Professor Dulles continues his ambitious program of research and writing on modem Brazilian history. Having published in 1967 a study of the Vargas years (1930-1954), he now offers a volume covering the era from 1955 to 1964. It might have been entitled “the legacy of Vargas,” since Getúlio’s political heirs dominate the era. More than half the book is devoted to the ill-fated presidency of Joño Goulart who was re-elected Vice President in 1960 and succeeded to the highest office when Jânio Quadros resigned after only seven months in August, 1961. The last turbulent month of Goulart’s presidency in 1964 takes up almost one hundred pages.
The author explains that he will “tell of Goulart’s overthrow and of the events that led up to it.” The verb “tell” is accurate, since the book is composed almost exclusively of a political narrative, unencumbered by explanations or analyses of Brazil’s social and economic structure, or even by many details of political institutions such as parties or interest groups.
The motif running throughout this account is the growing antagonism between the populist politicians and the military. As the former turned reckless in early 1964, the perennially divided military finally coalesced into a conservative, predominantly anti-political force. The ideological collision that led to Vargas’ suicide in 1954 had been muted with surprising success during the Kubitschek presidency (1956-1961), but it loomed large again in the Goulart years. The coup of 1964 saw the military score a victory that was more profound and far-reaching than many Brazilians understood at the time. It is the merit of Dulles’ work to have clearly chronicled this antagonism.
The chief sources used are memoir accounts and newspaper articles, although the author has also conducted extensive interviews with leading personalities. The latter afford insights and information not found in published sources. Dulles’ continued access to politicians of bitterly opposing viewpoints suggests that he has succeeded in maintaining a remarkable degree of objectivity, although he is clearly unsympathetic to the Goulart government and the revolutionary left.
This volume, like the author’s earlier works on the Mexican Revolution and Vargas, includes many pages of excellent photographs. These candid pictures often seem to reveal nuances of character that would escape many a biographer. Other authors cannot help but envy Professor Dulles’ ability to persuade the University of Texas Press to include so many illustrations—a feature unhappily rare in these days of rapidly rising production costs.
Reading this account one marvels at Brazil’s ability to survive for so long a near chaotic state of political in-fighting. The kind of wide-open political competition of the decade described here seems part of the distant past. Yet the origins of the post-1964 authoritarian regime are to be found in the military frustration produced by the deadlock of the early 1960s so colorfully described in Unrest in Brazil.