The Black Question: The Ford Foundation and the Cold War

Atang Tshikare, Itjhebe, 2018


Commentary on the Book of Wanderson Chaves


Imperialism and black identity in Brazil

In the late 1970s, US imperialist penetration into the world of ideas and academic institutions in Brazil was denounced, pointing to the Ford Foundation as the spearhead of the operation. However, information on the size, direction and precise objectives of that penetration was poor. In the early 1980s, at the PPGH at UFRJ, the Marxist historian Emilia Viotti da Costa, in a small committee, responded harshly to a master's student who called that complaint primary anti-Americanism. She proposed that the existing information in the US archives was abundant and that the Yankee action was intense.

It was at that time that imperialist interest in the Brazilian black movement grew. In the 1970s and 1980s, the Unified Black Movement and the anti-racist struggle advanced under the influence of the workers' offensive. In 1979, “Red Year”, union and social struggles broke out across Brazil, hitting the dictatorship hard. Next, the PT and the CUT, then fierce classist movements, were founded. [MAESTRI, 2019:215-240.] At the time, revolutionary left tendencies and young plebeian militants dominated the black movement. They fought against racism and for universal improvements for the exploited Afro-descendant population, in alliance with the world of work. The revolutionary socialist orientation was strong in the black movement, with reference to the Black Panther Party of the USA. [ABU-JAMAL, 2006.]


Preaching the race war

I returned in 1977, after six years of exile, at the beginning of the so-called “slow, gradual and safe opening”, returning to political militancy. Around that time, Abdias do Nascimento [1914-2011] had disembarked from the USA, where he said he had lived as a refugee. Unknown on the left, it was known that he had been in the military, alongside Plínio Salgado, until the extinction of the Brazilian Integralist Action by the Estado Novo (1937-1945). As soon as he set foot in Brazil, he started shooting at the left that was trying to reorganize itself with difficulty, with its cadres that had survived the repression coming out of hiding, prison, returning from exile.

Abdias do Nascimento became the object of a promotional campaign to transform him into a magnificent black leader and intellectual. So, the reference of the black movement was Clóvis Moura [1925-2003], a Marxist intellectual with decades of militancy and invaluable production on the history of Brazil, slavery, racism. In the 1950s, his book Rebelliones dthe slave quarters: Quilombos, insurrections, guerrillas defined in a pioneering way the centrality of the enslaved worker and the dominantly slave character of pre-1888 Brazilian society. [MOURA, 1959.] In the past there was and still is silence about the meaning of this referential work.


Blacks of Brazil, unite against the whites

In July 1980, Abdias do Nascimento published Quilombismo: Documents of a militarypan-africanist ncia [NASCIMENTO, 1980.] I published a review of the book in the weekly São Paulo newspaper In time, pointing out its inconsistencies and its reactionarism. [MAESTRI, 2018: 103-108.] The book, with a messianic bias, was axiomatic and revealed an abysmal lack of knowledge about the past and Brazilian society, especially regarding key issues addressed by leading Marxist historians such as, among others, Benjamin Perret, Clóvis Moura, Emilia Viotti da Costa, Jacob Gorender.

The main thesis of the book was shallow. Brazil would be a racial society and not one of classes. The opposition was not between exploited and exploiters, between capitalists who owned the means of production and workers forced to sell their labor power. The structural social contradiction was racial, between blacks and whites. “The race factor remains, irreducibly, a fundamental contradiction within Brazilian society.” [NASCIMENTO, 1980: 17.]

The world would be divided into two blocks: exploiting whites and exploited blacks. The struggle for the nationalization and socialization of the great means of production, the basis of the power of social oppression, of its exercise, of its reproduction, disappeared. That is, the large property that passes from the father to the son, even when the racial classification of the son changes in relation to the father. In the slavery past, in general, wealthy blacks had mulatto children and white grandchildren as heirs.


Socialist and Marxist, all racist

The solution to the social problem was delusional and simple: a racial revolution. Blacks should “take possession and control” of the country, logically in “fraternal equality and communion with the few [sic] Brazilian Indians who survived the identical massacre and racist spoliation […].” [NASCIMENTO, 1980: 23.] As for socialists and Marxists, they would have “shared, actively or by omission, in the liquidation process of the black race [sic] […].” [NASCIMENTO, 1980: 169.] Settlement in a physical sense. And so on.

At the time, I remembered in my review that the proposal preached disunity and confrontation between the oppressed and denied the fight against capital. Proposals for which the owners of wealth and power were moved to thank them. Years later, Sueli Carneiro, a racialist leader, would propose that the left and the right are the “face and crown of the same civilization”. [CARNEIRO, 2000: 24-9.] It is easy to say that pro-capitalist military and police repression never followed such an outlandish thesis in Brazil.

I recalled that the proposal would allow, at most, the individual social ascension of some black intellectuals, politicians, [professionals] and officials”, largely rewarded for defending capitalist exploitation. I pointed to the enormous failure of those policies in the USA, which currently follows, in relation to the large exploited black population. In the review, as we were still living under the dictatorship, I proposed, without naming, that it was Yankee imperialism that had sent Abdias do Nascimento to preach in the green fields of the former Terra dos Papagaios.


Brizola, the white father

In times of advancement in the world of work, Abdias de Nascimento's bizarre, anti-classist and pro-capitalist preaching had a marginal reception in the black movement. Without dedicating himself to organizing the racial war he defended, he nestled under the wing of Leonel Brizola and the PDT, who invested in Darcy Ribeiro's “dark socialism” [1922-1997]. Beyond bad at voting, leader without followers, Abdias never went beyond being a substitute in the elections in which he ran, taking over as federal deputy and senator by monocratic decision of the very white southern caudillo.

In 1982, in Rio de Janeiro, I taught in the undergraduate and graduate courses in history at the UFRJ, where I introduced the subject “history of pre-colonial black Africa” and directed dissertations on colonial slavery in Brazil and pre-colonial Angola. . On a visit to the late Africanist José Maria Nunes Pereira (1937-2015), from the Center for Afro-Asian Studies at the Cândido Mendes University, he pointed out to me the American professor who distributed application forms for scholarships on slavery in the US. I had already seen the man a few times, always at CEAA.

Zé Maria put an end to my passion. It's not for you,” he said, laughing. Lefty still go. But white! He explained that the agent – ​​short, more mulatto than black, if my memory serves me right – was hired by the Ford Foundation, and that the registration form required a photograph to discreetly exclude whites. In times of struggle for democracy, such discrimination was a scandal. But as everything was carried out and resolved behind closed doors, and we were under the military heel, where the important thing was not to attract attention, I only commented with a few colleagues and companions.


The fall of the wall, the end of history, black racialism

In the years that preceded and especially after the victory of the liberal counter-revolutionary tide, in 1989-91, the world of work, its organizations, parties, militants, intellectuals went into ebb and tendential dissolution. Social-democratic workers' parties, including the PT and its allies, metamorphosed into social-liberal organizations. There was massive abandonment of intellectuals from Marxist positions. Some went home, others moved on to the victors' trench.

Movements claiming revolutionary Marxism celebrated the end of the USSR and embraced the imperialist offensives that followed against Afghanistan, the “People's Democracies”, Yugoslavia, Serbia, Iraq, Cuba, Venezuela, Libya, etc. In general, they claimed to support the fight against the dictators of those countries. They preferred to chew the soft potatoes of the world of capital rather than the hard husks of the world of work.

Under conservative world hegemony, racialist, divisive, and integrationist policies directed at the upper segments of the black community dominated. They were driven by the FHC administration, timidly, and without pruritus by the PT, from 2002 onwards. Years later, they would plunge headlong into race, gender, etc. identity. An issue I addressed in the article “Black identityism is eating the left by a leg” [MAESTRI, 2018/01/13.]


Without entering the lion's den

In recent decades, criticism of imperialism and its action has weakened to such an extent that the relevance of the category has been questioned. Imperialism would be a phenomenon related to the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries. The devil thus concluded his greatest cunning: to make believe that he does not exist. On the contrary, I have spoken out mainly about black identity, in lectures, in lives, in articles and in books. I have proposed that, as a whole, the general program of the current black movement in Brazil, hegemonized by the middle class, arrives ready-made from the United States, produced by US imperialism, not even knowing a more refined translation among us. That a whole new pro-capitalist black intelligentsia and leadership has been financed, built and legitimized, supported by the forces of the national and international institutions that engendered or sustained this program. Not infrequently I have been defined as an orthodox Marxist obsessed with “conspiracy theories”.

I based my criticism on the essence and socio-political results of identity policies, aimed at hindering the class solidarity of the oppressed and the consolidation of the capitalist order. I have never studied, in detail, the American elaboration-planning-execution process of these guidelines, as it is beyond my professional and political field of research. The considerations that follow explain my initial digression with biographical references.


A questblack action: the FoundationFord and the Cold War

In 2019, Wanderson Chaves, a young historian and researcher at USP, published the result of an investigation of more than ten years, carried out during his doctorate and postdoctoral internship: A questnot black: the FoundationFord and the Cold War (1950-1970). It is a unique tool for understanding the current hegemony of black identity in Brazil, without this being the author's objective. The work, essential reading, was published, without fireworks and music band, by Apris, a small publishing house in Paraná, in 2019.

Pablo Polese, in a July 2020 review of the book, points out one of its multiple qualities. (POLESE, 2020.) “In an always mild narrative, Wanderson Chaves tells the story of the birth, in 1936, and the consolidation of the Ford Foundation, organically articulated with the State Department and the CIA. And he does so, without – apparently, I would say – value judgments. And, in the development of his text, he refers to dozens of prestigious and unsuspected universities and US philanthropic foundations that collaborated, and certainly continue to collaborate in a silent way with imperialism”.

We repeat. In A questnot black: the FoundationFord and the Cold War (1950-1970), there is no room for anti-imperialist rhetoric. There is practically no reference to the devil. The book defines as its line of construction the detailed description of the action of the Tinhoso, under the guise of the Ford Foundation, especially from the very narratives and justifications of the imperialist operation. And it does so supported by a fluvial amount of primary documentation, consisting of documents, reports, opinions, congresses, etc. produced directly or indirectly by the State Department, the CIA, the Ford Foundation, and other organizations.


Lambaris in the shark's mouth

In the present text, I highlight and comment mainly on the elements that, in my opinion, allow a better understanding of the current dominance of black identity in Brazil, in the context of the global ebb of the world of work. It is, therefore, a utilitarian and evaluative cut, of my sole responsibility, a multifaceted analysis that escapes like the devil from the cross of any pertinent or rhetorical evaluation, as proposed. This strongly increases the performative character of the narrative.

Upon completion of reading A questnot black: the FoundationFord and the Cold War (1950-1970), we are forced to accept that, not only with regard to the “black issue”, we were and are, even more so nowadays, lambaris swimming eternally without knowing it in the mouth of a shark. Alongside the revelation of the organic action of imperialism in Brazil and elsewhere, through the vestal and “politically disinterested” Ford Foundation, Wanderson Chaves describes the enormous seriousness and refinement of the production of counter-revolutionary, anti-Marxist, anti-workers and pro -capitalists to be applied in Brazil and in the world. Question to which we will come back.

The book begins by chronicling the creation of the Ford Foundation, in 1936, initially to protect family assets from income and succession taxes. Henry Ford's strong resistance to an orientation that was also philanthropic was overcome, in 1948, during the reign of his son, Henry Ford II, due to a new federal legislation, which aimed to force large foundations to become government partners “in the modeling of of public life” [p. 35]. The author records that many of the strongest foundations that were born in the Post-War actively participated in the Cold War [1950-1989.] They fought communism and the USSR, promoting “democracy”, “peace” and “welfare”. , presented as intrinsic characteristics of American society. All under the empire of big Yankee capital. From the outset, there was a consensus that the Ford Foundation “returned to investing in interdisciplinary thematic programs, specifically in the broad area of ​​the so-called applied social sciences” [p. 39]. The Foundation's direct collaboration with the State Department and the CIA were immediate to the new orientation, starting in 1950 [p. 47]


Choosing among the best

The impressive volume of capital invested has allowed for an uninterrupted systematic and qualified discussion, through the confrontation of visions and proposals, on history, society, culture, politics, etc. of the societies in which it was intended to act. To this end, an international elite of intellectuals was selected and the most advanced resources of the social sciences were used – logically pro-capitalist. This operation was usually run by cadres who had excelled in diplomacy and in the direction of the war effort and belonged – or belonged – to the upper segments of the Yankee information organs.

The Ford Foundation was a reference instrument in choosing, co-opting, training, publicizing, legitimizing the cadres who thought and implemented imperialist policies, due to its alleged impartiality and autonomy in relation to the State Department and the CIA, with which it always kept hands given, exchanging kisses. Nothing is more false than the vision of rustic Yankee intellectuals, beer in hand, obliterated by ideology, pontificating over the world. In this production of cultural, ideological policies, etc., the Leninist principles that theory should govern practice and that the success of these policies is the criterion of truth always prevailed.

The second chapter, always supported by vast original documentation, chronicles the maturation of the conscience of the State Department and the CIA, in arm in arm with the Ford Foundation and multiple other philanthropic foundations, about the failure of state policies aimed at convincing international populations of American wonders. Campaigns driven through radio programs, magazines, films, conferences and even very costly operations such as the “Alliance for Progress”. It was recognized that it was difficult to overcome the general ill will towards US imperialism. The correct self-criticism made it possible to abandon these unproductive direct attacks, through “newspapers, magazines, radio programs and literary publications” to conquer the hearts of the masses and the middle classes, through the intelligentsia [p.78, 97].


The new focus: intellectuals, academics and politicians

Since then, the central objective of imperialist political-ideological action has been defined as the conquest and capture of the elites, through the intelligentsia, in, let's say, indirect operations. “The orientation was focused on supporting and training cultural, academic and government cadres in high circles” [p. 85]. Investments began to be made in social scientists, already consolidated, in training or in the beginning of training. Centers and study groups were funded to build a new left-wing, “non-communist”, “democratic socialist” thinking, challenges and “sophisticated critiques of Marxism”, neutralizing its revolutionary attraction and action [p.19, 88] . A holistic intervention, with political proposals always supported by historiographical, sociological, demographic, literary studies, etc. apparently without any political-ideological motivation.

A whole generation of “critical” Marxists and post-Marxists began to be funded throughout the world, with the immense resources available and excellent results. "non-authoritarian”, “cultural”, "libertarians”, such as Michel Foucault, Cornelius Castoriadis, Claude Lefort, Edward Thompson, Slavoj Žižek, etc. All promoted by the mainstream press, published by major publishers, invited to lecture and lecture at prestigious universities. They commonly became point of a left-wing thought that broke with the angular principles of Marxism: the determination of consciousness by existence; the centrality of work in the historical development; the indispensability of proletarian political organizations; the need for the destruction of the bourgeois State by the proletariat, the construction of the dictatorship of the exploited majority over the exploiting minority, etc.

For decades, a multitude of intellectuals were launched or supported who advanced proposals for revision, expansion, correction, overcoming materialism and Marxism, above all in a cultural sense. Afterwards, the devastating criticisms of Marxism, socialism, rationalism multiplied, by literally fakers and falsifiers – Bernard-Henri Lévy, Stéphane Courtois, Nicolas Werth, Domenico Losurdo, etc. From the 1980s onwards, the new prophets of capital succeeded each other, highlighting university courses, displacing the classics of Marxism, silencing radical works on the past and present, literally canceling everything that moved in the world of ideas and representations.

We have seen that the Ford Foundation played a central role in the new orientation mainly due to its apparent neutrality and independence from imperialist militancy. In order not to create problems for her, the CIA accepted that “it would not harass or recruit fellows until the end of their work, but the Foundation would keep the Agency informed about field research activities” [p.105]. Therefore, after the grant distributions; promotion of seminars and events, congresses, meetings, training of think tanks, research programs, etc., always with an emphasis on the social sciences, the door would be open to the agency soft of intellectuals by the CIA. Logically as organic informants in their areas, and not as terrible operational agents [p. 92]. “The CIA would retain full control of the covert aspects of the offensive between elites and intellectuals, particularly the functions of training and hiring local agents” [p. 86.].


A questãthe racial: the State Department, the CIA and the Foundationthe ford

In the third and fourth chapters, Wanderson Chaves addresses when and how the racial issue became a determining factor for the State Department and the CIA and the central role played by the Ford Foundation. Above all for English imperialism, always on the side of Yankee imperialism, the racial question had become a central problem since the anti-colonial struggle advanced in India, Africa and Asia. During the Cold War [1950-1989], the United States and the British discussed how to face decolonization, keeping it away from revolutionary and Soviet influences and controlled by imperialism and the capitalist order.

In the 1950s, the black question was a thorn in the imperialist narrative about US society as a world paradigm. The treatment of the American black population was denounced by the communists who pointed as a true example the fraternal coexistence of the disparate peoples of the USSR [p. 46.]. In the 1970s, the problem worsened as “Black Power” advanced the economic and political demands of the American black masses, if necessary by violence. Movement that was strengthened, when the demands for civil rights were overcome, due to the legislation of the mid-1960s. With a Marxist orientation, the Black Panthers demanded in their Ten Point Program: “We want decent houses [...].” “We want land, bread, housing, education, clothes, justice and peace […].” “We want zero unemployment […].” And they demanded it for all African-Americans, without exception [ABU-JAMAL, 2006]. Not just for scholars who are friends of the king.

Already in 1949, Harry Hodson (1906-1999), an economist and member of the English Empire, with a prominent role in the anti-socialist effort, pointed out the two most serious problems “in international politics” . The “struggle between communism and liberal democracy” and “race relations”. The solution of the “racial problem”, for him, would prevent “communism” from attracting the “majority of discontents” from “non-European races”. He proposed that, for this, one should focus on defending the thesis that the “racial question” would have “predominance over other problems of social life”, “among them that of social classes”. (p.119)


race against class

In the late 1960s, Philip Mason (1906-1999), another prominent English imperialist intellectual, proposed that “race” would represent the “first and main dimension of social antagonism”. [P. 129] Three years later, he clearly stated that the central objective of this worldview was to neutralize the “call to unite classes” [160]. He demanded to combat the traditional call for “workers of the whole world” – and, of course, of all races – to unite in the struggle against capital. For this, he proposed that “certain goals of intellectual work should support the effort of knowledge about the potential of racial inclusion´ of markets: first, the definition of classes and races as distinct groupings; second, the analysis that classes would have a secondary dimension in relation to races, their group dimension would be later and less extensive; and third, the assessment that proposals for class problems would have no effect against racial problems”.

The purpose of this policy was clear. For Mason, it would allow “the inversion of the call to 'unity of classes' [...].” [160.] This orientation would become an essential reference for imperialism's intervention in the black question, becoming the hegemonic program in the Brazilian black movement after the turn of the millennium. Already in the late 1950s, with the Cuban Revolution and the insurgency for African national independence, the “Ford Foundation promoted an academic committee to “manage the area of ​​African studies through research groups at the universities of Boston, Northwestern, Chicago, Berkeley , Stanford, Indiana, Columbia, Yale”, among others. The initiative would have achieved the desired results. The Foundation also invested in ECLAC [p. 104].

This elaboration was never about crude ideological proposals from the State Department shoved down the throats of Greeks and Trojans, as we have seen. As usual, a wide-ranging research program was undertaken to classify the different typologies and levels of the “racial question”, especially with regard to Africa, the Americas and the United States. The recruiting continued, mainly of social scientists in tune with liberal democracy and capitalism, to investigate the history, culture, economy, psychology of the regions studied and to propose classifications, typologies, lines of intervention. All royally funded. With regard to Brazil, among the social scientists invited to such discussions were Fernando Henrique Cardoso, Roger Bastide and, in particular, Florestan Fernandes. Theme for a later comment.


study to act

The “race policy” defined by the State Department, the CIA, the Ford Foundation, and associated state and philanthropic organizations remained inwardly oriented. Abandon the popular classes and focus direct and indirect intervention on the upper social segments. In Africa, in the process of independence, the “new elites” were privileged to publicize the proposal for building liberal-democratic institutions. However, it was verbalized that: “Dictatorships and single-party systems would be considered valid alternatives”, logically “when there is ideological adherence to capitalism” and democratic intentions [p.163].

Regions of the Americas had important black populations descended from enslaved African workers. As for the United States, during the debate, it was accepted that the “racial prejudice against blacks” had a “strong class component”. But it was reaffirmed that community progression would not be found in universal “social policies”. Under pressure from the workers and the Revolution of 1917, especially in Western Europe, the State guaranteed fundamental rights for the entire population, even immigrants – basic, secondary and university public schools; health; housing, unemployment insurance, etc. In recent decades, these rights continue to be confiscated. Universal concessions were costly and against the principles of US liberalism. The rhetoric was maintained that social advances would arise from “racial policies” and not from the granting of basic rights for the entire population.

Wanderson Chaves describes the course of this discussion, difficult to present even telegraphically. During the JF Kennedy (1961-63) and LB Johnson (1963-69) administrations, federal legislation mandated civil and legal equality in the country. After this stage, the distributive proposals in important factions of the black movement were strengthened, as we have seen. In March 1964, LB Johnson launched the “War against Poverty” program, with the black population as the main target and the fight against the radicalized black movement, with a political-ideological objective. While the State established alliances with middle-class black leaders concerned about improving their positions, the Black Panthers, an expression of marginalized and exploited African-American segments, were the object of a terrible general attack, with a literal campaign of imprisonment and physical extermination of militants. In just one year, nearly thirty black panthers were killed by the police. Hundreds were imprisoned and held for decades in prison.


The Moynihan Doctrine

Democrat Daniel P. Moynihan proposed an intervention program that would bear his name. The Moynihan Doctrine aimed to intervene in the urban black population, conquering its conservative leaderships and disarming radical organizations. She pointed to the fragility of the “black family”, with high demographic expansion, as the main causes of poverty among the black population, “disproportionately present in large cities”. The high degree of paternal desertion would mean that the family organized around the mother – matrifocality –, submerged in poverty, depended enormously on assistance programs. A reality that would have its roots in family fragility inherited from slavery.

Moynihan proposed to support the restructuring of the “black family”, with emphasis on “male empowerment for the functions of provider and patriarch, considered fragile in the black movement” [p. 200]. The proposal was never implemented. Incensed by the urban uprising of the black Watts neighborhood on August 11-18, 1965, Lyndon B. Johnson abandoned his war on poverty and sank into the Vietnam war he had inherited. [p.176.] And the Moynihan Doctrine was torpedoed forever on charges of “racism and sexism” [p. 209].

In contesting Moynihan's thesis, of direct intervention, albeit crooked, at the base of black poverty, historiographical studies intervened. They defended the solidity, the autonomy, the bourgeois morality of the enslaved family. Historiographical studies also defined US slavery as a space where consensus prevailed more than opposition, by presenting social scenarios acceptable to the captives, who would have imposed their claims on the slaveholders. [GENOVESE, 1988] Descendants of enslavers and enslaved would have nothing to be ashamed of. Therefore, the current poverty of the American population would not have economic-social-behavioral roots originating in slavery.

In the 1980s, Yankee theses landed in Brazilian historiography. Proposals for consensual relations were presented in the mainstream press by the then powerful Newspapers in Brazil, by Eduardo Silva, on August 18, 1985 – “Between Zumbi and Pai-João, the slave who negotiates”. [SILVA, 1985.] The wonders of slavery in Brazil were defended in a hilarious book by the Greek-French historian, Kátia Queiróz de Mattoso, consecrated by academia, without dissent – Being a slave in Brazil. [MAESTRI, 2015.] These theses assumed a hegemonic status in Brazilian historiography and academia from the 1990s onwards. [GORENDER, 2016] The American historian Robert W. Slenes pioneered the introduction of the good news of the existence and quality of the slave family in Brazil, in a book with a tender title – In the senzala, a flower. [SLENES, 1999] These revolutionary historiographic proposals were presented above all as a result of the exploration of new sources.


Fostering and creating controlled racial conflict

The racial policies promoted by the Department of State in the USA and then abroad aimed, as proposed, to abort any impulse for the unification of black workers and popular people with the other exploited sectors of the population. To this end, the “black ethno-centrist” and “multiculturalism” proposals were disseminated as a paradigm of society to be achieved. It was deduced from the imperialist thesis of “race”, as a determining social contradiction and origin of all inequality, the exclusive and singular character of culture, way of thinking, sensitivity, tradition, etc. of black communities in relation to other “racial-cultural” traditions. Therefore, these values ​​and singularities, which would form the core of “blackness” or “Africanness”, should be preserved, worshiped and, if necessary, created. The “recovery of African essence and roots” should be encouraged [p. 190.]. As if Black Africa were a totality and not a complex multiplicity of civilizations, cultures, languages ​​and social segments, usually contradictory. It was a true construction of tradition. It was therefore necessary to combat interracial coexistence and miscegenation, theses defended in 1980 by Abdias do Nascimento in a clumsy way, which will be corrected below.

Thus, the proposal of national societies formed from the confluence of multiple origins and, above all, the construction of a pluriracial identity based on the ties established at work, was fought. The ideal society proposed for the USA was the “patchwork” nation, in which the multiplicity of descendants of Jews, Irish, Nordic, Orientals, Africans, Mexicans, etc., each ape on its branch, organized in autonomous communities and even autistic ones, to negotiate with each other, through their various representatives. Not only in the case of the black community, representatives from the middle and upper classes, all proposing the strengthening of racial exclusivism.

A conception of society that would stop any horizontal classist mobilization, a reality that constitutes one of the foundations of the domination of US liberal capitalism over the world of work. A corollary of this worldview was that every white worker is a privileged person who lives off the exploitation of the black worker. In the USA and elsewhere, the super-exploitation of black and immigrant workers and their union isolation have always helped to depreciate the general value of wages and made it difficult for workers to organize themselves politically and socially as a whole. In Brazil, if, in relation to the number of blacks in the population, we have a proportional majority of exploited black workers, in absolute numbers, exploited white workers are numerically more numerous.

In the USA, the proposal of an interracial struggle, of black ethno-centrism, of specific promotions and support especially for the black middle class -positive discrimination- diverted the mobilization for obtaining substantial concessions from capital and the discussion about the solution of social ills through the attack on the monopoly of large private property, the alpha and omega of the reproduction of social oppression. In the USA, after more than half a century of the application of these policies, while a few black people progressed, the huge Afro-American mass continued to vegetate in misery, ignorance, unemployment, being disproportionately represented in the country's prison population. [MAESTRI, 2019]


Black identity arrives in Brazil

Since January 1967, identity, ethno-centrism and black radicalism guided the Ford Foundation's action in the USA and, later, in nations with strong Afro-descendant communities, with emphasis on Brazil. We have seen that this militancy took place through funding the training and co-option of social scientists, intellectuals and leaders, with the distribution of scholarships; financing research, conferences, book publications, etc., always in close contact with the State Department and the CIA.

Brazil motivated a heated debate, due to its indisputable importance for the counter-revolutionary imperialist policy and its specificities regarding US racism. Brazil knew and still knows miscegenation much more widespread than in the USA, racial discrimination falling mainly on the community with a strong degree of Afro-descendancy. In regions of Brazil, mulattos and pardos, especially from the upper middle classes, are seen, considered and act like whites, while in the US they would be defined and treated as blacks.

In Brazil, there are no ethnic or segregated neighborhoods, especially in large cities. Another Brazilian specificity is that the degree of perception of an individual's African ancestry is inversely proportional to their social status. The rich and successful pardo and mulatto are perceived as white. Unlike the US, racial discrimination tends to decrease as we move down the social ladder.

And, above all, millions of whites, browns, blacks, etc. survive in Brazil united in exploitation and misery. As a result, they live in the popular neighborhoods of the big Brazilian cities -as well as in prisons! – interacting without serious general conflicts. All this does not prevent racism from being a universal cultural prejudice in Brazil, surpassed perhaps only by male homophobia. Throughout its history, Brazil has known several major urban disturbances, of popular but non-racial characters.


Made USA for Brazil

With the retraction of the world of work, the strong Americanization of the Brazilian black movement took place according to the Yankee identity recipe, with meticulous planning in which the Ford Foundation played a fundamental role, as always. The proposal transplanted from the USA was still to divide the social movement; isolate class struggles; consolidate capitalist society and exploitation, putting some black faces on display. singular revelation of A questnot black: the FoundationFord and the Cold War (1950-1970) it is the referential role in this acclimatization of Yankee politics to Brazil played by Florestan Fernandes, in person and through his writings, with emphasis on his self-explanatory book, The integration of black people into class societyOf 1964. [FERNANDES, 1978.]

In his 1964 academic thesis, Florestan Fernandes did not propose the social progression of the exploited black population in association with other segments of the world of work, in the strategic pursuit of social overcoming. He is happy to remember that we lived at the time under the declaration, in 1961, of the Cuban Revolution as socialist. On the contrary, he proposed the independent organization of the black community to negotiate and demand its integration into the capitalist order, a “competitive order”, in his words, modernizing and consolidating it. It is understandable why he was the main Brazilian interlocutor of imperialism on the black issue in Brazil. The integration of black people into class society met with a careful and not complete publication in English, which privileged the author's proposals "on economic reforms, racial policies and the organization of the Black Movement to combat 'racial inequalities'." It would not have been an easy translation, due, among other issues, to the erratic use of the categories “black”, “black”, “slave” [p.247].

Florestan Fernandes analyzed pre-1888 Brazil based on the Weberian categories of “caste” and “estate”. In those centuries, according to him, extra-economic phenomena – ideological, psychological, behavioral, etc. – would dominate. – on economics. [MAESTRI, 1997.] Florestan Fernandes had as a paradigm an advanced democratic capitalist society, in the European style, a reality that he certainly overestimated. He would turn to socialist politics, especially after his removal from USP, by the military dictatorship, in the 1970s, then undertaking an inconclusive movement to approach the Marxist method.

José de Souza Martins recalled that Florestan, in his last years, was concerned that his readers “would not see” his “work fractured into two irreconcilable moments: that of the sociologist and that of the socialist”. Above all, he feared being classified as “eclectic”. [MARTINS, 4/8/1995.]. In fact, since the early days of his university career, Florestan Fernandes had assumed Durkheim's “positivist functionalism” and Max Weber's “methodology of ideal types” as his main methodological options, without truly ever breaking with these epistemological frameworks. [GORENDER: 1995, 30.] In his reading of the history of Brazil, the enslaved worker was always an object and never a historical subject. [MAESTRI, 1997.]


the race war

Also in Brazil, directions were trained and promoted that advanced an identity, ethno-centric and racialist program aimed exclusively at the middle classes – what I saw, in 1982, in Rio de Janeiro, and the arrival of Abdias do Nascimento were the initial moments of this operation. As there were not and there are no isolated urban racial blocks in Brazil, their formation was thought, initially, through the propaganda of the “racial war” and the fight against miscegenation, by Abdias do Nascimento. Abandoned proposals, due to the impossibility of any implementation, in favor of the apology of black cultural, political and societal ethnocentrism and autism, as noted.

The contradiction posed by the black, mulatto and brown community, with unequal quantitative and qualitative levels of discrimination, was resolved with the adoption of the macabre qualification that all those who were not completely white would be black. In the USA, the racist rule classifies as black anyone who had “a drop of black blood,” “one-drop rule”. For centuries, discrimination was practiced equally in the Iberian Peninsula against Jews, Muslims and blacks. Something materialized aesthetically in the film marighella, where the Bahian revolutionary’s Italian paternity was simply canceled, transforming him into just his mother’s son [MAESTRI, 06.07.2021], This racist operation in favor of the intensification of racial contradictions in Brazil was applauded furiously by the immense majority of the militancy, of the intelligentsia, of the organizations proposed as leftist. And then people complained about Olavo de Carvalho's terraplanism!

Among so many other operations, the defense of identity, ethnocentrism and black autism gave rise to the requirement of isolated and mandatory discipline in basic education on “Afro-Brazilian culture and history”, generally taught by unprepared teachers, preferably black. The result has been the dominance of folklorized presentations of music, dance, cuisine as seen as part of a culture exclusively of Afro-Brazilian and African origin.


Identitarianism strengthens racism

instead of that potpourri exclusivist approach to folklorized black-African traditions, the presentation, integrated into the history of Brazil, of Afro-slavery roots as the backbone of Brazilian civilization, proper to all nationals, was imperative. In addition to reducing the slavery past, the foundation of the nation and Brazilian culture, to a mescuglio of badly digested or literally invented information, which presents itself as belonging only to Brazilians with some Afro-descendancy, the captive is reduced to a mere biological ancestor of the Afro-Brazilian. Thus, its objective status as the sociological ancestor of every Brazilian who finds himself subjectively or objectively in the field of work, regardless of his ethnic origin, is denied.

The ethnicist proposal of isolated teaching of “Afro-Brazilian culture and history” makes room for the various other national ethnic groups (Portuguese, Germans, Italians, Jews, Poles, Asians, Muslims, etc.) to equally demand the teaching of their “cultures”. ”, in isolated disciplines, reinforcing false ethnic, cultural, religious exclusivities, etc., in a movement to strengthen “racial exclusivism” and dilute national ties supported by work.

Identitarianism promoted by imperialism pursues the objective of dissolving the principle and feeling of society, culture and national identity, in its diversity, based on work, the essential unifying instance of human existence. In other words, this apparently democratic proposal erodes the objective roots of nationality, as a product of the world of work. These policies were equally supported and applauded by PTism, already in its social-liberal bias, and by an enormous left-wing militancy that, with little or no Marxist political training, is already strongly influenced by bourgeois culture and ideology [MAESTRI, 2018/ 01/13].


The Black Identity Theology of Prosperity

The fight that united the poor and working Brazilian youth, as a public university, of quality and free for all, was abandoned by the demand for the reservation for blacks of vacancies already allocated in public Universities, in incessant regression in relation to the private ones. Vacancies that cost nothing to the State. Which also guarantees the promotion of some black faces in the showcase of success. It is about producing the Colin Power, the Oprah Winfrey, the Condoleezza Rice Tupiniquins that prove the possibility, even statistically negligible, of social progression in capitalism through racial policies. While the large Brazilian black population continues to be exploited and marginalized.

In this process, in historiography, the captive who worked and resisted was abandoned as a paradigmatic reference, advancing studies that supported the new black identity theology of prosperity. The memory of the black leaders of the enslaved and free workers of the past is literally obliterated in favor of “studying the lives” of some Afro-descendant slave owners, traders, industrialists, politicians, doctors, lawyers who became rich.

These blacks isolated from the past are the references of black entrepreneurship, negative reproduction of white entrepreneurship, cynical liberal rhetoric that super-exploited independent workers should consider themselves “entrepreneurs” under construction and can elevate themselves, through effort and imagination, to the situation of big capitalists. It is no longer a question of robbing the table and demanding plates and cutlery for everyone, but of conquering a few seats at the dinner table of the privileged. Transforming themselves, of course, from exploited to exploiters.


Anti-racism as a policy of big capital

The radical invasion of the racial rhetoric of the ruling classes of the present day in relation to the 1930s goes completely unnoticed by most who claim to be leftist and Marxist. At that time, with emphasis on the times of the Military Dictatorship, it was proposed that there was no racism and social discrimination in Brazil. Brazilian “racial democracy” was defended as an official policy. The objective was to prevent any anti-racist struggle movement in alliance with popular struggles, especially under the direction of communists, socialists and Marxists.

Today, on the contrary, the great institutions and spokespersons for the dominant classes and imperialism incessantly hammer the Brazilian population about the existence of a high level of racism in the country, illuminating in a deformed way cases of racist aggression, without ever referring to the reactions popular anti-racists that commonly cause. And, as we have seen, they argue that racism and not capitalist society is responsible for the poverty of people with some Afro-descendancy. Reality to be resolved in the context of the isolated, ethno-centrist and autistic black organization, directed by middle-class identity leaders, with punctual compensatory measures that allow the promotion of some blacks, without real distribution of wealth, from now on, through health, education, security, work, etc. for all the exploited and humiliated.

All in favor of the atomization of social struggles in Brazil. The racist denunciation of racism has known the unrestricted support of the international organs of imperialism, such as the IDB, USAID, IMF, UNESCO, etc.; of the large multinationals, mainly Yankee, that commonly financed the production of these policies, such as IBM, APPLE, P&G, Nestlé, Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, Basf, Bayer, etc.; of large Brazilian capitalist companies. The great spokespersons of imperialism and big national capital, such as the Globo, the newspapers The state of Sao Paulo e Folha de São Paulo uninterruptedly divulge the main current stars of identityism, report manipulated statistics, hammer on the “structural” character of racism, etc. Campaign that finds practically no opposition, in a situation of enormous depression in the world of work, nationally and internationally, as we have seen.

Wanderson Chaves interrupts A questblack action: the FoundationFord and the Cold War, in 1970. His intention is to advance his magnificent investigation up to the present day. If you do, you will enter even deeper into the wolf's den, signaling the promiscuity with imperialism of unsuspecting institutions, parties and individuals in general from abroad and from Brazil. But to do so, it would need the relevant funding. And, I don't think the Ford Foundation or the like, international and national, will take a step further!

*Mario Maestri is a historian. Author, among other books, of Sons of Ham, sons of the dog. The enslaved worker in Brazilian historiography (FCM Editora).



Wanderson Chaves. A questblack action: the FoundationFord and the Cold War (1950-1970). Curitiba, April, 2019, 296 pages.


ABU-JAMAL, Mumia. Black Panther: The Party. Trans. Luis Alberto Chirino Gamez. Cuba: José Marti, 2006.

CARNEIRO, Sueli. "A warrior against racism". DEAR FRIENDS, February 2000, pp. 24-9.

FERNANDES, Florestan. The integration of black people into class society. [1964] 3rd ed. São Paulo: Attica, 1978, 2nd volume.

FOGEL, Robert William & ENGERMAN, Stanley L. time on the cross. The Economies of American Negro Slavery. Boston: Little, Brown and Company, 1974.

GENOVESE, Eugene D. The Promised Land: the world that slaves created. [1974] Rio de Janeiro: Peace and Land, 1988.

GORENDER, Jacob. “Social knowledge and political militancy in Florestan Fernandes”. PRAXIS, Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, 1995, n. 5, pp. 27-32.

GORENDER, Jacob. Slavery enabled. [nineteen ninety]. São Paulo: Popular Expression, 1990.

MAESTRI, Mario. “Florestan Fernandes: the look of a revolutionary socialist on the bourgeois revolution in Brazil”; Ideas, UNICAMP, Campinas, 4(1/2): 81-98, Jan./Dec., 1997. p. 81-98.

MAESTRI, Mario. Marxism and the racial question: quotas. Academic Space Magazine Blog.

MAESTRI, Mario. How nice it was to be a slave in Brazil: The Apology of Voluntary Servitude by Kátia de Queirós Mattoso. Hist Critical Magazineórica, 6 (12), 2015.

MAESTRI, Mario. Abdias do Nascimento: Quilombola or Capitão-do-Mato?

Marxist interpretation essays on racialist policy for Brazil. Porto Alegre: FCM Editora, 2018.

MAESTRI, Mario. revolutiontion and counter-revolution in Brazil. (1500-2019). 2 ed. Porto Alegre: FCM Editora, 2019.

MAESTRI, Mario. “Black Identitarianism is eating the left by a leg”. Contrapoder, São Paulo, October 31, 2020.

MAESTRI, Mario. They painted Marighella black. Contrapoder, São Paulo, 06.07.2021,

MAESTRI, Mario. Sons of Ham, sons of the dog. The enslaved worker in Brazilian historiography. Porto Alegre, FCM Editora, 2022.

MARTINS, José de Souza. “Portraits of Florestan” Jornal de Resenhas. Folha de S. Paul, September 4, 1995. pp. 10-1.

MATTOSO, Kátia de Queirós. Being a slave in Brazil. [France, 1979.] Pref. CF C

MOURA, Clovis. slave quarters rebellions. Quilombos, insurrections, guerrillas. São Paulo: Zumbi Editions, 1959.

BIRTH, Abdias. Quilombismo: Documents of a pan-Africanist militancy. Petropolis: Voices, 1980.

POLESE, Pablo. The Foundationthe ford and the questnot black. The Ford Foundation has managed to delineate the contours of the race debate, which is no small feat. Word of mouth, 11/07/2020.


SLENES, Robert W. In the senzala, a flower: hopes and memories in the formation of the slave family. Brazil, Southeast, 1999th century. Rio de Janeiro: Nova Fronteira, XNUMX.

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