Black Struggle and Revolution, from Brazil to the U.S.

Letícia Parks

October 1, 2023

Letícia Parks from Brazil explains the crucial role of Black struggle in working-class revolution.

Letícia Parks of the Movimento Revolucionário de Trabalhadores (MRT), a revolutionary socialist organization in Brazil, made these remarks as part of a greeting for the congress of Left Voice — the MRT’s sister group — which was held July 14-16, 2023.

Hello comrades of Left Voice, I am Letícia Parks, I am a militant of the Movimento Revolucionário de Trabalhadores, the MRT, a group member of the Trotskyist Fraction here in Brazil, and I send this video to greet the realization of your Congress. From Brazil we follow a lot of what happens in the Black and communist struggle in the USA, and we are very excited to see the emergence of a group that understands the importance of fighting against racism and capitalism as one single struggle, after all, there is no capitalism without racism.

The enthusiasm for the Black struggle outside our borders has accompanied generations and generations of Black women and men here in Brazil. When the enslaved Haitians raised their heads and decided to take control of their island, at that time the richest French colony, our ancestors received the news systematically from merchant ships and pirates, in what one Brazilian researcher called the diaspora web of communication. The freed sailors carried news from one end of the ocean to the other about the audacity of the struggle for freedom in Haiti, just as, later, here in our land, we followed the news about the Black struggle for freedom that moved cycles and cycles of escapes from the south to the north of the United States, making Black women and men the most determined soldiers in the armies of the North.

The possibility of being activated by the dynamics of the international class struggle made “the fear of Haitinization” one of the main fears the Brazilian dominant class had, a subjective factor that led to increased repression and control by the Brazilian state against the enslaved masses of Black people in Brazil. And Haitinization was not just a fear, it was a fact. Urban uprisings and attempts at national independence in some regions of Brazil were, in some way, potentialized by what was heard happening in Haiti and the United States.

Our struggle here gained allies and victories that increased hope and contributed to other types of strategy for the conquest of the so dreamed freedom. This “internationalism of the slaves” today takes the form of revolutionary internationalism, which, like the previous one, is based on the rejection of the brutal forms of domination, pillage and robbery, which in our time is called capitalist exploitation.

It is because of the theoretical effort of American Trotskyism in the 1930s that we now understand racism is an invention of the capitalist system, as Breitman once wrote. It was with racism that slavery was able to expand and become the primary form of labor in the new European colonies for almost 4 centuries. Slavery, which was previously based on religion, conquest, war, with the advent of race became a weapon against an entire continent of people. Thus it is possible to accumulate extraordinary wealth, to the point of transforming sailors into a new class with more power than feudal monarchs. And it is also because of the same theoretical effort that we understand it is from Black labor, and then from the Black people’s desire for freedom and our participation in bourgeois revolutionary processes, that the capitalist system overcomes the feudal system.

CLR James, in the context of this reflection, comes to a simple conclusion: if the Black masses were so decisive for the overcoming of feudalism by capitalism, we can only have a prominent role in the death of capitalism. In his words: “This is the prognosis of the future. In Africa, in the United States, in the Caribbean, on a national and international scale, the millions of Black people will raise their heads, stop kneeling, and write some of the most massive and brilliant chapters in the history of revolutionary socialism.”

In the 21st century, when we recover this legacy of our tradition, we attest to its veracity and its power. We have seen what was done by the working class and youth, alongside the Black masses, in the struggle for justice in the movement that worldwide known as Black Lives Matter. The millions who took to the streets in the United States fueled the class hatred of app workers here, who in their strike during the pandemic carried George Floyd’s photo and raised their fists just as the images showed Black people doing there. I could see in Europe, the impact effect of BLM on the revolt generated by the murder of young Nael by two policemen. Parisian youth, in their 12, 13, 14, 15 years, have spent the last few weeks burning down police stations, police cars and demanding justice and an end to racism and Islamophobia.

This evident revolutionary potential that appears in our revolt can be radicalized and take the form of an anti-capitalist, revolutionary struggle, if it relies on the undeniable power of the working class, which with a policy of class independence, can paralyze profit, divert production to those in need, reconnect the energy and gas of poor neighborhoods, take control of the whole society and overthrow the bourgeoisie, constituting a workers’ government.

This conscious attitude towards revolt is what makes us be in every struggle demanding justice, equal pay, reduced working hours, all the rights of women, Black people, LGBT community, against every attack they try to impose so that we pay with our sweat and blood for the capitalist crisis they created. Our presence in the struggles, in the organization of workers and youth in their places of work and study, must be done carrying these ideals of anti-racism, of free gender, of human potential in art, in philosophy, all that makes us carry the embryo of communism in our daily practice.

In Brazil and in the United States, even under so much pain and oppression, Black women and men created samba, jazz and blues. We dance like ballerinas in basketball and play like gymnasts in capoeira. That is why we cannot be mere trade unionists or career politicians. We believe in more than a bill of rights and we cannot accept that our class must fight on separate days, ignoring the lack of rights of Mexicans, Colombians, Black people, migrants. We believe that in order to build a new future we must put in the government of society the minds of this working class made up of peoples who, until today, have not been able to express their ideas and creativity, and allow that in this new society, free from the pain of oppression and exploitation, the racialized masses of the world can, as part of the working class as a whole, offer their contribution to thought, culture, art, science. As CLR James once said, “the racism that now stands in the way will bow before the tremendous impact of the proletarian revolution,” and when it does, Trotsky has already predicted: “The human species as a whole will attain the stature of an Aristotle, a Goethe, a Marx. And new summits will rise above it.”

Have an excellent Congress!

Letícia is a leading member of the Movimento Revolucionário de Trabalhadores (MRT) in Brazil, and of the Black Marxist group Quilombo Vermelho.