Statue mourners: what political violence?

Image: C. Cagnin


Considerations on the Vladimir Safatle vs Leonardo Avritzer debate

"Die Philosophen haben die Welt nur verschieden interpretiert; this is how it works, if you see it" (Karl Marx).

It's hard to get away from controversy. Is it right for social movements to set fire to statues and monuments that honor scumbags? Did Paulo Galo and his group help advance the debate on this topic or did they make a big mistake?

Before I inoculate my hunch in the midst of the rich Vladimir Safatle versus Leonardo Avritzer controversy, fought over posts on the site the earth is round,[1] I modestly introduce some interpretative parameters.

Paulo Lima, Galo, who took responsibility for the action, remains in prison. The judge from São Paulo, when judging the case, kept the prison, maintaining that he is the leader of the app delivery movement. Was it a tactically perfect move? Timely? Was it performed correctly? From a theoretical-programmatic or immediate political point of view, was it a progressive field goal?

In another scenario, this debate would be appropriate. Wouldn't Galo be more relevant to the class struggle by organizing couriers? Why burn the statue right on the day of the national act “Bolsonaro out”? Why not release a manifesto explaining the action? And so on.

However, sorry. A little less. It is not acceptable to join the group that Galo's initiative was “violent”. That does not fit in a “democratic political theory”. It's too reactionary, Leonardo Avritzer.

Starting with the stigmatization of violence as a method of legitimate political and social struggle. Well, “misconceptions of violent political action” begin with “democratic” regimes How so?

Isn't Brazil a country organized on the basis of violence from above against those from below, since forever? Do we not live under a continual blow? Is Bolsonarism not the exacerbation not only of state violence but of militias, crime, hatred of the “good citizen”?

When reading the UFMG professor's arguments, against what he calls “violent politics”, anyone can also start to believe in Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. It seems that Brazil is a land where rationality and good democratic principles reign. Our country – and the entire world – is peaceful. All fine, elegant and sincere people.

Reading Avritzer, I thought I lived in Sweden, Norway, Canada – or Cuba (yes, Cuba). Lots of social harmony, almost no violence. I, who always read the articles by the UFMG intellectual with interest, had hundreds of fleas behind my ears.

So we're going to solve Brazil's problems, I just don't know how, by voting? Praying for our beautiful system of checks and balances, our solid institutions? Cheering or doing mandinga, so that the bourgeoisie never strikes again like the one in sixteen?

Caramba: we have one of the most unequal and violent countries on the periphery of capitalism. The slavery heritage marks and defines every detail of the Brazilian social fabric. We are the nation that most murders and incarcerates black, poor, women, youth, LGBT people.

By criticizing Vladimir Safatle, boasting as a key idea “the misconceptions of violent political action”, Leonardo opens, right away, an avenue of questioning. Since he went for the cliché of pacifism and the good functioning of “democracies”, I also go for another canonical line, how about Brecht “of the river that drags everything is said to be violent; but nobody says violent the margins that compress it”.

What kind of violence are you talking about, after all, Professor Leonardo? Why invoke dona Arendt (such a friend of establishmentment American, to the point of being appointed as a paid friend of the CIA)? Or bring in Butler – an eclectic and avant-garde philosopher, to support her retreated-naive-liberal positions?

There is no political theory that justifies this a priori repudiation of direct actions organized by those from below. See, they didn't kill any bourgeois. There are almost 560 thousand dead by Covid. Before that, there were 60 homicides annually. Consider, Professor Avritzer: the rebels of the “Peripheral Revolution” did not attack any private property, nor any life!

Whoever reads it would never expect you to ratify ideas like those of that other Vladimir (“the only guarantee of democracy is the rifle on the worker’s shoulder.”). We know, political science is not something for Shiites, Marxistoids, or coarse people. But, no need to exaggerate, right?

of course my I left pris it is old-fashioned: there is no science that is neutral, naive, or sideless. Seeing Leonardo Avritzer get so hurt and screaming “against violence”, all because of that ugly incinerated statue of a pioneer from São Paulo, was a little too disappointing. And there is liberal hegemony. And follow the boat.

* Julian Rodrigues is a professor and journalist, LGBTI and human rights activist


[1] Here is the list of articles, in chronological order:

Vladimir Safatle, “The Liberation of the Past”:]

Leonardo Avritzer, “Bastille and Borba Gato”:

Vladimir Safatle, “Please make a disclaimer next time”:

Leonardo Avritzer, “Between the fire on the statue and drop a note: the resignification of public space”:


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