About pioneers and immigrants

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Response to Leonardo Sacramento's rejoinder

I deplore that Leonardo Sacramento – in his rejoinder entitled "Flags and banners", in response to my reply "Borba Gato and the Bandeirantes" to your article "Borba Gato, Aldo Rebelo and Rui Costa Pimenta"– make use, repeatedly, of an increasingly recurrent unfortunate tactic, the (unsuccessful, in this case) attempt at moral intimidation. Like every militant, more passionate than reflective, he attributes moral superiority to himself and tries to pass it off as epistemological superiority. However, in the same way that nothing indicates that he is positioned “on the right side of history”, nothing indicates that he has the best arguments either, as will be seen throughout this article.

Without any commitment to factuality, he, in the subtitle, calls my reply an “integralist”, emptying the concept of its historical meaning and transforming it into a casuistic instrument of moral struggle.

Throughout the text, he does the same by suggesting that I and the Fifth Movement would be supporters of “eugenics”, “denialism”, “proto-fascism”, “reactionism”, of all those “-isms” that, in the lexicon sacramentiano, replace vulgar curses, whose slang the author considers inappropriate for someone of his academic title.

Very strange when dealing with someone who, in the same subtitle, claims “materialism”, a proposal that has little or nothing to do with his text. But this would not be the author's only mismatch with the metaphysics he espoused. Nor with the text of his authorship that initiated the present discussion.

I chose, in this quadruple, to list the observations in the order present in Sacramento's rejoinder. For the sake of textual economy, I prioritize questions concerning the objective historical debate, leaving aside, whenever possible, the diversionary moral judgments pronounced by Sacramento.

As for the existence of São Paulo, Sacramento is very clear in its first article: “Borba Gato, as is known, lived and died before Independence, the coffee and slavery cycles in São Paulo, the Revolution of 1930 and the Revolt of 1932, in a São Paulo that, in practice, did not exist [...] More important than understanding the life of Borba Gato, is understanding why the São Paulo elite, in the early 1920s, began to finance the idea that precisely the elite Was São Paulo in the 1920s the heiress of the sertanistas of three centuries earlier, of a São Paulo that did not exist, completely different from the province of the second half of the 1920th century, when it concentrated almost all enslaved Africans through interprovincial trafficking? Completely different from the state of São Paulo in XNUMX?”

I demonstrated to him, then, the existence of São Paulo prior to its agro-industrial modernization in the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries and its relationship not only with the bandeirantes/sertanistas, but with Brazil, in order to highlight the importance of the bandeiras from São Paulo for the entire world. Brazil, in its historical entirety.

While Júlio de Mesquita thought of São Paulo above Brazil and the bandeiras as an exclusively São Paulo phenomenon in the sense of the current state of São Paulo, I pointed out the importance of São Paulo within Brazil and the bandeiras of São Paulo as a national phenomenon, not limited to a single state. Incredible as it may seem, Sacramento takes the words of Júlio de Mesquita at face value to invert the sign and affirm that bandeirantismo is nothing more than a myth of the São Paulo elite. Ironically, for the materialist Sacramento, material reality does not matter, only “narratives”, as if they were a separate reality, more real than the material world.

As I had stated in my reply, it is natural that, given the importance of Bandeirantismo, its legacy has been disputed by different social and political groups. What is not normal is for the historian or any other scholar to ignore reality itself and fight it based on mistaken and decontextualized narratives created over time.

Then, Sacramento claims that I “resoundingly” ignore slavery and, by extension, the “class struggle” between slaves and masters. He does not realize, however, that it was not the bandeirantes who were responsible for slavery, nor was or could slavery be the dominant mode of production in the bandeiras. Being nomads by definition and having practiced subsistence polyculture on small plots of land inland, slavery, sedentary by definition and having been adopted, above all, in large land units aimed at export, was impracticable in the social regime of the bandeiras.

Evidently, some bandeirantes participated in the arrest of runaway blacks and the destruction of quilombos. What I highlighted, however, was the complexity of the phenomenon. Neither the flags were “white”, nor the quilombos were “black” – there were people of all colors and origins in both, as is widely known. Domingos Jorge Velho's flag responsible for the crushing of Palmares, for example, was composed mostly of indigenous rivals of those who made up the quilombo. The racialist dichotomy adopted by Sacramento to interpret Brazilian history in the XNUMXth, XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries is, therefore, an anachronism, anathema to the historian.

If the criteria for “cancellation” of an entire historical group, such as the sertanistas from São Paulo, were based on the participation of some of their examples in transatlantic commercial slavery, we would have to commit the misfortune of condemning, equally, the Africans, whose tribal chiefs sold their subordinates to the slave traders. Manumitted blacks also acquired slaves, such as, for example, Francisco Nazareth d'Etra, from the Jeje-Mahi nation, who had been the slave of another manumitted slave before him, José Antonio D'Etra, “one of the richest Africans in Bahia, who it even had a squad of 50 enslaved blacks; he had the rank of captain-major of assaults and entrances, chosen to fight the quilombos that reproduced in the Bahian reconcavo; and he was from the black brotherhood of Bom Jesus das Necessidades, which had black brothers directly involved in the slave trade” (Risério, 2019, p. 114). The most recent book by Antônio Risério, on the black women of Bahia, further expands studies on the participation of blacks in slavery.

We could also condemn in whole the natives, many of whom participated, as bandeirantes, in the repression of the quilombos, as well as the New Christian Jews, some of whom controlled most of the slave trade across the Atlantic.

As can be seen, the phenomenon of slavery is much more complex than what racialist identity assumes and does not involve an identity division between a “good” and a “bad” ethnic group, between an “innocent” and a “guilty”, between a “ oppressed” and an “oppressor”. History is not Manichaean and has multiple facets that need to be analyzed objectively in terms of their meaning and importance for the process as a whole. Since Brazil is such a large and multifaceted country, its formative processes are equally complex and do not fit into anachronistic moral dichotomies.

No historical process can therefore be adequately understood through the prism of repression vs. freedom. Even more so with these terms being placed in the abstract, as Sacramento does, denoting more the influence of Enlightenment idealism à la Thomas Paine than of Karl Marx's historical materialism. Repression and freedom, in this sense, are subjective and inferior moments of objective historical movements and tensions, incapable, therefore, of encompassing the historical totality.

It is strange that a self-declared materialist, with a Marxist verve due to the emphasis given to the class struggle, demonizes violence in history and judges it before understanding it in its historical totality. The difference he establishes between “repressive violence”, considered bad, and “revolutionary violence”, considered good, makes no sense. In what way would the violence of the French revolutionaries against the peasants of the Vendée have been “better” compared to the violence of the bandeirantes in their fight against the invading Dutch troops? Could it not have been bandeirantismo, which formed one of the largest countries in the world, a revolutionary phenomenon, transforming, in a progressive sense, social structures?

This moralism, idealistic by definition and incompatible with any materialism worthy of the name, leads Sacramento to think that I misjudge the quilombolas who kidnapped Indian women and that I, by raising this data, which the author is unable to refute (he only uses a fallacy ad hominem against Roquette-Pinto), would be being racist and prejudiced. None of that. Who am I to condemn a centuries-old event with contemporary values? The assumption that current moral standards are universal and apply to every time and place is what truly constitutes ethnocentric racism, as I asserted in my reply.

Thus, it is natural that he does not understand the approximation I make between Borba Gato and Zumbi dos Palmares. Both were, albeit unconsciously, builders of the Brazilian nation, whose historical sedimentation owes, in a significant part, to the collective action they perpetrated. Precisely because I elevate Zumbi to this position, it makes no sense for Sacramento to say that I belittle the African importance for the formation of Brazil and that I negatively appreciate the quilombos. It seems that, for Sacramento, either Africanness is considered the only element that formed Brazil or it is completely disregarded, in a Manichaeism that is not at all healthy for scientific analysis.

However, moralism, binarism and idealism are the lesser of evils in Sacramento's text. There are relevant traits of dishonesty, such as when, for example, he does not even consider information about the voluntary participation of blacks and Indians in the bandeiras, promptly discarded as simple “memorialisms”, as if everything that was not in line with his moralist and political dichotomy anachronistic was memorialism.

In addition, he also disdains the reference to Manoel Bomfim, considering that “Bomfim should be read as an object to be analyzed, not as an analyst who, by itself, would refute any argument from an August 2021 debate. an author from 1920 cannot be a means to refute a debate in which he does not participate”.

Now, why can't Manoel Bomfim, a great scholar of national history, be used as a reference, just as an “object of study”? Why would he be a “memorialist” and in what way would “memorialism” be inferior to the so-called “historiography”, if a large part of the latter was made with bibliographical references that Sacramento calls “memorialism”? Why can't Bomfim be a reference to demonstrate a thesis, but Júlio de Mesquita can? And isn't it the debate of the first decades of the XNUMXth century about the Brazilian formation that we are dealing with, as Sacramento himself admits? I quote the words he used: “It so happens that the object of the text is exclusively the production of the XNUMXth century”. How can a XNUMXth century author not be referenced for a discussion whose object is the intellectual debate of the XNUMXth century?

Moreover, Sacramento states that Bomfim could not be a political reference for the progressive field because he had written a book with the “eugenicist” (I will come back to this question later) Olavo Bilac, founder of the Nationalist League of São Paulo, who “defended the triad school, vote and military service”. So, how would the right to basic education (school), political participation (vote) and military service oppose the historical values ​​of progressivism?! At what point did school, voting, and military service become “conservative” symbols in themselves? If there were conservative defenders of these aspects, so much the better, as these “political and epistemological elements” are quite favorable to the aggrandizement of the Nation. After all, that is the meaning of the motto of our flag, which could be that of any viable and inclusive regime: Order and Progress. Values ​​despised by Sacramento and by all identity.

As far as Getúlio Vargas is concerned, Sacramento distils all the poison originally spread by Júlio de Mesquita Filho and other bigwigs of the São Paulo oligarchy. The supposed fascism of Getúlio Vargas is a liberal lie long since dismantled. Professor Alfredo Bosi, in his book Dialectics of Colonization, Professor Angela de Castro Gomes, in her book The Invention of Labor and journalist José Augusto Ribeiro, in his trilogy The Vargas Era, put this discussion on clean plates.

Even more regrettable and mistaken is the attempt to frame Getúlio Vargas as a “white supremacist”. Soon he, who legalized samba and capoeira and professionalized carnival and football, definitively opening the doors of the latter to blacks!!

To support his thesis, Sacramento resorts to a punctual and merely protocol approach between the Brazilian federal government and the German Nazi government in 1936, at a time when all Western countries and their respective businessmen maintained an excellent relationship with the Third Reich. Let Henry Ford say so, a confessed admirer of Hitler and founder of the Ford Foundation, one of the greatest disseminators of racialism pontificated by Sacramento.

Moreover, as several German citizens resided in Brazil, it would not be up to the Brazilian government to prevent such negotiations, even more so because there was no eminently racist and eugenic meaning in it, just a study by the German government to study the conditions of adaptation in tropical regions of a people accustomed to a cold climate.

The author once again falls into anachronism when he confuses “eugenics” with “racism” when addressing Article 138, paragraph b of the 1934 Constitution. including in the Soviet Union[I], concerned an education aimed at improving the health, hygiene and material conditions of life of young people which, according to evolutionism, the last scientific word at the time, would be incorporated into the genetic structure and transmitted to descendants. Nothing similar to “racial selection”, as in fact there was none.

From anachronism, then, we move on to sophistry. At no time did Decree-Law nº 7.967 state that Brazil would and should remain “European”, but rather that it had European ancestry, which is undeniable, unless Sacramento wants to remake the world map and convince the reader that Portugal is not part of Europe. Furthermore, the immigration policy aimed to bring qualified labor (at least at some basic level) to work in modern capitalist business activities that were, at that time, in Europe and not in Africa, whose decolonization process was just beginning.

It's not just me who claims this, but Roger Bastide, one of Sacramento's references, of which he mistakenly assumed my ignorance. According to the French author, in his book “Brasil, Terra de Constrastes”: “After the Second World War, thanks to the vogue for planning, these rarefied immigrants also started to be selected. Brazil is no longer looking for agricultural labor, it claims technicians, technicians from scientific systems of cattle raising and the dairy industry like the Dutch or the Swiss; technicians in the cultivation of fruit trees or medicinal plants, or, much more, skilled workers, specialized to work in industries” (Bastide, 1978, p. 188).

Symptomatically, Sacramento deletes the last sentence of Article 2 of Decree-Law No. 7.967, referring to the defense of national workers (therefore, regardless of color), and ignores Article 3, which establishes strict limits to immigration: “The spontaneous immigration flow of each country will not exceed, annually, the quota of two percent on the number of the respective nationals who entered Brazil from January 1, 1884 until December 31, 1933. The competent body may raise the quota for one nationality and promote the use of past balances”.

It would be asking too much, then, to mention Decree No. 20.291, of August 12, 1931, better known as the “law of the two thirds”, which established a minimum quota of 2/3 of Brazilian workers in establishments with at least three employees.

As the then minister Lindolfo Collor stated: “Brazilian laws do not aim at the forced unemployment of numerous foreigners who settled in the country. What they aim at is not to allow, from now on, those unemployed in the industries and commerce of other countries to come, within our borders, to displace national workers from their occupations.”[ii]


The icing on the cake in the part about Getúlio Vargas is when Sacramento claims, without evidence, that “Getúlio Vargas and Júlio de Mesquita Filho were very close after the 1932 Revolt”. Truce does not mean closeness, and even the detainee did not have a long life, as Júlio de Mesquita Filho was arrested 17 times during that period and had his newspaper, O Estado de São Paulo, jammed. Great proximity!!

But that wasn't the last careless association made by Sacramento. With regard to Cassiano Ricardo, he states that “His Anhanguera magazine fabled the bandeirantismo as the constitutive element of the Brazilian. Therefore, once again, the citation reinforces the link between the bandeirante myth and conservatism”.

What the objective historical fact of bandeirantismo as an element of Brazilian national construction, widely attested by historiography, has to do with “conservatism” and “proto-fascism” is something that cannot be rationally understood.

Even less an alleged “Luso-Brazilian nationalism” on my part, as if I, at some point, had defended the United Kingdom of Portugal, Brazil and the Algarves as the ideal model of national organization – the only way in which the so-called “Portuguese nationalism” -Brazilian” would make sense.

Next, Sacramento practices true rhetorical contortionism to say that he was not talking about the “historical” Borba Gato but about the racialized and supremacist “representation” of the so-called bandeirante. But if there is anyone who makes such a representation, it is the Sacrament itself. The statue of Borba Gato does not have any aspect of whitening. Quite the contrary, the very choice of material, with dark-colored stones, reinforces the character's caboclo miscegenation, in absolute opposition to the usual pictorial representation of Jesus Christ, taken by Sacramento as a parameter of comparison. I am not aware of any other description of the sertanista that portrays him as a Scandinavian in the tropics.

Then, Sacramento claims that I ignore, for political reasons, the existence of arrest and contract flags. I do not ignore, but I do not do the “cancellation”, which, as already explained, is not consistent with the analytical rigor necessary for the study of social phenomena. What I highlighted was the fact that Borba Gato, the target of the “Revolução Periférica” collective, did not belong to this type of flag, invalidating the claim that the respective statue would be a monument to slavery.

In turn, the Portuguese Crown was not the main client of the bandeirantes, as Sacramento asserts without any evidence. Naturally, there were compromises and distensions, as happens in any political dispute. Even the USSR and the Third Reich reached agreements, why not the Portuguese government and the bandeirantes?

But, in general, as I have already sufficiently demonstrated in my reply, there was competition and rivalry between the two, with different and contradictory projects. It doesn't hurt to remember the War of Emboabas, when the Portuguese Crown massacred the bandeirantes, and the trajectory of Borba Gato, fugitive from the official forces for murdering a Spanish representative in the service of Portugal.

Afterwards, Sacramento exchanged more balls. The Brazilian mestizo background is exactly the opposite of what he considers “eugenics”, that is, racial separatism. The mixture of whites, blacks and Indians is absolutely intolerable for any racist eugenics, as it means the infinite diversity of phenotypic combinations and the dilution of ethnic boundaries. In the same way that the mestizo is not black, he is not Caucasian either. Where racism imposes barriers, miscegenation breaks them down and creates new syntheses. There is no force of rhetoric that can change the facts and make 2+2 not result in 4.

So, I fully agree with the Fifth Movement in the sense of valuing Brazilian miscegenation, of which we are all children. As a descendant of Portuguese, Arabs and Indians, I feel very proud of our miscegenation and I recognize its civilizing and humanist aspect, as very well analyzed by thinkers of such good will as José Bonifácio, Alberto Torres, Gilberto Freyre, Manoel Bomfim, Roger Bastide, Guerreiro Ramos, Darcy Ribeiro, Milton Santos and many, many others. If the black movement does not approve, so much the worse for it. Just as Brazilian neo-Nazis are not recognized by their Nordic-Germanic counterparts, neither would Brazilian “Afro-Nazis” be recognized by their African counterparts, who would see in them the dissonant marks of miscegenation that they denied.

It is also curious that Sacramento states with all the letters, loaded with sarcasm, that I “deny” the work of academics of the caliber of Octavio Ianni, Clóvis Moura, Petrônio Domingues, Viotti da Costa, Guerreiro Ramos, Robert Conrad, Abdias do Nascimento and Thomas Skidmore.

I do not have the time or space to analyze each one of them here, but I would like to register my surprise at Sacramento ignoring, for example, what Roger Bastide, in his already mentioned book “Brasil, Terra de Contrastes”, had stated, in tones of ultra lyricism, -freyreano that, during the Brazilian colonial period, “the patriarchs sowed, for almost all the Brazilian soil, mamelucos and mulattos; this acceptance of brunette or black Venuses opposes prophylactic puritanism, the rigid refusal of the Anglo-Saxon, always concerned to avoid contacts deemed dangerous, and anxious not to mix what God had separated. Brazilian colonization destroyed borders and brought together in fraternal relations, in sweet camaraderie, the most heterogeneous colors and the most disparate civilizations” (Bastide, 1978, p. 23 – emphasis added).

Guerreiro Ramos, in turn, in more prosaic tones, had commented, in the Declaration of Principles of the Teatro Experimental do Negro, the type of policy endorsed by Sacramento, warning about the “social dangers that could arise from the mistake of defining in racial terms the tensions resulting from metropolis-colony and capital-labor relations” (Ramos, 1960, p. 200) and defending that “It is desirable that the Brazilian Government support national groups and institutions that, due to their requirements of scientific, intellectual and moral suitability, can contribute to the preservation of the healthy traditions of racial democracy in Brazil” (p. 202 – emphasis mine).

Apparently, Roger Bastide and Guerreiro Ramos were, in the sacramentian taxonomy, integralists, proto-fascists, supremacists and denialists. In any case, you are very welcome to the constitutive theoretical body of the Fifth Movement. No wonder I included Guerreiro Ramos as one of the interpreters of Brazil in the series of articles of the same name published in Portal Bonifácio[iii], coordinated by Aldo Rebelo.

Despite the dishonesty and sophisms punctually presented by Sacramento up to the present moment, I thought I was, in general terms, walking with him on the firm ground of honest rationality, where divergences can be resolved and possible mistakes and slips corrected based on mutual exchange. of information and knowledge. I was negatively surprised to discover that my interlocutor is a supporter of irrationalism and misology, that is, of aversion to logic.

To support his flawed thesis that there would be, in the First Republic, an official policy of “disappearance of the black”, Sacramento compares the 1886 Census with the 1940 Census, stating that the black population of the city of São Paulo would have exceeded 3825 people to 63545, an increase of more than 1500% and, at the same time, that there would have been an official policy for the disappearance of blacks, a “final solution” (Sacramento’s term in his first article to refer to this same phenomenon).

It is the first and only time in history that a genocide occurs in which the victimized population increases by more than 1500%. Such nonsense shows the extent to which identitarianism blinds its ideologues to the greatest obviousness and alienates them from the real world, incapacitating them even for the most base materialism. If it is true that the white population, as a result of European influxes, increased even more, it does not follow from this that there was a desire to exterminate the blacks, as in fact it was not exterminated, quite the contrary.

Consequently, Sacramento itself confirms my assertion, already demonstrated earlier, that there was no decrease in the number of blacks in São Paulo. He himself completely refutes the thesis of the disappearance of blacks and the statement by Alfredo Elis Júnior, mentioned by him in his first article, that “the black population at the beginning of the XNUMXth century registered negative demographic growth”. There are no “quantitative data in absolute and proportional terms in light of cohorts and variables” that support such an absurd size. If memoirists tend to have little appreciation for quantitative data and variables – which is not my case – militants like Sacramento simply do not know what they are, no matter how much they say they follow them.

In this sense, it would be up to Sacramento to problematize and justify another data he showed, extracted from Petrônio Domingues, that “between 1918 and 1928, there was a negative vegetative growth of blacks in the city of São Paulo, that is, more people died than were born in reason that “ran from 1,93% to 4,8% per year”. With this annual negative rate over the decade, whose causes are never even considered, either there was an explosive growth of the black population previously, or some information does not match. Bearing in mind the official data, I think this last possibility is the most plausible. In any case, whoever presented the data, in this case sacrament, is the one who must justify it.

It is also important to note that, in the same period, the entry of Italian immigrants had significantly declined. Between 1916 and 1930, about 41 Italians entered Brazil (not just São Paulo), a reduction of more than 50% compared to the 86 between 1901 and 1915 (Fausto, 2015, p. 237).

It is also important to register the absurdity of arbitrarily classifying, without any logical foundation, pardos in the category of blacks. By this definition, the caboclo Borba Gato and the other Mamluk pioneers should be claimed as black heroes by Sacramento and the other identitaries. By the racialist criteria adopted by Sacramento, the flag of caboclo Domingos Jorge Velho against Palmares should be reinterpreted as a struggle of blacks against blacks. A true historiographic flat earthism that, in addition to being wrong, contradicts itself. Materialism sends its regards, from far away. And, before materialism, so did logic.

Likewise, there is no empirical basis for Sacramento to assert that there is a “scientific consensus” on the thesis that the immigration policy aimed at whitening – a non-materialist thesis, as it emphasizes the psychological-racial factor over the economic-material one. No doubt some actors of the period took this into account, but there is no evidence that it was the only or main reason or that there was a “scientific consensus”.

First, the scientific method is unaware of the authoritative claim of “consensus”, as it operates on the basis of permanent skepticism. Second, consensus assumes that all researchers in the field are in agreement. How was this information measured by Sacramento, who claims to be so loyal to quantitative data? I do not find the defense of this position, for example, in the classics Economic History of Brazil, by Caio Prado Júnior – author who also received an article from me for the series Interpreters of Brazil[iv] -, history of Brazil, by Boris Fausto, The Bourgeois Revolution in Brazil, by Florestan Fernandes, and From Monarchy to Republic, by Emília Viotti da Costa – these last two authors being present in the list of academics whose ignorance on my part Sacramento had assumed, without realizing that, in fact, the cap was his, not mine.

All these authors, none of them political sympathizers of the São Paulo coffee oligarchies of 1878, highlight the fact that the immigration policy met the growing demands of free labor by the modern capitalist agriculture that was being developed in São Paulo, accelerating the process of abolition of slavery by replacement of slave labor by free labor.

Naturally, under these conditions, European workers were preferred, more accustomed to the salaried work routine that was being established in Brazil, as well as imposing proposals on the part of the USA, such as the Brazilian-American Colonization Syndicate, to use Brazil as an escape valve from the racial tensions that were inherent in them, with unpredictable consequences for Brazil and for which Uncle Sam would never be responsible.

The objective of the immigration policy was therefore to supply the coffee plantation with cheap and skilled labor, within a liberal-oligarchic conception of cost reduction, exempting the government from the civilizing task of education and training of newly freed Brazilian blacks. .

As Emília Viotti states: “Slave work, compared to free work, became increasingly unproductive. […] Landowners in more prosperous areas began to see free labor as more advantageous than slave labor and were committed to promoting immigration” (Viotti da Costa, 2010, p. 329).

A little further on, she states: “Many of them (immigrants) were caught indoctrinating slaves, inciting them to insurrection, making speeches about the injustices of captivity. […] most of the foreigners established in the country were in favor of Abolition” (p. 333).

The Marxist Caio Prado Jr., in turn, directly correlates immigration with Abolition. In his words:

“Immigration progress in the last quarter of the century will be rapid. […] but if this progress of free labor was largely conditioned by the decay of the serf regime, conversely it will considerably accelerate the decomposition of the latter. […] the presence of the free worker, when it ceases to be an exception, becomes a strong element of dissolution of the slave system” (1990, p. 190-191).

Despite the Land Law proposing the employability of immigrants, it took place in very precarious conditions, not very different from slavery, with inexpressive land concessions for colonization purposes.

As Caio Prado stated in História Econômica do Brasil: “Taken together, “immigration” (in the restricted sense given to the word) will always far surpass “colonization”” (Prado Jr., 1993, p. 190). Attempts to grant land to immigrants, in his words, “could do nothing against the powerful interest of landlords in need of arms and who needed an immediate solution to the pressing labor problem they faced” (p. 189).

Florestan Fernandes, in turn, in chapter 3 of The Bourgeois Revolution in Brazil, agrees with the thesis of the German sociologist Werner Sombart, mentioned by name, that European immigration historically constitutes a factor in the development of capitalism in the sense that it favors the formation of a rational-instrumental, modern and dynamic capitalist mentality and practice, adjusted to the demands and expectations of a competitive market order based on monetary relations.

In the Brazilian case, according to Florestan, this would be confirmed, and the modern economic order would have been strengthened by European immigration, disintegrating and overcoming the manorial order. The immigrant not only “transplanted and benefited from at least some economic technology complexes in the country of origin” (Fernandes, 2005, p. 158), but would also have served “as an agent of disintegration of the lordly social order and of consolidation and expansion of the competitive social order” (ibid.: p. 64), as a “factor of precipitation and condensation of the transformations that served as the basis for the emergence of a purely capitalist monetary and market economy” (ibid.: p. 168). And that “despite his initial condition as a human equivalent of the slave” (idem.), where “The paths of capital accumulation accessible to the common immigrant were, naturally, the hardest and most painful”, because “they were not only relegated by the members of the manorial elites; they turned into renegades those who trod them” (ibid: p. 157)

Thus, according to Florestan, it was not the supposed government grants – which, if they existed, were more formal than effective – but the capitalist disposition of the immigrants – absent in the Brazilian black contingent, degraded by centuries of slavery and, therefore, incapable of automatically inserting itself in a modern order – which would have allowed a greater number of European immigrants to rise socially in relation to enslaved blacks and act as builders of a more modern Brazil. Even though the majority of immigrants and their descendants, still according to Florestan, have been “condemned, against their will, to permanent settlement or to proletarianization as a social destiny” (ibid: p. 159).

The poor quality of living conditions for immigrants was not only a problem at the beginning of the influx of immigrants, in the 1850s – when European immigrants were treated as brutally as blacks in the so-called “partnership system” – but remained in the decades since. subsequent years, including leading to a massive exodus of immigrants, reaching negative growth rates in the early XNUMXth century.

In the words of Boris Fausto:

“The poor reception conditions for new arrivals led the Italian government to take measures against the recruitment of immigrants. This happened provisionally between March 1889 and July 1891. In March 1902, a decision by the Italian authorities known as the Prinetti Decree – named after the Italian Minister of Foreign Affairs – prohibited subsidized immigration to Brazil. From then on, whoever wanted to emigrate to Brazil could continue to do so freely, but without obtaining tickets or other small facilities. The measure resulted from growing complaints from Italians residing in Brazil and their consuls about the precariousness of their living conditions, aggravated by the periodic coffee crises. It is possible that the improvement in the socioeconomic situation in Italy also contributed to it. […] Considering the entrances and exits of immigrants without distinction of nationality through the port of Santos, we find that, in several years, the number of those who left was greater than the number of entries in that port. For example, in the midst of the coffee crisis, in 1900, 21038 immigrants entered and 21917 left. Soon after the Prinetti Decree, in 1903, 16553 immigrants entered and 36410 left. The following year also registered a negative balance” (Fausto, 2015, p. 239-241).

Thus, the fallacy that European immigrants would have been privileged, beneficiaries of a thousand incentives, and that this constitutes a scientific consensus, falls to the ground. Hired to serve as cheap labor, these outsiders received little or no help, in practice, from the Brazilian government, controlled by São Paulo landowners, who always placed themselves in an asymmetrical and hierarchical position in relation to the immigrants, seeking to reproduce, with them, , exploitative relations typical of the slavery to which they were accustomed. To such an extent that many of these immigrants, as Fausto states, preferred to return to their homeland.

This explains, then, the presence of so many descendants of Italians in the popular strata of São Paulo, among them the grandparents of D. Mariza, cited to give practical examples to the debate, which Sacramento rejects, in a pathetic and spoiled way, as “pathetic”. The North American Karl Monsma – whose work I don't know and, therefore, will not be evaluated by me – at least has the excuse of not being Brazilian and not living in Brazil long enough to adequately know this reality, if he really doesn't know it. This is not the case for Leonardo Sacramento.

As seen, the European immigrant, despite all the difficulties he encountered, was a central factor in the development and population of Brazil, continuing, between the end of the XNUMXth century and the beginning of the XNUMXth century, the work of national edification initiated by the bandeirantes . It is not surprising, then, that the same gall that Sacramento dedicates to sertanistas is also reserved for later immigrants. Sacramento doesn't like Brazil or anything that helped create Brazil and the Brazilian people.

I agree with him regarding the unhappiness and absurdity of the abandonment of native blacks in the post-Abolition period, relegating them to a marginal position where politically constructed ineptitude for insertion in modern forms of production prevailed. However, this was not due to the immigration policy – ​​which, in many ways, favored his manumission -, but to the liberal negligence of the governments of the First Republic, which would only be reversed in the Vargas Era with the creation of the Brazilian Social State. But let us be careful: Liberal governments have been oligarchic but not genocidal. As Sacramento demonstrated, there was no extermination of the black population in Brazil. Local racist practices, such as the Ku Klux Klan groupings in São Paulo, were more exceptions – deplorable, criminal and diminutive – than the rule, and they were nowhere near as extensive as they were in the US, nor were they official.

By way of conclusion, I say that I respect Leonardo Sacramento's political position, which I disagree with, but which I consider legitimate. He has the absolute right to think about the Fifth Movement and the popular nationalism espoused in Aldo Rebelo's book.

However, never, at any time, did Brazilian workers find the means of obtaining citizenship outside the institutional framework of the Nation, the State and, more particularly, a national State imbued with a national project supported by the Armed Forces. Social, political and civil rights were all conquered through the mediation of the nation-state and supported by the Armed Forces, whether during Independence, the Proclamation of the Republic, the Vargas Era, the military regime and the redemocratizations of 1946 and 1988. The history of Brazil, and that of many other countries, does not demonstrate the opposition between the working classes and the State/Armed Forces, on the contrary.

Unfounded, in my view, is the abstract defense of the working class without considering its concrete existence in a Nation, in a territory and in a historically defined ethno-cultural configuration. In Brazil, workers are not only black, as Sacramento wishes, but also white, brown, indigenous, yellow, of all colors and traits, shaped in a territory that was, as much as its ethno-cultural profile, in large part, built by the action of the bandeirantes.

Despite attempts, Sacramento has not been able to dispute this objective truth. It is for her, and not for Júlio de Mesquita Filho's versions, as ideological as his, that we celebrate Borba Gato, builder of Brazilianness, of Brazilian Brazil. By repudiating Brazil as it is, Sacramento seeks to deconstruct everything that formed us, from bandeirantes to immigrants, from Pedro Álvares Cabral to Getúlio Vargas.

Thus, he unknowingly supports the removal of national obstacles to the absolute spoliation of the Brazilian people by foreign capital, not coincidentally, always eager to promote and reward anti-national identity through his foundations and NGOs – such as the Ford Foundation, founded by a Nazi sympathizer, and USAID, the US state arm.

Like all identity, Sacramento abhors the National Question because it is a unifying pole of particularities that prevents the absolutization of each one. At all times, Sacramento triggers particularities taken in the abstract and in a disconnected way – the working class, the oppressed black, the (supposedly) raped Indian woman, etc. – to use them as a sledgehammer against the Nation.

He forgets, however, that these particularities, needing a national totality where they can subsist, if they stand against him, are setting themselves against themselves. As Hegel put it in The Philosophy of Right: “Particularity by itself, given free course, in every direction, to satisfy its needs, random whims and subjective desires, destroys itself and destroys its substantive concept in the very process in which it is contemplated. ”[v] (Hegel, 1952, p. 64 – free translation)

In this sense, Sacramento is aligned with racist separatisms such as O Sul é o Meu País, which also mobilize particular identities, including racial ones, to deny the universality and generality of Brazil.

In the real, material and objective world, however, the real bearers of these particularities, whether the “African blacks” of Sacramento or the “Germanic whites” of O Sul é o Meu País, seek not the generalized conflagration of revenge and resentment, but the national communion for the common good, opposed by the anti-popular and anti-national identity activism of Sacramento and the southern separatists.

Since Vargas, every president elected in Brazil has represented, honestly or covertly, this ideology, because without it, it is impossible to create hope in a people who, despite the diversities and inequalities, identify themselves as Brazilians and know that, outside the Nation , there is no salvation. This nation would not exist without the pioneering and creative action of pioneers and immigrants, whose children we are: me, you, Marielle and all of the more than 210 million Brazilians.

Without the great, sovereign and mixed-race Brazil, without the Brazil of the bandeirantes, the immigrants, the whites, the blacks and the Amerindians, the caboclos, the cafuzos, the sararás, the whitest and most brown ones, the boys, the poets and of heroes, of all kinds of Brazilians – as the Fifth Movement rightly defends –, neither Marielle nor any other Brazilian will be present. Because it is only present somewhere, and without Brazil, what place is left for each of us?

Long live Borba Gato!! Long live the Bandeirantes!! Long live me, long live you, long live the armadillo's tail!! Long live Brazil!!

*Felipe Maruf Quintas is a doctoral candidate in political science at the Fluminense Federal University (UFF).


BASTIDE, Roger. Brazil, Land of Contrasts. 8th ed. Rio de Janeiro: Difel, 1978.

COSTA, Emilia Viotti da. From Monarchy to Republic. 9th ed. São Paulo: Editora Unesp, 2010.

FAUSTO, Boris. history of Brazil. São Paulo: Publisher of the University of São Paulo, 2015.

FERNANDES, Florestan. The Bourgeois Revolution in Brazil. 5th ed. Sao Paulo: Globo, 2005.

HEGEL. philosophy of right. Great Books of Western World. London: Britannica, 1952.

PRADO JR. Gaius. Economic History of Brazil. São Paulo: Brasiliense, 1993.

RAMOS, Warrior. Critical Introduction to Brazilian Sociology. Rio de Janeiro: Andes, 1960.

RISÉRIO, Antonio. On postmodern relativism and the fascist fantasy of left identity. Rio de Janeiro: Topbooks, 2019.


[I] https://eugenicsarchive.ca/discover/tree/54ece589642e09bce5000001

[ii] https://www.fgv.br/cpdoc/acervo/dicionarios/verbete-tematico/lei-dos-2-3

[iii] https://bonifacio.net.br/interpretes-do-brasil-iseb/

[iv] https://bonifacio.net.br/interpretes-do-brasil-caio-prado-jr/

[v] Translated from English: “Particularity by itself, given free reign in every direction to satisfy its needs, accidental caprices, and subjective desires, destroys itself and its substantive concept in this process of gratification.”

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