Guy Sorman
The New Wealth of Nations

All public money has been invested in giant projects, whereas the government has neglected its traditional tasks. This scenario of desenvolvimento, development a la brezilienne, appeared in the 1930s when Brazil, isolated from the rest of the world due to the crisis, could no longer survive on its traditional exports. The international market was unsteady and Brazilian entrepreneurs scarce. The government, headed by Getulio Vargas, decided to take exclusive charge of industrialization. Thereon, Getulism became for Brazil what Peronism was for Argentina, although Vargas, for historical reasons, was more influenced by the Portuguese fascism of Salazar than that of Mussolini.

For the last 50 years, Vargas or no Vargas, all subsequent political regimes, whether civil or military, leftist or rightist, have never tried to change this basic direction. Getulism has remained the dominant economic philosophy of the Brazilian state. For the rest, ample proof of the irrelevince of partisan labels is the fact that Getulio Vargas, after having headed a fascist dictatorship between 1930 and 1945, returned to power in 1950 as a democratically elected leader with a program that had labor overtones.

Getulism is based on the postulate that the state is the instrument of development and necessarily incarnates economic progress. Desenvolvimento seemingly enjoys partisan neutrality and the merits of progressiveness. What it boils down to, however, is the handing over of all available capital to a new bourgeoisie chosen by the state: army officers, technocrats, businessmen, and politicians. The state bourgeoisie has, over the last 50 years, managed to set up a gigantic industrial complex. All that is big is good for Brazil; thus the country has the largest dams, the first nuclear power plant, the longest highway (across Amazonia), the first arms industry, and now the first computer industry in Latin America. Small industry, which finds no place in this pharaonic scheme of things, is struggling to survive as all available funds are earmarked for large-scale projects. Agriculture, not considered a factor of national strength, has also been neglected. The main social consequence of such centralized capitalistic development is the sidelining of all those workers and peasants who have nothing but their brute force to offer the job market. Three-fourths of the population are thus excluded from the growth process based on massive investment. Contrary to Marxist analysis, which explains development through the exploitation of the masses, the Brazilian masses are not exploited but simply ignored. Such unjust development allows a handful of fake entrepreneurs, who owe their existence to the state, to flourish. This system, more likely to give rise to monopolies than to create real wealth, is expensive, financed as it is by inflation and international debt. All public resources are earmarked for the state, the sole producer, and nothing is left over for housing, education, or health. Alaide de Lourdes in her favela is not so much a victim of her social origins, capitalism, or industrialization as she is of the power-play of the Brazilian state. She has been completely excluded from the fruits of the development process.

As I listen to Campos in his Senate office, my eyes wander contemplatively over this bewildering capital city. Brasilia in a nutshell is what the national development ideology is all about. Constructed in just four years, inaugurated in 1960 by President Juscelino Kubitschek, nothing could be more incongruous and out of harmony with its natural environment. The architect, Oscar Niemeyer, has distributed rectangular buildings devoid of any charm or imagination according to their function—banking quarters, hotels—on either side of the central highway. No matter where one is in the city, one cannot escape the noise of the traffic. To take a walk or to stroll around in this city is about as unthinkable as finding a quiet spot or a bit of shade. Brasilia has no interesting street corners, no trees, no refuge. This architectural folly reaches its apogee in the cathedral, where the conical roofing made of glass slabs laid on concrete frames concentrates the tropical sun's rays, turning the building into an unbearable furnace so that holding mass is impossible. The odors of Brasilia are just as unnatural. All one can smell is car fuel made from sugar cane, which the dry, still air can never remove. The city's only significance is as a symbol of power. All streets converge toward Parliament House and the presidential palace, and only here does the architecture improve somewhat. That Brasilia has become the reference point for many Third World leaders desirous of building a capital in the wilderness tells us a lot about their megalomania. Brasilia is the concrete dream of an elite—technocrats, military men, and demagogues—on a quest for national power.

  The World was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide:
They, hand in hand, with wand'ring steps and slow,

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Through Eden took their solitary way.