Joan Josep Tharrats, Untitled.


Commentary on the recently released biography by Fernando Moraes of the Brazilian political leader

In a short story by Jorge Luis Borges, The immortal, the author observes: “With the exception of man, all creatures are immortal, because they ignore death. Everything among mortals has the value of the irrecoverable and the dangerous. Among the immortals, on the other hand, nothing is preciously precarious.” Immortality would not be within reach of human beings. For solipsists, the only thing that exists is the self and its immediate sensations. If the self dies, what was solid melts into air and mixes with dust. Goodbye immortality.

However, there are causes that confer a transcendental aura to individuals by expressing a desire for collective emancipation. The fight against patriarchy (sexism), colonialism (racism) and social inequalities breaks the shackles of individualism. The struggle that articulates this set of ideas is what raises Lula to immortality in the pantheon of humanity. The outburst makes philosophical sense: “They tried to kill an idea, and an idea cannot be killed”. Vero.

Fernando Morais has the charisma of prose (Olga, Annoying, or wizard), which describes the facts while moving hearts. Volume 1 of the “first major biography” on Squid it is easy to read and attractive. It reads like a novel, looking forward to the second volume. Gramsci said that it is impossible to write the history of a party without at the same time writing the history of the country. Paraphrasing him, we can say that to dwell on the character embodied by Lula is to rediscover the history of Brazil in the last five decades. Founder of the Workers' Party (PT) and the Central Única dos Trabalhadores (CUT), Lula distinguished himself as an “organic (unconventional) intellectual” of the working classes. He built a theoretical-organizational “new vision” on the relations of capital and work, with an exceptional and refined “programmatic intuition”, in the Gramscian sense.

The work begins with a narrative about the unjust imprisonment of the popular leader. He mentions the shameful conviction of Sérgio Moro, with more than two hundred pages and without a measly proof against Lula in the Affair of the Triplex, the collusion with the Lava Jato task force headed by Deltan Dallagnol and the record time for the confirmation of the penalty by the Federal Regional Court (TRF-4), headquartered in Porto Alegre. The tome suggested a collection of “robust evidence”. A mise-en-scène provincial tainted the Judiciary and the Public Prosecutor's Office (MP). The revelations of Vaza Jato, yes, gathered a body of evidence contrary to the warp that hijacked the sovereignty of the electorate in the 2018 elections. To close the sordid scenario, the former judge joined the ministry of Jair Bolsonaro. That the repulsive figure, judged incompetent and suspect by the Federal Superior Court (STF), has the nerve to run for office now is an affront to minimal decency.

Next, the work shows the similarity of the electoral strategies anchored in fake news, distributed to millions of unwary people in specific social segments. The rule was to have no qualms about spreading lies. The intention was not to publicize a program, but to manipulate the fear of conservative sectors in the face of the civilizing vectors of modernity: respect for differences and the rights of women, black men and women, LGBTQIA+ groups, indigenous peoples and biodiversity. You get to know the role of the marketer, Steve Bannon, in the Trump campaign in the United States and Bolsonaro in Brazil. Bannon “directed the website Far-right Breitbart News financed and disseminated by white supremacists, neo-Nazis, anti-Semites, radical nationalists” (p. 132).

When the ex-president was released from prison, he went to the Vigil installed in front of the Federal Police building, in Curitiba. “Every single day you were the nourishment of democracy that I needed to resist the naughty and scoundrel that the rotten side of the Brazilian State did to me and Brazilian society”. Not to say that he didn't talk about love, he added: “I want to introduce you to my future partner. You know, I managed the feat of – arrested – getting a girlfriend and she still agrees to marry me”. To the pleas “kiss, kiss”, he replied with “a cinematic kiss on Janja” (p. 165).

Morais does not follow the chronological order of events, a literary option that gave dynamics to events, in many ways, already known. When recalling Lula's first arrest, when he led massive strikes (1978-79-80) in the most advanced industrial center in the country, the ABC region of São Paulo, he picks up an episode that shows the maturity of the union leader in a troubled region, which held assemblies with one hundred thousand participants. Lula and members of the board of directors of the Metallurgists Union, during the wall movements, were ostensibly followed by agents at the behest of the commander of the Second Army/SP. “One day some comrades showed up proposing a group of forty pedestrians. They would get a bucket of gasoline, come around behind the car, pour the fuel over it and set it on fire, with the cops inside. I thought it was crazy and I didn't let them do it” (p. 169). A strong electricity hovered in the conjuncture.

The movement received support from abroad. “At the height of the strike, two young people from the countryside, one from Paraná and the other from Rio Grande do Sul, metallurgists linked to the Pastoral Operária, toured Europe, seconded by the Church to participate in courses and internships in unions and social organizations. The objective was to learn how to consolidate factory commissions, an extension of the union within the workplace. In Paris they were entrusted with a political task. Give the Diocese of Santo André a brown and reasonably fat envelope, with dollars (about R$ 340 in 2021) donated by the French Democratic Labor Confederation (CFDT).

The money arrived intact in the hands of d. Cláudio Hummes (today one of the main advisors of Pope Francis). The unexpected contribution was so generous that the bishop called Lula to the matrix to personally receive the valuable help. Trembling when seeing the idol up close, none could have imagined that he would be the minister of that disheveled beard. D. Cláudio announced: Lula, this boy is Miguel Rossetto, from São Leopoldo, and his colleague is Gilberto Carvalho, from Londrina” (p. 178). Churches in different countries and even the USA collected donations.

Having a brother, Frei Chico, who belonged to the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB), and was tortured in the basements of Doi-Codi, Lula felt fear the moment he was taken prisoner, surrounded by armed police. Barrington Moore, in Moral purity and persecution in history (Princeton), compared modes of persecution – including those leading to torture and death – on religious, political or economic grounds to those considered a threatening source of impurity or pollution, from the Old Testament, wars of religion in France in the second half of the XNUMXth century, French Revolution, impure in India. Persecution was the norm under truculent military dictatorships in Latin America at the time. Everyone was aware of the cowardice committed. The fear stemmed from the intolerance and brutality of the barracks regime.

Cardinal D. Paulo Evaristo Arns, accused of instigating the famous strike, proposed three points to resolve the conflict: (a) reopening of the Vila Euclides stadium; (b) release of prisoners and; (c) a meeting between representatives of workers and employers. “What we want is a dialogue with dignity, so that the workers return with joy and not humiliated on the hard machines” (p. 189-90). The religious herald, which hosted the survey on official harassment of opponents, in Brazil: Never Again (Voices), encouraged by the World Council of Churches and the Archdiocese of São Paulo, by underlining the importance of dignity, it expressed the moral dimension of the saga of the oppressed.

EP Thompson's research, "History from Below," in The peculiarities of the English and other articles (Unicamp), and Jesse Souza, in How racism created Brazil (Estação Brasil), reveal that “the everyday feeling of lack of dignity and the feeling of not being treated as 'people' play a central role in understanding the subjective experience of social humiliation among the marginalized and excluded”. In this way, they are questionable in the Northern and Southern hemispheres.

Morais discusses Lula's childhood full of enormous material difficulties. Coming from a dysfunctional family, in which the father maintained a relationship of “cruelty with the children”, his mother, Dona Lindu, was the ethical constituent in the formation of the moral values ​​of the future president of the Republic. “I know what it's like to live in the back of a bar, having to use a bathroom where a drunk had just thrown up in the sink, shitting on a piece of newspaper. It was that bathroom we used… My mother, two sisters and I slept in the room, as I was the youngest and could sleep with the women. In the kitchen, on folding beds, seven or eight slept” (p. 210). Sad life of a retiree.

Dona Lindu exuded empathy. “If someone clapped at the gate asking for food, she invited the person, no matter how shabby they were, to enter the house, sit at the table and eat with the others. Sitting meant accommodating yourself on a box or stool” (p. 211). Things like that provided lessons in solidarity for the boy growing up in poverty. The precarious conditions led them to change their address.

The Silvas' earnings went to a common cashier, controlled by the matriarch. “Many years later, Lula would say – candidly – ​​that the Budget adopted by his government to try to reduce social inequalities did not come from any compendium of post-doctors or PhDs in Economics, but from the way his mother (who never knew how to read or write ) managed the income and expenses of a poor family. Reimbursements were not proportional to the contribution, but to the needs of each one”. They essentially translated the socialist motto: “From each according to his ability, to each according to his needs” (p. 228). Smart is the one who knows how to learn from experience.

The temptations to honesty – a prosaic apple. “Once a week, on his way home from school, he would pass in front of a stall selling Argentine apples – packed one by one in bluish silk paper, where the origin of the fruit could be read in print. (Brazil would only become a producer ten years later). Lula knew that all he had to do was stretch out his hand to grab one without the owner noticing. The risk was that he would be obliged to return the fruit. But at the time of the boat, the specter of Dona Lindu descended on his conscience and he gave up” (p. 214). When Uncle Odorico asked him to take care of the bar counter, Lula would itch in front of the jar full of Ping-Pong gum. “The stoicism that prevented the teenager from stealing one, just a piece of gum, was not out of fear of being caught, it was out of embarrassment that one day his mother found out that he had appropriated something that did not belong to him” (idem). The mother assumed the role of superego.

It is understood that, with social extraction in the subaltern classes, passing the test for the National Service of Industrial Learning (Senai), an institution maintained by a slice of 2,5% of the payroll of industries for technical workers, is understood as a paradise . “Senai was the best thing that happened. I was my mother's first child to earn more than the minimum wage, the first to own a house, the first to own a car, the first to own a television, the first to own a refrigerator. All because of this profession. I think it was the first time I had contact with citizenship”. Later, at the Planalto Palace, he would interpret: “We were not simple mechanical lathes. We were artists who transformed a piece of iron into a work of art” (p. 217).

Lula did not have much information about what was happening on the Latin American continent. in the newspaper Night Diary I dug up news about Corinthians. “His alienation could be measured by the fact that, even supporting the military, he nurtured silent admiration for the names of former governors Leonel Brizola and Miguel Arraes, sworn enemies of the new regime, which had dispatched both into exile” (p. 225). Class consciousness would emerge with active participation in the struggles and strikes of the Brazilian working class.

The time was one of apparent division in the Armed Forces between the soft lines of Ernesto Geisel and the hard lines of Sílvio Frota and Ednardo D'Ávila Melo. With repression out of control, metallurgist Manuel Fiel Filhao and journalist Vladimir Herzog were murdered. Later, documents showed that there was no difference in nature between the “moderate” and the ultra-right “tigrada” wings, as was supposed in the lead years. Gradually and definitively, economism yielded to the dialectic of classism.

In the union, Lula funded the mobilizations for the replacement of 34,1%. The data on inflation had been manipulated, thanks to a trick carried out by the Minister of Finance, Delfim Neto. The damage needed to be repaired. “We are not going to file a (legal) lawsuit. We will recover losses over time, with salary campaigns” (p. 270). If the battle was lost, the union organization expanded in companies like Volks, Scania, Ford. The “new unionism”, called “authentic”, was emerging. The 1st of May, celebrated with fairs and recreational activities, began to be prepared a month in advance, “with film sessions and theater plays, all followed by debates and discussions on the theme shown” (p. 294). Ideas surfaced.

Gains were not computed only with the rule of economic readjustments. The political-organizational balance was of interest. “We were gaining strength, conquering freedom of action within the companies. That way, in a year we would be controlling the factories. 'A director's place is not in the union, but in the factory', became a refrain. Since the 1968 strikes in Contagem/MG and in Osasco/SP, led by the young twenty-year-old metallurgist José Ibrahim, linked to the Popular Revolutionary Vanguard (VPR), when four hundred workers were arrested, there had not been such agitation at the doors of factories” (p. 311). The developed Southeast was becoming a powder keg.

Symptomatically, chapter 13 has the headline: “After spending years excommunicating the political class, Lula begins to pave the way to create the PT”. The chap. 14 deals with political openness and the death throes of dictatorship. The chap. 15 of the founding of the PT. For some, Sérgio Buarque de Holanda was the first intellectual to favor the PT initiative. For Morais, however, “the number one in the academic world to join Lula's party was the art critic (and Trotskyist) Mário Pedrosa” (p. 348). PT sheet one was signed by a historic revolutionary, the old Apolônio de Carvalho, hero of the French Resistance and the Internationalist Brigades who fought against fascism in the Spanish Civil War. Deserved homage to political praxis, in any quadrant.

The last chap. 17 refers to the injection of courage that Fidel gave Lula after his defeat in the elections for governor of São Paulo, in 1982. Lula obtained 1 million votes, a feat. An appendix on “the behavior of the major communication vehicles in the war against Lula and his party” is appended at the end. It is a privilege to be a contemporary of such a singular public exponent of national and international history, who is taking big steps to govern Brazil for the third time. All right, Fernando.

* Luiz Marques is a professor of political science at UFRGS. He was Rio Grande do Sul's state secretary of culture in the Olívio Dutra government.



Fernando Moraes. Lula: biography, vol. 1. São Paulo, Companhia das Letras, 2021, 416 pages.


See this link for all articles


  • About artificial ignoranceEugenio Bucci 15/06/2024 By EUGÊNIO BUCCI: Today, ignorance is not an uninhabited house, devoid of ideas, but a building full of disjointed nonsense, a goo of heavy density that occupies every space
  • Franz Kafka, libertarian spiritFranz Kafka, libertarian spirit 13/06/2024 By MICHAEL LÖWY: Notes on the occasion of the centenary of the death of the Czech writer
  • The society of dead historyclassroom similar to the one in usp history 16/06/2024 By ANTONIO SIMPLICIO DE ALMEIDA NETO: The subject of history was inserted into a generic area called Applied Human and Social Sciences and, finally, disappeared into the curricular drain
  • Strengthen PROIFESclassroom 54mf 15/06/2024 By GIL VICENTE REIS DE FIGUEIREDO: The attempt to cancel PROIFES and, at the same time, turn a blind eye to the errors of ANDES management is a disservice to the construction of a new representation scenario
  • Hélio Pellegrino, 100 years oldHelio Pellegrino 14/06/2024 By FERNANDA CANAVÊZ & FERNANDA PACHECO-FERREIRA: In the vast elaboration of the psychoanalyst and writer, there is still an aspect little explored: the class struggle in psychoanalysis
  • Letter to the presidentSquid 59mk,g 18/06/2024 By FRANCISCO ALVES, JOÃO DOS REIS SILVA JÚNIOR & VALDEMAR SGUISSARDI: “We completely agree with Your Excellency. when he states and reaffirms that 'Education is an investment, not an expense'”
  • Volodymyr Zelensky's trapstar wars 15/06/2024 By HUGO DIONÍSIO: Whether Zelensky gets his glass full – the US entry into the war – or his glass half full – Europe’s entry into the war – either solution is devastating for our lives
  • PEC-65: independence or patrimonialism in the Central Bank?Campos Neto Trojan Horse 17/06/2024 By PEDRO PAULO ZAHLUTH BASTOS: What Roberto Campos Neto proposes is the constitutional amendment of free lunch for the future elite of the Central Bank
  • Introduction to “Capital” by Karl Marxred triangular culture 02/06/2024 By ELEUTÉRIO FS PRADO: Commentary on the book by Michael Heinrich
  • The strike at federal Universities and Institutescorridor glazing 01/06/2024 By ROBERTO LEHER: The government disconnects from its effective social base by removing those who fought against Jair Bolsonaro from the political table