The Brazilian people have suffered a lot due to a social structure that is characterized by huge differences between classes. Even workers, who are employed, have experienced situations of extreme financial difficulties, restricting their consumption power and limiting their quality of life, which is far from ideal.
Since colonization, most Brazilian lands have been in the hands of a minority that accumulates large latifundia, Brazil has its history based on monoculture latifundiums that deplete natural reserves, impoverish the soil until crop failures, producing an economy based in cycles: sugar cycle, mining cycle, rubber cycle, coffee cycle, and so on.
The Old Republic, commanded by great statesmen such as Getúlio Vargas, Juscelino Kubitscheski, Jânio Quadros, always had the support of the oligarchies, of the colonels who never opened their lands for agrarian reform . Brazil has always been marked by workers’ revolts in the struggle for land: Cabanagem, Balaiada, Quilombos, Canudos , Contestado , Peasant Leagues, Guerrilha do Araguaia and more recently by the MST.
According to Clothingexpress, Republican President João Goulart, tried to carry out the so dreamed of agrarian reform, having been prevented by the Military Coup of 1964.
After Abolition, the ex-slaves received no compensation, no piece of land to plant, they were pushed to urban centers, thus producing a large mass of workers who had nowhere to go, much less where to work. Currently, there are millions of landless families who still live and work in the countryside, but without a piece of land that is theirs to plant. In our country there are also workers called boias-frias, living in misery, in a subhuman way, surviving without dignity, with temporary underemployment, in which they destroy what little health and dignity they have, in a semi-slave work that, in the end of the day earns them some change.
To address issues related to land issues, Xico Graziano launches the work “The Earth Karma in Brazil”, the author, son and grandson of farmers, experienced the reality of the countryside, in its delights and difficulties, grew up defending the countryside . Graduated in 1974 in agronomy, he defended the usufruct of the soil. During the period in which he was a university student, he developed a taste for politics, as a leftist militant he fought for the democracy of the land. He taught for 15 years at UNESP in Jaboticabal, where he was always involved with land issues. He was President of Incra in 1998 and Private Secretary to the President. Fernando Henrique Cardoso.
The central idea of the book is agrarian reform, where Xico Graziano tries to make evident the mistake in the idea of distributing land in Brazil today, as a way to minimize poverty. The Agrarian Reform model in force only transfers poverty from place to place, in its studies on land distribution, it makes clear its view that rural settlements are examples of the failure of this process, inefficient even as a means of production of family subsistence. .
“Earth distributivism” is an idea that has been lost in history, Brazil has always suffered the consequences of the worst income distribution on the planet, with richer and richer people living as hungry exiles from the deserts and from countries ruined by wars. The origin of all this is in the colonizing model, which imposed the latifundium system, from the Hereditary Captaincies and the slave system that lasted for over 300 years. Brazil was ruled by enlightened people, progressives and capitalists, we were built under the blood of many, attempts to change were always interrupted with violence.
The basic reforms dreamed of by rural workers, industrial workers and so many other categories were stifled by the Coup of 1964. The fear of the success of a strong popular movement caused violence, exile and death, especially of the leaders. Fear of communism and invasions by large estates led the government of General Castelo Branco to enact on October 30, 1964 “The Land Statute” under Law 4,504, this same Statute is still in force today.
The creation of the Land Statute is closely linked to the climate of dissatisfaction prevailing in the Brazilian countryside and, due to the fear of the government and the conservative elites, that a peasant revolution would break out, supported by the Catholic Church and the Brazilian Communist Party. Encouraged by the communist movement of the Cuban Revolution , which took place in 1959, and by the implementation of agrarian reforms in several Latin American countries, such as Mexico and Bolivia. The Brazilian attempts were annihilated by the military regime, in order to tranquilize the large landowners and appease the peasants, through fear and armed militia.
The goals established by the “Earth Statute” aim to meet the right to land ownership, as long as it meets its social function, that is, if its use is subject to collective well-being. In case of non-compliance, it is up to the State, based on social interest, the task of expropriating the forms of occupation and exploitation of land that are not being used productively, using instruments of “prior and fair compensation” of the owner.
For the defenders of agrarian reform, this would bring enormous benefits to the population, poverty would decrease and the supply of food would increase, with a tendency for prices to fall, where there would be an expansion in consumption. It would be a dynamo for the consumption of industrialized goods, as there would be growth in the domestic market and an alignment with foreign capital, it was necessary to accept new paths for a difficult task, it was necessary to reform land laws and practices, breaking with the dominant idea of distributivism as the only way to fight misery.
Graziano argues these ideas based on his vast knowledge of agrarian issues in Brazil, presenting subsidies that reinforce his idea that agrarian reform in Brazil, as it is done, does not work, therefore, he explains the reasons that are:
- The absolute failure of rural settlements proved by the outdated distributive land model;
- The reality has changed: the cost-benefits of this reform are not worth it;
- The latifundia are modified by the agrarian business system;
- The landless have been swallowed up by urbanization and mingle with the homeless and unemployed sheltered in the suburbs and slums of big cities;
- The settlements do not sustain themselves, that is why they do not survive and are in the hands of movements that use political manipulation, practicing, instead of agrarian reform, a kind of rural banditry.
For years, the long-awaited agrarian reform dragged on, and its goals were restricted to paper. According to Graziano, with Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Brazil witnessed the biggest and worst agrarian reform in history, due to the outdated model, imposed by a post-capitalist society and a polarized political process.
Currently, we see numerous proposals in an attempt to reduce the scandalous social difference that solidified after 50 years of a very strong rural exodus , the inversion of the population, which until 1950 was concentrated in the countryside, currently extrapolates the urban centers, expelled by the mechanization of agriculture. Civil construction sought to absorb a large part of this workforce, which, for being unqualified, receives low wages, falling under underemployment.
Graziano dreams of a productive complex that unites the countryside and the city, involving the rural world with agribusiness, the countryside benefiting from industry. It is estimated that around 28.4 million people have left the countryside and created major pockets of poverty and violence in urban centers. Small and medium farmers need to be assured of their permanence on the land.
Right-wing politicians defend the need to modernize the economy, with the division of profits into cooperatives and societies. Likewise, left-wing politicians believe that a transfer of land and assets is necessary, dividing them with those who do not have it; wasting less resources, increasing exports, monitoring the division of food and thus combating misery in such a rich and productive country.
Graziano criticizes the march of the landless, used as resources to mobilize the media and feed the TV news audience that expose tired faces and callused hands in search of their dignity, manipulated by games of political interests that do not aim at the welfare of the rural population.
Our economy has always suffered from external influences, since the time of colonization we have suffered from exploitation in favor of European economic expansion. The opening of ports, the British pressure against the slave trade, the Bill Aberdeen, the Visconde de Mauá’s difficulties in the face of foreign competition, the Farroupilha Revolt and the beef trade with Argentina and Uruguay manipulated by the British, Vargas’ nationalism and João Goulart who opened our economy to foreign investments, the exorbitant foreign debt contracted by the military dictatorship, in negotiations with international bankers who bought production in exchange for benefits, Collor and privatizations. The field has suffered a lot from all this “globalization”. We return to an old piece of evidence: the problem of land ownership.
The political reality of the country has changed, as well as the Landless Movement. According to Graziano’s analysis, this was weakened due to his involvement in fraudulent attitudes and his violent and radical actions. According to the author’s research, the movement is not only composed of those interested in acquiring land for subsistence, but also of people with political and individualistic interests, who see the possibility of getting rich in the movement.
According to Rolf Hackbart, president of Incra in the 1990s, the quality of life in the settlements is terrible, most houses do not have electricity and 80% do not have access roads to transport production. Official data indicate that such difficulties and others not mentioned yet, result in the evasion of settled families, with a lower rate in the Southeast (12%) and around 40% in the rest of the country, with cases with up to 70% of abandonment being registered.
The sale of lots of land in the settlements became an advantageous business, reaching up to 30,000 reais. The lots are usually sold to family members or to the larger “termites” of the camps.
Those who leave leave their credit debt behind, which increases the liability of agrarian reform. […] already knowing the dynamics of the process, part of the landless people turn land invasions into a small business. It is difficult, requires some perseverance, but the camp’s tents open doors to access public funds that are diverted, for good, when they help the family to organize their lives, or for bad, when the earnings are shared with the organization. (Graziano, 2004, p. 115)
The existence of other difficulties such as the lack of technical conditions and work tools, considering the various aids offered by the Government, also result in the abandonment or sale of the lots. The author analyzes this issue by comparing the facilities offered to settlers and small farmers, concluding that the low rate of permanence of families settled in their lots does not occur exclusively due to the assertion that the necessary conditions for their development are not offered, since these are offered to a greater advantage than to small farmers. In this sense, there are many cases of small farmers who join the Movement due to “the greatest advantages”.
The question of resource policy needs to be reviewed, both in the landless movement and in the Government.
Now, in the Lula government , with management shared by the MST and CONTAG, the time has come to take full advantage of public resources. The agreements recently signed with these organizations, aimed at human formation, training and the like, channel a huge amount of money to their political bases. This represents the old idea of the war against the latifundium covering up a drain on resources to feed a new state clientelism: rural settlements and their parent organizations. (Graziano, 2004, p.127)
A small example of who the settlers are
In the Iturama settlement, the oldest in Minas Gerais, only 6% of the families that received lots at the beginning of the project remain, and the current president of producers, Iradel Freitas, acquired his lot after studying pedagogy, becoming a teacher and electing himself a councilor of the County. (Graziano, 2004, pp. 129-130).
In the above quote, it is evident that in the settlements there are all kinds of professionals, even our professional colleagues help to thicken the estimates of landless families.
Graziano analyzes the issue of the Government’s difficulty in locating idle land to expropriate. In 1994, the price of land plummeted, and the purchase of land for speculation was no longer profitable. In 1999, agriculture expanded due to technological development, which began to ensure greater productivity and a satisfactory profit margin. As a result of political and economic dynamism, productive lands with good location have been depleted, requiring a greater effort to collect land resources. Consequently, expropriations occurred in areas where land had less possibility of production and, in areas with distant locations and difficult access, in addition to the Government facing a shortage of idle land for agrarian reform.
As a result of this entire process, it becomes increasingly expensive and difficult to continue expropriating land, as agrarian distributivism becomes unfeasible due to the progress of agriculture.
Once the large estates of the past disappeared, the desire for distributivism began to penalize livestock, as if the production of meat, and especially its consumption, were of interest only to the elite. In the absence of real idle land, pastures began to be confused with unproductive land. […] Agrarian reform had just collided with agronomy and zootechnics. (Graziano, 2004, p.135).
Historically contextualizing the word latifundio, its Latin origin is verified, meaning large domains of the aristocracy in Ancient Rome and, in Brazil, it represents the great unproductive property, thus, in our country, latifundium is associated with backwardness and coronelismo.
In the 1960s, the national bourgeoisie and the proletariat fought together with the peasants, against a common enemy, the landed oligarchy. In the last 40 years, agriculture has been modernized, the country has become industrialized and capitalism has become globalized.
According to Graziano, currently unproductive land exists only in the Incra registry, which considers immense areas of natural forests as unproductive, most in the Amazon and land in the Northeast, unviable for agricultural use. The author considers these projections as an attack on agronomy and ecology. To further aggravate the agrarian reform situation, Incra started to manufacture large estates that only exist in the Institute’s own documents.
Now, with government opposition, everyone will realize that the real enemy of agrarian reform is itself. The idea of agrarian reform, correct in the past, has become obsolete. That’s why the settlements don’t succeed. The blame is not on the Government, but on the revenue from land distribution. New theories for rural development are demanded by the post-industrial economy and society. The focus shifts from land tenure to job creation. It is definitely necessary to reinvent agrarian reform. (Graziano, 2004, p.284).
Scholars such as Zander Navarro claim that the MST has transformed itself from a social movement into a rigid political organization, with a (pseudo-revolutionary) character, simply tied to its ideology, failing to see that large estates generate jobs and guarantee the country’s economic growth, in addition to offering food at a lower cost to the urban masses.
Society could make a pact: scientists take care of knowledge; politicians, from the government; artists, of culture; religious, of the spirit. Everyone would make fewer mistakes. Kant defended a certain ‘daring’ in the search for knowledge. He, however, was looking straight ahead, not in the rearview mirror. It is regrettable that responsible people, religious or lay, dare to cry out against curses that, on the contrary, mean blessings. To see, just turn the spotlight. Remove the beam from the old agrarian ideology and illuminate the new reality in the countryside. A bath of light and wisdom does no one any harm. (Graziano, 2004, p.344)
In this sense, Graziano makes it clear that to remain, even today, stuck in distributive thinking is a disservice to the nation, pointing out suggestions to alleviate all the problems presented in his book, that is, the issue of agrarian reform in Brazil.