of the story. Eumano Silva helps us understand the twilight of the PCB and rescues the presence of the past and our present without which no pretense of the democratic dream would be possible”.

An observation is worth making here, when talking to the author at the launch held in São Paulo, he highlighted the wealth and quantity of testimonials from interviews carried out throughout the research and that given the quantity and quality of information, each interview even deserved a new book . Here is a tip for the Astrojildo Pereira Foundation to think about such a possibility in the future, to continue telling the History and stories of what was one of the main political parties in Brazil, whether in the short period in which it acted legally, or in the period of clandestinity showing the perspective of those actors who made this story.

Finally, we highlight again the preface written by José Antônio Segatto which, in addition to saluting Eumano Silva's effort, exalts the initiative of dealing with and exposing the history of the party in its terminal phase, “exposing it in the form of an extensive report, providing a extended public with little or no knowledge of the subject in question, an unprecedented and significant contribution to the understanding of one of the most important institutions of civil and political society (PCB) and an extremely dark historical-political period of the Brazilian Republic”.

With the publication of the second volume of the book “Long journey to democracy – 100 years of the party (1922-2022)”, the Astrojildo Pereira Foundation contributes to the memory of what was one of the main left-wing forces in the country and shows readers that a fair and egalitarian society can only be constituted under the signs of democracy.

* Daniel Costa He is studying for a master's degree in history at the Federal University of São Paulo (Unifesp).


Eumano Silva. Long journey to democracy. The 100 years of the party – 1922 / 2022. Volume II. Brasília, Astrojildo Pereira Foundation, 2024, 844 pages.


[I] For the commentary on the first volume go to: https://aterraeredonda.com.br/pt-e-pcb/

[ii] For a better understanding of the period of the emergence of the Workers' Party and the CUT and the conflicts and tensions generated with the PCB, see: SANTANA, Marco Aurélio. Broken men. Communists and unions in Brazil. Sao Paulo: Boitempo, 2001.

[iii] The biography of Prestes written by historian Daniel Aarão Reis Filho was released in 2014. REIS, Daniel Aarão. Luís Carlos Prestes: A revolutionary between two worlds🇧🇷 São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2014.

[iv] As a kind of counterpoint to the biography written by the Rio historian, Prestes' daughter released a dense biography the following year in which she sought to condense part of her previous production. PRESTES, Anita Leocádia. Luiz Carlos Prestes – A Brazilian communist. Sao Paulo: Boitempo, 2015.

[v] Marcelo Godoy is responsible for publishing a dense report on the intricacies of repression throughout the civil-military dictatorship. See: GODOY, Marcelo. Grandma's house: A biography of DOI-Codi (1969-1991), the kidnapping, torture and death center of the military dictatorship. Sao Paulo: Alameda, 2014.

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