Class war in Brazil: in defence of social security
During the government of the Brazilian President Washington Luís, on referring to the syndicalism of the 1920s, said that “The social question is a police case”. That phrase summarises how the Brazilian political elites have treated movements of social demands. Brazil was experiencing a first wave of industrialisation, the union organisations came from an upsurge in syndicalist struggles that culminated in the 1917 general strike and the 1918 insurrection, with the hegemony of anarchism and revolutionary syndicalism. The demands of the subaltern sectors were translated into numerous social protection laws that would be formulated in the following decade. It was a way for the elites to pacify the class conflict.
Thus was born the germ of social security in Brazil, with the creation of the Retirement and Pensions Fund in 1923, considered the country’s first social security law. The law provided for medical aid, retirement, dependency pensions and funeral aid. Initially the law only provided for railway workers but was soon extended to other sectors.