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Communist Revolts of 1935

Communist Revolts of 1935

In 1934 and 1935, the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB) initiated a two-track policy in its attempt to gain power. On the one hand, it participated in a popular front-inspired strategy of making alliances with progressive political groups for an eventual electoral movement. This policy led to the creation in March 1935 of the National Liberation Alliance (ANL). On the other hand, Luís Carlos Prestes and other party leaders planned to stage a coup d'état with disaffected military men. The Comintern in Moscow initiated both strategies, in keeping with its own foreign-policy objectives. The popular front sought to limit the growing influence of fascism, and the coup was an attempt to undermine the smooth functioning of the U.S. and British colonial networks, formal and informal. Moreover, Comintern planners, including Brazilian exiles, looked to the experience of China—another large agrarian country—as their guide for formulating policies for Brazil.

Conceived in Moscow as part of the Soviet Union's offensive against Brazil as a U.S. client, the November 1935 putsch attempt (also known as the intentona) was a complete failure that adversely affected any group that had had ties to the ANL but had played no role in the uprising. A group of noncommissioned army men initiated the revolt on the evening of 23 November 1935 in the city of Natal, Rio Grande do Norte. Another group of men rebelled in Recife, Pernambuco. As the federal and state governments moved to crush this small-scale military uprising, Prestes and other PCB leaders initiated a similar uprising in Rio de Janeiro. Loyal troops quickly beat back the rebels.

In just four days, the PCB's quixotic putsch attempt not only failed but also ushered in a decade of state-sponsored repression of all left-wing and labor groups, even though they had not participated in the failed uprising. Getúlio Vargas's police arrested politicians of various leanings associated with the ANL, and the federal government purged labor union leaders throughout Brazil. The failed coup gave Vargas and his allies the political pretext for instituting a state of siege and eventually establishing the Estado Nôvo dictatorship in 1937.

See alsoCommunism; Soviet-Latin American Relations.


The standard work on politics in the mid-1930s, which includes analyses of the ANL and the intentona, is Robert M. Levine, The Vargas Regime: The Critical Years, 1934–1938 (1970). Specific studies of the 1935 uprising include Thomas E. Skidmore, "Failure in Brazil: From Popular Front to Armed Revolt," in Journal of Contemporary History 5 (1970): 137-157, and Stanley E. Hilton, Brazil and the Soviet Challenge, 1917–1947 (1991).

Additional Bibliography

Brown, Diana. Umbanda: Religion and Politics in Urban Brazil. New York: Columbia University Press, 1994.

Levine, Robert M. Father of the Poor? Vargas and his Era. Cambridge, U.K.: Cambridge University Press, 1998.

Oliveira Filho, Moacyr de. Praxede, um operario no poder: a insurreiçao comunista de 1935 vista por dentro. São Paulo: Editora Alfa-Omega, 1985.

Williams, Daryle. Culture Wars in Brazil: The First Vargas Regime, 1930–1945. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2001.

                                              Joel Wolfe

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