the black question

Kadara Enyeasi, Donna Aka Madonna Childless II
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By MÁRIO MAESTRI*

Reply to comment from Wanderson Chaves

I haven't read a transgressive book like this in a long time. A questblack action: the FoundationFord and the Cold War (1950-1970), by Wanderson Chaves. The result of careful research in US archives, the book chronicles the long and uninterrupted intervention, especially by US imperialism, on the “black question”, to prevent it from taking on anti-capitalist social dynamics.

Written in neutral language, the book describes the day-to-day collaboration of the US State Department, the Ford Foundation and the CIA, in the construction and diffusion of policies for the “black question”. This association, which the author detailed, with evidence at hand, was and is still commonly proposed as a product of the "anti-American conspiracy" imagination of communists and leftists terrified by their obsessions.

 

Detailed chronology

Reading it presented me with a detailed chronology of the production of policies and initiatives that I witnessed, present in Brazil, since the 1977s, as an Africanist and historian of colonial slavery, when I returned from exile. I was impressed by the radical nature of the work produced at a time that was completely contrary to his proposals, even more so produced by a historian who does not have a gringo surname, as I do, which for many is self-explanatory.

It was normal for a book deviating from the current stale consensus to be presented by a small publisher and to have little distribution. I consulted colleagues, of different tastes, involved in the theme, and none of them knew about it. A great friend and distinguished historian had received a copy that was in the pile of books to be read. I wrote a review about the work, published on the website the earth is round, mainly with the aim of disseminating it “The Black Question, the Ford Foundation and the Cold War”.

 

Look who praises you...

I was careful to note, in my commentary, that I proposed a personal reading of the book, and not the author's position. He was afraid of embarrassing a young and brilliant historian at the beginning of his career. More than elsewhere, in these troubled times, in the Academy, where I have been, in the last half century, the saying applies “look who praises you and quotes you and I will tell you who you are”.

My little operation got results. I received two responses defending black identity, to which I responded. Thinking I had closed the campaign, I lit a candle to Negrinho do Pastoreio so that the book would find the wide audience it deserves, hoping that my efforts would contribute in something to that end.

 

Review of my review

Wanderson Chaves has just published, on the website the earth is round, long review to my review. It questions some of what I proposed and, above all, returns to some controversial themes of the book, already published in 2019. I limit myself to clarifying some of my proposals that are not perfectly understood, perhaps due to my narrative inability.

I have never argued that the “promotion of Abdias Nascimento as a model leader would have changed the mostly socialist [sic] orientation of the Brazilian black movement”. A process that would have helped to “demolish the relevance of Clóvis Moura’s previous reputation [...].” I wrote the opposite. He said that Abdias, in those years, “had a marginal reception in the black movement”.

I spoke of Abdias' untimely landing in Brazil, at the end of the 1970s, arriving from the USA, claiming to be a refugee, shooting at the left and the Marxists, in the middle of the dictatorship. And I proposed that his rhetorical call for a race war had little influence on the black movement. And, much less, about the Afro-descendant population. Despite all the media it has received.

 

Advancing the world of work

Those were the years of the advance of the social movement – ​​big strikes, the founding of the MST, PT and CUT, then in a classist sense and tending to be socialist. In order to survive not only politically, Abdias do Nascimento took refuge under the wings of Leonel Brizola and the PDT. In addition to having a bad vote, eternal second and third alternate, he had to count on the help of the caudillo from Rio Grande do Sul, interested in having a black parliamentarian, albeit a turbocharged one. And this is not a speculative statement. Just consult the Electoral Justice.

The cancellation process suffered by Clóvis Moura, a card-carrying communist since he left the cradle, which I watched closely, was mainly due to the profound pathological political-social movement, to which I referred in my review. Wanderson Chaves rightly points out that the “transformation of the focus of organizations and the racial debate” would have taken “full shape in Brazil, between the 1980s and 1990s”. But it does not explain the deep reason for the phenomenon. Which can leave the false idea that it was due to an evolution, in the world of ideas, internal and exclusive to the black movement.

 

The Fall of the Wall

In my review, I mark those years as those of an open fracture, born of the victory of the world counter-revolution, signaled by the dissolution of the USSR and the capitalist restoration of countries with a planned and nationalized economy. The one from “End of History”, by Fukuyama. Movement that violently tipped the world balance of forces to the detriment of the world of work and in favor of the world of capital.

General conservative tsunami that gave rise to the advancement of pro-capitalist, anti-worker, irrationalist policies, etc., also in the programmatic, ideological, cultural, organizational spheres, etc. I said in my review that under "conservative world hegemony, racialist, divisive, and integrationist policies directed at the upper segments of the black community dominated." In other words, identity.

Conservative movement in which black identity and Abdias do Nascimento, like so many other politicians, trade unionists, intellectuals, etc., happily surfed. An earthquake that paved the way for the literal cancellation of Clóvis Moura, severely penalized for not denying his communist past and his commitment to the oppressed. We still live today in this true Era of Reaction, which deepens, and consequently makes the production and dissemination of works such as Wanderson Chaves, which advance consciousness in times of unconsciousness, more difficult.

 

no one knew

In 1982, in response to Abdias do Nascimento's attack on the left, in the weekly In time, in the middle of the dictatorship, I tried to find out who he was. Which wasn't easy, at a time when we didn't have Google. In my circle of colleagues at the University, in Rio de Janeiro, São Paulo and Rio Grande do Sul, nobody knew anything about the man's past. Just like my black comrades in political militancy.

As always, I made use of Clóvis Moura, due to his memory of an elephant and already historical performance in the cultural and political world. He told me he was a minor, conservative figure in the black movement. He told me about his close collaboration with Plínio Salgado, the head of Brazilian fascism. He commented to me on the nonsense he was saying. I now register the enlightening information provided by Wanderson Chaves on the funding received by Abdias do Nascimento from the Ford Foundation, a faithful collaborator of the State Department and the CIA.

 

The Florestan Fernandes case

Wanderson Silva presents in his review a long and generous explanation of the role and meaning of Florestan Fernandes' collaboration with Yankee imperialism, through the Ford Foundation, which took advantage of his intellectual production to produce its policies, as presented in the last part of A questblack action: the FoundationFord and the Cold War (1950-1970). A valuable historical record received with an almost general sourness, due to the status that the São Paulo sociologist enjoys in the Brazilian left.

Wanderson Silva recalls Florestan Fernandes' proposal to build a "black mass movement" "led and guided by the values ​​of a black middle class". For the sociologist from São Paulo, the conquest of “equality of competitive opportunity” – the mantra of enlightened liberalism – would allow the “integration of black people” in an expected “evolved capitalist society”. Mutatis mutandis, the black identity program of current times.

 

Integrationism and non-Americanophilia

The current black movement, hegemonized by the middle class and pro-capitalist proposals, defends, like Florestan Fernandes, “social-integrationist” and not necessarily “Americanophile” policies. And the difference is big. Following the lead of imperialism, identitarianism proposes to build a black mass movement, beyond class identities, led by and benefiting the black middle class. This, while the immense working and marginalized population of African descent remains integrated into capitalism in its senile phase and, therefore, in increasingly painful living conditions.

Which does not mean that “Americanophilia”, considered as adherence to policies, ideas, ways of life, etc., driven by Yankee imperialism, is not a significant phenomenon in Brazilian black identity. As recorded by the unanimous acclamation of Hillary Clinton, that “lady” with bloody hands, in April 2010, at the Universidade Zumbi dos Palmares. At the time, not even a single voice was heard protesting against the policy of systematic incarceration of the black population in the Clinton Era, asking for the freedom of the last imprisoned Black Panthers, denouncing the conditions of existence of the poor Afro-descendant population in the USA. Just cuddles and kisses.

 

Consolidation of capitalism

Florestan Fernandes' proposal on the racial issue, with a Weberian and functionalist bias, did not point to the fight against class society, but to its consolidation. That proposal militated for the political and ideological disorganization of the world of work, which is why it was welcomed and honored by the Ford Foundation and its macabre mentors. If in his last years Florestan Fernandes modified his world view in other areas, it is a question that escapes the present discussion.

It embarrasses me a little to remember that my criticism is not against the cultural or political influence of any nation, in general, and in this case, the United States. I love Joan Baez, Ernest Hemingway, John Reed, Muhammad Ali-Haj, Malcolm X and so on. Nations have, at best, a dominant culture, ideology and politics which, as has been said and repeated, are those of the ruling class. We do have to reject, as a whole, the deleterious cultural, ideological, etc. action. of the great American capital, spread incessantly, directly or indirectly, through multiple paths and institutions, such as the Ford Foundation, as proven by Wandeson Chaves exhaustively.

 

the king is naked

Only those who refuse or are interested in not seeing it still believe and defend the philanthropy and altruism of US imperialism, which would act through institutions such as the Ford Foundation and many others. By supporting various intellectuals, they would spread their liberal proposals for “democratic reforms”, for the defense of “human rights”, for “pacifist policies”, combating the spread of anger, hatred and resentment of the oppressed.

These are initiatives ofsoft power”, undertaken in isolation and even associated with the exercise of brute force, which distributes sadness, fear, terror, death, in search of the eternal maintenance of social and national oppression. And for the understanding of this reality, the book by Wanderson Chaves collaborated. He presents us with harsh analyzes and revelations, which must be defended and maintained, against the current terrible pressures of all kinds, exerted by a ruthless and triumphant world of capital. For, “as long as there is a will to fight, there will be hope to win” as Marx, Lenin or, perhaps, Saint Augustine would have said.

*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).

 

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