As of June 10, Brazil is reporting 739,503 confirmed coronavirus infections and 38,406 Covid-19 deaths, but the real figures are likely significantly higher. Meanwhile, far-right President Jair Bolsonaro is trying to compensate for declining popular support by rallying his neofascist base and toying with the idea of a “self-coup” in which he would rule under a state of emergency with military backing. As the New York Times reports today, “The crisis has grown so intense that some of the most powerful military figures in Brazil are warning of instability — sending shudders that they could take over and dismantle Latin America’s largest democracy. But far from denouncing the idea, President Jair Bolsonaro’s inner circle seems to be clamoring for the military to step into the fray. In fact, one of the president’s sons, a congressman who has praised the country’s former military dictatorship, said a similar institutional break was inevitable.”
Brazil’s powerful left-wing parties, trade unions, and social movements are raising the alarm, demanding Bolsonaro’s impeachment, and, despite the extreme danger caused by the pandemic, are venturing into the streets. They are, in part, inspired by the anti-racist uprising in the United States. Brazil is a majority Black country that only abolished slavery in 1888 and to this day relies on the systematic oppression of Afro Brazilians. Martina Gomes writes from São Paulo to explain the links between the Black Lives Matter movement internationally and antifascism in Brazil. Originally published in Esquerda Online, translated by No Borders News.
A wave of mobilizations has erupted amid the chaos produced by our governments’ inability to stop Covid-19. Internationally, the highest risk groups in all countries are racial minorities, women, and LGBTI+ people. These “high-risk groups” are reproduced every day by a system of social exclusion that is based on racist and misogynistic logic.
The spread of the virus globally has unmasked social inequalities in all their shades, especially the one that determines who can, and who cannot, breathe after the contagion passes, that is, Black skin!
The more fascist the ideas of our rulers, the less we Black men and women can breathe, and by breathe, I mean survive. The radically racist nature of the political project in progress in countries like Brazil and the United States has provoked the biggest international wave of anti-racist struggle we have seen for years.
Exploding the dangers: the racist structure’s weight and the privileges of whiteness
The fight for justice for George Floyd has become a worldwide symbol of resistance for the right to live in the midst of the pandemic. It has forced Trump to step back from the indiscriminate use of national security forces and isolated him from other state institutions. There have been 14 days of uninterrupted protests with millions taking to the streets across the U.S., challenging the curfew and the virus itself.
If the racist murder of George Floyd was the trigger for the struggle for survival around the world, then there can be no doubt that only by tackling racism can we guarantee a dignified life for all, Black and white.
[Read next, Valerio Arcary: A victory in the streets of Brazil.]
We must follow this realization to its ultimate consequences. This is not just a fight over the microphone, or taking a photo from the best angle. It is the struggle for the conscience of those who are willing to courageously face down these governments. Therefore, Black protagonism, Black leadership in the demonstrations must be understood by organizations as a strategic necessity if we are to expand our mobilizations.
It is important to remember that one of the consequences of saying that racism is something structural, especially in the Blackest country outside Africa, is to know that whiteness is structured into all aspects of social life. And, unfortunately, the political struggle, even that carried out by left-wing organizations, is not free from the pressure of these structures. There are no vaccines that can immunize us against this reality, but the most effective way to counter it is through the construction of a radically anti-capitalist, anti-racist, and socialist program and practice.
Thus, in the face of all the existing contradictions, we must not obscure racial demands. After all, in Brazil it is not a given that an antifascist movement – in a country built on the myth of racial democracy – will automatically include the anti-racist struggle in its program. In this sense, we must not hesitate, we must prioritize and center banners that raise the fight against racial oppression in this historic moment. No lives will matter as long as Black lives are worth less.
Contrary to what the logic of racism tries to instill in workers at all times, by building the struggle for Black lives to its greatest potential, we are fighting for all of us. Crisis-ridden capitalism, which is once again trying to reinvent itself, only promises to be even more violent, to reinforce the racial dynamics of overexploitation and genocide against Black populations over the world. Despite what some may think, this is not a problem exclusively for Blacks. Yes, the police and military shoot down Black men and women by the thousands every month in Brazil, they do this to force the rest of the population to submit to the worst precarious jobs. The deaths of Black people is also a threat against white people.
Black Lives Matter must guide the struggle for our lives and our democracy in Brazil. Is this idea powerful? Is it subversive? Yes! In a country constructed around the myth of racial democracy – a false harmony between the enslaved and the masters – to see the unification of Blacks and whites in defense of Black lives is a declaration that we no longer believe this lie. Recognizing this truth is essential!
Inspired by actions initiated in the U.S., demonstrators in Bristol, England on June 6 toppled a statue of Edward Colston, responsible for the trafficking of Africans who were enslaved and taken to the Americas. This fact is emblematic of the potential of Black mobilization. These are multiracial protesters, moving towards the overthrow of the material bases of capitalism in every part of the world. And there are many more statues to be knocked down in this racist society!
Therefore, if there is no contradiction between the anti-fascist struggle and the anti-racist struggle, then knowing that the elimination of racism must be one of the fundamental pillars of anti-capitalism means this debate cannot be carried out semantically. On the contrary, we must insist that the anti-fascist struggle be uncompromisingly anti-racist in Brazil, the country that kills more Black people than any other!
As the Black movement in Brazil says, “Us for Us,” now more than ever!
[For international news and analysis from working-class and socialist points of view, read No Borders News.]