The disappearance and probable murder of British journalist and conservationist Dom Philipps, and indigenist Bruno Araujo Periera in the Amazon is yet another barbaric manifestation of the brutal despoilation and destruction of ecology and essential natural resources by today’s decadent imperialist capitalism, and the ruthless way that the profit-gouging bourgeoisies deal with anyone who gets in their way.
Dom Philipps is a freelance journalist, though at the time of his disappearance he was working for the London Guardian as well as researching in the Amazon rainforest for a book, apparently to be titled How to save the Amazon. He was also working on an investigation into illegal mining, possibly for a story in the Guardian. They point out he is a longtime contributor of theirs who has also worked for the Washington Post, New York Times, and Financial Times.
Bruno Periera is an official (though on leave) of Brazil’s Indigenous Affairs agency, a previous adviser for the Union of Indigenous Peoples of the Javari Valley (UNIJAVA). In the Javari Valley is where the largest concentration of indigenous peoples live in voluntary isolation on the planet. Periera is one of Brazil’s foremost experts on indigenous peoples. In fact, UNIJAVA stated that it considered Periera “the greatest authority in the country” in working with isolated peoples in the region. (https://www.brasildefato.com.br/2022/06/10/bolsonaro-e-presidente-da-funai-atacam-credibilidade-de-indigenista-desaparecido-na-amazonia).
There are several actors in this conflict, but it should be divided into two blocks: On the one hand, large, medium and small extractive capital, Bolsonaro and the leadership of FUNAI – Fundação Nacional do Índio (National Indian Foundation), a state body directed by Bolsonaro’s agents. On the other hand, there are Indians and their organizations, indigenists and FUNAI state workers who are associated with INA, an NGO-union of Associated Indigenists.
This scandalous murder caused some embarrassment to Brazil’s far right president, Jair Bolsonaro, on the eve of the ‘Summit of the Americas’ in Los Angeles, and he had to appear to be interested in solving the case, in making his forces be perceived as investigating the disappearances properly. He doesn’t seem to have really managed that.
The Guardian justifiably complained in its Editorial (8 June) that:
“…overall the response from the Brazilian authorities has been at best sluggish and underwhelming. A helicopter – essential in searching such a vast area – was not employed until Tuesday morning. A criminal investigation was not opened until later that day. Only a handful of troops appear to be involved in the search, in a region with plentiful military resources. This minimal response is wholly inadequate. Human Rights Watch, the Observatory for the Human Rights of Isolated and Recent Contact Indigenous Peoples and many others have been pressing from the start for swift and committed action by the Brazilian government. A full search-and-rescue operation is needed, with real backing at the national level.
Unfortunately, the president, Jair Bolsonaro, has shown little interest in an appropriate response. Worse still, having taken two days to address the disappearance, he appeared to blame the men: ‘Quite frankly, two people in just one boat, in that kind of region, absolutely wild, is an adventure that isn’t recommendable for anyone. Anything might happen. It could have been an accident. They could have been executed,’ he said.https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2022/jun/08/the-guardian-view-on-an-amazon-disappearance-find-dom-phillips-and-bruno-pereira
Everyone knows Bolsonaro doesn’t give a damn about such things, and actively supports illegal mining, logging, fishing and poaching interests in what is supposed to be one of the world’s most crucial conservation zones. Commercial interests involved in these are those almost certainly responsible for the killings of Philipps and Periera. The state forces now say they have found ‘human remains’, and one person they have arrested, a fisherman who had threatened Philipps and Periera in front of witnesses, apparently had blood in his boat. This may be so, it may be false, and it may be that it is with the broad complicity of the federal government which encourages predatory extractive capital and demonizes indigenous people, indigenists, and ecologists. Certainly Periera has been slandered by Bolsonaro ally Marcelo Xavier, the president of FUNAI, who falsely claimed that Periera’s excursion with Phillips was in some way ‘unauthorised’.
In fact, as neo-Nazi ruler of Brazil, Bolsonaro is the current and best represents the political interests of those who executed Pereira, Philipps and many others as the leader of the rubber workers, Chico Mendes, and sister Dorothy Stang. Bolsonaro’s Brazil has become the “fourth country that kills the most environmental activists in the world. Most of these murders are concentrated in the Northern region, according to a report by the global witness organization. The murder rate of indigenous people increased by 21.6% in 10 years, while homicides in general fell.” (Folha de São Paulo, June 11, 2022).
Bolsonaro, Biden and Imperialism
It is no doubt creditable for the Guardian to publish Dom Phillips’ material, but this is massively outweighed by the Guardian’s own support for imperialism, which puts it the camp of Bolsonaro. Indeed, its desperate appeals to imperialist politicians to save these victims have a surreal aspect to them:
“The government is highly unlikely to change course without international pressure. That must first be brought to bear to produce an adequate response to this disappearance. John Kerry, the US climate envoy, has said he will look into the case. The shadow foreign secretary, David Lammy, has already urged action. Liz Truss, the foreign secretary, should press the Brazilian government to scale up search efforts, as a matter of urgency. Too much time has been lost already. No more must be squandered.”ibid
It is surreal not least because of the Guardian’s apologias for Biden as an imperialist politician – one of the worst – which makes him an ally of Bolsonaro in any case. The Guardian supports Biden’s proxy war in Ukraine, and his sanctions against Russia, the logical corollary of which, with its boycotts of Russia’s considerable oil and gas products, is a massive drive to expand oil and gas production under the control of the United States. The US is once again promoting economic wars over oil and gas as a weapon in its drive for ‘full spectrum dominance’ over the peoples of the world, a drive that the Guardian fully supports, as its hysterical retailing of the worst lying, Russophobic propaganda in history since the beginning of geopolitics as a science created in Britain (geopolitics is born aiming for control of Eurasia), as clearly has been practiced in current proxy war.
The Guardian is among those promoting illusions in Biden, as a supposed defender of the environment, against the likes of Bolsonaro. But though it may be creditable to publish articles by people like Dom Philipps criticizing Bolsonaro’s crimes, the fact is that their wonderful Joe Biden chose to meet with Bolsonaro in this summit, and chose to exclude Cuba, Venezuela, and Nicaragua from attendance, for one straightforward reason – those three governments are not subservient to US imperialism. This is a manifestation of the same imperialist project, of punishment of those who disobey US imperialism, and rewarding its allies and lackeys, that is to the forefront in the war drive against Russia and China.
The Cuban workers state, as well as the bourgeois regimes cursed by imperialism in Nicaragua and Venezuela, who choose to ally with Russia and China to safeguard their own national independence from US domination, are punished in fundamentally the same way Russia and China are being punished. Or at least that’s the idea – the ‘punishment’ of Russia seems to have backfired. The idea that Liz Truss, foreign secretary in the most belligerent of Biden’s allies in the Ukraine, driven by the self-serving interests of an openly corrupt governmental clique around Johnson, would care two hoots about this, is cretinous in the extreme.
Bolsonaro gives open expression to capitalism’s most barbaric tendencies, which if not overthrown internationally will bury human civilisation and much else besides. However, Bolsonaro is not alone, he was brought to power as part of an imperialist offensive of financial capital against the working class in Brazil and its political influence by US imperialism, and specifically funded by a wing of the US bourgeoisie that is openly hostile to projects to counteract global heating and an end of the use of fossil fuels, etc. Furthermore, whatever secondary divisions the various bourgeois factions have, they will unite against any challenge to imperialist or capitalist domination anywhere in the world. Thus, Bolsonaro was welcomed in Los Angeles when Cuba etc. were anathema.
We Need a Class Programme to save the Amazon
Bolsonaro’s genocidal programme towards indigenous peoples in the Amazon basin is a major threat to world ecology and thus to the future of humanity. His ruinous rule during the pandemic left 90 million workers underemployed and unemployed, in a country where only 12% of the workforce is unionised. But Bolsonaro is only a client, in power by virtue of the crusade against the workers and peasants of South America by US imperialism. This epitomises some serious objective barriers to the advance of the proletariat that can be overcome only by an independent class programme.
Obviously, the preservation of crucial assets for the survival of human civilisation, such as the Amazon, is a worldwide class issue for the global proletariat. National solutions to these problems are utopian if not reactionary and this again underlines why our programme must be broadened out from the national to the international and indeed global plane. There is a desperate need to accelerate the conversion of industry from fossil fuels and the likes to renewables, possibly through the intermediate use of sources of nuclear energy in some forms. This is done recklessly under the world dominance of imperialist lucrative anarchy, as Chernobyl demonstrated (in a degenerate workers’ state under intense imperialist pressure) and Fukushima and other sequels that we may not even know of. All these things, from disaster relief to the migration of parts of the world proletariat to safer locations to rapid technological change, pose the necessity for workers control and independent organs of workers power, such as soviets, to oversee and force the changes necessary to ensure human survival. Therefore, we are now uncompromisingly against imperialist attempts to “internationalize” the Amazon, that is, to make it a direct dependence on imperialism.
Concretely, humanity and the preservation of nature that humanity needs to live depends on the class consciousness of the working class and its allies among other oppressed groups, peasants, indigenous peoples, etc., the construction of a new world party of the socialist revolution.