Brazil is a Black majority country. More African people were kidnapped and sold into slavery, which was not abolished until 1888, than any other country in the world — almost five million. Since its conquest by the Portuguese, racism has structured Brazilian society and remains a powerful political and structural force today. Gabriel Santos, a socialist activist based in Maceió, Brazil argues that the Minneapolis rebellion after the murder of George Floyd by police holds important lessons for Brazil’s socialist movement. This article appears in full in Esquerda Online, abridged and translated by No Borders News.
Here in Brazil we must learn some lessons from Minneapolis. In our country, there is a rupture between the institutional left as a whole and the black movement. It is not the objective of this text to deal with the innumerable reasons this has happened and why it is still happening. We cannot deal with this issue in a shallow way. Despite this, the last few years have demonstrated that it is necessary to change the way we organize, we must rethink our approach.
This does not mean abandoning all the political work that the socialist left has struggled to achieve. However, we need to review concepts, organizational forms, and areas of work. Pressure is growing from within the movements themselves, especially among the youth, to focus more on what is not often taken up, that is, life in the peripheries of the big cities and poorest neighborhoods.
I believe this is happening due to a change the changing composition of many movements. There is an ongoing racialization in the Brazilian socialist left. The first reason for this is the entry of the popular classes into universities across the country after access was increased during the Workers Party administrations between 2003 and 2016. Second, there is a growing gap between the Workers Party and its popular bases, a gap intensified by the Workers Party’s policies in terms of Public Security and policing. This has caused many young people on the left, who want to organize themselves into parties and movements, to seek organizations other than the Workers Party, still the largest party in Brazil. Other factors may be suggested as well, and this is an important and open discussion. But whatever the precise causes, many collectives and parties have seen their ranks swelled by a number of young black activists and people from the urban peripheries. And once these new activists start dealing with specific internal party guidelines, they begin to demand structures that fits their needs.
The future of the socialist left in Brazil depends on understanding that the question of race must be central. The treatment of racism as a structural component of Brazilian society cannot only be dealt with theoretically, it must be put into practice. The left urgently needs to take root in the popular strata of the population and to pay more attention to its geographic organization. How to do this is not a simple question. It is not a matter of fighting for the space taken up by the Evangelical churches. Doing so will only spell our defeat. The socialist left talks about Marx and class struggle, the churches talk about God and Heaven. If we approach it from this point of view, it’s not a fair fight. However, I believe that solidarity actions taking place across the country during the pandemic, combined with formulations that flow from Social Reproduction Theory, can help us to think about solutions to these dilemmas.
Finally, my favorite slogan of the black rebellion taking place in the United States is “Make the racists afraid.” It speaks for itself. The whole Brazilian left should pay close attention to what happens in Minneapolis. Our lives matter, those of the white supremacists do not.
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