Reflections on the Jacarezinho massacre

Anne Vallayer-Coster, Two Roses, c. 1810


For a black (not) utopia

Marx and Gramsci

In the drafts he wrote to his Civil War in France, a text in which he analyzes the context, the attitude of ruling class opponents and the achievements of Paris Commune of 1871, in the part where he approaches the meaning of the commune – Marx alluded to the beauty of the concrete utopia of those two months that would never be forgotten by all and all those in the search for the end of the exploitation, oppression and submission of the subalterns. The achievement of the workers of Paris was utopian-concrete because they dared to exist – they dared to deny the prejudices of the elites and rich classes who were always saying about the political incapacity of the wealth-producing people.

In the twentieth century, in another direction Gramsci in his Prison Notebooks (v.3, Machiavelli: Note on the State and Politics) questioned what utopia would be: the revolutionary will for transformation or the insistence on “conserving what exists and preventing” something that cries out, almost unfailingly, for change? Gramsci's utopia is reversed. And provokes our thoughtful conceptions. Again – those who crush, oppress and humiliate the people (workers, those who truly produce the wealth of our capitalist societies, but who do not enjoy it) are constantly talking about the impossibility, the “utopia” (ours, not theirs) , of course) seen with perjury, of going beyond the horizon of its way of organizing social life.

It happens that sometimes those most in need of going forward, with radicality and transformative impulse, “incorporate” and “reproduce” the cynical and premeditated construction of a certain western realism (Perry Anderson). (Without noting on the other hand that utopia, and here a “reactionary” utopia, is that of those who accuse.)


What happened on 06/05/2021 in the community (and/or favela) of Jacarezinho makes us meditate on the ideas and actions of Marx and Gramsci. There, in that place of people who work, produce wealth, live the experience of their historical culture (Raymond Williams) another one was committed, among the countless others that we watch daily, daily, systematically and cruelly, the massacre of the poor population – in its crushing majority made up of black men and women. When the extermination of poor black men and women individually does not occur – who does not remember Amarildo, Cláudia Silva Ferreira, João Pedro, Ítalo, Ágatha, João Alberto, Lucas Martins and Marielle Franco (organic intellectual and left-wing black woman) –, they take place in "masses". In Jacarezinho, 25 people were cowardly killed by police forces. Things understood well, and in the best of the revolutionary tradition of Marxism – police forces are in themselves (in the modern era) a state instrument of permanent repression used by the ruling classes to crush the people (who work and produce). In other words; it is an organ of the State formed to violently oppress subordinates in favor of the interests of wealthy sectors of capitalist society. But on the periphery of the system – in the case in question in the Brazilian article (Roberto Schwarz) – the State and the police forces become legal-illegal assassins – illegal-legal. They are institutionalized legal killers of the working black population: and who are defended by the dominant white elite (Vice President Hamilton Mourão said to those who still have the decency to hear that the young people killed were “all bandits”…) and legitimized by certain sectors of the classes averages and even the poor population (affected by the Brazilian oligopolized private media). And they are semi-legal killers when they complete their “virtuous” and “honest” day by acting as a parastatal force for the annihilation of poor people, blacks and black-skinned leftist militants – the involvement of militias in the plotted and planned death of Marielle Franco in 2018 is known ( about the history of the militias in Rio de Janeiro, the interested reader can study the works of the UFRRJ sociologist, José Cláudio Souza Alves). (Which marked, let us not forget, one of the points of the dynamics of the counterrevolution undertaken by the right and the conservatives in response to June 2013 and the awakening of a new insurrectionary subjectivity.)

Faced with this historically constituted political and social scenario, what responses have black movements (in a broad sense) been giving? Invariably the forms, modes and ways in which such movements give their answers do not go beyond the institutional scope and sphere established by the “own” sectors of the dominant white elite. There are variations in sectors of the white elite, some are “progressive”; I will not detail them in this text. What does this mean? At least four axes are articulated in these questions.

No primeiro Axis, what happens when extermination events happen as in Jacarezinho or with (isolated) black individuals, justice is promptly asked, that those responsible for barbaric “crimes” be treated with the rigor of the law, of the institutions that conform it and by the actors of its daily dynamics (it's like asking a banker or owner of an investment fund to manage the ministry of finance or the economy well), in the second, the condemnation of public security by researchers from the social sciences and applied social sciences (lawyers, prosecutors, prosecutors, public defenders) specialized in the subject, the naive and sordid argument here is twofold, on the one hand, that of the poor preparation of the military police (and civilians as in the case of the last massacre), and on the other and the most appalling – the State and the governments do not have a public security policy to deal with the issue of criminality; O third axis is the phenomenon of hegemony by Globe Organizations (there are other media groups that follow the same strategy – with less rationality than the Marinho family), which they manage via sophisticated techniques of speech, language and the construction of authorized figures, of the agendas of black movements – it is common to interview black men and women (prominent people) in certain niches of civil society and with public opinion of some reach, whether representatives of international or national organizations (of human rights, but not only), whether members of the judiciary system in general, or researchers in the humanities (philosophers , sociologists, anthropologists and theologians), or even celebrities, we are always witnessing the enunciation of analyses, relatively critical and, at the same time administered (by instrumental reason) of the terrible situation that black men and women live (there is another technique widely used by women Globe Organizations, it is true that others do as well, which is the construction of narratives with black people demonstrating their professional success, their entrepreneurial will, their individual concern for the community, etc). At the room, it is possible to observe, but in this specific case the ambiguities, possible gaps, contradictions and inconsistencies are more intense and exacerbated, the sober circulation of a (tolerated) vocabulary, we witness the diffusion of terms and expressions such as institutional racism, necropolitics , empathy, race and gender inequality, (white) privilege, black bodies, among others. (Furthermore, it is necessary to be critically and radically attentive, especially since the last period phenomena, with the incorporation by capitalist companies of this vocabulary and of prominent and well-educated people of color via diversity programs; sometimes what Florestan Fernandes identified in 25 years later: the black in the current era, namely, the decapitation of the best black heads of the broad group (body) of poor ex-slaves, workers and subordinates – it is evident that we want the success and achievements of ours and ours, we do not want to see them on the peak of stone at dawn inside and being shot by the murderous police; my argument is different and in another direction, it is a matter of noting the defense mechanisms of the social system in former plantation economies.) Indeed, in all these axes there is a single objective: it is the obsession with preventing the black mass from (potentially insurgent – ​​uncontained) mimic the manifestations of black Americans, but do not seek justice as it happens, also in the United States after the golden age of Black Panther Party and the radical black men and women of the left acting on the public scene like Angela Davis, and yes haitize Brazil and transform the country into an entirely different political experience, a radical, imaginative, creative, revolutionary political experience that overflows with violence in action – not as essence – the institutions of control, invariably mobilized and claimed when terrible events happen to the community of Jacarezinho. So far, the axes put in place have been successful. (And the ex-enslaved are day in and day out crushed with cruel hatred and as a public enemy of the nation (Florestan Fernandes) by state and parastatal assassins of the Brazilian dominant white elite-class.)

Black movement and civil society

With this, it is possible to observe in the very brief reconstruction above, a certain, relative and tenuous one can say, articulation (here it does not matter if conscious or unconscious, intentional or naive) between sectors of the black “movement” (in a broad sense) positioned, in terms of status, in civil society and political society (Gramsci) and sectors of the dominant white elite – sometimes, it is true, of a progressive character. It is not a question of foolishly denying institutional initiatives that in fact can eventually save black lives; public policies impact people's social interaction. The position of media groups publicizing the murders and giving space (even if rationally controlled) to black voices, undoubtedly helps in the circulation of other perceptions about the problem. Black parliamentary representation is fundamental in the current moment of anti-racist struggles (Lenin recommended acting in parliaments in given political conjunctures). Black experts with years of research and advocacy are vital in combating racism by mobilizing statistics and disseminating them to public opinion via media outlets. However, we must have common sense or even a sense of proportion – in order not to reproduce (non) inverted utopias – that despite all this, the extermination, inherent, is day-to-day, daily and systematic, of poor black men and women by state assassins in the service of the white elite conservative and reactionary dominant. Something needs to be diagnosed in front of this.

Bernardo Carvalho and Gersem Baniwa. In an article published in the supplement Illustrious from the newspaper Folha de São Paulo, the writer Bernardo Carvalho stated that, “for a long time [to think] […] that Brazil was the spitting copy of the South of the United States, without the Civil War or before it.” And continues, “here the indefensible is defended. We would rather ignite a Civil War […] [than] give up privileges that racism sustains”. And ends, "with the strange aggravating factor that blacks are the majority here” (emphasis mine) (26/12/2020). In the public and academic intervention he made in the Colloquium Thinking Politics Together and Together (UFRJ-USP/May 2021) the organic intellectual of the Baniwa indigenous people and professor at the Federal University of Amazonas Gersem Baniwa, when asked to differentiate (or not) their problems from that of black peoples, he comments with simple grandeur – “Ah if we were most like blacks are” (emphasis mine) ( It has already been said that art, literature, music and theater, in a word, aesthetics, apprehend reality and enunciate it before other sectors of social life: this is the case of the poetic sensitivity of Bernardo Carvalho, one of the main writers contemporary Brazilians. As for Gersem Baniwa's comment, it is important to consider that in terms of a sociology of the edges, of the beyond, of the foreigner if you prefer (Georg Simmel and Patrícia Hill Collins), those in a situation, in some way, outside certain constitutive nuclei of issues complex and difficult to resolve sometimes perceive things that those involved cannot given the interactive reproduction of habitus Specific.

Thus, black men and women in Brazilian slave society urgently need to "wake up" to seek to transform themselves from a quantitative majority into a broad and qualitative political movement, in order to give a response or other responses to the constant extermination of their population - who work, it produces and supports on its shoulders, since colonial times, the composition of the wealth (the capital) of the dominant white elite. Who pay them with the tip of the rifle and the bullets fired by the (il)legal assassins of the State. Tricky questions about ways of building a broad black political movement are always being thrown at us: and promptly answered as something impossible to achieve. There are the “theorists” of institutional possibilism. These are still rational and accustomed to dialogue. And there are those who from the height of their wisdom say – the revolution, or more radicalized and insurrectionary processes of political action is not feasible, unfortunately; as if such an event were of the order of predictability. (Those who know the texts know that even Lenin was wrong about this: at the end of 1916 he said in a conference in Switzerland that his generation would not see a revolution – only a few months later he was forced to write his famous April theses.) We are not, or I am not a fool, and not even incapable of understanding primary circumstances of current social relations and society. worldview contemporary politics.

But if we don't 1) think of radically different ways of organizing black people; 2) if we don't start thinking about spaces for the defense of democratically constituted black bodies; 3) if we don't even have the impetus to ignite an incandescent flame of self-power (double power - for the circulation of a combative spirit: now, today, people are not claiming the ancestry of black people, the cultural legacy of the ancestors brought here by slave ships, then why do we immediately exclude the experience of enslaved people who rebelled, were incited to establish another form of existence, desecrated the current institutional order and dared to create the quilombos, which even with their backs raw and bleeding due to the whips and scourges stood up and left for posterity the pulsating and still living example of Palmares; this one in particular and that one in general were not just mere ancestral “narratives” or “language”, they were, in fact, concrete events of black men and women who at a given moment demanded their effective freedom and launched themselves into political, social and cultural combat – and organized themselves for that purpose). 4) There is still a civil war, a counterrevolution (Florestan Fernandes), but only one side is politically organized for it, because what does the State and its apparatus of repression mean in Brazil if not the instance of rationalization, administration and management of extermination of so many blacks – anyone who perhaps understands blacks as unprepared to enter the communities of Rio de Janeiro and the outskirts of São Paulo and throughout Brazil is mistaken –, we need to build a utopia that stands as the other side of this civil war, the various social movements are extremely important, but they alone are not enough, or are not enough (we did not want this, but we make history with the conditions inherited from the past, said Marx at the opening of his monumental The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte); 5) and it is necessary once and for all to extirpate from the mentality of the black “movements” the idea that left and right do not matter – there is a convulsive synthesis between the black political subject (with its “new” theorizations, powerful black intellectuals, its own cultural disposition and creative genius: we have already bequeathed to this land Machado de Assis and Carolina Maria de Jesus, Djamila Ribeiro and Jones Manoel among many others and others) and the most willing organizations of the left (radical and others) with the critical culture that is peculiar to them. Returning to the point, if we do not propose ourselves a concrete utopia given our real situation (or Gramsci's inverted utopia) the extermination will not cease to reach us (black men, women, young people and children). (They don't listen... and definitely don't want to listen since colonial times.) Frantz Fanon said in Black Skin White Masks that “the fate of the neurotic is in his own hands”. And things are well understood: Aunt Joana “barefoot, in a frilly white dress […] singing loudly and spinning, spinning, spinning […] sipping brandy […] sat on a stool […] [with] her skin black now girl” and said to Dusanjos, who was looking for her husband who had suddenly disappeared (“Is he coming back, Aunt Joana?”), “My daughter, what we want is what happens [...]” (Luiz Ruffato, Temporary Hell).

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


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