Absent nationalism, pressing anti-imperialism

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By LÚCIO FLÁVIO RODRIGUES DE ALMEIDA*

It is necessary and possible to recover, in new terms, the popular nationalism inherent in every anti-imperialist struggle.

It borders on commonplace to consider the position, at the very least, of the leading circles of the Armed Forces facing the national question as a great exception in our History. For some, there is a true anomaly, as they attribute to the State bureaucracy, mainly the military branch, strong and permanent nationalist tendencies. The discussion is complex and I only make a few considerations without any claim to originality.

Formulations elaborated on a more abstract plane are redefined when they get involved in a bunch of determinations. If we take into account the complexity of national state social formations dependently inserted in certain configurations of the imperialist stage, it is necessary to pay attention to the variability of the ideological dispositions of state bureaucracies.

With the destruction of the modern slave-owning mode of production, former slaves and descendants re-entered this social formation as squatters, dependents, semi-proletarians, proletarians, a bit of everything and, at most, members of the lower middle class. Today, black men and women constitute, according to self-declarations processed by the IBGE, the majority of the Brazilian population. Several national issues have manifested themselves throughout republican history, but this one, of gigantic dimensions, has been the most repressed (besides the indigenous one, which deserves another analysis).

On the other hand, the Brazilian Army, founded together with the Navy in 1822, had, since its full constitution process, which went through the Paraguayan War and subsequent overthrow of the Slave Empire, until, at least, the transition to the so-called New Republic, was an important locus of emergence of national issues. It is likely that this cooled down after the crisis of the dictatorship, in the transition from the 1970s to the following decade. I will briefly refer to the positions of the military branch of the state bureaucracy, especially the Army, in relation to national interests in certain moments of the so-called populist democracy (1945/6-1964) and the military dictatorship (1964-1985).

From the inauguration of the first and very restricted Brazilian mass democracy, a strong polarization between two currents of the FFAA became explicit. One defended, in practical terms, an intense alignment with the USA, the new great power that emerged at the end of the Second World War (1939-1945) and that found strong obstacles to the implementation of its hegemony. The USSR's area of ​​influence expanded and, in 1949, the Socialist Revolution triumphed in China, with

immediate deployment in the military confrontation with the USA, the so-called Korean War (1950-1953). The following year, the Vietnamese struggle, also led by a communist party, defeated French imperialism, which, in view of India's independence in 1949, created even greater difficulties for the "western" control of the Asian side of the river basin. Pacific. This was one aspect of the worrying scenario at the beginning of the Cold War.

In Brazil, one of the military groups advocated close alignment with the US. In line with this position, the Superior School of War (ESG) was created in 1949, oil exploration by imperialist capital companies was defended and state policies that objectively favored the process of dependent industrial capitalist development in Brazil were fought. . On the other hand, the nationalists defended that oil exploration should be state-owned, which triggered an extraordinary popular campaign; supported the election of Vargas in 1950; and opposed sending troops to fight in the Korean War.

Regardless of the frequency (in general, small) with which first current military members used developmental discourses, this actually happened. The problem was the objective links with class interests contrary to this policy. In fact, in very different contexts, several elements of right-wing discourse at the time, especially the denunciation of subversion and corruption, were very similar to those wielded by current right-wingers.

Over the 19 years of populist democracy, two governments were able, in different internal and external contexts, to implement developmentalist policies, in which they suffered strong opposition, especially Vargas, from the civilian and military right (the other was Juscelino Kubitschek). This, in turn, was in the government for short periods: after Vargas's suicide, in the interregnum Café Filho – Carlos Luz (August/1954-November/1955); during the short and awkward Jânio Quadros government (January-August/1961). After Goulart took office (September 1961), he prepared the 1964 coup that led to the implementation of the military dictatorship.

During the populist democracy, there was indeed a military current defending the country's strong ties with the US. However, very rarely did its members occupy positions in the definition of State policies. In these, the presence of nationalist soldiers was more constant.

During the Goulart government, the last of the period and which was overthrown by the 1964 coup, nationalism ceased to be disseminated mainly by part of the state bureaucracy and some institutional parties. It was appropriated by the rising popular movement, which presented another novelty: the participation of sectors of the peasantry. Peasant Leagues maintained relations with the Cuban Revolution and a Brazilianist wrote an important book on political strikes in the transition from the 1950s to the 1960s, all of which, except the first, were carried out during the Goulart government (1961-1964). A great doctoral thesis analyzes the collection of paperbacks, Notebooks of the Brazilian People. They were popular bestsellers, with titles like What are Peasant Leagues?, What is the Brazilian revolution? Who makes the laws in Brazil? ou Why don't the rich go on strike? this one with around 100 copies sold in a country of 70 million inhabitants and 40% of illiterate young people and adults. The presence of the masses in political life even contributed to a strong wave of cultural renewal in Brazil which, as a great writer said, became “unrecognizably intelligent”. The few opinion polls carried out at the time detected that, in the State of Guanabara (current city of Rio de Janeiro), the black vote was mostly directed towards the PTB (national-developmentalist) and much less towards the UDN (pro-imperialist). Even so, despite important initiatives in the struggles of black people and the extraordinary national (and, even more, international) success of four of eviction, a book by Carolina Maria de Jesus, from the favela and black, the “myth of racial democracy” largely prevailed. There is much to research about how black men and women related to this aspect of racist ideology.

During the dictatorship, with the total defeat of the military nationalism of the populist period, there were comings and goings, not least because the practices of popular mobilization by State personnel ended. The first government of this regime was closely aligned with the US, which, by the way, played an important role in the overthrow of Goulart. There were right-wing nationalist soldiers who did not reach the Presidency. There was a nationalist (and strongly anti-popular) dictator internally and, externally, aligned with the US, even accompanying this country in the defeated attempt to avoid recognition of the People's Republic of China (PRC) by the UN. And there was a nationalist and anti-popular dictator, historically linked to the ESG, who, advised by the most prominent intellectual of the same “Sorbonne”, established diplomatic relations with the same PRC and recognized the independence of the Portuguese colonies in Africa, contradicting, once again, the strong American myopia. It is likely that he was a great strategist, including discreetly supporting the transition process (from the top) to the liberal-democratic regime (also restricted) that is now making water. As even dictators are not omnipotent, the main defeat of the penultimate government of that regime came from the bourgeois opposition, which torpedoed, via a “campaign against nationalization”, the II National Development Plan, an attempt to deepen, in much more consistent terms, the capitalist expansion in Brazil.

Time to open the pot of the national-popular

The exceptionality of the current government, led by “incompetents” – and the one that preceded it, a bunch of “opportunists” – does not reside in the presence of military personnel whose practices are closely linked to the interests of the hegemonic imperialist power. Rather, it consists of the systematic implementation, both internally and externally, of profound anti-national and anti-popular policies that tend to consolidate. Which indicates that there are issues that are much heavier than the very important institutional problems.

This is not about celebrating the current absence – who knows for how long – of nationalist soldiers in one of the most difficult moments experienced by the country.

I believe it is necessary and possible to recover, in new terms, the popular nationalism inherent in every anti-imperialist struggle. It is likely that it clarifies the need for internal and external clashes, indispensable to a perspective of social transformations at a time when the advance of barbarism on a planetary scale is increasing.

Some fronts of this struggle become visible. This is the case of protecting the environment, whose urgency is increasingly imposing. And, there, the position of “rich foreign investments” (great euphemism for imperialist capital) is more part of the problem than the solution. From Mariana and Brumadinho to the burning Amazon; from unbreathable air and dead rivers to immense “communities” where everything is lacking only because of state and parastatal violence, the ecological fight is inseparable from the anti-imperialist fight. Even for demonstrating that the various fractions of the ruling class, the upper middle strata and large contingents of the top personnel of the State have abundant compensation in internal oppression and domination, not only economically, but also politically and ideologically, for the dependent insertion of this social formation. In the minister's nightmare, the maids at a party would take a trip to Disneyland.

If these issues are complex, what can we say about those that ignite the debate on “identitarianism”?

One is whether class excludes identity.

Racism is constitutive of relations of oppression and exploitation, especially in a country like Brazil, whose bourgeoisie is white, a large part of the middle class as well, and the same thing happens at the top of the state apparatus. As was signaled from the demonstrations against the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, the fight against so-called white supremacy is strengthened with the massive participation of white men and women, and so on. Even so, when the fight cools down, the structures weigh again.

While in Brazil there is no effective solidarity of non-blacks (to stay in this case) against all types of ethnic discrimination, starting with the police slaughter, the simple discourse will not eliminate the abysmal distance that separates the black people from the white population, even the anti-racist one. . This distance is objective and means that the struggles against racism are objectively ranked among the different priorities of those who do not suffer from it. Only a practical and constant engagement, in various forms, in this struggle, in order to insert it into the framework of a fight against capitalism in its current stage, can give consistency to a theoretical discourse on race and class. Otherwise, in the same movement in which whiteness objectively protects, the discourse shifts.

Also because it restores, in practical terms, an important ideological question. That Brazilian people are white and need to integrate the black into this society. Black men and women, socially produced identities, make up the majority of the Brazilian population and are very integrated, since slavery. And now in the condition of proletarians and semi-proletarians, with emphasis on semi-slaves who go by the name of maids or even those oppressed by the new slavery that advanced capitalism produces. In this context, quota policies are indispensable, not only to better insert black men and women in this society that tends to intensify super-exploitation to unprecedented levels. But, in a system that produces and reproduces inequalities, there is no way to turn everyone into a bourgeois. Ultimately, entrepreneur. In the absence of organization and struggle for social transformation, racism will intensify, as has spread in similar situations across much of the planet.

Reintegrating black men and women presupposes the struggle for a society in which their own ethnic identities are redefined, which demands, from now on, that, as part of their struggle, black men and women redefine their own identities, including the reappropriation of the past, here and in Africa, in the interaction with the experiences of blackness in other “western” countries, in the affirmation of values, including aesthetic-corporal ones, and of new sociability. They are practical, thrive in situations, imply priorities even in the use of time. All of this requires legitimation.

Even to constitute an indispensable aspect of the Brazilian national question and, therefore, decisive for social transformation.

* Lucio Flávio Rodrigues de Almeida is a professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of São Paulo.

 

 

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