General Golbery

Patrick Caulfield, Bananas and Leaves, 1977


Commentary on the recently published book by Ivan Seixas

The book General Golbery and the Brazilian military surrender, by Ivan Seixas, makes a broad examination of the presence of military forces in Brazilian politics, since the creation of the Escola Superior de Guerra, in 1948, in particular from the thought of General Golbery do Couto e Silva. According to the study, Golbery do Couto e Silva was “an articulator and mentor of the military before the 1964 coup d'état and after the dictatorship was implemented” (p. 11). The Escola Superior de Guerra, set up with assistance from the United States, is understood in the work as responsible for shaping the thinking of the military sector, as it has maintained the project of national power under its control ever since.


Presence in the Republic

This role was assumed by the Armed Forces, and in particular by the Army, since 1891 with the coup to establish the Republic, which was followed by two military governments – of Marshals Deodoro da Fonseca and Floriano Peixoto. The hegemony in the exercise of power is also analyzed in its partnerships with national oligarchies, such as the one that resulted in the so-called “coffee with milk policy”, in the first decades of the XNUMXth century.

Military interference in politics is detailed during and after the 1930 Revolution, which brought Vargas to power, and also in his overthrow, in the redemocratization of 1946 and in the legitimization of another military president, Eurico Gaspar Dutra, who commanded a repressive government, responsible for the annulment of the PCB and for the consolidation of the alliance with the US military forces, in a relationship of subjection, in the midst of which the Escola Superior de Guerra was installed. In this training center, since the beginning, Golbery do Couto e Silva circulated.

The specter of military tutelage, subject to US dictates, continues with the National Security Doctrine, according to the author, “the beginning of a great conspiracy against democracy”, articulated in line with the capitalist bloc in the years of the Cold War, which , in Brazil, included the persecution of “intellectuals, artists, students and progressive priests”, in an anti-communist campaign within the “so-called doctrine of hemispheric defense”, justified by the discourse of “defense of freedom and peace” and the “moral values” of the society (p. 28-30).


The character

Golbery do Couto e Silva is revealed, in Ivan Seixas' book, as a fundamental link between the Armed Forces and the ideology of US domination over the American continent, or even, the main ideologue of Brazil's dependence on that country. In this respect, he was a complete actor: he graduated in advanced studies of strategy and information in US military centers and worked in the Brazilian Expeditionary Force as a bridge with the Yankee troops in the intelligence sector. Upon returning to Brazil, he took on the role of disseminating the theory of subservience in South America. By the end of the 1940s, he was the theoretical formulator of the Escola Superior de Guerra, a period in which he developed theses on the association of the State with private capital.

At that point, as a trained military intellectual of the conspiracy, Golbery do Couto e Silva acted in the overthrow of Getúlio Vargas, in the strengthening of the information system during the Juscelino and Jânio governments and, decisively, in the articulation of the 1964 coup, who overthrew João Goulart. During the military dictatorship that followed until 1985, when he was already a general, Golbery do Couto e Silva organized the National Information Service, the infamous SNI, which, according to the author, “began to coordinate all political repression organizations, including military organizations of repression” (p. 55).

During the dictatorial period, he was sidelined on two occasions, by Costa e Silva and João Figueiredo, but he did not hesitate and got involved in the private sector, when he was accused of a scandalous case of corruption for influence peddling in a billionaire loan from the BNDES to Dow Chemical, the multinational he presided over (p. 56).


ideology of repression

Another part of Ivan Seixas' work, perhaps the most relevant, dissects Golbery's thought, gathered in the book Geopolitics of Brazil, published in 1967, with his articles that he used in courses at the Escola Superior de Guerra. At first, he shows how poorly finished and intellectually inconsistent the general's texts are, especially in the rational organization of thought, in the superficial bibliographic use and even in the elaboration of the composition (p. 57-61).

However, on the other hand, they serve the purposes they serve “through well-elaborated reasoning, based on the idea of ​​fear” (p. 63). The analysis of the diffusion function of the ideology nurtured by the military – anti-democratic, anti-popular and in defense of military interference in the State and civil society – made by Ivan Seixas in the book General Golbery, is revealing. The dense chapter “Content and analysis of the book” is dedicated to this part.

In addition to the stigma of “fear”, the author covers other topics highlighted by the coup leader, which were the basis for the military dictatorship of 1964 and the system of social oppression installed by it, such as the definition of the “role of the State”, the “theme of war", distortedly publicized "national security", "globalization", Brazil's relationship with the capitalist and Catholic "West", "anti-communism" and, among others, "submission to the USA" (pp. 63-92).

In this last topic, Ivan Seixas makes it clear that it is a conscious choice of the military: “The adhesion and linkage of Golbery's thinking to US interests are evident when he states that dominance of the South Atlantic is Brazil's responsibility 'however long that we are, without pretense, disposed to use it for the benefit of our brothers in the north'. It is important to point out that the Brazilian general uses the expression 'in benefit' to designate our country's connection with the USA. This does not denote a simple connection, but points to a subordination of policies. And he again defines the fight against communism as the ideological link between Brazil and the USA when he says that there is an interest in defending 'Christian civilization, which is ours, against communist imperialism of exotic origin'” (p. 96) .

Other prominent points analyzed in the chapter are about the “military project of power”, “national security” and the “political struggle” (p. 105-112), which, according to the author, can be translated, as a whole, as the defense of the country and of the “West” within the aforementioned logic of servility to US interests, the continued conspiracy against democracy and the pursuit of an abstract “communist subversion”. “In other words, General Golbery do Couto e Silva is outlining a dictatorship, which he envisages, aims and works for its effectiveness” (p. 110), as the author states.

In a passage of a panoramic evaluation, Ivan Seixas summarizes the idea that guided the military coup caste that dominated power in Brazil during the military dictatorship of 1964: “General Golbery do Couto e Silva calls geopolitics the option for linking and linking to the USA and to your interests. This is explicit in several moments of his writings. It cannot be said that he is dealing with or outlining a 'geopolitics of Brazil', as is the title of his book, but a 'geopolitics of the USA, carried out by Brazil'. Or rather, executed by the Brazilian military. General Golbery does not write a single line or is concerned with proposing a policy of national sovereignty or geopolitics of interest to his people, who are Brazilians, but indicates that Brazil 'necessarily' must insert itself into continental geopolitics to defend of the 'Christian and capitalist West', without pointing out the reasonable and logical justification for such a choice to the detriment of his own country” (p. 122).


The author

Ivan Seixas, journalist and historian, was a member of the Tiradentes Revolutionary Movement (MRT), which acted in resistance to the military dictatorship of 1964. only being released in 1971. Since then, he has been an important voice in defense of human rights in Brazil. He was coordinator of the Right to Memory and Truth project of the Human Rights Secretariat of the Presidency of the Republic, special advisor to the National Truth Commission (CNV) and coordinator of the State Truth Commission of São Paulo Rubens Paiva.

In an interview, Ivan Seixas said that “the training provided by the writings of General Golbery do Couto e Silva is current, as they are still taught today at the Academia Militar das Agulhas Negras and at the Escola Superior de Aperfeiçoamento de Oficiais. The discourse of generals today is the same as that of Golbery during the Cold War and the military dictatorship”.

He also noted that “even the delinquent Jair Bolsonaro tries to repeat the anti-communist, anti-national and pro-USA speech, but as he is crude and precarious in reasoning, he resorts to the ridiculous act of saluting the flag of that country or saying that he loves his ex. -President Trump. The subservience of the generals of the dictatorship, who served the interests of US imperialism, and that of the current generals is the same”.

Another point indicated by the author is the similarity of the current government with that of General Eurico Gaspar Dutra, “linked to US interests, repressive with the trade union movement, moralistic in customs and ultraliberal in the economy”. Coincidences also occur in the neglect of public accounts. “In the first two years of that government, Brazil's foreign exchange reserves were toasted to finance the economic policy against the industrialization promoted by Getúlio Vargas”, he added.

*Joao Valentino Alfredo is a journalist and doctor in communication from the University of Texas at Austin (USA).



Ivan Seixas. General Golbery and the Brazilian military surrender. Curitiba, publisher CRV, 2022, 132 pages.


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