Raúl Zibechi; The lefts, ethics and racism


 By: Raúl Zibechi

Photo of Mural on West Oakland Wall.

Photo of Mural on West Oakland Wall.

“The police have to decide at every moment (…) to have the cool and calm necessary for making the right decision. It’s like the striker in front of the goal that attempts to decide, in seconds, how he is going to shoot at the goalkeeper. After the game ends, if it was a big goal, all the fans are going to applaud him” (Carta Capital, 2/9/15). Those were the public statements of the governor of the state of Bahía, Rui Costa, faced with the murder of 15 black youths in Salvador, the state’s capital.

On February 6, the Special Rounds (Rondesp), a corps of the Military Police, killed 12 youths in the Cabula barrio. They alleged that it was about an exchange of shots with delinquents, but witnesses asserted that they were executed, and videos that circulate in the Internet reinforce that version. On Saturday, February 7, the Rounds killed two other youths and in the wee hours of Sunday the 8th an exchange of shots in the Sussuarana barrio produced another death.

Amnesty International has been receiving complaints about abusive actions of the Rounds, with the use of excessive force, with enforced disappearances and summary executions. The official version of the Secretariat of Public Security of the state of Bahía is always the same: the youths were involved with drugs or others crimes, they shot at the police, who reacted in legitimate defense. The figure of “resistance followed by death” is the legal justification for the summary executions in the favelas and in any place where the police attack black youths.

According to the Pastoral of the Youth of Salvador, which is a member of the National Campaign Against the Violence and Extermination of Youths, deaths due to the special squadrons of Military Police are in the enormous majority black youths, poor and residents of the periphery. The Pastoral was able to verify that of 13 deaths 10 had no record and one had participated in a fight at Carnival. “This was the best case, but in several other barrios there were persecutions and executions of alleged traffickers,” a member of the Pastoral assures (Adital, 2/11/15).

The 2014 Map of violence, elaborated by the state, establishes that in 2012 more than 56,000 people were murdered, and that the majority of the victims are young black men hombres between 15 and 29 years old. Violent crimes increased 7 percent between 2011 and 2012 and 13 percent ever since the Workers Party assumed the government in 2003. A half a million people were murdered in one decade. The report reveals that the number of whites murdered diminished 25 percent between 2002 and 2012, but black victims increased 37 percent in the same period.

Hamilton Borges, one of the articulators of the React or you’ll be dead campaign, and a member of the Quilombo Xis-Action Cultural Community, maintains that the northwest “lives an unprecedented drama of black genocide” (Justicia Global, 2/5/15). The campaign has functioned since 10 years ago in Bahía, considered the second state of Brazil in the concentration of murders of youths in the 12 to 18 year range.

The Military Police have harassed and pursued Borges on various occasions; they entered his home by force at night, without a judicial order and without any concrete accusation, just to intimidate him. This enormous militant of the black cause articulates outside of political parties and institutions. “We don’t negotiate our lives for public positions, we are not frivolous because we know that we cannot perceive being in struggle if we collaborate with the enemy like many do,” he wrote a little before the latest crimes.

With the same energy that he denounces the police, he confronts those that he calls: “institutionalized blacks,” those that use the cause for getting positions and personal benefits.

Something similar happens in the state of Maranhao, where the human rights organization Justicia Global denounces that the new governor, Flavio Dino, signed a resolution that in fact is a “license to kill” for members of the repressive corps, since it guaranties the state defense of the agents involved in cases of summary executions.

One can say, not without reason, that a good part of the denunciations and mentioned events are not new in Brazil. Nevertheless, there is a difference. Governor Costa, who compares the murders of black youth with soccer goals, is a member of the Workers Party. Governor Dino, who sponsors and hides the genocide of blacks, belongs to the Communist Party of Brazil.

There is not only something new here, but also a true leap in quality. It’s not that the PT governor and the communist look away while the police murder under their orders. They are the ones that clutch the weapons that protect the killers and, like the governor of Bahía, scoff at the victims. The (political) parties, not the membership or the leadership, have not admonished anyone. How does one understand and name what is happening?

It is evident that we are facing an ethical bankruptcy of the electoral lefts. But no one stands to suddenly lose the ethical goal. It is a long process of deterioration, of concessions; small at first, enormous at the end of the road. In the most profound, if we undo “the flounces of the rhyme, the meter, the cadence and even the very idea,” as León Felipe write; in other words, if we toss out words and programs, discourses and gestures for the crowds, the only difference between left and right is, must be, ethics.

When Hamilton Borges says: “we are not lightweights, we don’t negotiate positions for lives,” he is pointing to the ethical recuperation of the commitment with those most below, in this case poor blacks in the favelas (ghettos). It is the only way that we know for overcoming the crisis of the lefts: leaving the positions and benefits, big and small, for accompanying, like one more, the struggles of the peoples.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Translation: Chiapas Support Committee

Friday, February 20, 2015



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