No one said it would be Easy

Carlos Cruz-Diez, Physichromie 1, 1959


Considerations on the recently published book by Valério Arcary

“Are our comrades also our friends? What is the relationship between militant commitment and happiness? Should we trust the directions? Is militancy a moral crusade? Is it not necessary to discuss the subjective dimension of life, psychic suffering?”

Form is always content. And vice versa. Marx and Engels did the Communist Manifesto aiming at the objective that the pamphlet would be read and understood by the mass of workers. Something that, strictly speaking, still makes sense – personal testimony: 142 years later, at the age of 16, incomplete high school, living in the interior of Minas Gerais, a public school student, I not only read and understood, but also made the Manifesto a lifetime reference.

By deciding to collect and organize dozens of reflections – apparently unpretentious – previously published on his website Facebook and turning them into book chapters, Valério Arcary clashed with the logic of the lord of all things – the young Mark Zuckerberg. Perpetuate the thought. Register and format it – value fabulation, the intellectual process. Prevent elaborations from ending up in the form of a disposable link – doomed to disappear on social networks.

The book has 42 short chapters (ex-posts). They can be read from front to back, from back to front, from middle to end, from end to beginning, etc.

By the way, a recurrent topic, and very current: when dealing with religiosity, the author emphasizes that being a socialist has nothing to do with joining an organization of atheists/agnostics.

The socialist program constitutes the absolute separation between State and Churches. It does not interfere with the dimension of private life. Faith (or the absence of it) is an individual experience. However, the political struggle against reactionary churches is legitimate and necessary.

Valério Arcary deals with many thorny issues for any leftist organization. Generously – preserving its customary elegance puts the finger and even pokes a bunch of wounds. How should militants relate to the leadership of their collectives? How to work in a team? What limits separate private life from public action or separate passion from fanaticism?

The author's general line is: neither credulity nor idealization. Neither chronic suspicion nor naivety – socialist militancy is a lifelong commitment.

Life and work

Historical leader of the Brazilian left, Valério Arcary says he decided to become a professional revolutionary (Marxist and Trotskyist) at the age of 21.

Born in Rio de Janeiro, he studied in Portugal and France. He was living in Lisbon at the magical time when the Carnation Revolution. Even today he carries a strong Portuguese accent in his speech, squeaking more than a typical carioca – a characteristic that, added to his voluminous oratory, always gave him prominence, a certain almost exotic charm.

Back in Brazil in 1978, Arcary joined the Socialist Convergence, an organization that he helped direct for many years. He was also, for a long time, its main public figure.

Trotskyist current referenced in the thinking of the Argentinean Nahuel Moreno, the Socialist Convergence played a very important role in the creation of the PT and the CUT. It had a significant presence in the student and trade union movement from the mid-1970s to the early 1990s, forming generations of militants.

In 1992, the Socialist Convergence broke with the PT, creating the PSTU. Initial sectarian turn, which ended up flowing into the current positions of the party, an increasingly smaller and less relevant grouping. They are anti-Maduro, against Evo, Cuba, Lula. The level of sectarianism is so acute that it becomes very difficult to classify them. Dispute with the PCO the position of sect exchange most exotic in the country.

Many sectors and cadres left the old Socialist Convergence over the years. Some of them remained in the PT for a long time and then devoted themselves to building the PSOL (such as Babá's CST or Luciana Genro's MES, for example).

Valério Arcary, professor of history at the São Paulo public school system, helped direct and was a respected speaker who voiced the positions of Convergência/PSTU for years on end.

In 2016, the MAIS (movement for an independent socialist alternative) emerged within the PSTU, initially an internal tendency that led strong dissidence and ended up leaving the Party. A few months after the break with the PSTU, MAIS decided to join the PSOL. Valério Arcary, leader of this grouping, was one of the main leaders who operated the split (painful, I imagine) with the PSTU and the political relocation of the collective towards the PSOL.

Always respected by the leaders of various groups on the left (even when he had to reverberate by attenuating the sectarian delusions of the PSTU to the maximum), Valério Arcary was one of the main promoters of “Lula Livre”. Afterwards, he becomes a protagonist in the construction of the PSOL-PT alliance.

a red book

In addition to the tiny chapters, the author also often opts for short sentences. Formatted diction almost saw aphorisms. For example:

“Not everyone is cool. Tolerance cannot prevail with dishonest and crooked people.”

“Left political currents are not armored against bureaucratic danger. But it is not true that individual leaderships are more reliable than collectives or trends”.

“We don't need heroes. Everything in life is imperfect. Absolute trust or distrust is infantilization. Political idealization is the prelude to disillusionment. Leaders are not born ready, they are educated”.

“It is not possible to be a socialist without acquiring habits of discipline for studying (...) a decision that requires a permanent commitment to our self-education”.

Edited with the usual care by Boitempo, Nobody said it will be easy, in addition to being practical reading, should simultaneously please both cranky old communists and enthusiastic young militants.

Obviously no one said it would be easy. The title is pure provocation. Valério Arcary reminds us that revolution is not even that difficult – even less impossible. Capitalism remains – day after day – a cruel and oppressive machine. Perhaps Valério Arcary really wanted to say: all tools are precarious, leadership is more or less and the program will never know exactly what it is.

What is certain is that against everything, against everyone and against the majority of ourselves, we will win. By the way: who dared say it would be easy?

* Julian Rodrigues, journalist and teacher, is a Human Rights and LGBTI activist.


Valerio Arcary. No one said it would be Easy. São Paulo, Boitempo, 2022, 160 pages (

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