Crisis and State Repression: Some Winds of the Storm
Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Chiapas. Pozol. January 10th. It is simpler than it seems. In Mexico as in the rest of the world, above all divisions and social differences, there is one division that determines many others: the division between the rich and poor, exploiter and exploited. Here there are two different climates, the climate of above and the climate of below.
In the climate of below, today there are mobilizations against the rise in gasoline prices that in general increase the cost of life. In the climate of above, the political class continues its path of incompetence, delinquency, corruption, violence and impunity. It shows its insensitivity and its lack of interest toward the people, on the contrary, making evident its mockery and disdain for those of below. Where those of above see a game and a business, the paid media turn the protests into a source of entertainment, producing a mockery of those that do not conform. News is a commodity that is sold at a high price. The repression is thus refuted and the real causes of social discontent are obscured. In this mess, there is no lack of politicians from all across the political spectrum whom attentive, calculate the best moment to adhere to and channel, administer and sell the rage that surges from below. In this chaos, those of above win, while the ones that always lose are those of below.
In this tumult that is destructive to those of below, and is sold by those of above, in the popular protests as in the repression from the state, we believe there are at least two necessary points to be analysed. 1. That which corresponds to the circumstances of protest/ repression. 2. That which digs a little deeper giving origin and substance to today’s circumstances. By the latter we mean the heart of the problem: capitalism and its logic of accumulation.
The structural reforms, or the legislation of national plunder on part of the political-business class, have been widely questioned by social movements who have warned the rest of society that the violent imposition of these reforms will affect the whole of the working class. Although state violence is a constant, until now the violence toward ordinary people has not been so evident, nor has a popular rejection been so widely demonstrated.
Throughout the country, protests have taken place in a peaceful manner. Mobilizations in Baja California, Durango, Sinaloa, Sonora, Nuevo León, Campeche, Chiapas, Mexico City, just to mention a few. The wide range of these protests give an idea of the extent of the discontent toward state policies that increasingly affect the lives of the working class. The response by the government to these peaceful protests has been violent repression. According to official numbers of the Secretary of Government, 1500 people have been detained. This omits the at least two people assassinated by the police in Ixmiquilpan, Hidalgo, as part of this wave of repression. Peoples of cities and regions of the country previously unrelated to popular mobilizations have intimately felt the police brutality, information censoring, and governmental cynicism that now affects them. Before it was only a far off reality and barely visible in those geographies.
The militarization of the country was commonplace for the subversive movements principally of the south and southeast of the country. Since Felipe Calderón’s supposed “war on drugs”, that militarization has advanced to other territories in what has always been a war against the Mexican people.
In Zapatista territories, as well as in the rebellious Indigenous territories across Mexico who organize against government crime, police-military and paramilitary repression and harassment are experienced daily. For social organizations, unions and collectives who protest against the government, this repression, surveillance, persecution and death on the part of the State isn’t new. However, it is new for those peoples who today rebel against the rise in fuel prices. The violent repression, the campaign of misinformation and discrediting, along with the death that the State orchestrated against the teachers movement in 2016 for protesting against the imposition of the so-called “education reform” now acquires another dimension for the bulk of the population.
The popular mobilizations are suffering state repression and are now also being called vandals and violent, in the same way the government and media named teachers and civil society that joined earlier protests.
To give a better idea, the report of human rights violations in “Operation Oaxaca” on June 19th, documented racism, police brutality and assassination with the use of high powered weapons against the civilians of Nochixtlan, Oaxaca. This included those not involved in the protests. Today, once again, government violence has resurfaced though now on a larger scale. The rulers have unmasked themselves showing their true character—as police that care for the interests of big business. Many that before had nothing to do with protest, now are victims of criminalization that the state carries out against popular mobilizations. The governmental-police violence that now covers the geographies of Ixmiquilpan or Rosarito, for example, adds to the long history of repression of popular mobilization.
And it is here that we must be precise in regards to the situation. This situation is seen solely as a problem of the insatiable greed and the disproportionate cynicism of a political and business class that does not have the slightest modesty in showing its criminal face against the necessities of the people. However this understanding is nothing but the surface of a much larger problem: the general crisis of a system of social, economic, and political organization that through its violence is demonstrating its own decadence.
For many years, Zapatismo has stressed the crisis of capitalism, above all for its effects on Indigenous peoples. However, the storm, like the EZLN has named this historical moment, is not limited to Indigenous peoples but threatens all of the working class, all of those of below.
The territorial dispossession that rural communities suffer at the hands of big capital through megaprojects that plunder the land, water and forest—as was done 500 years ago by the other colonial powers—is also being experienced in urban centres through dispossession of marginalized neighbourhoods. This is done in the attempt to convert these neighbourhoods into new zones of the elite for those of above. This dispossession is coupled with the rising unemployment and growing precarity of labour conditions while the privileged still conserve the increasingly scarce jobs. In both spaces, urban and rural, the increase in poverty and the growing exclusion of a grand sector of the population is now more evident than ever. Just as we are experiencing the effects of the energy reform, so too will we experience the other structural reforms.
The crisis of big capital observed in the contemporary moment is only overcome momentarily through the plundering of ancestral lands, through the denial of the human rights of the working class with the fictitious revitalization of these sources of profit. This dispossession is legalized through the imposition of structural reforms that plunder what little is left in the republic.
If a few years ago the warnings of Zapatismo were only perceptible to the most invisible of society, that is to say to the Indigenous peoples, now the war is being lived in the streets by those who had not thought the effects (with all their violence) would reach them. For those who still have hope in political parties and local bosses to overcome this crisis, that hope makes less and less sense every day.
Thus, price increases, unemployment, migration, precarity of employment, dispossession, repression, and poverty are not passing but permanent effects of the imposition of the structural reforms for capital readjustment to continue its insatiable pathway of accumulation at all costs. What now seem to be more a crisis of the cycles of capital are nothing but the most obvious winds of the storm, without precedent in history, that batters humanity.
And the storm will rise in power. There is no reason to continue to believe that this crisis will be overcome and that it is only a matter of time. Neither will it yield to eventual changes in the members that direct the chaos. None of the political parties have signalled the truthful origin of the crisis. Not one politician has attacked, not even in discourse, the major interests of big business, let alone the logic of capital. For the pathway that they have signalled to us from above, not only will the storm continue, but it will also be accentuated unless organization and resistance against capital comes from below. For example, like the Indigenous peoples have shown, organizing the discontent and constructing new forms of social relations and governance.
In the midst of these ominous times that those of above have produced against the people, and against the disaster that the policies of above have provoked upon those of below and the natural world, it seems to already be the time for those of below. That is, already, the hour of the people.