Despite a long tradition of radical protest and organization of labor movements under the banner of anarchism and socialism dating to the middle of the nineteenth century, a well-organized Marxist party did not emerge in Brazil until 1922 with the formation of the Brazilian Communist party, or Partido Comunista Brasileiro (PCB). After much struggle and repression, a long period of party clandestinity was interrupted between 1945 and 1947 by an opening in Brazilian politics and the election of party comrades to positions in congress, state assemblies, and municipal councils.

One of those comrades was Paulo Cavalcanti, elected state deputy from Pernambuco in 1947 and again in 1950; he was also known for his activities in the populist socialist governments of Pelopidas Silvcira and Miguel Arraes in Recife during the fifties and early sixties. A lawyer, journalist, and author of an award-winning book on Portuguese writer Eça de Queiroz, Cavalcanti also was a militant of the PCB. Because of this position, he was arrested eleven times between 1964 and 1976. A man of courage, principles, and conviction willing to defend his belief in Marxism and the party, Cavalcanti thus was in a position to offer an inside view of developments on the Brazilian left. His memoirs comprise this view.

These memoirs commence with the recounting of the author’s childhood, the influence of his father, his years as a law student, and his early political activities. These years included impressions of Prestes and his column of renegade soldiers who marched through the hinterland of Pernambuco. Events of the thirties are vividly recalled. Especially interesting is his account of alignment with, and later disaffiliation from, the Integralist movement. His attention, however, focuses on the PCB, its organization and activities, and its efforts to integrate with the society at large so as to legitimize itself in the electoral process. Of particular significance are Cavalcanti’s personal accounts of political life in Recife and Pernambuco.

Beyond these early years, Cavalcanti dwells in considerable detail on the uprisings of November 1935, the years of the Estado Novo, the parliamentary activities of the party from 1945 to 1947, and the governments of Silveira and Arraes. These events encompass the major chapters of his book, with emphasis on description of personalities and political activities by combining factual presentation with insights and conversations. Cavalcanti also was an admirer of the late Gregorio Bezerra, the most prominent of PCB leaders in the Northeast, so he devotes attention to the exploits of this renowned politician, peasant organizer, and lifelong communist. The concluding chapter documents Cavalcanti’s own repression by the secret police and military, and here we are offered a glimpse of the difficult times suffered by leftist intellectuals after 1964.

This book will be enthusiastically received by scholars and students interested in the politics of the Brazilian Northeast, Pernambuco in particular, as well as in the history of the communist movement.