The author, an exiled member of Brazil’s now illegal Socialist Party has written a concise analysis of the economic and political history of Brazil. He shows how economic dependence, first on Portugal, then Britain and now the United States has hampered national development for the masses and, instead, has created and maintained a conservative ruling hierarchy bent on its self-preservation and enrichment.

During the colonial period, Arraes observes, Portuguese capitalism set the stage for the monocultural economy that was to plague Brazil for centuries. This took the form of various cycles such as sugar cane, rubber, and finally coffee. The evolution of this system led to the appearance of great landed proprietors who tied their personal welfare and Portugal’s to the foreign export market. Great Britain gradually replaced Portugal as the dominant power in the Brazilian economy, and thus began the exchange of Brazilian raw materials and food for English finished goods. Brazil’s balance of payments throughout the nineteenth century, in fact until the economic collapse of 1930, was unfavorable in that what she sold never quite paid for what she purchased. Starting in 1824 and continuing until the 1930 debacle Brazil started periodic borrowings, mainly from Great Britain. By 1889 the public external debt amounted to an equivalent of seven times the annual income of Brazil. British banks through credit controls dominated local industries and in fact controlled many of them.

Though domestic industry began with the start of the Republic in 1889 and spurted ahead during World War I and the 1920s, still the alliance between the agrarian policy makers and international financial interests kept the nation in bondage to them. With the depression of the 1930s and the crash of King Coffee new government leadership under Getúlio Vargas took control and guided the nation into an emphasis on industry based upon Brazilian control of resources and manufacturing. Industry pushed ahead on all fronts, especially during World War II. There was less reliance on exportation of raw products. Just as important, the author maintains, the war years occupied the British and Americans and left Brazil’s destiny in Brazilian hands.

In time, however, the home market became, for various reasons, unable to support continued industrial expansion. By 1964 Brazilian industrial leaders looked to an export market for their manufactured goods. Brazilian industry, by now infiltrated by foreign combines (mainly the Americans who replaced the British as economic prime movers after the war years) allied itself to foreign corporations since these latter controlled the world markets.

The ousting of nationalist President João Goulart in 1964 by rightist military forces allied with the conservative Brazilian bourgeoisie saw an end to his attempt to terminate foreign domination of Brazil. The author says the current sporadic uprisings by labor, peasant, and student groups may be the only route left to place the destiny of Brazil into the hands of the people and end her captivity by domestic and foreign oligarchies.

This is a meaty thought-provoking book that, despite its bias, adds useful information to the growing literature on contemporary Brazil.