CESE holds final stage of “treading the tightrope” cycle of debates with dialogue about the right to the city and the right to identity and diversity in our country

On Thursday 4 February, the cycle of debates “Treading the tightrope: challenges and possibilities for the fight for rights in Brazil” came to an end with discussions on the themes of the Right to the City and the Right to Identity and Diversity in our country.  Since returning from collective annual leave, the initiative has gathered together CESE’s team and members of partner organizations to debate the challenges of the current political situation and construct strategic activities, not only for 2021 but for the next three-year cycle.

The meeting included dialogue about the neoliberal economic model and its structural social inequalities, as well as the construction of other development perspectives based on a political proposal in defence of life.  Above all, the moment provided an arena for the exchange of experiences referring to the need to assert identity as a means of enhancing political organization and reclaiming utopias for a society of justice and equity.

Human rights violations, the growth in ultraconservative waves and the deepening of inequality and poverty have increasingly highlighted the need to reassert identity as a political force.  “We need to strengthen identity, but strengthening in itself is not the end of the struggle.  It is the gateway to a process to reflect on society and influence it.”  This reading came from journalist and Master in Communications, Alane Reis, activist from the Odara Institute for the Black Woman (Odara Instituto da Mulher Negra), Coordinator and Editor-in-Chief of the journal Afirmativa – from the Black Media Collective (Coletivo de Mídia Negra).

To extend the discussion and drive the debate, Alane posed these questions: “What is identity? And who needs it?”  According to the journalist, although everyone has an identity, this is not homogenous.  It exists because of the need to strengthen experience, as an expression of life and a way of being in the world that has, in some way, been denied: “It is a political concept, necessary so that organized groups can construct narratives and talk about themselves in different dimensions, as well as to seek representation through, for example, the black, feminist and LGBTQIA+ movement” she asserted.

On this issue, Rud Rafael, Educator from the Federation of Bodies for Social and Educational Work (Federação de Órgãos para Assistência Social e Educacional: FASE), claimed that we need to extend discussions about race, gender and class, in order to understand the reality of the domination and oppression of traditional populations, black people, and residents of city peripheries. “It is essential to be opposed to and critical of the system that structures societies, because this discussion does not only come from our political wing.  The right has positioned itself as a political actor against racism, for example, but does not confront the system.  You cannot fight against these issues and be in favour of capitalism,” said Rud, who is also the National Coordinator of the Landless Rural Workers’ Movement (Movimento dos Trabalhadores Rurais Sem Terra: MST) and a member of Pernambuco’s Regional Social Service Council.

Alane Reis and Rud Rafael also contributed to collective reflections, providing possible pathways for the construction of a new society.  For Rud, the great challenge is to think of concrete and viable utopias: “It is necessary to reposition points of progress within the debate, from the concrete point of view of the struggles, such as public policies. But also to think of the possibility of a solidarity revolution which starts from several platforms: combatting race and gender inequalities; progress in the social and solidarity economy; political participation and a training programme for the grassroots.

Alane added: “Normally, people bring up hegemonic identity when they talk about the Brazilian political situation, and the canons of Latin America and Europe, as alternative pathways.  But, since the 1980s, Lélia Gonzalez and Abdias Nascimento have guided the social movements with reflections and a political project based on community culture.  This is a great challenge.  Including for the, culturally racist, left,” she explained referring to ideas and perspectives from black intellectuals.

In the coming days, after this final roundtable conversation, CESE will start work on collective planning for 2021.