Brazilian workers

Image by Marina Gusmão, The flower, Digital illustration


Speech of May Day, 1951, delivered by Flavio Aguiar.

It's been 70 years since Getúlio Vargas delivered this historic speech at Vasco da Gama's São Januário stadium in Rio de Janeiro. Despite the proportions and historical distance, he remains extremely current, showing the difference between what is a statesman, even if contested and contradictory, and a hack, like the current usurper of the Planalto Palace, Piradão sem Farda, and his predecessor, Sabugo Ensebado, not to mention the Prince of Sociology who became a Baronet of Higienópolis.

It is said that outside the four lines, and the preserved text, Getúlio would have said this historic phrase: “those who think that the people brought us back to power to eat sardines are mistaken; we came to eat sharks”. If memory helps the elderly, "shark" was a metaphor for "capitalist". I confess that I write these lines with a certain emotion, because I still have in my ears the famous phrase “Workers of Brasilll”, with which Getúlio opened his speeches on the radio, using his fluted tenor voice.

And I can't forget the day when my father took me to Praça da Martriz in Porto Alegre, completely taken by people (there was room for about 100 thousand people there), he put me on his shoulders, and I watched him pass by, in an open car, standing , Getúlio and behind him a huge black man in a white suit, Gregório Fortunato. It was 1953, it appears.

Anyway… about Vargas, I think he ended up turning it around. With all the problems of his trajectory, Olga Benário at the forefront, in an unforgivable act, he redeemed himself in the end, giving his life to the Brazilian people. I was there at the Catete Palace, just in time to see the drops of dried blood on the back of the bed of his martyrdom. Getúlio Vargas did not commit suicide. He laid down his life to avoid a coup. And avoided. He resisted the bullet. A bullet.

In Oswaldo Aranha's autobiography, he tells that in the early hours of August 23 to 24, 1954, he said to Getúlio: “Send everybody away. The two of us stayed here, and we resisted the bullet, as in the old days.” Getúlio tapped him on the shoulder and said: “Go to sleep, Oswaldo. I've thought of everything." Caramba, where are our Shakespeares, Sophocles, Aeschylus, Euripides... who still haven't lived up to such greatness? (Flávio Aguiar)


Speech by Getúlio Vargas on Labor Day, May 1, 1951

Brazilian workers

After almost 6 years away, during which the image and memory of the grateful and long relationship I had with you never left my mind, here I am again here at your side, to speak with the friendly familiarity of other times, and to say that I have returned in order to defend the most legitimate interests of the people, and to promote the indispensable measures for the well-being of the workers.

This May 1st party has a symbolic expression for me and for you: it is the first day of the meeting between the workers and the new government. And it is with deep emotion that I return to your fellowship in this atmosphere of joy and national celebration. In which we see each other in the open and in which the government speaks to the people from friend to friend in the simple, loyal and weak language that I have always spoken to them. In the hours of glory and triumph, as well as those of suffering and persecution, the workers were always faithful, disinterested and courageous.

And I can repeat today, from the heart, what I have proclaimed more than once: the workers never let me down. They never approached me to plead private interests or personal favors. They have always pleaded with the community to which they belong, for the recognition of their rights, for the improvement of their living conditions, for the demands of the class and for the well-being of their peers.

When I withdrew from public life and spent years forgotten by those who celebrated me in power, you workers never forgot me; and there, in my solitude, not only did the distant echo of your anxieties and your rights besmirched reach me, but also the call of your hearts and the image of your faces, tired of the daily toil, turned towards me, in a moving gesture of hope and longing.

Here I am again at your side, and I want to assure you that, today as yesterday, I will be with you. And it is with you that I intend to rebuild the Brazil of tomorrow.

The polls of October 3, in which the people's votes brought me back to power, have a decisive significance in Brazilian life. Not only did they show the desire and capacity of the people of our country to participate directly and actively in government; it was also the first time in the history of Brazil that the people truly chose their president, among the plurality of candidates and oblivious to all regional, municipal or even party political influences. Because I wasn't strictly a party candidate: I was a people's candidate, a workers' candidate.

I will therefore govern with these people who elected me and I will always make every effort to provide them with the greatest possible amount of comfort, security and well-being. National renewal. I want to tell you, however, that the gigantic work of renovation that my government is beginning to undertake cannot be carried out successfully without the support of the workers and their daily and determined cooperation.

In these first 90 days of administration, I have already been able to take stock of the difficulties and obstacles that are arising here and there against government action. And I have come to you today, in this festive environment, without the apprehensions and fears of the police reaction as in days past, to speak to you with the usual frankness and advise you on the best way to satisfy your most just aspirations. I hear the cry of your most pressing appeals; The helplessness, the misery, the high cost of life, the low wages, the money that is not enough for the most urgent needs, the fight against illness, the despair of the destitute of fortune and the claims of the majority of the world, silence deep in my soul. people, who live in the hope of better days. It is profound, sincere and tireless my effort to respond to these claims and find a solution to these difficulties that afflict you.

laws against exploitation

But, with the loyalty that you are used to expecting from me, I come to say that, at this moment, the government is still without laws and concrete elements of immediate action for the defense of the economy of the people. It is therefore necessary that the people organize themselves not only to defend their own interests, but also to give the government the indispensable support for the realization of its purposes. For this reason, I have chosen this day and this moment of our first festive meeting to make an appeal to you.

I need you, workers of Brazil, my friends, my companions on a long journey; I need you as much as you need me. I need your union; It is necessary that you solidly organize yourselves into unions; you need to form a strong and cohesive bloc alongside the government so that it can have all the strength it needs to solve your own problems. I need your unity to fight the saboteurs, so that I don't become a prisoner of the interests of speculators and greedy people, to the detriment of the interests of the people. I need your collective support, stratified and consolidated in the organization of trade unions, so that my purposes do not become sterilized and the sincerity with which I am committed to solving our problems is not taken by surprise and disarmed by the reactionary wave of selfish interests, which, from all sides they try to impede the free action of my government.


Therefore, the time has come for the government to appeal to the workers and tell them: all unite in your unions, as free and organized forces. The authorities will not be able to restrict your freedom or use pressure or coercion. The union is your fighting weapon, your defensive fortress, your instrument of political action. At the present time, no government will be able to survive, or have efficient strength for its social achievements, if it does not count on the support of workers' organizations. It is through these organizations, unions or cooperatives, that the most numerous classes of the nation can influence governments, guide public administration in the defense of popular interests. I augur for our homeland the happy time when the workers' unions will not only be instruments of political action and professional defense, but will also have their own clinic to attend to the health of their members, their cooperatives to sell foodstuffs and goods at cost, schools to raise the level of the masses, legal bodies to defend the individual and social rights of their affiliates, loan and financing banks for the acquisition of a home, places of recreation after the daily toil, places of healing and rest to restore the weary energies; finally, a collective integration of wills and interests assuring to each and every one employment, adequate salary, general well-being and gradual and proportional participation in the income, fruits and benefits of the common wealth.

To meet these objectives, as well as to fight against the high cost of living and speculators, and in the huge efforts to raise wages and achieve social well-being, it is necessary that workers and the people in general organize themselves into return of the government as a big, strong and cohesive block. In this way, it will be possible to carry forward the vast program of economic and national recovery that my government intends to carry out. And this is also the only efficient way for the people to defend themselves, not to be exploited, and, as an organized force of opinion, to help the government to fight against the negative elements of society and against those who do not collaborate, those who harm, against fraudsters, saboteurs, exploiters of the people and their advocates, overt or covert.

Best distribution

The productive classes, who really contribute to the national greatness and prosperity, the honest merchant, the hardworking and equitable industrialist, the farmer who fertilizes the land, these have no reason for fears or unreasonable concerns. Never fear the strength of the people, those who work with the people and for the people. What the law neither protects nor tolerates is abuse, unbridled speculation, usury, crime, iniquity, the greed of all castes of favorites and all kinds of traffickers, who rave about the misery of others, trade with the hunger of their fellow men and even give their souls to the devil to accumulate riches, at the expense of the sweat, anguish and sacrifice of the majority of the population. What is unbearable is that within society, where everything must be harmony, equity and cooperation for the common good, some reserve all the benefits for themselves and others carry only the burden of deprivation and suffering.

Whether or not the enemies of the people want to listen to me, I will continue to loudly proclaim that it is not possible to keep society divided into zones of poverty and zones of abundance; in which some have the superfluous and others lack the essentials for subsistence; in which some accumulate for themselves as much as they can and others lack clothing, a home and bread; in which some suffer from hunger and others speculate with hunger.

It is fair that the worker has a reasonable wage, adequate to his standard of living, and that it is enough to support the family, educate the children, pay the house and be treated for illnesses without needing favors or public charity. It is fair that the law provides the means to achieve these objectives and that the State defends and guarantees the execution of a program of this nature. I have dedicated my entire public life to this program, which began in Brazil with the labor legislation prepared by my government, but which is still far from being concluded. You workers always counted on me to carry it out gradually, as contingencies allowed.

From now on, though, and now more than ever, I'm the one who needs to rely on you. Not only with the constant, disinterested and friendly support that you have always given me, but also with the strength of your collective organization, with the instruments of action of your unions and with the prestige of public opinion that you managed to consolidate through the intelligence of your professional leaders and of the representatives chosen by your suffrage. It is in the organized working classes, really participating in the government through the unions, cooperating directly with it, that I will be able to find the defense system that I need to carry forward the work of renewal of my government.

I want to find in you workers, in your solidly organized class bodies, true and independent friends who will always tell me the truth about your needs, without falsifying it, without adulterating it, as many do who do. they address me with the veiled purpose of legitimizing their selfish pretensions, to the detriment of the interests of the people. I want to find in your organized collective force the elements of action that I still lack to fight the groups of exploiters responsible for the high cost of life and the devaluation of your money. I want to find, in the sincerity of your appeals gathered around your unions, the food capable of nourishing the sincerity with which I commit myself, in the defense of your rights and your legitimate interests. However, the unionization of the working classes is not enough: it must be completed by the healthy organization of consumer cooperatives. I have already referred to this in a previous speech and I believe that it will never be too much to insist on the advantages and benefits of cooperativism associated with a good union organization.

union fund

I must remember that my government found the union fund distorted from its purposes, used for the most unscrupulous political maneuvers. Measures have already been taken to moralize this application; and the Union Organization and Assistance Division has carried out rigorous and intensive examinations in the budget forecasting processes in order to avoid dispersion and waste in the application of union rents.


The school booklets, which the Ministry of Education released in millions of copies and whose distribution I started here in a symbolic act, represent the first step towards the work of popular instruction and dissemination that my government undertook with the decree of free education so that Brazilians lack, without exception or discrimination, the facilities and opportunities for cultural improvement and professional improvement.

Farm worker protection

A measure of great relevance, which is one of the fundamental points of the current government program, is the extension of the benefits of the labor legislation to the rural worker, mainly with regard to medical and social assistance, housing and education of children, minimum wage, right compensation and job stability. For this purpose, the government counts on the collaboration of farmers and ranchers, who will also benefit from these measures.

The reform of the bodies maintained by the Union Tax should also be carried out in the near future, with fruitful activity already being noted in one of its sectors – the referral of unemployed people, inoperative until recently, as can be seen from the call lists published by the press. The work now completed is ready to receive the latest modifications.

Own home

Owning a home for the worker is one of the essential purposes that determined the creation of security organizations, and this point must be present in the minds of their administrators. For this reason, the government determined that the institutes should invest funds in the construction of residences for their taxpayers, with the Caixa Econômica also committing itself to a new plan for the construction of working villages.

With the combined effort of the institutes, the city hall and the Savings Banks, we will be able to build soon, in a first plan of immediate realizations, around 30 thousand cheap houses for the housing of the workers of the Federal District.

Successively, other populous centers in the various states of the Federation will be attended to, as needs become more urgent and imperative.

Minimum wage

Another measure already determined by my government is the increase in the minimum wage for workers throughout the national territory, an increase that will never be less than 50% and that, in certain cases, for certain regions and types of work, may rise to two or three times the current minimum wage. Studies in this regard are already under way at the Ministry of Labor, and the definitive setting of the new minimum wage levels should be ready by the end of September of the current year.

Greatly detrimental to the interests of the working classes was the course being followed by various Retirement and Pension Institutes. With few exceptions, these institutes had their assets squandered in large capital investments, with objectives completely foreign to their purposes. Investigations have already been ordered to determine responsibilities, as well as energetic measures for more efficient supervision of the various Retirement and Pension Funds. Any irregularities found will be made public in due course.

And this will be my government's response to the saboteurs and traffickers, who deducted commissions paid in exchange for electoral favors from public charges. I don't campaign against people. I only criticize methods, processes and acts that are harmful to the Brazilian community. This, unfortunately, is what the accomplices of administrative impropriety pretend not to understand when they attack my administration's moralizing measures. Consider what was said and spread about my last speech on April 7th.

Economic crisis

Abstention was made from the concrete acts that I reported, from the financial disorganization of the country and from the state of affairs found by my government, which in that speech I intended to reveal to the people. Of all that I explained, my attackers highlighted only the final sentence, to exploit and distort it in various ways, as if I had said something surprising and strange when I spoke of the misery of the people, the cost of life, in the harmful activity of hoarders of all stripes.

They said that my speech was an invitation to disorder and popular reaction. However, I only announced known truths, focusing on problems known to everyone: the economic crisis we are struggling with, the restlessness of the masses, caused by the disproportionate increase in the cost of living and the monopoly of basic necessities. This is not just a Brazilian disease: it is a universal crisis.

social malaise

Just recently, at the Washington Conference, Latin American delegates stressed that the main cause of the continent's political crisis was the social malaise produced by low living standards and the economic insecurity of the populations. The Marshall Plan itself, to help European countries, only aims to raise living standards, ensure employment for all, establish the conditions of worker stability, so that dissolving ideas do not grow within societies.

And what is the so-called Point IV if not a remedy to stop the evils and dangers of social anarchy? Intransigent reactionaries need to know once and for all that we are living in a phase of economic and social democracy in which the basic subsistence needs of the working populations and the people in general must be met in a preferential and decisive manner.

In Europe, Asia, as in the countries of America, economic difficulties are constant germs of social unrest, and it is necessary to remedy them in a timely manner to prevent the people from becoming agitated and taking justice into their own hands.

Warning required. When I made this warning in my last speech, I thought I was recalling a fact known to all, focusing on a problem that, in our days, affects all nations and all continents. However, my opponents and the enemies of the people who support me did not understand it that way. They found my warning strange when I thought I was repeating commonplace things and when I was only reproducing the warning that, throughout the world, today, conscious statesmen, zealous for social peace and sincerely concerned with preventing their countries from drowning in the turbulent sea of ​​rebellions of the masses.

My purposes have always been social balance, the harmony of interests between the producing and working classes, political harmony and justice in the distribution of goods and wealth in the community. I don't need to incite the people to reaction or incite violence because the people always know when to react and against whom to do it.

There were those who said a few days ago that, in these first three months of the new government, the people no longer hide their disappointment and dismay. But those who talk like that don't know the people and are very wrong about the solidity of the bonds that unite my government to the people. They intend to speak on behalf of the people without leaving the four walls where they live reclined in comfortable armchairs and where the free voices of the crowds do not reach, far, far away from the throbbing environment of work and sacrifices of those who fight for their daily bread.

Only those who seek contact with the people can speak on behalf of the people, those who are not afraid to face them outdoors, in open spaces, in sunlight, reporting on their actions and loyally debating popular problems - such as in this immense and unmistakable spectacle that we are witnessing.

Workers of Brazil, I was not elected under the exclusive banner of a party, but for an exciting and irresistible movement of the popular masses. They didn't pick me up from prison so that I could come and replace people, or simply change administrative staff. My election had a much greater and much deeper meaning: because the people accompany me in the hope that my government can build a new era of true social and economic democracy, and not just lend their support and solidarity to a democracy merely political, which ignores social equality.

Those who intend to separate me from the people, or separate them from me, lose the illusion. We are together and we will always be together, in joy and suffering, on feast days like today, and in times of pain and sacrifice. And together we will rebuild a better Brazil, where there is more economic security, more social justice, better standards of living and a new climate of prosperity and well-being for this good and generous Brazilian people.

*Getulio Vargas (1888-1954) was president of Brazil twice, between 1930 and 1945 and from January 31, 1951 to August 24, 1954.

* Flavio Aguiar, journalist and writer, is a retired professor of Brazilian literature at USP. Author, among other books, of Chronicles of the World Upside Down (Boitempo).


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