November 30, 1977 | Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
PART III “Aggiornate” Missionary Voices
The Indian Question, Fuse of an Agrarian Crisis in the Country
The multiplicity of pronouncements favoring agrarian reform, sparked by the Indian question, is frightening. It has gone so far as to make one wonder if the desire of stimulating socialist and confiscatory agrarian reform might not be the cause for such ado about the Indian problem these days. Following are some characteristic examples of the kind of statements we refer to.
36. Indians and Small Land-Holders Should Endeavor to Promote Rural Agitation.
Statement of the Pastoral Commission on the Land about the events in Meruri, State of Mato Grosso:
We must work so that the peasants with no land or little land, numbering more than eleven million families, realize that the cause of the Indians fighting for their own land, is their cause. They also have a right to the land, they must conquer it. The enemy is the same: the money which buys the land, the few rich who daily acquire more land. We need to prevent the farmers from using the peasants to take the land from the Indians. The correct way is for the peasants to demand that the land, in the lands of so few, be distributed with justice. (Doc. 27, pp. 3-4)
The foregoing implicitly maintains the communist thesis that the work contract and the system of salaries are intrinsically unjust, and that the rural worker is not a victim of injustice only when he is the owner of the land on which he works. Hence comes the right of the peasant “to demand” the distribution of land.
And this “right” is the starting point for the country’s agrarian malady, a crisis in which the small landowners and Indians should become involved.
37. Using the Case of Meruri to Ask “Radical Agrarian Reform” Throughout the Country
From the same aforementioned statement of the Pastoral Commission on the Land:
Finally, we are certain that no solution will be possible without a general change, a transformation of the agrarian structure. And this is possible only if a radical agrarian reform, not only in the Amazon but throughout the country, is decided upon and pursued …
Throughout this country the root of the problems involving landowners and leaseholders, or land grabbers, is the same as we found in the events of Meruri: greed for land, regardless of the knowledge that those in Brazil who are left without land are condemned to a slow death, a fact amply supported by the living and working conditions of the laborers and Indians already integrated. The people are resisting and are ready to die to obtain their right to the land. And this is what is happening in Arenápolis, in Mato Grosso, in PA 70, Pará, in all of Maranhão, in Paraná and all Brazil. When will the lords of capital and land recognize this right? When will national politics be defined and executed in view of the needs of the whole population and not just those of a minority? (Doc. 27, p. 4)
This is an eminently ambiguous and demagogic document. Demagogic because of its extremism and its exaggerated tone: it asks for a “general change, a transformation of the agrarian structure,” and thus it aspires to a “radical agrarian reform.”
It states that “those who are left without land [What is it to be “left without land?” Not to be a landowner?] in Brazil are condemned to a slow death.” This is a most serious affirmation for which the document gives less than rudimentary proof: the “living and working conditions of the laborers and the already integrated Indians.” There is no statistical demonstration capable of convincing serious minds.
The only effect of this demagoguery is to stir up class struggle. And this is where the document heads when it fancifully affirms that the “people are resisting and are disposed to die in order to obtain their right to the land” and so on.
38. The Solution of the Indian Problem Requires “A Radical and Profound Transformation of the Brazilian Agrarian Structure”
Statement of CIMI:
In Brazil there are more than seven hundred thousand small landowners whose right to the land, like that of the Indians, is threatened. They are found among the ten million families of Brazilian rural workers without land.
Therefore, we see the problem of the Indian lands within the broader context of the irrational distribution of land in our country. Only with a radical and profound transformation of the Brazilian agrarian structure, beneficial to all rural workers without land, will it be possible to pave the way for the peaceful recognition of the Indian peoples’ right to the land. (Doc. 28, pp. 33-34)