Archive for October, 2010

Jyri Jaakkola’s death, six months on

October 28, 2010

“The tradition of all dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living” (Karl Marx).1

Demetrio Barrita, Cariño para Copala (2010)

Precisely six months have passed since the present author learned of the murder of Jyri Jaakkola, a day after the ill-fated observation and aid caravan in which he was participating attempted to reach the autonomous municipality of San Juan Copala in the Triqui region of northwestern Oaxaca. As far as is known, the caravan came under fire from members of the paramilitary organization UBISORT (Union for Social Welfare of the Triqui Region) after encountering a road-block in the community of La Sabana en route to Copala; UBISORT had effectively been maintaining a siege of the autonomous municipality for several months, this being the very reason for the launching of the civil-observation caravan. To date no serious investigations have been launched into the 27 April assault, which also killed the Mexican social activist Bety Cariño, member of the the Center for Communal Support Working Together (CACTUS) based in Huajuapan de León. It is widely held to be the case that UBISORT has strong ties to the Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) and the current governor of Oaxaca, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz—hence the marked impunity of the case. Controversy and doubt surround the question of how the incoming governor-elect, Gabino Cué Monteagudo, who heads a rather bizarre coalition of the far-right PAN (National Action Party) and social-democrat PRD (Party of Revolutionary Democracy), will approach the problem of the 27 April attacks, as well as many other issues regarding Oaxaca, upon taking power on 1 December.

The present author remembers with tenderness the opportunity he had to spend time with Jyri some two weeks before his murder. Jyri’s spirit was impressive, his humaneness—and humanity—beyond question. One can only speculate regarding the accomplishments Jyri could have realized had his life not been cut short by fascist paramilitaries, but it is to be imagined that they would have been significant. His clear-minded commitment to opposing the world-destruction advanced by hegemonic power groups, for one, demonstrates this, as do the various comments he shared with this author on different questions in April of this year.

Foremost among Jyri’s political concerns, it seems, was the problem of anthropogenic climate change; his interest among other things in the work of social-ecologist Murray Bookchin reflects this. It is surely unfortunate, then, that he will not be able to participate in the protests against the upcoming Cancún climate negotiations, as he magnificently did last year in Copenhagen.

It seems to be the case that Jyri, through death, managed to escape from the ever-worsening world-situation. In the months since Jyri’s death, climate change has revealed itself beyond question to be catastrophic: one thinks of devastating floods in Pakistan, China, and Central America; famine in the Sahel; drought in South America; alarming ocean-acidification rates; widespread bleaching of coral-reefs; and sharply increased food-prices the world over. It is far from clear, in this sense, that humanity will be able to extricate itself from the present crisis, but it must be said that Jyri should himself have been allowed to choose whether to continue to struggle against the specter of such barbarism. It is in any case clear that Jyri, like the billions of other humans brutalized by hegemonic power both historically and contemporarily, did not give his life for the way things have turned out.

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Climate change qua world-historical injustice

October 25, 2010

The global risk-consultancy firm Maplecroft has recently released its first-ever Climate Change Vulnerability Index, which attempts to evaluate the various threats posed by anthropogenic climate change to the peoples of 170 states over the next 30 years.  Examining likely exposure to climate-related disasters and sea-level rise as well as country-governments’ adaptive capacities, the Index distributes the 170 states under consideration into the risk-categories of low, medium, high, and extreme.  As sadly is to be expected, those classified as being most at-risk are largely impoverished Southern societies: the 16 states said by Maplecroft to be at ‘extreme risk’ are Bangladesh, India, Madagascar, Nepal, Mozambique, Philippines, Haiti, Afghanistan, Zimbabwe, Burma, Ethiopia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malawi, and Pakistan.  In stark contrast, Norway, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Sweden, and Denmark were found to be at ‘low risk,’ while Russia, Germany, France, and the U.S. are classified as ‘medium risk.’

Green-blue and dark-blue denote the most-vulnerable areas.

Anarchism against climate-barbarism

October 25, 2010

NB: Published in the current issue of Dysophia (Anarchist Reflections on Migration, Population and Climate Change) on the occasion of the 2010 London Anarchist Bookfair

In his rather terrifying 2008 book Six Degrees: Our Future on a Hotter Planet, British environmental journalist Mark Lynas—a writer whose works and findings would surely tie him to some sort of eco-socialist politics, were he not presumably to be ideologically and materially tied to the hegemonic state of affairs—reflects on the present climate catastrophe by asserting that humans are “indescribably privileged” to be born into the only planet on which life is known to exist in the universe1. In a sense, of course, Lynas here has a point: human existence and consciousness in theory and in practice allow for wonderful possibilities. Nonetheless, his assertion here by itself could well be taken as legitimating the various injustices and horrors of existing society—or can it be said that a comfortable Western journalist and a starving Nigerien child are similarly privileged in life-circumstances?

What can be said is that human existence potentially permits for the creation of specific social conditions that could perhaps justify Lynas’ claims regarding the privilege of experiencing human life—that is to say, a classless global society governed by principles of liberty, equality, justice, and solidarity. Clearly, present society is rather far-removed from such ends; more worrying than this consideration is the fact that the spectre of catastrophic climate change promised by the perpetuation of prevailing social relations threatens forever to make impossible the realization of such a society, let alone the existence of any society at all.

The present state of the Earth’s climate systems is not likely terminal as regards the human prospect; it is, for all that, surely urgent. Some 20 million Pakistanis were displaced this summer by unprecedented floods resulting from unprecedented rains—one of the many effects of the higher average global temperatures provoked to date by anthropogenic climate change, since warmer air holds more moisture. Some 10 million residents of the Sahelian countries of Niger, Chad, and Mali were reported in late June to be at serious risk of dying of starvation as crops failed for the second consecutive year—likely to be due to increased average temperatures. The most severe rains in living memory have pummelled the lands of southern Mexico and Guatemala in recent weeks, flooding homes, inundating crops, and provoking landslides. The minimum summer extent of the Arctic’s sea-ice was this year the third-lowest since records began; in August, an ice-island with an area of 100 miles broke off Greenland’s Petermann glacier—the most momentous of such developments in the region in nearly 50 years. These effects are being felt with the 0.8ºC increase in average global temperatures beyond those that prevailed inpre-industrial times; were such temperature increases to reach 2ºC, though, the totality of the Andes glaciers that presently provide water to millions in South America would no longer exist, and the Greenland ice sheet would be in terminal decline. With a 3ºC increase, the Kalahari Desert can be expected to expand considerably, dispatching millions through famine, and the Amazon rainforest will likely collapse in a giant self-conflagration. At increases of 4ºC and beyond, the viability of human society itself is placed into question.

Among many other effects, then—other, that is, than dramatically increasing starvation rates among the world’s peoples, radically diminishing available fresh-water supplies, and rendering uninhabitable low-lying coastal zones the world over—climate change will provoke mass human migration movements. One group of such migrants are those coming to be known as climate refugees – individuals forced to abandon or flee their places of residence due to the various consequences of anthropogenic climate change. (As far as one understands, the concept of climate refugees carries with it no distinction between refugees and internally displaced people; international law considers refugees to be those who cross state boundaries following their displacement, while the internally displaced remain within the same country.) The Inter-Governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), responsible in the past 20 years for releasing a series of reports on climatology and global warming, estimates in its latest report (2007) that some 200 million individuals will be forced into exile by climate change before the end of the current century. Such an estimate, like much else to be found in the IPCC’s 2007 report, is undoubtedly a conservative under-estimate: if average global temperatures increase by 6ºC relative to pre-industrial levels during the twenty-first century—as climatologists are warning could well occur, given the grossly inadequate response presented by constituted power to the various threats posed by climate change—the number of persons displaced will certainly be in the billions, not hundreds of millions; it is to imagined that the number killed will be of a similar amount.

The policy recommendations that follow from consideration of the “problem” of climate refugees range from institutional-reformist to totally revolutionary. Former approaches seem to call for the codification of the concept of ‘environmental persecution’ into international law and the global institution of national climate-refugee immigration quotas proportional to the greenhouse-gas emissions historically produced by the state in question, whereas the latter see in the devastation likely to be produced by climate-displacement yet another reason to fundamentally re-order existing society. Of course, neither reformism nor radicalism should be expected from the world’s states on this question, as on a myriad of others; the same entities that today deport thousands of members of ‘lesser peoples’ (France), criminalize unauthorized immigration (Arizona), suspend refugee applications for those fleeing the war-zones of Sri Lanka and Afghanistan (Australia), and construct large separation-barriers to cut-off populations vulnerable to climate change (India, following Israel’s example) cannot reasonably be considered actors that will treat the problem of climate-displacement in rational or humane fashion. Indeed, one need only consider the likelihood that the Republican Party will make significant electoral gains in the U.S. Congress this November to know that no progress will be made in the foreseeable future on official global climate-change policy, especially given that the oppositional Democrat-majority Congress has itself failed to pass legislation aimed at mitigating U.S. contributions to the catastrophe presently being enacted. Were a Republican controlled government to work toward the chilling future Gwynne Dyer sees for the U.S.-Mexico border on a climate devastated Earth—mined areas leading up to dauntingly-sized walls armed with auto-targeting machine guns2—it would, for all its horror, be nonetheless unsurprising. The current president, a Democrat, has already authorized Predator-drone overflights on the U.S.-Mexico border in addition to the deployment National Guard troops.

The urgency of the intersection between looming climate catastrophe and the world-historical failure of hegemonic politics on this question potentially opens space for a radical eco-liberatory politics—anarchism. Anarchism’s central tenets, of course, are an opposition to capitalism, and to the State: these institutions are principally responsible for anthropogenic climate change, the former by means of its inherent need for growth (profits), the latter through its protection and advancement of such. Many thinkers associated with libertarian socialism, moreover—for example, Murray Bookchin, Max Horkheimer, Theodor W. Adorno, Herbert Marcuse, and Cornelius Castoriadis—have developed rigorous critiques of the domination of nature demanded by liberalism, Marxism, and, it would seem, Karl Marx himself3— espite the recent efforts made by John Bellamy Foster to rehabilitate him on these grounds. Importantly, furthermore, anarchism does not share orthodox Marxism’s belief that capitalism will necessarily and inevitably be abolished; in this sense, perhaps, anarchism is more sensitive to the threat of relapse and regression into barbarism promised by climate change and can hence contribute to the displacement of theories and practices that defend the status quo and its likely futures better than can celebratory theories. Similarly, anarchism has rightly long expressed concern about the place of Marxist-Leninist politics in contemporary society; a brief review of the various negations overseen by Lenin and Trotsky before the formers death in 1924—the destruction of worker- and soldier-run soviets, the mass-imprisonment of anarchist critics, the suppression of the 1921 Kronstadt Commune as well as of the libertarian efforts of Nestor Makhno’s Cossack bands in Ukraine—is instructive in this sense.

Anarchism, in short, has a great deal to contribute to political reflection and action in light of the threat of climate catastrophe. Its stress on autonomy (literally, ‘self-legislation’) is crucially important at present, given the entirely barbarous approaches to climate change advanced to date by the State in its defense of capital. Bookchin’s concept of libertarian municipalism and Hannah Arendt’s advocacy of the council system, if somehow realized in history somewhere in the near future, could theoretically allow for the development of a counter-power to the climate-barbarism presently being promoted by State and capital, were such participatory institutions to be governed by both reason and compassion. Recent efforts made by leftist political organizations in Montréal to close off certain areas of the city to car-traffic represent an example of what can be achieved in this sense, as does Ernest Callenbach’s portrayal of what a participatory-ecological society could amount to in his 1975 novel Ecotopia: though the society he there describes is not anarchist, the work’s importance as testimony to the necessity of throwing off the yoke of liberal-capitalist society as a precondition for ecological rationality is not to be underestimated. Moreover, the emphasis made by Peter Kropotkin, among other anarchist theorists, on the need for expropriating capital as a means by which to advance the project of anarchism is also direly crucial today: the resources presently afforded to capital and the State could of course much more reasonably be employed toward the development of a post-carbon global society in which people are afforded the material conditions needed to lead decent lives, free from the regressions of catastrophic climate change, than is the case with presently hegemonic consumerist and militaristic tendencies. In addition, Kropotkin’s stress on mutual aid and solidarity should not readily be dismissed, in light of the various horrors to which climate change will subject humanity—and, it should be added, the non-human world—until and unless that which Adorno calls a “global self-conscious subject”4 intervenes to overthrow prevailing barbarism.

If allowed to continue, capitalism will induce climatic changes that threaten the world with mass-extinction of life and the collective suicide of humanity; such a monstrous system must undoubtedly, then, be suppressed, with socialism making a dramatic encore into history. It would be better that such socialism, in place of emulating the authoritarianism advanced by Lenin and Trotsky after October 1917, be libertarian, and follow fromthe examples of Catalunya 1936, Paris 1968, and Chiapas from 1994 to the present.

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1(Washington, D.C.: National Geographic), p. 302

2Climate Wars (Scribe, 2008)

3In Collected Works, vol. 12, p. 132, Marx asserts “man” to be “the sovereign of nature.”

4Theodor W. Adorno, “Progress,” in Benjamin: Philosophy, Aesthetics, History , ed. Gary Smith, trans. Eric Krakauer (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1989), p. 85

Castro: for the total abolition of war

October 22, 2010

Moving comments made on 15 October by Fidel Castro regarding the prospect of war between the U.S./Israel and the Islamic Republic of Iran and its likely descent into nuclear conflict.  Castro’s alarm as evinced here could surely also be applied to reflection on the prospect of climate catastrophe, among other things.

BoCa En BoCa no. 8

October 18, 2010

BoCa En BoCa’s eighth issue (October 2010) has recently been released.  It is available for download here.

BoCa En BoCa 8, English version (pdf)

BoCa En BoCa 8, Spanish version (pdf)

An independent, autonomous magazine, BoCa En BoCa works to “disseminate what happens in the organized indigenous communities of Chiapas through news summaries or excerpts from their  communiqués, to denounce the government’s strateg[ies], and to promote solidarity among the communities,” in the words of its editors.  Inter alia, this issue features reports on the recent displacement of some 170 Zapatistas, expressions of support for the residents of San Juan Copalá from the Abejas of Acteal, coverage of the land-rights controversy in Tila, and personal reflections on the life of famed French anthropologist Andrés Aubry by a close friend of his.

Flood-catastrophe continues in Pakistan

October 7, 2010

Displaced children from Chah Muslim Khan, Punjab (@ Guardian)

As is to be expected—assuming, of course, one not to be plagued by bourgeois optimism—the lived-situation in much of Pakistan some two months after unprecedented torrential rains provoked devastating floods that inundated some 20 percent of the country is rather desperate. Massive extents of the southernmost Sindh province remain to date underwater, and it is estimated that they will remain so for the next one to three months; indeed, the Guardian’s Declan Walsh has described the region as an “inland sea.”1 Floodwaters have receded in the country’s northern provinces and in the central province of Punjab, but silt left behind in the latter by floods are now said to cover large swathes of land previously dedicated to agricultural production.2 General Nadeem Ahmed, chairperson of Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority, recently asserted before the U.N. that Pakistan at present is providing only 20 percent of the food needed for flood victims and 18 percent of the emergency shelter that is needed.3 Though the World Food Program claims it has provided food for 4 million Pakistanis to date, an additional 6 million in need go without.4 Furthermore, aid workers have announced that 2 million cases of malaria could well be expected in the coming months, as malarial mosquitoes breed en masse in the stagnant waters created by floods in Sindh.5 Available fresh-water supplies are direly lacking: an estimated 13 percent of water and sanitation needs have thus far been met, and the U.N. has reported more than 800,000 cases of diarrhea, mostly affecting women and children.6 UNICEF has warned that 105,000 Pakistani children are at risk of dying of malnutrition in the next six months.7

Given the enormity of the suffering presently being experienced in Pakistan, and in light of the entirely inadequate response afforded to date by the international community, it would seem that Max Horkheimer is mistaken in finding the “moral sentiment” to be “expressed” in the “relief efforts” that normally follow disasters like earthquakes, mining accidents, or the present floods and their aftermath.8 In requesting $2 billion in aid for Pakistan, the U.N. has made the largest single relief-appeal in its history; as of late September, some $434 million had in fact been delivered.9 Relief resources are being led by the U.S., which has thus far pledged $435 million, and the U.K. and Australia, which have promised $210 million and $75 million respectively. Such outlays, of course, are radically inadequate, considering that Pakistan’s government has estimated the damage done by the floods to amount to some $43 billion; they are hardly “quite generous,” as Richard Holbrooke, US Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, has termed them. Such amounts are in addition rather insignificant when compared, for example, to the recently proposed $60 billion arms-deal to be sold by the U.S. to Saudi Arabia. Talk of cancelling Pakistan’s $49 billion debt-burden, accrued largely by the collection of dictators that have ruled over Pakistan during much of the country’s 63-year history, is nowhere to be found among proposals being hegemonically considered; dominant powers instead seem to be attempting to introduce “shock-doctrine” reforms in the country, as stipulated in recent weeks by World-Bank president Robert Zoellick, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd, U.K. International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell, and the International Monetary Fund itself.10

In an audio-tape released on the internet on 1 October, a presumed Usama bin Laden fiercely denounced ongoing relief efforts in the embattled country in which he is claimed to reside. Though his politics are clearly reactionary, his following characterization of the present situation in Pakistan does not seem to be entirely incorrect: “Millions of children are out in the open air, lacking basic elements of living, including drinking water, resulting in their bodies shedding liquids and subsequently their death.”11

It should be mentioned that anthropogenic climate change is almost surely largely responsible for the devastation suffered by Pakistan’s peoples in recent months. The average-global temperature increases experienced to date are almost entirely the work of Western industrial capitalism; the perpetuation of this horrible system promises the recurrence of climatic catastrophes like those experienced in recent memory in Pakistan throughout the world—only more frequent and more severe. It is in this sense that Horkheimer is correct when he asserts that the “moral sentiment” is “easily silenced and forgotten in the face of the monstrous injustice which takes place for the sake of pure property interests.”12 The only hope for the world—and in particular, for its residents who are “without hope”13—is the introduction into history of revolutionary discontinuity.

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2Declan Walsh et al., “Pakistan floods: Feudals under fire in Punjab,” The Guardian, 3 October 2010

3Tom Peters, “International aid for Pakistan flood victims grossly inadequate,” World Socialist Web Site, 24 September 2010

4Ibid

6Peters, op. cit.; Walsh, op. cit. (4 October)

7Peters, op. cit.

8“Materialism and Morality,” Between Philosophy and Social Science: Selected Early Writings (Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press, 1993), p. 42

9Peters, op. cit.

10Ibid

12Op. cit., p. 42

13Walter Benjamin, qtd. in Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man (Boston: Beacon, 1964), p. 257

The return of Subcomandante Marcos?

October 6, 2010

In Rebeldía no. 73, released on 14 September, appears the following text, translated here from the original into English. Don Durito de la Lacandona, a beetle residing in the jungles of eastern Chiapas, has long been a recurring character in the stories written and told by Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos, spokesperson and presumed military chief of the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (EZLN). If the following communiqué was in fact written by Marcos, it would constitute the first public statement made by him in almost two years; his last public intervention took place during the Festival de la Digna Rabia on 4 January 2009, when he denounced Israel’s barbarous assault on the Gaza Strip.1

Versión en castellano

Calendars, according to Don Durito de la Lacandona

For those from above, the calendar is made of the past. To maintain it there, Power fills it with statues, celebrations, museums, homages, parades. All of this with the aim of exorcising this past—that is to say, to maintain it as something that has been and will not be.

For those from below, the calendar is something to come. It is not a pile of papers destroyedby wearinessand despair. It is something for which one must prepare oneself.

The calendar of above celebrates; the calendar of below builds.

The calendar of above holds parties; the calendar of below struggles.

The calendar of above manipulates history; the calendar of below makes history.

The calendar of above buys consciences and words through gifts; the calendar of below remains silent.

The calendar of above holds mediocre gray to be lady and queen; the calendar of below contains all colors.

The calendar of above holds only scorn for those from below: it believes it can do so with impunity.

The calendar of below holds rage for those from above.

Thus it will be until another calendar is written from where it should be written—that is, from below.

August 2010

México

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1Audio available here; English translation of the text available here

Rojo Amanecer and the struggle against catastrophe

October 3, 2010

1 day after the 42º anniversary of the October 2 Tlatelolco massacre

NB: The following contains discusses the events depicted in Rojo Amanecer

¡ÚNETE PUEBLO: NO NOS ABANDONES!

Jorge Fons’ 1989 film Rojo Amanecer cannot be said to be a film about the 2 October 1968 massacre carried out by the Mexican military against unarmed protestors in the Tlatelolco district of Mexico City in its totality—if the production of a film depicting such a totality were to be a possibility. It rather focuses on one day in the lives of the members of a middle-class Mexican family that resides in the Chihuahua building which overlooks the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in Tlatelolco: October 2, 1968. It is on this day that the university student-led Comisión Nacional de Huelga (CNH) calls for a mitin, or mass-rally, to be held in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas; the mitin in question, attended by between 5,000 and 10,000 people1—students, mothers, children, elderly—is brutally assaulted by (elementos de) the Mexican military, who commence/which commences firing on the assembled following the launching of red and green luces de bengala, or flares, at approximately 6:10pm. The balacera lasts 29 minutes; employing 2 helicopter gunships and 300 armored tanks, the military fires some 15,000 rounds on the protestors, though autopsies show that many of the dead were killed by bayonet-attack.2 The Chihuahua building in which the family resides was the vantage point from which paramilitary snipers—referred to as guantes blancos for the white gloves they wore on their right hands to distinguish themselves in the crowd—opened fire on protestors and soldiers in the plaza, thus ensuring the military’s fierce response against the assembled. The number of of victims left by the massacre is to this day still unknown; official government estimates place the tally at around 40, while oppositional groups claim the number to be between 300 and 400. The renowned Spanish-Mexican novelist Paco Ignacio Taibo II, for his part, seems to hold the total killed as being even higher than these latter estimates, given that he gives credence to the rumors asserted in the aftermath of the killings which claimed that the military placed the dead into cargo planes, ejecting them during flights over the Gulf of Mexico.3

The barbaric act of 2 October is not directly shown in Rojo Amanecer, for the film’s action is mostly contained to the apartment of the family in question, save for a scene which shows guantes blancos beating students they have detained in the stairwell adjacent to the family’s apartment, in addition to the film’s final scene. The massacre itself takes place off-screen, in the Plaza below: Carlitos—at 9 years old, the youngest member of the family—witnesses the firing of the red and green flares at the beginning of the army operation, and Jorge and Sergio—university students, the two eldest sons of the family—peer out the window once the firing has stopped to behold the multitude of corpses produced by the military. Alicia, mother and housewife, comes to take in four students fleeing the balacera while Humberto, the father and husband—a civil servant—is prevented by the military from entering the area during the return from his work-day; Graciela, Alicia and Humberto’s daughter, is stranded by the assault at a nearby friend’s home, where she encounters a number of individuals who plead for the doors of residences adjacent to the Plaza to be opened for them in an attempt to escape the fire. Hours after the massacre, the family-members, reunited and safe, share a meal together and subsequently turn on the television to listen to the news. As is to be expected, the available news-media claims the assault to have been a military response to a fire-fight between two student groups and vastly under-estimates the number killed by the military, presenting this to around 20—as the reactionary national media in fact did shortly after the massacre.4 At this point, with the disenchantment of the family-members reaching a total, they decide to go to sleep, having agreed to continue giving refuge to the refugee-students until the following morning. Prior to this, Sergio, Jorge, and the rest of the university-students discuss the happenings of the day: one passionately declares that the revolution would surely come the following day, thus mirroring the testimony of the actual student and survivor of 2 October, Enrique Vargas, who expected the Mexican people to commence an armed insurrection once they found about the massacre.5 Jorge melancholically tells his comrades that “the people will not abandon us; they cannot abandon us.”

In the middle of the night, then, after the family-members and students have gone to sleep, they are all awoken by a group of guantes blancos searching the Chihuahua building. Initially, the four students are successfully hidden by the family, and the guantes blancos, though hysterical in their domination, seem not to find the family particularly suspect, until one of them subsequently discovers the Che Guevara poster in Jorge and Sergio’s room, together with a copy of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels’ The Communist Manifesto; this leads the intruders to carry out a further search of the apartment, which ends in fact with the discovery of the four refugee-students. Matters then come to a head between the pistol-wielding guantes blancos and the defenseless family-members and students; one of the latter attempts to escape the apartment through the open door, only to be shot and killed by the paramilitaries. Following this, the students and family-members courageously attempt to overpower the armed men, only to be systematically shot down and murdered. Graciela and Sergio manage to escape the apartment, but they too are killed by the guantes blancos on the exit stairwell. The sole survivor of the invasion-cum-massacre is Carlitos, who had been told to hide under one of the beds as the family rashly prepared the apartment for the guantes blancos. Devastated, he emerges from his hiding-place to find his loved ones murdered.

Rojo Amanecer’s thoroughly brutal close in the Chihuahua building can itself be taken as a metaphor for the unshown 2 October massacre carried out in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas below, as well of course as for a great number of other historical massacres. Both the genocidal attack on the students and the near-extermination of the principal characters of Rojo Amanecer represent fascist interventions aimed at crushing the promises of history—in the former case, a fairly broad-based, left-wing student movement that perhaps might have been able to challenge prevailing power relations; in the latter, the newly-born subject, forged by the disenchantment and displacement that the government-sanctioned massacre comes to mean for the film’s various characters: the activist students, the children-witnesses, the horrified housewife, the shattered bureaucrat. That these actors should meet their end while exercising their legitimate self-defense against fascist perpetrators of barbarism should be unsurprising, for it itself is a comment on the brutality of constituted power.

At film’s end—similar, in this sense, to the close of Francisco Vargas’ 2005 El Violín—only the child Carlitos is left. It must be said that the only hope that exists against the specter of a relapse into barbarism—the 24,000 killed since 2006 by Felipe Calderón’s war on narco-traffickers, the millions murdered in Iraq by successive U.S. administrations over the past 20 years, the 300,000 annual victims of climate change, the billion who today starve—is the child, as shattered and traumatized as he must be, cognizant of the world’s horror.

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1Elena Poniatowska, La Noche de Tlatelolco (Mexico City: Biblioteca Era, 1971), p. xx; Diego Cevallos, “Para no olvidar el 68,” IPS, 14 January 2007

2Poniatowska, op. cit., p. 167, 168, 242, 225

368 (Mexico City: Planeta, 2008), p. 59-60

4Poniatowska, op cit., p. 164-6

5Ibid, p. 236

Fidel Castro’s desperate take on the specter of barbarism and alternatives to such

October 1, 2010

Former Cuban president Fidel Castro’s 43-minute speech to Cuba’s university students, given in Havana on 3 September of this year.  His first public speech since having undergone surgery in 2006, his comments here address the thoroughly alarming possibility of war against Iran as well as the present climate catastrophe.  Desperate in its analysis but revolutionary in its conclusions, Castro’s speech is in this sense reminiscent of Noam Chomsky’s 12 June 2009 speech at the Riverside Church in New York City.

Apologies to those who do not understand Castilian.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3: