In Memory of Antonio Conselheiro and the Canudos Soviet

Cael

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In the state of Bahia in north east Brazil, in the last quarter of the 19th century, a city was founded by poor people who wanted to live in hope and comradeship. They wanted to live by the principals of Christian Communism, as described in the Acts of the Apostles. Their leader was Antonio Conselheiro. They founded a Commune that consisted of 5,200 homes and involved 24,000 people. Everybody who could work, did work. Money was not needed, as everyone took what they really needed, but, in comradely spirit, took no more. There was no need for police.

So, how did the ruling class take this Communist Utopia? They sent an army that burned every home to the ground, and slaughtered hundreds of people. They captured Conselheiro, and beheaded him in 1897.

Today, the ruling class claim that such a Utopia is impossible. They say that human beings are naturally greedy and egotistical and could never live in peace and comradeship. As the people of Canudos showed in the 19th century, and the Zapatistas show today, the ruling class are liars
 


StormWarning

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After reading the impressive Llosa novel on the subject 'War to End All Wars', I couldn't get Osama Bin Laden out of my mind when trying to picture this mixed up man and the suicide cult that emerged.
Cael you forgot to mention his rather quaint devotion to the Brazilian Monarchy. If an unreformed Conselheiro was still around he'd probably have considered Lula the Devil incarnate.
 

Cael

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After reading the impressive Llosa novel on the subject 'War to End All Wars', I couldn't get Osama Bin Laden out of my mind when trying to picture this mixed up man and the suicide cult that emerged.
Cael you forgot to mention his rather quaint devotion to the Brazilian Monarchy. If an unreformed Conselheiro was still around he'd probably have considered Lula the Devil incarnate.
That novel is a flight of fancy very very loosely based on the events themselves. Its a pretty grotesque novel at that, written by a fanatical neo-liberal if not crypto fascist, and mostly based on the tabloid account of one of the government supporters that took part in the attack on Canudos, i.e. Euclides da Cunha (hardly an objective source.) Here is an example of some of the purple prose that Llosa indulges himself in:

Finally, one of the menfolk began to cry, out of helplessness or terror. Satan João thereupon plunged his knife into him and slit him wide open, the way a butcher slaughters a steer. This bloodshed had the effect of an order, and shortly thereafter the cangaceiros, crazed with excitement, began to shoot off their blunderbusses, not stopping until they had turned the one street in Custódia into a graveyard. Even more than the wholesale killing, what contributed to the legend of Satan João was the fact that he humiliated each of the males personally after they were dead, cutting off their testicles and stuffing them in their mouths.

Da Cunha never said that anything like this took place. Its like the novelist is trying to warn us of the dangers of defying our masters - what dire result will come of it if we do. No doubt that is why Llosa is so popular with right wing prize commitees.

Indeed, I would say that Llosa may well have been writing his own confession in this book. He was involved personally with the cover up of the massacre of an indigenous peasant village by the Peruvian army in the early 1980s. He headed up Peru's version of the Widgery Tribunal, which, needless to say, put the blame on the victims and not on their state killers. He is, in effect, Peru's Lord Widgery.

Well, a chara, you certainly know that if the right wing elite are still trying to slander poor people over a hundred years later, they must have been excellent people.

As for suicide cults, I have no idea what you are talking about. Antonio Conselheiro certainly didnt commit suicide anyway, nor did the hundreds of people murdered by the Brazilian army.

In short, while this book may have some merit as highly imaginative fiction, or even personal confession or self justification, there is really no justification for mentioning it in the history forum.
 
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Cael

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By the way, if he considered Lula "the Devil incarnate," he wouldnt be too far wrong. A neo-liberal sockpuppet if ever there was one.
 
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Cael

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Here's a statue to Antonio Conselheiro. God bless him, he will be remembered with love long after the criminal hacks are forgotten like so much trash:

[ame=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PN3LEO6ayA4&feature=related]YouTube - Antonio Conselheiro..[/ame]
 

StormWarning

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Maybe you should start a thread on Llosa, bound to be alot of interest after the nobel prize, and your very controversial views.
I actually thought the novel was very fair and showed how years of soul destroying poverty can make people resort to the ultimate sacrifice; and what a tragedy was.
Beyond the novel which I consider a great work of 'art' I know very little of this historical episode, but again I'll repeat a juxtaposition can be made with Bin Laden AFPak region.
 

Thac0man

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In the state of Bahia in north east Brazil, in the last quarter of the 19th century, a city was founded by poor people who wanted to live in hope and comradeship. They wanted to live by the principals of Christian Communism, as described in the Acts of the Apostles.
Interesting period of history and a very interesting character. Not sure though if the communist undertones are justified. Co-operative farming and co-operative communities had already existed for a very long time and were nothing really new.

The reintroduction of the collective system by Conselheiro differed only from the accepted and then developed but failing model in Brazil. But it also seemed rooted in the same peasent concepts that preceeded it. Replace an absentee landlord with an idiological principle (pre-communist), and the transformation is complete, without having to invoke Marx once.

Conselheiros adherance though to monarchist loyalties and the linkage between that and religon, to imbue the former with a 'godly mandate', seems again to hark back to the medieval collective ideal. That collective system or accepted idea and practice of it, with the persense of a landlord figure, was still common particularly in the Autro-Hungarian empire up until the early 20th century.

But take the German model enforced by the Hohenzollern Monacrchy; put Conselheiro in the role of Elector or Burgermeister and the virtical monarchistic power structure pretty much matches. Peasent collective - Burgermseister/Elector - Emporer.
 
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thebig C

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After reading the impressive Llosa novel on the subject 'War to End All Wars', I couldn't get Osama Bin Laden out of my mind when trying to picture this mixed up man and the suicide cult that emerged.
Cael you forgot to mention his rather quaint devotion to the Brazilian Monarchy. If an unreformed Conselheiro was still around he'd probably have considered Lula the Devil incarnate.
"The War at the End of the World" is an excellent nuanced novel. "The Feast of the Goat" is still my favourite though.
 

Clanrickard

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.
Today, the ruling class claim that such a Utopia is impossible. They say that human beings are naturally greedy and egotistical and could never live in peace and comradeship. As the people of Canudos showed in the 19th century, and the Zapatistas show today, the ruling class are liars
You need help.
 

thebig C

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Cael, if you object to the rightist tendencies of Vargas Llosa, then can I suggest you try to read a book called "Rebellion in the Drylands", can't remember the authors name offhand but he was an eminante Brazilian journalist in the late 1800/ early 1900s.

Also, the whole subject of the agricultural underclass in old coastal rural areas (before the population and development of the Amazon region) is examined in a travelogue called "A Death in Brazil" by Peter Robb. Very good read.

C
 

Cael

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Maybe you should start a thread on Llosa, bound to be alot of interest after the nobel prize, and your very controversial views.
I actually thought the novel was very fair and showed how years of soul destroying poverty can make people resort to the ultimate sacrifice; and what a tragedy was.
Beyond the novel which I consider a great work of 'art' I know very little of this historical episode, but again I'll repeat a juxtaposition can be made with Bin Laden AFPak region.
A chara, I have no real interest in Llosa, or his book. In relation to Bin Laden, the funny thing about him is that you can juxapose him to almost any political leader who actually believes in something. George Bush was the virtual mirror image of Bin Laden (except that Bush killed far far more innocent people.) Tony Blair, however, was not, as he killed a million Iraqis without even believing in anything. Maybe not Obama either, as its becoming more and more clear that he also kills poor people without believing in anything (and wins Nobel peace prizes for doing it.)
 
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Cael

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Interesting period of history and a very interesting character. Not sure though if the communist undertones are justified. Co-operative farming and co-operative communities had already existed for a very long time and were nothing really new.

The reintroduction of the collective system by Conselheiro differed only from the accepted and then developed but failing model in Brazil. But it also seemed rooted in the same peasent concepts that preceeded it. Replace an absentee landlord with an idiological principle (pre-communist), and the transformation is complete, without having to invoke Marx once.

Conselheiros adherance though to monarchist loyalties and the linkage between that and religon, to imbue the former with a 'godly mandate', seems again to hark back to the medieval collective ideal. That collective system or accepted idea and practice of it, with the persense of a landlord figure, was still common particularly in the Autro-Hungarian empire up until the early 20th century.

But take the German model enforced by the Hohenzollern Monacrchy; put Conselheiro in the role of Elector or Burgermeister and the virtical monarchistic power structure pretty much matches. Peasent collective - Burgermseister/Elector - Emporer.
I agree with you, for the most part, a chara. We can never move totally outside our time and location, and it would be silly to think these people saw the world as Marx saw it. As you say, it was a form of primitive communism, that is often found in indiginous societies (though most of the people in this commune were not indiginous as far as I know.) Antonio certainly made the connection between what they were doing and the early Christian communes.
 

Cael

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Cael, if you object to the rightist tendencies of Vargas Llosa, then can I suggest you try to read a book called "Rebellion in the Drylands", can't remember the authors name offhand but he was an eminante Brazilian journalist in the late 1800/ early 1900s.

Also, the whole subject of the agricultural underclass in old coastal rural areas (before the population and development of the Amazon region) is examined in a travelogue called "A Death in Brazil" by Peter Robb. Very good read.

C
As I say, a chara, Llosa's book may have some merit as a work of the imagination, but given that the author was personally involved in the cover up of a massacre of just the sort described in his book, one wonders what the real subject of the book is. If we read it as a work of self confession, relating to events in Peru in the 1980s, then it certainly does have more merit than if we were to read it as a historical novel set in Brazil of the 1890s.

I will try to have a look at the books you recommend, sound very interesting.
 

JohnD66

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"The War of the End of the World" is a fantastic book, but it is, in the end fiction, not history.

That said Vargas Llosa was not about condemning the Canudos commune. The novel is about the theme of fanaticism, which is reflected in some degree in the the followers of the Counsellor, but also in a Scottish anarchist, who sees in them primitive communism, and also in the Jacobinism (statism if you like) of the Brazilian Army general sent to put down the movement.

The author's own opinion is probably given by one character towards the end, after the massacre of the Canudos people, who describes the war as a "monstrous misunderstanding". Vargas Llosa incidentally started out as a left winger but later moved towards the right and now describes himself as a 'liberal'. "Death in the Andes", is another superb book (though very hostile to the Shining Path guerrillas).

Cael I'm not familiar with the accusation that he covered up a massacre in the 1980s. Can you elaborate? Btw, the War of the End of the World was published in 1980 so couldn't have been a reference to the event you refer to.
 

StormWarning

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Cael, read Aunt Julia by Llosa, a truely original love story with a radical Bolivian dramatist one of the many unforgettable characters. No need to be serious all the time.
By the way 'Death in the Andes' is an incredible, convincing polemic. Have any pro Shining Path produced an equally powerful tract to undermine its thesis? Scary parallels to the Kmher Rouge.
Don't rate 'Feast of the Goat' at all and I hope his historical novel on Casement is a return to form.
 

Cael

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Cael, read Aunt Julia by Llosa, a truely original love story with a radical Bolivian dramatist one of the many unforgettable characters. No need to be serious all the time.
By the way 'Death in the Andes' is an incredible, convincing polemic. Have any pro Shining Path produced an equally powerful tract to undermine its thesis? Scary parallels to the Kmher Rouge.
Don't rate 'Feast of the Goat' at all and I hope his historical novel on Casement is a return to form.
To be honest, a chara, there are so many great books that I want to read that its very unlikely that I will ever get around to Llosa. The whole idea of him turns me off. And I am not bigoted. I spend a lot of time reading Heidigger, who was in the Nazi Party and held on to some pretty right wing views all his life (indeed he is one of my favourite philosophers.) But, for all his faults, Heidigger really loved his people, and rarely left their midst. There is no love in Llosa for his own people. He only visits them now as a holiday maker, prefering to hob nob with the great and the good of Europe and the US.
 

Cael

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The novel is about the theme of fanaticism, which is reflected in some degree in the the followers of the Counsellor, but also in a Scottish anarchist, who sees in them primitive communism, and also in the Jacobinism (statism if you like) of the Brazilian Army general sent to put down the movement.
But the question is: What exactly was "fanatical" about the people of Canudos? They seemed to be perfectly happy, minding their own business.
 

Cael

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Cael I'm not familiar with the accusation that he covered up a massacre in the 1980s. Can you elaborate? Btw, the War of the End of the World was published in 1980 so couldn't have been a reference to the event you refer to.


If you look at Llosa's wikipedia page, you will see mention of it. Its pretty well mentioned in ever bio of him, as he got fierce condemnation for it from the Left all over the world. It wasnt the villagers who were killed, as I had thought, but eight journalists who had gone to investigate Peruvian army operations in an indiginous part of the Andes. Llosa put the blame on the native people, rather than the army, and described the natives as natually violent and not really able to help themselves from carrying out violent acts. He thus totally depoliticised the violence, and put it down to the perverse culture of the native people. What really annoyed people on the Left, was that Llosa drew on extensive racist literature protraying native people as barbaric and naturally murderous.

If you look at this text, about page 8, you can read more about it:

http://www.yale.edu/agrarianstudies/colloqpapers/18theidon.pdf
 
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JohnD66

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But the question is: What exactly was "fanatical" about the people of Canudos? They seemed to be perfectly happy, minding their own business.
Well in the novel, and it is a novel, the followers of the Counsellor were portrayed as believing themselves to be the elect of God, waiting in joyful hope for the coming of the end of the world, when they would ascend into heaven and the sinful would be damned.

That said, they do seem to have been minding their own business and the Brazilian government seems to have wrongly seen it as a monarchist rebellion trying to bring down the republic.

Re the allegations against Vargas Llosa, I'm going to have a look at the links you gave there. I'm only familiar with him as a novelist, but he does come across as someone who has an essentially pessimistic view of people and of the poor in particular, which would back up his pinning of the blame for the killing of those journalists on locals rather than the army. Though incidentally he's no fan of the army either. His first book, The Time of the Hero is merciless satire of military school.

btw, here's the [ame="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/War_of_Canudos"]War of Canudos - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia@@AMEPARAM@@/wiki/File:Canudos-map.jpg" class="image"><img alt="Canudos-map.jpg" src="http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/8/81/Canudos-map.jpg/300px-Canudos-map.jpg"@@AMEPARAM@@commons/thumb/8/81/Canudos-map.jpg/300px-Canudos-map.jpg[/ame].
 
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JohnD66

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Cael, that link you gave says the following,

"Although the sequence of events still prompts feverish debate, the photos taken by one of the journalists as he and his friends were dying established one thing: The villagers surrounded the journalists and began killing them with rocks and machetes, convinced they were under attack. The bodies were then buried in shallow graves in the ravine that runs the length of the village."

Vargas Llosas does seem to have blamed the killings on the "innate savagery" of the Andeans but there doesn't seem to be a suggestion that he blamed the wrong people.

Quite a long way from your initial charge he covered up a massacre of civilians by the army.
 


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