Sixty years later

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By VALERIO ARCARY*

Military Bonapartism in Brazil tried to legitimize itself as a regime that defended the nation against the danger of communism. At the height of violence, military Bonapartism degenerated into a semi-fascist regime

“If we had carried out a serious study of reality for Brazil, we would have come to the conclusion that the main revolutionary task throughout Latin America was much more modest than preparing guerrilla warfare: it was necessary to prevent the gorilla reactionary putch that was taking place from triumphing. preparing (…). The Latin American situation, like that of the sister country (Brazil), with its history, economy, social relations, politics and government character indicated that a reactionary coup d'état was inevitable. The great task, then, was to mobilize the Brazilian mass movement to stop or crush it, without placing the slightest trust in the government of (Jango) Goulart or Brizola. The most tragic defeat of the Latin American mass movement in the last twenty years was that of Brazil. This defeat will reflect on our entire continent” (Nahuel Moreno, Methods in the face of the Latin American revolution).

The central argument of this article is that, if a counter-revolution triumphed in 1964, it was because the Brazilian ruling class was seriously concerned about the danger of a revolution. In Brazil in 1964, there was an ongoing dynamic of class struggle that approached a revolutionary situation: division of the ruling class, division of the middle classes and a radicalized wave of worker and popular mobilizations, in the city and in the interior. But despite the maturing objective conditions, the barracks were preventive. Jango had no vocation for Fidel Castro. There was no risk of institutional rupture on the government's initiative.

A national-democratic revolution to free the nation from North American dependence, to extend civil rights to all, including the Afro-descendant majority; an agrarian revolution through the division of land; a workers' revolution for the right to better wages and living conditions. This latent social tension resulted from the historical dissatisfaction of demands and expectations that were always postponed. The historical-social dynamics of this simultaneity of revolutions challenged the defense of an anti-capitalist program. But there was no one who had the lucidity and determination to defend him.

However, no one could have anticipated, under those circumstances, that the dictatorship would last so long. It opened the way for an economic-social regression that we must characterize as recolonization. It was a historic defeat.

The sixty-year anniversary is worth remembering interpretations of the coup that insist on rehashing two strange theses. The first is the one that states that none of the political forces in confrontation in 1964 were committed to democracy. The second is the one that argues that the Jango government was heading towards a self-coup prior to the elections scheduled in 1965. Neither of them is true. In fact, they are intellectually dishonest theses.

The Brazilian left was hegemonized by the PCB. If there was a political force committed to constitutional legality in 1964, that party was the PCB, which is ironic, because the PCB was not legal. He had lived semi-legally since 1948, that is, in a semi-clandestine state. It was not unknown who some of its members were. But the PCB paid the price of fighting in the context of the cold war, and was one of the most disciplined parties, after the political turnaround led by Khrushchev. The PCB was completely committed to a reformist strategy and was therefore almost destroyed. One can have a very critical perception of what Prestes' party policy was in 1964. But accusing the PCB of preparing a revolutionary rupture is false and unfair.

Jango's self-coup theory is another baseless conspiratorial fable. But it is true that the political situation in Brazil in 1964 was one of misgovernment. A revolution was, of course, necessary, so that popular demands could be satisfied. But the working masses did not have any organized, lucid and determined point of support to be able to defend themselves against the counter-revolution, taking the initiative, or responding in self-defense.

Brazil in 1964 was a country on the periphery of the international system, that is, it was, economically, a relatively special North American semi-colony, in a still incomplete process of industrialization, in the context of the historical stage of peaceful coexistence or cold war (1948 /1989), and the counter-revolution accentuated its economic dependence, worsened its political subordination, and tightened its military subjection. Five years after Batista's defeat in Havana, three years after Cuba became the first socialist Republic in the Western Hemisphere, the imposition of the military dictatorship blocked the evolution of the Latin American situation for two decades.

Over the next twenty years, the Brazilian economy grew at an accelerated pace, becoming the largest GDP in the southern hemisphere, but social inequality not only did not decrease, it increased. This dynamic growth was fueled by external debt and the rapid movement of millions of Brazilians from the rural world to the cities. The country became less poor, but more unfair. The legacy of the dictatorship was cruel.

Stating that the Brazilian revolution already had an anti-capitalist dynamic in 1964 was, in that context, a courageous theoretical conclusion. In other words, either the working class was capable of leading, through the social impact of its mobilization, a social bloc of the majority of the exploited and oppressed from the cities and the countryside, which would also bring together the impoverished small agrarian property, dividing the middle class , and the highly educated urban salaried sectors, or it would not be possible to defeat the bourgeoisie.

But the key to Brazil's destiny lay in the young proletariat formed after 1930. Today the recognition of the working class as the social subject of the Brazilian revolution is inescapable, unavoidable, indisputable. The social weight of salaried work has grown to such proportions, in a country where more than 85% of the population lives in cities, that any social transformation project that diminishes the role of the working class does not deserve to be seriously considered. The program of the Brazilian revolution of the XNUMXst century will be socialist.

Which brings us to the dialectic between tasks and social subjects that summarizes the hard core of the theory of permanent revolution, whatever its version, from Marx and Trotsky to today, and remains the best elaboration to understand the process of transformation in contemporary societies. .

Military Bonapartism in Brazil tried to legitimize itself as a regime that defended the nation against the danger of communism. He invoked Christianity, stirred patriotism, exalted developmentalism. At the height of violence, from 1969 onwards, military Bonapartism degenerated into a semi-fascist regime.

But ten years after seizing power, he was surprised in 1974 by the defeat of Arena, even in ultra-controlled elections. The Brazilian dictatorship did not have its battle of Sedan, like Argentina in the Falklands in 1982. But that did not prevent the fight for its overthrow from being a very tough political battle. Our “senile Bismarckism”, an analogy suggested by Moreno, was close to its end. Forty years ago, between January and April 1984, during “Diretas Já”, more than five million took to the streets to overthrow João Figueiredo, in a country that then had forty million economically active population. Never before or after have so many workers mobilized to overthrow a government.

The Diretas process was already big enough to consolidate the achievement of democratic freedoms in the streets, and defeat the regime, but not to overthrow it. It was a mobilization that defeated the dictatorship, however, paradoxically, it did not culminate in the fall of the Figueiredo government. Tancredo Neves, the same bourgeois leader who, thirty years earlier, had pressured Getúlio Vargas in 1954 to dismiss the top of the Armed Forces who demanded his resignation, offered the military the parachute that cushioned the crisis, and allowed the end of the dictatorship to take place. was in the form of a fall. More peaceful, less painless, impossible. More negotiated, less conflictive, again, impossible.

As in 1889, when the Republic was proclaimed; as in 1930, when the Oligarchic Republic was defeated; as in 1945, when Getúlio left; as in 1954, when Vargas committed suicide. Also in 1984, the political pattern preferred by the Brazilian ruling class prevailed: a negotiated solution for a controlled transition.

The agreement on a consensus between the PMDB leadership and the political forces that supported the dictatorship – PDS and, above all, the Armed Forces – resulted in a political commitment to an institutional conciliation solution. But this understanding would not have been possible without the mass mobilization that subverted the country and imposed a new relationship of forces.

Irony of the dialectic of history, if it weren't for the role of the proletariat in the fight against the dictatorship, Lula would never have been elected president of the Republic almost twenty years later. Fifty years after the 1964 counter-revolutionary coup, several books were published that seek to judge, from different approaches, the meaning of the March barracks. But the fundamental conclusion is not always highlighted as it should be. The victory of the coup, in addition to the fall of João Goulart, and the defeat of the workers' movement and its allies had the meaning of a historical regression for Brazil as a nation, a recolonization.

Any attempt to reduce the reactionary impact of the military insurrection that brought Castelo Branco, Costa e Silva, Médici, Geisel and Figueiredo to the presidency, with ultra-concentrated powers, in a terrible sequence of arbitrary acts, violence and repression amounts to a historical falsification.

For twenty years the military dictatorship imposed state terror to preserve political stability. The dictatorship silenced a generation. He persecuted tens of thousands, arrested thousands, killed hundreds. It was a counter-revolutionary triumph that inverted the relationship of political-social forces on a continental scale, reversing the promising situation opened by the Cuban revolution in 1959. The fall of Jango was a political tragedy across the board, with very serious social and even cultural consequences. .

The historical myth that the dictatorship was the political subject of conservative modernization, or the industrialization of Brazil, was never anything more than a piece of publicity for the regime itself. Brazil's very late industrialization began after 1930, due to the dangers and opportunities opened up by the 1929 crisis, when external demand for Brazilian exports collapsed, and the country went into default on its external debt for thirteen years. Vargas' agreement with the USA and the participation of the Armed Forces in the Second World War, while Argentina maintained neutrality, sealed a strategic alliance that was reinforced during the cold war. Industrialization therefore came from a much earlier historical trend.

When one seeks to capture the essence of the historical process conducted by the dictatorship as recolonization, one is not constructing a literary metaphor. The place of each State in the world can be understood considering at least two variables: its economic insertion in the world market, and its political role in the international system of States. These two variables, however, do not always coincide.

The economic mobility of countries' role in the world has always been greater, or more intense, than political mobility. The transformations in the morphology of the world market – the space where the role of each nation in the international division of labor is disputed – continue to be faster than the changes in the State system. In conditions of relative stability, that is, while the impact of the economic crisis does not unfold in situations of revolution or war, politics remains slower than the economy.

In other words, the international system of states has historically been more resilient to change than the world market. The economic positioning of each State can improve, in relation to others, and/or in comparison to what it had before, without necessarily resulting in political strengthening. The force of inertia of politics, which determines positions of power, is more powerful, in the shortest terms, than the dynamic pressure of economic force. But over longer time frames, economics leads the way.

The place of each country in the international system of States in the post-war historical stage, between 1945 and 1989, depended on at least five strategic variables: (a) its historical insertion in the previous stage, that is, the position it occupied in an extremely hierarchical and rigid system: after all, in the last one hundred and fifty years only one country, Japan, was incorporated into the imperialist center, and all the colonial and semi-colonial countries that rose, such as Algeria or Iran, China and Vietnam, and even fragile Cuba, they did so after revolutions that allowed them to gain greater independence;

(b) the size of its economy, that is, accumulated capital stocks, natural resources – such as territory, land reserves, mineral resources, energy and food self-sufficiency, etc. – and human – among these, its demographic strength and the cultural stage of the nation – as well as the dynamics, greater or lesser, of industry development, that is, its position in the international division of labor and in the world market; (c) political and social stability, greater or lesser, within each country, that is, the capacity of each dominant class to defend, internally, its regime of domination while preserving order;

(d) the dimensions and capacity of each State to maintain control of its areas of influence, that is, its military deterrence force, which depends not only on the mastery of military technique or the quality of its Armed Forces, but on the greater or a lower degree of social cohesion in society, therefore, the State's ability to convince the majority of the people of the need for war; (e) the long-term alliances of States with each other, which are materialized in Treaties and Agreements that they sign, and the relationship of forces that result from the formal and informal blocs of which they are part, that is, their coalition network.

If these variables are considered, Brazil, during the military dictatorship, regressed. We were one of the homelands of the most dependent, savage, barbaric capitalism. The Brazil created by the dictatorship lost immense historical opportunities for growth with less uneven, less destructive, less unbalanced development. It generated a society gagged, culturally, by fear; amputated, educationally, by the disqualification of public education and favoring private education; socially fragmented by the super-exploitation of the proletariat for poverty wages; transfigured by the explosion of violence and delinquency.

What the dictatorship did was condemn the country to maintain, for another half century, the status of a North American commercial semi-colony. It created the largest external debt in the world, both in absolute numbers and in the weight of debt as a proportion of GDP. To make matters worse, it accepted that the external debt would be made in the form of post-fixed bonds, and with arbitration in New York, in accordance with North American law. It made Brazil a paradise for international usury.

The Achilles heel of external dependence took its toll with the election of Reagan. After the brutal shock of the basic interest rate, in 1979 with Paul Volker, Brazil was strangled: it had become impossible to guarantee the rollover of interest on the debt with the dollars generated by exports. The dollar interrupted the devaluation process that began in 1971. Figueiredo and Delfim Neto carried out the mega devaluation that was at the root of the superinflation that punished the country for fifteen years.

A special semi-colony, it is true, because it is very privileged. It is no coincidence that it was, for decades, the main destination for North American foreign investment, after Europe, and has maintained this position, more recently, but now behind China. So privileged that over the last thirty years, at least, it has played a role as a sub-metropolis in the world market, with the approval of the Triad, under pressure from the USA. A submetropolis, also, very special, because, despite its privileged status, it remained, politically, a semi-colony on the periphery of the international system of States.

 The North American, European and Japanese monopolies used the scale of the Brazilian consumer market for durable goods to establish factories that also began to meet the demand of neighboring countries, but at much lower costs than they would have if they were produced in another country. continent. Industrial relocation did not begin with the installation of industrial plants in China in the 1980s. It started thirty years earlier in Brazil.

Nor should we escape the strong presence of large Brazilian corporations, and the investments of Brazilian capital in neighboring countries. This resourcefulness has its historical roots with the dictatorship, which favored the concentration of capital in all the main productive sectors: the emergence of gigantic companies in private education, private health, private pensions, communication (radio and TV), food, paper and cellulose, weapons, in civil construction, in banks, etc. It also favored monopolies in some state-owned companies: Petrobras, Eletrobras, Telebras, Siderbras, and others.

Still, even considering its place as a submetropolis in the world market, Brazil remained a semi-colony due to its dependent insertion, an insatiable importer of capital, in the international system of States. An economic giant, with the sixth largest economy in the world, but a political dwarf, a satellite of North American interests. Just as important, Brazil remains, sixty years after 1964, forty years after the Diretas in 1984, and twenty-two years after Lula's election in 2002, one of the ten most unequal countries in the world, with all the other nine states of sub-Saharan Africa, nations at a much lower stage of historical development.

At the same time that the economy grew and society urbanized, paradoxically, the nation regressed and recolonization advanced. At the end of the sixties, when the first signs of exhaustion of the post-war global expansion appeared, a situation of abundant financial surpluses emerged. Richard Nixon's decision to partially break with the Bretton Woods, in August 1971, suspending the fixed-value conversion of the dollar into gold, made an avalanche of dollars available. The dictatorship took the country into debt on a scale never seen before, pledging the State for at least two generations.

The military dictatorship left Brazil condemned to producing for export and generating currency that would guarantee the rollover of interest on the external debt. This regressive transformation produced a constant fall in the average salary, and in the share of salaries in GDP, froze relative and absolute social mobility, and stifled the internal market. It could not have been done “cold”.

It was necessary to impose a historic defeat on the young proletariat that had been discovering its strength since the fifties, testing its capacity to mobilize in more unified struggles, forging alliances with rural workers, shifting the sympathy of sectors of the new urban middle classes to their countryside. , and producing confusion and division in the ruling class.

A confrontation with the organized sectors of workers was sought and constructed, intentionally, by a pro-Yankee fraction of the bourgeoisie, since the suicide of Getúlio Vargas in 1954, like the coup that took place in Argentina against Perón in 1955, to neutralize to a minimum the possibilities of resistance. Such a serious defeat could not fail to establish a new relationship of forces between classes on a continental scale, leaving Havana, dramatically, isolated. The coup in Brazil was the executioner of the revolution in Cuba, where the beginning of a courageous transition to socialism remained blocked.

* Valerio Arcary is a retired professor of history at the IFSP. Author, among other books, of No one said it would be Easy (boitempo). [https://amzn.to/3OWSRAc]


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