By: Raúl Zibechi
Instead of lamenting or rejoicing over the drift of the war in Ukraine, for or against one or the other side, I think that we ought to understand how changes in the world order are affecting the peoples and popular movements. Geopolitics should be useful to us for defining the ways of acting of those below in the face of the storms underway.
A recent article by José Luis Fiori, a Brazilian researcher at the Institute for Strategic Studies on Oil, Gas and Biofuels, highlights in an article in IHU Unisinos that the world is moving from an “almost absolute unilateralism” to an “aggressive oligarchic multilateralism,” in a period in which the world “will live for a time without a hegemonic power” (https://bit.ly/3PwEctf).
This statement seems to me to be as accurate as it is important. For a few decades we will live in a world where no power will be able to unilaterally define the rules and, therefore, we’ll enter a period of chaos and decomposition of the world-system. The rules will very often be imposed by armed gangs or packs of parastatal killers.
A relatively brief period, in historical terms, of profound convulsions and gigantic storms, as Zapatismo has already analyzed. Something like this has happened during the wars of independence, the transition between the Spanish and British hegemonies, or in the first half of the 20th century, with two world wars and multiple revolutions in the third world, which marked the rise of the United States.
Although things will not be identical now (due to the sum of the climate crisis, nuclear weapons, the rise of non-Western powers and the crisis of capitalism, among others), history can serve as a mirror and an inspiration, because the popular sectors of the world were brutally attacked and could not make their own projects prevail, when they had them.
Based on the fact. that we are entering a world without a hegemonic power, I would like to present some ideas about the role that those from below can play in this convulsive stage.
The first point is that we must reject both the old decadent power and those aspiring to replace it. These are wars between empires and ruling classes in which our interests are absent. In the Latin American wars of independence, the native, black and mestizo peoples risked their lives so that the Creoles could take power.
For them nothing changed. Even worse, in many cases the new republics were more brutal than the viceroyalties, as evidenced by the case of the Mapuche people who suffered dispossession and genocide in the so-called Pacification of Araucanía.
The second point is that it is essential to open spaces typical of the peoples, to launch long-term projects that do not benefit either the old elites or the new emerging ones. If we’re not able to raise our own projects, we will be absorbed by the ruling classes that will use media propaganda to add us to some of their projects of domination, as is currently the case with the invasion of Ukraine.
The third point is that no one is going to defend us and many are killing us or trying to tame us. The existence of multiple forms of violence exercised by all kinds of armed gangs – from drug trafficking to paramilitaries and state forces – are the product of a system in decomposition, in the same way that femicides show a wounded and decadent patriarchy, thus more brutal.
For now, we must create self-defense modes for the peoples and the social sectors that decide to defend themselves, using the forms that each one considers adequate. Although we can chose nonviolent and peaceful resistance, when it’s about defending life we should be flexible at the time of choosing the ways.
Finally, in a chaotic world crossed by multiple violence, where famines, wars and catastrophes of all kinds occur (the fires of this Boreal summer are a small sample of what is to come), we can survive if we create collective autonomous arks capable of navigating the storms.
The peoples who are already traveling this path are not just a few. From the native peoples and neighborhoods grouped in the Indigenous Government Council in Mexico, to dozens of Amazon peoples, Mapuche in Chile and Argentina, Nasa and Misak, in Colombia, among others. As always happened in history, it is in the peripheries where the new is born, where they teach us ways that we can replicate without imitating.
To travel the path of the autonomies from below, we must stop looking towards above, getting excited about the electoral circuses, with candidates of the system and even with the constituents, because it saps our energies for the most important task, which can pave the way for our collective survival: the construction of multiple and diverse integral autonomies.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada, Friday, July 29, 2022, https://www.jornada.com.mx/2022/07/29/opinion/020a2pol\ and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee