The necessary utopia

By: Raúl Romero*

We live in times of anguish and anxiety. Wherever you look, uncertainty is the protagonist. Most of humanity doesn’t see “the storm pass.” It’s not all of humanity, there are exceptions, those to whom the pandemic came “like a finger ring”: owners of pharmaceutical companies, telecommunications companies and others who enrich themselves with the tragedy.

The SARS-CoV-2 virus has not only highlighted social inequalities; it has sharpened them. Millions of people see their incomes affected, their educational levels, their emotional and physical health. The effects are not equal for everyone: colonized, looted and impoverished communities, nations and regions bear the brunt of it. The pandemic and its multiple consequences, as well as the measures adopted by the financial centers to confront it, continue developing the underdevelopment of our peoples. In capitalism, the salvation and development of some means the underdevelopment and loss of the majority.

The scenario gets worse when the adversaries of freedom and democracy reappear, and that now clamor for curfews, punitive measures and a “heavy hand” to “make the people understand.” Although it might seem adverse, this authoritarian spirit finds allies in nihilist or anti-vaccine ideologies, or in business people and politicians who call to ignore measures in favor of the market.

In Mexico, the Covid-19 pandemic was linked with other problems: organized crime, femicides, forced disappearances, poverty and the murder of journalists and defenders of territory. Also, the continuity of militarization, extractivism and the pacts of impunity that mark the current administration, make the panorama more complicated.

The multidimensional crisis deepens, and its ethical and moral dimension surfaces more and more. The loss of meaning, horizon and hope is fertile terrain for the worst monsters.

What to do? Where to keep walking?

In The crisis of the utopias, Víctor Flores Olea proposed the “need for utopia,” to “reconstruct the principle of hope.” He identified in the Zapatista National Liberation Army (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional, EZLN), in the new anticapitalist political parties and in the social movements after Porto Alegre, ideas and practices that contribute to constructing “another possible world.”

In the movements, peoples and organizations in resistance there are pre-figurative practices that put on the horizon the world that we want. They are not improvisations, many of these experiences are the resulted of theory and practice, of imagination, of trial and error.

From a quick reading of some of those “real utopias,” a scaffolding of practices and concepts emerge that we would do well to take up. It is spoken and constructed, for example, from or towards autonomy or the communal, where the common good is at the center of the organization of life and work.

Faced with the emergency due to Covid-19, practices and reflections about preventive, comprehensive and community health, the work of caring and taking care of life, of the common house and of the commons, as well as personal and collective self-care, gain great notoriety.

As alternatives to capitalist development, these movements place self- management, food sovereignty, recuperation of lands, agro-ecology, milpa, beekeeping, alternative currencies, self-production, cooperatives, the solidarity economy, fair trade, eco-technologies, free software, barter, the exchange of knowledge, trades and services, alternative markets, collective work, free community work and tasks.

Faced with the problems of violence that criminal capitalism deployed in our territories, different movements placed at the center of the debate concepts to give dimension to the problem: women’s struggles for recognition of the crime of femicide or the demand of relatives with disappeared persons to recognize the crime and implement searches while alive. Also, the movements of those aggrieved by the violence have constructed search brigades for people, or they have constructed anti-monuments and refuges, or they have carried out “popular trials” and commemorations, practices that materialize solidarity and memory.

To these movements are added others that in rural zones were organized to take charge of security and justice, and that even propose the replacement of punitive measures by re-education.

At the center of that “other possible world“ are the assembly and democracy, fundamental pillars of “another politics” where principles, consensus or agreement, rotation and accountability can be a guarantee that govern by obeying is real and not a slogan.

Many practices escape here, for example, liberating pedagogy, or the ones that impel sex-gender diversities. Practicing them and combining them with other present and past experiences that help us exit barbarism and orient us towards a world with democracy, liberty, dignity, social justice, sciences and the arts, will help us reconstruct utopia, to build the world that we want.

* Sociologist


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Sunday, January 17, 2021

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee


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