3. The role of the Class struggle

By its pioneering struggles for the basic means of survival, the emergent proletariat in the artisanal and manufacturing centres, which had been developing since the 19th century, formed itself as a class and began to play a significant historical role. It was thus able to take a major part in the revolutionary process which was unleashed after the First World War. Its tradition of strike-action and other forms of struggle, coupled with the European experience of a section of the immigrant workers, enabled the Brazilian proletariat of Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Porto Alegre to exercise a crucial influence on the revolutionary movement which carried the bourgeoisie to power. For there had been a rapid development of the organization of the Brazilian working-class in the years before 1930, with the spread of the capitalist relations of production diffused by the ‘industrial revolution’.

However, there were other phenomena which also had an important bearing on the growth of the working-class. These were all, in one way or another, linked to changes in the agrarian sector. Massive European immigration was beginning, caused by the expansion of coffee-culture, the inception of factory production and the suppression of the slave-trade in the mid-19th century (under British pressure). Capital involved in the slave-trade was being diverted into non-agricultural activities. The first tariff walls were going up. These simultaneous and interrelated phenomena laid the foundations of industrialization.

As a result, slavery itself was abolished in 1888, and the major obstacle to the radical separation of the producers from the means of production was removed. For the slave was in many respects himself a means of production. Consequently, after a certain point slavery obstructed the economic rationality characteristic of a fully developed capitalist mode of production. Its abolition was a further precondition of industrialization.

Finally, the chronic crises in coffee-culture forced many labourers into the cities and towns or back into the subsistence sector; there they provided a pool of labour which manufacturing industry could draw upon when it needed. The availability, indeed excess supply of labour was consequently increased with a decisive structural impact on the development of the economy. Industrialization had now become a possible historical option, as the effects of industrial capitalism spread throughout the world. Capital, labour and technology became available with the direct or indirect protectionism created by special legislation and the repercussions of the First World War and other capitalist crises on Brazil. Thus entrepreneurial openings emerged and entrepreneurs duly appeared. In a socio-cultural context which had fostered consciousness both of the possibility and necessity of developing the forces of production, entrepreneurial activity was in fact an inevitable outcome.