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Andre Gunder Frank

Letter to R. Stavenhagen

Pages 6-7 of a letter to
Rodolfo Stavenhagen at the UNESCO Centro de Pesquisas em Ciencias Sociais in Rio de Janeiro
written by Andre Gunder Frank at the University of Brasilia, June 1, 1963. ----------------

--------------------------- -------------- .... 6
I'm getting more and more off the topic so you will now find a criti-
cism. So for I haven't criticised anything you've written but now I will on a
side issue, side of the one under discussion but of first importance in its
own right. on page 22 of Article 1 you say- middle page- "thus in some
underdeveloped countries industrial capitalist production, regionally limited
coexists with a semi-feudal system of great latifundios. Both structures
or substructures) of the society are characterized by their own productive
relations, and therefore, by their respective classes. But insofar as the
economic development of these countries is a capitalist development, the
fundamental classes are, or will get to be, the classes of the capitalist
system". I think here you are not seeing the real world and I will hope to demon-
strate the same in another article I have started to write. When I got to
Lat Am a year ago, I naturally thought that Lat Am is feudal, or at least
its countryside and agriculture is, since that's what everybody always told me.
It took me about three months to find out that that is 100% crap. and I then
began to see the matter as you describe it in the quote above and as it is seen
by my marxist friends in Brazil here at the univ and people like Wernek Sodre,
Joacir Paixao(whom I don't know yet but surely will if I stay long), Paul
Singer ( whose wife I know so far and him not yet), Caio Prado Junior to a
lesser degree and Anibal Pinto ditto- and apparently that guy Stavenhagen.
Implicit in that view of the matter is, among other things, that feudalism
got here first, that it is determinant in the regions and social relations
in which it can be said to exist, that capitalism is still or just "invading"
the countryside, that "feudal" relations on the farm are just as determinant
of what happens in agriculture as the market relations of the farm owner or
large rentier, that these relations really are feudal, or semi feudal, or pre-
capitalist, or backward or a million similar names. Well I mean to write
an article demonstrating that each and every one of these propositions is wrong,
and that even if some of them, like the last one about what the relation between
latifundista and his peasant really is -are really feudal- that this doesn't make
a damn bit of difference in the general scheme of things. Instead I mean to
suggest - or show if my feeble capacities permit it- that feudalism didn't
get here first but that mercantilism - or mercantile capitalism did. That
determined all the remaider and still continue to do so- including of
course that lat am from the very beginning was a plantation and mine for
the metropole and still is in large degree, that it was and is the development
and requirements of the capitalist national economy which already and
for ever since (not as you say will get to be) are determinant of that indeed.
Agriculture is also capitalist but of course, as the rest of the economy
monopoly capitalist, most especially on the distribution and financing side
and of course on the lawndownership end. and that these relations determine
make exist in the past and maintain today and even in some cases make
exist today and tomorrow where necessary, the so called feudal relations on
the farm. That the shifting fortunes of the monopolized capitalist industrial,
trade and agricultural economy, to say nothing of its foreign monopolist direc-
tion, are sufficient to determine and explain what goes on on the land without
inventing feudalism which, certainly in Brazil, has not existed for one minute
in its history. Wernek Sodre, who argues about slavery as others do about
feudalism, marxist scholar tough he may be simply don't understand what in
the hell went on in Brazil. He is a victim of his marxist categories which
he quotes to deny that trade can be determinant, that only production can.
Marxist friends here support their view of the matter by arguing that
inside relations are really ultimately determinant- ergo, the feudal
relations on the farm are and the market relations "outside" the farm cant.
The trouble is they cant tell inside from outside.

Historical references about how things came to be the way they are,
the emphasis on mercantilism and later industrial capitalism and on
monopoly, I will combine with a few other things to write a third article
and hopefully later a book- on what underdevelopment is really about, most
specifically that it is not just un-(or lack of) development. An attempt to
analyse, not just trace, how lat am and other places got to be underdeveloped.
Not just because the other developed away from a common start. How the develop-
ment of development was related to the development of underdevelopment, and
vice versa, how it continues to be, how this mechanism is made to work by
various gimmicks such as monopolization, demonstration effects of economic,
political and social(mobility) liberalisms - all of which of course are
designed to keep these places underdeveloped, in fact make them every year
more underdeveloped instead of less - economic and political cycles of good
and bad, liberal and dictatorial times, and a variety of other bags of tricks


that are used consciously and unconsciously by foreign and homegrown or
homemade bourgeois groups.

So in each of these three articles I want to cut at least one chinck into
our armour of myths. In the first to tackle the myth of
feudalism, in the second to challenge the myth that growing middle classes
(forgive the word) and social mobility are a sure fire bet to produce
economic development - they are just the opposite, in the third the myth that
underdeveloped countries always were that way and that the developed ones
never had nor now have anything to do with the matter and that they are
helping these countries to become developed too by foreign aid, investment
export of economic theory and the like, when also just the opposite is the
case. In each of these tasks, and I suppose especially the second, I expect
your articles, and the future development of your thought, to be of great
influence and aid in my thinking and writing. Just for
good measure I will ad a couple of other article topics I have been planning,
even though they are slightly off that track(the first three articles hang
together), another is to suggest why the famous structural (CEPAL) and
monetarist (neoclassical) theories of inflation and development etc. are
really, contrary to what the combattants in both camps claim, are really
based on the same body of economic theory- a more or less competitive
market economy model which underlies classical and keynesean theory alike- and
that of course politically they end up on the same side, howevermuch some
Americans, and especially of course my learned betters at the University of
Chicago, may wave red herrings at CEPAL (ECLA). The other article is one on
why and how every last one of the fundamental and incidental assumptions of
the theory of comparative advantage on cost, and the consequent supposedly derived
policy for economic development, is totally out of keeping with reality, not
only today, but that it was equally so in Ricardo's time - the famous exchange
of textiles for wine between England and Portugal, far from benefiting each
contributed to England’s development and Portugal’s underdevelopment, and that
the assumptions are not only empirically wrong but even logically mutually
inconsistent in at least two important places- such as for instance that
resources stay the same only production changes; but production evidently
changes resources in the process, so the two can never be both
sure at the same time, moreover, vide above reference to Ricardo’s famous example,
evidently production of textiles and production of wine do not result in
the same kind of changes in resources, and it is precisely the difference
in the resulting effects on resource distribution- which in theory stays
the same to begin with which accounts for a large part of England’s development
and Portugal’s non, no de- or under-development (not to speak of the fact, to
be discussed in econ deve article or book above, that through trade all
the wealth from Brasil flowed right through Portugal and into England). Moreover
given the very terms of the whole comparative advantage explanation, it really
only "explains" what exists and can not possibly generate any policy recom-
endations, to say nothing of policy recomendations about changing the
resource base.

One thing I don’t understand is how I ever made it in and out of the university
of Chicago where each and every one of the things I have said in the foregoing 7
pages is evidently either unheard of or anathema, or both. And you? how did
you manage? and Martin Orans? Or to put it another way, how did we ever manage
to see even so little a part of the world’s reality- and even theory- after
having so assidually had the wool pulled over our eyes.

Well, I am of course very sorry, that you did not make it up here - up is
right since it is after all the altiplano and both Marta and I freeze to death
every night under three blankets- more are not to be found in the univ.
I never got the letter that Roberto Cardoso promised to write me (God knows
if he wrote, vide letter we wrote you) instructlng me what to prepare a paper
for the symposium on sociological something (it was not decided just
that it was to be my last time in Rio) at the july anthro meetings in Sao Paulo.
So I prepared nothing. Also have no invite, so don't know if I will go,
but maybe will just to see you and meet the other people. If I don't go
to Recife or Maranhao ( to wich our great party secretary - or shall I really call
"front"? - Naiva Moreira invited me to go with him in an airforce plane).

Andrew Gunder Frank

[PS 2003: I did go to Sao Paulo,sent by my boss at UNB Dary Ribeiro, to a special Round Table at the 6th Conference of the Brazilian Antrhopological Association. There I confronted Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Octavio Ianni and others who then also still thoihght like Stavenhangen with critiques and theses like those above. I saw Ianni again at another round table in SP two weeks ago and Fernando Henrique on numerous occasions since then].

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