Left-wing white identitarians and the dictatorship

Image: Somchai Kongkamsri


Today's white identitarians, both on the right and on the left, do nothing more than repeat the white supremacist identity theory of the civil-military dictatorship


According to recent documents that were once confidential,[I] The dictatorship in Brazil considered black movements subversive because they denounced something that did not exist in Brazil: racism. For the military and businesspeople engaged in the civil-military dictatorship, Brazil would be a perfect experience of “miscegenation” of the “three races”.

This theory comes from the German Von Martius, a naturalist who presented it in a competition held by the Brazilian Historical and Geographic Institute in 1845. For him, the white race would stand out because biologically the inferior races would succumb, lending it some characteristics. If he created the theory of “racial democracy” without knowing it, which would be refined by Gilberto Freyre 90 years and by the military 120 years later, he also paved the way for the theory of whitening, since the inferior races disappeared into the superior race, the white . For the founder of Brazilian racial theory, “Portuguese blood, in a powerful river, must absorb the small confluents of the races of India and Ethiopia”, in the exact deterministic measure of which “in all countries the upper classes of the elements of the inferior.”[ii]

Armed with this information, the direct descendant of slave owners Gilberto Freyre, like all descendants at the beginning of the 20th century, romanticized slavery and, therefore, family history. If José Bonifácio argued that indigenous women should marry white men, as indigenous people would be flagrantly inferior, indolent and lazy,[iii] Gilberto Freyre, responding in part to the racialization suffered by São Paulo residents in 1932, classifying all northerners (later called northeasterners) as flatheads and Bahians,[iv] as they were the majority in the Vargas troops, he naturalized rape, including his own. For Gilberto Freyre, “every Brazilian, even white, with blond hair, carries in his soul” the spiritual characteristics “of the indigenous or black person”. But how?

“In tenderness, in excessive mimicry, in Catholicism in which our senses delight, in music, in walking, in speech, in the lullaby of a little boy, in everything that is a sincere expression of life, we almost all bear the mark of black influence. . From the slave or sinhama who rocked us. That fed us. She gave us something to eat, herself crushing the bowl of food in her hand. From the old black woman who told us the first stories about animals and haunted creatures. From the mulatta who took away the first bug from such a good itch. Since she initiated us into physical love and transmitted to us, with the creaking of the air bed, the first complete sensation of man. From the kid who was our first playmate” (FREYRE, 1963,).[v]

Breastfeeding is a spitting copy of Joaquim Nabuco, the monarchist who defended the end of slavery to whiten the population, already saturated with “black blood”. Rape is a fact of family tradition, because what choice would a 12-year-old black woman have, cared for “as if she were family”? Even more from a traditional family from Pernambuco, read slaves? This is what I called “civilizing rape”.[vi]


But what do the military documents say? That the denunciation of racism and the black movement linked to blackness and Africanness would be an “import from the USA”. Therefore, today's white identitarians, both on the right and on the left, these bossanovist uncles nostalgic for Brazil's “mixed race” origins, do nothing more than repeat the white supremacist identity theory of the civil-military dictatorship, used to sell a harmonious country. alongside Embratur advertisements on European channels featuring women in thongs with bossa nova in the background.

How about one day we analyze how the dictatorship financed bossa nova and why? Bossa nova was the state music of the Brazilian ruling class against popular music, considered too black to present the country to “foreigners”, that is, Europe and white North Americans. Bossa nova is an existential solution for the Rio elite who embraced the coup. But woe betide anyone who speaks ill of something that Brazilians don't know exists, despite all the state and media propaganda for decades, but which is the most complete representation of the attempt to purge black people from Rio and Brazilian culture. Fortunately it failed.

An analysis by an agent of the dictatorship, published in the report, is identical to what is currently being said against “black identitarianism”. For him, in “Information 0361”, of June 1977, everything would be an import contrary to the Brazilian genesis, which would be summed up in an attempt to “plagiarize the blacks North Americans”, fomenting “racial hatred”. Therefore, racism would only exist between black people against white people, as the country would not have racism or hatred. The argument is the same as that reproduced in 1921 to prohibit the entry of black North American settlers.[vii] That black Americans would bring “hatred” against white people, since black people were disappearing here and racism would no longer exist. In other words, in the view of the white Brazilian political and economic elite, especially those from São Paulo, racism would disappear with the disappearance of black people.

The question is: the right and the extreme right assuming such a speech is expected. But what about the big white uncle with the bossanovist panama hat who calls himself leftist? The one who has a poster of Chico Buarque and loves a little cry while sitting in an empty bar, who shouts against the “imported identitarianism” of the black movement supposedly opposed to Brazilianness? Let's classify it as it is. He is a right-wing specimen, like Aldo.

White left-wing identitarians who are shocked by the black movement would feel very comfortable in the Civil-Military Dictatorship on the racial issue. Aldo Rebelo, now a farmer representative, says so. He shouts every day on right-wing and left-wing channels (reinforcing the bet of the unknown mayor of São Paulo) that indigenous people and quilombolas represent a blow against national integrity. He is right, as they represent a severe blow to private property founded on the Land Law, which for the ruling class is “national integrity”.

For the bourgeoisie, national integrity is nothing more than the integrity of private property. That is why indigenous people, black people and quilombolas are the main targets of religious militias, mainly in Bahia, Santa Catarina, Maranhão, Mato Grosso do Sul and even in Rio de Janeiro, as evidenced by the execution of Marielle Franco. They are the only ones today who can stand up to big capital with their mere existence on land. This is the thrust of bourgeois white identitarianism against black and indigenous movements.

*Leonardo Sacramento is a teacher of basic education and pedagogue at IFSP. Author, among other books, of Discourse on white people: notes on racism (Mall).


[I] The military saw the black movement as an affront to the racial ideology of the Dictatorship. Article signed by Maurício Meirelles and Géssica Brandino and published on March 31, 2024 in the newspaper Folha de São Paulo. Available in https://www1.folha.uol.com.br/poder/2024/03/militares-viram-no-movimento-negro-afronta-a-ideologia-racial-da-ditadura.shtml.

[ii] MARTIUS, Carl Friedrich Philipp von. The History of Brazil. Available in https://brasilindependente.weebly.com/uploads/1/7/7/1/17711783/von_martius_como_se_deve_escrever_a_historia_do_brasil_1845.pdf.

[iii] Notes on the civilization of the brave Indians of the Brazilian Empire. Projects for Brazil. Organized by Miriam Dolhnikoff. Collection of great names in Brazilian thought). São Paulo: Companhia das Letras; Publifolha, 2000.

[iv] WEINSTEIN, Barbara. The color of modernity: whiteness and the formation of São Paulo identity. Translated by Ana Maria Fiorini. São Paulo: Edusp, 2022.

[v] FREIRE, Gilberto. Big house and slave quarters. 12th Brazilian edition; 13th edition in Portuguese. Brasília: Editora Universidade de Brasília, 1963.

[vi] The Birth of the Nation: how liberalism produced Brazilian proto-fascism (Vol. I and II). Available in https://editora.ifsp.edu.br/edifsp/catalog/view/107/47/1094 e https://editora.ifsp.edu.br/edifsp/catalog/view/106/46/1093.

[vii] For an overview and analysis of the issue, ending in 1931 with the definitive ban following an order by Octávio Mangabeira at the Itamaraty, Mangabeira Unger's grandfather, see The Birth of the Nation: how liberalism produced Brazilian proto-fascism (Vol. II), P. 254-260. Available in https://editora.ifsp.edu.br/edifsp/catalog/view/106/46/1093.

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