Main NI Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

The Militant, 21 September 1946

Charles Carsten

Crisis over High Living Costs
in Brazil Shakes Dutra Govt.

(4 September 1946)

From The Militant, Vol. X No. 38, 21 September 1946, p. 3.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


MEXICO, D.F., Sept. 4 – In mass demonstrations against the high cost of living thousands of people last week surged through the streets of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, shouting “Death to the black market merchants!”

These widespread disturbances are an indication of the intolerable living conditions suffered by the masses in Brazil, which “is being shaken by one of the worst economic and political crises in its history.” (AP dispatch, Sept. 1) Prices have risen 300 per cent. Workers’ wages remain abnormally low.

The Brazilian government demonstrated its inability to cope with the situation in any other way than by force! when President Eurico Gaspar Dutra proclaimed martial law in Rio de Janeiro on Sept. 1. Fully armed soldiers began patrolling the streets in an attempt to prevent a recurrence of the demonstrations which had lasted for two days. Before “order” was restored one person had been killed, 100 wounded, and 500 imprisoned.

Student Dies

The death of a student from food poisoning touched off the demonstrations. On learning about the death of their comrade, students immediately attacked the bakery which sold the contaminated food and left the store in ruins.

The students, who expressed the general public dissatisfaction with the poor food and rising cost of living, were soon joined by throngs from all sections of the population. Windows of stores and restaurants and the marquees of theaters were smashed.

Mounted police charged the crowd with raised sabres in an attempt to disperse it, and were answered by a hail of rocks. Despite the use of clubs, rifles, handcuffs and tear gas bombs, the police were unable to curb the demonstrators and President Dutra was forced to call out the Army.

General De Goes Monteiro, Dutra’s Minister of War and the “strong man” in the Brazilian government, declared that the disturbance was inspired by the Communist (Stalinist) Party. Government forces surrounded the Stalinist headquarters and arrested 200 party members.

However, according to an Aug. 31 Reuter dispatch from Rio de Janeiro, Stalinist leaders issued a “manifesto” in which they urged the populace to be “calm,” and not allow themselves to be provoked because, said the manifesto, “this would give a pretext to people with illegal designs against democracy.”

The same dispatch quoted the conservative Brazilian paper Correo Manha as follows:

“The police tried to present the version that the disturbances had been organized by the Communists (Stalinists) and hundreds of Communists were arrested. The Communists are capable of organizing disorders but in this case they did not do it.”

Attack Stalinists

The Brazilian government utilized the demonstrations as a pretext to launch an attack against the Stalinist party. This is in line with the present policy of the U.S. State Department. Washington intends to crush the Stalinist parties in every country in Latin America as one of its moves in preparing the Western Hemisphere for war against the Soviet Union. Dutra’s government, which slavishly follows the dictates of Wall Street’s government, is among the first to begin carrying out this policy.

Brazil’s participation in World War II drained the country’s resources and is an important factor underlying the present economic crisis. Much of the Brazilian merchant marine was lost. Railroad and truck transportation deteriorated. As a result commodities accumulate in the productive states in the north and south of the country, while there is a scarcity of food and other commodities in the large cities.

The Dutra government has not controlled the black market, which has become very powerful in the big cities. These merchants, who are linked with the “legitimate” native capitalists, mercilessly exploit the situation. The desperation of the masses, caused by the soaring cost of living and chronically low wages, rose to the breaking point last week. Despite government repression, other similar or more violent outbursts and strikes are bound to occur in the near future.

Top of page

Main Militant Index | Main Newspaper Index

Encyclopedia of Trotskyism | Marxists’ Internet Archive

Last updated on 28 June 2021