The fate of Bananistan

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Brazil needs to break the backbone of colonialism to combine food security with high value-added chains

It is virtually impossible to live everyday life without a minimum of predictability. The more complex the society and the richer the consumption pattern, the more items are included in the formation of this forecast. Faced with scarcity, the logic is inverted, and the most unpredictable condition is when the most basic material conditions of life are not even guaranteed. The Brazil of the pandemic, and before, since the beginning of the second government Dilma Rousseff – when the re-elected president puts a Chicago Boy on the farm, the priceless Joaquim Levy – lives under an ever greater unpredictability.

The systematic disinformation of neoliberals sells the magic formula of “supply and demand” as applicable in all “markets”. Nothing could be more farcical. One, because not everything is “market”. Two, because in capitalism, the market class par excellence is the oligopoly. More and more we need techno-scientific training to develop basic industry, production goods and also to control chains with high added value. The “logic” is complexity and specialization, therefore, it ends up forming even greater concentration, that is, oligopoly. In this sense, each industry counts, being more or less complex. And every industrial plant that closes implies the loss of direct and indirect jobs, supply chains and an entire social-productive fabric that falls into “unpredictability”.

An example of the absence of a base industry is the lack of Brazilian APIs – active pharmaceutical ingredients – the main inputs of the pharmaceutical industry. We were already almost self-sufficient in the sector, but the combination of imported inputs to form cheaper prices with generics and the subsequent deindustrialization of this branch, made Brazil dependent again. With the advancement of the pandemic and the need for mass vaccination, two large producers, such as India (one billion and 366 million people) and China (one billion and 398 million), being very populous, may necessarily come to prioritize meeting their needs. citizenship rather than providing for other countries. If that happens, and it always can, then we won't have the necessary material to save our population. Simple and macabre like that.

Another case is the imposition of the terms of trade, on a scale of multiple factors. I am referring to the United States, which purchased all possible vaccines and inputs in advance, in addition to manufacturing the anti-Covid vaccine on its own. The forecast is to vaccinate the entire American adult population in April 2021. And, probably, they will not sell “their surplus” vaccine to countries where there was no adequate planning, as is once again the case of Brazil under mismanagement.

The example of loss in the exchange factor: the fate of Bananistan

A socially just and politically democratic society needs a certain level of autonomy and independence, at least in fundamental or strategic sectors. Either a country and its power bloc excel in some exchange factors, or they will simply be the target and victim of this game itself. There is little point in exporting a New Panamax-class vessel (an enormous cargo ship that passes through the widened Panama Canal) full of bananas if, in the barter system, the country needs to sell five banana boats to buy a trawler full of mariola or banana candy (one scale higher in the transformation process). of product). It is even worse if a genetically modified enzyme is needed for the large-scale production of mariola or banana, whose production royalties belong to a single company, or perhaps a maximum of five chemical complexes on a global scale.

We can claim that in the global pattern of consumption and in the dispute for efficiency and productivity, the use of chemical “defensives” and “pesticides” applied to genetically modified organisms is a condition of no return. If so, and Brazil is an agro-exporting country, then, we need to think on a national scale about the production of fertilizers and derivatives that do not burden primary production. This does not happen and on average, for every one hundred bags of grain for export (in the soybean pattern, for example), about twenty are used to pay royalties and other rights for the use of intensive technology. I insist on stating here: domestic consumption should be based on family and peasant agriculture, with regionalized production based on organic products and native seeds. Let's see.

I repeat, none of the misfortunes that were narrated above would be necessary. A vigorous social mattress can and should start with food security and the guarantee of permanence and presence of peasant families as poison-free and intensive agricultural producers. The national school feeding program and the proportion of purchases directed towards regionalized family farming, since it was constituted, is a fundamental factor in guaranteeing both children and young people from the most humble origins in Brazil, as well as the fixation of peasants. Another important factor is to prevent the advance of real estate speculation, as the tendency is for the invasion of territories around large cities or metropolitan areas, transforming productive units into properties that lack even more expensive infrastructure.

These elements mentioned above, such as: agricultural zoning; supply forecast; guarantee of purchases in family farming and minimal predictability in life in society, form the opposite of the neoliberal nonsense of “individual freedom” as the most important value. All freedom is important, but in the absence of material conditions of life, “freedom” becomes the tyranny of the concentration of income and power, and thus nothing is sustained, not even the industry of emerging countries, of the periphery or semi-periphery, as it is the Brazilian case.

A country that does not guarantee the food security of its people, creating, for example, regulatory stocks and regionalized supply systems, simply cannot face anything. Today it is a pandemic, tomorrow a war, yesterday it was a counter-intelligence operation by the FBI and CIA, inside Brazil, as evidenced by the articles of Vaza Jato (The Intercept Brasil). Without strategic coordination at all levels, either it becomes the law of the strongest, of pure and simple cruelty with a veneer of legality, or mismanagement, like that of Jair Bolsonaro and his minions. It could be the sum of the two situations, like the Horror Film that we live today in real time (quoting the brilliant Sérgio Sampaio, in the composition of 1973, see

The real game of the international system

In the dirty game of the International System, those who produce fundamental goods impose their conditions or coordinate cooperative actions that can change the “balance” of forces on a planetary scale. China's role today is an example of this, as the ability to act at all levels of the capitalist economy makes the Confucian State a fundamental partner for practically all countries.

A country with representation in the UN General Assembly is unlikely to have all the necessary factors to operate with self-determination. But when this permanent goal is not even announced, it does not occupy the mentality of those who dominate or drive the frontier inwards, then there is simply no way forward, just staggering according to the flavors of the winds blown by third parties.

There are “scientific laws” in political economy that must necessarily be respected. One deals with coordination and control (total or partial) in strategic sectors. What these sectors are and which ruling fraction will coordinate is a debate in the form of a struggle for power and resources. But in the absence of these definitions, stupidity, cruelty and imbecility are feasible forms of dominance by the majority, including the productive chains that cannot defend themselves in the game of bargaining between politicians, parasites of the financial system and rising elites (such as the military deliveries associated with Bolsonaro).

And please, don't tell me I'm “prejudiced” against bananas. The fruit is fantastic, as are all the products derived from it. The banana really did not deserve to be pejoratively associated with the usual colonial delivery men.

In short: there would be no problem selling bananas, as long as the goal was to also produce mariola and enzymes. In other words, that export agromineral production serves to resume industry and the complexity of the Brazilian economy, and not increase the colonial fate of plantation or mining. An ideal situation is to combine food security with high added value chains. Few countries in the world are fully capable of achieving this. Brazil is one of these, but it needs to break the backbone of internal colonialism to achieve such a possibility.

*Bruno Beaklini is a political scientist and professor of international relations. Strategy & Analysis Channel Editor.


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