Russell Blackwell (Rosalio Negrete) Archive

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R. Blackwell

The Civil War in Brazil

(November 1930)

From The Militant, Vol. III No. 32, 1 November 1930, p. 8.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’ Callaghan for the Encyclopaedia of Trotskyism On-Line (ETOL).

Brazil is the fourth South American country to overthrow the government in the course of the last three months.

In Bolivia and Peru, with the sympathy of the great masses, the liberal bourgeoisie staged triumphant movements, and supported by British imperialism managed to defeat the feudal elements which for years, while in power, had worked hand in hand with Wall Street financial interests.

In Argentina the pro-British government of Hipolito Irigoyen was turned out by a military coup of the big bourgeoisie supported by American imperialism. A virtual reign of terror was then instituted against the proletarian organizations. The Communist and anarchist press has been suppressed and several anarchist and anarcho-syndicalist leaders have been executed.

The Brazilian revolt, however, is in reality a much more complex affair than either of the other three countries mentioned. Brazil is in area the largest country in the Western Hemisphere and has a population of 39 million, concentrated principally in different parts of the east and the south. Throughout this immense area the industries and agricultural products are quite diversified and the local governments which have a surprisingly great amount of local autonomy, even to the point of having their own armies, represent generally speaking the respective interests of the local exploiters. The principal crop in the country is coffee, with rubber as an important second and cacao, livestock, grain, mining, etc., also quite important in their respective regions.

The deposed Brazilian government was above all a representative of the coffee interests as was quite natural with coffee as the outstanding commercial product. Brazil produces the bulk of the world’s coffee. During the period of crisis which, especially inasmuch as coffee is concerned, has been very long, the government of Washington Luiz has attempted all sorts of schemes to protect, by artificial means, the interests of coffee growers. First came the valorization plan by which the surplus product was stored to force a rise in prices on the market. After the failure of this scheme, loans were secured in BOTH Great Britain and the United States for the protection of these coffee raisers and to relieve the crisis in the industry. The liberal bourgeoisie whose interests conflict violently with those of the semi-feudal coffee producers protested energetically against these extensive foreign loans which benefited the coffee industries alone.

The recent rebellion was brought about by a combination of all the opposition forces, especially those of the petty bourgeoisie, and representing generally the interests of most of the secondary industries of the country. Counting on a wide mass support, which was natural as a result of the years of dictatorial rule under the Washington Luiz regime, the rebellion was initiated by the action of several states and after some fighting was enabled within a few weeks to dominate the country. As the ship was sinking, the army (whether acting for the coffee growers or not still remains to be seen) threw the president overboard and attempted a compromise with the rebels. The compromise being rejected, the army officers, glad to have saved their own brave hides, were obliged to cede to the demands of the new regime.

A False Analysis of the Situation

The Communist Party of Brazil, and in imitation of it, the American Party also, have continually painted the Washington Luiz government as being pro-British, picturing the interests of the semi-feudal coffee interests as identical with those of British imperialism. Although they quite correctly point out that British investments in Brazil are double those of the U.S., they fail to consider that the enormous majority of the Brazilian coffee crop is marketed in New York. This is an entirely false and over-simple analysis of the real case, as both imperialisms are deeply interested in Brazilian coffee, while the secondary industries are controlled some by one imperialism and some of the other. Inasmuch as the rubber industry is concerned, the Washington Luiz regime has shown decided favoritism to the Ford interests as against their British rivals.

Our comrades of the Leninist Left Opposition in Brazil, through their monthly organ A Lucta de Classe have demonstrated clearly the incorrectness of the official Party’s analysis, and have further pointed out that in Brazil, due to the complexities of the economic structure, with the existing diversification of products, each region having its staple, and a mutual though conflicting interest on part of both imperialisms as regards the most important product (coffee), it is impossible to say that either of the two leading imperialist powers actually supported, in the true sense of the word, either one of the two Brazilian parties. Both imperialisms made pacts and agreements with both groups as the particular situation required.

The action of the Wall Street government in rushing to the aid of the old Brazilian regime on the eve of its collapse, undoubtedly induced to lend its support in exchange for promises of future juicy concessions, demonstrates the falsity of the C.P.’s analysis and goes a long way towards confirming that of the Brazilian Left Opposition. Only acrobats can believe the analysis which declares, in the October 21 issue of the Daily Worker, that Wall Street, after having supported the rebellion, turned a triple somersault and flew to the aid of the regime that had already been fatally weakened through its own efforts. The Wall Street millionaires are shrewder politicians than certain of the Daily Worker’s star reporters and are certainly not fools enough to do that.

The official press of the American Communist party has dealt very absurdly with the whole problem from the outset. Until the appearance of the aforementioned article the Worker and the other Party organs shouted loudly that the rebellion was supported by Wall Street. The most ludicrous instance of bureaucratic stupidity of the really naive kind to be found in this already too-much-abused “Third Period” appeared in the Freiheit (Oct. 11, 1930), in an article informing us that a “Mass Communist Uprising Captures the Third Largest City In Brazil.” Nothing was said in the Daily Worker concerning an event, which were it true, would have been of enormous revolutionary significance. In reality all that happened (we were forced to find out through the New York Times), was that during a street demonstration of workers in Bahia, several plate glass windows were smashed and a few street cars were overturned. (We will be called counter-revolutionists for saying this, as we are almost every other time that we tell the truth.)

The Party Putsch

In Rio de Janeiro however, it seems that the party comrades, staged a melée, in an attempt to “capture power” ... and were suppressed with numerous casualties, after a couple of hours by the troops and police. The Daily Worker commenting on this last isolated outbreak, which bears all the ear marks of a suicidal putsch, says in its issue of October 28, “The fight of the workers under the leadership of the Communist Party of Brazil shows the deep going radicalization of the masses and the fact that the workers and poor peasants are beginning to put forward their independent demands against their own bourgeoisie as well as against all imperialist forces.”

The C.P. of Brazil has, unfortunately, already discredited itself before the masses because of its “anti-imperialist” adventures and its election fizzle with the “Workers and Peasants Block.” It is incapable with its many opportunist and ultra-Left defects of leading the masses effectively in struggle.

Our small Left Opposition group in Brazil has already in its ranks a number of serious revolutionary fighters expelled from the Party for their consistent struggle against the opportunism of the leadership. The Bolshevik-Leninists of Brazil have before them the task of rallying about themselves the best proletarian elements of the Party in order to reconstitute and build the Brazilian Communist movement, for the organization of the working class and the struggle for Communism in Brazil.

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