By: Gilberto López y Rivas
The culminating moment of the recent Zapatista roundtable, “Looks, Listens, Words: prohibited thinking?” was full of emotion and prolonged and standing applause of those who filled the auditorium of the CIDECI-University of the Earth, was when Pablo González Casanova was given the rank of comandante and thus became a member of the Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee of the Zapatista National Liberation Army. For those who have had the privilege of his friendship and camaraderie during these years in the San Andrés dialogue, the Peace with Democracy Group, the Network of Intellectuals in Defense of Humanity, in recent times, in the twinning (hermanamiento) with the struggle of the Indigenous Government Council, the National Indigenous Congress and the EZLN, the now Comandante Pablo Contreras has always represented that lookout that the Zapatista Mayas describe as the sentinel of critical reflection, who knows how to distinguish changes, look at the signs, evaluate them and interpret them, who doesn’t tire, much less surrender, and points to the dangers, storms, without slogans, acts of faith or the fashions of extractivist academia or intellectuals at the service of power. This deserved recognition from the Zapatistas to the most important social scientist of our country comes to fulfill a life full of ethical congruence and intellectual social commitment. It is for that dedication to the cause of the peoples that the EZLN’s General Command General rewards him, in Zapatista fashion, “giving him more work,” as Comandante Tacho would affirm on that memorable evening.
Against the grain of an academia and an educated right, insensitive and conformist, Pablo González Casanova is distinguished by his early and always valid contributions regarding democracy in Mexico, as well as the reformulation of the categories of exploitation, domination, internal colonialism, imperialism, community and development. Just this year, we presented his book Exploitation, colonialism and struggle for democracy in Latin America [México: Akal, 2017], essential for understanding the tragic reality of our country, in times when the electoral circus tries to trick millions of citizens with its political clowns, tamers, illusionists and trapeze artists. In this work, González Casanova maintains, precisely, that the exploitation, the foundation of the capitalist order, has been incompatible with a democratic political system that respects the sovereignty of the peoples of Latin America, a statement that makes the structural foundation of the crisis of legitimacy and credibility of this system of representation comprehensible.
Subcomandante Galeano commented that González Casanova won the surname of Contreras through his permanent and determined support, not exempt from punctual and constructive differences. With that, he shows his stripe as an organic intellectual of social processes to which he points with passion and without ambiguities. Thus, they highlight his critique of bureaucratic socialism based on the defense of scientific Marxism and humanism; his loyalty to the Cuban revolution, and, recently, his positioning around the revolutionary process that the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela experiences, [The world’s biggest lie, La Jornada], an historic event, by the way, that has made even globally-recognized intellectuals lose their anti-imperialist and classist compass. I also remember, his categorical demarcation: “With Saramago up to here and with Cuba forever” [http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2003/ 04/26/030a1mun.php?origen=], in difficult circumstances that the government and the Cuban people experienced in 2003, and in which they received the timely solidarity of González Casanova.
Subcomandante Galeano also noted that Pablo Contreras is the only member of the General Command that is not indigenous, a distinction that is explained not only by his merits as a militant in the cause of the peoples in resistance, but also by his theoretical contributions to the understanding of what Marxism calls “the national and colonial question.” For students of ethnicity, his concept of internal colonialism signifies a light in the tunnel of dogmatic Marxism. In the “Internal colonialism” chapter of the cited book, he goes deep into this important concept to interpret the ethnic-national problem, starting with the idea that political borders have directly or indirectly influenced the formulation and use of sociological categories, marking off the relatively interchangeable character of the notion of colonialism and of colonial structure, and emphasizing colonialism as an internal phenomenon. Thus, the concept of internal colonialism could only emerge as a result of the great independence movement of the former colonies. With the direct disappearance of the domination of the natives by the foreigners, appears the notion of domination and exploitation of natives by natives. González Casanova clarifies: “Internal colonialism corresponds to a structure of social relations of domination and exploitation between cultural groups that are heterogeneous, distinct, and with civilization differences. The colonial structure and internal colonialism are distinguished from the class structure, because they are not only a relationship of domination and exploitation of the workers by the owners of the means of production and their collaborators, but rather a relationship of domination and exploitation of one population [with its different classes, property owners and workers] by another population that also has different classes [property owners and workers].”
The naming of Pablo González Casanova as a member of the General Command of the Zapatista National Liberation Army has multiple meanings from the perspective of the very same Zapatismo. In any case, it becomes an obligatory point of reference in which academia and intellectuals creaking with age and estranged from anticapitalist resistances, re-colonization and the social war that our peoples and nations experience are put to the test. And, based on the above, the idea raised by Comandante Contreras about the universal character of Zapatista thinking.
Congratulations, Comandante Contreras!
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Friday, May 4, 2018
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee