By: Gilberto López y Rivas
During the recent seedbed-roundtable “Looks, listens and words: Prohibited thinking?” Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano made frequent references and reflective comments about the book by Carlos Taibo, Collapse: Terminal capitalism, eco-social transition, eco-fascism (Buenos Aires: Libros de Anarres, 2017), the book has circulated profusely in the networks that accompany the CIG-CNI-EZLN, with the recommendation to study it in depth and to discuss it collectively. We’re dealing with a shocking, disturbing and inescapable work, which makes understandable and urgent the so-called constants of the Zapatista Mayas to organize ourselves in the face of the storm that approaches. A storm that is neither metaphorical nor symbolic and that alludes not to an apocalyptic vision or prophetic millennial vocations, but rather to the real and scientifically founded possibility of a catastrophe on a worldwide scale in a not too distant future, which Taibo calls collapse; that is, the general and massive collapse of the dominant system, characterized by substantial reductions in industrial production; the simultaneous and combined collapse of a financial, commercial, political, social, cultural and ecological nature, due to its own contradictions and verifiable realities that are taking place: climate change, the depletion of raw energy materials, the irreversible attack against biodiversity, the social conditions of unemployment, poverty, hunger, mass forced displacements, the exponential increase in mortality due to curable diseases, wars over raw materials and water, genocides, ethnic cleansing, ecocides, State terrorism, proliferation of nuclear weapons, the collapse of the megalopolis and passage to the necropolis, and the extension of crime and criminal gangs.
The work has a clarifying prologue to the Argentine edition written by Juan Carlos Pujalte, a preface and seven chapters. In the first chapter the concept of collapse is expounded on and lessons are extracted from other collapses that happened in the past, which, different than the one underway, were not global. He researches different definitions of the term, to try to define it; examines various problems that surround the concept; weighs the studies that have addressed collapses in the past, and takes into consideration two contemporary collapses.
In the second chapter he explores the causes of a systemic collapse of a global character, placing emphasis on climate change and the depletion of raw materials. He explains the data by which the author considers that the global collapse is perfectly imaginable. He underscores that, differently from the past, when the main threats of catastrophes were associated with natural phenomena, human activity became decisive starting in the 20th Century. The author prefers talking about climate change and not about global warming. According to the data exposed, it will be impossible to avoid a 2 to 3 degree rise in the average planetary temperature. Its consequences, exposed summarily: a rising sea level, disappearance of ice at the North Pole, disappearance and mutation of species, desertification, an irreversible loss of forests, an increase in the number and intensity of hurricanes, increasing difficulties for food production, the emergence of new diseases, major flooding and the disappearance of lands inhabited in continental littorals and islands.
In the third chapter the possible consequences of the collapse are analyzed, which necessarily, the author warns, presents an unequivocal and unbearable speculative dimension. He attempts to explain the characteristics of the order or disorder that will probably emerge after the collapse. Taibo points out that, according to the experts, if the rules of the game are not drastically modified, the collapse could be verified in the years between 2020 and 2050. Its general features are: destruction of coastal stretches and underlying areas, mass migrations, cuts in the supply of electricity, visible effects on transportation systems that will lead to a de-globalization thanks to the scarcity of energy, and the entire universe of centralization and technology will enter into crisis in post-collapse society. There will also be a proliferation of failed states and all sorts of violence, a greater extent of crime, aggressions of the northern states on other states in search of raw materials, a notable decline in economic growth, acute social crisis, collapse of the cities, especially of the mega-cities, a substantial reduction of the number of inhabitants on the planet (it’s estimated that 67 percent of the planet’s inhabitants would perish).
In the fourth and fifth chapters two possible responses in the face of the collapse are exposed: the one that Taibo calls movements for an eco-social transition and the one he calls eco-fascism. The first has a collectivist vocation, demonstrates sufficient social cohesion, maintain forms of community property, more direct human relations, an active and participative social life, characteristics that inevitably refer to the original peoples immersed in antisystemic autonomic processes, like Zapatismo. The other imaginable response facing the collapse is eco-fascism, which leads to a rapid and overwhelming decline in the number of human beings that people the planet. Taibo refers to the antecedent of the original eco-fascism of Hitler’s Germany, and the current social Darwinism, based precisely on an open militarization of collective life and extension of terror.
The sixth chapter is about popular perceptions around the collapse, founded in ignorance and denial on the widespread idea that what we want to occur will occur, that there are no limits on the planet, that the market and the technologies will permit confronting the problems, that the only solution continues being the uncritical acceptance of the existing reality. The last chapter refers to a synthesis and general conclusions, urging attention to the collapse that approaches and acting accordingly, looking for solutions totally alien to capitalism, private property and the market, abandoning the logic of the economic growth, betting on the equality in all orders and maintaining hope in the face of savagery.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Friday, May 18, 2018
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee
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