Femicides, Part of the Fourth World War

By Raúl Zibechi


On 14th August  desinformemonos.org drew attention to the 31 femicides registered in Querétaro since January 2015, with a short and frightening story.

“Games, dreams, school, friends, family, birthdays, trips, security, freedom, dignity and life are all no longer rights because they have been converted, shamefully, intolerably and lamentably into benefits that are acquired when you ‘moderate’ your manner of speaking, when you ‘are careful’ about how you look, the hours you go out, the places that you frequent, when you stop trusting people and when your life stops being your life.”

The article emphasizes that: “femicides are clearly State violence;” it denounces “the impunity that covers them and favours the repetition of harm,” and it emphasizes that the majority of the victims are usually indigenous and poor women.

The information refers directly to Silvia Federici’s book, Calibán y la bruja: mujeres, cuerpo y acumulación originaria (Traficantes de Sueños, 2010); [1] a work of lasting influence, which contributes to illuminating reality, permitting a better understanding of a social conflict. It analyses the witch-hunts in medieval society, and at the same time contributes to the understanding of what was happening in this period of history.

Federici maintains that feudalism was eroded due to the power and autonomy obtained by the popular classes, and that the response of the dominant classes was a violent offensive that laid the foundations of capitalism. Slavery and colonialism, the subjection of workers in production and the confinement of women in reproduction, the creation of hierarchies of race, gender and age, all formed part of this new domination.

Capitalism not only arrived “dripping blood and dirt from head to foot” (Marx), but also creating “an immense concentration camp,” where slavery on the plantations and the mita [2] in the mines boosted capital accumulation (Federici, p. 91). The power of women was destroyed through the witch-hunts, and the men (and the women and children) were subjected to waged slavery and servitude, in order to appropriate the commons.

Today we cross through the crisis of capitalism and the dominant class again uses violence to perpetuate itself. At the core of this crisis is the power acquired by the popular sectors organized into movements, particularly since the 1960s, when factory workers dismantled the employers’ power by overthrowing the ‘Fordist’ [3] discipline.

The capital offensive underway seeks to destroy that capacity for organization and struggle of those from below. But the popular world is now very different from before, particularly because of the crisis of the old patriarchy. Anyone who knows the antisystemic movements knows that women play a central role, even when they aren’t as visible as the men. They are the mortar of collective life; they are in charge of the reproduction of life and of the movements. Besides cooking, weaving and caring for the animals in their homes, they join together with other women to do the same, but collectively. They are the guardians of the commons, material and immaterial.

They, and their children, are the sustainers of the popular world, of extended families and organizations, from urban to campesino and indigenous communities, from Chiapas and Cherán to Wall Mapu (Mapuche Territory) and the Andes. It’s no accident that we are facing a new witch-hunt when reproduction occupies such an important place in the resistance and in the power of women within their communities.

Women, and their children, have broken the patriarchal nuclear family, the power of the Church and the priest, the disciplinary role of the school, the barracks, the hospital and the workshop. They have created a world where collective relations take precedence over family ones and the cooperation between them makes “the sexual division of labour” into “a source of power and protection for women,” as Federici writes about medieval society (p. 41). Paying attention to what happens in a tianguis (outdoor market), an outdoor cafe or a popular barrio makes further comment unnecessary.

The violence to annihilate the popular sectors, through the narco, femicide and the wars against the peoples, has been designed by the ruling classes to destroy our powers; not only explicitly. Federici reminds us that the workers of the 15th Century practiced multiple resistances: they stopped working when they had enough, they only accepted tasks for a limited time, and dressed ostentatiously, in such a way that they were “indistinguishable from the lords” (p. 78).

The new witch-hunt, now without trials or formalities, but rather with a clean bullet, is part of capital’s Fourth World War to eliminate us as peoples. To succeed in the class war, the bourgeoisie must raze the autonomy of the peoples, communities and individuals; violence and social policies are, in that sense, complementary. The attack on women and their children is one of the crucial points of this war.

As at the dawn of the system, in its decline violence again becomes the principal agent of capital accumulation. Far from any illusion, we must comprehend that violence is neither an error nor a momentary deviation, but rather a systemic characteristic of capitalism in decline, particularly in the zones where the dignity of human beings is not recognized.

For that reason, she says it is urgent to clarify strategies to address the systemic violence and the annihilation of the will of the peoples. If femicide and the indiscriminate murder of young people and women are systemic, what sense does it make to elect governments from different parties who are going to keep the current system going?

[1] Calibán and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation [Dream Traffickers, 2010]

[2] According to Wikipedia, mit’a, a Quechua word, meant collective free labour on public works required by the Inca Empire. After the Spanish invaded, the word became mita and the practice became an oppressive system. With respect to the mines, workers were paid very low wages, with which they had to buy their food (from company stores) and pay taxes. They earned so little that they were often unable to pay their debts and were, therefore, not permitted to leave the mines and go home.

[3] Fordism is a manufacturing philosophy that aims to achieve higher productivity by standardizing the output, using conveyor assembly lines, and breaking the work into small deskilled tasks.

Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee
Posted with minor edits by Dorset Chiapas Solidarity