We don't want to be in the same boat.

Bill Woodrow, Phosphorus, 1994.


The cry for opacity against the ideology of class union


Every speech that preaches some kind of solidary union between individuals and groups of different identities sounds beautiful and noble. A communitarian ideal, especially without a very defined end – better to speak purely and simply in something empty, like the “progress of the nation” or “putting the country above everything else”. Without a doubt, it is very beautiful to want us to walk hand in hand towards a better future. From Mussolini to Bolsonaro, but passing through John Lennon, the speech that, regardless of race, color, religion or social condition, we must unite in favor of a common ideal — built around, of course, the political project personal and family members of its propagators (perhaps the Beatle should not be included here).

Evidently, it is not the impoverished rhetoric of the fascists that enchants - here we are not talking about the beautiful song Imagine. The seduction of the ideology of the union of classes for the common good comes from another place. More precisely, the notion that, with a simple act of goodwill, we can get rid of the profound differences that separate us. And, more than that, that we will be able to make the Other embrace our political north simply because, from the moment we accept him as our similar, he should already feel part of our group and, therefore, think like us. It doesn't matter if you're gay, embrace our bigoted hysteria![I] We don't care that you're Asian, as long as you laugh with us at our jokes about your phallus which we assume is tiny![ii] It's okay that you're black, after all my children are well educated enough not to date you![iii]

It is very amusing to think that, if we tell the object of our hatred and sarcasm that he can unite with us, he will automatically no longer have reason to see the barrier, the Deleuzian white wall, that separates us. And with that, we gain the trump card of being able to say that, when he somehow declares the existence of these divisions, he is the one who is forcing this type of rupture. Morgan Freeman's Solution to Social Conflict: Just a Speech Maneuver Away From You!

The most important thing in all of this is that the divisions we talk about so much are not horizontal and, therefore, capable of being resolved by a mere pious act of unity. The very posing of the question as a problem of horizontal distinctions is already a discourse that legitimizes the doing-nothing about them, since the problem becomes the Other's lack of interest in being our friend. Now, any more or less scientific reading of society brings us the notion of the verticality of these differences. Racism, LGBTphobia, machismo, xenophobia, in short, the class struggle are, all of them, relations of domination based on a latent or literal conflict. It is not a mere distinction, a simple disagreement, or even different ways of life. These are questions of subjugation and oppression that, obviously, contrary to what those privileged by the maintenance of this status quo, cannot be overcome without structural social changes[iv].



Those who had the opportunity to visit the 34th Bienal de Arte de São Paulo could find an auditorium in which a film was shown that featured an interview with Édouard Glissant. It talked about the Droit à l'opacité (right to opacity), an inspiration for marginalized peoples in the international dynamics of capital to non-submission to the paradigms of the central powers, placed in terms of transparency, which consists of wanting to understand the other from their own conceptual paradigms and cultural. In opposition to this, opacity is not-wanting-to-be-understood, to be-as-one-is-by default of other people's understanding, building an independent singularity, and even contrary, to the ideological construction of subjectivities operated in the way of capitalist production.

It is ironic when Glissant quotes a comment he heard about his work: “so we need to go to the UN to claim our right to opacity!”. Now, the logic of the United Nations, of Human Rights and the like, is exactly that of transparency, of the pretense of subsuming all regional and social peculiarities to a universal law. Asking her to recognize her right to be opaque is, in itself, an attitude of transparency, of “see how I can fit into your logic if you even acknowledge my existence”. Such is the dialectic of the fight for rights, in general: building a barrier against oppression through the very system (the legal system) that serves it, even if it has a certain practical usefulness, presents an obviously limited horizon to the very structural logic of such an oppressive structure that ultimately comes from the capitalist mode of production[v].

Isn't it the same thing with the class union discourse? Of course, between an Unusian universalist liberal and a fascist, there are significant differences, despite the common material basis. But the discourse of overcoming differences around a common ideal is constant with regard exactly to its conciliatory ideology which underlies domination. It is not a question, for oppressed and marginalized groups, simply of a harmonious union with their dominators, but rather the very acceptance of their subordinate condition. No, we don't want to unite for your Brazil.

*Alexandre LC Tranjan is a law student at the University of São Paulo (USP).



[I] https://www.em.com.br/app/noticia/politica/2021/10/30/interna_politica,1318523/bolsonaro-ninguem-gosta-de-homossexual-a-gente-suporta.shtml

[ii] https://istoe.com.br/video-tudo-pequenininho-ai-diz-bolsonaro-para-oriental-em-aeroporto/

[iii] https://oglobo.globo.com/politica/bolsonaro-diz-na-tv-que-seus-filhos-nao-correm-risco-de-namorar-negras-ou-virar-gays-porque-foram-muito-bem-educados-2804755

[iv] See ŽIŽEK, Slavoj. Welcome to the desert of Real! – five essays on 11/XNUMX and related dates. Sao Paulo: Boitempo, 2003.

[v] I spoke in a slightly more optimistic tone about this issue, specifically with regard to labor rights, in https://aterraeredonda.com.br/legislacao-trabalhista-uma-trincheira/. For the general critique of law, it is essential: PACHUKANIS, Evguiéni. General Theory of Law and Marxism. Translation by Paula Vaz de Almeida. São Paulo: Boitempo, 2017.

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