Strategy first, accounting second

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By JOSÉ LUÍS FIORI*

The importance of a strategic alliance between Brazil and Argentina, to form a regional power bloc capable of facing internal threats and resisting external pressures

“There is no way for a national economy to expand simply through the game of exchanges, nor is there a way for a capitalist economy to develop in an expanded and accelerated way without it being associated with its own State and with its project of accumulation of power and transformation or modification of the established international order” (José Luís Fiori, History, Strategy and Development, P. 28).

The visit of the Argentine president, Alberto Fernández, immediately after the election of the new Brazilian president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, has several symbolic connotations linked to his personal relations, and associated with the historical relations between the two countries. At the same time, the speed of the visit draws attention to the urgency of the challenge and the seriousness of the threat that hangs over Argentine and Brazilian society, divided at this moment, and polarized by a relentless struggle between two absolutely antagonistic projects for the future. , for itself, for the Southern Cone and, in a way, for all of South America.

Brazil and Argentina competed for South American hegemony for almost a century, since the Paraguayan War, but at the same time they were the privileged territory of two great cycles of economic growth, which had almost identical duration: in Argentina, between 1870 and 1930; and in Brazil, between 1930 and 1980. Between 1870 and 1930, the Argentine economy grew at an average annual rate of about 6%; and already at the beginning of the XNUMXth century, it had become the richest country on the South American continent, and the sixth or seventh richest economy in the world, with an income per capita four times higher than that of Brazilians in the same period.[1]

However, after 1940, Argentina entered a long entropic process of social division and chronic political crisis, for failing to define and reach consensus on a new national development strategy suited to the geopolitical and economic context of the post-Second World War. It was almost at the same time as the Argentine slowdown that the take off of the Brazilian economic acceleration, in the 1930s, extending until the 1980s, when the Brazilian economy grew at an average annual rate of 7%, surpassing Argentina and becoming the main economy in South America already in the 1950. Thus, a long period of almost 110 years of continuous growth was completed in the Southern Cone of the South American continent, which must also include the simultaneous case of Uruguayan economic success, at least until the 1950s. remarkable economic performance, even if we take into account the world history of capitalist development.

Also in the Brazilian case, this economic performance was interrupted in the 1980s and entered a terminal crisis after the end of the Cold War, when the Brazilian economy tried and failed in its neoliberal experience; then it experimented with a new progressive project of economic growth, with the setting up of a welfare state, which was overthrown by a coup d'état and by an extreme right-wing government established and led by the military, who once again relied on the US foreign support. Therefore, it can be said that Brazil has also been affected, in the last thirty years, by the same “disease” that hit Argentina in the middle of the last century, and which keeps the neighboring country in a chronic state of economic lethargy and progressive social impoverishment.

Thus, it can be said with absolute certainty that the meeting between President Fernández and President Lula, on the 31st of October, can go down in history as the moment when the two countries decided to jointly face this common challenge through a strategic alliance that deepens the economic ties between both, and sustains their national and regional interests together within an international system that is extremely closed and hierarchical. An international system that has always been controlled by a very small number of “great powers” ​​that have accumulated, over time, a disproportionate amount of economic, financial and military power in relation to their territorial dimensions. And they exercise the “structural power” at their disposal – relentlessly – to defend their monopoly position within the system, blocking the rise of competing countries through predatory competition that systematically disrespects the “laws of the market”.

At this moment, however, this system is going through a crisis and transformation of enormous complexity, which should last for a long time, caused in large measure by the Asian rise and the end of the Eurocentric civilizing hegemony, and even by the decline of the global military power of the “peoples”. English-speaking”. But pay attention, because it is precisely at these moments – and almost only at these moments – that gaps and opportunities open up for the rise of new countries within the hierarchy of power and wealth of the international system. These are rare moments, true historical bifurcations, which can be taken advantage of by countries located outside the core of global power, but which can also turn into a great missed opportunity to climb positions in the hierarchy of international power and wealth.

History teaches that in times of great crises and transformations, such as the one we are experiencing, there are three major strategic alternatives that can be followed by countries located outside the “central core” of the system:

(i) The first, imposed by war or by the free choice of some countries, is a strategy of subordination, integration or conscious vassalage in relation to the great powers, which in exchange offer privileged access to their markets and credit and financing systems. Many speak of a type of “invited development” or “associated development”, as was the case with the English “dominions”, or also with the countries that were defeated in the Second World War and later transformed into North American military protectorates, such as Germany, Japan or Taiwan, for example. These countries almost always follow the orthodox booklet of economic policy recommended or imposed by the power of the victorious or “protective” powers.

(ii) The second strategy has been followed almost invariably throughout history by all countries that wanted or proposed to change their relative position within the international system, challenging their status quo political and economic development and facing the sanctions of its “great controllers”. Many call it a strategy of catch up, but one could also speak of an “insurgent model”. In general, these countries adopt more protectionist or mercantilist economic policies, and their states tend to actively promote technological development and the international expansion of their private capital, facing predatory competition from the great powers. These countries can be blocked or even destroyed by the powers that control the system, as was the case with Germany, Japan and the Soviet Union in the XNUMXth century; but they can also win and move on, as was the case with the United States in the XNUMXth century and China in the XNUMXst century.

(iii) Finally, one cannot exactly speak of a strategy when referring to countries located on the “bottom floor” or on the “periphery” of the world power system and that do not have the political will or the instruments of power to challenge the established order. In this case, one could perhaps speak of a “joyful vassalage”, in the case of countries that accept, even with some enthusiasm, their status as suppliers of primary goods, or of some specialized industrial inputs, of the dominant powers. They are economies that live in conditions of almost permanent external restriction, and of complete submission to the determinations, fluctuations and adjustments of the political economy of the great powers.

The economic success of Argentina, in the XNUMXth century, took place in the shadow of the victorious assertion of England as a naval, economic and financial power, and can be considered as a pioneering case of the strategy of “development by invitation” of England, unlike its dominions. of “English speaking”. In the same way, the Brazilian “economic miracle” of the XNUMXth century can be classified as a case of “success by invitation”, or of “associated development”.

But there have been at least two moments, in the last 80 years, when Brazil has tried to transition to an “insurgent” or “insurgent” model or strategy. catch up, with some positions taken that challenged the established international order. A first time, already at the end of a military dictatorship that was extremely subservient and reactionary, except perhaps for the foreign policy of General Geisel's government; and a second, at the beginning of the 2003st century, between 2015 and 1964, with the foreign policy of the Lula and Dilma Rousseff governments, interrupted precisely by yet another coup that had American support and the decisive participation of the military and civilian forces extreme right, as had already happened in the XNUMX coup d'état.

But at this moment, after the resounding failure of the coup coalition and its ultraliberal economic project, Brazil democratically opted for a different path to be built by the electoral alliance that emerged victorious from the October 30 elections. Despite the destruction that the State and Brazilian society have experienced in the last six years, Brazil has already acquired an international dimension and weight that must resist and can be restored after the electoral defeat of the conservative and ultra-liberal project of the extreme right.

Even so, in order to stand up on its own legs and emerge from the swamp into which it was led by the chaos caused by the last paramilitary, far-right and ultra-liberal government, the new Brazilian government will have to make choices and take some fundamental strategic decisions to make the construction and internal and external support of the new model of society and national sovereignty that it is proposing to build. Above all, and above all, it will have to build a national power bloc and a flexible system of international alliances capable of sustaining its new project for the future. And it must be clear, in advance, that choosing this path will face attacks of all kinds and that will come from all sides, from inside and outside the country.

At this point, there is no way to deceive yourself: when proposing to ascend within the international system, you will inevitably have to question the status quo and the great geopolitical agreements on which the current international order or disorder is based. As Norbert Elias said, within this interstate system, “those who do not rise fall”,[2] but at the same time, you have to be clear and prepared, because “those who go up” will have to be blocked and subjected to all kinds of sanctions for not submitting to the will of the owners of global power.

For this very reason, the fundamental importance – at this moment – ​​of a strategic alliance between Brazil and Argentina, to form a regional power bloc capable of facing the internal threats that will come from the extreme right of both countries, and to resist external pressures that will come from inside and outside America.

* Jose Luis Fiori Professor Emeritus at UFRJ. Author, among other books, of Global power and the new geopolitics of nations (Boitempo).

Notes


[1] Fiori, JL History, strategy and development. São Paulo: Editora Boitempo, 2014, p. 271.

[2] Elijah, N. the civilizing process. Rio de Janeiro: Jorge Zahar Editor, vol. 2, p. 134.

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