The War of Hymns

Image: Cyrus Saurius


Racism, racialism and identity in southern Brazil

No root gremista sings the anthem of the glorious Esporte Clube Internacional. Not even a French royalist would chant the Marseille. A self-respecting Mexican does not put his hand on his chest when they touch the American “Starry Flag”. The hymns aim to express values ​​and solidify bonds of a real community, constructed or invented. They are, therefore, cultural products with performance objectives.

They are types of goods that seek to determine consumer behavior. The objection and the proposed modification of two verses of the Anthem Riograndense due to its alleged anti-black racism discuss the secondary and skip over the two main issues. First, what is the character of that hymn, as a whole? Second: is there a reason for the population of Rio Grande do Sul, together, to sing that or some other regional anthem?

The verses are not racist, they are classist

Let's step by step. First, on the character of the verses “People who have no virtue/ End up being slaves”. (We highlight) The verses, in fact, do not refer to the Brazilian black captive, because the “lyrics were developed in the space of the 19th century symbology, tributary of the representations of the time about the Greco-Roman world. As the verses taken from the hymn prove: ´Among us / revive Athens / to the astonishment of tyrants / Let us be Greeks in glory / and in virtue, Romans.´” (CARBONI & MAESTRI, 2021.) And even more. In the Rio Grande do Sul Republic, when the anthem was produced, in Brazil and Rio Grande do Sul, “povo” referred to the so-called “good men”, that is, free men with some possessions. The “people”, in today's sense, were called “vulgo”, “corja”, “rabble”. People without the right to a voice and despised by the great republican and monarchist landowners.

In those two verses, it was proposed that the farroupilha owners should have “virtue”, in the sense of courage, patriotism, etc., so as not to end up “slaves”, that is, politically submitted to the Court of Rio de Janeiro, seat of the Empire of Brazil. The Empire wanted to subject the farroupilha landowners to imperial centralism, not turn them into “slaves”. The contested verses definitely do not refer to colonial captives. We must not amalgamate the term “slave” in general with Black African colonial “slave” in particular. The confusion is due in part to the misunderstanding of the character of slavery, a form of social and non-racial exploitation. Even though the racial component was almost always important in slave-owning social formations. (GORENDER, 2011.)

Enslaved could be of the ethnicity of the enslavers. However, more commonly, they were “foreigners”, from communities other than the slaveholders. In classical slavery, Germans, Italians, Hispanics, Slavs, Nubians, etc. were the great seedbeds of Greco-Roman captives. In colonial slavery, enslaved workers were primarily black Africans and, secondarily, indigenous Americans. The somatic disqualification of captives of all ethnicities by enslavers, practiced in antiquity, long preceded the extra-abundant entry of black Africans as seedbeds of American colonial slavery. (MAESTRI, 1987.)

The two verses of the Anthem Rio-Grandense questioned are, however, classists, in the sense of Greco-Roman slavery, when they suggested that a free man became a “slave” when he lacked the “virtue” —courage, courage, etc.— to resist the enslaver. Platonic view of slavery as a result of imprisonment, in any case less bad than the Aristotelian conception, which defended the birth of slavery from nature bottom of the slave. For Aristotle, the captive was enslaved due to his profound essence, continuing to be diminished, even when manumitted, for remaining his inborn inferiority. The Aristotelian view was dominant in colonial slavery and contributed greatly to anti-Black racism. (CARBONI & MAESTRI, 2005.)

landowning-slave republic

At the time of the successes, the hymn in question was produced to galvanize the free farroupilha population, with emphasis on the landowners, around the objectives and values ​​of the Rio-Grandense Republic, a secessionist nation-state in the meridian region of Brazil, proclaimed in 1836 and Disbanded in 1845. Questioned militarily from the beginning by provincial royalist landowners and by the imperial State, the separatist movement was the work of the great southern pastoralist-slave breeders, many of them owners of huge latifundia in northern Uruguay. (PALERMO, 2013) The Rio Grande do Sul owners of these latifundia in Uruguayan territories, located on this side of the Negro River, behaved in them as if they were in the province of São Pedro and exploited their eastern ranches with captive labor — the “campeiro captives”. (LIMA & MAESTRI, 2010).

There was full social identity between the lords of the Rio-Grandense Republic and those of the Empire of Brazil. Both converged in the defense of slavery, large estates, the census order and contempt for the subordinate, enslaved and free classes. Republicans and monarchists were elitists and racists. The farroupilha chiefs never promised freedom to captives and land to gauchos, freedmen, Indians. They fought for more power, more land, more captives. (ASSUMPÇÃO, 1996.) Years before, in 1815, José Artigas had not only promised but also started the distribution of land among the eastern people in arms, privileging former captives and gauchos. (TORRE; RODRIGUES; TOURON, 1969.) There were no consolidated republican feelings, even conservative ones, among the farroupilha chiefs. In 1850, a few years after the surrender, rich farroupilha chiefs, among them General Antonio de Souza Neto, lord of thousands of hectares and hundreds of captives in northern Uruguay, fought under the flag of the Empire, in defense of the possession of their lands. and their eastern captives. For them too, “Paris was worth a mass!” (MAESTRI, 2016.)

The proposal that Bento Gonçalves or other farroupilhas promised freedom to the enslaved to fight in the troops is not valid. republican. The bosses republicans they were dominated by the force of arms of the captives of slaveholders favorable to the Empire, forcing them to fight in their troops. Enslaved workers were listed as “substitutes” for farroupilha landowners summoned by the southern republican state and unwilling to die for the movement. Some black soldiers were donated by republican owners to the farroupilha troops. Others were purchased by the Republican administration.

march or die

It is anachronism to project for slavery contractual negotiations between enslavers and enslaved, in the style “you fight for our Republic and at the end of the war we give you freedom”. In fact, upon joining the troops, former captives became formally freed, as was traditional at the time. Thus, after the conflict, they would enjoy freedom of a not well defined character. In the end, in addition to those who gladly adapted to military life, the maintenance of former captives in the republican troops, as well as in the War against Paraguay (1864-70), was mainly due to contrition: those who deserted were whipped, returned to harsh slavery, shot. Enslaved workers from Rio Grande do Sul took advantage of the conflict between republican and royalist masters to flee, by the thousands, to the forests of Encosta da Serra, becoming quilombolas, or to take refuge in Uruguay, where pastoral workers were scarce. (PETIZ, 2006; MAESTRI, 2014.) About them, we will see why little is said or is completely silenced.

There is also great confusion about the Betrayal of Porongos. In the final moments of the secessionist war, with the republicans militarily defeated, the former captives became the major problem in the peace negotiations between the Farroupilha chiefs and the Empire, represented by the Baron of Caxias — who was Duke only in the context of the War of Triple Alliance (1864-1870). The Empire refused to recognize the freedom of the former captives and demanded their return to the owners. It was difficult to incorporate black ex-combatants, as free men, into the landlord-slave society of that time. The permanent imperialist troops were scarce and adding hundreds of black farroupilha soldiers to them was a huge risk, especially in the period of military occupation after the farroupilha surrender.

Around this and many other issues, the main farroupilha commanders were divided, during the negotiations for the deposition of arms. The solution articulated by the farroupilha general David Canabarro, with the baron of Caxias, constituted a betrayal of other republican leaders, at the expense of the farroupilha black troops who, deliberately disarmed, were massacred in the serro de Porongos, on November 14, 1844. There were other events similar to the Porongos massacre, which forced the stubborn farroupilha chiefs to surrender according to the model of the Empire. Bento Gonçalves, a hardened slave owner until his death, was one of the betrayed Farroupilha chiefs, and did not participate in the conspiracy. There was never a peace treaty signed in Poncho Verde. (FLORES, 2004.),

Not the entire population, nor the entire Province

The ill-named Rio-Grandense Republic was never a movement of the totality of the regional property classes and never controlled the entire territory of the province. Troops belonging to monarchist and anti-liberal provincial landowners fought the first fights against the farroupilhas. The Middle Plateau and the Missions, sparsely populated regions at the time, did not join the revolt. The coast, the Central Depression, the German Colonial Region also did not, because the movement offered them nothing. The population of Porto Alegre expelled the farroupilhas and resisted three sieges, having been bombed by the republicans. Therefore, the city was bestowed with the title “Leal e Valorosa”, in 1841, by the … Empire. (FRANCO, 2000.)

The farroupilha rebellion was essentially a movement in the Campanha and the Southern Frontier, territory of the large slaveholders, who defended the principles of latifundia, slavery, census government — only the rich elect the richest. The Betrayal of Porongos was just a reaffirmation of the defense of those principles. Bento Gonçalves did not come out of the revolt well, being the owner, when he died, in 1847, in Pedras Brancas (Guaíba), of more than fifty captives. General Neto, on the contrary, emigrated to the north of Uruguay, where he owned leagues of land and a huge number of captives. (SILVA, 2011.)

Across Brazil, perhaps Rio Grande do Sul is the only state where the oddity of commonly singing the regional anthem is practiced. And, on top of that, sing a patriotic song produced to celebrate the defense of an elitist, landowning and slaveholding republic, as proposed. It is a tradition created and nurtured by the ruling classes and southern landowners. They make an effort so that the workers, the subalternized and the population as a whole symbolically embrace, on the one hand, the proposal of a riograndense society without contradictions and, on the other hand, the general principles and values ​​that the dominant classes of today share with the oppressors of the past. The Gaúcho Traditionalist Movement is another powerful instrument of this symbolic and ideological socialization, of the values ​​of the owners of wealth and power, with the subalternized, subalternized and offended. Therefore, it is financed by the State and publicized by the media of the capital.

Explorers embracing with exploited

The purpose of creating and disseminating these hymns, rites, regional and national patriotic traditions is to create the illusion of belonging of the entire population to a unitary community, with common values, without essential economic, social, political contradictions. All the people of Rio Grande would belong to a single fraternal community, solidary and united in past traditions and common objectives of the present. There would thus be communion and not opposition between entrepreneurs and workers; bankers and bankers; merchants and merchants; landlords and peons; millionaires and miserable; penthouse and street dwellers; governors, deputies and senators and voters; explorers and exploited.

The speech about Rio Grande do Sul, as a small homeland inhabited by a population without contradictions, is repeated, at the same time, in relation to the great homeland, Brazil. In the case of Brazil, the two strongest symbolic instruments (of alienation) are the National Anthem and the Canarinho Selection. Not a few Brazilians cry with emotion when singing the national anthem, even more so when the selection opens! In Rio Grande do Sul, the fusion-separation of the celebration of nationalism and regionalism borders on the ridiculous. The national unitarism of the Empire of Brazil is celebrated on September 7th, and, afterwards, the separatism of the Rio-Grandense Republic, in the Farroupilha Week from the 13th to the 20th of the same month. What unites the two contradictory celebrations is the proposal, from the national and regional ruling classes, of fraternal societies without social oppositions, of common destinies.

The objective opposition, material and spiritual, between exploited and humiliated, in Rio Grande do Sul and Brazil, is a historical fact, currently in unbridled and hallucinating acceleration. Therefore, working, marginalized, discriminated against, offended populations must also symbolically separate themselves from their oppressors, in order to more easily overcome the oppression experienced, in the here and now, and soon, in this process, forever and ever. Therefore, they must celebrate and create their own symbolic and celebratory references, professional, ethnic, municipal, state, national, etc.: the 1st of May, Workers' Day; March 8, International Women's Day; the 13th of May, conclusion of the Abolitionist Revolution; the 20th of August, insurrection of the RS against the military coup of 1961; the 20th of November, death of Zumbi dos Palmares; October 8th, the first great victorious workers' revolution, among many others.

In Rio Grande do Sul, the resistance of the captives and workers of the captaincy, province and southern state should be celebrated. As for the quilombolas, perhaps the protagonist to be highlighted is Captain Manuel Padeiro, from Serra dos Tapes, in Pelotas. And, certainly, the wonderful saga, “cancelled” from southern history, by Alexandre José de Queirós e Vasconcellos, the “Quebra”, and his companion in the fight and raids, the former captive Pedro, “captain of the Homeland”. From 1803 onwards, alone or in company, they tried several times to bring down the southern slave order! It was the first armed abolitionist movement in Brazil! (MAESTRI, 2014.) It would be necessary to commemorate the great workers' struggles, such as the great Rio Grande strike of 1917 and the anti-communist workers' massacres of 1949, 1950 and 1952, in Porto Alegre, Rio Grande, etc. (BANDEIRA, 1967.).

Destroy and not reform

We must destroy and not reform the symbols of the ruling classes. The proposal reaffirmed by black councilors from Porto Alegre to modify two verses of the official anthem of Rio Grande do Sul is an amendment that worsens the sonnet. On the one hand, the correction would legitimize, as non-slavery, a patriotic song of the landowner-slave movement in the meridian region of Rio Grande do Sul. On the other hand, it would corroborate the conservative apology for the unity of explorers and exploited people from Rio Grande do Sul, as we have seen. It is an initiative that depresses and hinders the struggle of the southern population for autonomy, a result that certainly contradicts what was sought by the group of black councilors from Porto Alegre.

Let's take a closer look at the deep roots of this proposal, beyond the well-intentioned and the ill-informed. As in the so-called left, the black movement is divided into factions and tendencies that also express classes and factions of classes, with singular objectives and, not infrequently, with discordant and even contradictory projects. In both cases, on the left and in the black movement, there are two poles of reference: the classist and the integrationist. Currently, in opposition to the national political situation, the classist core is mobilizing for “Bolsonaro out”; by the end of the coup; for the return of the generals to the barracks; for the recovery of everything that the workers, the population and the nation lost. Struggle for the indispensable essential transformation of society, so that we do not sink completely into barbarism. It mobilizes, therefore, in the most difficult conditions, for the autonomy and achievement of the program and objectives of the world of work, in favor of the whole of society.

the political opposition integrationist he makes an effort to keep the people off the streets, under the most diverse excuses; proposes parliament and elections as the only fields of maneuver for the opposition and the social movement; defends an alliance with coup leaders and “democratic” and “anti-fascist” bourgeoisie against Bolsonaro, and only against him, losing everything that was lost with the coup. It is concerned, above all, with electing governors, senators, deputies, councilors and so on, guaranteeing the situation of consenting opposition and make-believe, very well paid, while the population drains through the dark drain of misery and oppression . They strive to annihilate the autonomy of the working population, a role they have been fulfilling for decades. (MAESTRI, 2020, I.)

Autonomy and submission

The black movement is part of this general political world. Its classist tendency seeks to express and organize working, exploited, marginalized, offended black communities, as a whole, around civil, political, economic, social programs and claims, etc. pertaining to the entire oppressed and marginalized black community, without exclusions, in the “here and now”. It understands the oppressed and discriminated black communities, in their singularities, as part of the general world of work and its struggle for emancipation. They are aimed at a community that is largely difficult to access and mobilize, as it is over-exploited, alienated and overwhelmed by all sorts of needs: above all unskilled workers, peasants, the unemployed, the marginalized, prisoners, etc.

The integrationist sector of the black movement defends, in general, a racialist vision of the world, a radical, objective and historical separation between communities defined as black and white. Twisting history, he proposes that, in slavery, oppression was of the black by white, and not those enslaved by the enslavers, mainly whites but also blacks and browns, in a minority form. (LUNA, 1981.) About today, the racialist vision of society proposes essential opposition between workers white e blacks, the exploitation of the second by the first. It thus renders an invaluable service to the oppressors. (MAESTRI, 2018)

The racialist proposal of society defends the exclusive right of black people to discuss and pronounce on racism, on slavery, on Black Africa, etc., since every herd if it privileges, in the present, racism, or its ancestors privileged themselves, in the past, to slavery — “place of speech”, “cultural appropriation”, etc. It demands recognition by the State of racialist black leaderships and occasional facilities that can be enjoyed mainly by the middle segments, immensely distant from the needs of the working and marginalized black classes.— “quotas”, “positive discrimination”, etc. They defend “black entrepreneurship”, a “black bourgeoisie”, “black millionaires”, etc.

The captive who worked and resisted

Racialism denies the enslaved worker, builder in the past of the Brazilian nation, as its paradigmatic reference. It suggests, on the contrary, a direct descent of the Brazilian black from a romanticized and invented Africa, populated by kings, princesses, princes and so on. It forgets that the black-African aristocracy could behave despotically towards the plebeian segments, and, not infrequently, enslave them, to sell them as captives. He rejects the study of slavery and the multiple forms of resistance of multitudes of colonial captives. (MEILLASSOUX, 1975; MOURA, 1988) Instead of the resistance of the captive, it promotes “life stories” of the tiny minority of enslaved people who freed themselves, became rich and, not infrequently, became small slaveholders. The eternal paradigm of the racialist worldview is the US society that produces a small conservative black elite, with its Barak and Michelle Obama, Colin Powell, Oprah Winfrey, Condoleezza Rice. And now, Kamala Harris, implacable as attorney general with American prisoners, especially black ones. This, while big US capital keeps a huge part of the Afro-descendant population in prison and in the hell of exclusionary racist capitalism. Racialists celebrate (correctly) that the Confederate flag is lowered, as it is a symbol of the defense of slavery, and celebrate (paradoxically) that the flag of fifty white stars of big capital and Yankee imperialism, dyed in blood, is raised in its place. of populations around the world. Like the make-believe opposition, the black integrationist leaders seek to implement their project and, with it, win the favor of big capital. They claim only to place a few black faces in the well-appointed showcase of the ruthless Brazilian class society. It is said that some black oppressors will be beneficial to the "self-esteem" of the mass of black oppressed people! Like the collaborationist political world, it does not want to turn the tables on exploiters. He tries, on the contrary, to sit next to it, even if it's on the edges, to feed himself with the leftovers.

With the neoliberal avalanche and the worldwide defeat of the world of work, in the late 1980s, we began to live in a harsh Counter-Revolutionary Era. In it, the world of work lost its previous referential character, political, social, ideological. The tendencies, proposals, programs, revolutionary and internationalist organizations that mobilized against class, sex, race, nationality, etc., have been terribly weakened. On the other hand, with the general advance of social barbarism, the collaborationist and integrationist, political and identity sectors, often in almost perfect symbiosis, conquered enormous hegemony over the social movement. They won extensive support, especially among sectors and militants of the middle classes, generally not very politicized and informed. Proposals to build a better world for the middle classes in the context of a senile capitalist order dominated. (MANDEL, 1985.).

Police are police, crooks are crooks

In the political and social struggle, under the pressure of the middle classes, organizations that claim to be Marxist have abandoned the world of work and society as a reference point in the struggle to overcome exploitation and oppression, embraced identity claims referring above all to the civil rights of women, gays , lesbians, blacks etc., possible to be reached totally or partially in capitalist society. They followed the path opened by the Yankee Democratic Party, during the administrations of Bill Clinton (1993-2001), who abandoned the manufacturing worker electorate for identity, by embracing globalist economic policies — US deindustrialization, factory relocation, etc. (MAESTRI, 2020, III.) In Brazil, the municipal elections of October 2020 consecrated the collaborationist-integrationist bias, in the context of a huge political-electoral defeat of the popular classes and overwhelming triumph of the conservative sectors. (MAESTRI, 2020, II.)

The refusal of the Porto Alegre black bench to sing the Anthem of Rio Grande was masterfully didactic. However, endorsing it, after being expurgated from two of its verses, as a song by the Rio Grande community, is part of the regional integrationist project. Like the romanticization of the “Black Lancers”, as betrayed heroes of the farroupilha “saga”, who would also belong to the black population, despite the fact that the former captive soldiers had fought forced, in favor of consolidating their shackles, as we have seen . While there remains in Rio Grande do Sul the silence about the referential history of the quilombolas, the runaways, the insurgent southern captives, who broke with slavery, not only during that war. The proposal to recover the Rio-Grandense Anthem will lead to the paradox of black and non-black councillors, who claim to be from the left and democracy, participating in the cult of Rio Grande do Sul's unified traditions, singing the Rio-Grandense Anthem, allegedly purified, alongside Commander Nádia and everyone like her.

1 – S. Thanks for reading by linguist Florence Carboni

* Mario Maestri he was a professor of history at UFRJ and at PUC-RS. Author, among other books, with Florence Carboni de The enslaved language: language, history, power and class struggle (popular expression).


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