Brazilian Communist Party – 100 years later

Image: Milada Vigerova
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By EVERALDO DE OLIVEIRA ANDRADE & MARKUS SOKOL*

The successors of the founders of the PCB followed for decades tying and blocking the action of the working class

This March 25th marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the PCB. The fact expressed a trajectory and a maturation of the then young Brazilian proletariat. Its early years were the first steps in building a revolutionary party of national reach for the working class. However, it never managed to constitute it, Stalinism prevented it, despite the hard fight of the Left Opposition to defend it.

We do not summarize these years here. We only record that the successors of the founders of the PCB, even more so after the enthronement of Captain Luiz Carlos Prestes at the head of the Brazilian party by the Kremlin around 1935, in which different splits and disagreements weigh - with the notable exception of Hermínio Sacchetta in the 1930s – followed for decades along with Prestes tying down and blocking independent action by the working class. Prestes would have been the longest-lived “general secretary” of the Communist International parties in the world until the end of the Soviet regime. Under his iron, the party has not held half a dozen Congresses in almost half a century!

But since then, different propagandists and so-called historians have tried to erase the struggle of left oppositionists within the PCB to defend the party in the early 1930s, as well as the struggles of anarchists and other socialists of this period. In the PCB, Stalinist brutality expelled militants who dared to debate and disagree with the leadership, dissolved meetings and sabotaged initiatives that were not under its control. Marriages with Trotskyists were not admitted by regiment. And the unspeakable resort to public denunciation was resorted to to facilitate the police arrest of opposition communist militants.

 

The preparation

The great class battle that led to the founding of the PCB went through the great general strike of July 1917, which took place in São Paulo and other cities in the country. Direct clashes with the police triggered a brutal repression of trade unionists, many of them foreign immigrants, with arrests and deportations, closure of headquarters and banning of newspapers. It was the crisis of the First World War (1914-1918) that was directly expressed in class struggles, the same movement that overthrew the Russian Empire of Tsar Nicholas II (“Emperor of Russia, King of Poland and Grand Duke of Finland”) . Movement that led to the construction of the Republic of Soviets (Councils), from October 1917.

This great rupture with a worldwide impact led to the foundation of the Third International, the Communist International (CI), in 1919, with a good part of the bankrupt Second International, whose leaders supported the respective bourgeoisies – German, French, Russian, etc. – violating the principle of the “right to self-determination of peoples”. Now, it was proposed to build a new world party of revolution, the Communist International, with that name to distinguish it from the bankrupt Social-Democracy, and with the formation of “sections”, communist parties, in each country. In this wave comes to light the PCB. The first four Congresses of the CI defined the basic documents of the structure and the general orientation for the construction of the communist parties.

The Brazilian labor movement was able to take advantage of these teachings, and a new generation of militants and leaders will emerge. In Brazil, at the beginning of the 1917th century, great transformations took place in the agro-export economic structure, dominated until then by English imperialism and which, with the old coffee oligarchy, in short, subjected the people. The 1917 general strike came under the impact of the economic crisis deepened by the war and the example of the Russian Revolution of 1930 itself. political and military regime, initially – showed a situation of growing popular tension in the cities, not only in the proletariat, and of open crisis of the oligarchic political system (“coffee-with-milk”, shared domination of São Paulo and Minas Gerais), which would be overturned by the uprising of 30 (“revolution of 1929”), shortly after the international economic crisis of XNUMX.

Earlier, on May 1, 1919, thousands of workers paraded through the streets of Rio de Janeiro cheering for the Russian Revolution, and several strikes took place in Recife (PE) and Salvador (BA). Between June 21 and 23, 1919, the first Communist Conference took place with 22 delegates representing 7 states in the country, but which was dissolved by the police in Niterói (RJ). In the following years, the effort continued to group different groups and self-styled “communist parties” or socialists across the country now, inspired by Soviet Russia, many of them composed of anarchists who refused the parliamentary struggle, but sympathized with the Soviet cause. Discussion and political delimitation were difficult.

The official formal foundation of the PCB took place during a congress between March 25th and 27th, 1922 with 9 (nine) delegates, a few workers and intellectuals from Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo, Pernambuco, Rio Grande do Sul who represented no more than 130 militants across the country. The famous “21 Conditions” for joining the Communist International were approved – Lenin, its main leader, was wary of opportunists and careerists of various types, which already existed, and not only here! – the Statutes were adopted and a board was elected.

 

The Left Opposition and the Defense of the PCB

The Left Opposition within the Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks) emerged in 1923, after Lenin's death, to fight for Leninism, for a policy of defending the revolution in several other countries in Europe, Asia, Africa and the Americas. It articulated with other internal groupings until 1933, demanding the original workers' democracy, under the initial inspiration of Leon Trotsky and other Bolshevik leaders of the Central Committee of the 1917 insurrection.

Trotsky was the commander of the victorious Red Army in the civil war with the invasion of imperialist armies, which followed the triumph of the insurrection. From March 1926, in alliance with important Russian leaders, such as Lev Kamenev and Grigori Zinoviev, the “Declaration of the 13” was published, the Russian Unified Left Opposition emerged, as a federation of fractions opposed to Stalin’s leadership, which had ascended in the corridors of the Kremlin, despite the warning about him in the “Testament of Lenin”.

During 1926 and 1927, other opposition groups joined, such as the Workers' Opposition of Alexandra Kollontai and the Opposition of Georgia. Then, an International Opposition begins, initially linked to the Soviet leaders, but which gains worldwide expression. It is organized into opposition sections within the different communist parties, including the Brazilian party in 1929.

Here, opposition communists grouped several PCB militants through the Lenin Communist Group (GCL), which was launched on May 8, 1930, through the publication of the newspaper Class struggle under the direction of Mário Pedrosa, a journalist and activist who became the number 1 member of the Workers' Party in 1980. It wasn't easy. With only 5 years of existence and, since January 1927, having recovered legality, the party promoted the Bloco Operário, an electoral front that elected Azevedo Lima to the Chamber of Deputies. In August 1927, however, the PCB was again considered illegal. In October, with the Bloco Operário Camponês (BOC), the new name of the Bloco, he elected two members of the PCB to the Municipal Council of Rio de Janeiro: Otávio Brandão and Minervino de Oliveira. It was the first experience of independent intervention by the proletariat, through its own political party in electoral processes.

But as of the holding of the First Conference of Communist Parties in Latin America, in 1929, monitored by Moscow, Astrogildo Pereira, then general secretary of the PCB, was replaced. The policy of “proletarianization” was applied to the Communist International, and through it, to the new South American secretariat, already under Stalinist control. This will provoke the bureaucratic removal of the first leaders and a weakening of the party. Another consequence was the dismantling of the orientation of the BOC (Bloco Operário e Camponês). This block even launched the first worker candidate for the presidency of Brazil in 1930, the marble worker Minervino de Oliveira.

The Stalinist bureaucracy relied on the enormous prestige of the 1917 Revolution to impose top-down orders, guidelines and political shifts that covered up the suffocation of internal democracy. At that time, a leftist political line was applied, that of the so-called “third period”, a supposed imminence of the revolution that motivated unprepared insurrections in several countries without condition. This was when the world was sinking in the aftermath of the economic crisis of 1929 and tens of millions of unemployed workers took a defensive retreat (defending their organization, economic claims and democratic achievements). Leftism isolated the militants and gave “revolutionary” cover to the Stalinist bureaucracy, which could better consolidate itself at the head of the State and CI parties.

With the formation of the International Left Opposition in 1931, the group led by Mário Pedrosa in Brazil changed its name on January 21 of the same year and was renamed the Communist League of Brazil (LCB). It will intensify its role as an internal current of the PCB, to win over the party itself to its proposals. In January 1933 Hitler had come to power in Germany, favored by the policy of division of the working class undertaken by the German Communist Party (KPD) which had refused any possibility of unity according to the adventurous line of the “third period”. It must be said, unity was also despised by the Social Democratic Party (SPD), under whose government the revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg had already been assassinated by “military bodies” in 1919.

As there was no expressive organized reaction to the disaster of Hitler's German triumph over Europe's main proletariat, the German, neither in the anesthetized Russian party nor in any relevant CI party, an International Opposition Conference took place between 27 and 28 August. It affirms the need, then, for a new international, which would become, five years later, the Fourth International, in order to preserve the heritage of the 1917 revolution.

Pedrosa's LCB is part of this movement from Brazil, and with the decision of the International Opposition, it adopts the name of Liga Comunista Internacionalista (LCI); now as a party, and no longer as a fraction of the PCB, as until then they were considered. The PCB, like the IC as a whole, could no longer be characterized as a revolutionary party, even though there was internal resistance from many honest militants, alongside others manipulated by propaganda and the falsifications of the party apparatus. This resistance at the base of the Stalinist party was seen in the fight against fascism in Brazil.

The Liga Comunista Internacionalista launched a call to all organizations in São Paulo to unite and form a united front to face the actions of integralist gangs. The Frente Única Antifascista (FUA), with the notable role of Mario Pedrosa and Fúlvio Abramo – journalists and graphics were still the same union -, was launched at a rally held on June 10, 1933 in São Paulo. The FUA brought together anarchist, socialist, Trotskyist groups and newspapers, trade unions, immigrant associations and even many Stalinist base communists, despite the veto of its leadership.

 

The Failure of Stalinism and Its History of Betrayals to the Labor Movement

The political bankruptcy of the PCB was completely revealed in 1935, after the creation of the National Liberation Alliance (ANL), a front with a certain mass influence, in which the Stalinists participated alongside other sectors of the military hierarchy and the Brazilian ruling class. In the second half of 1935, after the decree of its illegality by the Getúlio Vargas government, which had turned to the right (bringing the fascist “integralists” closer to Plínio Salgado), the ANL lost its ability to mobilize. Then, still in the spirit of the “third period”, an armed uprising was triggered by the PCB in November, completely disconnected from a broad mass mobilization against the government that persecuted the workers. A disaster.

The result was to allow a brutal repression for years on end to the so-called “Communist Intent”, repression against all workers', popular and democratic organizations, which would culminate in the establishment of the Vargas dictatorship in 1937. It was during this period that an important rupture occurred in the São Paulo Regional Committee of the PCB, under the leadership of the member of the National Executive, Hermínio Sacchetta. Together with other communists they join the small Brazilian section of the 4th International that gains relevance.

The PCB was no longer a revolutionary party, and at different times in the following decades of Brazilian history, it shamed the labor movement, imprisoning workers under the tutelage of the supposedly “progressive” or “national” bourgeoisie. Still in the prison of the Vargas dictatorship, the Stalinists under the command of Captain Prestes began to discuss the proposal of “national union” around the president-dictator Vargas. In 1945, they began to support the “Queremista” movement, which advocated a National Constituent Assembly with the dictator in power (“we want Getúlio”), instead of fighting for a Sovereign Constituent Assembly.

There were decades of adventures of all kinds, frustrating generations of honest militants forged in strikes and mobilizations. From support to Vargas in 1945, followed by bovine passivity in the face of the outlawing of the party in 1947 by the Court (Prestes asks for calm and orders the support of former Varguista intervenor in SP, Ademar de Barros, to be demanded, who orders the emissary to “throw in the commitment… ”), even, again, in a leftist opposition to Vargas now elected “progressive” in 1950-54 when he commits suicide and – shame! –, the newspapers of the “illegal” PCB (their headquarters) are invaded and jammed by the enraged mass in Rio and other cities. Until the disarming of the trade union and democratic movement in the face of the pro-imperialist military coup of 1964, the PCB was stuck with Jango (“we are in power, if the reaction raises its head it will be crushed” – Prestes).

There, groups and divisions led important party militants to ruptures, Maoists, Castroists and others. It dominated a vanguardism of armed struggle detached from the struggles of the working masses. It is important not to forget the active role in the 70s and 80s of what was left of the PCB, also of the PCdoB, a Maoist rupture within the then PCB in 1962. Both PCB and PCdoB tried to make the construction of the PT and the CUT unfeasible. . Both enthusiastically supported the José Sarney government. But the labor and mass movement itself, forged in the resistance struggle against the military dictatorship – with the help of Trotskyists and various other groups, including religious ones – will, through its own movement, create a new path from its deepest struggles. to express the initiative for an independent representation of the Brazilian working class.

In 1992, Roberto Freire, then general secretary of the PCB, but a Muscovite without Moscow (the regime ended the previous year, ending “other bad things”), then decides, by majority vote, to dissolve the PCB, creating the PPS, current Citizenship, a right-wing party. But a Stalinist disciple, he has been the uninterrupted general secretary of the three parties for over 30 years!

A group of PCB militants did not accept becoming PPS, and reconstituted a PCB, which exists today, legalized, even without parliamentarians, but with the corresponding Party Fund – attention, reader, it is not the best known PCdoB.

The current PCdoB, of Maoist origin in the 1960s, was later a defender of Enver Hoxha, former Stalinist dictator of Albania in the 1970s, when the PCdoB intended him to be the “beacon of socialism”, because he had broken with the CP of China, which, in fact, it was slowly approaching the “market”. The current PC do B defends the political regimes of North Korea, Vietnam, China and Cuba, each and every one. Not us, we fight the imperialist blockades of countries, and Venezuela and Iran, but we also defend the right of independent organization of trade unions and workers' parties, against the “one-party” models.

The PC do B, in the name of a supposed “just war”, the “preventive strike” fib, defends the unilateral aggression of the capitalist oligarchs of the Russian government against Ukraine, denying the world unity of the working class that is guided by the “ right to self-determination of peoples”. In doing so, in fact, the PC do B as a part of the surviving PCs in the world – just a part – ends up legitimizing NATO in a crisis of legitimacy (NATO must be dissolved), gives speech to Biden and the social- European democracy, and still puts honey in Volodynyr Zelensky's soup. The current PC do B pretends to be the continuity of the former PCB, which is false, as we explained, and the truth, which is always revolutionary (Rosa Luxemburgo), concerns us, as it concerns the entire labor movement and democracy.

We defend an anti-imperialist alliance of the PT with the PSOL, the PC do B, and sectors of the PSB and PDT as well. But we are against the federation, straitjacket (law 14.208 of 28/09/21), with the PC do B and PV, which would limit the independence of the PT for 4 long years, in a type of “autonomy” within this shirt -de-force protected by the “good judgment” of the TSE, with monstrous penalties.

We claim the foundation of the PCB in 1922, but not the foundation of the PC do B or the PSOL, PSB or PDT, legitimate political forces for the struggle for national emancipation and socialism.

 

Nowadays

The PT is the national party of the working class that the PCB never managed to be. The PT, on the other hand, never set out to be a revolutionary party, in the Leninist sense. But the PT, above all, is going through a general crisis which, on the eve of the election in which Lula is the favorite (and the party has a 28% preference), is a complex issue that cannot be resolved.

The defense of an independent working-class policy within the PT remains contradictory with the policy of the heirs of the old Stalinism that buried the PCB as a revolutionary party in the 1930s, although today without its material bases. It is not for lack of resources that “communist” China does not build an International. So much so that it is not the reason for Cuba, although it has fewer resources. Putin, a pro-capitalist autocrat shamefully supported by Stalin's main local heirs (the PCFRN), has no aspirations other than that of the “great Russian” that he is – only narrow-minded minds see any “progressive” projection in the infamous war in Ukraine.

Different groups, urban and rural leaders, and intellectual heirs of this tradition, continue to wait for the redemptive action that, when it is not from some shadow of the military hierarchy, is always that of a fraction of the bourgeoisie, sometimes called modern, or progressive, or internal, or nationalist, or enterprising, etc., different masks created by their lack of proletarian conviction or just to deceive the workers.

We, for our part, claim the thread of continuity of the PCB incarnated by Mário Pedrosa, Hermínio Sacchetta and Fúlvio Abramo, who in the last years of his life was an associate member of the Central Committee of the OSI, current current O Trabalho do PT, Brazilian section of the Fourth International.

And we support a broad collaboration framework in the International Liaison and Exchange Committee (CILI), which brings together different workers' organizations and militants, headed by the Independent Workers' Party of France and the Workers' Party of Algeria and which, in Brazil, has the support of the Dialogue and Ação Petista, of which we are members. This concerns every sincere communist as well.

*Everaldo de Oliveira Andrade is a professor at the Department of History at FFLCH-USP. Author, among other books, of Bolivia: democracy and revolution. The Commune of La Paz, 1971 (Avenue).

* Markus Sokol, is a member of the National Executive Committee of the Workers' Party (PT).

 

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