Fighting to Survive: Black & Indigenous Liberation Struggles 08/10/2019

Good evening, my name is Gabriel Silva, I live in São Paulo, I’m currently militant from Quilombo Invisível and work at Banco do Brasil, the mainly national public bank.

I’m going to tell you very very briefly about the formation of Brasil from the perspective of black and indigenous peoples and about the current struggles.

The black and indigenous resistance started with the 15 century colonization. In the first period with the enslavement of indigenous, who suffered an intense genocidal process. It is estimated that there was a population of 2,5 millions of indigenous in the territory that today integrates Brasil. This population was reduced in 90% just in the first century of colonization. It’s estimated that 240 indigenous peoples have survived – approximately 900 thousand people.

In the next period, the trade of enslaved African people was introduced, making them, for more than 3 centuries, the main labor force to build the brazilian economy, which constantly kept being predatory, colonial and marked by monoculture and extractivism. Even the name Brasil is the name of the native tree that was extracted and imported to produce red dye.

This period was marked by big uprisings by the slaves like the Males revolt and the farroupilhas war among others. Enslaved people were the main actors in all the main revolts against the colonial order. The main organizative form of resistance dks. It existed between 1590 and 1694 – 100 years – and reached a markrk oNf eveloped by blacks during this period were the quilombos. that united runaway black slaves, indigenous, and even poor whites.

The greatest and most famous quilombo was known as quilombo dos palmares – Angola Janga, “little angola”, as it was called the blacks. It existed between 1590 and 1694 – 100 years – and reached a markrk oNf 30.00NN0 residents. They were the main experience of self government made in opposition to the colonial regime in the Brazilian history. NNowadays, there are between 3500 and 5000 communities remaining from quilombos, that still fight for their lands and minimal life conditions.

In 1888, slavery in Brasil was officially abolished, but this didn’t come with any reparation or assistance to the blacks, like there was in the USA. On the opposite, the genocide and invisibilization of black people continued without interruptions.

In the beginning of the 20th century, the industrialization process begun in Brasil. The Brazilian government adopted eugenic politics that attributed all the backwardness of the country to the black and indigenous people and started a whitening policy, encouraging the european migratory process to form the free labor force in Brasil.

This whitening policy excluded black and indigenous people from the main formal jobs. Nowadays, the most common profession among black women is housework and among black men is street vendor. Afro-indigenous people are the majority in unemployment, informal jobs, illiteracy, violent death and incarceration statistics.

Now I’ll talk a bit about the current situation of the struggles in Brasil. 

In June 2013, the Movimento Passe Livre called for big demonstrations against the increase in the public transport fare in São Paulo. The movement is an autonomous organization composed of young people for free fare in public transports – part of the landscape of new social movements in Brasil. The repression against them started the greatest street mobilizations in Brazilian history, with millions of people demonstrating in the main capitals of the country. 

The workers party class conciliation policy saw its end in 2013, they were in power since 2003. Together with the demonstrations, it was the year with the biggest number of strikes since the 80s, bringing a strong return of the conflicts between capital and work at different spheres of the society.

At the same time that 2013 is the beginning of a new cycle of struggles, it’s also the deepening of a rupture process among the left, divided between a big bureaucracy that thinks the only solution in winning the elections and the masses that are everyday more disappointed with the institutions with small groups organized with a perspective of struggle that goes beyond the elections.

The right, which has never been a minority in Brazil, also came back to the centrality of power, trying to dispute the street movements. In 2016, they captained, with the support of corporate media, the mass mobilizations that led to the impeachment of President Dilma Rousseff. Those new right-wing movements were the same ones that helped elect neo-Nazi President Jair Bolsonaro.

Therefore, there is today in Brazil a rise of both the far right and the far left, in a process that a new turn of the class struggle. There is a widespread attack on social and labor rights, an increase in repression and political assassination. Constitutivas 88 é Marielle Franco. On the other hand, there is the creation of new collectives and struggles are exploding beyond the control of the old bureaucracies. For example, the okupa movements for housing, struggles for public transport, general strikes from 2017 onwards, some savage strikes and new trade union organizations, and a new student and education movement, marked by waves of school okupas in 2015 and 2016.

In Brazil, in the poor communities, mostly of Afro-Indigenous origin, such as Grajaú, the neighborhood of the extreme south of São Paulo where I was raised and lived most of my life, this scenario has been sadly presented with the rise of misery, unemployment and police violence – they’re is constant fear of arbitrary arrest or murder by the police, hunger once again haunts families and meat disappears from the dishes.

On the other hand there is a huge advance of black collectives. literature and the struggle of education in the peripheries. For example, events where writers from poor communities do public readings, that are producing a whole new generation of writers and intellectuals – of which I am a part myself – and creating a unique scene of readings, study groups, publications, literary fairs, etc. In addition, there are popular schools organized by left collectives fighting for university access. 

The black movement in this context remains far from the priorities of the majority left, but it has also been strengthened by actions and debates against racist police violence. For example, in the network against the genocide of which I am a member. In recent months we have organized acts of freedom for Ytalo and Arlailson, two young black soccer players unjustly imprisoned in the Jd São Remo favela and released after 3 months of intense mobilization. Or the act against the whipping torture done against a young black man in a supermarket in Vila Joaniza for allegedly stealing a chocolate. Acts against the death of Agatha, an 8-year-old black child who was shot in the head by a police officer in Rio de Janeiro, were also recently performed throughout Brazil.

These acts are always performed with many meetings and debates in the communities, aiming to create organization and self-defense, because we understand that our work is still too insufficient to face racist violence in Brazil. The cases we cite are much more common in Brazil than you might think, not isolated cases – this is even one of the slogans common to the movement.

Quilombo Invísivel, which is the organization that I am part of, has sought to act in the articulation of workers’ union struggles, with the social movements of housing, transportation and education, along with black and indigenous struggles. Within an anti-capitalist and internationalist perspective. We are a new collective with militants who belonged to various organizations and shared common dissatisfaction with the black and feminist struggles on the left.

We think there is no possible victory in a colonial-shaped country like Brazil without going through the international struggle. The ruling class that profits from our misery is global, our struggle for resistance must also be global if we want to be able to resist.

Recently, on September 27, the front against inprisionment of São Paulo, which we also compose, went to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Washignton, USA, to expose the massacres in prisons that resulted in more than 110 deaths under the responsibility of the state and the Closure of the jail to civil society, which has been one of the most serious attacks on the fight against torture in Brazil.

In this effort for international strengthening, we are very happy be part of such events. We need to establish strong ties between the fighters from different countries, to create real links and dialogues and to expose and stop the global capitalist power and move forward in building a new world.

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