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General Labor Command (CGT)

General Labor Command (CGT)

As Brazil's first functioning national trade union confederation, the General Labor Command (Comando Geral dos Trabalhadores—CGT) spoke for an insurgent labor movement that demonstrated organizational sophistication and an unprecedented capacity for mass mobilization during the early 1960s. The creation of a unified national labor organization, banned by law, had been heatedly debated in 1960 at the Third National Union Congress in Rio de Janeiro. After ousting conservatives from the National Confederation of Industrial Workers (CNTI) the next year, the proponents of a more aggressive and independent union movement formed a coordinating body during an August 1961 strike in support of João "Jango" Goulart's accession to the presidency following the resignation of Jânio Quadros. This General Strike Command was renamed the General Labor Command during the Fourth National Union Congress held in São Paulo in August 1962. The CGT was to be an "organ of orientation, coordination, and direction" linking legally recognized unions, federations, and confederations throughout Brazil.

Although never legally recognized, the CGT nonetheless played a prominent role in political and economic affairs in the last years of the Populist Republic. Led by a new generation of Communist, nationalist, and trabalhista (laborite) trade unionists, the CGT experimented with the use of general strikes that involved hundreds of thousands of workers. In 1962 the CGT organized Brazil's first politically motivated strikes that could credibly claim to be national in scope.

With the CGT's top leaders increasingly elected to local, state, and national legislative bodies, organized labor fought boldly for a program of change inspired by the reformas de base (basic reforms) of Goulart and his Brazilian Labor Party (PTB). Although the CGT's power was exaggerated, it won a number of important victories including the thirteenth salary (a legally mandated Christmas bonus) and the legalization of rural trade unionism. In March 1964, however, Goulart and his supporters proved too weak to prevent the right-wing military coup that outlawed the CGT and persecuted its leaders and supporters.

See alsoCommunism; Labor Movements.


On the CGT, see Lucília de Almeida Neves Delgado, O Comando Geral dos Trabalhadores no Brasil 1961–1964 (1981) and Sérgio Amad Costa, O C.G.T. e as lutas sindicais Brasileiras (1960–1964) (1981). For more general treatments, see Kenneth P. Erickson, The Brazilian Corporative State and Working-Class Politics (1977); and Jover Telles, O movimento sindical no Brasil (1962; repr. 1981). On two key CGT leaders and their base in Rio de Janeiro, see Hércules Corrêa, A Classe Operária e seu Partido (1980); and issue #3 of Memoria e Historia (1987) on Roberto Morena.

Additional Bibliography

Gouveia, Oserias. Os descaminhos da utopia: Glória e derrocada do comunismo na memória política de militantes dos anos sessenta. Recife: Editoria Universitária UFPE, 2004.

Kushnir, Beatriz. Perfis cruzados: Trajetórias e militância política no Brasil. Rio de Janeiro: Imago, 2002.

Penna, Lincoln de Abreu. Roberto Morena, o militante. São Paulo: Editora Expressão Popular, 2006.

Souza, Donaldo Bello de., Marco Aurélio Santana, and Neise Deluiz. Trabalho e educação: Centrais sindicais e reestruturação produtiva no Brasil. Rio de Janeiro: Quartet, 1999.

                                        John D. French

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