History of the socialist movement in Brazil
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The history of the socialist movement in Brazil is generally thought to trace back to the first half of the 19th century. There are documents evidencing the diffusion of socialist ideas since then, but these were, however, individual initiatives with no ability to form groups with actual political activism.
Old Republic (1889–1930)
In 1892 the First Socialist Congress of Brazil was launched in Rio de Janeiro. Also that year, in São Paulo, another First Socialist Congress was launched, independent from the first. That same year the Workers' Socialist Party (Partido Operário Socialista) was founded in Rio de Janeiro. This is considered to be the first socialist party in Brazil. In 1895, also in Rio, the Socialist Workers Party (Partido Socialista Operário) was founded. That same year, Silvério Fontes, considered the first Brazilian Marxist, launched the Socialist Center of Santos, which soon published socialist-oriented magazine The Social Question (A Questão Social) and newspaper The Socialist (O Socialista).
The first major socialist party of the country was founded in 1902 in São Paulo, under the direction of the Italian immigrant Alcebíades Bertollotti, who was once responsible for Avanti, the official newspaper for the Italian Socialist Party. That same year, the Socialist Collective Party (Partido Socialista Coletivista) was founded in Rio de Janeiro, headed by Vicente de Sousa, a teacher at the Colégio Pedro II, and Gustavo Lacerda, a journalist and founder of the Brazilian Press Association (Associação Brasileira de Imprensa - ABI). In 1906, the Independent Workers Party (Partido Operário Independente) was founded, which created a "popular university", which had Rocha Pombo, Manuel Bomfim, and José Veríssimo as teachers.
The diffusion of socialist ideas increased during the First World War, but isolation from the general public was still vast for most of the Brazilian left-wing groups. In June 1916, Francisco Vieira da Silva, Toledo de Loiola, Alonso Costa, and Mariano Garcia launched the Manifesto of the Brazilian Socialist Party (Manifesto do Partido Socialista Brasileiro). On May Day of the following year, the Manifesto of the Socialist Party of Brazil (Manifesto do Partido Socialista do Brasil) was launched, signed by Nestor Peixoto de Oliveira, Isaac Izeckson, and Murilo Araújo. This group launched Evaristo de Morais to the House of Representatives and published two newspapers, The New Leaf (Folha Nova) and New Times (Tempos Novos), both short-lived.
In December 1919, the Socialist League (Liga Socialista) was formed in Rio de Janeiro. Its members started publishing the magazine Clarté in 1921, with the support of Evaristo de Morais, Maurício de Lacerda, Nicanor do Nascimento, Agripino Nazaré, Leônidas de Resende, Pontes de Miranda, among others. The group would extend its influence to São Paulo, with Nereu Rangel Pestana, and to Recife, with Joaquim Pimenta. In 1925 a new Brazilian Socialist Party (Partido Socialista do Brasil) was launched, also formed by the group led by Evaristo de Morais.
The foundation of the Brazilian Communist Party (Partido Comunista Brasileiro - PCB) in 1922 and its rapid growth suffocated the dozens of anarchist organizations which played an important role in staging major strikes during the previous decade. Before the 1930 Revolution, Maurício de Lacerda launched the short-lived United Front of Lefts (Frente Unida das Esquerdas), whose purpose was to write a draft socialist constitution for Brazil.
Vargas Era (1930–1945)
Political activity was highly repressed during the Getúlio Vargas dictatorship. During November 23–27, 1935, a Communist uprising (Intentona Comunista) took place in Natal, Recife, and Rio de Janeiro. It was led by the National Liberation Alliance (Aliança Nacional Libertadora - ANL), an organization which gathered anti-fascist (socialist, communist, liberals, progressive and nationalist) military officers. In Natal, the rebels even formed a military junta which rule the city for four days. The repression of the uprising resulted not only in the arrest of communist militants involved in it but also the persecution of popular forces in general.
In 1937, Vargas imposed a Fourth Constitution for the country, the so-called Polaca ("Polish"), after his government denounced that international military forces were trying to make a "socialist revolution" in Brazil, in what became known as Plano Cohen. This false denunciation was a pretext for Vargas to perpetuate himself as president. Written by Minister of Justice Francisco Campos, the Polaca was inspired by the April Constitution of Poland, and was intended to consolidate the executive power over the legislative and judiciary, implementing what became known as the Estado Novo regime. The Polaca banned political parties and suppressed even further the organized movements of society.
In 1942, Olga Benário Prestes, a Jewish German-Brazilian communist militant, was deported by Vargas to Nazi Germany in 1936 after her husband Luís Carlos Prestes led the failed Communist uprising of November 1935, and was killed at the T-4 Euthanasia Program in Bernburg. Another victim of the Vargas regime was the Italian-Brazilian anarchist Oreste Ristori, deported to the Kingdom of Italy in 1936 and killed by fascist police officers on December 2, 1943.
Second Republic (1945–1964)
After the end of the Vargas regime, socialist ideas started developing again in 1945 with the creation of the Democratic Left (Esquerda Democrática), which was registered as the Brazilian Socialist Party (Partido Socialista Brasileiro - PSB) on the Electoral Justice in August 1947.
In 1946, Luís Carlos Prestes became the first self-proclaimed Communist Senator of Brazil, a feat which would only be repeated sixty years later, when Inácio Arruda was elected to represent Ceará. By 1947, the PCB had nearly 200,000 members, having received 480,00 votes (nearly 9% of the total votes) in that year's legislative election. The party, however, was denounced as being "internationalist, and therefore not committed to Brazil's own interests" by Eurico Gaspar Dutra in 1948, having its license revoked by Electoral Justice. In 1956, clashes emerged in the party after Nikita Khrushchev denounced Joseph Stalin's policies at the Soviet Communist Party's 20th Congress. The factionalization of the PCB accelerated after a new Manifesto was approved in 1958, proposing new ways of achieving communist goals, linking the establishment of socialism to the broadening of democracy. Some of its top leaders, dissatisfied with this guidelines, quit the PCB and formed a new party, Communist Party of Brazil (Partido Comunista do Brasil - PCdoB) in 1962.
In 1955, the Latin American Episcopal Conference (Conselho Episcopal Latino Americano - CELAM) was created in Rio de Janeiro. It pushed the Second Vatican Council (1962–65) toward a more socially oriented stance. CELAM is the main basis for founding the Liberation theology, which would play a significant role on the Brazilian left of the following decades, after declining in the late 1990s.
In 1961, after the resignation of Jânio Quadros, Vice-President João Goulart, a social-democrat with popular reform proposals, took office. He would, however, rule the country de facto only in 1963, after a referendum ended the parliamentary system approved by the Congress to prevent the Military Forces from overthrowing him from office due to his progressive political views. During Goulart's government, PSB's president João Mangabeira became Minister of Justice. A military coup on 1964 deposed Goulart under charges that he was leading a socialist revolution with his Basic Reforms (Reformas de Base) on the red scare context of the Cold War. Goulart's biggest political opponent - and coup supporter - was Carlos Lacerda, son of Maurício de Lacerda, founder of PCB who later joined the National Democratic Union (União Democrática Nacional - UDN), an anti-Communist party.
Military dictatorship (1964–1985)
With the 1964 coup, all political parties were banned, and socialist organizations had to act clandestinely once again. The creation of bipartisanship in 1965 allowed moderate left-wing politicians to join the Brazilian Democratic Movement (Movimento Democrático Brasileiro - MDB), the party of consented opposition to the military regime.
In the second half of the 1960s and all through the 1970s, socialists and other opposition groups to the military dictatorship suffered relentless persecution. The vast majority of milirants in armed organizations that fought the regime professed socialist ideas, ranging from Leninism to Maoism. The slow redemocratization process initiated by Ernesto Geisel in the second half of the 1970s yielded its first gains on the following decade, when socialist and communist parties were once again able to organize freely and stand their own candidates.
In January 1979, at the XI Steelworkers Congress, the proposal to launch the Workers' Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores - PT), a democratic socialist party, was made. Its official foundation would occur a year later at the Catholic school Colégio Sion (Sion High School) in São Paulo. The PT is a result of the approach between trade-unionists of the Central Única dos Trabalhadores (CUT), intellectuals, artists, Catholics influenced by liberation theology, and the old Brazilian left.
In 1984, the Landless Workers' Movement was created as a reaction to the military regime's failed land reform. This socialist group grew rapidly, becoming the largest social movement organization in Latin America, with an estimated 1.5 million members organized in 23 out of Brazil's 26 states.
New Republic (1985–present)
In 1988, Chico Mendes, a member of the PT and an icon of the struggle for preservation of the Amazon Rainforest was assassinated in his house in Acre. He is recognized today as one of the first leaders of the eco-socialism movement.
In the 1989 election, the PT formed a socialist coalition with the PSB and PC do B and ran Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva as its presidential candidate. The Democratic Labour Party (Partido Democrático Trabalhista - PDT), the only Brazilian member of the Socialist International, which claimed to be the actual heir of Goulart's and Vargas' Brazilian Labour Party (Partido Trabalhista Brasileiro - PTB), ran Leonel Brizola. Lula beat Brizola and went on to the second round of the election, losing to neoliberal candidate Fernando Collor de Mello. After two unsuccessful attempts (both lost to Fernando Henrique Cardoso, a Social-Democrat, who soon adhered to the neoliberal agenda), Lula was elected in 2002. In spite of criticism of his government for alliances with right-wing politicians and practicing some unorthodox neoliberal politics, which caused the departure of some factions of the PT, Lula claims he still has "socialist skills". A major departure from his government and his party was from the group which created the Socialism and Freedom Party (Partido Socialismo e Liberdade - PSOL).
- "Resumo histórico do socialismo" (Portuguese), article by Encyclopaedia Britannica do Brasil published on the Independent Media Center on June 24, 2004.
- Mundo do Socialismo - Socialismo no Brasil (Portuguese)
- Cronologia do Utopismo e Socialismo no Brasil (Portuguese)