The Lefts and the End of Capitalism
By: Raúl Zibechi
The current world financial crisis fragments the planet into regions in such a fashion that the world system approaches a growing disarticulation (breakup). One of the effects of this growing regionalization of the planet is that the political, social and economic processes no longer are manifested in the same way all over the world and divergences are produced –in the future perhaps bifurcations– between the center and the periphery.
For the anti-systemic forces this global disarticulation makes the design of just one planetary strategy impossible and makes attempts at establishing universal tactics useless. Although common inspirations and shared general objectives exist, the different speeds that the different transitions to post capitalism register, and the notable differences between anti-systemic subjects, attempt against generalizations.
There are two relevant questions that nevertheless affect strategies in the whole world. The first is that capitalism is not going to crumble or going to collapse, but rather it must be overthrown by anti-systemic forces, be they movements with a horizontal and community base, parties that are more or less hierarchical or even governments with an anticapitalist will.
Paraphrasing a Walter Benjamin, one would have to say that nothing did more damage to the revolutionary movement that the belief that capitalism will fall under the weight of its own internal “laws,” above all of an economic character. Capital arrived in the world wrapped in blood and mud, as Marx said, and had to mediate a demographic catastrophe like that produced by the black plague so that the people, paralyzed by fear, would submit without resistance to the logic of the accumulation of capital. Losing fear depends on the people to begin to re-appropriate the means of production and exchange, to construct something different, like the Zapatistas do.
The second is that nothing indicates that the transition to a society new will be brief or will be produced in a few decades. Up to now all the transitions required centuries of enormous suffering, in societies wherein community regulations placed limits on ambitions, when demographic pressure was much less and the power of those above did not seem as absolute as that which the wealthiest one percent accumulate today.
In Latin America, within the last three decades the anti-systemic movements invented new strategies for changing societies and constructing a new world. There also exist thoughts and reflections about collective action that by way of acts diverge from old revolutionary theories, although it is evident that they do not deny the concepts coined by the revolutionary movement throughout two centuries. At the current juncture we can register three facts that impose on us reflections different than those that are being processed by part of the anti-systemic forces in other regions.
In the first place, the unity of the lefts has advanced notably and in not a few cases they have arrived in the government. At least in Uruguay, in Bolivia and in Brazil the unity of the lefts has been as far as was possible. There are certain that there are left parties outside of those forces (above all in Brazil), but that doesn’t change the central fact that unity has been consummated. In other countries, like Argentina, talking about unity of the left is to say very little.
The central fact is that the lefts, more or less united, have given almost everything that they were able to give beyond the evaluation that is made of their performance. The eight South American governments we can classify as left have improved the lives of people diminished their sufferings, but they have not advanced in the construction of new societies. We’re dealing with establishing facts and structural limits that indicate that one cannot obtain more than what has been achieved through that path.
In second place, germs, cements or seeds of the social relationships exist in Latin America that can substitute for capitalism: millions of people live and work in indigenous communities in rebellion, in settlements of campesinos without land, in factories recuperated by their workers, in self-organized urban peripheries, and they participate in thousands undertakings that were born in resistance to neoliberalism and have been converted into alternative spaces to the dominant mode of production.
The third thing is that the sufferings generated because of the social crisis provoked by neoliberalism in the region were contained by initiatives for surviving created by the movements (from eating places to popular bakeries), before the governments that came out of the ballot boxes would be inspired in those same undertakings to promote social programs. These initiatives have been, and still are, keys for resisting and at the same time creating alternatives to the system, since not only do they reduce suffering, but also generate practices autonomous from the states, the churches and the parties.
It is certain, as Immanuel Wallerstein points out in La izquierda mundial luego de 2011 (The World Left After 2011), that the unity of the lefts can contribute to giving birth to a new world and, at the same time, reducing birth pains. But in this region of the world a good part of those pains have not decreased with the electoral triumphs of the left. There are almost 200 charged with terrorism and sabotage in Ecuador for opposing open pit mining. Three militants of the Darío Santillán Front were murdered a few days ago by mafia in Rosario, in what can be the beginning of an escalation against the movements. Hundreds of thousands are displaced from their homes in Brazil because of the speculation facing the 2014 World Cup. The list is long and does not stop growing.
Unity of the left can be positive. But the battle for a new world will be much longer than the duration of the progressive Latin American governments and, over all, it will be spilled in spaces stained with blood and clay.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Friday, January 13, 2012
Para español: http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2012/01/13/opinion/027a2pol
English Translation: Mary Ann Tenuto-Sánchez,
Chiapas Support Committee