Lula: The Socialism That We Build Will Be Defined by the People


In 1981, Lula da Silva spoke to the first Brazilian Workers’ Party convention about his country’s path to democratic socialism. Ahead of the second round of Brazil’s presidential election later this month, we reproduce his speech here.

Lula Da Silva during a press conference on September 30, 2022 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. (Buda Mendes / Getty Images)

On February 10, 1980, the Brazilian Workers’ Party (Partido dos Trabalhadores, PT) was created. Metalworker Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva was a founding member of that party. He would go on to run as the PT’s presidential candidate, eventually winning the presidency and serving from 2003–10; after his jailing on trumped-up corruption charges for 580 days from 2018–19, he was released and ran for president earlier this month against President Jair Bolsonaro, beating the right-wing incumbent by 5 percentage points in the first round. The next round of voting takes place later this month.

In Lula’s speech at the first PT national convention, he articulated a vision of the workers’ struggle as intertwined with the causes of the black, feminist, environmentalist, and Indigenous peoples’ movements, toward the construction of socialism.

The creation of the PT results from the intense process of social mobilization at the end of the 1970s in Brazil. A new wave of strikes by a combative trade union movement, the fight against famine, and the confrontation with the military dictatorship that ruled the country at the time helped produced this mass political organization of the working class. The manifesto of the new party, launched on February 10, 1980, at Colégio Sion in São Paulo, stated that “the workers want to organize themselves as an autonomous political force” and concludes by calling for the collective construction of an egalitarian society “where there are no exploited and no exploiters.”

The party’s program focused on the freedom of association, the dismantling of organs of repression, the improvement of the working class’s living conditions, the defense of a “broad, massive agrarian reform under workers’ control,” and the struggle for national sovereignty against imperialist domination, and it ends by expressing support for movements defending the rights of women, blacks, and Indigenous peoples.

In his speech at the first party national convention, Lula talks about the importance of the racial issue, discusses the need to fight against the “macho culture” of treating homosexuality as a disease, and expresses solidarity with the Indigenous cause. He gave these various struggles a simple and universal name: socialism.

In the following, we reproduce Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s speech at the first National Convention of the Workers’ Party, held on September 27, 1981, in Brasília.

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