Compare and Contrast the types of military Government experienced in Egypt, Spain and Brazil after 1945

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The military has the monopoly of force and is the most organized sector of a states employees. The chance of a coup and subsequently a military government is far more likely if the country is suffering from internal strife and this has been the pattern for many developing and post colonial nations. It is after the takeover that the problems begin. The newly installed military regime has the task of solving the problems that caused them to bring their tanks to the presidential palace.

The military, although regimented and highly organized often lack the ability, political background and experience of those they have ousted. The military learn fast that governing is difficult especially in the developing states were coups are most likely to occur. The three examples of military governments after 1945 that will be used as case study countries to compare military government are Egypt, Spain and Brazil. In Egypt the military government took over in 1954- 1970. In Spain the military were in power from 1936-1975 with General Francisco Franco at the helm.

In Brazil the military exercised control from 1964-1985, military government differed in Brazil from that of Egypt and Spain in that there was no one figurehead of the regime, it was ruled by a succession of Generals appointed by the military. S. E Finer is the author of one of the most substantial analysis of military takeovers of civilian governments “The Man on Horseback”. In this he analyses the strengths and weaknesses of the military as a form of governance and comes to the conclusion that military governments have a “technical inability to administer any but the most primitive community”1.

I intend to argue this point by comparing the military regimes of the three case study countries to see if this statement can be applied to them. In order to give a analytical comparison of these countries the following topics will be discussed. What conditions allowed the military to take power, what form did this new government take, what effect did the force of the military take over have on the politics of the country and what effect did the military have on political culture and civil society.

In order to understand the underlying problems in the countries in which the military took over and formed a new government it is important to briefly outline the conditions that allowed them to take power and how they did this. This will give an insight into what tasks faced the new military regimes. In Egypt the take over was led by General Nasser who was leader of the Free Officers Movement. This movement was dedicated to overthrowing the British backed King Farouk. In July 1952 Nasser led the military coup against Farouk.

The underlying causes of the coup was the defeat of Egypt by Israel in the 1948 Arab-Israeli war and King Farouk’s alleged corruption. This combined with the colonial power’s failure to solve social problems was all the motivation the Free officers movement needed. In Brazil the transition from the civilian rule of Joao Goulart to military government in March 1964 was the result of many factors. By late 1962 problems of the balance of payments to foreign creditors and inflation had become acute.

By 1963 the military had decided that Goulart was leading Brazil towards a socialist state which in their view would liquidate the countries traditional values and institutions. On April 1st 1964 Goulart was warned that dissident army units were marching on Rio to overthrow his government. Steadily as the day continued more and more units joined the revolt. With the military balance tipped against him Goulart knew his rule was effectively at an end. The coordinator of the military conspiracy was General Castello Branco.

Spain differs from Egypt and Brazil in that the change to military government did not occur through a straight forward coup, it occurred as a result of the Spanish civil war. A military coup to gain control of Spain failed in several cities and the situation quickly degenerated into civil war. Francisco Franco although not involved in the coup attempt came to be leader of the nationalist army. The civil war was in essence the result of complex political and even cultural divides in Spain. The republicans supported the government of the day while the nationalists rebelled against the government.

The war took place between July 1936 and April 1939. It ended in defeat of the republicans resulting in a fascist dictatorship of Franco. The form that these military governments took will be of great assistance in indicating what form of community they provided and will aid their comparison and thus go some distance in establishing whether Finer’s statement of their primitive nature can be applied to the case study countries. Finer divides military governments into three broad categories. The first is indirect rule.

This is where a civilian government rules and takes responsibility. Finer states that this type of regime comes about when military intervention is limited to blackmail, or where the civilian government is supplanted for another. The second type is a dual regime in which a government rests of two pillars, the military and some form of organized civilian opinion for example a party. The third type is direct rule where the military itself assumes responsibility. Finer states that in this type the military may rule as a Junta or appoint a civilian cabinet. 2

The Franco regime is a direct military regime, the regime was ruled by Franco and a military junta. Under Finer’s model it can be classified as direct quasi-civilianised as the monarchists and Falange represented a civilian influence but the army was “the sole effective source of power”. 3 The government of General Nasser can be classified as a direct regime, at least in its infancy. The Free officers movement did not set out to displace the civilian government, their aim was to remove King Farouk, to displace his government. “but appetite grew on what it fed on”. This caused the Egyptian regime in the eye’s of Finer to progress down the spectrum of regimes until it stabilised in the quasi-civilianised sector. The military government of Brazil can be classified as a dual regime. Although the military were very much in control there was still a form of organised civilian opinion. Elections for congress for example continued, there was a restructured party system in place and the two legal parties activities were tightly restricted and rigidly controlled this still what finer would considered as a civilian pillar in government.

In Spain the style of the government was very much dictatorial, this becomes apparent in the way in which Franco presented himself. Although a monarchist he had no particular desire for a monarch. He wore the uniform of a captain general a rank traditionally reserved for king, his portrait appeared on most Spanish coins. He was also referred to as por la gracia de Dios, Caudillo de Espana y de la Cruzada. This means by the grace of God, Caudillo of Spain and of the Crusade. By the grace of God is in Spain a technical and legal phrase which indicates sovereign dignity and is only used by monarchs.

This demonstrates the way in which Franco dominated the military regime. General Nasser’s military government in Egypt can be described as dictatorial soon after the military take over the regime found itself in a struggle with the two most organised forms of civilian opinion, the Muslim Brotherhood and the WAFD. The army, now determined to be master jettisoned their civilian allies and moved to a direct form of rule. On 9th of December practically all politicians were dismissed from the cabinet. All political parties were abolished and their funds seized.

The whole authority of the government was now transferred to the newly created Revolutionary command council. This was made up entirely of officers of the Free Officers movement. The constitutional government was officially suspended and it was announced that the leader of the revolution would exercise the power of supreme sovereignty. After Nasser had replaced Naguib he was in total control. In Brazil the new form of government took some time to develop, the first 5 years saw the marginalization and subordination of the civilian politicians who had supported the coup.

The next five years was taken up with refining the system, but by the end of this period a form of dictatorship had emerged. This was characterised by a highly centralised federal government controlled by the military, the widespread appointment of retired military officers to leading roles in state machinery, frequent changes to the political rules and periodic purging of potential leaders produced by popular movements so as to maintain military control. The role of president was rotated every five years but this largely created a crisis of succession and a power struggle with different groups with armed forces vied for power.

This in Kucinski’s view created a situation of a “dictatorship without a dictator” where only four star generals were eligible for the presidency. 5 One way in which a military government can have a huge effect on the politics and the political freedoms in the country they dominated is through coercion. The level of coercion employed in the case study countries is an important factor in proving the point that military governments provide “primitive communities”. As coercion is often used as more basic form of control than mass public support for the regime.

In Brazil immediately after the coup about a hundred leading politicians, trade unionists, members of the armed force who opposed the coup, congressmen, state governors and intellectuals were stripped of their political rights for ten years. Widespread dismissals arrests and expulsions took place in the local, state and federal administration. Up to 1977 the regime annulled the political rights of 4,682 citizens, including 1,261 military men, 300 university teachers, 50 state governors, 3 former presidents, diplomats judges, journalists, union leaders, pubic servants and ordinary workers. This would clearly have an adverse affect against democratic rights. Torture and assassination were not an integral part of the regime in the early years, although several cases occurred, for example soldiers with known links to popular movements were tortured in army barracks. In 1965 the government under Castello Branco, in response to hard line elements in the military passed the first of the Institutional acts. These conferred special powers to the president.

It gave the president power to override constitutional rights, it gave him the power to strip people of their political rights for ten years, revoke any elected mandate, disband any political party. This act also made the elections for president indirect and subject only to the vote of congress. This was later taken further by Branco’s successor Coasta e Silva in 1967 with a new constitution that further increased the powers of congress and diminished those of congress. The regime in Brazil overtime became more oppressive. In 1967 wages were lowered by about 40 percent.

In the face of growing shop floor militancy the government responded with ever increasing force. In a 3,000 person sit in in Sao Paulo in 1968 the strike was violently crushed by the regime, “During the following ten years working class activities were stifled. “7 Under military rule, Brazil saw the continuing erosion of political freedoms until the transition to democracy. After the Spanish civil war instead of relaxing the repression of opponents it both intensified and became institutionalised. With the whole of Spain under Franco’s control the number of potential enemies increased.

It was not just the Franco regime that conducted the repression, its supporters had many old social and political scores to settle and the regime did little to restrain them. The institutionalisation of this suppression had ended in the final months of the war. The law of Political responsibilities enacted in 1939, this criminalized anyone who belonged republican party or a trade union or had supported the republicans during the war or anyone that who had not actively supported the nationalists. This law defined different levels of culpability and punishment and applied not only to the perpetrator but often to their family.

As Franco saw things the two groups who posed the biggest threat to his regime were the freemasons and the communists. In march 1940 legislation was enacted to suppress these groups. Although freemason was a blanket term for liberal and communist applied to anyone on the left of the political spectrum. Although the death penalty was not one of the punishments for these crimes the military tribunals which did have the power to pass down this sentence remained in place throughout the Franco regime and “with military rebellion and offences of political violence under their jurisdiction, the military courts had plenty of scope for action. 8 One such offence was “spreading ideas which threatened religion, the Fatherland and its institutions”9. The result of these measure are as Heywood puts it is “thirty six years of Franco’s brutal and repressive dictatorship. ”

There was a strong class aspect to this violence, it fell most heavily on the urban and rural lower classes. The estimates on the total number of executions is a widely debated topic and figures “vary widely from an unlikely high of 200, 000 to a totally improbable low of 23, 000. 11 Any figure in between these two represents widespread repression and when the families of these victims are taken into account the number is even higher. Under Franco Spain to an extent lived in a climate of fear, the constant fear of retribution cowed the people into political silence. As the regime developed the number of executions and arrests reduced. The earlier acts of repression had had their desired affect, there were now fewer identifiable enemies to deal with. The regime also seemed to have realised that violent repression was beginning to be counter productive and was worried it may undermine the regime.

Legislation was enacted to tame repression. This however did not mean an end of vigilance, a police state was now in place. In Egypt the first crisis to face the new government came in August 1952 with a violent strike involving more than 10,000 workers at the Misr Company textile factories at Kafr ad Dawwar in the Delta. Workers attacked and set fire to part of the premises, destroyed machinery, and clashed with the police. The army was called in to put down the strike; several workers lost their lives, and scores were injured. The RCC set up a special military court that tried the arrested textile workers.

Two were convicted and executed, and many others were given prison sentences. The regime reacted quickly and ruthlessly because it had no intention of encouraging a popular revolution that it could not control. It then arrested about thirty persons charged with belonging to the outlawed Communist Party of Egypt (CPE). The Democratic Movement for National Liberation, a faction of the CPE, reacted by denouncing the regime as a military dictatorship. This example illustrates the pattern of coercion within the Nasser regime, part from arrests of political opponents coercive forces of the regime were mainly reactive towards civil disobedience.

On January 17, 1953, all political parties were dissolved and banned. Subsequently their activities were quickly suppressed by the regime. One of the measures of a primitive society is a low level of political culture and civil society, comparing these aspects of the different regimes will aid in proving the point of Finer and in deciding whether the regimes were politically primitive. In Egypt after the military take over there was a significant shift in the countries political culture. The general culture remained subject, but there was a change in the values of the political system.

This is best illustrated by the shift from a lawyer oriented culture before the takeover to a culture dominated by officers, officer technocrats, engineers and scientists. With the advent of planned, accelerated socio-economic development that required technical specialists the lawyers and the humanist utility declined. Politically the new military revolutionary situation proved incompatible with the traditional humanists and lawyers. “Legalistic, competitive politics, and economics had been replaced by ideological, revolutionary politics, and the lawyer became the odd man out; his status is not likely to change in the foreseeable future. 12 The domination of Franco as a dictatorial force in the Spanish political system created a subject political culture where the people felt that there was nothing they could do to affect the status quo of politics. This created apathy in the system. There was little the average citizen could do about this, at the beginning of the regime repression was so severe people fear political expression. This however may not have been the solely casued by Franco, today Spain has a typically low voter turn out and seemingly basic political culture.

Heywood points to a survey in 1990 with “74 per cent decalring themselves to be indifferent or bored with politics”13 This however does not overshaow the effect that the Francoist repression of political diversity and unless you were a member of the Falange or the Church you had little hope of influence and constraints on the mass media meant that the masses were by and large ill informed. Compared to Egypt and Spain, Brazil retained a level of political culture and participation after the military came to power. There was also civilian influence in policy making, especially in economic policy.

A large and lavishly paid civilian technocracy maid up a substantial portion of state beaurocracy and became “particulary well entrenched in economic policy making, an area in which the military have virtually no say. “14 There was also the maintenance of some of the old political institutions one of the most important of these was a functioning congress and regular elections, this helped to give the regime a basis for legitimacy but it also shows a platform for civilian influence in the affairs of government. However there were many laws passed which severely curtailed peoples political rights fro example the national security law in 1967.

Also the 1967 constitution gave the president tremendous power especially over legislation. Though out the governments history there has been competition between hardliners who favoured violent repression as a way of solving the nations problems and more liberal leaders who wished to carry out political institutionalisation of the regime. In conclusion the military governments of the three case study countries all contain elements of authoritarianism. The regimes in Egypt and Spain are the two most authoritarian.

Franco’s regime was brutally repressive and although this was toned down in the later years of the government it still remained a very repressive police state. Egypt was different, although a repressive regime where members of WAFD and the Muslim brotherhood were violently suppressed it gradually moved toward a quasi-civilianised regime where these two organisations were again legal. In Brazil the form of oppression was different still people were largely stripped of their political rights as a form of suppression, torture and execution were rarely used in comparison to the other countries.

Politically Franco’s regime offered no participation for citizens which in turn created apathy and a subject political culture. Franco ruled as a King and even seemed to think of himself as one. Using royal traditions and customs. People felt they was nothing they could do to affect politics and were by and large apathetic. Nasser’s regime was direct moved throughout all of Finer’s classifications of military government in its life span. It was a dictatorial regime and political culture was definitely low during Nasser’s reign.

In Brazil an a reasonable level of was sustained, mainly because this gave the regime much needed legitimacy. There was civilian influence in policy making especially economic policy, also a civilian congress was retained and regular elections were held. I agree with Finer’s assertion with regard to Egypt and Spain, these two governments did provide a primitive economy, both used force to retain control thus showing lack of legitimacy. Both used violent means to instil fear and prevent resistance.

This had a serious effect on the political culture and civil society. Brazil on the other hand is an anomaly to Finer’s assertion, it retained political culture and repression was very limited. The was also significant civilian representation in government. On balance I agree with Finer in that the majority of military governments provide a primitive community but Brazil shows that this is not always a given fact. Although politically even in Brazil the community was certainly more primitive than the democracy that proceeded it.

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