In search of black insurrection

Image: Alyssa Rose


Ten theses on class racism

“The voice of the dark was, of disaffection, fatigue of the earth made serious approach, painful, coming from far away, from ancestral mountains […][but] in the mountains. Fall. Twilight." (Fire lit. James Joyce, Ulysses).

In what follows, I propose this November 20th – “commemoration” of the day of Black Consciousness – ten theses on class racism in Brazil and some modest suggestions on how to fight against it.



There is no doubt for any serious person with scruples that the problem and solution for Brazilian society lies in the marks that slavery left and the entire social system that organizes the lives of millions of individuals in Brazil. It was on the shoulders, with the strength of arms, subjectivity and intelligence, ancestral culture and history of black men and women brought here by colonial capitalism (Portuguese) and broad sectors of the dominant elites (commerce, agriculture, trafficking) that what is today we know as Brazil. The aggressive accumulation of capital, the constitution of a highly strong white capitalist and bourgeois class, the formation of a society that combines the backward and the new to reproduce itself and its racial pathologies, the violent State – assassins themselves, the solder of the white elite dominant – and racist: all these circumstances are implications of the fact that what Florestan Fernandes called a slave society was implanted here. Thus, there is no possibility of effective and real “liberation” of black men and women from the class racism that extirpates their lives, especially of black youth, boys and girls, who either lose their existence hit by rational and planned rifle bullets against them or any better horizon escapes them due to economic, social and government projects that have for a long time thrown them into absolute misery and at most to the lowest places in the country's job structure, making feasible the articulation of the lowering of salary arrangements and intense composition of capital (as well demonstrated by Francisco de Oliveira in Critique of Dualistic Reason) if we do not, in one way or another, cause such a society to collapse.



If thesis 1 has some theoretical and political logic – it follows in a coherent way the characteristic of the state organization that has been in force in Brazil since the times of the first black resistance organizations in the quilombos. The class state around here, the state that organizes the common affairs of the dominant white racist elite, is an iron hand (Conceição Evaristo) tailored to preemptively crush the black rebellion. The modalities in which the crushing of blacks occurs on a daily basis takes on the most varied forms – without forgetting to say what their substantive meaning is, the repression, extermination and death without any compassion of the black-skinned people. Whether in the historical construction of the armed forces with preventive characteristics (even the 1988 Citizen's Constitution recommends in article 142 that "the Armed Forces constituted by the Navy, the Army and the Air Force, are permanent and regular national institutions, organized based on hierarchy and discipline, under the supreme authority of the President of the Republic [the katechon of the time], and are intended for the defense of the Fatherland, the guarantee of constitutional powers and, at the initiative of any of these, of law and order” (my emphasis)); in the organization of (militarized) police forces that deploy asymmetrical warfare against the “enemy” of the nation in an intransigent and vile manner; in the paramilitary powers, “agents” of the State, (who hunted for months and cowardly murdered Marielle Franco, a black, lesbian and left-wing councilor – in 2022 it will be half a decade without us knowing who ordered her death), which constitute the guard assisting in the practice of genocide; and in the structure of the judicial system, decisively, racist (see the excellent and detailed research by Marta Machado FGV-Cebrap on the subject): what we witness is the position of a race-class State busy working for the white elite. It is not a question of foolishly and naively rejecting the institutional loopholes that the political game conjuncturally presents to us from time to time; This is it, especially at a time when an openly racist right-wing government that “plans” our extermination, takes a stand in the face of an irrefutable historical and social fact. The struggle for (more) rights, fair justice, empathetic public bodies, etc. – does not exclude the understanding that we need to resist insurrectionally and radically against the Brazilian State, and urgently.



Black organization, resistance, struggle and “social movements” date back to the XNUMXth, XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries with the emergence of the first quilombos. Palmares in Alagoas, the most representative and symbolic of them, but not only him – there were quilombos in Minas, Bahia, Goiás, Mato Grosso, Rio de Janeiro and in the southern region (Pelotas), it became the most important black uprising in search of freedom. effective freedom. In addition to the significant natural protection, fundamental in the resistance and in the political-military counter-offensive strategies against the forces of order, the quilombos, as João José Reis says, forged “[a] socioeconomic structure […] strongly marked by the political-military organization”. In Beatriz Nascimento's terms, it is more than decisive that we recover quilombola heroism (as an adequate political experience for modern models of struggle against the dominant white elite).



Since then, Brazil has witnessed organizational experiences – social, political and cultural – the most diverse of peoples of color: in a fierce willingness to face the multiple manifestations of class racism as a social system. In post-1930 Brazil, the organizations and models for combating the elements of reproduction of the slave society had golden moments and splendor; without ever having quibbled about the goals they wanted to achieve. Petrônio Domingues in the article “Brazilian Black Movement: some historical notes” (Revista Time, v. 12, nº 23, 2007) reconstructs the multifaceted trajectory of the organized forces of the black struggle in Brazil.



If sociology from São Paulo, the work and research of Carlos Halsenbag, the reflections of black women from our humanities such as Virgínia Leone Bicudo (sociologist and psychoanalyst), Beatriz Nascimento (historian) and Neusa Santos Souza (psychoanalyst and psychiatrist) to name just a few, were theoretical instruments that provided a sophisticated conceptual equipment to critically interpret, as well as offer intellectual bases for the practice of fighting racism in Brazil – black men and women would face together with the social system (which replace class racism) and the State (hand of iron) the social thought of one of the greatest Brazilian sociologists.

Casa Grande and Senzala by Gilberto Freyre, more than an interpretation essay on national formation, it was converted into the “official imposed” narrative to our social and political sensitivity as self-understanding and self-perception of the constitutive meaning of society in the tropics. He, Gilberto Freyre, maintained throughout the more than 500 pages of his major work that in Brazilian culture there actually resided a balance of opposites. It was not about not observing the conflicts and physical violence of slavery against black men and women from the diaspora. On the one hand, it was that Freyre's observation was eminently the vision of the white oligarchy of the northeast living the daily life of the manor house – and that was where the sociologist from Pernambuco wanted to verify the forced and eventually “spontaneous” interpenetration of two dynamics distinct cultures (the African and the white Portuguese) that amalgamated, giving life to unique forms of coexistence that have rarely been seen in the history of modern nations –, on the other hand, Freyre’s narrative construction was and still is mobilized to this day as the very nature of Brazilian culture and society (about Casa Grande and Senzala as a narrative see Luiz Costa Lima – The Solar Version of Patriarchalism and Neil Larsen- The “Hybrid” as Fetish: “Race”, Ideology and Narrative in Casa-Grandee Senzala).

If Gilberto thought like that and in fact it matters little to us, and the trajectory he chose and some of his later texts are not the most glorious and leave room for us to say that despite the gigantism of his work he was a conservative man and, therefore, of the right, the point is that the reflections he undertook on the balance of antagonism acquired aspects of a dense fog saying that in Brazil there was not, there is not and never will be racism. The coexistence between blacks and whites in many spaces, the (cynical) cordiality, the everyday affectionate smile, the affective relationships between races, carnival and samba and social non-segregation were clear demonstrations that racism did not exist this way. And that black movements and leaders (mostly leftist) were dividing a peaceful society with rich cultural diversity.

Sycophants of the currently dominant white elite like Leandro Narloch, Demétrio Magnoli and Antonio Risério can be read, in a way and things are well understood, as late echoes of the pages of Casa Grande and Senzala. Indeed; even today we strive to demonstrate just the opposite. And we invariably fail. (Here I do not have space to explore this issue, but it is important to understand how the mass communication and culture system of the largest media vehicle in Brazil and one of the largest in the world, organizations Globe/family Marinho, masterfully disseminated this understanding of the social self to Brazilians, just look at the standard plots of soap operas – today more “attenuated” given the constant and reiterated demands of activists and black movements – and we can note the subtlety of the current line of the station in insert black professionals in its programming grid (reality show programs, on stage, interviews, anchors in journalism, etc.) and the behavioral dispositions that cross these insertions as if they were consensus reached in the rich national diversity. the guard: in a recent interview Sueli Carneiro warned that the black movement for a period neglected the disputes of ideas. (It is advisable to repeat them.)



In the 2000st century, precisely in the last two decades that have elapsed until now, complex lines are articulated with regard to class racism and the confrontation with it. Undeniable achievements were achieved: a new black subjectivity has been forged since the 2010s (2021-XNUMX), more “self-conscious”, haughty, haughty, “rebellious”, accompanying current forms of political organization (here, social media play an uncontested and categorical role); graduated with access to public and private universities of excellence (PUC's and FGV's), scholars and black-skinned scholars, researchers with a solid background in social and human sciences with experience in advanced international university and research centers, public intellectuals who influence in the public debate for good and for evil (Djamila Ribeiro, Jones Manoel, Letícia Parks, Sílvio de Almeida to name just a few); black (women) politicians, mostly linked to the radical left, such as PSOL (Taliria Petrone, Erika Hilton, Luana Alves, Marielle Franco [present!], Erica Malunguinho, Áurea Carolina, Andréia de Jesus, Vivi Reis) fight with courage, boldness and courage the representatives of the dominant white elite-class in the legislative houses (they are the loquacious voice of subordinates in general and black men and women in particular – but they need to be attentive to Lenin’s formulations in debate with Kautsky about the technical restrictions of institutions and regiments of parliaments in the modern state, and which almost invariably favor the status-quo, in this case dominant white); a layer of black men and women with the public policies of income distribution in the 15 years of the PT government achieved relative social mobility; and the Law of Quotas, perhaps the fundamental and constitutive basis of this entire architecture of struggle, recognition, pain and achievements.

Nothing was offered to us by the white elite and ruling class. Except for smiles and spellbinding postures, like a sparkling cloak that shines to hide (and blind) the cold rudeness of the steel instruments prepared long ago to contain – violently – the impetus of the black rebellion. But these achievements are not enough. It is not about choosing between rights and recognition or seeking radical experiences of subversion of the dominant white order – the zero-sum game. It is about sedimenting in us the intransigent realism (Perry Anderson). Day by day we witness a struggle of the black class-race to survive; in the most menial jobs, at the intersections of the main avenues of our metropolises, in the sometimes naive search for justice against the extermination of their young people and their children by state and parastatal assassins, in the dream of a job that gives the possibility of supporting the family, facing the security forces that see him as an internal enemy of the nation, in queues at health centers and hospitals the scene is of black and brown girls with their children in their laps waiting for care (and black women, sometimes elderly, some with white hair cleaning for hours in such public establishments). Social and racial inequality is a euphemism of social science research agendas – I insist it is a daily cruel and asymmetric race-class struggle against the dominant white elite, its multiple arsenals of repression (which it mobilizes at will) and a set of of racialized ideas spread by the Brazilian social body.



The Bolsonaro-Guedes-Mourão government is the most acute explanation of the class racism that structures the ways of being of national society in Brazil. It is a government of “preventive counterrevolution” (Arno Mayer) that was consolidated, after the institutional coup of 2016, in March 2018 when two militiamen – state agents who continue the death squads created in the 1970s to fight favelas and poor neighborhoods in Rio de Janeiro – as the research of sociologist José Cláudio Souza Alves from UFRRJ clearly demonstrates– murdered Marielle Franco. It is a project for the country built by the group that brought Bolsonaro to power, with the objective of what some social theorists and philosophers describe as a civil war against a particular political subject. It is the people of color: black men and women, young people and children, who are in the firing line of the current government.

In a recent debate, Paulo Arantes argues that the weapons that Olavo de Carvalho, the archangel who brings the message to the knights, displays in his residence in Virginia, United States, are by no means for hunting bears as he says and imagines the educated class, the national intelligentsia; it is an esoteric, ciphered message, in the Straussian (Leo Strauss) style – the rifles, carbines, winchesters and pistols are intended for us with black skins. Marielle Franco, a left-wing black woman, combative for hers – her voice in the tribunes of Rio’s city council was a thunder that erupted against the white political class – was the first to be in the firing line of the Bolsonarista-guedista project. Her treacherous extermination represents a symbol that we cannot fail to take seriously.

Now, the rearticulation of the Brazilian capitalist economy to the current regime of neoliberal accumulation (which has varied forms within the historical arch since the 1970s), in which the State serves to the market (see Marco D'Eramo – Ruleby Target, Sidecar/New Left Review) acquires, within the scope of the Brazilian social formation, aspects of political aggressiveness against black men and women. To exemplify, let's note two recent events: one in which the president of the Chamber of Deputies, Arthur Lira, a state agent, takes advice from André Esteves, a businessman and investment fund operator (in the same circumstance Esteves holds a meeting with investors and talks about the obstacle that is the demarcation of land), the other the entry into the agribusiness stock exchange (bolsonarism support group) opening for investment in its shares.

The implication of these events is clear for the black population in all its variations – from quilombolas to rural workers, from those who depend and will consume inflated food from agribusiness to the restriction of the State to a mere spearhead of the Bolsonaro-Guedes project – we are citing just two among countless examples.



Therefore, it is urgently necessary to reflect on the relationship between racial issues and the Brazilian left. There is an undeniable historical mismatch. The reflection passes through several fields, the theoretical, the historical, the political and the strategic. On the theoretical level, the fusion of national and international black social theorizing – even those of identity epistemology, the best things understood – with the best social and critical left-wing thinking, is suggestive. The dispute (asymmetrical, since it is evident that black social theorizing does not have the status and prestige of leftist theories in general) between epistemologies does not favor those who most need an intellectual and political horizon to face class racism and the forces of uncompromising white right.

The left, and it must be shown, is highly prejudiced, and, in order to use contemporary vocabulary as “racist-institutional”, it needs to recognize the comprehensive capacity of other matrices of knowledge – and it is inappropriate even in “movements” and black figures witness the assertion that Marx's working class was white, European and how much: that's at best, the other we know what it's about. Here are just a few references from the disagreement. In terms of history, it is necessary to review the contribution of black theorists in the historical understanding of Brazil's problems. It is unnecessary to mention the names hidden and epistemologically eliminated. It is not enough to speak only of Machado de Assis – whitened.

On the political level, and in particular for black figures and movements, it is up to them to review their mistaken position that it doesn't matter as much as it does with regard to the right and the left. This is a fatal mistake, which falls predominantly on those most in need of left-wing political actions in conjunction with the racial struggle. Those who enunciate such a formulation, even with different intentions, need to consider at least what they say to the four corners. At the strategic level, incorporate black youth (workers in the broadest sense) into political organizations and leftist parties and hold a serious and fraternal debate, preferably radicals, but not only, with a view to constituting the subject of practical action in the struggle against class racism is pressing.



Next year will complete ten years of the law of quotas and the struggle that is taking shape to end the law starts to gain clearer contours, as seen in the postures of some scribes of the dominant white elite: with Leandro Narloch at the head, followed by Demétrio Magnoli, Antonio Risério and others. Attention and combat with the tools that each one has within the limits of their positions and actions, places of coexistence (academy, parties, organizations, collectives, alternative press) and repertoire (Charles Tilly) will be necessary. (The forces of the Brazilian right know that quality access to higher education in general and public in particular is not only the mechanism for reducing the excruciating racial, social and income differences, but it is also to place in the hands and minds of black youth the thought critical, radical and emancipatory:

Francis Fukuyama at the beginning of his article The End History he stated that from now on, with the end of history, the battle was for ideas. It is also four years since the death of Marielle Franco, without who ordered the murder being known. To honor Marielle's name and the fight she fought is to fight for her killers to answer for the crime, even within the scope of class justice – for now that's what we have and it will be in force for a while until we achieve real emancipation and consequently new forms organization of social life.

There is a decisive factor today: we have two modalities in dispute for the hegemony of the fight against class racism. Liberal representativeness in a broad sense, which aligns itself with sectors of the white elite to consolidate their positions (and the epistemic market) transfiguring the ambivalent anti-racism into economic and cultural “capital” (see the epistemic problems of the ambiguous notion of anti-racism in the text of the black American political scientist Adolph Reed) and sectors, with a sensitive eye to those who suffer in the flesh the consequences of a slave-owning society, who already express dissatisfaction with this state of affairs and gradually move towards more radical elaborations, with a Marxist bias, but not only. (The academic black concentric circles, in the public university of excellence, oscillate between the two modalities: with a slight hegemonization of the liberal modes of representation and the epistemic-cultural agenda of their intellectual and research work.)

Sometimes the situation requires a caustic comment, it is irrefutable and we do not need to make a value judgment here at first: there is a black sector that today is “part” of a “middle class” with other interests in dispute (and in a second At the moment it is convenient to value this circumstance, as it is in a certain way positive; poverty and misery are not commendable under any circumstances), a truth that is eminently minority even though it exerts influence via the conventional means of communication, and one that survives the materially cruel reality of the class racism and that has its loquacious. It is necessary to decide, unfortunately, without zero sum. For reasons that are mentioned in these simple theses, I prefer the second group.



Finally; it is there where the black political subject (the non-identical universality) is found that Brazilian society will solve its most burning problems. The transformation (emancipation and revolution) will be black or it will not be. A black theorist, one of the greatest intellectuals of the century, who completed 60 years of his passing said: “[the] struggle […] will undertake and lead […] [to] a combat against exploitation, misery and hunger” – and we hope for effective freedom.

*Ronaldo Tadeu de Souza is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Political Science at USP.



See this link for all articles