There are two contrasting photos in “Four Decades with Lula – The Power of Walking Together” (Authentica, 430 pages), by Clara Ant. In the first, from 1985, she is in a police station in Limeira, in the interior of São Paulo.
She appears with dark circles under her eyes, a bandage on her head and bloody clothes. A leader of the Central Única dos Trabalhadores, the CUT, she supported a metallurgical strike and took a
smack dab from the police.
In the other photo, from 2014, she is all hot next to Clinton and Lula, smiling and elegant with her scarf. Images like this usually celebrate those who came from below and won in life, as if society allowed everyone to rise, not just a ridiculous minority.
These are photos that also commemorate the arrivism of those who, when entering politics to fight with the disinherited, mature and acquire common sense. What is celebrated then is the adaptation to the politics of give-and-take, which welcomes those who exchange radicalism for so-called realism.
“Four Decades with Lula” shows that these interpretations do not apply to Clara Ant. She came from the remedied middle class and is still in it. It is only on the last page that it counts, between commas, that a crowdfunding of friends allowed her, unemployed during the pandemic, to pay for her health plan.
She doesn’t brag about it or any of her accomplishments. It places itself as a participant in a collective and libertarian movement for the improvement of workers’ lives. It bears witness to a condition so often reviled: that of a militant.
His family were Polish Jews who had fled the war and pogroms. In Biłgoraj, her father’s village alone, 40 villagers with the surname Ant were killed, she writes, “bombed, shot or burned alive in the synagogue”.
Biłgoraj is the city of “The Children’s Crusade”, Brecht’s poignant and poignant poem. It was written just before Clara Ant’s father escaped from Poland empty-handed — and her mother with some potatoes hidden in the lining of her coat.
She was born in La Paz, Bolivia. She spoke Yiddish at home, Hebrew at school, and Spanish on the street. There, anti-Semitism was far rarer. But it thrived, violently.
The Colegio Boliviano Israelita, where he studied, was once stoned. She stayed outside the school, alone and apprehensive, until her father came to pick her up. There was also political unrest. In the 1952 revolution, when she was four years old, a stray bullet hit her mattress.
The Ant moved to São Paulo and settled on José Paulino Street, the heart of the Jewish community. Judaism gave Clara an existential and cultural identity, but not a religious one.
When registering its “roll of values”, “Four Decades with Lula” speaks of “synthesis of socialism with Judaism: social justice, solidarity, discipline, commitment and loyalty”. According to the book, these were “ideas that came from home and joined the experience of militancy.”
Militancy that began at USP, where he graduated in architecture. With the dictatorship at its height, those who pursued radical politics were at risk. And Clara Ant had joined the Internationalist Socialist Organization, OSI, which faced, in addition to the military, the PCB and all those who connived with the brucutus.
It is a pity that she does not discuss her activity at OSI, where she was in politics for 13 years, many of them at her direction. Also because it is not trivial to move from a Trotskyist organization — hence revolutionary and internationalist — to a reformist party that is not against capitalism, the PT.
However, this is not the purpose of his book. She does not linger on the analysis of the policies adopted by Lula or by the party. Her objective is to tell how unionists and members of the PT organized themselves to win elections and put into practice a program with which she agrees.
Therefore, the best pages of “Four Decades with Lula” are the ones that report, from the inside, the formation of the CUT and the Citizenship Caravans, which gave stature and structure to the PT. They are pages where the wind of an epic blows — that of a people who are aware of their place in history.
Clara Ant was there, in the middle of the bololo. In an argument, trade unionist Arnaldo Gonçalves called her a whore; Jair Meneguelli came to his rescue and slapped the other man in the face.
At Unicamp, Dean Benedito Fonseca fired her for demanding better salaries, organizing a teachers’ association and – icing on the cake – being “Jewish, Bolivian and divorced”. She didn’t give up. She continued to do what she thinks is right, military. In the present and for the future.
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