Recent English-language publications on contemporary Brazil generally convey contradictory images of the essential nature of developments there. There are on the one hand works stressing the impressive and sustained economic growth, along with governmental stability and movement towards South American preeminence. Other authors emphasize the negative features of continued wide-spread poverty, political repression, and systematic torture, as well as the mistreatment of Brazil’s Indian minority. João Quartim’s book, like those of Miguel Arraes and Márcio Moreira Alves, represents the latter tendency. Originally written in French, this book has been modified for the North American reader by inclusion of a 40-page chapter capsuling political trends of the 1930-1964 period. This quite superficial survey leads into a coherent Marxist critique of the Castelo Branco and Costa e Silva governments as a time of “construction [of] a military-oligarchic state, a state of a new type which despite superficial similarities cannot be equated with previous fascist or colonial models” (p. 62).

The heart of the book deals with the 1968-1970 period during which “armed struggle” against the military régime appeared to hold some prospects for success. Some of the prose is sheer polemics as illustrated by such passages as “Admiral Rademaker was made Vice-President so that Garrastazu could have as many thromboses as he pleased without provoking another constitutional crisis . . .” (p. 84). Yet the author does present a reasonably perceptive analysis of a “society in which political struggle shows a remarkable autonomy in relation to the fundamental class structure, and in which the real interests of the ruling class need not reveal themselves obviously or straightforwardly at the political level” (p. 85). Unfortunately his figures are generally quite out of date with the rapidly changing Brazilian economic reality, for they rarely come past 1968, while since that time GNP has risen at an annual average of 10 percent. Most provocative is Quartim’s identification of “a new type of national bourgeosie, whose economic base is no longer national private capital and whose political strength derives not from the alliance between the bourgeosie and the popular masses, but from military nationalism . . .” (p. 105). Examining the several societal groups outside the present system, he recognizes the manifest weakness of the working class and finds that “though there is a vast revolutionary potential contained in the Brazilian peasantry, it is buried deep” (p. 139). He also grapples at some length with the confusion between the students’ potential for revolutionary struggle and their specific role in that process.

The author’s detailed account of the 1968-1970 episodes of “Revolutionary War” has as a unifying conceptual theme the inapplicability of Regis Debray’s theses in the Brazilian context. He also correctly identifies the drawbacks of “overestimation of terrorism as a form of struggle . . .” (pp. 194-195). His final chapter emphasizes what the revolutionary left must do if it is to meet with increased success. In the past three years, however, the divided components of this movement have not heeded the message of Quartim’s writings and have become significantly less rather than more effective. A minimal chronology of Brazil’s political history and an appendix stressing revolutionary political organizations are included for the non-specialist.