Critical Thought Versus the Capitalist Hydra

portada-libro-II-p.jpg-nggid0512415-ngg0dyn-350x350-00f0w010c010r110f110r010t010By Gilberto López y Rivas

The second book of Critical thought versus the capitalist hydra includes the positions and interventions –among individuals and collectives– of 35 invitees to the seminar which was held under that name in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, from April 29 to May 9, 2015. The compiled texts, which range from greetings, interventions or words to formal positions, touch an extensive variety of themes that, in their majority, try to respond to the call of the Zapatistas around the exercise of critical thought, not idle or routine, much less conformist, which contributes to emancipatory and anti-capitalist struggles, facing that monster with multiple heads: the hydra, which has led humanity, and the planet itself, to the brink of possible destruction.

Different from the first volume, in which are included all the participations of EZLN members, and which is characterized by its internal coherence in its thematic diversity, in this book diverse political positions are exposed, as a group also very heterogeneous about issues that, nevertheless, in the majority express an effort to deepen the diagnosis of the storm in which we are immersed, and in the proposals for the construction of an alternative project to that of capitalism.


The initial words from the parents of the Ayotzinapa students, victims of an enforced disappearance, give an account of those ties of tenderness that unify the struggles in a torrent of dignified rage and reciprocal solidarity faced with a criminal State, some constructing autonomy and others looking for their sons until finding them, “cost what it may!”

Juan Villoro refers to the loss to human beings of the direct relationship with our residence on Earth, absorbed in the virtual world of television and computers (and I would add, the cell phone), that spectral life that produces a new egotism. He reminds us that the material world exists and must be transformed, and he emphasizes the motto of the University of the Earth, “And you what?” At the same time, he questions the erosion of the world on the altars of progress, which now represents madness. He maintains that contemporaneity must be conceived as starting with change, and from that point comes the contemporaneous character of Zapatismo. He asserts that conservative thought takes refuge in the analysis of the present, abdicates its responsibility to face the future and criticizes those who feign their independence in the immobility of not being either in favour or against. He asserts that: “communism was not the bad-tasting cure-all that the Soviet Revolution promised at its dawn, but the necessity of associating thought with the modification of reality has not lost its urgency.” Zapatismo represents a genuine modernity, while the construction of another way of life is founded in community, where the “we” predominates over the “I”. “An ethic of shared values. Within this ambit, power is not an end in itself, but rather a service that is governed by a dialectical motto: to govern by obeying.”

Adolfo Gilly offers a perspective on what he names the “financial unification of the world,” a new epoch of capitalism and of the relationship of domination of capital over work and nature. He maintains that: “we are facing an unedited form of the domination and subordination relationship: the universal domination of the world and the command of finances –global financial capital– over societies and economies… [And] a humanity that sees and experiences the destruction or degradation of their worlds of life.” This has brought with it, he points out, the formation of a new historic subject: the global workers. He maintains that it’s not the time for hope, but rather the time for anger and rage.

Sergio Rodríguez Lascano debates about the power and the left, in that the positions are polarized without abiding by the new reality of capitalism. He asserts that today “the strategy of a good part of the left is not to take power to change the country or the world, but rather to change the administration (not even the government) without touching the power.” He maintains that we experience a cycle of accumulation of fictitious money, of speculative capital and a domination of shadowy finances. The fundamental error of geopolitical analysis is that it continues understanding the world economy as the sum of the national economies, when in reality “it is the sum of the large legal and illegal financial societies and the large industries with organized or disorganized crime.” He maintains that crisis is the permanent reality of capitalism, its very own dynamic, its essence. “This new form of capital –the financial system– levels countries, peoples, cultures, languages ways of life.” In this situation, the Nation-State no longer plays any role that it played before, especially, that of the regulator of investment… The national bourgeoisie is part of the museum of relics.” Just like Juan Villoro, Sergio considers that: “the storm that approaches is not the product of savagery, but rather of… Progress… The catastrophe that approaches is not one more crisis in the history of capitalism. It is an adjustment of accounts between capital and humanity, and it goes beyond good or bad intentions of such and so Government.” He thinks that, in the Mexican case, the storm is already among us. He enumerates the new characteristics of capitalism as a project of domination that: “seeks to disorganize-reorganize the economy of course, but also the culture, the human ties that have been constructed since centuries ago, the moral economy of those that live in the countryside and the cities.” Part of these characteristics are: the concentration of power in around thirty cities, while to the side there are other zones transcendent to the future of capitalism, because the world’s energy reserves are found in them. Here, control of territory is converted into an essential productive factor while it directly generates conditions for engendering value.

“This is the day by day scenario of the most significant confrontations between capital and the guardians of the land: the Native peoples.”

As for the historic subject of revolution he proposes: “today there is not a unified nucleus of resistance, (but rather) there are many different processes of rebellion.”

Continuing with commentary on the second tome of the work Critical thought versus the capitalist hydra, Sergio Rodríguez Lascano proposes that, faced with the diversity of rebellious processes, the idea of a vanguard becomes obsolete and he replaces it with meeting and sharing, which must also be present within the terrain of ideas. “Breaking with individualism in theoretical elaboration is a precondition of critical thought.” He proposes constructing a world in which the hydra cannot be reproduced. It’s not about conceiving other worlds, but rather about constructing them. “One cannot destroy the hydra if our political and ethical behaviour is based on the same principles that the hydra has imposed, since domination is domination.”

Luis Lozano Arredondo begins with a criticism of the universities, which, he asserts, remain in the comfort of theory, while the knowledge of the communities in resistance advances in the construction of a world of self-management. He exposes how exploitation and dispossession in our country is expressed, to the extent that 85 percent of the population experiences poverty, has lost all its labour rights, and maintains high levels of unemployment and overexploitation. He proposes collaborating, cooperating and sharing our knowledge with other humans to imagine and construct another world.

Rosa Albina Garavito considers that the catastrophe that the Zapatistas announce in reality surrounds us, destroying everything in its path: our labour force –up to 60 percent of the occupied population swelling the ranks of informal employment–, labour stability, working conditions agreed upon bi-laterally, pension funds, salaries, savings accounts, the more than a thousand quasi-state companies, among them Pemex. Health services, education, housing, nutrition have deteriorated; in sum, the capitalist hydra has dismantled without effort the social rights we have won and the only thing left is our dignity and self-organization. She considers autonomy as the project of the future, with dignity and decision-making ability versus the State. With autonomy, the Zapatistas are cutting off many heads of the capitalist hydra. It is the seed of the new country.

Efraín Herrera, from the Callejero Collective, considers that they construct a distinctive aesthetic discourse starting with a rebel attitude in capitalist society, starting with what Bertolt Brecht maintained; that “before being an artist, you are a social being.” It is in the field of rebellion where one finds creative character, imaginative and purposeful. This implies taking an attitude against the State. They found that the pamphlet doesn’t provoke immediate reflection and opted for the metaphor as an effective tool that leaves the door open to a lasting reflection. They are convinced that there is no other alternative than to form more and more collectives.

Eduardo Almeida Acosta considers that we are experiencing the global apocalyptic situation, a capitalist nightmare, now neoliberal, globalizing and extractivist: “The narcissistic zeal or the effort to preserve one’s own existence at the expense of all the others… and to seek its perpetuation as a system without assigning any importance as to whether it implies violence, war and death. That is reflected in our country, the mined Mexico: a bankrupt republic, a country at war with itself; a mafia State and a corporate waster, a dark government, about social control and aligned with speculative business elements and in collusion with criminals.” One head of the hydra is the perversion of politics; another has been the injustice in the treatment of different cultures; a third is the plunder of national sovereignty, of the individual rights and of social and community rights, and a fourth head forms the complex of misadventures that all Mexico suffers due to the impoverishing management of the macro-economy. The injustices of the financial markets are another big head. He wonders: what to do in the face of this devastation? Intensifying rage, putting the body (on the line), challenging everything, inventing new forms of struggle versus domination: another democracy, other forms of autonomy, another anti-imperialism. Dreaming, imagining, ideating other forms of weaving social cohesion.

Vilma Almendra, an indigenous Nasa-Misak woman from Colombia, confronts the four heads of the hydra: terror and war, structural adjustment, propaganda and co-optation and assimilation of struggles. Terror and war as the instrument for dispossessing the communities; structural adjustment between the transnationals and the States for defining all the laws of dispossession and for imposing the agendas of above; propaganda in the communications media, the churches, the schools that seek to dispossess distinctive and critical thought, and the co-optation that robs entire processes, stops the movements, even through concepts like multiculturalism. She criticizes negotiations with governments, which are executioners and that ultimately end up with meeting after meeting, committee after committee, confusing the political agenda of struggle and being subjected to the State’s agenda. Despite it all, she considers that the policies of the transnationals and the bad government are not winning, making a journey through the struggles for Mother Earth / Madre Tierra. “It’s important to see and to know that these struggles, resistances and freedoms, despite the politics of extermination and dispossession, continue flourishing, continue emerging, are there in front of us, versus the capitalist hydra.” She invites re-appropriating words into the walk, in what she names “palabrandar our path of the dignified word.” Revitalizing the assemblies as the maximum authority. She maintains that: “from the territories, and also from academia (it’s about), attaining harmonizing theory and practice, because at times from academia we imprison ourselves in the practices and we convert them into concepts, we are leaving them without wings.” Nevertheless, she rejects that essentialism constitutes a position of the peoples and the communities; “we are not pure,” she asserts.

Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee
Minor edits for UK audience by Dorset Chiapas Solidarity

‘Critical Thought Versus the Capitalist Hydra’2015