Wednesday, 9 July 2014

BRAZIL: FOOTBALL OR FASCISM?

The Eagle has landed.


There are only two factors that unite Brazil – the Portuguese language and their pride in their 'national' football ("soccer") team. Almost everything else – regional rivalries, racial differences, economic inequalities, and diverse climate zones – drives the nation apart. Even Catholicism, since the inception of Liberation Theology, has become more of a divisive force. It is interesting, therefore, to consider what effect their drubbing at the hands of Germany in the World Cup semi-finals will have on the nation.

It is also interesting to ponder on the cultural semantics of an overtly German team – even one that isn't quite pure itself – crushing a team that is a kind of poster child for the great multiracial hybrid future that we are all supposed to stroll willingly towards. Alas the main talisman of this mongrelized team, Neymar, a mixed race player with naturally kinky hair who has straightened and dyed his hair blond, couldn't make the game due to his injury in Brazil's quarter-final victory over Colombia – a somewhat darker version of themselves.

Because of its role as the precursor of our supposed future, Brazil is an important country. This, incidentally, is why it has long received very positive coverage in the globalist Western media. Brazil is routinely presented as something we should aspire to, as a perfect post-racial society where everybody is supposedly "dancing to their rainbow rhythms." But, as Neymar's hair-related affectations reveal, there are certain tensions and complexes beneath the surface of this rather ugly pretty picture.

Brazilian wardrobe malfunction?
The unity of Brazil is an interesting historical phenomenon. Unlike Spanish America, which broke up on independence from Spain, Portuguese America managed to remain united. This was partly due to geographical factors – its centres of population and power were grouped much closer together than those of Spanish America, and with less imposing physical obstacles between them. They also had an unusual route from colonial statue to independence, being for a short time, the seat of the Portuguese monarchy.

But perhaps the main reason that Brazil stayed united was not because of any element of inherent racial harmony but because of its opposite – blatant racial repression. By 1800 fully one half of the total Brazilian population of 3,200,000 were slaves, and by 1818, there were 1,930,000 slaves besides some 526,000 free Negroes and mulattoes, in all about sixty-three per cent of the total. In short, when Brazil became an independent nation, it was majority Black and becoming Blacker, with around four-fifths of that population being slaves.

Kill Whitey, etc.
For this reason, Brazil was much more inherently unstable than Spanish America, where the subject races were more passive and part of a feudal and localist system of peonage. The relative racial security of the Spanish American system actually facilitated the conflicts between members of the White elite that led to the splitting up of Spanish America into dozens of countries. In Portuguese America, by contrast, such conflicts would have raised the spectre of the kind of slave uprisings that has exterminated the White population on the French colony of Haiti only a few decades before. This alone, independent of other factors, would have been a sufficient reason for the White population of Portuguese America to stay united.

Over the course of the 19th and early 20th century, the demographics of Brazil improved from a White perspective, with mass immigration from Europe, including Italy, Spain, Portugal, and Germany, as well as significant influxes from Syria and Japan. But although it became a lot less Black, Brazil never successfully became a White country, although the White element was always and remains dominant.

The natural divisions inherent in Brazil were ironically the reason for its continuing unity, with democratic tendencies vying with dictatorial ones, resulting in the semi-fascist or authoritarian dictatorship of Getulio Vargas (1930-1945). Like other contemporary fascist or pseudo-fascist movements, Vargas's version of Authoritarian Developmentalism had strong populist elements to counteract the appeal of Socialism and Communism, with policies designed to appeal to the poor and overcome racial divisions.

In 1950, the first World Cup since WWII was held in Brazil. The European nations had been devastated by the war and this had weakened their teams in various ways. Also, Brazil, as the largest footballing nation, had a much larger talent pool than other nations. These factors meant that Brazilian football was in the ascendant and they expected to win. Even after they lost the 1950 World Cup to tiny Uruguay, the Brazilian ruling class continued to push football as a symbol of national pride and a unifying force. Through football, the cooperation of Black, White, and mixed-race players could be given a high profile. Also, football served as a convenient distraction in the sense of "bread and circuses," with football providing the "circuses" to the "bread" provided by Brazil's relative post-war economic success.

Brazil 1962
With the return of democracy in 1945, and with World cup victories in 1958 and 1962, sport and democracy had seemingly achieved a state of equilibrium with Brazil's uneven economic development, but, following the Cuban Revolution and the rise of Maoist guerrilla tactics that could exploit rural and urban pockets of poverty in Latin America, football was not quite enough and Brazil was forced to switch back to a form of "fascism." In 1964 a coup, supported by the USA, imposed a military junta. This lasted until 1985, when the partial economic successes of the junta's neoliberalist economic policies and the declining appeal of Guevarist revolutionarism allowed Brazil to once more experiment with democracy.

Later World Cup successes in 1994 and 2002, along with the economic boom of the 90s and Zeroes helped keep Brazilian democracy on an even keel, all the way up to the present, but the basic problems of Brazil – regional rivalries, racial differences, economic inequalities – have yet to be solved, and only a combination of relative economic success and absolute sporting success or dictatorship can alleviate these problems.

While Brazil’s economic performance in recent years has been impressive, economic success is seldom a constant in a country like Brazil, which suffers from a constantly growing underclass and various forms of corruption and criminality. Even more worrying is the relative decline of Brazilian football made apparent by Germany's crushing victory.

Between 1958 and 1970, Brazil won 3 out of 4 World Cups. With its massive population advantage and massive talent pool, it could count on finding players of great individual talent, like the world famous Pele and the great Garrincha.

But football in those days was a much more open, free-flowing, and intuitive sport that was better attuned to the Brazilian psyche. Now the sport, especially at the top level, is a much more technical and psychological endeavour. Zonal marking, well-drilled offside traps, one-touch pinpoint passing, mind-management techniques, and various forms of teamwork are in the ascendant, pushing the showy individual brilliance of Brazil's inherently disjointed teams into the shade.

The crushing of the cocktail nation.

Brazil still has some advantages – not least the growing racial diversity of its main European opponents – and in the future it may well win another World Cup, but unlike other countries, for Brazil winning at football is almost an existential issue, and certainly one intimately connected to its degree of political freedom.

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