By: Raúl Zibechi
If we observe what happens within the doors of the three great powers that fight for world hegemony (the United States, China and Russia), we will see how the priority of geopolitical logics and interstate struggles narrow the spaces of anti-systemic movements and even the criticism of established powers.
Every time the tension between nations grows, the dominant classes insist on controlling their societies, since intensification of social conflict can weaken their global aspirations. In these moments, we witness the increasingly suffocating control of social action, through direct repression, co-optation or a combination of both.
In China, the power of the Communist Party and of an authoritarian State crush any resistance movement, in a nation where the government tightly controls civil society. There is no trade unionism independent of the State, nor social movements like the ones we knew in other periods of Chinese history, nor the possibility of expressing open criticisms of the authorities.
According to the state radio station Radio International, “some 1,650 people die every day in China as a result of overworking,” which means 600,000 deaths per year. Chinese feminists are persecuted and incarcerated for distributing propaganda, in a society where power “is paranoid about everything that it can’t control” (https://bit.ly/3rzpIiL).
In an excellent text in El Salto, Rafael Poch de Feliu estimates that both in Russia and in the former Asian Soviet republics, oligarchies that manage autocratic regimes predominate. The Kremlin’s suspicion of the slightest social protest, is due in his opinion to the “fear of a social and anti-oligarchic revolt in Russia, something that will happen sooner or later” (https://bit.ly/3oymgmG).
In countries where no autonomous civil society exists and people are excluded from any participation at all, without “loudspeakers to legally express their disagreement,” there is a tendency towards “an attitude of demolition rather than reform or amendment of the established order.” Accusing the protesters of being foreign agents is an old alibi used by the rights in our lands against all opposition from below.
In the United States, they combine brutal repression against mobilizations from below (as happened with the protests following the police murder of George Floyd) with the more subtle co-optation of movement leaders, to expand the social bases of power and weaken the struggles.
In its 2020 Report on Human Rights in the United States, Amnesty International assures that: “at least a thousand people were shot dead by the police.” The report adds that the police produced: “numerous and flagrant human rights violations against those who were protesting the unlawful murders of black people and were asking for a systemic reform of the police.”
It also denounces that: “in the states that permit the open carry of firearms, there were cases of armed civilians who confronted demonstrators that resulted in at least four deaths.” The descriptions that Amnesty and some media make about police violence, are very similar to those made daily in some Latin American countries, such as Colombia and Brazil.
In the meeting that Vice President Kamala Harris had with the Honduran president, Xiomara Castro, days ago, Harris insisted on the importance of “combatting sexual, gender and domestic violence, and that this work is one of the fundamental pillars of US strategy to address the fundamental causes of migration in Central America” (https://bit.ly/3Lop4wo).
There is no denying that they are creative: now the empire exports feminism, while denunciations of violence against women rain down on the armed forces. Deborah Snyder, a retired Navy colonel, told France 24 that: “80 percent of female soldiers have been victims of sexual assault” (https://bit.ly/3gzsjTI).
The United States and the right-wing promote “revolutions of color” in order to promote regime changes, appealing to feminism and environmentalism, taking advantage of social discontent to bring down governments that are not related to them.
Symmetrically, the lefts in the government accuse those who criticize them of “playing the game of the right,” as they judged the June 2013 movement in Brazil that fought against inequality. Let’s not forget that the People’s Revolutionary Army (Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo) shot Roque Dalton to death for “being at the service of the CIA,” in other words, for disagreeing with the line of the leadership.
These are bad times for the struggle of those below. Let’s not despair; history teaches us, as it did in 1914, that the statist furies vanish when all the indecency of the states and their repressive forces emerge.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Friday, February 11, 2022, https://www.jornada.com.mx/2022/02/11/opinion/019a2pol
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee