USM Open Source History Text: The World at War: World History 1914-1945

Brazil in the 1930s

We have so far seen a communist and an Islamist response to the dilemmas posed by modernity in the non-industrialized world. We turn to a third option – authoritarian dictatorship. In truth, the Saudi theocratic state was a dictatorship with all power vested in the King ibn Sa’ud and yet this was a dictatorship animated by theological ideology and not first and foremost by nationalism, though it would become more nationalistic as time went on. In Brazil, we see a more typical type of authoritarianism emerge – one that must be seen within the context of the post-depression era in South America.

We learned in a previous chapter that the Brazilian economy was hyper-dependent on coffee. Two things propped up the economy – a strong worldwide demand for the crop and a program instituted by the central government of Brazil to buy surplus coffee in order to remove it from the open market and thus keep prices stable. Though this program called “coffee valorization” did have some positive benefits (mostly for the big coffee producers) nothing could save the value of coffee in the face of the 1929 crash and subsequent worldwide economic depression. As the price of coffee sank, so too did the Brazilian economy.

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