Brazil is the first latin, fifth largest and eighth most populous country in the world today. It is nearly three times as vast as the aggregate area of India. Its rate of growth is three times as rapid. Yet it receives almost no attention in our parochially Anglo-Saxon and Commonwealth-obsessed press and publishing houses. Even the recent coup has not substantially altered this situation. In this issue Octavio Ianni, sociologist at Sao Paulo University, author of books on slavery and capitalism in Brazil, As Metamorfoses do Escravo (1962) and Industrializaçao e Desenvolvimiento Social no Brasil (1963), presents a general theoretical analysis of Brazilian society today. His method is to take the period from 1930 to 1964 as a unit, and to examine its fundamental characteristics from a number of—overlapping—perspectives. Thus the same events and mechanisms reveal themselves successively in a variety of different lights. Together, Ianni’s analyses compose a comprehensive account of the transitions and contradictions of contemporary Brazil. His structural study necessarily omits the narrative background to the sociological changes it discusses. It may therefore be of use to recapitulate very briefly some of the main events of Brazilian politics since 1930.

In that year, the Brazilian ancien régime—a backward colonial economy dominated by an oligarchy of inert landlords—was overthrown by a coalition of insurgent forces. The Wall Street crash of October 1929 had produced a catastrophic collapse of coffee prices. The Presidential election of 1930 was fought in the trough of the coffee-crisis. The candidate of the oligarchy, a Sao Paulo politician called Julio Prestes, was declared the victor. But his opponent Getulio Vargas, the governor of Rio Grande do Sul, rallied all the dissident forces of Brazil against the continuation of the old order. A coalition was formed. In October 1930 Vargas called the nation to revolt, assembling a powerful armed force of federal and state troops at Porto Alegre to overthrow the régime. Faced with this threat in a context of depression and widespread popular dissatisfaction, the government simply melted away. Vargas was able to enter Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo without opposition. The new régime immediately set about purging the federal and state administrations to entrench itself in power. Simultaneously, a member of social and economic reforms were begun. Within two years, the agrarian oligarchy attempted a counter-revolution. In July 1932 the coffee state of Sao Paulo was raised in arms against the régime. But—in contrast to Vargas’ own success two years earlier—the rebels failed to carry any other state, and surrendered when it became clear that the revolt was isolated. Menaced from the right, Vargas soon faced insurrection from the left. The Communist Party, under its already legendary leader Luis Carlos Prestes, succeeded in creating a national trade-union federation and broad front of left-wing opposition, the National Liberation Alliance (this was, of course the period of the popular front in Europe). Alarmed by the strength and appeal of the Alliance, Vargas outlawed it, at a time when labour unrest appeared to be spreading in town and countryside. In October 1935 a concerted military uprising began. For a week, bitter fighting raged in Rio de Janeiro where a section of the air force and army garrison proclaimed Prestes President of Brazil, while smaller risings took place in Pernambuco and Rio Grande do Norte. The insurrection was finally crushed and the Communist Party banned and its leaders jailed.

The first phase of Vargas’ rule came to an end in 1937. In that year he assumed dictatorial powers and announced the inauguration of the New State, O Estado Novo. Modelled after tbe corporative systems of Salazar and Mussolini, the Estado Novo marked the hardening of the régime after its defeat of the challenges of agrarian reaction and communist insurrection. However it in turn produced its own dangers. In a climate already propitious to Fascist ideology, an independent Fascist movement, the green-shirted Acçao Integralista led by Plinio Salgado, grew rapidly. In May 1938 Integralist storm-troopers seized the Presidential Palace in a carefully planned putsch, which was only narrowly quelled by loyal troops. Thereafter political repression intensified and became general. In 1942 Brazil entered World War Two on the side of the allies; this led to no political relaxation, but Vargas pursued a policy of ‘social benefits’ at home which won him some mass support in the country. With the end of the war, however, seething political discontent came to the surface. Vargas was forced to call elections and then, when he made moves to cancel them, was forced to resign by a committee of generals. In the ensuing elections his former Minister of War, General Eurico Gaspar Dutra, won the Presidency.

The Dutra administration presided for five years over a major economic boom, which favoured, however, only the propertied classes. It was inactive at home, and slavishly imitated Washington abroad. Thus when Vargas re-entered national politics as a Presidential candidate in 1950, memories of his ‘’social’ programmes won him the support of the Brazilian poor, and he was elected against fierce conservative opposition. His third and final period of power was ushered in amid ‘social-democratic’ and ‘pro-labour’ slogans, but these external trappings were as superficial as the fascist borrowings of the pre-war period. Invigilated by a conservative congress and general staff, Vargas achieved nothing. In 1954, when his Labour Minister, Joao Goulart, tried to mobilize trade-union support for the government, the mililtary intervened to force Vargas to resign—whereupon, he committed suicide. After a brief inter-regnum under his Vice-President, Joao Café Filho, new elections were won by the Governor of Minas Gerais Juscelino Kubitschek. Kubitschek’s administration, which ran from 1955 to 1960, saw record economic growth, accompanied by rocketing inflation and corruption, aggravated by the decision to build Brasilia. Its final years witnessed the growth of Brazilian nationalism as a major political force—inspired by Brazil’s rapid economic development and intensified by the example of Cuba’s resistance to American suzerainty. The victory of Janio Quadros at the polls in 1960 for a time symbolized this new consciousness. But Quadros almost immediately fell from power, in circumstances which Ianni’s essay significantly clarifies. The accession to power of Joao Goulart, Vargas’ former Minister of Labour led to a period of deteriorating economic inflation and uneasy political oscillations, abruptly ended by the recent coup.