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History, The Age of Mass Politics

Brazilian Communist Party, Estado Novo, political machines, Brazilian military, UDN

The fall of Vargas ushered in a new era of mass politics in Brazil. A new constitution was approved in 1946 that dismantled the highly centralized government organization of the Estado Novo, returned a great deal of power to the individual states, and provided for regular elections. With the return of elections, politicians had to campaign for the votes of the people through such modern methods as political rallies, radio broadcasts, and newspapers. Although political machines returned to power in many areas, particularly in the rural regions, a style of politics known as populism emerged. Populist politicians challenged the traditional power of the coffee-growing landowners by forging a political following among the masses, especially among the growing number of urban workers and sectors of the middle class. Vargas had used support from these groups to maintain power as dictator. Now elected politicians competed to win the votes of workers and middle-class Brazilians.

Another new feature on the political landscape was the formation of truly national political parties. Three major parties took shape in the 1940s. The National Democratic Union (UDN) attracted the more conservative elements in national politics, while the Social Democratic Party (PSD) appealed to more moderate and liberal voters. Labor leaders and their political allies formed the Brazilian Workers Party (PTB) to represent the interests of the Brazilian working class. The Brazilian Communist Party (PCB), which was founded in 1922 and had survived severe repression for more than two decades, competed with the Brazilian Workers Party for the support of the urban working class.

In the elections of 1945, the Social Democratic Party candidate, Eurico Dutra, triumphed with 55 percent of the vote. Dutra was a former minister of war and one of the most influential officers in the Brazilian military when he became a presidential candidate. In January 1946 he began a five-year presidential term. A hesitant and cautious president, Dutra did not make any major changes in the political system. When he withdrew government support for industrialization, Brazilís economy again became heavily dependent on coffee exports.

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Article key phrases:

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