A Relationship Forged in Exile

Luís Carlos Prestes and the Brazilian Communist Party, 1927-1935

Jacob Blanc

This chapter examines the early relationship between the Brazilian Communist Party and Luís Carlos Prestes. Although Prestes would later become the PCB’s Secretary General from 1942 to 1980, his initial association with the Party was disjointed and often contentious. By focusing on the period between 1927 and 1935, this chapter traces the back-and-forth history of Prestes and the PCB through the transnational linkages that shaped both the man and the Party. These years were bookended by key developments for Prestes as well as the PCB. In 1927, Prestes went into exile after leading a two-year liberal revolution across Brazil’s vast interior regions, and it was during his years abroad (Bolivia, Argentina, Uruguay, the Soviet Union) that he began to discard his liberal, reformist views in favor of a Marxist critique. This radicalization culminated in 1935, when he helped lead a failed Communist insurrection in Rio de Janeiro. Like Prestes, the Brazilian Communist Party also evolved in relation to Communist militants outside of Brazil, most notably the shifting policies from the Comintern in Moscow—often mediated through the South American Bureau located in Buenos Aires. The PCB had to navigate Comintern directives between two major summits held in Moscow, the Sixth World Congress in 1928—which ushered in the so-called Third Period and its program of class warfare—and the Seventh World Congress in 1935, which called for a broader Popular Front approach. The PCB’s vacillating stance on Prestes was thus driven by its own attempts to recalibrate its platform according to the changing wishes of Moscow. A close reading of the web of relationships that formed between Prestes, the PCB, and the Comintern helps elucidate how Communist Parties in Latin America navigated the evolving policies dictated by Moscow.