John French analyzes the emergence of the Brazilian system of politics and labor relations between 1900 and 1953 in the industrial municipalities of Santo Andre, Sao Bernardo do Campo, and Sao Caetano do Sul. These municipalities, which constitute the so-called ABC region of greater Sao Paolo, were made famous in the late 1970s as a result of a series of strikes by militant autoworkers. French challenges a scholarly consensus that has portrayed Brazilian populism as a "demobilizing" experience in which workers and their leaders were seduced and co-opted by charismatic politicians while being subjected to pervasive domination by the state. This revisionist, grass-roots view of Brazil's corporatist system of state-linked trade unionism in the 1930s examines the tumultuous political transition after World War II, when workers entered into electoral politics on an unprecedented scale.
In examining the interplay between the industrial working class, its leaders, and politicians such as Getulio Vargas, Luis Carlos Prestes, and Adhemar de Barroas, French shows that workers were active and resourceful political political actors whose participation propelled Brazilian politics in a new, more democratic direction.
Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press