Plinio Corrêa de Oliveira
The Nun and the Fireman
"Folha de S. Paulo", August 18th 1981
The only thing I know about Mr. Celso Furtado are his public attitudes, and until now I haven't heard one that I agree with. So I was surprised upon finding, in the resume of a speech he recently gave in Salvador (Bahia, Brazil), a statement with which I am in complete agreement: "It is incomprehensible to talk about the Brazilian crisis without considering world problems" (Jornal da Bahia, 7/11/81).
Many are our public figures who habitually treat national matters without relating them to the general movement of international politics. I agree that this is more comfortable. While understandable at the time when Brazil was not an emerging power, this omission has now become outdated since the whole world is interested in us.
This is why I deal so frequently with foreign matters in my articles in the Folha de São Paulo. I am convinced that, ipso facto, I collaborate with my colleagues in throwing light on national problems.
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For example, such is the case with the repercussion of Polish and French issues in Brazilian politics. When Walesa appeared in Poland, several like figures making statements and programs similar to his sprang up in other countries.
The claims of the discontented Poles correspond to the necessities of a clamorous authenticity in their country. In the capitalist world these realities are not so clamorous. And moreover they are not the general rule. But this does not make them any less real in one place or another. It is therefore explicable that the entrance on the Polish scene of a crowd led by Walesa accelerated the formation of other crowds in other countries, out of which sprang similar leaders. With Walesa's utter failure in spite of his reception by John Paul II in the Consistory Hall, an unprecedented show of support the international projection of the Polish union leader ended. By making himself a third force leader between his country's communist government and the discontented masses he lost the latter's trust. Now that the Polish government appears to have lost, Walesa is trying to recover in Solidarity the grassroots he had lost. If he manages to achieve this, likenesses of Walesa will appear in even more countries...
The electoral victory of French socialism was taken advantage of by leftist propaganda in Brazil as an argument to inculcate in the public mind the idea that also among us the socialist victory "will happen." The formally alleged reason: the traditional influence of France in Brazil. This influence was great until World War II, but it was later supplanted by Anglo American influence. The leftists took advantage of this transition to get our well to do class formerly avid for champagne, and then whiskey - accustomed to drinking vodka and pronouncing Brezhnev's name with showy Russian correctness.
Once these small, mundane operations are successfully executed, behold them now, in the name of tradition, running the feather duster over the noble era of the predominance of French influence in order to renew the influence of France. But not of the beautiful France of champagne, but of the dismal, utilitarian, and disturbing France of self managing socialism.
"All this is no more than trivia," someone might say. "Simple things of daily life." For my part, I would respond that he who does not know how to discern in these things what is trivia and what is symptom is very superficial. And therefore he doesn't understand the profound symptomatic value of things because a superficial mind sees in them nothing but bagatelles.
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The aim of this whole introduction is to show that I am going to deal with a subject very much in the interests of Brazilians by showing them a disconcerting contradiction of Mitterrand's policy towards Poland.
Faced with the calamitous situation in Poland, the French president decided to take an attitude at the same time friendly like a Sister of Charity, and hurried like a fireman in front of a great fire.
While the afflicted multitudes roam Polish cities clamoring with hunger and indignation against a fanatical and inexorably collectivist regime, the French government announces that it will begin sending Poland 300,000 tons of wheat, 7,000 tons of meat, and 15,000 tons of sugar, besides medical supplies. Nothing more friendly.
At the same time, Prime Minister Mauroy announces that France "will energetically pressure" its Western allies to lend Poland $500 million; something less friendly, since between sovereign nations any kind of pressure violates the norms of good relations.
Announcing its "pressure" the French government takes on airs of telling the world that, if other countries help Poland, socialist France shall get the credit.
No doubt Mitterrand's unfriendly "pressure" will yield him political advantages. But will this not provoke several nations to refuse the help demanded?
Another doubtful aspect of Mitterrand's game: if he, in fact, sends the large shipment he announced, who will be the major beneficiary of the gesture? The crowds roaming the streets howling with hunger, or the communist government of Warsaw? Right now, it will obviously be the crowds. But almost immediately and on even a larger scale the government, because in the degree France tends to the famished, the demonstrations will decrease. And the survival of the communist government will be prolonged, evidently much to the relief of Moscow, now so worried with the Polish situation.
What is better for the Polish masses, so deserving of heartfelt sympathy: to satisfy their hunger today and see their indignation diminish and the duration of the dictatorial communist regime be prolonged? Or to endure a few more weeks or even a few more days of hunger in order to give time for popular indignation to overthrow the government and the regime? As long as the communist regime lives, the Poles will always have hunger crises. Isn't it better to let them get rid of the regime?
So, the helpfulness of the Sister of Charity and the astuteness of the fireman exhibited by Mitterrand appear to cater more to the real interests of the Polish Communist Party than to those of the suffering and indomitable Polish people.
Here is some advice for Brazilians: Mitterrand is not a model for our public figures.