[Marxism] Celso Furtado

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Sat Nov 20 17:26:57 MST 2004

> Celso Furtado died today in Rio de Janeiro. Furtado during his whole life studied the relantionship between development and underdevelopment. For him, like Raul Prebisch,  to speak about the world economy, means to speak about the existence of a centre and a periphery. 
> Here what do the comrades think about him, mainly the Latin American comrades? 
> Regards 
> Ivonaldo Leite 

I have his "Economic Development of Latin America" and have referred to 
it frequently in debates over dependency theory, the Brenner thesis, 
etc. Here are some interesting comments on Prebisch and Furtado by 
Carlos Rebello, which first appeared on Marxmail as a response to 
something Sam Pawlett had written about dependency theory.

Dear Sam (Pawlett): Your comments are very good, but they should not 
repeat the problem of treating all UDCs as an undifferentiated mass. It 
must be said that the core problem for US foreign policy in the 
immediate aftermath of WWII wasn't the 3rd World as such - there was an 
interregnum during the late 40s and the early 50s when it seemed that 
European colonialism might reassert itself in Africa and S Asia, where 
the US adopeted even the anti-colonialist, "3rd force" rethoric 
described in Graham Greene's The Quiet American - but the specter of the 
coming "communization" of Western Europe, that had to be averted by the 
Marshall Plan. The starting-stone for the work of Prebisch and ECLA 
[CEPAL, in Sp. andPort.] was exactly the absence of a Marshall Plan for 
Latin America, which had been  receiving the slightest possible economic 
attention from Washington in the beggining of the Cold War, except for 
some political agreements of the most subservient kind, eg., the free 
export of Brazilian radioactive minerals in exchange for decomissioned 
ships, discarded armoured cars, etc., from the US military.

This lack of interest was the focus of the early work of Prebisch, who 
argued in 1949 that Latin America suffered from the transition of the 
core of the imperialist systemn from an "open" economy -ie, a net 
importer of raw materials and agricultural produce, namely Great Britain 
- to a "closed" one, namely the US, who were at the time a net exporter 
of most raw materials- including oil. This closed character of the US 
economy generated a lack of interest in investment opprtunities for the 
Lat.Am. economies.In the Keynesian terms used by Prebisch,there was a 
weakening of international Effective Demand; the *Keynesian* basis for 
ECLA's thought is something that must not be understated at all costs, 
except in the Us academic, that tends to view Dependency theory only in 
the framework of 3rd World marxism, insted of a case of  native 
ruling-class Keynesian liberals frustated with their expectations of 
American aid turning leftwards, as happened with Getulio Vargas in his 
second government, when he began denoncing imperialism after being 
cheated in his expectations of the Marshall plan for Lat.Am. Latin 
America economies, therefore, suffered from what Prebisch called at the 
time a "dollar shortage" that imposed the necessity of import 
substitution industrializatiom. However, Prebisch always pointed that 
imp.substitution industrialization in Latin America would of necessity 
center around production of consumer goods for the Bourgeoisie and the 
higher levels of the petty bourgeoisie - higher income consumers, in his 
words - and that such industrialization would, after being achieved, 
generate limited further opportunities of high-tech investment, the 
higher income groups, preffering, to pocket their profits in such 
industrial ventures for speculative purposes, instead of re-investing 
them (they would have a high marginal propensity for liquidity, again in 
Keynesian terms) and that such groups would be very averse to the risks 
of any creative investment. Therfore, such industrialization would be 
not only limited and self-defeating, but also would be labour-saving 
(durable consumer goods being, by the very character of their production 
methods, capital-intensive) and therefore would perpetuate the problems 
of chronic underemployment in unprofitable petty production ventures 
(street-vendors, familiar agriculture prodution for self-consumption or 
as a part-time job, supplying personal services such as baby-sitting, 
plumbing, repairinig, etc) with are the bane of Lat.Am. economies. That 
is where the divide was drawn, early, between Cardoso and his more Left 
critics in Brazil: Cardoso believed, against Prebisch and his Brazilian 
follower Celso Furtado, that after a certain critical mass impoort 
substitution would be capable of giving the Brazilian economy an 
internal authonomous dynamic of investment that would meke it to break 
free from long-term stagnation and chronic under-using of production 
factors -ie he believed in the authonomous development of productive 
forces as something inevitable and unpersonal- he was, like all 
mechanicist Marxists, a "Collective Methodologist", slighthy interest in 
individual actions.The Brazilian[Portuguese-born] economist Maria Da 
Conceição Tavares replied - at the same time when Cardoso published his 
*Dependency and Development in Latin America* - that such economic 
development could happen as a kind of vegetative growth, but that it 
would not necessarily crete a technological breakthrough and that it 
could remain permanently socially regressive (see his *Beyond Stagnation 
Theory* - jointly written, BTW, with the present Minister of Health for 
the Cardoso government, José Serra - IN the collection *Da Substituição 
de Importações ao Capitalismo Financeiro*, Rio de Janeiro, Zahar, 
various reprints).

These are some precisions that I think necessary, but can expand on the 
subject if you want.


Carlos Rebello

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