Mario Pedrosa, anti-fascist



Mário Pedrosa left a historical legacy that has not lost its relevance

This year 2020 marks the 120th anniversary of the birth of Mário Pedrosa, a socialist activist and Brazilian art critic who, in the 1930s, in São Paulo, led the anti-fascist resistance in street acts and in countless texts produced against the fascist advance. that we seek to rescue here. Brazil at that time was very different, the bourgeoisie was divided after the 1930 movement and the political regime remained unstable. The economic crisis after 1929 deepened and workers' social mobilizations grew. A party – Ação Integralista Brasileira – inspired by European fascist movements advanced and, although caricatured in its gestures and mediocre in its manifestos and proposals, threatened trade union organizations and workers’ parties, gained sympathies from sectors such as the police, military, politicians and the social classes. middle and petty bourgeoisie.

The young militant Mário Pedrosa, then 33 years old, acted as leader of the Internationalist Communist League (LCI), an organization that was part of the so-called International Left Opposition led by Leon Trotsky and that aspired to reform the Stalinized III International. The Opposition had decided and applied in all countries a guideline for the broadest unity of workers' organizations to stop the advance of fascism. In Brazil, Mário Pedrosa, at the head of the fierce group of LCI militants, launched a call to all organizations in São Paulo to unite and form a united front to face the first actions of integralist bands. At the same time Pedrosa was also editing in Brazil the classic book by Leon Trotsky in which he analyzes the rise of Nazism. Revolution and counterrevolution in Germany, which he translates and presents.

The anti-fascist united front (FUA) was formed at a rally held on June 10, 1933 in São Paulo, organized in memory of the Italian worker Giacomo Matteotti murdered by the Mussolini regime. More than 500 people were present. On July 14th, also to celebrate the date of the fall of the Bastille and the beginning of the French revolution, a new political act officially inaugurated the anti-fascist united front in São Paulo. The front brought together anarchist, socialist, Trotskyist, unionist, immigrant groups and newspapers, and even Stalinist base communists, despite the veto of its leadership. The police soon arrested Mário Pedrosa and several militants, but clashes with fascist gangs multiplied in the capital of São Paulo. On November 14, 1933, an FUA demonstration that was taking place in a hall on Avenida Celso Garcia was attacked by dozens of Integralists who forced their way into the place. The police arrived, watched the fascists attack and then also attacked the worker militants as they left for their homes. The anti-fascist movement was not intimidated and continued to be active in the streets. On January 25, 1934, he called a public demonstration in Largo da Concórdia, which was previously taken over by police repression forces to intimidate the movement. Mário Pedrosa was one of the few speakers who managed to speak at the demonstration, which was then attacked with horses by the Public Force, the equivalent at the time to the current military police.

The militant nucleus that animated the front was composed of the LCI militants led by Mário Pedrosa. They had decided, to help with the constitution and consolidation of the anti-fascist campaign, to found a mass newspaper in 1933 –  The Free Man. The pages of this periodical, which circulated in São Paulo between 1933 and 1934, are some of the most interesting historical witnesses to the tenacity and courage of the anti-fascist movement, but also reveal the clashes and difficulties of the daily struggle. The newspaper sought to bring together representatives of different organizations, mobilize the working classes of the city, inform and denounce the barbarism of fascism in Europe and attacked fascists in Brazil. Mário Pedrosa wrote in 12 of the 22 published issues. Most of the articles were signed only by pseudonyms. The newspaper managed to survive heroically and its last issue was published in February 1934, but the FUA continued to act boldly.

Mário Pedrosa wrote articles mainly on themes related to the anti-fascist struggle. But he also contributed to cultural themes such as an interesting review of the recently released film Scarface in which he takes the opportunity to compare the practice of Chicago gangsters with those of the bourgeoisie all over the world; a book review history of Brazil by the poet Murilo Mendes, in which he highlights the importance of poems about Canudos, Palmares and the Chibata revolt; and a long review published over four issues on the exhibition in São Paulo of paintings by the German artist Khäte Kollwitz, which is practically her debut as a future and brilliant art critic.

Among the various political articles, centrally concerned with analyzing the advance of Nazism, the one of greatest importance for the lucid analysis and perspectives it offers is perhaps The National Socialism and the Economic Crisis: Lessons from the Defeat of the German Proletariat” in the month of September 1933[I]. In this text, Mário Pedrosa takes stock of the German economic crisis under the Nazi government, which began with the rise of Hitler as chancellor on January 30, 1933. which paved the way for the Nazi dictatorship. He cites the appeasing declarations of both socialists and communists, the latter publicly affirming that the crisis and the misery of the German workers and petty bourgeoisie would soon cause the fall of Nazism. For Mário Pedrosa, this analysis was completely superficial and ignored the defeat suffered by the German workers. Indignant, he writes: “The optimism of these assertions are boastful, they completely set aside one thing: the role of the proletarian party (…) they do not notice that, meanwhile, fascism has won in Germany and destroyed the workers’ organizations, including their parties politicians, their sports clubs, their libraries, their trade unions, their cooperatives, their factory committees, etc. How will the indignation or revolt of the masses take the form of positive resistance other than through their class organizations? How can resistance against fascism be organized other than through the class party? ”

The following month, in October 1933, a new article by Pedrosa describes the negotiations and attempts by the imperialist powers to contain Hitler's rearmament, who at that time sought to convince the capitalist powers that his main objective was the destruction of the Soviet Union to complete the already advanced work of destruction of the German labor movement. Pedrosa writes: “in order to consolidate its positions within the country, fascism was forced in the early days to present itself with extreme prudence abroad. It was even necessary to shed its bellicose and chauvinist, anti-French character, and give the imperialist powers other guarantees of their good neighborly intentions. (…) “But these were only the political premises for the further action of the imperialist bourgeoisie in Germany. German capitalism, in need of new markets and a new outlet for its production, now demands the execution of another stage of the Nazi “revolution”. … Hitler needs to arm himself to definitively launch his candidacy for head of an anti-Soviet capitalist crusade.[ii]"

But Mário Pedrosa also criticizes the position of the Soviet Union in underestimating the capacity of the labor movement and betting on a path of concessions and agreements with the capitalist countries: “trapped in the mirage of national socialism, the Soviet leaders, without faith in the forces of the international proletariat , preferred to resort to the methods of diplomatic negotiations, combinations with capitalist governments, the illusions of pacifism, the search for guarantees of peace and security through international agreements and treaties, pacts of non-aggression and friendship, “disarmament” conspiracies ”, and become entangled in the mesh of imperialist diplomatic intrigues”. And he continues: “The fate of the Soviet state has always been indissolubly linked to the fate of the masses oppressed by the imperialists. The policy of Soviet diplomacy, however, separated its immediate interests from the interests of the proletarian masses abroad. (…) It is time for the proletariat to reaffirm its active internationalism to impose its solution on the capitalist world, that is, the radiant civilization that it carries within itself. To the European peoples on the eve of being murdered again, the powerful voice of proletarian internationalism must be heard”.

Mário Pedrosa was not an office activist (today a virtual activist?), or only in published texts. In the months that cover the year 1933 and 1934 he was in numerous activities in the streets, involved with the organization and anti-fascist actions in the capital. On the 1st of May 1934, the FUA managed to gather more than three thousand people in front of the Palace of Industries in Parque D. Pedro. Mário Pedrosa spoke on behalf of the Communist League and called the State Department of Labor “work brothel", defending the unity of workers to face fascism and the formation of workers' militias to defend and confront aggressions[iii]. But the biggest and historic anti-fascist demonstration that marked the history of the FUA was actually a counter-demonstration articulated to prevent a great integralist celebration that was being prepared. The confrontation took place on October 7, 1934 in the middle of Praça da Sé in the center of the capital of São Paulo. Mário Pedrosa acted as leader of the FUA and the LCI in the preparation of the counter-demonstration, even getting the Stalinists to join. The action consisted of preventing the Integralists, who even organized caravans from cities in the interior, from celebrating their second anniversary in a public square. The book "The flock of green chickens” by Fúlvio Abramo, narrates and documents all the details of this memorable fight. In fact, a pitched battle and a firefight for hours prevented the Brazilian fascists from taking to the streets and occupying Praça da Sé. Among the wounded, Mário Pedrosa was shot during the fight. Four policemen and a young Communist militant were killed.

There was evident and expected resistance from the fascists, boycotts by fascist German and Italian businessmen residing in Brazil, systematic police persecution. But there was also the surprising resistance of the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB), already almost entirely absorbed by the guidelines of Stalinist tyranny. The PCB became part of the FUA for a few months but then left, which led to an unflattering article by Mário Pedrosa entitled “Coherence in desertion”, incidentally the last one he wrote in the newspaper: “in the fight against fascism, in defense democratic freedoms, which today only benefit the oppressed in the struggle for their emancipation, there is no place for those who passively believe in revealed truths, in dogmas directed at the cost of falsification and lies. to persist in the mistakes that led to the German catastrophe would now not only be a capitulation, but a deliberate betrayal of the cause of the working classes.[iv]".

The numerous activities of the FUA throughout the years 1933 and 1934 demonstrated a lively capacity of the labor movement at the time to lead and guarantee, as far as possible, the most elementary democratic freedoms that were increasingly threatened. In the following years, Brazil would be shaken by new political shocks. The Brazilian Stalinists who boycotted the FUA months later – lost between Stalin's orders to seek a common alliance with the bourgeoisie and the adventurous mentality of the newly arrived Prestistas coming from tenentismo – led to the ANL (Aliança Nacional Libertadora) an artificial attempt to build a broad democratic front submitted to the Brazilian bourgeoisie, but also in the communist military adventure of 1935, which served as an excellent pretext for a broad repression of all workers' organizations, facilitating the way for the brutal dictatorship of Vargas. Mário Pedrosa wrote a long review of these recent experiences in 1937 and analyzes what he called colonial fascism:

“In the old countries, in order to carry out its work of destroying workers' organizations, fascism is not satisfied with enlisting its gangsters, but needs to present a profoundly demagogic program, with strong socialist overtones. Otherwise, it could not create a vast mass movement, including even certain proletarian strata (…). Not having the immediate, primordial task of pulling the masses out of the influence of socialist ideology, colonial fascist demagoguery tends to take on a different character. The lack of concentration of the proletariat, its lack of a hegemonic position in the apparatus of production, the absence of developed class consciousness, the weakness of its organizations and parties, etc., can dispense fascism from the absolute need for truly mass support. , active and dynamic. On the other hand, the most suitable culture broth for fascist proliferation, which is the petty bourgeoisie, does not have, in Brazil, homogeneity nor, above all, is it bound by common general interests. It is divided into groups separated from each other, without communications between them, without identical traditions, without synchronized economic and social conditions. All these factors hinder its sedimentation across the country. The urban petty bourgeoisie can be a malleable instrument of fascism. But it could also easily be conducted by the proletariat, given the miserable conditions of its existence in the big cities.”[v].

Months later Mário Pedrosa flees into exile abroad with the threat of imprisonment from the dictatorship of the Estado Novo Vargas. Decades later, in 1966, he published the book The Brazilian Option resuming and centering forces again in the fight against the new dictatorship that was rising in the country. If the world is different today and we are no longer in the 1930s, capitalism continues to strike and threaten humanity's possibilities to overcome the current health and economic crises, putting the already fragile Brazilian democracy itself in check. Mário Pedrosa left a historical legacy that has not lost its relevance. The defeat of authoritarian forces and their small fascist bands financed by big landowners depends first of all on the unity and mobilization of working class organizations.

*Everaldo de Oliveira Andrade is a professor of contemporary history at FFLCH-USP.


Hugs, Fulvio. The flock of green chickens, Sao Paulo: Veneta, 2014.

Abramo, Fulvio and Karepovs, Dainis (eds.). Against the tide of history, São Paulo: Sundermann, 2015.

Andrade, Everaldo de Oliveira. Mário Pedrosa, in: Pericás, Luiz and Secco, Lincoln. Interpreters from Brazil: classics, rebels and renegades, Sao Paulo: Boitempo, 2014.

Karepovs, Dainis. Pas de politique mariô, Mário Pedrosa and politics, São Paulo: Ateliê, 2017.

Pedrosa, Mario. The Brazilian option, Rio de Janeiro: Brazilian Civilization, 1966.

Trotsky, Leon. Revolution and Counter-Revolution in Germany, São Paulo: Human Sciences, 1979.

Documents: Newspaper collection O Homem Livre, May 1933 to February 1934. The complete collection is available on Unesp's CEMAP/CEDEM page.


[I] The Free Man, 13, 1933.

[ii]  The Free Man, 17, 1933.

[iii] Dainis Karepovs, Pas de Politique Mariô, P. 62.

[iv]  The Free Man, 22, 1934. Also quoted in D. Karepovs, Pas de Politique Mariô, P. 61.

[v]Mário Pedrosa, “The National Situation, Theses Approved by the Provisional Central Committee of the Leninist Workers' Party in June 1937”, in: Abramo, F. E Karepovs, Against the tide of history, P. 323.

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