Independence or death!

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By PAULO NOGUEIRA BATISTA JR.*

Independence or the diminished life of colonies and subordinate nations

“Independence is for the people what freedom is for the individual”, defined Charles De Gaulle, with the authority of who gave his all to save the threatened independence of France during the Second World War. In the same spirit, we could say that independence or national autonomy is the ability of a country to define its destiny.

This independence is crucial and non-transferable, as no self-respecting country can entrust its destiny to other nations, however close they may seem, however friendly they may be considered. Nations, Charles De Gaulle also said, do not have friends, but interests. Only countries that are intended to be colonies or protectorates abdicate their independence.

It was for no other reason that Charles De Gaulle, whom the Shah of Iran asked for advice in the early 1960s, said in response: “I have only one piece of advice to give you, but it is of great value: do whatever you can. reach to preserve its autonomy of decision”.

I am recapitulating these Gaullist lessons because we are celebrating, this coming week, 200 years of political independence in Brazil. The celebration has been weak. More lukewarm than the celebration of 100 years, in 1922, as historian Luiz Felipe Alencastro recalled.

Brazilians, always inclined to devalue Brazil, like to sneer at independence, saying that it didn't happen, that it was a fiasco, etc. I'm not going to follow this turn-latist tune. Independence in 1822 was a great Portuguese-Brazilian achievement, especially because it was achieved without breaking national unity, preserving the immense Brazil that we still have today, with few subsequent territorial modifications. If the reader thinks this is not enough, let him look at Hispanic America, which after independence was fragmented into 19 countries, despite the efforts of a Bolívar.

It is paradoxical that it can be said, as I said in the previous paragraph, that Brazil's independence from Portugal was a Luso-Brazilian feat. But was. The agreement between João VI and Pedro I was the touchstone. It allowed for a relatively peaceful transition and worked as an axis against the centrifugal tendencies that would manifest themselves in several provinces until the 1840s, especially during the Regency period. With difficulties, Rio de Janeiro prevailed and Brazil remained united, as one of the giants of the planet.

João VI deserves more consideration than he has received, by the way. His decision to move the capital to Rio de Janeiro was both courageous and wise. Notice, reader, that he did what the French elites refused to do in 1940. What Charles De Gaulle advocated, almost single-handedly, was exactly what the Prince Regent of Portugal had done in 1808 – transplant the government to the Empire , and continue the fight. Pétain and others preferred surrender, while Charles De Gaulle and a minority of nonconformists settled in London to continue the war against Germany.

The 1808 decision was, as is known, the first major step towards Brazil's independence. And, if it had been up to João VI, the Court would have stayed permanently in Rio de Janeiro, the new seat of the Portuguese, or Luso-Brazilian, Empire. However, the rebellious Cortes in Portugal forced the return of the king, who, realizing everything, recommended his son, before leaving for Lisbon, to prepare himself to lead the independence of Brazil. Second great move by João VI.

Pedro I is another who deserves better treatment than he has received from Brazilians. His cry of rebellion on the banks of the Ipiranga resonated throughout Brazil. Tearing off Portugal's insignia, he proclaimed: “Ties off, soldiers! The Cortes of Portugal want to enslave us. Independence or death!". Please don't tell me, “Ah, but there was this, there was that, Pedro I remained Portuguese, he didn't fully embrace the Brazilian cause, etc.”.

Make no mistake, dear reader and compatriot: it is always possible to deprecate anything. Great nations never do that with their turning points. The French never, or almost never, think of rehabilitating Pétain and his minions, or diminishing the feat of Charles De Gaulle in 1940. The English don't dwell on Winston Churchill's weaknesses, which are not few, by the way. National legends are, yes, submitted to the analytical and critical scrutiny of history, but not in an indiscriminate and destructive way.

Churchill, for example, strictly speaking, was a terrorist on a grand scale. And it's not hard to prove. Suffice it to mention the total destruction of Dresden – a clean, crystal-clear act of terror, pure and simple terror. An Englishman would hardly accept that designation for Churchill. And rightly so. Churchill's terrorism and other shortcomings do not detract from the greatness of his main achievement - that of continuing the war against Hitler virtually single-handedly when almost everyone else had given up.

I return to Brazil. Yes, reader, independence or death! The choice is clear: independence or the diminished life of colonies and subordinate nations! If benevolent hegemonic nations existed, we might still choose to place ourselves in the shadow of one of them. But that never existed and never will. The internal political dynamics in the most advanced countries demand that the national interest take precedence over the interests of colonized or subordinated peoples. These will always be submitted for the purpose of facilitating the solution of the problems and conflicts of the metropolis, as the millenary history of the empires of all times unequivocally shows.

Let us, therefore, celebrate the 200 years of Grito do Ipiranga without inhibitions, value what we have achieved and fight for our independence to be preserved and strengthened in the XNUMXst century and beyond.

*Paulo Nogueira Batista Jr. he holds the Celso Furtado Chair at the College of High Studies at UFRJ. He was vice-president of the New Development Bank, established by the BRICS in Shanghai. Author, among other books, of Brazil doesn't fit in anyone's backyard (LeYa).

Extended version of article published in the journal capital letter, on the 2th of September 2022.

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