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Stalin and Kim Jong-un have their admirers in Brazil

. Jan 03, 2021
kim brazil stalin Meeting of the pro-Kim Center for Studies of Songun Politics. Photo: Facebook/CEPS

In a recent interview, legendary Brazilian songwriter Caetano Veloso sparked controversy by claiming he had abandoned what he called “vague liberalism” and “anti-communism.” Caetano, who was arrested and forced into exile by Brazil’s military dictatorship in 1969, attributed this “ideological evolution” to a discussion with “a young man from Pernambuco named Jones Manoel.”

“He quoted an Italian author, called Domenico Losurdo, who wrote a counterfactual history of liberalism and has a book on the modern views of liberalism critique,” said Caetano.

Jones Manoel is a young historian, YouTuber, podcaster, author of books on Marxism, and an affiliate of the Brazilian Communist Party (PCB), one of the few ideologically driven political parties in Brazil.

After Caetano&#8217;s declarations, Mr. Manoel was incessantly sought out to give interviews, in which he spoke of his own &#8220;evolution&#8221; in the last decade, from an informed youth who &#8220;ignored the existence of Fidel Castro,&#8221; to a history professor with a gift for convincing his interlocutors of his views.</p> <p>Mr. Manoel, along with Domenico Losurdo, casts the Soviet Union in a positive light on several aspects and — controversially — relativizes the role of Josef Stalin, who, throughout his time as the head of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, oversaw millions of deaths. Both men acknowledge Stalin&#8217;s crimes, but see his era of government as including several important advances.</p> <p>As a result, Mr. Manoel — who was born poor in the city of Recife — has become a target for academics, many from the left, for &#8220;providing ammunition&#8221; to Brazil&#8217;s right-wing which has gained ground with hysterical messages of a &#8220;communist threat&#8221; in the country. Due to receiving threats online, Jones Manoel does not reveal where he lives, on the outskirts of Recife.</p> <p>Mr. Manoel is not alone in defending Stalin&#8217;s alleged positive legacy. Inflamed discussions have agitated factions of the Brazilian left, heightened by the country&#8217;s widespread political polarization. While one side argues in favor of Stalin&#8217;s merits in fighting and defeating <a href="https://brazilian.report/society/2020/10/29/swastikas-pools-holocaust-deniers-schools-brazil-nazi/">Hitler&#8217;s Nazis</a> on the Eastern Front, the other sees whitewashing his crimes as ideological &#8216;flat earthism.&#8217; </p> <p>In November of last year, publisher NovaCultura.Info of the Communist Reconstruction Union (URC), organized an event entitled “140 Years of Comrade Josef Stalin” in the Philosophy, Letters, and Human Sciences Faculty of the University of São Paulo, to celebrate the birthday of the communist revolutionary. Meanwhile, other left-wing organizations, such as the Workers&#8217; Union of the University of São Paulo (Sintusp), are critical of such initiatives.</p> <p>&#8220;Stalin went down in history with the shameful mark of having been one of the biggest murderers of revolutionaries in global history,&#8221; wrote the Sintusp, in a statement damning the URC&#8217;s event. &#8220;We express our repudiation to this tribute to Stalin, who is no &#8216;comrade&#8217; of any worker fighting for justice, instead he is a criminal gravedigger of revolutions who contributed immensely to delay the much needed global social revolution.</p> <p>A historical theory professor at the University of Brasília and a specialist in the Soviet Union, André Pereira Leme Lopes believes that Stalin attracts members of the Brazilian left — particularly young militants — due to his position of leadership. &#8220;It is undeniable that he is one of the biggest personalities of the 20th century, but in no way would I say that Stalin was a good person. He instilled terror, millions died, including those who had nothing to do with political and ideological disputes.&#8221;</p> <p>&#8220;But, on the other hand, Stalin played an important role in the development and unification of the Soviet Union, and it is this leadership that his followers exalt,&#8221; he adds.</p> <h2><strong>Brazil&#8217;s Kim Jong-un Fan Club</strong></h2> <p>The Supreme Leader of North Korea, Kim Jong-un and his dictatorial regime also has his admirers in fringe sections of the Brazilian left. Some are members of the Center for Studies of Songun Politics (CEPS), which describes itself as &#8220;an organism dedicated to the study, discussion, and dissemination of the Democratic Popular Republic of Korea (DPRK), commonly known as North Korea, and its philosophical and practical pillars: the Juche ideal and Songun policy.&#8221;</p> <figure class="wp-block-image size-large"><img loading="lazy" width="1024" height="683" src="https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Lucas-Rubio-3-1024x683.jpg" alt="Lucas Rubio kim stalin" class="wp-image-54518" srcset="https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Lucas-Rubio-3-1024x683.jpg 1024w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Lucas-Rubio-3-300x200.jpg 300w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Lucas-Rubio-3-768x512.jpg 768w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Lucas-Rubio-3-1536x1024.jpg 1536w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Lucas-Rubio-3-600x400.jpg 600w, https://brazilian.report/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/Lucas-Rubio-3.jpg 1800w" sizes="(max-width: 1024px) 100vw, 1024px" /><figcaption>Lucas Rubio (right), founder and chairman of the Center for Studies of Songun Politics. Photo: Facebook/CEPS</figcaption></figure> <p>When writing their articles and producing material for debates, the CEPS exclusively use official North Korean government sources, such as books written in the country, news stories from the government&#8217;s <a href="https://kcnawatch.org/">news portals</a>, and the views of members who have visited North Korea during Kim Jong-un&#8217;s regime.</p> <p>CEPS was founded at the end of 2016, with the support of the DPRK embassy and Ambassador Ri Hwa Gun. In its inaugural event in the State University of Rio de Janeiro (UERJ), the group gathered more than 70 people interested in the North Korean regime. The initial idea was to promote the &#8220;positive side&#8221; of Kim&#8217;s government, but the event was boycotted by students who disparaged the CEPS&#8217;s attempts to &#8220;unmask the farce of the Western media&#8221; and support the &#8220;anti-imperialist struggle of the Korean people.&#8221; CEPS members were then targeted by several attacks online, largely from right-wing groups.&nbsp;</p> <p>At the time, Rio de Janeiro City Councillor Carlos Bolsonaro, one of the president&#8217;s sons, showed his indignance on social media, saying that UERJ was promoting an event in support of the North Korean government. In fact, this brought the CEPS to the attention of Kim Jong-un&#8217;s Workers&#8217; Party in Pyongyang, and the government&#8217;s leading news channels began reporting on the group&#8217;s actions.</p> <p>According to the members of the CEPS — almost all of whom are in their 20s, living in São Paulo or Rio de Janeiro — &#8220;the media is constantly at war with Socialist Korea.&#8221; Thus, in their view, the only trustworthy members of the press are those controlled by Kim Jong-un&#8217;s dictatorial regime.</p> <p>CEPS organizes lectures in universities and trade unions, as well as demonstrations in front of U.S. consulates around Brazil. In 2018, when North Korea celebrated its 70th anniversary of independence, CEPS founder Lucas Rubio, 21, visited the country along with his right-hand-man Lenan Cunha, 19, after being invited by the Korean Academy of Social Scientists. Treated as representatives of the Brazilian population, the pair were accompanied by delegations from several other countries.</p> <p>On their return to Brazil, Mr. Rubio received the Freedom of the Press award from the Brazilian Bar Association in Rio de Janeiro for a travel diary he kept during the trip. Containing passages that are almost institutional in their tone, they served as a counterpoint to reports broadcast by weekly primetime magazine show Fantástico, of giants TV Globo, whose journalists were in North Korea at the same time.</p> <p>Lucas Rubio refused an interview request from <strong>The Brazilian Report</strong>.

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Renato Alves

Renato Alves is a Brazilian journalist who has worked for Correio Braziliense and Crusoé.

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