No one else is able to breathe



The images of the city of Minneapolis in flames are a very clear example of the violence of liberation, a resounding and powerful cry of the oppressed, even if without air, even if out of breath, it is this cry that demonstrates that this autophagic society is impossible

“The cheapest meat on the market is black meat / Which goes to prison for free / And goes under plastic wrap / Which goes to underemployment / And to psychiatric hospitals for free”.[I]

George Floyd is yet another black victim of state selective violence, yet another black victim of commodity society violence. George Floyd is Amarildo, Marielle Franco, João Victor, João Pedro, among countless victims of a society that smells of death.

The initial element of this paragraph, an element that causes horror, is that it is one more. As his body stiffens and turns cold, another black man, another black woman, will be checking into some mortuary victim of Derek Chauvin and his truculent partners.

According to the Associated Press news agency, over his 19-year career, Chauvin has been the target of nearly twenty formal complaints and two letters of reprimand. Most have been archived.


In 2014, a black man, Lamar Ferguson, denounced Thao and another agent on charges of being assaulted for no reason while walking towards his girlfriend's house. Three years later, a $25 settlement was reached to end the case.[ii]

It is clear, from the outset, that violent acts are routine, it is the open obscenity of the law in the brutal action of the State day after day, a grinding machine for people, grinding those that are no longer profitable for the reproduction of value and the economy.

It is also noted how this society that rejoices with the legal discourse, the discourse of the law, of the universal rights of man, ends up not seeing that, in the end, the only law that determines in the last instance is that of value.

In other words, equality is a legal fiction in multiethnic class societies (in the history of capitalism there are no national societies without subjugated internal groups, such as the Irish in England, the southerners in Italy, etc.). (…) In addition, the impersonal social domination that is produced as a characteristic of an alienated society, even if it is unconscious of its reproduction, has a history that gave it impetus, an origin from which its energies, its habits, which it maintains are renewed. the continuity of certain social relationships. In this sense, the white man's stupidity is the very embodiment of this power, which echoes that the rule of law can always be altered by the law of value. This is real power in inequality.[iii]

George Floyd before being a victim of police brutality, could already be considered a victim, as well as a large part of the population considered no longer profitable, who find in underemployment the way to stay alive and with the minimum of survival conditions.

The newspaper "Chicago Tribune" says that Floyd was part of the mass of unemployed in the United States caused by the pandemic of the new coronavirus. He lost his job as a security guard at a restaurant after the establishment closed with the isolation measures.[iv]

Just a small observation is made here: the mass of unemployed has no cause in the new coronavirus, but comes long before all this happens.[v] This does not mean denying that there was an immediate circumstantial increase in unemployment, but pointing out that its causes cannot be fully attributed to external agents.[vi], in other words, I want to say that the crisis is structural and it was not a certain situation external to the commodity production system that inaugurated it.

(…) there were ever-increasing sectors of the world's population that saw themselves dragged into absolute misery, for the simple fact that, as a labor force, they had become unnecessary for the valorization of capital. (...) in the European Union, in the United States and in Japan, the process of generalized crisis of the society based on work and the production of goods has been becoming visible for a long time. Since the XNUMXs, the phenomena of social exclusion had increased considerably, and mass unemployment was only apparently being contained at the expense of “occupation programs”, financed by credit, large-scale manipulation of statistics or the imposition of low wages. poverty and coercive transfers to the so-called “informal sector”. [vii]

Floyd was no longer able to breathe, as well as a large part of society neither, his anguished screams fighting for his life against not one, but four armed and well-equipped men, is the cry of Brazilians on the outskirts, in the North American ghettos, of the refugees in Europe, from the world population that is sinking ever deeper into poverty and misery.

It is a universal cry, George Floyd ceases to be a man and becomes a symbol of the struggle to end subjugation, misery and violence.

Before pacifist and liberal-democratic hearts rise up to raise accusations like “end of violence? See what they did in the city!”; “violence cannot be fought with violence” and all these things that we can find on social networks, just chanted what Herbert Marcuse rightly wrote in a text called “the problem of violence in the opposition”:

(…) this means that the preaching of the principle of non-violence only reproduces the institutionalized violence of the existing order. In the monopoly industrial society, institutionalized violence is concentrated, as it never happened in the past, in the power that permeates the entire social body.[viii]

Look, according to Marcuse, the concept of violence is presented in two different ways, one is the violence of liberation and the other the violence of aggression (institutionalized violence). In this case, the images of the city of Minneapolis in flames are a very clear example of the violence of liberation, a resounding and powerful cry of the oppressed, even if breathless, it is this cry that demonstrates that this autophagic society is impossible.

Institutional violence is described very well by the philosopher and activist Angela Davis in an interview given to Swedish television, in the California state prison, in 1972:

(...) because of the way society is organized, because of the violence that exists everywhere, one should expect that there will be many such explosions. Such reactions are to be expected. If you are a person who has lived in the black community your entire life and you go out on the streets every day and see the white police surrounding you… Me, for example, when I was living in Los Angeles, long before this situation occurred in LA, was frequently stopped by the police. No, the police didn't know who I was, but I was a black woman with natural hair and I suppose they thought I might be a “militant” (…) And when you live under situations like this constantly… And you ask me if Do I approve of violence? This doesn't make any sense! Do I approve of guns? I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama. Many great friends of mine were killed by bombs, bombs planted by racists. I remember when I was little, I remember the noise of the bombs exploding in the front street, how our house shook. I remember my father, who needed to have weapons within reach at all times, because we could be attacked at any moment. The man who was then mayor – his name was Bull Connor – was often on the radio and he would say things like, “The black [niggers] have moved into a white neighborhood, let's get ready to spill blood tonight”. And certainly, there was bloodshed. After four young girls, who lived very close to me… I was very friendly with the sister of one of them and my sister got along very well with three of them. My mother was a teacher at one of them - in fact. After the whole bombing situation, the mother of one of the girls called my mother and said, “Can you take me to church to pick up Carol? We heard about the bombing and I'm without a car.” And they went there and you know what they found? They found limbs and heads splattered all over the place. And after that, in my neighborhood all the men got organized and formed an armed patrol, they had to pick up their guns and patrol our community every night, because we didn't want that to happen again. And so when someone asks me about violence… I just– I just think it's amazing, because it means that the person asking the question has absolutely no idea what black people suffer, what we've experienced in this country since the first black person was kidnapped off the coast of Africa.[ix]

The thousands of George Floyd who took to the American streets showed the total exhaustion of this form of sociability, dissatisfaction with the way of life and with repression, but also with the status quo in general.

The burning building is very significant, given that fire, according to the constant materials on the internet and everything you hear about the Greek philosopher Heraclitus, initiates the changes that occur in the world. In the book “Lecciones sobre la Historia de la Filosofía” (Lecciones sobre la Historia de la Filosofía), which unfortunately does not exist in Portuguese, Hegel comments on Heraclitus’ philosophy of nature and on the “Heraclitian” principle, he writes:

Fire is physical time, absolute movement, the absolute dissolution of what exists; the destruction of the other, but also of oneself; and so we can understand why Heraclitus, starting from his fundamental determination, affirms fire as the concept of process with all the consequences.[X]

In this way, it remains to hope that the flames do not go out until this rotten system devouring human lives is completely cremated and that in the end we become black men and women, just as it was idealized by the Haitian revolutionaries, in a sense that there is no more exploitation and we can live in a society free from the social forms that decrepit our lives. Comrades and companions, may we breathe!

* André Luiz Barbosa da Silva He is a researcher at the Critical Research Group on Legal Subjectivity at USP.



[I] Composed by Marcelo Yuka, Seu Jorge and Ulisses Cappelletti. The one who popularized and made the song known with her unmistakable husky voice also deserves the salute, the great Elza Soares. The song can be heard here:

[ii] Available in:

[iii] MENEGAT, Marildo. The critique of capitalism in times of catastrophe: the turning of the clock hands on a dead man's wrist and other essays. – Rio de Janeiro: Consequência, 2019, p. 293-294.

[iv] Available in:

[v] I bring some references for the reader to consult, I warn that such references are from the liberal media, but perhaps this reinforces the argument, however, on the other hand, I warn of the hopeful expectations of some economic commentators: (US creates 225 jobs in January, but unemployment rises to 3,6%); (Who are the 41 million poor people in the United States, the richest country in the world); (United States crisis eliminates 1,5 million jobs); (Why the US may be heading for a new economic crisis); (Low unemployment in the US hides an increase in the number of workers living in precarious conditions).

[vi] “This is not the first time that the cause of the economic crisis has been pointed to elements outside the basic economic processes – based on the perfect circulatory assumption, any event or thing can be blamed. The very history of crises could be reconstituted by these false attributions. The subprime crisis in 2008, for example, was the fault of the poor who took out mortgages without being able to pay (or, in an anti-Semitic version, caused by the greedy institutions that provided mortgages to anyone). The crisis of the new economy in 2000 was caused by the falsification of balance sheets by some dot-com companies. The 1974 crisis was provoked by OPEC, which cut oil production the previous year. Examples abound and neoliberals constantly find reasons to blame the State, always with its authoritarian mania for external interference in the market. In this version, for example, the 2008 crisis was the result of incentives created by the Clinton government that forced real estate credit to the poorest populations, traditionally excluded from financing. Milton Friedman has already established, in an interpretation that intended to refute all theorists until then, that the 1929 crisis was provoked by the creation and by the policies adopted by the Fed trying to regulate the market.3 Finally, in the case most famous for its exaggeration, economist Stanley Jevons argued, in an article from 1875, that instabilities in the supply of goods were related to variations in sunspots, ultimately responsible for commercial crises by affecting prices of goods. commodities.4” (BOTELHO, Maurilio Lima. Economic epidemic: Covid-19 and the capitalist crisis. Available at: ) With the coronavirus, the constant externalization of causes is repeated. While it is cause for great concern, the virus is far from the reason for the crisis.

[vii] Available in:

[viii] MARCUSE, Herbert. The end of utopia; Translated by Carlos Nelson Coutinho. Rio de Janeiro: Paz e Terra, 1969.

[ix] The translation was carried out by Jade Amorim, who is part of the Coletivo Tradutores Proletários (

[X] GW Friedrich Hegel. Lecciones sobre la historia de la philosophy I (Kindle Locations 4965-4967). UNILIDER University. Kindle edition. (free translation).

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