Two nights ago Brazil suffered the tragic loss of more than 200 years of work collecting, studying and presenting the history of the country and its many peoples. A fire engulfed the National Museum, home to more than 20 million artifacts, including a 12,000 year-old human skull, the oldest human remains found in Brazil. The Temer regime, and its imperialist masters, responsible for crippling austerity and brutal repression of the people, had also coincidentally taken aim at the funding for such national treasures as the National Museum. It was stated by those attempting to fight the fire that when they checked the two nearest hydrants, neither were functioning, so the water had to be trucked in from a nearby lake. Of course by then it was too late, the building and its vast collections of irreplaceable cultural pieces and research was being converted to ash.
Neoliberal capitalism does not share the sentimentalities of the masses of people, viewed backward and inconsequential to its own aim: the supremacy of the law of value over all other relations. The comprador bourgeoisie of Brazil, the petty monopolists and their bureaucrats have made that quite clear in policy. Beyond the defunding of the National Museum, whose artifacts are the most well known in Brazil, they have led an arguably even greater offensive not only against the history of Brazilian peoples, but those living peoples themselves through the slashing and burning of the Amazon, largely for the sake of expanding private landholdings and feeding the insatiable imperialist-oriented logging industry.
Indeed, capitalism is uniquely equipped to destroy entire peoples, cultures, languages. Genocide in the name of accumulation for a clutch of parasitic states is not an excess, but a cardinal principle, of globalized capitalism. The museum fire has only become an obvious symbol of the system foisted on the people of Brazil that has led to the mass-murder of the Amazon’s peoples, the wide-scale, indiscriminate destruction of land and the elimination of countless species. Neoliberalism wages war on Brazil, its history, its peoples and their cultures. It wages war on the land that sustains them and everything that unites them. The tragedy that this museum burning represents is but an extension of a bourgeois total war, and the masses have not missed this fact. The coals were still glowing when mass mobilizations to oppose the neoliberal dictatorship and their austerity broke out.
History itself militates against them. The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle, and this fact is only too apparent to the masses of the global south. The neoliberal dictatorship, and the schemes imposed from the imperialist core, can destroy the people’s social history—that which can be measured in grams and meters, dimension and word count—but not their historic mission. Indeed, as the compradors have callously burned the people’s history, history will, through the armed and conscious proletariat, certainly return the favor.