Infinite Dispossession: David Harvey’s View of Mexico

Translated by Oso Sabio[1] from an article written by Alejandro de Coss[2] in Spanish at Horizontal.mx[3] on 19/05/2015

There are few contemporary social theoreticians more important than English geographer David Harvey[4], and this essay uses some of his main ideas (and his concept of “accumulation by dispossession” in particular) to analyse the current reality in Mexico.

Today’s Mexico is immersed in a seemingly endless sea of catastrophes, and news of new injustices and atrocious deaths bombard us on a daily basis. Physical and virtual social networks, meanwhile, regularly fill up with a temporary anger that reaches a peak before gradually fading away again. And these facts, some of which are clearly interconnected (while others appear not to be), can all be systematically explained through the work of David Harvey.

Professor Harvey (b. 1935) has long sought through his work to show how capital accumulation transforms physical space and, in doing so, he has made one of the biggest contributions to Marxist theory in the last fifty years. In particular, his work has focussed on explaining the production of urban space, the role of violence and dispossession in the accumulation of capital, and the role that the financial sector plays in the capitalist system and its crises – all of these being ideas that were rarely explored by Marx (a figure who Harvey studies, criticises, and complements).

In this short essay, I will seek to explain, with the guidance of Harvey’s work, the whirlwind of catastrophes within which we find ourselves, and will focus mostly on his concept of “accumulation by dispossession” in order to describe how drug production, legal ‘reforms’ (such as the energy reforms), the changes in land ownership, and the liberalisation of trade have all produced processes of dispossession necessary for the further accumulation of capital. At the same time, though, seeing Mexico through Harvey’s eyes also allows us to understand the establishment of current and future resistance movements fighting against the system of dispossession, disaster, and death that overwhelms us today.

The modern history of the territory now known as Mexico began with a process of dispossession, with the country’s folklore speaking of how (behind the caricaturisation of pristine indigenous communities and the Spaniards’ embodiment of evil) well-documented processes of looting roared into action, linking Mexican territories to an interconnected global system based on capital accumulation and circulation (Wallerstein 1988). In short, the production of a ‘New Spain’ was an essential part of the colonial project which, though now mutated, endures to this day.

The dispossession outlined above continued for centuries, and did not manifest itself solely through the transferral of precious resources like gold to the coffers of great European powers. The dispossession was also internal: in the forced expulsion of peasants and indigenous peoples; in the loss of communal rights; in the transformation of property relations into private property alone; in the suppression of alternative forms of production and consumption; in the monetisation of trade; through the slave trade; through debt; and, finally, through the credit system (Harvey, “The ‘New’ Imperialism: Accumulation by Dispossession”).

Additionally, dispossession (or ‘primitive accumulation’ in the words of Marx) is an ongoing process, which does not just belong to a past, primitive, or unique moment in time (Bonefeld 2001). For that reason, Harvey prefers to call the process ‘accumulation by dispossession’, while considering it an essential mechanism for the reproduction of capital. Furthermore, the different ways in which this process occurs are not linear, so they do not follow a logic of inevitable development. Dispossession through debt, for example, coexists with the loss of communal rights.

In short, the process of dispossession is essential for the continued reproduction of capital. In over-accumulation scenarios, where labour and capital are abundant but cannot be used productively, dispossession is used as a mechanism for transporting the apparently imminent crisis, with the surplus capital and unemployed labourers being used for production processes in new spaces of capital accumulation and reproduction. And, in this way, both the destruction of capital and the rebellion of the workforce are avoided. Harvey conceptualises such movements, which are necessary for capitalists, as a “time-space compression” (Harvey 1982) – which is considered to be a twofold process. On the one hand, this ‘compression’ involves the opening of new markets, often by force. On the other hand, meanwhile, it requires the large-scale production of infrastructure – of which contemporary urbanisation is an impeccable example (Harvey 1985, 1989, 2013).

Time-space compression modifies territory but, as new spaces useful for capital accumulation and production are only created according to the temporary needs of capitalists, they are destroyed as soon as they become insufficient (Harvey 1982). The high-rise buildings increasingly erected in Mexico City, for instance, show clearly how capitalists destroy previously-produced spaces, transform their appearance, and modify the characteristics and dynamics of urban communities.

This process of perpetual expansion, as I said earlier, also has a profound impact on property relations, and the Agrarian Reform Law of 1992 is a good example of the institutionalisation of such changes. The purpose of this reform was to liberalise the land market in Mexico, and thus facilitate the increased penetration into the country of capitalist relations of production. Ejido inhabitants, meanwhile, were left “liberated” from their land, and soon became just another source of cheap labour.

Economic liberalisation in general can also produce and precipitate the process of dispossession. Mexico’s entry into NAFTA, for example, accelerated the transformation of the countryside’s productive structures, with subsistence farming decreasing rapidly and farmers being displaced and forced to migrate. In San Quintín, the Triqui indigenous community found itself subjected to a state of near-slavery, being forcibly displaced by both poverty and its political abandonment by the state.

At the same time, the mechanisms of legal servitude that have arisen with the recent Energy Reform (in which the owners of lands useful for the production and transportation of hydrocarbons are being obliged to ‘rent’ them out to the state for periods of 50 years to companies that ‘require’ them) are likely to exacerbate the process of forced territorial displacement. Subsequently, the supply of labour elsewhere will increase, and the value placed on workers’ efforts by their employers will decrease (in a change which can only benefit capitalist interests).

Laws, then, can become a mechanism for the strengthening and encouragement of these processes of dispossession. One example of this reality is Colombia, where Rule 9.70 of the Free Trade Agreement with the United States removed the right of peasants to plant their own seeds. As a result of this law, not only are these workers now obliged to buy only government-sanctioned seeds, but they are also required to buy them each year (in disregard of the ancient practice of separating the best seeds for reuse – a practice that is now illegal). The TPP, which has just been held up in the United States (for the time being at least), would seek to establish similar provisions in the Mexican countryside. In other words, dispossession processes are accelerating, penetrating into unexpected spaces, and contributing to the sharpening of the contradictions between labour and capital, between the exploited and the exploiters, and between life and death.

Just as forms of dispossession aren’t linear, forms of exploitation aren’t either. While capitalist logic focusses on the relationship between capital and wage labour, there are also other forms of domination with which this reasoning coexists (Quijano 2000). The organisation of inequality around race and gender lines, for example, is indicative of the failure of the primary dichotomy of capitalism to explain everything that happens within the system’s boundaries. In other words, the fact that those who have been suffering exploitation and state repression in Baja California are indigenous Triquis is not just a random occurrence, but is a result of the racism inherent in the coloniality of power [the colonial legacy of social discrimination that became integrated into post-colonial orders] (Quijano 2000). The fact that femicides have become a structural process that plagues the whole country, meanwhile, with a notable focus on areas (like Ciudad Juarez) where the manufacturing industry is prevalent, is yet another part of the same process.

Territories littered with dead bodies also see their disastrous realities intertwined with capitalist accumulation, with the boundaries between organised crime, ‘law-abiding’ companies, and state institutions becoming increasingly blurred. Mining, poppy cultivation, and the suppression of dissent[5][6][7], for example, are all interconnected, with Guerrero in particular seeing exploitative forces increase their persecution[8][9], imprisonment[10][11], and murder of those citizens who have begun to fight[12][13] against the so-called necrocapitalism that reigns in Mexico (Banerjee 2008).

One interesting feature of the resistance against accumulation by dispossession in recent years is that the fight contains scenarios which depart from the canons of classical Marxist proletarian struggle (Harvey 2003). The alliances that have been formed in response to this form of capitalism, for example, are different from those imagined by Marx, and are oriented specifically towards the fight against dispossession. Considering such innovations, we can understand better the increasing establishment of autonomous regional struggles in the world. The Cherán community police in the state of Guerrero, the Zapatista communities in Chiapas, and international experiences like that of the Rojava Revolution[14] (Graeber and Öğünç 2014) are all examples today of how the expansion of accumulation into spaces which play host to people’s everyday lives has been generating new forms of organisation and resistance against capitalism.

Overall, then, the conclusion we should reach upon looking at Mexico (and the wider world) through the eyes of David Harvey is that the building of a society focussed on dignity and life rather than exploitation and death goes through a complex, creative, horizontal, and pluralist struggle against the global capitalist order. In short, the era of dogmatic commitment to immovable formulas is over.

References

  • Banerjee, Subharata Bobby. 2008. “Necrocapitalism”. Organization Studies, 1541-1563.
  • Bonefeld, Werner. 2001. “The Permanence of Primitive Accumulation: Commodity Fetishism and Social Constitution.” The Commoner.
  • Graeber, David, y Pinar Öğünç. 2014. “Ésta es una revolución genuina. David Graeber sobre su visita a Rojava”. A las barricadas, 29 de diciembre.
  • Harvey, David. 1982. The Limits to Capital. Londres: Routledge.
  • —. 1985. The Urbanisation of Capital. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Press.
  • —. 1989. “From Managerialism to Entreprenurialism: The Transformation in Urban Governance in Late Capitalism”. Geografiska Annaler. Series B, Human Geography, 3-17.
  • —. 2003. The New Imperialism. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
  • —. 2004. “The ‘New’ Imperialism: Accumulation by Dispossession”. Socialist Register, 63-87.
  • —. 2013. Rebel Cities. From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution. Londres: Verso.
  • Quijano, Aníbal. 2000. “Colonialidad del poder y clasificación social”. Journal of World-Systems Research, 342-386.
  • Wallerstein, Immanuel. 1988. El capitalismo histórico. México: Siglo XXI.

[1] https://ososabiouk.wordpress.com/ and https://twitter.com/ososabiouk

[2] https://thecoss.wordpress.com/ and https://twitter.com/the_coss

[3] http://horizontal.mx/el-despojo-infinito-mexico-visto-traves-de-david-harvey/

[4] http://davidharvey.org/

[5] https://ososabiouk.wordpress.com/2015/04/02/the-cnis-position-on-the-wave-of-repression-waged-against-the-people/

[6] https://ososabiouk.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/mexico-indigenous-people-of-chiapas-oppose-megaprojects/

[7] https://ososabiouk.wordpress.com/2014/08/28/mexico-six-reasons-why-indigenous-communities-are-opposed-to-the-san-cristobal-palenque-motorway/

[8] https://ososabiouk.wordpress.com/2014/06/25/mexico-army-government-harassment-against-cecop-in-guerrero-deteriorates/

[9] https://ososabiouk.wordpress.com/2014/06/02/the-peoples-front-and-the-struggle-against-the-proyecto-integral-morelos-pim/

[10] https://ososabiouk.wordpress.com/2014/08/22/freedom-for-mexicos-political-prisoners/

[11] https://ososabiouk.wordpress.com/2014/07/10/the-criminalisation-of-autonomous-social-activism/

[12] https://ososabiouk.wordpress.com/2014/03/01/what-are-the-mexican-autodefensas-and-community-police-forces/

[13] https://ososabiouk.wordpress.com/2014/07/23/protests-against-oligopolies-inequality-mining-dispossession-in-the-mexican-countryside-23jmx/

[14] https://ososabiouk.wordpress.com/2015/04/07/pdf-of-rojava-an-alternative-to-imperialism-nationalism-and-islamism-in-the-middle-east/

Posted in capitalism, Chiapas, David Harvey, Dispossession, EZLN, Libertarian Socialism, Marxism, mexico, San Quintín, Zapatismo, Zapatistas | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Britain’s Plutocracy, and How We Can Fight Against It

Call it what you want: a bourgeois democracy (in which the parties in the service of exploitative economic elites are the most powerful); a kleptocracy (in which “a small group [gets] rich by robbing [citizens] blind”[1] with the compliance of the political class); or a plutocracy (in which the powerful rule, and citizens simply choose the section of elite opinion least offensive to them). Just don’t call it democracy, for that would be a horrific insult to the dignity of a magnificent and revolutionary human concept.

Undemocratic Victories

It is the aforementioned anti-democratic system which is primarily to blame for the 2015 election results in the United Kingdom. In fact, the First Past the Post set-up is, almost by definition, based on minority victories and majority losses. The Conservatives, for example, won 41% of the votes in England (with 34% of eligible voters not even voting[2]), and 37% throughout the UK. On top of this, it is difficult to know how many people voted Tory tactically, simply because they disliked policies of the main opposition parties more than they disliked those of the incumbent government.

Nevertheless, the key issue is that the Conservatives (for whom only 27% of eligible British voters chose to vote) have gained a majority of MPs in the House of Commons, and will pretty much be able to do what they want for the next five years as a result. Seventy-three percent of eligible voters, meanwhile, along with countless children who were not able to vote, will have pain inflicted upon them from above by a party solely interested in protecting the interests of society’s richest, most exploitative, and most corrupt individuals.

Our Role in Perpetuating Societal Decay

But we cannot simply blame Britain’s undemocratic electoral system for the pain we will inevitably suffer under the coming Tory regime. Working civilians are not free from protagonism. Those who did not vote helped to increase the apparent ‘legitimacy’ of the Conservative victory (which would no doubt have been diluted by the votes of the dissident, disenchanted, or disinterested non-voters). Those who voted tactically, meanwhile, helped to perpetuate the essentially one-party order in England (in which a Conservative-Labour dichotomy is emphasised in spite of the fact that both parties are essentially just different wings of what ought to be referred to as a ‘business party’). By voting for parties with whom they disagreed significantly simply because they wanted to avoid another party from gaining power, these voters made it seem like the Conservative and Labour victories in England represented the true will and beliefs of the English public (which they almost certainly did not).

As citizens, we are also responsible for our misinformation (and that of our compatriots) by reading the rubbish published by self-interested media moguls like Rupert Murdoch (The Sun and The Times), the Barclays (The Daily Telegraph), and the Viscount Rothermere (The Daily Mail). The divisive, biased, and often chauvinist rhetoric peddled by these papers has long poisoned the minds of British citizens with their unconscious consent.

Finally, we empower exploitative economic elites by failing to unite as citizens, by failing to debate and educate within our local communities, and by allowing individualism to trump the interests of our society as a whole.

What About the SNP?

Last night, Jeremy Paxman asked the SNP’s Alex Salmond if he was worried about Scotland effectively becoming a ‘one-party state’ after the elections. The reality, however, is that, under the First Past the Post electoral system, one party always takes all, even if the majority of voters didn’t elect them (though the SNP actually did manage to gain 50% of Scottish votes[3]). In fact, as mentioned above, England should also be considered a one-party state today, as there are so few differences between Labour and the Tories that they should effectively be seen as different wings of the same party.

My sympathies with the SNP victory in Scotland, however, do not mean I consider the party to be revolutionary. It is not. It was, however, more progressive than the other main parties in Scotland (i.e. the Lib Dems and Labour), so its electoral landslide is indeed the best outcome when we consider the realistic alternatives.

Some pro-Labour commentators have sought in the wake of the elections to blame the SNP for the Conservative victory, but Nicola Sturgeon herself rightly rebutted these claims, saying that “the reason that the Conservatives are back in government is that Labour couldn’t beat the Conservatives in England”.[4] And the main reason for Labour’s failure was clear – it had long since abandoned anything that resembled a real, meaningful alternative to the Conservative Party. The SNP, meanwhile, did the opposite, managing to rout all of its opponents in Scotland by turning itself into a seemingly progressive option. In short, Labour dug its own grave.

What Can We Do to Survive the Next Five Years?

First Past the Post is an anti-democratic system but, if we look at alternatives like Proportional Representation, we can see that there are indeed mainstream ways of ensuring citizens have greater electoral freedom and greater representation in Parliament. Unfortunately, however, our plutocratic rulers are very unlikely to facilitate the installation of a more progressive electoral system any time in the near future (as the failure of the AV Referendum demonstrated).

The only real options we have, therefore, are to:

  • Encourage grassroots political organisation and education in our communities, placing a focus on anti-austerity activism and resistance to the Conservative government;
  • Participate actively in the democratisation and progressive actions of our trade unions;
  • Campaign against the corporate media to stop the ideological pollution of our society;
  • And build a comprehensive and anti-discriminatory dialogue between all groups on the Left, realising that, while parties may provide useful forums for discussion, party politics is essentially divisive.

By taking the actions outlined above, we workers will stand ourselves in good stead to create a truly unified and popular movement capable of profoundly changing society and putting a definitive end to Britain’s plutocratic political system in the next elections.

[1] http://www.theguardian.com/theguardian/2013/may/31/simon-hoggart-time-living-kleptocracy

[2] http://www.bbc.com/news/election/2015/results/england

[3] http://www.bbc.com/news/election/2015/results/scotland

[4] http://www.bbc.com/news/election-2015-scotland-32635871

Posted in Bourgeois Democracy, Conservative Party, Democracy, Kleptocracy, Labour Party, Plutocracy, SNP, UK, UK Elections, UK Elections 2015, UK Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Different Shades of Tactical Voting (UK Elections 2015)

The logic behind voting for the anti-Conservative candidate most likely to win an election is understandable in the majority of cases, as anything that slows down the spread of the deadly neoliberal virus clearly seems like something slightly less damaging to the dignity and lives of working people. However, the danger with such an outlook is that we risk locking ourselves away in the mind-set that democracy is simply voting every few years for the lesser of two evils. And, with such resignation, we can then be convinced that our democratic duty is done after our absurdly infrequent elections are over, leaving us to get on with our relatively mediocre existence: selling our labour for less than its worth; selling our brains to the idea that a better world is never going to come; and selling our souls to the parasitic corporations that feed us products made with liberal doses of exploitation and environmental destruction. In fact, the real expectation of our society’s ruling elites is not that we vote, but that we work and consume in silence, without ever demanding meaningful control over our own lives. Voting is just a distraction to make us feel like we are the ones in control.

It is not just societal elites that are directly positioned against working people, though, as there is a woefully insufficient amount of political education in schools and a depressing amount of conformity in the mainstream corporate media. The two-party rhetoric so common in the British political system,[1] for example, is not only bolstered by the right-wing press, but even by the so-called ‘liberal’ media. The fact is, then, that truly alternative (read ‘left-wing’) news outlets have very little money and power, and therefore very few readers and very little sway. This is why the neoliberal-friendly New Labour is still portrayed as a ‘progressive’ option in the liberal media when compared with the Conservatives (in spite of the fact that the former retains distressingly few truly progressive policies).

In fact, even media outlets like Russia Today (often hailed for hosting a number of alternative commentators) perpetuate the erroneous idea that only a severely limited spectrum of viable political possibilities exists. Publishing an article by finance ‘expert’ Patrick Young, for instance, RT demonstrated clearly that it has no ideological commitment to the political left. In the piece, Young called Ed Miliband an “anti-wealth millionaire union-backed son of a Marxist”, doing his best to discredit the Labour leader (who at best could be placed no further left than the centre of the political spectrum). At the same time, Young argues that only Cameron has “any policy coherence to continue rebuilding an economy ravaged by the previous administration” (an affirmation which appeared to totally ignore the fact that the neoliberal political order in the UK was definitively established under Margaret Thatcher from 1979 onwards, and not by Labour, which simply bowed down to the order whilst giving working communities a few small concessions).

Meanwhile, Young claims that the liberal media outlets “led by the BBC behemoth” are “socialist” (something not at all supported by evidence), and that they are misleading the public. From his very skewed point of view, he then stresses that the Tories “are the least worst”, with other opposition parties swimming in a sea of “variations of unsustainable economics” (he even suggests that the Greens are “anarchic” which, to be objectively fair to both anarchists and the Green Party, is an considerably inaccurate assertion).[2] In short, then, Young’s words were definitive proof that RT is not a news source that the Left should trust (even if it does allow some progressive voices airtime).

While self-interested economics ‘experts’ like Young may claim that Britain needs to vote Tory, Scotland, ‘The North’, and London are nonetheless poised to shift ‘to the left’ in the 2015 election, with the former moving from Labour over to the SNP, and the latter two seeing shifts from the Tories and Lib Dems over to Labour. The South-West and East, meanwhile, will probably see a mixture of moves towards Labour and moves away from the Lib Dems.[3] And this shift will inevitably depend to a large extent on a continuation of the anti-democratic tradition of tactical voting – seeing constituents vote more to keep one party out rather than to bring another in. To sum up, Labour will be punished in Scotland, and the Conservatives and Lib Dems will be punished elsewhere, but profound change will not occur.

A real transformation in Britain, as I have argued previously, will only come from grassroots activism, education, and community organising. Nonetheless, I believe that the Left does have a role to play in the anti-democratic electoral process that we have. For me, we have a responsibility to vote not tactically, but for the parties that best represent us (perhaps accepting a couple of disagreements here and there). At the same time, though, we should not vote for a party that barely represents us just in order to keep the most reactionary out of power. In other words, we must make sure that our voices are heard (to however small an extent) whilst at the same time refusing to sacrifice our own integrity.

In summary, while the corrupt, anti-democratic political system of the UK will probably never be able to bring about the profound change we truly need, I advocate a vote for the most progressive candidate available.[4] This stance, however, does not mean that we should vote for someone even if we do not agree with the majority of their policies. In this case, my opinion is that a ‘none of the above’ vote would indeed be the only way to maintain our integrity whilst making sure our voices are not entirely invisible.

But our participation in politics must not stop there. We must spend as much time as we can organising, informing, and acting in our local communities. That is our true democratic duty, and that is the only way we can truly make our voices heard.

Any work we do should improve and enrich our lives, not degrade our minds and souls.

Our continued existence does not require exploitation and environmental destruction, and is actually threatened and tarnished by such actions.

A better world will come, but no-one will forge it for us. We can only create it with our own hands, together with those who work and live alongside us.

Death to plutocracy!

Long live direct, popular democracy!

[1] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/apr/28/cameron-or-miliband-who-does-the-world-want-to-win-the-uk-election

[2] http://rt.com/op-edge/253769-uk-general-election-miliband-cameron/

[3] http://www.theguardian.com/politics/ng-interactive/2015/apr/20/election-2015-constituency-map

[4] https://ososabiouk.wordpress.com/2015/04/22/should-workers-vote-in-the-uk-elections/

Posted in Bourgeois Democracy, Conservative Party, Democracy, dignity, Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, Libertarian Communism, Libertarian Socialism, Plutocracy, UK Elections, UK Elections 2015, UKElections | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Should Workers Vote in the UK Elections?

I strongly believe that meaningful democracy can only truly be built from below, by cooperation between neighbours and direct, popular control over local resources. In the current electoral system in the UK, citizens basically allow all decisions to be made by a small group of politicians, who can be corrupted much more easily than whole communities by the money of powerful, exploitative, and self-interested individuals. Therefore, the most effective way to move towards a society in which the best interests of working people always come first is to take power away from the political class, and place it in the hands of the workers. This should be the primary aim of democratic activists.

Whilst gradually changing power structures from below, however, my opinion is that we should also work to change the political establishment that governs from above wherever possible. Simply speaking, a Labour government would be better than a Conservative government; a Green government would be better than a Labour government; a Left Unity government would be better than a Green government; and a form of directly democratic workers’ control would be better than any of the governments mentioned above. But we need to be realistic, and realise that the possibility of the latter occurring is not possible through the current electoral system of the UK. The ‘none of the above’ option, meanwhile, has no significant impact, and is effectively the same as not voting at all or simply accepting that the most powerful and best funded candidates will be the inevitable victors.

Therefore, we are left with choices on a sliding scale of acceptability. The first electoral choice for working voters should be Left Unity or TUSC candidates, for example, who seek to bring together the divided British left and take a firm stand against austerity and in favour of progressive socialist measures. The second choice, then, should be the Green Party, as they also stand for progress, but to a lesser extent. Then, for comrades in Scotland or Wales, the following preference would be the SNP or Plaid Cymru, even though the nationalist elements within those parties should be looked upon critically. Finally, if none of these options are present, a Labour candidate is clearly preferable to a Conservative one, though the former has gradually abandoned working voters and should therefore be supported only as a last resort.

The most important point we should remember, however, is that true democratic control and real justice begin with us and our neighbours. Voting may determine the type of political environment we have to work in for the next five years, but true change requires our active participation on a frequent basis.

Posted in UK, UK Elections 2015, UK Politics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Inhabitants of Los Llanos Obtain Investigation into Effects of Motorway

Federal Court Orders Investigation into the Effect of the San Cristóbal to Palenque Motorway on the Tzotzil Ejido of Los Llanos in Chiapas

On January 6, 2014, inhabitants of the indigenous Tzotzil Ejido of Los Llanos (in the San Cristóbal de Las Casas municipality of Chiapas) filed a petition of relief against all permits and licences issued by federal, state, and municipal authorities for the construction of the San Cristóbal to Palenque Motorway (which had been given without previous, free, and informed consultation with locals). According to the citizens, the megaproject would put their food sovereignty at risk, while violating their rights to territory, autonomy, freedom from discrimination, and protection of the environment and natural resources (all of which are provided for in the Mexican Constitution and the ILO’s Convention 169, concerning “Indigenous and Tribal Peoples in Independent Countries”).[1]

The aforementioned community specified in their complaint that, on November 16, 2013, San Cristóbal councillor Fidencio Pérez Jiménez had come to Los Llanos to assert (in a threatening manner) that the motorway would pass through the citizens’ common lands whether they liked it or not. If they resisted the project, he had told them, the communal authorities would go to jail and the army would be brought in to facilitate the start of the construction process.[2]

Furthermore, the citizens indicated that, on November 26, 2013, the Secretary General of Government in Chiapas had affirmed in public statements to the local and national media that there would be “no turning back” in the construction of the motorway, in spite of the opposition of local indigenous communities (including that of Los Llanos). With these words, the senior official had sent out a clear message that the indigenous Tzotzil people’s right to consultation had not been (and would not be) guaranteed by his regime.

On January 13, 2014, the petition of relief filed by the inhabitants of Los Llanos was accepted by the Sixth District Court of Tuxtla Gutiérrez, under the case number 16/2014. In turn, the suspension of trade to the community was granted, under the argument that all permits and licences issued by the three levels of government regarding the motorway in question had aimed to dispossess an indigenous community of its common lands. This postponement of business would only be ended upon the resolution of the case.

On August 5, 2014, however, the Sixth District Judge dismissed the case when government authorities suddenly claimed that the motorway’s construction would not affect the Los Llanos Ejido. Effectively, then, the federal judge found the government’s statements valid and claimed that the plaintiffs’ legal interests were not under threat. At the same time, though, this decision came in spite of the fact that reports submitted by the Department of Communication and Transportation had shown that Los Llanos could indeed be affected by the construction of the motorway. And, for precisely this reason, the plaintiffs launched an appeal against the sentence on August 19.

Now, the case was referred to the Fourth Court of Appeals in Tuxtla Gutiérrez under the case number 292/2014. Subsequently, on March 12, 2015, a new sentence was passed, which revoked the judgment of the federal court for having violated procedural laws whilst leaving Los Llanos inhabitants defenceless. Additionally, the court ordered a topographical investigation to determine whether the claims made by the plaintiffs (and the reports of the Department of Communication and Transportation) about the effects of the motorway megaproject on Los Llanos were correct or not.

Finally, on April 7, 2015, the Sixth District Judge complied with the aforementioned decision by ordering a land survey and asking both the plaintiffs and defendants to come to an agreement about which expert they wished to appoint to carry out the investigation. [As of April 20, 2015, the case remains unresolved.[3]]

Translated and adapted by Oso Sabio from a text written by Ricardo Lagunes (“attorney for the communal landowners of San Sebastian Bachajón”[4])

[1] http://www.ilo.org/dyn/normlex/en/f?p=NORMLEXPUB:12100:0::NO::P12100_INSTRUMENT_ID:312314

[2] See https://ososabiouk.wordpress.com/2014/08/28/mexico-six-reasons-why-indigenous-communities-are-opposed-to-the-san-cristobal-palenque-motorway/

[3] For information on similar cases in Chiapas, see https://ososabiouk.wordpress.com/2014/09/05/mexico-indigenous-people-of-chiapas-oppose-megaprojects/

[4] http://www.eurasiareview.com/06042015-mexico-the-agua-azul-dispute/

Posted in Bad Government, capitalism, Chiapas, Los Llanos, Los Llanos Ejido, mexico, Neoliberalism, San Cristóbal | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Eduardo Galeano and the Zapatistas

“Indigenous people, it is plain to see, are only a problem for those who deny them the right to be who they are”

– Eduardo Galeano

Always on the side of the marginalised of Latin America and the wider world, recently deceased Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano consistently recounted and echoed their dignified rage. In fact, his social activism and commitment to the unprotected masses of his continent saw him visit the Mexican state of Chiapas to learn more about the Zapatista communities there.

Having exchanged letters with Subcomandante Marcos (now ‘Galeano’), the author would soon write a number of articles about the Zapatista movement, including ‘Una marcha universal’ (published by La Jornada on March 10, 2001), in which he spoke about how Emiliano Zapata had once again appeared in Mexico City, almost a hundred years after his most famous visit. “This second time”, he said, the deceased rebel had come “from La Realidad to change reality”, travelling from the Lacandona Jungle to deepen the process of change in the whole of Mexico (something the Zapatistas had been doing ever since emerging in the public arena at the start of 1994).

Thanks to the Zapatistas and the “creative energy they [had] released”, Galeano asserted, “not even what was is as it was” in the past. The movement’s indigenous solution to the ‘indigenous problem’, he described, had been to unmask the reality (which had been hidden for five centuries) precisely by donning masks themselves. In other words, it had started to ‘return hope’ to those who had long been ‘condemned to a perpetual process of waiting’ for change.

For Galeano, the Chiapan revolutionaries were standing up to those who had been denying their families the ‘right to be who they were’ for centuries. For too long, societal elites had rejected the concept of pluralism and the right to Mexican citizens to truly exercise their freedom (unless of course they were to accept in silence the “mutilations imposed by the racist tradition” of the Bad Government, which had sought to cripple the souls and ‘cut the legs’ of the People). The Zapatistas, like others before them and after them, refused to accept the government measures designed to destroy all cultures and communities that got in the way of the interests and desires of Mexico’s economic and political elites.

Eduardo Galeano also sought to repel the unending offensive on the people of Latin America, though he chose to do so through his literary works rather than on the ground. And, as perhaps the best-known chronicler of the invisiblised and silenced citizens of the continent, his voice will be sorely missed. Just like the fight of so many other revolutionaries throughout history, however, his was not (and will not have been) in vain. Those who have been inspired and informed by Galeano’s works, for example, have long taken on the fight for justice, freedom, and democratic rule as their own, and will undoubtedly continue to do so. In other words, the aforementioned struggle will never end with the death of revolutionary figures like Galeano. On the contrary, it will always be nourished by their example, which serves as an eternal incentive to keep resisting and creating.

Translated and adapted by Oso Sabio from an article published on page three of the 14/04/15 edition of La Jornada.

Posted in Eduardo Galeano, EZLN, Latin America, México, mexico, Zapatismo, Zapatistas | Tagged , , , , , | 3 Comments

Footnotes for “Rojava: An Alternative to Imperialism, Nationalism, and Islamism”

Here is the list of footnotes of my book “Rojava: An Alternative to Imperialism, Nationalism, and Islamism” (the pdf of which is available here https://ososabiouk.wordpress.com/2015/04/07/pdf-of-rojava-an-alternative-to-imperialism-nationalism-and-islamism-in-the-middle-east/ [a hard copy can be bought at http://www.lulu.com/shop/oso-sabio/rojava-an-alternative-to-imperialism-nationalism-and-islamism-in-the-middle-east/paperback/product-22094170.html?ppn=1])

  1. https://ososabiouk.wordpress.com/2014/08/23/gaza-a-capitalist-genocide-essay/
  2. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/imperialism
  3. https://libcom.org/library/national-formation-arab-region-critique-samir-amin-mohammad-jafar
  4. http://www.theguardian.com/science/2010/feb/01/islamic-science
  5. http://www.teachmideast.org/essays/28-history/42-timeline-of-the-middle-east-in-the-20th-century
  6. http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/10/17/a-secular-history-of-islam/
  7. http://www.pbs.org/empires/islam/profilesmuhammed.html
  8. http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/10/17/a-secular-history-of-islam/
  9. http://isreview.org/issue/76/political-islam-marxist-analysis
  10. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/6045182.stm
  11. http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/default.aspx?pageid=438&n=the-8216libertarian-constitution8217-of-61-the-myth-and-the-facts-2010-05-26
  12. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/jul/06/turkish-invasion-divided-cyprus-40-years-on-eyewitness-greek-cypriot-family
  13. http://roarmag.org/2014/08/pkk-kurdish-struggle-autonomy/
  14. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/15/egypt-revolution-death-toll-arab-network-human-rights_n_1519393.html
  15. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/aug/16/egypt-nationalism-muslim-brotherhood-crackdown
  16. http://rt.com/usa/iran-coup-cia-operation-647/
  17. http://www2.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB435/
  18. http://www.theguardian.com/world/2010/sep/23/iran-iraq-war-anniversary
  19. http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2012/02/2012215164958644116.html
  20. https://www.greenleft.org.au/node/32191
  21. http://dissidentvoice.org/2009/06/selling-iran-ahmadinejad-privatization-and-a-bus-diver-who-said-no/
  22. http://www.counterpunch.org/2014/10/17/neoliberal-economics-comes-to-iran/
  23. http://www.nbcnews.com/news/other/irans-president-rouhani-we-will-never-develop-nuclear-weapons-f4B11191585
  24. http://www.ibtimes.com/amid-new-attacks-iraqi-shiites-irans-rouhani-pledges-more-support-iraqi-military-fight-1708747
  25. https://ososabiouk.wordpress.com/2014/08/23/gaza-a-capitalist-genocide-essay/
  26. http://www.vox.com/2014/7/17/5902177/9-questions-about-the-israel-palestine-conflict-you-were-too
  27. https://ososabiouk.wordpress.com/2014/08/23/gaza-a-capitalist-genocide-essay/
  28. http://www.spiegel.de/international/world/interview-with-sociologist-eva-illouz-about-gaza-and-israeli-society-a-984536.html
  29. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-south-asia-12024253
  30. http://www.globalresearch.ca/permanent-occupation-imperialism-in-afghanistan-past-and-present/5341442
  31. http://www.theguardian.com/news/2007/jul/24/guardianobituaries.afghanistan
  32. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/23/AR2007072301824.html
  33. http://www.globalresearch.ca/permanent-occupation-imperialism-in-afghanistan-past-and-present/5341442
  34. http://williamblum.org/essays/read/how-the-us-provoked-the-soviet-union-into-invading-afghanistan-and-starting
  35. http://williamblum.org/chapters/killing-hope/afghanistan
  36. http://icasualties.org/oef/
  37. http://costsofwar.org/article/afghan-civilians
  38. http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/india-and-pakistan-win-independence
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  48. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-15336689
  49. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-16850706
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  56. http://www.middle-east-online.com/english/?id=61189
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  60. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-14704414
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  65. http://islam.uga.edu/ibadis.html
  66. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/16/world/middleeast/16oman.html
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  68. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/05/16/world/middleeast/16oman.html
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  70. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-14540571
  71. http://www.humanrightsfirst.org/press-release/us-government-should-call-release-bahraini-political-prisoners
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  73. http://newint.org/features/2013/04/01/real-story-terrorist-attack-algerian-gas-plant/
  74. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-africa-14107720
  75. https://medium.com/war-is-boring/the-longest-minefield-in-the-world-isnt-where-you-think-it-is-9abd521cd770
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  77. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/12/world/africa/moroccos-king-slow-to-deliver-on-pro-democracy-vows.html
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  117. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-18582755
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  119. http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-18582755
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  121. http://globaledge.msu.edu/countries/syria/economy
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  155. http://origins.osu.edu/article/century-us-relations-iraq
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  168. http://countrystudies.us/iraq/113.htm
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  170. http://countrystudies.us/iraq/114.htm
  171. http://countrystudies.us/iraq/79.htm
  172. http://countrystudies.us/iraq/78.htm
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  180. http://countrystudies.us/iraq/38.htm
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