PT and PCB

LEDA CATUNDA, Polvo II, 2017, acrylic without voile and fabric and wood and leather, 260 x 200 cm


Considerations on the recently published books by Celso Rocha de Barros and Carlos Marchi

At the end of the lights of 2022, between the relief marked by the closing of yet another sad page in our history and the hope brought by the victory of the democratic coalition that would take office at the dawn of 2023, two significant contributions to the understanding of the not always so clear intricacies of our policy. With the launch of Long Journey to Democracy, written by journalist Carlos Marchi, biographer of important figures such as senator Teotônio Vilela and journalist Carlos Castelo Branco, and EN, a story, by the sociologist and columnist of Folha de São Paulo, Celso Rocha de Barros, the reader (familiar or not with the subject) will have the opportunity to follow the tortuous path of the two main parties of the Brazilian left in search of an egalitarian and truly democratic society.

Brazilian Communist Party

The volume written by Carlos Marchi covers an important part of the PCB's trajectory, starting in the moment before its foundation, which officially took place in March 1922, the reader will have the opportunity to get to know the predominant political broth in the workers' circles of the beginning of the 1968th century, where the discourse and political practice is marked by an amalgamation between anarchism and the incipient Marxism. Carlos Marchi's narrative ends in the noisy year of 5, when the civil-military dictatorship issues AI-XNUMX, the world's left is taken over by the events of May in France and the PCB fights to consolidate the policy defined in its VI Congress.

Held clandestinely, the meeting would reaffirm the guidelines set out in the 1958 Declaration, reaffirming its line of action around the construction of a democratic opposition with sectors of civil society. At the time when several organizations adopted the strategy of armed struggle, the PCB opted for the struggle within the institutional framework, a measure that had been harshly criticized by sectors on the left, but time would show who really made the best decision at that moment. The second volume of this story, written by journalist Eumano Silva, which will cover the trajectory of the party after 1968, is expected to be released in 2023.

Historian Paul Ricoeur, in one of his works, recalls that memory is a construction, but for the historian Jacques Le Goff, as well as memory, oblivion also emerges as a significant moment in the historical narrative, as they would be beacons of great relevance in establishing and consolidation of hierarchies between groups and individuals. I open this parenthesis to show the reader that the centenary of the PCB has been told by several actors in this history, thus, we have from intellectuals linked to the PCdoB (party founded in 1962 after disagreement with the directions taken with the Political Declaration of March 1958 and the reflexes of the de-Stalinization process), the “rebuilt” PCB (founded in 1994 by sectors that did not accept the change that took place in 1992 when the majority of the party changed its program and statute, giving rise to the PPS) and Citizenship.

Carlos Marchi's book is part of this third group, but as sociologist Caetano Araújo recalls, the author's perspective is internal to the party, a fact that contributes to the construction of a factual narrative that manages to point out the mistakes and successes, fleeing a construction hagiographic. For the historian Vinicius Muller, “one of the most interesting clashes between those who try to reconstruct History is the one that opposes those who understand it as a rupture to those who understand it as adjustments”, thus, Carlos Marchi’s narrative succeeds in understanding the various turns tactics and programmatic of the PCB, while adjustments within the process of search for democracy. Also according to Caetano Araújo, “visibly, the author adopted in his work the guideline of Salomão Malina, presented as an epigraph: to affirm the history of the party in its entirety, with its successes and mistakes. Only then is it possible to rescue the meaning of this history, for past and present militants”.

Another highlight of the work carried out by Carlos Marchi is the analysis of the role played by Luiz Carlos Prestes since his incorporation to the party in the early 1930s, the adhesion of the leader of the mythical Coluna was the yeast for the attempted insurrection that took place in 1935, Carlos Marchi classifies the event as “the most tragic of all the errors and falls of the Party”. Prestes' political performance, with his successes and failures, were fundamental for the consolidation of the PCB as a relevant political actor in the country, starting from a strictly Jacobin position, his conjunctural reading was being refined according to the transformations in society, as well as the moment when when the VI Congress takes place, its position as an arbiter of internal disputes and its understanding of the need to build a democratic solution would be fundamental in the process.

It should be noted that over the following decade Prestes would begin to review his positions, making a shift to the left that would culminate in the early 1980s in his departure from the party with the publication of the noisy Letter to the Communists. Sociologist Gildo Marçal Brandão, in an article where he analyzes the meaning of prestism in Brazilian political life, states that “a good part of the strength and considerable influence of the PCB in Brazilian political life can be attributed to its main historical expression, prestism” which was not a political doctrine, but a mass movement around a charismatic and caudillo leadership, coupled with a semi-militarized party”.

Workers Party

It is exactly at the moment when the PCB begins to face its greatest crisis that Celso Rocha de Barros begins his narrative seeking to reconstitute the trajectory of the Workers' Party, without neglecting the conjuncture and facts that have marked the country in the last fifty years. However, as the author himself states, “the PT, in its origin, was weak. The party did not have any money, did not govern a single city and had very few parliamentarians”, such factors would explain to Barros the tolerance of the civil-military dictatorship with the nascent party.

Identifying the Catholic left and the new unionism as the two main forces that drove the creation of the party, Celso Rocha de Barros seeks throughout the work to also recover the participation of the black, feminist, LGBTQIA+, landless movement and the remnants of the revolutionary left in the debates and in the construction of a leftist party with new features, seeking to overcome the PCB already in crisis and the also nascent PDT, heir of the Vargas labor movement, now led by Leonel Brizola.

Over sixteen chapters, the reader will follow the trajectory of the party created in the strikes that shook the ABC region in the late 1970s and which would reach central power at the dawn of the new century. The author rigorously and objectively points out the mistakes and successes of the party during its trajectory. Emblematic moments, such as the clashes fought at the time of the First Congress, held in the midst of the final crisis of real socialism and the emergence of speeches that announced the “end of History”, are brought to the reader in a dynamic way, the congress held in 1991 it was a symbolic moment, where the party had the courage to elaborate important and frank formulations. According to Rocha de Barros, even today it is “difficult to find something similar in the history of the party” in the country.

Another aspect addressed in the work is the permanent tension between what was constituted as the majority field, originating from the Articulação dos 113, seen as pragmatic, and the party left, which sought to build a revolutionary socialist party, especially when discussing the need of changes in the speech and program and the alliance with other political forces to guarantee the electoral viability of the party's project, mainly the election of Lula in 2002. This transition would not be carried out without traumas, with ruptures and expulsions over the years.

For the author, the best analysis of the PT’s difficulty in “realizing its social-democratic potential, a potential that even though it was “never assumed” was (and still is) a subject of great controversy within the party, was elaborated by historian Lincoln Secco in your History of PT, obligatory publication for those who want to know the history of the party. In the interpretation of Rocha de Barros, Lincoln Secco departs from the premise that the “party had much less time to make its transition from radicalism to social democracy than the social-democratic parties had, and, contrary to European social-democracy, which expanded its electoral base by surrounding itself with the middle class, the PT did so by approaching the disorganized poor”, because in a country with “a large majority of poor people and an early de-industrialization, the vote of the excluded decides elections.

However, the theme is not pacified and is far from being, as can be seen in the testimonies collected by the author for the book. José Dirceu, Tarso Genro, José Álvaro Moisés, Pedro Dallari, Francisco Weffort, Fernando Gabeira and former president Fernando Henrique Cardoso discuss throughout the work whether or not the party would be in fact social-democratic, even counting from the beginning “with the social basis of all social democracies, the trade unions.

The book was finished before the election result that would take President Lula to his third term and the fifth of the Workers' Party. Another feat for the association that, at least in the last ten years, had its downfall announced several times by writers of the hegemonic press and opponents.

Another strong point of Celso Rocha de Barros' work is the treatment given to the car wash operation and the criminalization of the party, in his narrative the author shows how much the task force of Curitiba in consortium with sectors of the opposition and the capital used the partiality of then judge Sérgio Moro to try to prescribe not only a party, but also its main cadres. Rocha de Barros, with the rigor of his analysis, points out the mistakes made by the PT throughout its trajectory, but without vilifying the party, a practice adopted by many of his colleagues in the press.

Even facing a “bleeding” campaign since the monthly allowance process, reaching the apex with the car wash operation, the party resisted as best it could, even going to the second round of the 2018 presidential elections, at its worst moment. Despite the defeat to Jair Bolsonaro, the party still showed great strength. Rocha de Barros seeks an explanation for the resistance capacity of the Workers' Party, in the author's words: "in this book, we talk several times about the lack of institutional power of the Workers' Party: the PT has no media or influence in the Army, it has always been minority in Congress and the courts. This made him the first of the major parties to fall during the political crisis. But it is exactly because the PT never had institutional power that it needed to organize itself as a much better structured party than its competitors. As a result, it has survived better than its competitors.”

reading together

Something common among historians is the fact of criticizing works of a historical nature written by journalists, some really deserve such “barbs”, as they do not bring references to sources, lack bibliographical basis and sometimes even distort events in the name of a supposed simplification and greater “accessibility” to the reader. The two works commented here are far from such defects, such books since the launch can easily appear in the bibliography of future studies on the subject or on the shelf of those interested in Brazilian politics in the XNUMXth century.

At a time when social networks are populated with conspiratorial theses and fake news about communism, Marxism, the left and, as incredible as it may seem, even democracy, Carlos Marchi's book demystifies several facts and characters in the history of the PCB, in order to do so undertaking, in addition to an extensive bibliography that owes nothing to the best works on the subject produced at the university, the author resorts to recognized archives and interviews with relevant characters in the history of the party, I highlight the testimony of the veteran leader Salomão Malina, granted to Marco Antônio Tavares Coelho and Dina Lida Kinoshita performed in 2001, and which should be revealed only twenty years after his death. The only caveat is the absence in the bibliography of the well-known work of Professor Marly Vianna – Revolutionaries of 1935. Dream and reality – on the insurrections of 1935.

Celso Rocha de Barros follows a similar path, supported by a vast bibliography on the Workers' Party, consultations with the collection of the Sérgio Buarque de Holanda Center for Documentation and Political History of the Perseu Abramo Foundation and resorting to interviews with various figures, from prominent figures in the foundation of the party like Airton Soares, Djalma Bom, Irma Passoni, Olivio Dutra and José Dirceu, passing by figures who broke away from the left with the party like Milton Temer and Chico Alencar, today both in the PSOL and José Maria de Almeida, one of the founders of the PSTU , reaching cadres who broke away by going to the center such as the environmentalist Eduardo Jorge, the political scientist José Álvaro Moisés and the current Minister of the Environment Marina Silva. The great absence of Celso Rocha de Barros's book is exactly the main character of this story, President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva.

According to the author, one of the main theses and objectives of the book is to show the reader that: “The history of the PT must be understood as part of the global movement for the formation of workers' parties, which, when not interrupted by right-wing dictatorships or from the left, generated great social-democratic legends”. For historian Perry Anderson, the PT was the only new mass party created from the trade union movement since World War II, while for historian Eric Hobsbawn, the PT would be a late example of a labor party and a classic mass socialist movement, like those that emerged in Europe before 1914.

And so, walking on a tortuous path, in the face of the most varied interpretations, criticisms, mistakes and successes, the PCB left its mark on the construction of politics and the Brazilian left, just as the PT has been doing in recent years. Despite the differences in their trajectories, when carrying out a joint reading of the two works we can see similarities in the paths chosen by the two parties, such paths are pioneered with mastery by Celso Rocha de Barros and Carlos Marchi.

I end this text with another passage from Celso Rocha de Barros: “the task of reorganizing Brazilian democracy will remain for the PT and its allies. That is, it will remain with the party that did not participate in the “democratization from above” in the 1980s″, a process that, ironically, was widely supported by the PCB in the period, and that for many scholars would have been the “lime pad” to the party that entered into a serious crisis after the departure of Prestes and would continue throughout the decade losing influence in the trade union, intellectual and social movement circles to the party founded by those who emerged in the emergence of the new trade unionism.

The agony of the PCB would culminate in the biased process of changing identity inspired by the PCI in the early 1990s, when the PT was dealing with the wounds resulting from the 1989 elections, paving the way for the affirmation of the party as a left-wing alternative.

* Daniel Costa He has a degree in history from UNIFESP.


Carlos Marchi. Long journey to democracy: the 100 years of the party – 1922 / 2022 (volume I). Brasília, Astrojildo Pereira Foundation, 2022, 476 pages.

Celso Rocha de Barros. EN, a story. São Paulo, Companhia das Letras, 2022, 486 pages (

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