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Image: Luiz Armando Bagolin


Comment on the article by Florence Carboni and Mário Maestri

We were surprised by the article the enslaved language [https://aterraeredonda.com.br/a-linguagem-escravizada/] by Florence Carboni and Mário Maestri posted on the website A Terra é Redonda on January 4, 2021. The text has as its starting point the act of young black bench recently sworn in at the Porto Alegre City Council who refused to stand up and sing the anthem of Rio Grande do Sul. Charged by one of the Porto Alegre right-wing parliamentarians for the attitude considered disrespectful, councilor Matheus Gomes (PSol), a militant of the black and anti-racist movement, explained that they had no obligation to respect an anthem that expressed racist ideas and even challenged the Chamber to discuss the matter and propose the modification of the hymn's lyrics. The action of Matheus Gomes and his colleagues quickly won the networks with expressions of support from the left and anti-racist militancy.

However, this was not the vision of Mário Maestri and Florence Carboni. The text written by them intends to do something pretentious in a few lines: to demonstrate that the characterization of the anthem of Rio Grande do Sul as racist, specifically the passage “People who have no virtue/ Ends up being a slave”, is a historical inaccuracy or, at least, least exceeds the original sense of the text. The surprise, however, beyond the few lines, is due to the fragility and superficiality of the argument raised. The text is simplistic, which is serious because we know that the authors are respected and recognized connoisseurs of the history of Rio Grande do Sul and intellectuals identified with the left and Marxism. In addition to the poverty of content, we warn that the text has conservative political consequences covered with a left-wing veneer. In times of dominance of a common sense based on lies and distortions of history in favor of an ultraliberal political project marked by the reinforcement of racism, machismo and homophobia, there is no room for superficialities on the part of those who are committed to analyzing reality.

The opening of that text is as follows: “Is the Rio-Grandense anthem racist? Or rather, are the stanzas you propose “People who have no virtue/ End up being slaves” racist? In a first degree, no. In a second, we can say that they are classist, and, only in a third, racist. But not anti-black racists, as suggested by the newly elected black councilor-historian from Porto Alegre. At least in the sense of the original issue of the text, different from the possible current reception by the community of Rio Grande do Sul, especially black”.

Despite being forceful, the arguments are far from having any objectivity. It is worth thinking about some of the statements in this passage. What does it mean to say that a text is not racist in the first degree, but in the third degree? What are the “degrees” of the text? We don't know, because the statement does not lead to any reflection, it is just a statement. In what sense is it possible to separate the classist content from the racist content that the term “slave” carries? Would this be valid for the Greco-Roman tradition? And more, would it be valid for Brazil in the XNUMXth century? From the methodological point of view of the analysis proposed by the authors, is it possible to state that the text is not racist just taking into account the “original issue of the text”?

It was expected that these points would be developed later on, but what one sees is a set of assertions without demonstrations whose sole objective is to disqualify the original meaning of the act of protest by the Porto Alegre black bench.

In the sequence, the fragile argument of the authors becomes more evident: “The “slaves” in the stanza do not refer to enslaved African or Creole workers. The lyrics were developed in the space of the 19th century symbology, a tribute to the representations of the Greco-Roman world at the time. As evidenced by the stanzas taken from the verse: “Among us / revive Athens / to the astonishment of tyrants / Let us be Greeks in glory / and in virtue, Romans.”

There are several problems here. The first one is methodological. The only evidence raised by Florence Carboni and Mário Maestri to support their argument is the original stanza of the hymn written in the 1830s. This without any questioning of its possible meanings, explicit and implicit. The authors uncritically take as truth a rhetorical argument from the intellectuality of the XNUMXth-century ranchers, who used references from the so-called classical antiquity, as if this exhausted the content of the anthem of Rio Grande do Sul.

Second, the simplistic argument bypasses any historical contextualization. Is it plausible to believe that in the “space of 19th century symbology” the racial content of Brazilian slavery could be ignored by any intellectual who used the term “slave” in a hymn? Wouldn't it be naive or bad intention to make a statement of this type just with the argument that in the sequence the original letter mentions the Greco-Roman culture? Could it be that the gauchos slaveholders, when composing their hymn, behaved like Italian Renaissance, perhaps because of their coexistence with Garibaldi, and had ancient Greece in mind and not the workers in front of them? One might expect this kind of argument to come from New Acropolis intellectuals, but not from Marxist scholars. As connoisseurs of history, Carboni and Maestri should have had an intellectual obligation to consider the influence of the independence of the thirteen colonies, the black revolt in Haiti, the abolitionist discussion, among many other relevant factors that gave meaning to the term “slave” used in the 1830s. XNUMX in Brazil. As Tau Golin recently stated, “In the dominant culture of Rio Grande do Sul, as in the rest of Brazil, the concept of slave does not lead to the political category, but rather, due to the social, cultural and historical implications, to the condition of being “black in color”. ”. Concretely and subjectively, therefore, the anthem of Rio Grande do Sul is racist!”.

Despite all the evidence, Carboni and Maestri opt for a simplistic interpretation of the anthem. Worse, the superficiality of the argument leaves room for the interpretation that the culture of the ruling class of the province of Rio Grande do Sul in the 19th century was not racist. Here, the separation between the class issue and the racial issue that appeared at the beginning of the text may have more serious consequences, becoming a trap with reactionary repercussions.

Furthermore, the authors reduce the history of the hymn to its original writing in the XNUMXth century and ignore that the text was later changed. It is important to realize that this alteration has direct implications on the aforementioned passage and on the topic of racism. Rightly, she deleted the stanza “Among us / revive Athens / to the astonishment of tyrants / Let us be Greeks in glory / and in virtue, Romans.” because it is considered anachronistic. One must ask: why was the passage “People who have no virtue/ End up being slaves” not also considered anachronistic and deleted in 1966? Is it possible to believe that the term “slave”, at this moment, was still understood according to the Greco-Roman tradition and not in the sense of Brazilian colonial slavery?

The text follows: “The enormous media coverage of the act by alderman Matheus Gomes, from the PSol black bench in Porto Alegre, is possibly due in large part to the precision of the denunciation. The fact that he remained seated when they played the Anthem of Rio Grande do Sul must be applauded and supported, above all as a denunciation of the regionalism that runs rampant in the South and, even more, for irritating that commander Nádia. Not a Brastemp, but…”

Finally, far from any explanatory pretension, in a language worthy of our time in which ridicule prevails as an argument, the authors make the following demand: “Certainly, the PSol bench will have the same behavior when the National Anthem is played, during the Homeland Week and, above all, during the farroupilha celebrations, remembrance of the uprising of the Rio Grande do Sul slaveholders. And, instead of praising the “black spearmen”, who agreed to fight for their lords, they will finally honor the thousands of quilombolas and black 'fugitives' of the Farroupilha Era”.

As there is no concern to elucidate the contradictory dynamics that at the same time differentiate and unite the national and regional spheres, the authors equate processes. Sadder still, it is not the lack of historical knowledge that leads the authors to establish the base argument that hurts the memory of so many dead in battles for the betrayal of the gaucho oligarchy and the empire in the well-known slaughter of Porongos. Is recruitment done with the promise of freedom something minor in the context of the 1861th century? Does the acceptance by enslaved people of the real possibility of liberation historically diminish them? The ideal history does not exist gentlemen, it is always complex, contradictory and imposes choices that are in no way predestined to victory or defeat. This is by no means opposed to other forms of resistance, such as quilombos and flight. Perhaps the authors can revisit Marx's writings on the American Civil War (1865-XNUMX) and read in good words what the old German thought of the enslaved who answered Abraham Lincoln's call to fight in the war. It is likely that they confuse a sophisticated materialist analysis of history with “preciousness of denunciation”.

The correctness of the bench's action in front of the anthem is not contained in itself, there would be countless times when many did not get up to sing hymns throughout history. The truth is that this act sheds light and is a continuation of the struggle and memory of the men and women who were strong, fierce, brave and with virtues that did not live in ancient Greece or Rome, they and they constituted the work force of a province of slave-owning Brazil in the XNUMXth century. XIX.

*Front – Institute of Contemporary Studies is a collective of militants from popular movements and educators from Rio Grande do Sul.


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