Brazil-Cruciable of change

BRAZIL TODA Y IS, by virtually common consent, the country most likely after Cuba to erupt in some kind of a revolution. It is large and heavily populated, with some 90 million inhabitants-even though there are huge areas where human beings are relatively few and far between. This fact in itself is an indication of the road that Brazilian development is taking-a road which leads the Indians of the countryside inevitably to seek the supposed delights of the cities.

The truth is less attractive. If anything, the Indians and half-breeds who come to the cities get poorer: their cousins and brothers whom they have left behind certainly do not get any richer. And the gap between people like these and the affluent groups in Sao Paulo and the other big cities is increasing steadily. This is, even as it stands, quite an explosive mixture: to it can be added the fact that the Brazilian population as a whole is probably the most politicalised in Latin America. This is a result of many different things, and even though at first sight it is difficult to see why Brazil should be ahead of any other Latin American country in the sphere, the fact remains that it is so.

The present crisis (a strange enough word to use for a situation which is in a sense endemic) dates back effectively to 1964, when elements in the Brazilian armed forces ousted the left-wing Government of Goulart. This was a fantastic shock to the entire spectrum of the Brazilian left, most of whom had been looking forward with something like optimism to the advance of socialist ideas in their country, and who had -to their cost - ignored the potential threat to this movement from the essentially middle-class army structure. The immediate reaction to the 1964 coup was one almost of paralysis: it was not until 1965 that the necessary process of evaluation and tactical planning began again within the various organisations opposed to the military government. This process of reflection took at least two years, and its first and most obvious result was when the Brazilian Communist Party split in 1967. The split was between two almost completely irreconcilable groups: the first, more traditional group still insists that the only way for the left to regain power is by constitutional means, including the eventual formation of a Popular Frant government in which they would have a large interest. The second group, on the other hand, argues that the situation is so intractable that nothing short of revolution can cure it.

Since 1967 almost every radical political organisation in Brazil - and quite a few liberal ones as well-have suffered the same trauma. Not even the Catholic Action movement has escaped the tension and it, too, has recently split along the same lines as the Communist Party. What is interesting is that although the constitutionalist fragments of each of these movements have remained relatively powerless and still divided from each other, the separatist groups are finding increasingly common ground under the Brazilian Communist who led the split in his own party-Carlos Marighella. Earlier this year Marighella wrote a " Message to Brazilians" from "somewhere in Brazil" which has not yet received the publicity it deserves. This is largely because of the attitude of the regime not only towards the national newspapers in Brazil, but towards foreign correspondents. The only really searching articles on the current situation there that have appeared in any foreign newspaper appeared not long ago in Le Monde. To avoid cable censorship, the paper's Latin American correspondent there had sent them out by post. Immediately after they appeared, he was expelled by the regime.

Marighella, who is at present on the run-quite literally-has produced a document which, it is fair to say, marks a significant step forward in the development of revolutionary thinking on the mainland of Latin America. It is not, perhaps, as historic in its content or in its implications as Castro's famous speech at his trial in Santiago, "History Will Absolve Me," but it does mark some important new departures.

The first part of this document is devoted to examining the injustices under which Brazilians suffer-or which their government plans to inflict on them. One of the most far-reaching of these is the government's decision, in consultation with USA1D, the United States agency, to change the status of the 50 per cent of Brazil's universities that are at present owned - and paid for-by the state. Under the new scheme they will become private, feepaying universities like the others - a move of bewildering and frightening implications. Among the other abuses attacked are the illegal occupation of common lands and the grinding system of credit on the large plantations which has the effect of tying the peasant irrevocably to the "company store."

The three most important paragraphs, however, are the following, which give Marighella's message the tone of a genuine manifesto. "We do not believe in a conformist and submissive parliament, allowed to exist at the whim of the dictatorship and prepared to yield whenever necessary, while its deputies and senators survive on their subsidies. "We do not believe in a peaceful revolution. There is nothing artificial about the conditions for violence: they have existed in Brazil since the dictatorship impised itself by force. Violence generates violence, and the only solution is to do what we are actually doing: to use violence against those who first opted for it to prejudice the interests of the country and the masses of the people. The violence which we proclaim, defend and organise is that of the people's armed struggle - guerilla warfare."

Later on, Marighella sketches out a very rough programme for change. After the victory of the revolution, he says, they will abolish censorship, establish religious liberty, release the political prisoners, close down the secret police, expel North American agents and confiscate North American property, as well as the property of collaborationist Brazilians, and confiscate the vast estates which amount to a virtual monopoly of the best agricultural land.

An obvious programme, people might say-and to some extent an unrealisable one. Revolutions are never ushered in with sweetness and light: there are many paragraphs of "History Will Absolve Me" which remain only as ideals in a Cuba which is in a state of siege, and there is no guarantee that a revolutionary Brazil would be any better equipped to provide all the liberties people are used to at the same time as organising a complete reversal of the country's internal and external trading system. It is interesting, incidentally, that this programme does not include the nationalisation of all Brazilian private enterprises-only of those which have collaborated with North American economic interests. Here, quite clearly, is an attempt to broaden the base of the revolutionary movement to include those members of the Brazilian middle classes who are vaguely anti-American and nationalist in sentiment but who have never articulated this feeling in political terms.

How much chance is there that such an audacious programme would win support? All the evidence at the moment suggests that the rebels have a long and bitter struggle ahead of them -some of them, I am told, expect that they will have to wait for almost twenty years, and are doing so with a patience unusual in revolutionaries. At the moment, the government has all the trump cards - especially a highly trained and mobile army, which can isolate pockets of guerillas with bewildering rapidity. There is a certain cleverness about the government's approach to the guerillas, as well: if they capture any, they do not shoot them: that would be to make martyrs of them. They just lock them up and laugh at them which, from a popular point of view, is far more effective as propaganda.

Not everything, however, is going their way. Of late, for instance, the guerillas have become better trained and more daring. They have adopted a "Robin Hood" style, whether they are robbing banks for funds or armouries for weapons, which effectively deflates the government's attempts to rally popular feeling against them. On one occasion, one of the regime's generals went on television to charge the guerillas with cowardice: they had never, he said, attempted to violate the sanctity of his barracks. . . Less than twenty-four hours later a small van loaded with high explosives went up right under his window.

The discontent is also seeping through the Church, in which the diminutive but pugnacious figure of Archbishop Helder Camara of Recife, in the country's troubled north-eastern corner, acts like a beacon to Brazilian Christians who believe that their Christianity does not commit them to the status quo. The bishop proclaims a kind of evangelical non-violence which is far from the passive, milk-and-water thing that non-violence can sometimes be in the minds of people who have not really come to terms with the political situation. In a sense, even, he does not disapprove of violence in blanket terms -but he sees the duty of a Christian bishop as one which leads him to abstain from actual violence, while being prepared to understand the need for others to use it. At one level this sounds like a commitment that is less than total, but in another there is a very positive side to it: all revolutions need their critics, if they are to become genuinely human revolutions, and not merely the exchanging of one system of domination for another. It is here that the witness of the Christian bishop or priest from just outside the actual revolution-however many of his flock may be inside it-can be of enormous value. The difference is not one of commitment: it is a difference of role.

The reaction to all this, of course, has been brutal in the extreme. The' shooting-up of Helder Camara's house, the hanging of one of his most active priests, and all sorts of other actions, testify to the fact that the armed right wing is not going to give up power without a struggle. And yet an enthusiastic businessman could take an American journalist (whom I met on the plane from Havana to Mexico City) to the window of his palatial office, point to the teeming street below them, and ask: "There-do you see any repression?"