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

Vargas Between Right and Left

Vargas, like other authoritarians of the 1930s, took lessons from both the right and the left. Like the Nazis and the Bolsheviks, Vargas knew that his brutal tactics would have to be combined with successful social policy. With this in mind, Vargas started development programs. He built huge steel mills, founded a national automotive company, increased spending on basic infrastructure, founded youth and sporting clubs, extended the reach of electricity, and adopted a policy of assimilation of immigrants by emphasizing “Brazilian” culture and the Portuguese language. To the new class of industrial workers, Vargas gave the forty-eight-hour workweek, a decent minimum wage, retirement and pension plans, maternity benefits, and health and safety policies. It was a deft combination of political strategies from the right and left – similar in its trajectory to what the Nazi Party or (National Socialist German Workers’ Party) was doing in Hitler’s Germany. In both countries, the emphasis was on nation-first ideals. “National” became the favorite word of the age in both Germany and Brazil.

Unlike in Germany, however, nationalist authoritarianism in Brazil never took on a racial or ethnic ideology. Much the opposite, Brazil nationalism meant embracing the distinct heterogeneous nature of a Brazilian society formed from a colorful mixture of African, Native American, Portuguese and European peoples.

This page has paths: