by Arundhati Roy
Rockefeller to Mandela, Vedanta to Anna Hazare…. How long can the cardinals of corporate gospel buy up our protests?
by Arundhati Roy
Rockefeller to Mandela, Vedanta to Anna Hazare…. How long can the cardinals of corporate gospel buy up our protests?
National Political Commission of the Communist Party of Brazil.
São Paulo, March 15, 2012.
The Communist Party of Brazil – PCdoB – turns 90 on March 25, 2012. It has had the longest life among the political organizations in the history of Brazil, connected to the workers’ longing for the socialist ideal. It envisions Brazil as a great nation, loving peace and solidarity among peoples, rejecting war and imperialist rulings.
In nine decades generations of communists joined the party ranks. In different stages, three personalities inscribed their names in the saga of communists in Brazil: Astrojildo Pereira, Luiz Carlos Prestes and João Amazonas.
Astrojildo Pereira led the foundation in 1922 and symbolizes the generation of those first days. Prestes joined the Party in 1934, already the “Hope Knight,” and led the generation until 1960. Amazonas joined the Party in 1935 and led a generation that reorganized it and conducted it until the first election of Lula.
As Renato Rabelo was acclaimed president of the Party in 2001, shortly before the passing of Amazonas, a new generation is taking position in the communist trenches.
Today PCdoB is a well-known and prestigious force, a powerful political and moral asset, a strong presence among workers, a predominant influence among the youth, with outstanding presence in the Parliament, in local governments and in the Lula and Dilma Rousseff administrations.
Without underestimating the divergences of the past, the current board of PCdoB is aware that this party is the one founded in 1922 and reorganized in 1962, built by all those generations of communists. The anniversary that we proudly celebrate is that of all those generations.
1. The legacy of the founding generation
The first expressive contribution of the Party to our history is its own foundation. It introduced in the political stage, for the first time among us, a working class party with its own organization and specific objectives, starting with socialism.
At that time, the working class already started strikes for their rights and had active unions. But, under anarchist influence, it resisted the political struggle. However, they received news from Russia, according to which workers brought down a tyrannical regime, took power and started to build socialism. And a piece of information started to circulate: such achievement was only possible because they had a communist party.
Building a party of that kind in our country was the mission started by the nine delegates that founded the Communist Party of Brazil: Astrojildo Pereira, Cristiano Cordeiro, Abílio de Nequete, Hermogênio da Silva Fernandes, João da Costa Pimenta, Joaquim Barbosa, José Elias da Silva, Luis Peres and Manuel Cendón. Astrojildo and others, such as Octávio Brandão, led the first generation of communists.
The Old Republic was entering a crisis and the dispute that led to the Revolution of 1930 eight years after was already growing. The recently founded Party introduced a new element: it led the working class to politics. It organized the Labor and Peasant Bloc, BOC, which systematized for the first time among us a platform of social and labor rights. The Party, by means of BOC, elected in 1927 two communist councilors in the city of Rio de Janeiro: Octávio Brandão and Minervino de Oliveira. In 1929 – with the banner of a unionist coalition that it has defended since 1922 – it created the General Confederation of the Workers of Brazil, CGTB.
In the elections in 1930 Júlio Prestes was the ruling candidate and Getúlio Vargas represented the opposition. The Party proposed Luiz Carlos Prestes as its candidate, which was denied. It then launched the candidacy of Minervino de Oliveira, Secretary-General of CGTB. The campaign suffered from unusual violence and the candidate was imprisoned several times. He had few votes. But the historical fact remained: in 1930 the Communist Party of Brazil launched a unionist worker, a black man, Minervino de Oliveira, as a candidate to the Presidency of the Republic.
As the Revolution of 1930 unfolded, the Party did not support it. It judged – wrongly – that mere oligarchic contradictions were at stake.
The founding generation also left a valorous legacy in divulging the ideas of the Party. The Movimento Comunista magazine was issued in 1922; the A Classe Operária newspaper was launched in 1925; in 1927 it issued the first communist daily, A Nação.
In the theoretical front, the founding generation is also credited for launching the first Brazilian edition of the Communist Manifesto, followed by other works by Marx and Lenin. Octávio Brandão published Agrarismo e Industrialismo (1926), the first essay on the Brazilian reality under the Marxist point of view.
2. Struggle for liberty, development and culture
When the Revolution of 1930 showed its limits, the Party contributed to launch the National Liberating Alliance (ANL) in March 1935. Prestes, who joined the Party in 1934, was its president of honor. ANL rapidly spread in the national territory with its motto “Bread, Land and Liberty” and with its mobilizations against Nazi fascism and its local version, integralism. Then it was banned by the Vargas administration, leading alliance groups connected to the Party to try to form a popular government with the uprising in November 1935, which was soon asphyxiated because it was fundamentally based on the barracks of the Army.
Repression was always heavy on the Party. After the uprising in 1935, it was extensive and cruel, with more than 15 thousand imprisoned. Prestes remained nine years in jail. Olga Benário, the young German connected to the Communist International, Prestes’ companion, was handed to Hitler’s Gestapo and died in a concentration camp. The repressive wave proceeded until 1937, in the dictatorship of the Estado Novo, the New State.
In the 63 years from 1922 and 1985, the Party had only two years and fourth months of legality. The dominant classes always curbed its freedom. But in several occasions repression not only victimized communists, but also the whole of society, such as during the Estado Novo (1937-1945) and the military dictatorship (1964-1985). The most used pretext was the “communist threat.” Therefore, one of the Party’s legacies to the history of Brazil is its extensive fight for freedom.
During the Estado Novo the party leadership was disbanded, demanding a new restructuration that culminated with the Mantiqueira Conference (1943). That is when the second generation of communists appeared, headed by Luiz Carlos Prestes (imprisoned until 1945), Diógenes Arruda, Maurício Grabois, Pedro Pomar, João Amazonas, Amarílio Vasconcelos, Júlio Sérgio de Oliveira, Mário Alves and Carlos Marighella.
The Party fought to make Brazil enter Word War II to join the allied forces, among which the USSR, against the Nazi fascist Axis. It strived for the constitution of the Expeditionary Brazilian Force that fought in Europe, in which many communists enlisted.
After the defeat of Germany in World War II, the Estado Novo came to an end and the Party became legal for a short period. It launched Iedo Fiúza as its presidential candidate in 1945, obtaining 10% of the valid votes; and elected Prestes in the Senate with many votes and 14 deputies for the Constituent Assembly, among which the most voted for deputy in Rio de Janeiro, João Amazonas, as well as Maurício Grabois, Carlos Marighella, Gregório Bezzerra, Jorge Amado and Claudino José da Silva, the only black man in the Constituent Assembly.
At the Constituent Assembly, the Party stood out for its unyielding defense of democracy, the rights of workers, the agrarian reform and national sovereignty. And it highlighted the role of the Soviet Union in defeating Nazi fascism.
The Constituent Assembly became effective in the already poisonous climate of the Dutra administration and the Cold War. The Party lost its permit in 1947 and shortly after its elected Congress members were expelled. That was a rude and contemptible attack against democracy.
In clandestinity again, communists displayed another of their characteristics: the defense of development and national economy. The campaign “The oil is ours” was started at that time, leading to the creation of Petrobras in 1953.
During this period the communists organized great campaigns for peace, against sending Brazilian troops to fight in the Korean War and for the banishment of nuclear weapons.
In this generation the Party sought closer ties with the intellectual and artistic production. Among those directly connected to the Party were writers such as Jorge Amado and Graciliano Ramos; architects and artists such as Oscar Niemeyer, Cândido Portinari, Di Cavalcanti, Carlos Scliar and Tarsila do Amaral; playwrights and actors such as Gianfrancesco Guarnieri, Francisco Milani, Oduvaldo Vianna Filho, Dias Gomes and Mário Lago; musicians such as Cláudio Santoro and Guerra Peixe; directors such as Ruy Santos and Nelson Pereira dos Santos; scientists such as Mário Schenberg; sportsmen such as João Saldanha; jornalists such as Aparício Torelli, the Baron of Itararé.
3. Reorganization and the struggle in many fronts against the dictatorship in 1964
Dreadful facts affected the Communist Party of Brazil between 1956 and 1962. On the one side, the majority of the Brazilian leadership accepted opportunist trends disseminated in the 20th Congress of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union (CPSU), headed by Nikita Khrushchev. On the other hand, that same majority adopted a national-reformist trend. Therefore, in 1961 a new reformist organization called Brazilian Communist Party published a new Program and Statute.
Immediately a group of experienced leaders reacted and, in February 1962, reorganized the Communist Party of Brazil, with its original name, tradition and revolutionary character, starting to use the acronym PCdoB. The Party became smaller, but revitalized. It started to think more about Brazil and defined its policies in line with the events. The organization was headed by João Amazonas, Maurício Grabois and Pedro Pomar.
After half a century, life has proven those who reorganized the Party. PCdoB has grown and stood firmly. Nobody today doubts which is the Communist Party of Brazil.
Two years after the reorganization the generals brought about the coup in 1964. The Party concluded that the dictatorship had come to stay. The doors to institutional action were closed. Therefore, it opened the way to armed resistance. In the following years, while the dictatorship became increasingly violent, PCdoB prepared and directed the Araguaia Guerilla.
The Araguaia was a heroic chapter in the history of Brazil that honors and praises PCdoB. The Guerilla resisted for almost three years. The dictatorship mobilized many troops to confront it, prohibited the press to divulge it and resorted to “dirty war.” But the alarm remained: Brazilians did not accept the dictatorship and other Araguaias could appear.
During the Guerilla, almost all of the greatest organization opposing the dictatorship, the Marxist-Leninist Popular Action (APML), joined PCdoB after a long ideological struggle: it was the most important and successful unifying process in the history of the Brazilian left.
In 1976, already in its declining stage, the dictatorship perpetrated the Lapa Massacre, in São Paulo, where three communist leaders were murdered: Pedro Pomar, Ângelo Arroyo and João Batista Drummond.
Amazonas headed a leading core recomposed with leaders from APML and young cadres, guiding a third generation of communists.
In 1975 the Party concentrated the struggle for the end of the dictatorship under three banners: broad, generalized and unrestricted amnesty; the revocation of the exceptional acts and laws; and a free and sovereign Constituent Assembly. In 1979, though distorted and incomplete, the amnesty freed political prisoners and allowed the return of exiles. The social movements started over, with strikes and other journeys such as the Movement against Destitution. And the Party took part of it. In 1984 one of the greatest mass demonstrations in the history of Brazil took place: the Diretas Já (Direct elections now) campaign. Despite its banishment, PCdoB took to the streets. But the Congress did not approve the Diretas Já.
The nation was shocked. The opposition was doubtful. Part of it attempted to form the “Direct elections only” movement. Tancredo Neves, the possible opposition candidate, would have to renounce the government of the state of Minas Gerais in order to become a candidate. Amid such confusion, would he resign?
PCdoB was not confounded. It stressed that the opposition would go to the Electoral College not to legitimate, but to put an end to the dictatorship. It also declared that if a candidate would openly make such a commitment, the Party would take to the streets to legitimize his candidacy. Amazonas went to Minas Gerais to explain that position to Tancredo Neves. He became a candidate and the great demonstrations of Diretas Já were repeated. Victory finished the College and the dictatorship.
The defeat of the Soviet experience in 1991 was another crucial moment. Capitalist proclaimed that socialist was finished. Politicians and intellectuals, even progressive ones, believed that lie. Many communist parties put their flags down, changed their names and their symbols and renounced Marxism.
PCdoB did not lower its flag, did not change its name, did not change its symbol and did not deny Marxism. It tried to learn from the defeat, studying and learning with the successes and mistakes of the Soviet experience, adjusting the struggle for socialism to the new conditions of the world. It stressed that that defeat took place when socialism was still in its infancy, taking its first steps. The Party called an Extraordinary Congress (1992) and after a substantial debate the conclusion was unanimous: “Socialism lives!”
Today it is capitalism that struggles under the claws of a systemic crisis. And its epicenter is exactly in the capitalist metropolises: in Europe and in the United States.
Much to the contrary, socialism displays its vitality. We can see that in great China – the second strongest international power – heroic Vietnam and fearless Cuba, among other experiences, including the socialist project in Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador. The rebellious movements in Wall Street and Europe also stood out.
It is a new struggle for socialism that is unfolding all over the world and especially in Latin America. That is a revolutionary and renovated socialism that does not copy a single model, absorbing national particularities and opening the way with courage and an open mind. That is the socialism of PCdoB.
4. A new time, democratization, the Constituent Assembly, a Party in the government
Redemocratization after the dictatorship followed an unexpected path. Tancredo Neves passed away and his vice President, José Sarney, took the decisive steps. The Party was legal once again and took part in the new Constituent Assembly in 1987-88. Its 1,003 amendments dealt with broadening democracy; labor rights; development and national sovereignty. Such as in the Constituent Assembly in 1946, one of them guaranteed religious freedom. The Communist Party of Brazil is the only party of all active organizations today that took part in the three Constituent Assemblies in the republican period.
On January 1st 2003 Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was inaugurated in the presidential palace. It was not a mere change of names. A new era started in the history of the country.
PCdoB is proud of its leading role in building that cycle. It is the only party, apart from the Workers Party, that fought for it since the beginning. It supported Lula since his campaign in 1989, in his three initial defeats and in the three following victories until the election of President Dilma Rousseff in 2010. It engaged in the difficult resistance to the neoliberal era, in the great popular students’ demonstrations that led to the impeachment of the President of the Republic in 1992. In the Fernando Henrique Cardoso administration it fought against the neoliberal policy, privatizations, the IMF, the Apagão (energy blackout), the diplomacy that raised its voice against Bolivia and lowered it with the USA. The Party helped to turn that tenebrous page – we hope it is forever.
The change in Brazil is part of a broader movement. It is almost all of Latin America that has rebelled in a true red, democratic, patriotic and progressive tide dyed with the Latin American blood.
Rebellion follows an original path where the main weapon is popular vote. By means of the victories of advanced candidates, backed by popular movements, the transformation progress follows its course.
To the Party, 2003 brought an unprecedented reality. It was called to take part in the government of Brazil for the first time in its history. And the offer was accepted.
PCdoB has supported and participated in the struggle and success of the democratic-popular administrations of Lula and Dilma Rousseff. It offered them some of their best cadres to work – with outstanding success and immaculate integrity – in areas such as Sports, political articulation, Oil, Culture, Science and Technology, Health and Tourism, among others. In the crucial days of the crisis of 2005, when conservative opposition thought they would “get rid of those people,” PCdoB brought the people to the streets to shout “Stay Lula!”.
At the same time, PCdoB does not mix up loyalty and support with playing second fiddle. It preserves its political independence in relation with the government. It defends the autonomy of social movements, the mobilization of the people as indispensable to change. It believes that the government needs both support and criticism in order to advance and defend itself from right-wing coup-like attempts. It believes that to criticize what is wrong is a form of support.
The Communist Party of Brazil is a Brazilian political force engaged in pursuing objectives such as the transformation of Brazil into a prosperous, developed and free Nation, loving peace among peoples, marching towards a socialist transition. It is aware of its past of struggles that contributed – often with unprecedented sacrifices – to take Brazil to where it is today.
The world is now undergoing a great crisis of capitalism that is further aggravating growing inequalities and social crises and increasing war conflicts in the world. In such a context, the main issue is which way to follow, which alternative to choose.
That is why PCdoB, in its 90th anniversary, calls the people to embrace its Socialist Program, to apply and develop it.
The Socialist Program results from mature thinking regarding the situation of the country and the world. It went through years of elaboration and embodies a new programmatic concept.
The current Socialist Program of PCdoB takes a new step forward: it proposes a direction and a route. Socialism is the direction. Strengthening the Brazilian Nation is the route.
Strengthening the Nation is achieved by the materialization of a New National Development Project based on four principles: the struggle for sovereignty and the defense of the Nation; the democratization of society; social progress; and the solidary integration with Latin America. The Program presents a broad set of proposals that will allow directing that project.
That route could lead to a popular democracy under the hegemony of workers and the majority of the Nation, therefore creating conditions for the transition to socialism. It will represent a leap for civilization, the third in the rough but victorious history of Brazil.
It is armed with that Program and the New National Development Project that PCdoB makes this call and, certain that increasing its political representativeness will contribute to advance the achievements of the people, it will be fully committed in the elections next October, disputing city halls in many capitals and other important cities. The Party maintains its doors open and accepts in its ranks all Brazilians that are looking for an organized and transforming political activity.
Reaching 90 years of existence is a great victory of the Communist Party of Brazil. But even greater is our joy to turn 90 fully active, revitalized and confident. It remains active because it never failed to defend workers and Brazil. It is revitalized because it never had so much people in its ranks in order to face the tasks of the future. And it is confident of being in the path that will lead to a stronger Nation and socialism.
Long live March 25!
Long live PCdoB!
Long live Socialism!
Long live Brazil!
Communist Party of Brazil