The things above men

Image: Donatello Trisolino


Considerations on the murder of Moise Kabagambe

The murder of Moise Kabagambe is one of those cases that make clear some characteristics of life and class struggle in Brazil. A 24-year-old young man, seeking refuge and better living conditions, he immersed himself in the inevitable social place of contemporary tropical capitalism: he sold varieties at a kiosk in the capital of Brazilian racism, Rio de Janeiro.

As an – inevitable – informal worker, he had no job guarantees, performed his function on the margins of social protection and, atomized, carrying out his almost individual work, was a victim of the daily tyranny of small and medium-sized employers. To gain access to his want and need, that is, his means of subsistence, his salary, he had to submit to all kinds of unappealable harassment and insecurity. In general in history, this reality is as certain as it is degrading when arriving in a new country.

Moise, according to reports, was in conflict with his bosses, in a militia area in RJ, for two or three days of work, totaling around 200 reais. Here we see one of the clear results of the supposed national salvation, multiplier of jobs, as it was sold, the so-called “labor reform”: with its implementation, not only did our workers become a majority of informal and underemployed people, but they also became subject to the most varied degrading forms of work, daily or weekly payments (when not the most brutal form of “piecework”), all tied together by the bosses' dictatorship.

Not infrequently in such jobs the routine of psychological and verbal punishment is daily. Service workers, outsourced workers, subcontractors, cashiers, servants, cleaning assistants, telemarketers, are familiar with the routine of name-calling, insults, harassment and humiliation. Part of the demands they are forced to tolerate in the face of unemployment and hunger.

It was certainly no different with Moise who, in addition to being a worker and black, was an immigrant, in a country where, despite the makeup, in general, poor foreigners receive racism, xenophobia and distrust.

The “homeland of racial democracy” is, in its basements, luxurious or even extremely poor, a purgatory for working immigrants. The contemporary modalities of a kind of “housework”, with which entire families of Bolivians are subjected in São Paulo, the overexploitation and segregation in social ghettos with which Haitians suffer, are just some of the better known examples of this characteristic.

Under these conditions, Moise, in a likely justified flash of revolt, decided not to submit to the absurd condition that had been imposed on him, about which all government agencies and employers' media that exploit, today, his death are silent and will remain silent. He questioned the delay in his payment. In antagonizing his little boss of an establishment as miserable and superfluous as a kiosk on a beach, he was surrounded, attacked while awake with clubs, and, after consummating his compulsory unconsciousness, executed with another 15 clubs.

Not happy, the executioners even bothered to tie him up, in the good fashion of bush captains and slave masters, after he was unconscious. Evident mastery of such loathsome arts could only have come from people with experience. It didn't take long for the news to surface that those involved were police doing moonlighting in a militia area, that is, the action of parastatal groups made up of police, tolerated and a constitutive part of the official bourgeois state.

The video scene is distinguished by its raw and naked savagery, possible to be done in broad daylight, in a country of development and capitalist constitution that has been slave-owning since its beginnings. The aggressors, at one point appearing to smile and boast about their disgusting gesture, certainly saw the opportunity to make an example of Moise. They claim today, anonymously (a curious fact that we will comment on again) to SBT, that “they did not intend to kill anyone”.

Example has always been a central figure in the exercise of power. Slavery coined the tool as an instrument of the State, a way of keeping masses of millions of blacks kidnapped from Africa in a state of terror of constant and regulated intensity. The example of submission by terror: this was the same type that motivated Moise's murderers.

Moise was called Moise Mugenyi Kabamgabe. Being a native of Congo, he kept his name, the result of the relationship and historical experience of his ancestors. A name that met the reality of the Silva, Pereira, Souza, Alves, Cruz, Deus, that is, the blacks kidnapped to Brazil, skinned and robbed of every semblance of human dignity and, also, of their own history, even today marked by the symbol of their anachronistic equalization as instrumentum vocale, as objects of the grotesque resurgence of slave production relations, a thousand years after the fall of the (Roman) society that most erected them in antiquity. Blacks whose names and families were erased from history. Blacks become the things of their masters.

In the mentality of such executioners, this historical reality is expressed in their methods and engraved in their constitution. They were born and raise their children in the school of the Brazilian class struggle: it is segregated by social class, color, zip code and gender. Racism, a constant in any Brazilian social space, is exacerbated by the condition of being a foreigner. The poor, peons and extremely poor reproduce, after all, the ideas of the ruling class.

State coverage is constant: The iconoclastic ass occupying the presidential chair guarded by the military decreed a day of mourning for… Olavo, the denialist; he didn't utter a word for black Moise, as he would never have done for people counted as cattle, for arrobas, for him.

And just look at the dull dissatisfaction that comes over us when we recognize an omnipresent entity when dealing with such cases. I explain. Let us ask you something. Do you remember the names of the police officers who kidnapped and murdered Amarildo, in an UPP, in RJ? Or the name of the policemen who killed the black woman Cláudia by dragging her to death? What about the soldiers who fired 200 shots at Evaldo's car, a black musician and family man?

Our parastatal apparatus of national domination, the union of the private apparatus of hegemony, if you like, the famous bourgeois media, swirls in its disgusting dance around the facts and indignant questions that make us face this case. Its characteristic and purpose are silence, dissimulation and cover. You know the explosive potential of yet another case. That's why killers hide.

Let's imagine if some slight aggression happened to Dávila, Locks, Orleans and Bragança, Maggi or even Abravanel. Secrecy would not even apply to the abuser's eating habits and great-great-grandparents. But not. The name of the owner of the kiosk, who testified to the police and was not immediately arrested, on the contrary, remains at large, a Babylonian mystery.

O SBT interviews an “involved person” who narrates, even in front of a clear and definitive video, “having no intention of killing anyone” and, obviously, has his identity preserved. The case remains confidential and neither the police nor anyone else can give details that “disrupt the service of justice”.

Proletarian and black life in the country is violated as a rule; the owner is defended at all costs. They count on the time of social networks and the superfluous duration of tragedies. A society that tolerated 700 official deaths (a few million unofficially), whose real reality is, in general, a disguised civil war against workers and, in particular, a genocidal massacre against blacks, all covered up by the products of the cultural industry, for the myths of the democracy of races and gentle miscegenation, in a few days he will forget and accommodate himself to this absurdity. This is your bet, learned from experience.

Moise's very existence is a testimony that reflects the historical conditions of existence of black people in Brazil. Blacks who have origins, history, dreams and who have fought and formed most of the working class in the country from the beginning, carrying on their backs the very heavy burden of erasing that origin, annulling that history, torture and murder, ever since perpetrated by employers.

Previously in the colonial slaveholding agricultural enterprise; today, when at best in wage slavery. Likewise, his death is, unfortunately, a common reflection of the beleaguered life to which the vast majority of black people are subjected in this country. His family now legitimately wants to leave the country. The crushing memory of this loss will be forever etched in their memories.

Meanwhile, the country follows its funeral march of almost a thousand deaths per day from covid, a large part of black and poor people, shaking in front of yet another vile execution, whose reparation will never come and punishment will probably be delayed.

Tomorrow, probably, the unions will not stop work places, the streets will remain open, the farcical ritual of respect for the “democratic institutions” will continue to stand, the negotiations and other variety of abuses, crimes and slaughters will continue to occur.

The sincere reflection that could assume the function of a driving force of revolt, does not take the conscience and action of the “friends of the people”. There will be no depredation of the place, exposure of the names of the killers, of the battalions that allocated these militia paramilitaries, solidarity stoppages. All current actions on the case are limited to the sphere of respect for capitalist laws, property and legality. This, even in a case like this, in which the motivations, economic and ideological, are wide open.

Together, all the social cogs of this model of racist accommodation, even those (organizations) that claim to be part of the progressive pressure in society, conspire for everything to continue as it is, as planned, until the day of the almost religious consecration, marked by the election of some savior of the fatherland.

All these cogs act to keep the social dynamics of blacks in class society untouched, thus dragging Moise into oblivion, into statistics, into the impotent and circumstantial bovine comment typical of the middle class: “How absurd, right…”.

In the end, it is, in its nakedest possible form, a class struggle. The life of a man below 200 reais, below the dignity of having his physical integrity protected and respected, below the world of things. The days will tell what form the social reaction will take. Whether it will become the explosive and legitimate form of action or, as so often, the performative accommodation, disguised as a “social struggle” by the “friends of the people”.

* André Bof He holds a degree in social sciences from USP.


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