Note from BW of Brazil: As the ongoing procedures pushing for the impeachment of Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff continue, many questions have arisen as to how the Afro-Brazilian population should position itself in regards to the political crisis. As we’ve seen in past posts from last year as well as this year showing the huge protests calling for Rousseff’s removal, those in support of ousting the president have strong support among mostly white, middle/upper class conservative voters. Photos from those protests showed a vast invisibility of Afro-Brazilians in support of a change in government and later pro-Dilma protests showed why: Afro-Brazilians as a whole, a group that has made great strides under 14 years of PT (Workers’ Party) government (8 under former President Lula and 6 under current President Dilma), are standing in solidarity with the president against what they and others see as a coup d’etat attempt. Needless, it’s intriguing to see how the whole thing is unfolding. Although it would be understandable that Afro-Brazilians would support the PT and its policies, there are others who point out that the PT has done nothing but use Afro-Brazilian support as a sort of “political football” and how Afro-Brazilian support of any political party doesn’t necessarily help its own agenda without an independent movement that functions regardless of what major party is in power. Below, in the first article, we see photos taken from a February event in which entities of the Movimento Negro (black social movement) came out in support of embattled former President Lula, a key figure who has been equally persecuted and accused of corruption as the current president. The second piece takes a critical analysis of what’s at stake for black Brazilians as the political crisis continues.
On Tuesday, February 23rd, representatives of the Movimento Negro (Black Movement) met with former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva in São Paulo. The meeting was an offshoot of a meeting held in September of 2015. In addition to members of the organized Movimento Negro, quilombolas, academics, farmers, politicians and representatives of the trade union, social, student and culture movements participated.
This time the agenda was the presentation of three documents that had as a proposal to unify the various demands of the Movimento Negro. Lula received the proposal from the 4th World Festival of Black Arts in Brazil-Diaspora, to be held in 2017; the document “Convergências da Luta de Combate ao Racismo no Brasil” (Convergences of the Fight Against Racism in Brazil), elaborated by leaders of the Movimento Negro during the Thematic Social Forum in Porto Alegre, in 2016; and the “Letter from Black Women 2015”. Moreover, they expressed solidarity with Lula in the face of attacks from the press and the authorities.
According to Flávio Jorge, director of Coordenação Nacional de Entidades Negras (Conen or National Coordination of Black Entities) “an attack on a political project that worked out” is happening. The moment, he said, “is of support and devotion to Lula.” Edson França, president of the Nacional da União de Negros pela Igualdade (National Union National of Blacks for Equality), it is “an attack on a political legacy that has removed the country from subservience.”
Nuno Coelho, a member of the Conselho Nacional de Políticas de Igualdade Racial (National Council of Policies of Racial Equality), stressed that the former president “incorporated and executed” the demands of the Movimento Negro.
“Brazil is a conservative country and conservatism doesn’t want us to keep moving forward,” said Djamila Ribeiro, philosopher and columnist of Carta Capital. Ribeiro defined the attacks as “illegitimate” and said “we cannot remain silent at a time like this.” Nilma Lino Gomes, the minister of Women, Racial Equality and Human Rights, noted that “many of the struggles of the Movimento Negro became public policy” during the Lula and Dilma Rousseff governments.
“The fact of being a tough time does not mean we have to lose hope,” warned the minister.
Former President Lula thanked them for the demonstrations of solidarity, but asked that those present not worry: “I’m very experienced.”
What do blacks have to do with the impeachment?
This Sunday will be one of the most significant days of the consolidated Brazilian political regime during the agreed upon transition with the military dictatorship. The Câmara (House) will vote on whether to accept impeachment. In a process that doesn’t hide from anyone its ideological and political content, a caste of corrupt politicians will decide the future of the president. They want to make us believe that the situation can only be understood between those “anti” and “pro” PT (Workers’ Party) government. The Esquerda Diário has devoted its space to denounce this operation and to defend the need for an independent outlet of the working class and the poor and oppressed people. Among the sectors of the left who don’t see the possibility of being contrary to the impeachment and the PT government at the same time, a question is fitting: what does your position say in relation to the drama of the black population?
By Marcelo (Pablito) Santos and Daniel Alfonso
The political and economic crisis is being felt with all its force within the black population. The cuts in education, health, wages, the rising cost of living and unemployment, are felt most strongly among the black population. After all, capitalism is a racist social system by nature. However, racism also manifests concretely. The violence against black and population, along with the salary differentiation between whites and blacks, can be considered two of the pillars of racism in capitalism.
The accommodated middle class that gives political and ideological support to the impeachment understands that “every people has the government it deserves”; if the PT is in power by responsibility of the poor, the blame of the economic and political situation is … of the poorest. And who are the poorest in Brazil? Blacks. The impeachment, having as its flagship the Operação Lava-Jato (Operation Car Wash) and its numerous constitutional abuses has been the (acute) way by which the Brazilian bourgeoisie – essentially the sectors not benefitting from the years of Lulismo (Lulism) – has located itself in a political climate of attacks in the whole of Latin America.
Brazilian police is one of the most murderous in the world and about 40% of prisoners in Brazil weren’t even tried. The methods of Operação Lava-Jato are essentially the same as guaranteeing “paz da bala” (peace by the bullet) in the cities and defending the large landowners; the difference is one of degree. For advocates of “General Elections”, there is no difference between the fall of Dilma by an institutional coup or the independent action of the masses. In a country as anti-democratic and conservative such as Brazil, such a position completely disarms the working class and the poor people and ends up being functional to the right. It would be tragicomical if the only consequence was the utilization by FIESP (Federação das Indústrias do Estado de São Paulo or Federation of the Industries of São Paulo) of the agitation material of the PSTU.
The problem with regard to the situation of black women and black men in this country, is that the left that should be an undisputed defender of the oppressed, despite its will, ended up strengthening sectors of Brazilian society who want blacks in “their place.”
The left and the Black Question facing the political crisis
The left of the “General Election” (and of the embarrassing pro-impeachment) have forgotten that the way in which it seeks a goal (the fall of Dilma) affects the goal itself in many ways. The fall of Dilma by impeachment does not mean only the fall of Dilma. It means strengthening a racist, sexist right, that will spare no effort to attack even more workers.
Neither does the defeat of the impeachment, by the wiles of the government mean, only, the permanence of Dilma. The PT federal government has auctioned positions and used all kinds of intricacies of traditional bourgeois politics to stay in power. At the same time that it was allied with the right, it comes to be, demagogically, the spokesman of the oppressed sectors – which are a key part of its base. For this, the PT sought, at the time, to implement measures such as the Statute of Racial Equality, the Quota Law, among others, seeking to represent historical demands of blacks. Through this combination, it served as a containment tool of social sectors that deposited (and those that still deposit) in the PT this expectation. Despite these measures, if the PT governed for the bourgeoisie for more than 13 years, today it does not hesitate to raffle the rights of the working class to remain in power.
In reading time “8 or 80” it’s to guard against. When we say that the left that calls for “General Elections” strengthens the position of the racist right to not question (and even embellish) the methods of bourgeois justice, it means that the trade union and political weight of these organizations is not being mobilized to stop the advance of the right. And what is the first and preferred target of the right? Blacks and women in the first place. When the impeachment gains strength, not only does it strengthen the forces marching against Rousseff and the PT; because these forces that currently placed themselves for the impeachment are forces that seek to attack the frontal and directly the workers and their achievements. It is the right of (speaker of the lower house) (Eduardo) Cunha, who affirmed this week to anyone who would listen that he will only push for outsourcing starting in the next week; of the fighters for the reduction of the age of criminal responsibility captained by Marcos Feliciano and Jair Bolsonaro; which has in its ranks subjects of the strain of Fleury, who commanded the Carandiru massacre in 1992; it’s the right of Paul Telhada, former commander of Rota (1); is the anti-quotas in universities right. And of course, FIESP, that defends with force the PL 4330 for supposedly “creating jobs.”
In other words, the position of the PSTU and MES has not passed the test of the deepest political crisis since the end of the dictatorship, which reveals the disastrous consequences of its policy on the black sectors of the population. It is in the consequences related to the black question that open wide the limitations and errors of MES and PSTU policy, precisely because it’s there that are found the “core nodes” of the possibility of developing a revolutionary policy.
Being against the advance of this right means being in favor of PT? How do you defend a government that today sends troops to Haiti, who during its years at the helm of the country didn’t move a finger to fight the police maasacres? A government that sustained its growth in base to the enormous increase in precarious work – mostly black and women – trying to sell the image of a new “middle class”?
It’s urgent and necessary to fight for an independent workers’ outlet, in which the protagonists are black, with methods of class independence. The trade unions of the left must be an example and adopt a plan of struggle to stop the impeachment, the advance of the racist right and the attacks on the PT. A plan of consequent struggles will give voice to the demands of the black population and show how a class position of independence is the only way to fight against racial oppression. Besides the benefit of avoiding the FIESP from waving the flag on this policy, this means of combating the effects of the economic crisis and responding to the political crisis has in its germ a substantive response to the problems faced by the black population.
The ability of Marxism to merge with mass sectors, in Brazil, is inextricably linked to the way in which organizations and Marxist political parties face the various dimensions of the black question. For those who want to take heaven by storm, it’s necessary to bet everything on that relationship.
- Rondas Ostensivas Tobias de Aguiar, better known by the acronym ROTA, is a policing unit of the 1st Police Shock Battalion