Autonomy is Sown! A nutrition group from the “Escuela de Cultura Popular de los Martires de ’68” displays posters celebrating the autonomy of indigenous Zapatista communities for whom corn is an essential crop.
In front of the National Palace of Fine Parts a protestor declares “We are people of corn.”
A group of “youth in resistance” celebrate native corn with live Son Jarocho music and colorful cardboard corn.
Urban Farmers transported their crops via bike emphasizing the importance of sustainable agriculture without GMO seeds.
We will defend our corn!
The thousands of protesters marched down principal avenues in Mexico City to arrive at The Monument of the Revolution.
“Don’t allow your seeds and biodiversity to be reduced to a monoculture that will converted into merchandise administered by a monopoly.”
We are not your #$%$* science experiment. A genuine concern about the scientific effects of GMO crops was a common thread in protesters signs.
“My pride is my roots, my corn.”
Protestors weren’t just saying “not in my backyard” but instead stating that they want Monsanto kicked off the planet.
Corn husks usually serve as wrappers for one of Mexican‘s most popular street foods, tamales. In the anti-Monsanto march husks served as adornment for all kinds of costumes.
“We want a Mexico free of GMO food. Leave Monsanto!”
Protesters sport corn husks to emphasize the importance of native corn for the Mexican diet.
The protest against Monsanto was truly inter-generational with whole families participating from the youngest members to the oldest. “Did you know that the ‘gringa’ Transnational company Monsanto will be able to freely operate in Mexico? Look at how their seeds have affected lab rats. How will they affect us?”
A group of enthusiastic dancers stripped down to the basics – corn. Jubilantly celebrating the crop they took to the street in front of the Alameda.
This piece was reprinted by Truthout with permission or license. It may not be reproduced in any form without permission or license from the source.
10. Hemp benefits are denied. Hemp can be made into paper, paneling, plastics, clothing and thousands of other useful products. The highly nutritious seeds can be used to make flour, cooking oil and cattle feed.
This environmentally friendly plant grows without herbicides, nourishes the soil, matures quickly and provides high yields. It’s the number-one biomass producer in the world – ten tons per acre in four months. It could be an excellent fuel-producing crop.
Hemp, “nature’s perfect plant,” could bring a bonanza to hurting American farmers while greatly reducing America’s dependence on fossil fuels, which could significantly mitigate climate change.
9. Prohibition diverts billions from the needy. More than 50 government agencies feed at the drug war trough. Food stamps and other social programs are being slashed while billions are spent trying to stop adults from using marijuana.
8. Prohibition is clearly counterproductive. Guaranteeing massive profits to anyone on earth who can produce and deliver marijuana to our streets cannot do anything but assure that even more will be produced and delivered.
7. Criminalizing marijuana lacks moral justification. A real crime implies a victim and a perpetrator. Can you imagine being jailed for robbing yourself? As insane as this sounds, our government has done the equivalent by making adult use of marijuana a crime.
Only a depraved, corrupt government could invent a crime you commit against yourself.
6. Marijuana users are not debased human beings. Cultures throughout history – and pre-history! – have altered their minds with a variety of drugs. Billions around the world derive positive benefits from mind-altering drugs (especially from alcohol, nicotine, caffeine and marijuana).
Demonizing and criminalizing some drugs, while approving others without rational criteria, is clearly arbitrary and deceitful. Why are marijuana users criminals while alcohol and tobacco users are not? Why are marijuana dealers demonized, but alcohol and tobacco dealers are not?
5. Marijuana is effective medicine. There’s overwhelming evidence that marijuana can safely relieve pain, nausea and vomiting caused by various illnesses. In fact, marijuana is patently safer than many commonly prescribed drugs.
4. Promising medical research is thwarted. The discovery of naturally occurring marijuana-like substances in the human body that activate so-called cannabinoid receptors has opened up vast possibilities for new medicines derived from the 66 or so cannabinoids identified in marijuana. These receptors are not just in the brain, but also found in many other parts of the body including the immune, endocrine and reproductive systems.
3. Billions in potential taxes go to drug cartels. Our cash-strapped states are being cheated out of billions that could be obtained by taxing and regulating marijuana like alcohol.
2. Thousands of prohibition murders occur each year. Mexico is the world’s largest exporter of marijuana (most goes to the United States). There were at least 24,000 prohibition-related murders in Mexico since 2006. Thousands more died here, also a direct result of marijuana prohibition.
1. Prohibition denies our most basic human right. Prohibition takes away our right of sovereignty over our own bodies and gives this power to government. Does any other human right make sense if we don’t have sovereignty over our own bodies?
There’s a word for people who don’t have sovereignty over their own bodies: slaves.
The Glaring Truth About the Drug War
The drug war is a blatantly dishonest, extremely expensive, highly destructive, grossly unjust, abject failure of our government.
Despite 40 years and $1 trillion-plus of taxpayer money spent trying to stop – not robbery, not rape, not murder, not even shoplifting – but mostly trying to stop adults from using marijuana; despite draconian punishments; despite jailing millions of nonviolent Americans; despite thousands of prohibition-related murders each year, illegal drugs are cheaper, purer and more readily available than ever.
The drug war is a vast government scam guaranteed to be perpetually futile. Prohibition only pretends to fight drugs. In fact, it guarantees massive profits to anyone on the planet who can produce and deliver prohibited drugs to our streets.
Jailing drug dealers just creates lucrative job openings for more efficient, more ruthless, eager replacements. Only a small percentage of illegal drugs are intercepted, and these are easily and cheaply replaced.
Prohibition creates, sustains and handsomely rewards the illegal drug industry while pretending to fight that very same industry. Like the classic mafia protection racket, our government creates a perpetual problem and then charges us exorbitantly to “protect” us from it.
This abomination continues unabated because our government is addicted to the taxpayer billions it wastes year after year after year pretending to fight an enemy created and sustained by prohibition itself.
Marijuana is the linchpin of the drug war. Legalizing marijuana will sound the death knell for this devastating crime against humanity.
- French street artist Seth Globepainter travels around the world, creating large scale murals and placing local city dwellers next to them. Whether in India, China, Mexico, or other countries, this adds a human element to Globepainter’s artwork and gives us a peek inside the culture of these places. Especially impressive is how all of his pieces feel distinctly different, further showcasing the street artist’s impressive range and style.
Posted on January 19, 2013 at 1:00pm — 2 Comme
Edward Pentin’s Perspective: A 43-year-old Mexican father of two, who claims to be possessed by demons — and whom Pope Francis prayed over earlier this month in what some witnesses likened to a public exorcism — insists that he still has demons inside him.
Identified only as Angel V., the man told Spanish-language newspaper El Mundo that he had undergone some 30 exorcisms by 10 exorcists, including the renowned Roman exorcist Rev. Gabriel Amorth, who all tried unsuccessfully to free him from his affliction. The interview was reported in the Italian daily La Stampa.
“I still have the demons inside me, they have not gone away,” the man said, noting that he felt much better after the Pope prayed over him. El Mundo reported that the man is able to walk. He was in a wheelchair when he met Pope Francis on May 19 at the conclusion of Mass on Pentecost Sunday.
Pope Francis laid his hands on the wheelchair-bound man in St Peter’s Square. The man’s expressions and the fact that he was known to be possessed made it appear to be an exorcism, although the Vatican denied the assertion, saying the Pope “did not intend to perform any exorcism” but simply prayed “for a suffering person who had been brought before him.”
An exorcism is, in the strict sense, a “casting out” of evil spirits using a very precise ritual. The Pope performed what is called a “laying on of hands” — a very ancient practice, going back to the Old Testament. In Christian tradition, it continues to be an act of blessing, and is also offered as an act of primarily spiritual healing by an ordained priest or bishop.
Angel V., who is married and lives in the state of Michoacán, claims to have been possessed by demons since 1999.
The Rev. Juan Rivas, a well-known Mexican priest, who accompanied Angel V. to Rome and was with him when he met the Pope, confirmed in an interview with El Mundo that Angel V. had been subjected to 30 exorcisms but “the demons that live in him do not want to leave him.” Rivas, a popular figure in Mexico and a member of the Legionaries of Christ, recalled how Angel kissed the pontiff’s ring and immediately fell into a trance.
“The Pope then laid his hands on his head and at that moment a terrible sound was heard (from him), like the roar of a lion,” Rivas said. “All those who were there heard it perfectly well. The Pope for sure heard it [but] he continued with his prayer, as if he had faced similar situations before.”
In the interview, Angel V. recalled the first time the demons entered him in 1999 when he was on a bus in Mexico. He felt “an energy” had entered the bus. “I did not see it with my eyes, but I perceived it,” he recalled. “I noted that it came close to me, and then stopped in front of me. Then, suddenly, I noted that something like a stake pierced my chest and, little by little, I had the sensation that it was opening my ribs.”
It felt like a heart attack, he added, and he thought he would die.
From then on, he said, his health started deteriorating: he vomited whatever he ate; he felt pains in his whole body, as if he was full of needles; he began to have difficulty in walking and breathing. “I could not sleep, and when I managed to sleep I had terrible nightmares connected with the evil one,” he asserted. He began to fall into trances in which he blasphemed, and spoke in unknown languages.
Medical doctors gave him thorough examinations but “could not get to the cause of my problems,” he said. Priests gave him Extreme Unction (a sacrament administered to the sick) four times, but this only “relieved” but did not remove his problem. The Catholic said he prays to God which helps him.
Knowing that he is possessed, he said is a source of “much fear,” but he also feels “very dirty at the thought that there was an evildoer within me.” His family reacted with incredulity, while some of his siblings were skeptical and thought he was psychologically unbalanced, he said.
For the past few years, Angel has sought out exorcists, including a leading Spanish priest, the Rev. Jose Antonio Fortea, who carried out exorcisms on him, and Amorth in Rome, but none could cast out his demons.
The possession turned into “a nightmare,” he said, causing him to lose a publicity company he owned and forcing him to sell some real estate. His family though has stood by him. “Fortunately, my children have never seen me in a trance, though they know I am ill,” he explained, adding that the past eight months have been particularly difficult.
One night he had a dream about Pope Francis, and when he woke up from the dream he turned on the TV and saw the Pope celebrating Mass exactly as he had seen in his dream “and then the idea came into my head that I should go to Rome.”
At that time he was reading a book by Amorth, “The Last Exorcist,” which included details of how both Benedict XVI and John Paul II carried out exorcisms on people brought to them. Angel V. asked Rivas, whom he has known for two years, to accompany him to the Vatican.
Amorth believes Angel is without doubt possessed, and that it is a possession “with a message.” “Not only is he possessed, but the devil who lives in him finds himself obliged by God to transmit a message,” he said.
Urgent: Should the Pope change the Catholic Church?
“Angel is a good man. He has been chosen by the Lord to give a message to the Mexican clergy and to tell the bishops that they have to do an act of reparation for the law on abortion that was approved in Mexico City in 2007, which was an insult to the Virgin,” according to Amorth. “Until they . . . do this, Angel will not be liberated.”
Edward Pentin began reporting on the Vatican as a correspondent with Vatican Radio in 2002. He has covered the Pope and the Holy See for a number of publications, including Newsweek, and The Sunday Times
It’s time to put someone from the BRICS in charge of the world’s leading trade body.
In a historic first, the next leader of the World Trade Organization will hail from Latin America. A field of nine candidates has now been winnowed down to two, one from Mexico and one from Brazil, meaning that, at a crucial moment in the history of the international trading system, the leader of the central organization for resolving global trade differences and shaping future agreements will come from the emerging part of the Western Hemisphere.
One candidate, Roberto Azevedo, is currently Brazil’s ambassador to the WTO. The other, Herminio Blanco, is a former Mexican trade minister and one of the architects of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Both are widely respected and well-liked by those who know them well. On the surface, the two candidates seem extremely similar. But to suggest that these men represent a common perspective could not be further from the truth. They illustrate a choice as stark as past and future for an organization that finds itself at a critical turning point.
The knock on Azevedo is that he has never served as a trade minister, a post that has typically been a jumping-off point for past WTO chiefs. But he has been exceptionally active within the halls of the trade organization’s Geneva headquarters — an acknowledged leader there, especially among the world’s rising powers, and he is seen as more closely in touch with the trade issues of the day than is Blanco.
Blanco, trained at the University of Chicago, is exceptionally competent. I worked with him when I was a senior U.S. trade official during the Clinton administration and I know that my colleagues and I always held him in very high regard. But, in the eyes of his critics, he has been out of the international trade arena for too long, having been working in the private sector and not actively involved in the complex, frustrating debates surrounding the Doha world trade talks or the need for meaningful reform of the WTO. The organization, set up officially in 1995, doesn’t seem up to addressing the problems of a modern world crisscrossed with non-tariff barriers or grappling with the new problems of Internet- and services-based trade, widespread currency manipulation, and incipient protection appearing in many guises.
There is, however, a bigger difference between the two men that is already manifesting itself in the early whip-counts of potential voters from around the world. According to trade-community insiders in Washington and around the world with whom I have spoken over the past few days, Blanco is seen as the preferred candidate of the United States and much of what might be described as the traditional or old-school trade establishment. Azevedo, on the other hand, appears to have deeper support among the BRICs and among many of the other representatives of the emerging world.
This split matters, because the principal divide in world trade today is not, as it once was, East-West, trans-Atlantic, or even trans-Pacific. It is much more north-south, a split between developed countries that have long dominated the trade discussions and the emerging ones who, through flexing their muscle effectively for the first time during the Doha Round negotiations, put those discussions on ice until their core concerns could be resolved.
Among the most critical of those concerns are frustrations emerging powers have with the seemingly bullet-proof, reform-resistant series of subsidies that are protecting developed-world agricultural producers at the expense of their counterparts like Brazil, India, and other emerging countries with great potential to provide feed the world. Similarly, the questions associated with how and when emerging powers begin to compete and operate on the same terms and to the same standards as developed powers also loom large. Newly proposed trade deals, such as the recently opened negotiations between the United States and the European Union, have at their heart a desire by these first-world powers to grow closer together and to maintain a more unified front when challenged by the emerging powers led by the BRICs.
The WTO has, thus far, despite a global set of responsibilities, largely been a club built on the vision and delivering special power to representatives of the developed world. But while much is murky about the future of the global economy, one thing is not: The balance of trade growth is shifting, irreversibly to the emerging world. (By 2010, according to the United Nations, developing-country import growth already was responsible for about half of world trade growth.) In addition, the emerging countries represent both a majority of world population and the nations with the greatest need for consistent economic growth if social equity or stability are our shared goals as a planet.
Developed countries fear that having a Brazilian lead the WTO would put their interests at risk. But there’s no reason to think so. Quite the contrary: Azevedo, given his background and support among the most important countries of the emerging world as well as his familiarity with the WTO as it is currently operating, might well be more likely to offer a path toward practical North-South solutions. In addition, Brazil’s own strong stand against currency manipulation — whether by China or the United States — is an example of why it is old-think to assume that an individual’s place of birth represents an ideological strait-jacket.
There are few global organizations about which the view is so widely held that reform is essential and few where, for that reform to be fair and effective, it is so vital that the new voices of the global economy be fairly represented. Because Roberto Azevedo is the best person to lead that change and stand for those voices, he should be the WTO’s next director-general.
“There is a growing sense throughout the world that capitalism isn’t working; and that the cracks we create in it may really be the only way forward.”
San Andrés de Cholula, Mexico, 03/04/13
On the outskirts of Puebla and at the foot of the giant Popocatépetl volcano lies the sleepy Mexican town of San Andrés de Cholula. It is here that, on a sunny April afternoon, we meet John Holloway. Often referred to as “the philosopher of the Zapatistas”, Holloway — who is a Professor of Sociology at the Autonomous University of Puebla — is widely known for his anti-statist conception of revolution and his intellectual support for autonomous anti-capitalist movements around the world. The publication in 2002 of his influential book, Change the World without Taking Power: The Meaning of Revolution Today, unleashed a veritable firestorm of both praise and criticism from fellow radicals and helped to provoke a period of profound introspection in Leftist circles on the meaning and necessity of revolution in the post-Cold War context of globalized financial capitalism.
For Holloway, it all starts with the Scream: a resounding roar, a ‘NO! Ya Basta! Enough already! We won’t submit any longer to the brutalizing logic of capitalist domination!’ It starts with this Scream, but it does not end there. After the refusal to participate in the reproduction of capitalist control, we open up time, space and resources for a possibly endless range of “other-doings”; for different ways of acting and being within the world. Taken together, these different refusals and other-doings constitute what Holloway calls the “cracks” in the capitalist system; the ruptures in the prison walls from which humanity collectively pushes its dignity and will to survive outward, until one day the walls cave in altogether. These cracks can occur in different dimensions (in space, in time and in terms of activity and/or resources), and at different levels. “It may be the garden in which we find ourselves”, Holloway tells us, “or it may be a good chunk of the state of Chiapas which is now self-governed by the Zapatistas.”
In this conceptualization of revolution, then, the traditional Marxist objective of taking state power becomes a hopeless endeavor. Holloway reminds us that the modern state essentially evolved in symbiosis with capital, leaving its institutional DNA imprinted with the same internal contradictions that bedevil the capitalist system as such. Taking state power with the objective of bringing about radical social change, then, is bound to reproduce the same logic of capital accumulation that the revolution was originally meant to overthrow. “States don’t make much sense,” Holloway says. “So we have to think in terms of something from below, creating our own forms of organization and interaction.” Rather than participating in the reproduction of the capital relation, in other words, our goal should be to undermine capital at its very root: by refusing to continue reproducing it through our own labor, and by rendering the capitalist state superfluous through the construction of alternative forms of self-organization from the grassroots up. In this sense, as Holloway once rightly boasted, “we are the crisis of capital — and we are proud of it!”
Walking into the botanical gardens of Cholula, we therefore immediately understand why Holloway invited us to meet him here. A beautiful small oasis of peace and quiet, the garden — which Holloway proudly tells us is the creation of his compañera — is like a crack of life inside the flattened landscape and dehumanized social universe that is today’s neoliberal Mexico; a dramatically globalized “emerging market” where an unholy alliance of U.S. interests, business power and state-sponsored violence have left the average citizen buckling under a wave of murderous organized crime and criminal levels of inequality. The garden also provides a colorful background to Holloway’s incredibly friendly and soft-spoken character. Just speaking to him about the general things of life, one would almost forget that this kind and humble man is known as one of the most militant anti-capitalist thinkers in the world. Indeed, Holloway doesn’t appear even the tiniest bit like the kind of person who would refer to the riots in Athens as a “very productive and fruitful development.”
And yet it all makes perfect sense. In a way, Holloway’s personal character and mental lifeworld already seem to be light-years beyond capitalism. Here, there is no professorial pride, no academic arrogance, no intellectual vanguardism; just a sense of humility combined with a genuine desire to change the world — without taking power. It is for this viewpoint (the impossibility of bringing about revolutionary social change by taking state power) that Holloway is best-known. In this respect, the 2002 publication of Change the World without Taking Power was remarkably well-timed. Its main ideas dovetailed perfectly with the autonomous Zapatista uprising of the preceding decade (Holloway had moved to Mexico in 1991, three years before the Chiapas rebellion began); they resonated very strongly with the claims and objectives of the Global Justice Movement that had been rocking the United States and Europe ever since the Battle of Seattle in 1999 and the bloody Genoa G8 protests in 2001; and the publication of the book coincided exactly with the ongoing popular uprising in Argentina during that country’s devastating financial meltdown in 2001-’02.
When Pluto Press published Crack Capitalism in 2010, Holloway’s decision to write a book about the many creative forms of anti-capitalist contestation once again proved to be remarkably well-timed. Coming on the heels of the global financial meltdown of 2007-’08, Crack Capitalism prefigured exactly the type of social struggles that were to transpire in the coming years. By 2011, the mass mobilizations of the indignados in Spain, the enormous anti-austerity protests in Greece, and the global resonance of the Occupy movement had made it unmistakable that autonomous forms of horizontal self-organization and direct-democratic models of decision-making had largely replaced the traditional Left as the main source of resistance to the capitalist onslaught on our human dignity — and, indeed, on our very lives. Where a decade ago a book like Change the World without Taking Power could still be considered “controversial”, today the core ideas of Crack Capitalism are all but taken for granted by a new generation of activists and politically-engaged citizens involved in anti-capitalist struggles around the world.
It was for this reason, and many more, that we decided to sit down with John in his adopted home country of Mexico and ask him for some of his views on recent developments around the world — from the role of the state in the ongoing European debt crisis to the meaning of the Greek riots, and from the legacy of Hugo Chávez in Venezuela and the ability to use the state as a crack, to the powerful lessons the Zapatistas can teach us about the different temporalities of revolt in the 21st century. We are very grateful to John for his time and for his permission to reproduce the full transcript of our conversation below. As always, pregundando caminamos.
ROAR: What do you think the current capitalist crisis tells us about the nature of the state and the future of state-oriented revolutionary action?
John Holloway (JH): I think one thing that is striking about the state in the current crisis is really the degree of closure. Perhaps it’s not that we didn’t know it, but I think it’s been very striking just how the state doesn’t respond to protests and protests and protests. I suppose we can see this in Greece and Spain with their massive protests, both of the more traditional Left and of the more creative Left, if you like. The state just doesn’t listen: it goes ahead anyway. So I suppose one thing that’s become clear in the crisis to more and more people is the distance of the state from society, and the degree to which the state is integrated into the movement of money, so that the state even loses the appearance of being pulled in two directions. It becomes more and more clear that the state is bound to do everything possible to satisfy the money markets and in that sense to guarantee the accumulation of capital. I think that’s become much clearer in the last four or five years. And if that means absolutely refusing to listen to the protests, if it means letting the rioters burn down the cities, then so be it. The most important is really the money markets.
If you think of Greece in 2011 and the extraordinary demonstrations there, in which so many buildings in the center were burned down – the state just carries on regardless. I think it’s very interesting and possibly very important in terms of future directions, because the power of attraction of state-centered politics and protests really depends upon the state having some sort of room for negotiation with the trade unions and with people protesting. If the state feels there is no longer any room for negotiation, or simply gets into the habit of saying ‘we will absolutely not negotiate’, then that closes down the margin for state-centered Left politics and pushes people more towards the idea that, really, trying to do things through the state is absolutely hopeless. So perhaps we can hope that non-state oriented politics will become more and more common and more widespread throughout society.
ROAR: Isn’t that’s exactly what we’ve been seeing for a while already, especially in 2011 with the Occupy movement?
JH: Yes, absolutely, and all over the world. Sometimes people say we are entering an age of riots. A closure of the state means no negotiations, meaning that any kind of protest is pushed towards rioting. What that means in terms of how we move forward, I’m not quite sure. It can be a very productive and fruitful development.
ROAR: As a refusal?
JH: Yes, as a refusal. As a kind of total breakdown of the old way of doing things, which perhaps brought a few little benefits but really didn’t take anybody very far. And I think that more and more people are being forced to reinvent their politics or reinvent their ideas about politics, both in terms of protests – but also I think in terms of creating alternatives. If the system has no room for us, if the system simply leaves 50% of young people unemployed, if state benefits are cut back, if the state absolutely refuses to negotiate, if the police become more repressive, then I think we are forced not only to think of creative forms of protest but also ways of how we actually survive and how we actually create alternative ways of living. And we see that very much in Spain and in Greece, where things are going in that direction. I think what the crisis is also telling us is that that‘s the way to go, but that we haven’t gone far enough yet. We’re not yet in a situation where we can just tell capital to go to hell and survive without it. That’s really the problem. But I think that’s the direction we have to go in.
ROAR: The cracks in capitalism seem to flourish in times of crisis. We saw this in the popular uprising in Argentina in 2001-’02, as Marina Sitrin powerfully portrayed in her book Everyday Revolutions, and we’re seeing it in Southern Europe today. Is there a way to perpetuate such cracks beyond the economic ‘hard times’?
JH: I don’t know. First I don’t think times necessarily get better and secondly I’m not sure that we should worry too much about perpetuation. If you look at Argentina, there was clearly a sense in which things did get better. Like the economy, rates of profit recovered, a process in which a lot of the movements of 2001 and 2002 became sucked into the state. But the problems have obviously reappeared somewhere else. If you look at Spain and Greece, firstly there are no short-term perspectives of things getting substantially better. Secondly, if they did get better, then the crisis would move on somewhere else. And the search for alternative ways of living moves on.
I think there is an accumulation of experience, and also an accumulation of growing awareness that spreads from one country to another, that capitalism just isn’t working and that it is in serious problems. I think that people in Greece look to Argentina and recognize the importance of the experiences of 10 years ago. And I think that people in Argentina – even if things have improved economically for them – look to Greece and see the instability of capitalism. The failure of capitalism is showing up again in another place. I think there is a growing sense throughout the world that capitalism isn’t working. There is a growing confidence perhaps that the cracks we create or the crazinesses we create may really be the basis for a new world and a new society, and may really be the only way forward.
What I don’t like about the idea of perpetuation is that it suggests a smooth upward progress. I don’t think it works like that. I think it’s more like a social flow of rebellion, something that moves throughout the world, with eruptions in one place and then in another place. But there are continuities below the discontinuities. We have to think in terms of disrupting, bubbling movements rather than thinking that it all depends on whether we can perpetuate the movement in one place. If we think in terms of perpetuation in one place, I think it can lead us into either an institutionalization, which I think is not much help, or it can lead us into a sense of defeat, perhaps, which I don’t think is right.
ROAR: What’s wrong with institutionalization? You engaged in a debate with Michael Hardt on this issue, where the position that Hardt and Negri take is that institutionalization per se is not a problem, as long as it is part of the constituent movement; the self-organizing element of rebellion. What’s your view on this?
JH: I think institutionalization is not necessarily damaging. It may or may not be, but we should not focus on that, we should think much more in terms of movements. The danger is that we start thinking in terms of institutionalization at the point at which movements are beginning to fail. Institutionalization can be a way of prolonging their life, but then they turn into something that’s not very exciting and not very interesting. If we think of institutionalization in terms of parties, I think that can definitely be harmful. That is what is happening in Argentina at the moment. If you start thinking that you have to start preparing for the next elections, with luck we may win 1.5% of the votes, and maybe five years after that we’ll win 4% of the votes, or whatever. Once you start going in that direction I think it really is destructive; it’s a way of binding movements into the destructive boredom of state politics.
If you think of institutionalization in terms of the World Social Forum, which has been taking place in the last week or so, then it doesn’t do much harm, but that’s really not where the heart of the movements lies either. It can be useful to have meeting places and it can be useful certainly to create links between movements in different parts of the world. And I think it’s very important to overcome, in practical terms, the national orientation of movements. But institutions aren’t really where it’s happening.
ROAR: Last month we witnessed the passing of Hugo Chávez. There are those, like Dario Azzelini, who have praised Chávez for his support in the creation of tens of thousands of cooperatives and communal councils, arguing that the Bolivarian Revolution really empowered the popular base. To what extent is it possible to mobilize the state as a crack within the system of capitalist domination?
JH: I think it doesn’t work. I think that all revolutionary movements and all movements of radical change are profoundly contradictory. If you look at Venezuela, it’s very interesting because on the one hand it’s very much a state-centered movement, but on the other hand I think there are lots of genuine movements that really aim at transforming society from below, from the neighborhoods. I think with Chávez there was an awareness of that contradiction, and in lots of ways a genuine attempt to strengthen the movement from below and to strengthen the communal councils. But when you try to promote that from above, from the state, of course it’s contradictory. In some cases it has led genuinely to the strengthening of communal movements, sometimes very much in tension with the state structures.
I think that the strength of Chávismo over time is really going to depend not so much on the state organization but on the strength of these communal movements. So no, I don’t think that you can think of the state as being an anti-capitalist crack, simply because the state is a form of organization that excludes people; it is a form of organization that dovetails very easily with the reproduction of capital and derives its income from the accumulation of capital. But I think that even in those countries where the movement for radical change is dominated by the state like in Venezuela, Bolivia or even Cuba, to some extent, pushes in different directions continue at the same time.
ROAR: Have you always had this view about the impossibility of state-based revolutionary action?
JH: I think it was probably always my view. In a way it goes back to the old debates on the state, the so-called state derivation debate in the 1970s, where the emphasis was on trying to understand the state as a capitalist form of social relations. And I think I always took it for granted that of course, if you think of the state as a capitalist form of social relations, then obviously you can’t think of using the state to bring about revolution. We have to think in terms of anti-state forms of organization. So in that sense when I came to write Change the World without Taking Power, I thought I was saying something that was very obvious. I think it has always been my view, but when I came to Mexico and with the Zapatista uprising, then of course it got a new shape, a new impulse.
ROAR: There is this critique, expressed by “unrepentant Marxists” like Louis Proyect, that if you don’t take power, power takes you. What would you respond to such a form of criticism?
JH: I think if you do take power, power takes you. That’s very straightforward. I mean it’s very difficult to take positions of power at least in the sense that it’s usually used as ‘power over’. Inevitably you fall into the patterns of exercising power, of excluding people, of reproducing all that you start off fighting against. We’ve seen that over and over again. If you say ‘we are not going to take power’, I suppose one of the arguments is that if we don’t take power, then the really nasty people will take over, that by not taking power we are leaving a vacuum. I think that’s not true: we have to think in terms of capitalism as a ‘how’ and not as a ‘what’; as a way of doing things. The struggle against capital and the struggle to create a different world — for a different ‘how’ — is about a different way of doing things. It doesn’t make sense at all to say that the best way to achieve our ‘how’ is to do things in the way that we are rejecting. That seems to be complete nonsense. If we say that the struggle is really to create a different way of doing things, different ways of relating to one another, then we have no option but just to get on with doing it, and to do everything possible to resist the imposition of the ‘how’ that we reject.
ROAR: You have written that the transition from capitalism to the future world is necessarily an interstitial process, much like the transition from feudalism to capitalism. This directly contradicts the orthodox Marxist view that revolution is by definition a dramatic top-down transformation of society occurring in a very brief period of time. If this traditional view of revolution is outdated, how would you describe the interstitial process that replaces it?
JH: At first sight, the interstitial view contrasts with the traditional view that ‘we take power and we will bring social transformation from the top-down’. But in reality even that is still an interstitial concept because there was this idea that the state corresponds with society – that they are coterminous – which is obviously nonsense. State and society don’t have the same boundaries. Given that there are some 200 states in the world-system, and given that we won’t overthrow all these states on the same day, even if we want to focus on state power we will have to think interstitially. In this view, it’s just that we are thinking of states as being the relevant interstices, which seems ridiculous. What that means is that we are trying to take control of a form of organization that was constructed to promote the reproduction of capital. Everything in the last century suggests it doesn’t work.
We have to think of interstices, but in terms of our own forms of organization. States don’t make much sense. So we have to think in terms of something from below, creating our own forms of organization and interaction. We do it at the scale that we can: sometimes it’s just a little thing, like this garden we’re in. Sometimes it’s bigger, like a big chunk of the state of Chiapas now being self-governed by the Zapatistas. The question then becomes: how can we promote the confluence of these cracks?
There is this idea that the transition from feudalism to capitalism was an interstitial process, but that the movement from capitalism to communism or socialism cannot be – and that’s clearly wrong. If we think of communism, or the society that we want to create on the basis of self-determination, it has to come from below and not from the structures that deny its existence. This means an interstitial process in two temporalities, which are nicely expressed by the Zapatistas. First comes: ‘Ya basta!’ – we cannot accept this, not in terms of our survival, not in terms of our mental health. If this continues it will mean the destruction of humanity. We have to start now and break now. In this sense, the process is not gradual. It is here and now that we must create something else. But then comes the second Zapatista slogan: ‘We walk, we do not run, because we are going very far’ – a recognition that it’s not just a question of a one-day transformation of society; it’s a question of creating a new world.
The current 250 year licence granted to the USA to use English as its official language is due to expire at the end of January 2014. The licence was originally granted by King George III and intended as a stop-gap till the colony (as it was then) decided on it’s own language between Arapahoe, French or Spanish.
The new House of Representatives is facing a difficult decision but will probably opt to move to Spanish in the near future. Already 26% of US citizens speak Spanish and California has already experimented with shop assistants pretending not to understand English speaking customers.
The probability is that illegal immigrants from Mexico will now be given teaching jobs to bring the remaining US citizens up to speed.
All official documents such as passports, drivers licenses and Costco membership cards will now need to be translated.
The President has assured the public than the language transition will run smoothly and that Goldman Sachs were organising a team to insure a smooth passage. GS has advised its clients to buy bonds in outsourced charter schools
This is a great article that hits the nail on the head
On March 26, President Obama signed H.R. 933 with a provision called the Monsanto Protection Act. Monsanto is a large agricultural corporation focused on providing genetically modified seeds to farmers and agribusinesses. They have created revenue by applying biotechnology techniques to the farming industry that include modifying DNA of seeds such as the “terminator seed” which will produce plants that will never yield fertile seeds. Monsanto has also created seeds that could endure pesticides and herbicides.
Food justice activists are furious with the backdoor signing of the Monsanto Protection Act for a number of reasons. The act would protect Monsanto from being sued for health damages caused by the use of their genetically modified crops. Additionally, if health damages were discovered by the use of GMO foods, then the United States government would not be able to ban them from consumption.
What these complaints do not address, however, is the fact that Monsanto’s practices with GMO seeds can do more than just hurt the public health; they can also destroy traditional farming methods in communities around the world.
Apparently, the large corporation has been able to disingenuously protect its malpractices by taking advantage of its multi-million dollar business of destroying cultural farming practices all over the world.
Monsanto created the genetically modified organism (GMO) seeds in order to monopolize the seed industry across the world and thus create more revenue. Technically, GMO is simply the result of a lab process that takes genes from one species and inserts them into another to obtain a certain characteristic of the seed. But what kind of projects have these profits been funding?
One way they have been able to monopolize the seed industry is by cutting a deal with the International Monetary Fund (IMF). When countries are in debt, they can ask the IMF for loans to rejuvenate the economy. Some of the conditions of the IMF loan include sustainable practices the country must implement in order to revitalize the economy with western capitalistic development. However, one of the conditions of the IMF includes preferential access to markets by agricultural conglomerates such as Monsanto. Countries impacted by Monsanto include India, Mexico, Liberia and Paraguay.
This is an issue because farmers are not informed about the changed seed and suffer from inadequate water supply and expensive irrigation methods required. Instructions for the GMO seeds given to non-English speaking farmers across the world are of course printed in English. The seeds are also 10 times more expensive than natural seeds and can force farmers to take loans from local banks. Moreover, farmers are required to continuously buy the expensive seeds, as those provided by the conglomerate are infertile.
Even if the farmers required to use GMO seeds were given adequate instruction and could afford to purchase the expensive irrigation techniques required to grow the GMO seeds, this could be considered a form of cultural genocide. For thousands of years, communities in places like Mexico and India have been farming without the use of technologically modified seeds that require special instructions. They have prospered well without the monopolization of cotton, corn and rice. Monsanto is actively participating in an attempt to eliminate other countries’ inherited and culturally sound practices of growing seed and producing food.
President Obama likely did not think about the cultural impact of protecting Monsanto in its use of genetically modified seeds. Nor did he likely think about the amount of power he gave to Monsanto when signing the Monsanto Protection Act.
The IMF, the United States and Monsanto should come up with a way to use science and sustainability practices to ensure the health of all peoples, the earth and our individual cultures, rather than profit from greed and destruction.
Picture Credit: Maribel Hermosillo
For nearly two decades the transnational corporation that manufactures the pesticides used across the planet has been trying to take over the global seed market with genetically modified (GM) seed. If successful, most of the food we grow and eat would have to be purchased annually as seed from Monsanto. The mutant plants would grow up addicted to Monsanto herbicides. Local varieties would disappear, and in their place standardized, genetically modified food–doused with chemicals–would fill supermarket shelves and corner stores.
More than 60,000 farmers and supporters from workers’ and environmental organizations marched through Mexico City on Jan. 31 to avoid this fate. It was one of the largest mobilizations to date to reject the Monsanto game plan, and it’s no coincidence that it took place in the heart of the Aztec Empire.
Olegario Carrillo, president of Mexican small farm organization UNORCA, addressed the crowd in the central plaza, “During the last 30 years, successive governments have tried to wipe us out. They’ve promoted measures to take away our lands, our water, our seeds, plant and animal varieties, traditional knowledge, markets. But we refuse to disappear.”
“For peasant farmers, GMOs represent looting and control,” he stated.
With tens of thousands of people shouting “No genetically modified corn in Mexico!” and “Monsanto get out!”, the march showed the muscle of an unusual grassroots movement to protect small farmers and consumers. It also revealed the remarkable success of decades of public education and organizing on an issue that Monsanto and other major biotech firms hoped would slide under the radar of the people most affected by it.
Monsanto–along with Pioneer, Dow and other chemical/biotech firms–have been pushing hard to take over production of the world’s third major staple crop: corn. Small farmers in the U.S. have long experienced the pressure exerted to move them out of the way. Monsanto predicts that its corn seed will be planted on 96 million acres in the United States this year. But the key to its plans to conquer the market lies south of the border.
The powerful corporation, the largest seed seller in the world, desperately wants permission for unrestricted planting of its GM corn in Mexico. If GM corn is planted in Mexico, it will accelerate the transfer of acreage and water rights from small farmers to corporate GM corn cultivation, thus transferring control of the national food supply as well. Widespread open planting of GM corn will lead to contamination of native varieties. This is a scientific fact.
Mexico has already detected many native cornfields contaminated by GM corn during the period when open planting was prohibited—a strong indication of the impossibility of controlling open pollination between native and GM varieties.
This has huge implications.
Mexico is the center of origin of corn, and the home of hundreds of varieties developed by indigenous communities over centuries. To lose in situ preservation of these varieties is to lose a wealth of agro-diversity that has major importance for sustainable food production, and to eventually become dependent on Monsanto and other large corporations to feed ourselves.
Gene-splicing and the laboratory land grab
For years, Monsanto, Pioneer-Dupont and Dow and other companies in the biotech business have insisted that genetic modification is just like nature, only better. Their claim is that genetic mutations happen in natural settings so making them happen in a lab setting is just giving nature a nudge in the right direction.
They try not to mention that genetic modification of plants uses genes from animal and other foreign species that would never end up in the plant (or our food) on their own. They also do everything possible to bury studies on the negative health impacts of GM foods, including cancer.
And what they really hoped would never come up, is the plan to conquer the world–or at least its food systems–conveyed in a tiny Trojan seed.
If GM corn were planted in Mexico and widely promoted, access to native seed would dwindle, as fewer farmers planted or saved it. Legal offensives based on hyper patent laws contained in free trade agreements are even trying to make seed-saving illegal. Although some countries ban cultivation of certain types of GM crops, these crops already cover nearly 10 percent of the arable surface of the world.
For the communities that refuse to give up using native seed, the final assault is genetic contamination. GM corn contaminates nearby fields. The irony of this invasion is that once native corn is shown to have been contaminated (and thus ruined) by GM corn, Monsanto can come in with lawsuits claiming that its product is being used without required usage fees.
Mexico’s new government led by President Enrique Pena Nieto now finds itself wedged between the biotech offensive to release commercial planting permits and the thousands of small farmers and their allies fighting to defend the food supply. So far, it is reluctant to risk citizens’ ire by granting Monsanto use of Mexican soil for its GM corn expansion.
The campaign has gone international as food rights groups from around the world supported Mexico’s farm leaders in the week-long fast that preceded the march.
More than corn is at stake here—it’s a question of recognition and respect. A “Maize Manifesto” released by the farmers’ organizations states,
“We reject that the government sacrifices consumers and small farmers to support transnational corporations that produce GM seed and agro-toxins. We the farmers, not the transnationals, are the ones who feed the population.”
The Mexican government first legalized GM plantings through what has come to be known as the 2005 “Monsanto Law”, which the farmers are demanding be revoked. It then began issuing permits, first for experimental plantings. Having passed that phase, Monsanto has now requested permits to begin all-out commercial production. It has filed to sow some 700,000 hectares of genetically modified corn in the state of Sinaloa alone.
But Mexico could be Monsanto’s Waterloo. Thousands of small farmers, many in indigenous communities—Nahuatl, Maya and Mixteco–are fighting back. Stubborn in the face of a government clearly allied with the transnationals and corporations determined to wear down their resistance, the farmers are defending their right to use the traditional maize seed that their ancestors developed over millennia. They are also defending their way of life and, ultimately, global access to safe and affordable food.
The giant American retailer, which also has stores in Brazil, Argentina, Chile and several Central American countries, has been accused of systematically paying bribes in Mexico that total more than $24 million over the course of several years. The bribes were used to get permission to build in places where it is illegal to do so.
There is ample evidence that Walmart was not forced to pay bribes to do business, but rather that the company actively encouraged corruption in the country by establishing an aggressive policy of offering bribes to Mexican officials who broke the laws and regulations of the country.
The case is being investigated in the United States and Mexico, and the company is facing several lawsuits from pension funds that have invested in the company’s stock. The eventual sentences and fines could have a major impact not just on Walmart but also on Mexico – the company is Mexico’s largest private employer, with 2,275 stores and 221,000 employees.
An internal investigation by Walmart of its 27 international subsidiaries seems to have revealed evidence of bribes by Walmart in Brazil as well as China and India.
Walmart is not unique. British bank HSBC helped launder money for Mexican drug cartels for years. And people still remember the case of IBM in Argentina 15 years ago, when IBM paid officials at the state-owned Banco Nacion a total of $37 million in exchange for a contract to renovate the bank’s computer systems.
All of these cases – and hundreds of others with less publicity – hurt not only the companies involved but also the image of the region. The last Transparency International report only ranked three Latin American countries – Chile, Uruguay and Costa Rica – above the world average for corruption. All of the other countries are perceived as having high corruption problems, and Venezuela is one of the worst of in the world, ranked 165 out of 176 countries.
Subverting the system
The development of a country depends on governments that establish and enforce rules and regulations that are the same for everyone, as well as a free-market system where all of the competitors play by the rules. When you can get an advantage by paying bribes, that system is subverted. And when the person who gets that advantage is Walmart, the victims are numerous, starting with their direct local competitors and including other potential international investors, who might think twice about investing in the market.
When a giant like HSBC is laundering drug money, it distorts the financial markets and subverts the democratic system.
The United States has taken a step in the right direction by legally punishing companies that commit bribery abroad. The situation would be even better if all countries adopted similar legislation.
The so-called multi-Latinos, the select club of Latin American multinationals, have the task of being agents of change, and should explicitly state a commitment to fight corruption in their statutes. These statutes should also include ethical standards to abide by when doing business throughout Latin America.
Latin American governments should establish an agreement to standardize corruption laws and penalties.
International development banks, like the World Bank and the Interamerican Development Bank, have taken a step in the right direction. Since a couple of years ago, any company that is guilty of corruption is barred from participating in projects financed by either bank.
The task sounds complicated and difficult, but it is worth it. Many studies have found a clear relationship between corruption, poverty and under-development – equal to the distortions produced in the way resources are distributed. It is obvious that corruption hurts countries where it takes place, and we need political will, both on the part of governments and business people, to get rid of this scourge.
The China Connection
The problem with our country is we don’t manufacture anything anymore,” Donald Trump told Fox News a year ago. “The stuff that’s been sent over from China,” he complained, “falls apart after a year and a half. It’s crap.” That very same Donald Trump has his own line of clothing, and it’s made in … China. (O.K., O.K. — not all of it. Salon, which reported this intriguing, head-scratching fact, notes that some of his apparel is from Mexico and Bangladesh.)