Brazilian Labor Party (PTB)

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Brazilian Labor Party (PTB)

Getúlio Vargas created the Brazilian Labor Party (Partido Trabalhista Brasileiro—PTB) along with the Social Democratic Party (Partido Social Democrático—PSD) in early 1945. The two political parties sought to represent Vargas's constituencies in the electoral politics that followed the Estado Nôvo dictatorship. The PTB was to be a non-Communist alternative for the country's recently enfranchised industrial workers. Vargas hoped that the PTB would mirror the British Labour Party by marshaling union support. The PTB never achieved such status. Rather than becoming the institutional representative of Brazilian workers, the party served as the home base for a series of populist politicians, beginning with Vargas himself.

Vargas and his allies closely controlled the PTB's affairs, and by doing so failed to build ties to either unionized or nonunionized workers. The party was particularly weak in the state of São Paulo, Brazil's industrial heartland. From its founding in 1945 to Vargas's suicide in 1954, the PTB served as an electoral vehicle for the former dictator, who refashioned himself as a pro-worker populist. Vargas was elected president in 1950 running as a PTB candidate.

With Vargas's death, control of the party fell to his former minister of labor and fellow Gaúcho, João (Jângo) Goulart. From the mid-1950s through the early 1960s, government labor bureaucrats and left-wing populists fought for control of the PTB. Jângo's elevation to the presidency in 1961 intensified this conflict. In the early 1960s, Goulart's brother-in-law, Leonel Brizola, controlled the radical wing of the PTB that effectively pushed Jângo to adopt policies favoring urban and rural labor. This turn to the left hastened the military coup of 1964.

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, Brizola sought to lead a reconstituted PTB that would continue in the spirit of Vargas and Goulart. Brizola lost access to the party's name and so formed the Democratic Labor Party (Partido Democrático Trabalhista—PDT). The reconstituted PTB became a home base for conservative unionists who opposed the new unionism of the Workers Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores—PT). Yet, as of 2006, the PTB held 22 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and participated in a coalition in support of President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva of the PT.

See alsoGoulart, João Belchior Marques; Vargas, Getúlio Dornelles.


For a detailed analysis of the PTB's role in national politics, see Thomas E. Skidmore, Politics in Brazil, 1930–1964: An Experiment in Democracy (1967). Case studies of the PTB are provided in Maria Andréa Loyola, Os sindicatos e o PTB; Estudo de um caso em Minas Gerais (1980), and Maria Victoria Benevides, O PTB e o trabalhismo em São Paulo, 1945–1964 (1989). On the origins of the PTB, see Angela Castro Gomes, A invenção do trabalhismo (1988).

Additional Bibliography

Ferreira, Jorge Luiz. O imaginário trabalhista: Getulismo, PTB e cultura política popular, 1945–1964. Rio de Janeiro: Civilização Brasileira, 2005.

Kingstone, Peter R. and Timothy J. Power, eds. Democratic Brazil: Actors, Institutions, and Processes. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2000.

Lavaud, Jean-Pierre. El embrollo boliviano: Turbulencias sociales y desplazamientos políticos, 1952–1982. Lima: IEFA; La Paz: Hisbol, 1998.

                                             Joel Wolfe

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Brazilian Labor Party (PTB)

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