By: Gustavo Esteva
The openly anti-capitalist posture of the CNI’s initiative has provoked very different reactions. It’s useful to examine them by reflecting on what it means today to be against what capital says and does.
The most common reaction to the initiative considers it irrelevant. It is not seen as a real threat. It provokes indifference woven with scorn and rejection. It is seen as settled that the majority of the people will continue enclosed in the capitalist prison, as much by daily dependencies on the system as by their dreams, still formulated in their breast. The conviction would prevail that, despite all its defects, capitalism is to remain and nothing better has been found; rather, the conviction that the strength and characteristics of the dominant regime makes openly confronting it foolish. Whether or not one has a critical position with respect to capitalism, this indifference leads to seeking some form of accommodation with forces that seem unbeatable. The open struggle against capital, like that of the CNI, would lack viability and would be mere illusory rhetoric and even demagogic.
Those who pretend to place themselves on the left of the ideological spectrum often adopt that posture. Their cynicism is scarcely hidden under the umbrella of realism. Pablo Iglesias, of Podemos, pointed it out without shades: “May they stay with the red flag and leave us in peace. I want to win” (Público, 26/06/15). His position is not far from what the so-called “progressive” governments of Latin America adopt. The Marxist García Linera celebrates dependent capitalism, developmentalist and extractivist from Bolivia because, according to him, the fruit of exploitation is distributed there among the people. Mujica, in Uruguay, would have changed his dream of transforming the world through the good administration of capitalism. To Lula, his policies were “all that the left dreamed should be done” (La Jornada, 3/10/10). “A metallurgy worker –said with pride– he is making the greatest capitalization in the history of capitalism…” (Proceso, 1770, 3/10/10) The Brazilian “left” supported his alliance with businessmen and corporations, as does the Mexican “left” by supporting similar alliances with AMLO, which would only seek, according to his own words, to smooth the sharpest edges of neoliberal capitalism.
An argument along the same lines that seeks to be more subtle considers that, unless anti-capitalism achieves a global majority, which seems impossible in the foreseeable future, it would imply renouncing all the fruits of the scientific and technological advances of human history, which capitalism would have absorbed into its production and would now determine necessities and general desires.
There is before all else a clear awareness of the current danger in the anticapitalist posture. The slide into barbarity is no longer a theoretical disjunctive, like that which Rosa Luxemburg proposed a hundred years ago: it’s an immediate threat, already completed in many parts. Fighting against capital is now an issue of survival, because what it does to the environment puts the human species in danger and what it does to the society and the culture destroys the bases of our coexistence and intensifies all forms of the reigning violence.
The fight against capital demands, before all else, recognizing that our necessities are not an imposition on nature, but rather the fruit of dispossession. What we suffer today is similar to that of the comuneros that need housing, food and jobs when in the beginning of capitalism their means of subsistence was expropriated from them. Our desires already have the form of merchandise. Having won first place globally in the per person consumption of cola drinks means that the thirst of a very wide sector of Mexican society has been given a capitalist form.
Recuperating desires and necessities is a necessary step in the struggle against capital. It’s the step that gave Via Campesina, one of the largest organizations in human history, when it maintained that we must define for ourselves what we eat… and produce it. Recuperating the desire for one’s own food, cultivating it on recuperated land or in the backyard of a rented house in the city, implies breaking with the social relations of capitalism, simultaneously recuperating the means of production and autonomous decision-making ability in a central dimension of subsistence.
The Zapatistas have the highest degree of self-sufficiency in all aspects of daily life, without falling into relationships of capitalist production. They did not renounce buying machetes, bicycles or computers on the capitalist market, in which they also place products to satisfy needs and desires that they define more autonomously all the time. It’s about a realism very different from that practiced above.
Their open and decided struggle against capital recognizes without nuances or reservations that “it lacks what it lacks.” Without prescribing recipes for everyone or taking refuge in any universal doctrine, they insist on the need of organizing ourselves, which in practice means that each one, in their time and their geography, must learn to govern themselves and to construct their world beyond the capitalist prison.
Only like that, not with complicit accommodations, can we avoid the barbarity towards which it’s leading us. And this position, against what the pro-capitalist “left” thinks, continuously extends to common people, sometimes because of the mere struggle for survival under the current storm, and other times in the name of old ideals.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Monday, July 3, 2017
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee