In the prodigious forest

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By JOSÉ RAIMUNDO TRINDADE*

Considerations on the Amazon and its late insertion in the history of Brazil

Once upon a time in the Amazon the most beautiful forest\ Green forest, blue sky, the most immense forest\ At the bottom of the water the Iaras, caboclo legends and sorrows\

And the rivers pulling the waters (Vital Farias)

Capitalism conditions and shapes the territorial space at different levels and historically convergent to its cyclical movements. The Amazon is, perhaps, at the beginning of the XNUMXst century, the most striking example of the economic conversion of nature to the incessant process of capital accumulation.

The debate about the "reconquest" of the Amazon, an expression due to Armando Dias Mendes, awakens different positions, suggesting that the national society's own capacity for interpretation and knowledge about and for the space of "hylae prodigiosa” is very restricted and almost entirely centered on the pattern “drive exporter", that is, the Amazon is relevant in the national scenario as a region that exports primary products, with emphasis on products from mineral extraction (mainly iron ore), live cattle and, in the border area with the Midwest, especially the area of ​​contiguity between Mato Grosso and Pará, soy production gains relevance, as we have even demonstrated in works published in this space and in books (TRINDADE, 2020).

The recent episode of barbaric violence that victimized Bruno Ribeiro and Dom Philips is part of this more general logic, but in terms of the long term, we have two key interactions to be addressed: the role of the national State in the logic of asserting territory so broad to the domain of predatory capital and, on the other hand, the distant and indifferent way that most of Brazilian national society observes and faces what in the XNUMXth century was a frontier and today is the expansive center of Brazilian primary-export accumulation, it is worth emphasizing that we only have primary capitalism -exporter with vigor and increasing profits for rentiers and capitalists in the agro-mineral business in terms of the Amazon.

As Bertha K. Becker rightly pointed out, the Amazon appears in the Brazilian economic formation late, having the double meaning both “temporal, later, as well as the meaning of the absence of productive forces that would allow the full development and the effective integration of the region to the national State ”. This double meaning can be seen from different angles, for example, it also refers to the different conditions experienced by Amazonian society in the last seventy years. Whether due to the cyclical pressure of its greater or lesser adherence to the capitalist world-economy, centered on the supply of raw materials necessary for the rhythm of global accumulation at different times in the 1970th century, or due to the innovative presence of maquiladora production in its western portion from the XNUMX's.

The 40th century of Amazonian economic history begins in style, with exponential growth in the rubber export sector and substantial social and demographic changes, so much so that the product practically equaled coffee in the Brazilian export balance, with a 1910% share in 1910 It was also a time of greater urban growth in the two main cities in the Amazon, Belém and Manaus. With the decline of the rubber economy at the end of the 1940s, the region started to have a dynamic of “inward-looking economy”, showing little interaction with the national economy for more than twenty years. It was only from the 1946s onwards that the central government turned its attention to the region, whether during the second rubber boom during the Second World War or after 199 with the insertion of Article XNUMX in the Constitution.

This constitutional norm arose due to pressure from parliamentarians from the Amazon who claimed the insertion of a constitutional instrument that would guarantee greater attention from the federal government to the region. As of this article, the elaboration of a plan for the economic valorization of the Amazon became mandatory. Article 199 states: “In carrying out the plan for the economic recovery of the Amazon, the Union will invest, for at least twenty consecutive years, an amount not less than three percent of its tax income”.

As a result of the discussion that followed, in 1953 the Superintendence of the Plan for Economic Valorization of the Amazon (SPVEA) was created, constituting the first attempt at planning the regional development of the Amazon and perhaps the first Brazilian experience of this type. SPVEA brought the idea that the economic recovery of the region would no longer pass through the arbitrary action of “economic agents”. The notion of planning as a condition of “occupation” of space for the consolidation of national “development” was established as a strong discourse even in the Vargas period, indelibly marking the regional social and economic trajectory since then.

In the same year of extinction of that body, in 1966, another one is created in its place, the Superintendency for the Development of the Amazon (SUDAM). From that moment on, in view of the military government's discourse of modernizing the Brazilian economy, the Amazon is seen as a center for granting incentives and exemptions in order to attract the business community to the economic exploitation of the region. Since then, the capitalist economic expansion of the Amazon took place through three different basic formats: the implementation of large projects in the mining area; the creation of the Manaus Free Trade Zone and the agricultural, cattle-raising and logging exploration centered on the latifundia, generating strong land concentration and little development.

The elucidation of the various macro and microeconomic dynamics of the Amazonian historical trajectory is yet to be done. It is worth noting that even with regard to the history of stagnation in the post-crisis of 1912, there is no conclusive research on what happened to the Amazonian economy in the period between 1912 and 1940. In general, it is considered as if the local economy stopped working with the crisis and “enter a lethargy…”. This reading, in our view, has a capital “Q” for misinformation and prejudice, and is very little based on more extensive empirical research. Likewise, little elucidative and research effort was devoted to the immediate post-war historical period and, specifically, to the process of resumption of national state intervention in the Amazon.

The debate itself on the theme of development has changed a lot in the last seven decades, ceasing to be just the elucidation of the factors referring to a higher or lower growth rate, to start to incorporate other more qualitative aspects and, in several ways, more integrated to a “complexity theory”, considering, including, the difficulty of guiding such a large and distinct set of social, economic, environmental and institutional vectors.

The basic logic of development in the core countries of capitalism was described by Furtado (2000), among others, in terms of technological stimulus made possible by the shortage of labor. The central issue pointed out would be that the systems of these countries in the post-war period moved towards the adoption of full employment policies and, as the entire stock of labor was employed (reduction of the industrial reserve army), there was pressure to increase of real wage rates which, in turn, fed the gears of technical innovation which, via technological unemployment, would tend to lower wage rates again and increase the rate of profit.

This debate was important, as a considerable portion of economists on duty at international bodies and even in Brazil advocated a mere transplantation of the models used in those socioeconomic settings to be used in countries with another level of capitalist development, including transplanting themselves to natural and social forms as complexes like the Amazon, which was done even during progressive or popular governments, for example, it is worth remembering here the mistake of building the Belo Monte hydroelectric plant.

However, for economies other than the highly developed type, the quantitative policy technique has limited practical reach. In these cases, economic policies must have a qualitative character, requiring knowledge of the dynamics of structures that escapes conventional analysis. Thus, Furtado (2000) already conceived that development planning for our societies had to be linked to the economic and sociological analysis of the internal (structural) and more complex components of the Brazilian development process and its regional specificities.

More recent development theory authors, such as Chang (2003) and Amsden (2009), note that one of the central aspects of development refers to the availability and governing capacity of institutions, especially those intended to control the market (regulation) and to development planning. The author demonstrates, based on historical analysis, that the more mature these institutions are, the greater the ease of societies in overcoming barriers to new stages of development, especially institutions focused on development planning, which assume strong relevance in the construction of projects for the future that are environmentally responsible and guarantee “a decent quality of life for the human population, as well as its full individual and collective fulfillment” (MENDES, 1974).

The establishment of a civilizational development agenda, considering, mainly, the institutions necessary to overcome “non-creative extractivism” such as minerals (TRINDADE, 2014) is a priority point for political, social, technical and administrative discussion, being that time passes quickly for the construction and feasibility of a local development project. The conceptions around a less restricted development theory converge part of the necessary debate to build a more qualified development model and less dependent only on the flows of international demand and monoproduction.

The large-scale exploitation of nature and the export of natural wealth, the basis of what we have already referred to as “accumulation by dispossession”, is at the root of the growing violence being practiced in the Amazon. The decline of Bruno, Philips, Chico Mendes, Doroth Stang, Paulo Fonteles, João Batista, and countless martyrs are just one of the aspects of the dispossession and increasing incorporation of the Amazon into a social form to be overcome.

Cono reminded us of a radical author from the end of the XNUMXth century, in his main work, capitalism is a “chrematistic art”, that is, it will devour everything, be it land, mineral resources, people and souls. Breaking with capitalism and first defeating its cruelest forms, such as the current neoliberalism, is no longer a Brazilian need, but a civilizational one, and the Amazon is part of this civilizational dispute.

*Jose Raimundo Trinidad He is a professor at the Institute of Applied Social Sciences at UFPA. Author, among other books, of Agenda of debates and theoretical challenges: the trajectory of dependence (Paka-Tatu).

 

References


AMSDEN, AA The Rise of the Rest: Challenges to the West from Late Industrializing Economies. São Paulo: Editora Unesp, 2009.

BECKER, Bertha K. Why the late participation of the Amazon in the economic formation of Brazil? In: ARAÚJO, TP de; VIANNA, STW; MACAMBIRA, J. 50 Years of Economic Formation in Brazil: essays on the classic work of Celso Furtado. Rio de Janeiro: IPEA, 2009.

CHANG, Ha-Joon. Kicking Up the Ladder: Development Strategy in Historical Perspective. São Paulo: Editora Unesp, 2004.

FURTADO, Celso. Creativity and dependency in industrial civilization🇧🇷 São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 2000.

MENDES, Armando Diaz. The Invention of the Amazon. Bethlehem: UFPA, 1974.

OLIVEIRA, F. The Reconquest of the Amazon. In: D'INCAO, MA and SILVEIRA, IM (Orgs.). Amazon and the Modernization Crisis. Belém: Museu Paraense Emílio Goeldi, 1994.

TRINDADE, José Raimundo Barreto. Six Decades of State Intervention in the Amazon. Belém: Publisher Paka-Tatu, 2014.

TRINDADE, José Raimundo Barreto. Agenda of debates and theoretical challenges: the trajectory of dependency and the limits of Brazilian peripheral capitalism. Belém: Publisher Paka-Tatu, 2020.

 

 

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