Intersections among race, gender and class in Bolsonaro’s Brazil

Natália de Oliveira

Summary: On Bolsonaro’s first months as new president, emerged as a response to IMHO’s May Day statement of 2019, here  – editors.

As a Black and Latin American woman in academia, I was forced to understand that a lucid political consciousness requires theoretical formulations grounded in the reality that surrounds us. Our reality is capitalist, racist, and sexist. These theoretical formulations cannot therefore fail to look at this unity, this social totality in which there are complex relations among this capitalist mode of production, race and gender.

In Brazil, we go through a May Day that shows this reality. Under the Bolsonaro government, Brazil goes through moments of confrontation, as seen in the dismantling of the public university system, in policies that threaten labor rights as proposed by the “green and yellow portfolio” (a campaign promise not yet implemented) that would weaken labor legislation as a way of solving the problem of unemployment, and in policies that threaten social security as in the current pension reform proposal. The environment also suffers due to the release of new pesticides, some of them classified as extremely toxic. The rights of indigenous and quilombola communities [descended from escaped enslaved people-eds.] are also at stake because the Ministry of Agriculture (the Brazilian agricultural sector) has the task of demarcating lands as quilombolas and indigenous, and granting licenses for enterprises (such as railroads, hydroelectric projects, highways). These licenses can facilitate the destruction of these traditional peoples who can lose their constitutional protections due to the “need for economic development in the country.” These are the policies that have been implemented in a little more than a hundred days of Bolsonaro’s government. These policies have resulted in the massacre of part of the population, especially the one that is at the bottom of the social pyramid: Black working women. These are the policies that enable capital accumulation on the part of agribusiness and other business sectors.

We can observe that the various forms of oppression go together here, as it is impossible to isolate them in concrete reality. Understanding this reality is essential for overcoming this society. The May Day Statement published by the IMHO points to forms of reaction and resistance around the world. It is no different in Brazil. We also experienced a May Day marked by mobilizations that are articulated throughout this month, especially by public university students and teachers that stopped their activities on May 15 as a way to resist the policy of cutting resources in these universities. In the words of the IMHO statement, this is not only a reality in which “…autocrats around the world…appeal to racism, sexism, and xenophobia,” but also one where a “more dangerous phase of state capitalism, with fascist overtones,” emerges.

Capitalism, race, and gender interconnect with one other. When one grasps that complex relation, it is possible to comprehend a little more about the present situation. Then it is also possible to comprehend the fact that labor movements and race-and-gender-based movements, which are flowering around the world, are all together. And that they are resisting the same reality in all their complexity.


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