The Brazilian “Revolution”

Revolution in Brazil: Politics and Society in a Developing Nation

by Irving Louis Horowitz
Dutton, 430 pp., $7.50

Professor Horowitz is righteously indignant. He tells us in this book that Brazil is undergoing a profound revolution (the book was finished before Goulart’s overthrow), and that we are being systematically misinformed about it. His book opens with an attack on American social scientists whose writing about Brazil lacks the “cutting edge of intellect.” Shunning the “colonialist ideology and phraseology” of his colleagues, Professor Horowitz proposes to give us the real story. Nearly half of his book consists of translations of articles by eighteen Brazilian (and one Mexican) scholars and politicians. In the other half the author himself attempts nothing less than an analysis of the economic, social, and political forces which both support and obstruct the development of Brazil.

No one would deny the lack of information about Brazil’s blocked economic and political development. American understanding of the radical nationalist position in that country is even more limited. Unfortunately, Professor Horowitz’s seven chapters fail to provide the kind of explanation we need: he has written a bad book about an important subject. Then why need it be reviewed? First, because the articles translated from Brazilian authors will be an important source in English for anyone who wants to learn about politics and society in contemporary Brazil. Second, because the book’s title could mislead readers into expecting enlightenment on the Brazilian revolution from Horowitz’s own chapters.

Exactly what is the “Brazilian revolution”? If it is “a social revolution well under way, and a political revolution that is gathering momentum in a relatively brief period” (p.8), is it to constitute a change in the ruling elite? Which groups are to gain and which to lose and what are the issues which divide them? Are we to understand that the constitutional system under Goulart could not accommodate these tensions? Professor Horowitz never satisfactorily answers these questions. Indeed, he confuses his analysis by his indiscriminate use of the term “revolution” to describe both what has already happened to Brazil since industrialization began, and what may in the future turn out to be “the need for a ‘redemptive’ civil war” (p.302).

On March 31 President Goulart was deposed after two and a half years in power. His accession, in August 1961, after Jâanio Quadros’s dramatic resignation, was viewed by the radical nationalists as an unexpected opportunity to win control of the presidency. Not surprisingly, the same prospect alarmed conservatives and aroused concern among centrists. Still, Goulart was given his chance. In January 1963 a national plebescite restored to him the full powers of the presidency, thereby revoking the unworkable parliamentary system which Goulart’s opponents among the army had extracted as the price for permitting his succession to the presidency.

But by March 1964 Goulart had managed to coalesce against him a majority of the middle class and higher military, as well as the more conservative groups which had consistently opposed him since his days as Labor Minister under Vargas a decade ago. It was this coalition of civilian and military opposition that sent Goulart…

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