Brazil in the 1930’s

A gradual political transformation has taken place in Brazil over the past decade. Through unrest and revolutions, industrial developments and ruinous agricultural crises, struggles and reactions of progressive and conservative currents, Brazil has embarked on a more orderly and intense state life, improving relations between social classes, attenuating the particularities of individual states and directing them to the sense of national unity, affirming a greater desire to resist the excessive power of foreign finance which held their economic life tightly within a dense network of established interests. Also in Brazil, as in other South American republics, the economic crisis of 1929-34 had profound social and political repercussions which grafted new elements of disorder into the previous causes of distress. but also of beneficial recovery. The economic depression began with a serious crisis in the coffee market and with the depreciation of the currency, which was followed shortly afterwards by the decrease in the prices of sugar, cotton, rubber and cocoa, that is, of the main Brazilian products. The consequences were those common to all countries: arrest in public works, increase in unemployment, bankruptcies, progressive reduction of business and national and state revenues. Particularly serious was the case of coffee, the cornerstone of the Brazilian economy, especially in the most important and politically influential states. The coffee industry was already at the beginning of the world crisis in precarious conditions due to the reckless valorisation policy pursued for years by the producing states. through the system of piles in the warehouses of the Institute for the Defense of Coffee, which granted advances to the planters with the help of the Banco commercial do Estado de São Paulo financed by foreign loans and provided to place the product directly on the world market by artificially supporting the price and creating massive stocks. When, in October 1929, the Institute for the Defense of Coffee could not obtain the renewal of the loan on London that had financed the valorisation policy, the market for the next crop was defenseless and, when the world crisis came, the price fell gradually, until 1932, by 75%. Stocks went up fabulously. From an average of between 6 and 4 million bags (of 60 kilos) between 1923 and 1925,

The difficulties of the economic situation facilitated the worsening of political unease in the country. A violent movement against the dominant conservative oligarchy, to which responsibility for political, social and economic evils was attributed in certain circles, was to follow in Brazil (1930) the analogous Argentine revolution.

From the time of the constitution of the republic, the southern states of São Paulo and Minas Geraes had exercised a preponderant influence in the political life of the country. Being the most populous, the most advanced and the most economically active and thus providing the federal government with the bulk of the income, they claimed to dominate it. It was thus almost a custom that the presidency of the republic had to alternate between a Paulista and a mineiro, according to the designation made before the election by the dominant political groups. The opposition candidate, when he was there, practically had no chance of winning over the official candidate. In more recent years, the opposition of the less favored states and liberal elements against the conservative Paulist-Mineiro directorate took on a more violent character, combining with a new restlessness of the military, motivated both by personal ambitions and by sincere conviction of the need for overthrow a corrupt ruling class. In fact, military revolts took place in 1922 in Rio de Janeiro and in 1924 in São Paulo, easily and harshly repressed. But not for this calm returned and under the presidency of Arturo Bernardes (1922-26) the republic was almost continuously in a state of siege. His successor, the Paulista Washington Luis Pereira de Souza, according to custom, would have had to give way to a mineiro. Instead he wanted to impose the appointment of another Paulista, Dr. Julio Prestes, who was in fact elected in March 1930 thanks to a fraudulent ballot, according to what the opposition claimed. The breaking of the traditional alliance of the states of São Paulo and Minas Geraes created the situation favorable to the upheaval desired by the opposition, which reproached Pereira for a policy that was excessively favorable to his native country. At the head of the insurrection of the autumn of 1930, Dr. Getulio Vargas, politician of the state of Rio Grande do Sul and defeated opponent of dr. Julio Prestes in the presidential election that year. With the help of numerous officers of the

The revolutionary party, which liked to call itself liberal, and the new government announced a vast program of reforms. Punishments for embezzlement committed by officials of the previous administration, modification of the electoral law and the appointment of a constituent in charge of drawing up a new liberal charter, campaign against large estates, economy in state spending, were, among others, the fundamental points of the program of Vargas. But, although some of these reforms were already implemented in March 1932, the president did not appear to have any intention of promptly re-establishing constitutional order by carrying out the essential part of the revolution’s program. When the federal parliament and those of the states were dissolved, all powers were in fact centralized in the provisional president and his agents in the individual states (interventores). The discontent spread by Vargas’ dictatorial attitude facilitated the revolt of São Paulo in July 1932, from which the hope of regaining the dominance lost two years earlier was certainly no stranger. Three months of struggle, which cost 20,000 lives and one and a half billion contos in material damage, led to the defeat of the Paulistas. The military failure did not prevent the insurgents from obtaining, in some way, a moral victory. Not only did Vargas realize the need to make moderate use of victory, but he also decided to initiate the constitutional change in which Paulist conservatism was ultimately victorious over progressive tendencies. Reformed the electoral law, in May 1933 took place, in an atmosphere of hope and popular interest, the elections of the delegates to the National Assembly which was supposed to draft the new constitution and appoint a new president. Although the radical tendencies expressed in the constituent assembly could not fully translate into the final draft of the constitution, it was nevertheless characterized by a more lively sense of nationalism, a strengthening of centralization and a certain drive for social reform.

The right of active electorate was extended to all citizens of the two sexes over the age of 18 who could read and write; in the Chamber of Deputies a fifth of the seats were reserved for representatives of the agricultural, industrial, trade and transport unions, the free professions and officials, representatives elected equally, for the first 3 categories, by employers and workers; the Senate, made up of two senators for each state as well as two for the federal district and appointed by national elections, were entrusted with important control and legislative functions; the federal government was given the right to levy certain taxes prior to the competence of the states and, in general, the power to regulate industry, to nationalize banks and insurance institutions, to set up monopolies; immigration was strictly limited following a press campaign against the Japanese (but it was later enlarged, allowing for each nationality an annual quota equal to 2% of the total immigration of the same country in the last 50 years); the working week was set at six days of 8 hours; State and Church remained separate, but the validity of marriages celebrated by priests of all religions was recognized and religious instruction was an integral part of the teaching subjects. the working week was set at six days of 8 hours; State and Church remained separate, but the validity of marriages celebrated by priests of all religions was recognized and religious instruction was an integral part of the teaching subjects. the working week was set at six days of 8 hours; State and Church remained separate, but the validity of marriages celebrated by priests of all religions was recognized and religious instruction was an integral part of the teaching subjects.

Brazil in the 1930's