Our Crystal Night

Image: Collective Manifest


On the 8th, the windows of the palaces of Brasilia were smashed with the same fury as the Nazi hordes in 1938.

The poet Ferreira Gullar used to say that his poems were born from the astonishment he felt when faced with the incidents of life, hence the inspiration in which the unexpected triggered in him the impulse to fix in a poem his perception of what he felt about the lived experience. Ferreira Gullar left us a work of genius, but the size of the astonishment we felt at the calamitous events of that unforgettable December 8th that do not abandon our memory have not led us to the paths of creation, and we can already hear voices that suggest that we go in ahead, pass a cloth and return to the lap of everyday life.

The 8th of December was the date of the profanation of what was sacred among Brazilians in the cult of their traditions and their project for the future, always reiterated to move forward in the realization of the civilizing ideals that Brasília, from the hands of Oscar Niemeyer and by Lucio Costa as a project that signals the Brazilian utopia of creating a democratic and unique culture in the tropics through the work of a mixed country. The palaces of Brasilia, the headquarters of the three republican powers, were not separated from public view by walls, but by glass in order to affirm the ideals of transparency of power. On this infamous day 8, the windows of the palaces of Brasilia were shot down with the same fury with which the Nazi hordes, in 1938, carried out a pogrom in a Jewish neighborhood destroying their stores.

Its purpose was to collapse the seat of newly invested democratic power in order to prevent the achievement of its stated aims of breaking with a history born of the monstrous relationship between landlordism and slavery, which, preserved in its foundations of exclusion, found a place in the processes of authoritarian modernization that brought us to the present day. The criminal attempt was aborted, but before that it polluted and stained what gave meaning to our history and encouragement to follow its course.

The Germans, after 1945 with the defeat of Nazism, settled their scores with the assassins who had dissociated it from its rich cultural history at the Nuremberg Tribunal. Here, and for the same reasons, it is imperative to bring to the courts all those who, through actions or omissions, attempted against our incipient democracy. Any misrepresentation along these lines leaves the flanks open for recurrences of the fascism that has already found gaps in our society to infiltrate, which are not restricted to occupying positions of power, aiming with equal intensity at the interpretations of the meaning of our history that have been encouraging the construction of our democracy, of which the drafting of the 1988 Charter was exemplary.

Such interpretations that have been succeeding and feeding each other since José Bonifácio, Euclides da Cunha and many others who immediately followed them, found resonance in modern essays such as in the works of Sérgio Buarque de Holanda, Raymundo Faoro, Roberto Schwarz, Rubem Barbosa Filho, to name a few. only a few, who tried to unravel what could be the directions for a society whose starting point, the Iberian backwardness, was so little conducive to it. Each one, in their own way, interpreted our destiny as destined for an intervention to break with our past.

The continued advance of the modern, the antipode of the modernization process with which the bourgeois order made its way among us through political authoritarianism and social exclusion, put in check the reproduction of the past, sustained in the bourgeois order by its links with the patrimonial order that gave it policy guarantee. The Bolsonaro regime meant in every sense, political, cultural, economic, an uprising of the forces of the past in order to impede the passage of the modern, and it was they who were present in the camps in which the assault on Brazilian democracy was gestating, either by financing their actions, whether in the conceptions of their movements, or by rousing backward sectors of society as a mass of support.

Conjuring our astonishment at the calamity to which we were exposed, coming out of the very bowels of our society, is a collective work to be unleashed by a public judgment, when the present and remote origins of the evil that surrounds us are investigated, always with the inspiration that May the 8th of December never occur again.[1]

*Luiz Werneck Vianna is a professor at the Department of Social Sciences at PUC-Rio. Author, among other books, of The Passive Revolution: Iberism and Americanism in Brazil (Revan).


[1] The social sciences have an important place in this Nuremberg Court, and their role is to find explanations for the astonishing events that shook the republic and the equally astonishing behavior of its characters.

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