What led to the 1964 coup?

Image: Paulinho Fluxuz_


The 1964 coup emerges as a solution to the problem of capital accumulation crisis, creating conditions for this from a generalized repressive process

The period of the Brazilian military dictatorship (1964-1985) signifies a new reconversion of the country's state form. One of the weaknesses of subordinated capitalism is its state apparatus, which oscillates, ephemerally, between dictatorial and democratic regimes. The issue here, however, is to quickly analyze the specificities of the military dictatorship that began with the 1964 coup d'état.

Two are the elementary elements for triggering the military coup of 64: the struggles of the workers, in the scenario of the world crisis of the combined accumulation regime, and the search for an increase in the rate of extraction of surplus value in Brazilian subordinated capitalism – meaning, therefore, further exploitation. It is in the 60s that the first symptoms of the crisis of transnational oligopolistic capitalism appear: the United States, the greatest economic power, presents significant deficits in its trade balance throughout the 50s, in addition to the drop in the profit rate in European countries.

A consequence of this process was, in addition to other actions, the need to increase exploitation in subordinate capitalist countries, especially via draining surplus value by transnational capital. The period of populist developmental governments was fundamental for the full insertion of transnational capital in the country, especially the government of Juscelino Kubistchek, with the expansion of the country's infrastructure, meaning the already mentioned triple alliance in Brazilian capitalism at the time.

Thus, if there is an increase in exploitation, there is also an increase in the resistance and struggles of workers and other sectors of society. There is, then, a war, especially in the labor movement, for the wage level, which fluctuated and lost value with the intense inflation of that historical period.

Wage oscillation, as well as workers' resistance and struggles within civil society, interfere directly or indirectly in world capitalism. One of the foundations of transnational capital is the transfer of surplus value from subordinated countries to imperialist countries, meaning, therefore, an interdependence. Hence the fundamental participation of the United States in the 1964 coup. Benevides (2006) shows that the American participation in the implementation of the Brazilian dictatorial regime meant the need to strengthen an economic policy that favored, even more, the entry and consolidation of companies multinationals in Brazil.

In summary, there was a double dissatisfaction: on the one hand, transnational capital and national capital dissatisfied with the fall in the rate of exploitation, deepened by the crisis in the conjugated accumulation regime; and, on the other hand, the labor movement and other sectors of civil society, whose salaries and living conditions are impoverished every year. Thus, for opposing or antagonistic reasons, discontent is widespread, contributing to a greater intensification of social conflicts.

The renewal of the Brazilian dictatorial regime, in the context of 1964, was determined by this process, succeeding in tearing apart the resistance of workers and civil society, in addition to purging the populist governments that, in the main form of regularization of society (State), measures that would make possible a necessary increase in the rate of profit. In this sense, the 1964 coup emerges as a solution, both nationally and internationally, to the problem of the crisis of capital accumulation, creating conditions for this from a generalized repressive process. It is in these molds that the “Brazilian miracle” appears.

Gabriel Teles is a doctoral candidate in sociology at the University of São Paulo (USP). He is the author, among other books, of Marxist analysis of social movements (Redelp).


BENEVIDES, Silvio Cesar Oliveira. Against Power: youth and student movement. São Paulo: Annablume, 2006.

MARIANO, Nelson. The Claws of the Condor: How the Military Dictatorships of Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, Bolivia, and Paraguay Combined to Eliminate Political Opponents. Editora Vozes, 2003.

TRAGTENBERG, Mauricio. Exploitation of Labor I: Brazil. In: Administration, power and ideology. 3rd ed. rev. São Paulo: Editora UNESP, 2005.

VALENT, Rubens. The rifles and the arrows: History of blood and indigenous resistance in the dictatorship. São Paulo: Cia das Letras, 2017.

VALLE, Maria Ribeiro do. 1968: dialogue is violence – student movement and military dictatorship in Brazil. 2nd ed. Campinas, SP: UNICAMP Publishing House, 2018.

VIANA, Nildo. Capitalist accumulation and the coup of 64. Magazine History and Class Struggle, Rio de Janeiro, v.01, n. 01, p. 19-27, 2005.


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