Gilly: the financial unification of the world

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Contribution to the seminar on Critical thought versus the capitalist hydra at Cideci.

By: Adolfo Gilly

Oventic, Chiapas, May 2, 2015

Compañeras and compañeros of the EZLN, relatives of Luis Villoro and of the Zapatista teacher Galeano, fathers and mothers of Ayotzinapa present here:

Before everything I want to thank you for the invitation to participate in the opening of this seminar “Critical thought versus the capitalist hydra,” in the midst of big spaces, houses and trees of Oventic, under this sky that changes without stopping between sun, clouds and the winters that pass and come and go while the land always remains.

I also want to thank you for the warm reception that this organized town gave those of us that arrived recently. We were only able to see the eyes of many of you, but surely you know that’s where the soul becomes visible. Then…

What I bring to say to you today comes from some very recent lines: the opening words from “The time of dispossession” (El tiempo del despojo), a small book about these adverse times that, by means of the editor, should not delay appearing in Mexico. [1]

*

In the world and in Mexico, we have entered a new epoch of capitalism or, in other words, of the domination of capital over work and nature. This domination totally encompasses the current unequal and interwoven global civilization that defines the mode of existence of human societies in this 21st Century.

We cannot address its description, its investigation and its laws of movement as if we were dealing with implantation, over pre-existing social relations, of a new economic model, as they usually say, or of a group of public policies named neoliberalism, in the same sense in which in the middle of the last century (the XX) one could talk about policies and laws on legal and contractual regulation of the relations between capital, labour and the land –then called Keynesian– inside the framework of existing relations within the States and capitalist societies.

We don’t forget either that that regulation had as an undercurrent the cruel exploitation of a colonial world now transfigured into politically independent nations, although economically and politically subordinate; a new world where the relationship of domination between human beings and between nations has been modified, although it is far from having disappeared.

*

If we take the metaphor that you propose to us for describing capitalism –the Hydra, a mythological monster with multiple heads which, if one is cut, two or more sprout up in its place–, we could say that the socialist and colonial revolutions that shook the 20th Century: Russia, China, Vietnam, Korea, India, Cuba and so many others, were cutting many of those heads of capital. But from this, over time, were born or reborn others in the same place as the old ones: the world of the new capitalists and the new rich in those nations, now owners of the money, the properties, the modes and the power.

However, let’s not go astray or deceive. It’s certain, there is no more Soviet Union, there is no more socialist China, there is no more socialist Vietnam. New rich, very rich, new capitalist and dominant classes emerged in those countries and they make up the present world. But also the old empires with their colonial dominions disappeared: in the still recent past they were swallowed and destroyed by the tide of colonial and anti-imperialist revolutions that swept the entire planet.

The peoples that made the revolution remain. The experience remains, the pride remains. The old humiliation that was overthrown remains, the history and the memory of vindicated and recuperated dignity remains. With this humanity, new in life and old in experience, you have the new rich that make their accounts and try to impose new forms of rule on thousands of millions of new salaried workers, on those dispossessed of their lands and homes, on migrants and those unprotected by all of the powers.

It is the unheard and unprecedented turbulence of the world of these times, where workers of the cities and fields are learning and inventing new forms of organizing, while capital designs and puts to the test new exhaustive forms of domination over workers and of destructive exploitation of nature.

*

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We are facing a new form of the domination and subordination relationship: the universal domination of the world and rule of finances –global financial capital– over societies and economies, however diverse their cultures may be, their forms and degrees of organization and development, their different property rights and products; their relationship to nature; their political, religious and state systems; the configurations inherited and current of our societies.

All other forms of existence and reproduction of capital –the capitalist hydra, as you call it– and other existing social relations of course do not disappear. They remain subordinate to the financial form and subsumed in its planetary domination still in expansion. This modifies and subordinates nations, societies and human lives; their internal and external relations; their ways of living, of hoping and of imagining; and their relationship to nature, the planet and the universe as a given, thinkable and attainable reality.

It’s a new world, turbulent and expansive, but not a happy world. Full of conflicts and subject to unprecedented threats about its very existence and full of unhappiness because of the destruction of ancient customs, solidarities, securities and routines, this world also presents itself as a promise, today denied, of enjoyment of its fantastic discoveries, inventions and possibilities of enjoyment already present.

At the same time and moment of such a vision and temptation, reachable in appearance, it rises up before the immense majority of the seven million human beings as the denial and deprivation of that fullness of life and enjoyment, an immense humanity that sees and lives the destruction or degradation of their living worlds, their material inheritance –lands, waters, air, roads, cities, towns, barrios, forests, vegetable and animal life– and their immaterial civilizing inheritance of human relations: solidarities, cultures, beliefs and affects.

We call this new grand transformation: the financial unification of the world: a single domination (itself fragmented) over all the other immediate and existing ones and, by necessity, mediated by them; a universal and abstract (thing-like, according to the terms of Bolívar Echeverría; bestial, according to the hydra’s image; not human in either case) over all other rulers; a ruler you can’t grasp onto, despotic and material over human societies; divided by tears and violent conflicts between those who detain it, the different factions –national and territorial– of finances and their armed bodies; and exercised by reduced power and money elites, owners of weapons that for the first time make thinkable and possible the destruction of the human species and of other multiple forms of life on the planet. One single domination, but divided by contrary and irreconcilable interests; and over a single humanity, but torn by beliefs and interests, nations and ethnicities, dispossessions and migrations.

*

adolfo-gilly-385x310In the middle of the 20th Century, in 1955, the publishing house Presence Africaine published a memorable writing of Aimé Césaire, “Discourse on colonialism.” It begins like this:

A civilization that proves incapable of solving the problems that it creates is a decadent civilization.

A civilization that chooses to close its eyes to its most crucial problems is a wounded civilization.

A civilization that uses its principles for trickery and deceit is a dying civilization. […]

We must study how colonization operates to de-civilize the colonizer, to brutalize him in the true sense of the word, to degrade him, to awaken him to buried instincts, to covetousness, violence, race hatred and moral relativism.

At the end of this de-civilization, Aimé Césaire discovers its refined product: Nazism. It would reveal, he says, the very distinguished, very humanistic, very Christian bourgeois of the 20th Century that carries a Hitler inside and ignores the fact that Hitler inhabits him. Even when it censures him for his own ignorance, Césaire adds, at bottom that man does not forgive Nazism.

What he cannot forgive Hitler for is not the crime itself, the crime against the human being; it is not the humiliation of the human being as such. It’s the crime against the white man, it is the humiliation of the white man; it’s the fact that he applied to Europe the colonialist procedures that until then had been reserved exclusively for the Arabs of Algeria, the “coolies” of India and the blacks of Africa.

Colonization: bridgehead in a civilization of savagery from where, at any moment, the pure and simple negation of civilization can flow.

Upon reaching this extreme point of the elocution that, he says, installs us squarely in the middle of howling savagery, Aimé Césaire has touched the key word of all rebellions, that last resort that when it is committed to the extreme through the inhuman mode of a domination it cracks and makes everyone jump: the humiliation imposed, the humiliation lived and the humiliation suffered.

That surprise usually begins through low voices and small gestures: for example, the voice and gestures of a man whose son was murdered in Cuernavaca in these times, one among fifty thousand deaths, killed in these Mexican lands in the last five years, at the rate of 10,000 per year, and that day he said that we are fed up and he started to go around and join grievances and pains along Mexico’s roads. Or through the voices loaded with the pain and rage of the mothers and fathers in Guerrero whose 43 sons, all teachers college students, were disappeared in Ayotzinapa by the police, a body armed with state power; and those mothers and fathers confronted this power and began to go around throughout Mexico and the world saying and demanding: Alive you took them, alive we want them. Two of them, one mother and one father, are among us today and we have heard their demand and their voices.

*

In this process of financial unification of the world we also note the slowly obliged formation of a new historic subject in fields, mines, seas, skies and cities, the global worker:

The global worker in formation is acquiring and refining in hard struggles for his affirmation and his existence a new subtlety in the creation of unpublished forms of customs in common, shared knowledge, organization, solidarity, resistance and rebellion. The rebellion of women against male domination, with different features according to [different] societies and cultures, but with a similar profile as to the state of protest and insubordination against the dominant state of things, is part of this process and in specific cases or moments it is also the dominant feature.

The global worker as unified humanity is not a utopia. It is a secular process characteristic of this civilization, in formation in the large migrations and in scientific and technological marvels, while at the same time the planet borders on catastrophic war and ecological destruction. […] In order to perceive it, it’s enough to open the window, travel the highways and sharpen the gaze and the senses.

At the end of the initial writing of this volume we list:

Nothing was easy before and nothing will be easy tomorrow. We come from the great universal disaster at the end of the 20th Century, the one that consolidated and made more ferocious the new and old wealthy of the earth, the one that also engendered the new furies of the old and modern condemned of the earth.

Don’t come to us with it’s the time of hope. Now is the time of rage and fury. Hope invites waiting; rage invites organizing. There is a time for hope and a time for rage. This is the time of rage. After rage comes hope.

And these lines close the latest writing:

In today’s world, reasoning with lucidity and working for justice leads to indignation, fervour and rage, there where the spirits of revolt are nourished. Because the present state of the world is intolerable; and if history tells us anything it’s that, in due time, it will not be tolerated anymore.

So be it, it will be our hope.

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  1. Adolfo Gilly y Rhina Roux, El tiempo del despojo – Poder, trabajo y territorio, Ediciones Itaca, México, 2015.

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