Posts Tagged ‘COP16’

Dialectical Light, Nature, Negation: Modern Minima Moralia Project

December 3, 2015

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Published on Heathwood Press, 30 November 2015

 

Nature-History Walk. To take a walking tour within a natural-history museum located in New York City amidst the sixth mass-extinction of life on Earth is to experience the contradictions of reveling in the profundity of natural beauty while consciously or subconsciously bearing witness to capital’s ceaseless war on existence and evolution. It is true that, in contradistinction to most other museum exhibits on display in the heart of empire—by nature affirmative—the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York at least provides some critical perspectives on the profundity of the present environmental crisis: the curators have recognized that we “may” be in the throes of this sixth mass-extinction event. Within the museum’s Hall of Biodiversity is emblazoned a warning made by the politically authoritarian biologist Paul R. Ehrlich: that, in “pushing other species to extinction, humanity is busy sawing off the limb on which it perches.” The AMNH has also promoted Elizabeth Kolbert’s 2014 investigative volume into this most distressing of realities, The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History.[1] Yet the spirit of absolute negativity to which the sixth extinction attests hardly can be said to permeate the exhibits within the museum that examine the relationship between nature and humanity: quite naturally, these presentations in no way explicitly recognize the responsibility that capitalism and domination bear for the current ecocidal and suicidal natural-historical trajectory. To a degree, then, the clear link that exists between the social relations imperant in the world outside the museum—as well, indeed, as inside it—and the unmitigated destruction of life on Earth’s continents and oceans can thus only be made intuitively. The unity of all living things—and hence the vast disunity which ecocide implies—can indeed be perceived in the contemplation of the great similarities between the human visitor and the numerous other species on display in the Great Hall of Biodiversity, as in the compelling hall on oceanography, the exhibits on African, Asian, and North American mammals, the Hall of Primates, and the Hall of Vertebrate Origins.

As the museum’s displays are directed primarily toward children, and considering the multitudes of minors who visit the museum with their families and on school-trips, it is to be hoped that these children, as well as their adult counterparts, grasp the more subversive meanings that the encounter with life and evolution can yield, activating Eros, biophilia, and—yes—revolutionary sadness in a counter-move to hegemonic brutality and unreason. However, childhood in late capitalism is little more than a preparatory stage for getting along: conformity, adjustment, and alienated labor. The system progressively negates the radical potential of the unintegrated child. For our part, we adults have overwhelmingly abdicated. The coral reefs are in the process of practically all being boiled off, the Arctic is melting, and Amazonia is choked by drought, while every successive year brings record-breaking global temperature rises together with record-breaking aggregate carbon emissions. In the destruction of the life-world has the nightmare of childhood come true.

 

Denial of Affirmation. Theodor W. Adorno writes that “[t]he will to live finds itself dependent on the denial of the will to live.”[2] Whether the philosopher meant with this to comment on evolutionary processes as a whole or human social organization more narrowly, it is certainly well-said as a description of existence in late capitalism. The seeming contemporary universality of Android and iPhones in U.S. society, for instance, presupposes the super-exploitation of Chinese proletarians who produce the devices directly, as well as slavery and genocidal wars in central Africa related to control over the extraction of the various minerals necessary for such cellular technologies. The libidinal attachment many of us users have to our smartphones, the means with which we connect, rests precisely on the suicide, suffering, and death of our fellow laborers elsewhere—just as the casual use of air travel for work (or “business”), study, vacations, weddings, funerals, political meetings, and even revolutionary summits implies the destruction of the lives of those imperiled by the droughts, famines, and superstorms brought on by anthropogenic climate disruption, to say nothing of our poor future human generations, or the millions of other species devastated by the cancerous capitalist growth economy. In psychological terms, it would seem that people who are complicit in these systems of oppression regularly repress their participation in them in a parallel manner to the way the thought of death is continuously warded off: that is, to avoid inducing terror and Angst. The solipsism of such interpersonal brutality is reflected as well in the thoughtless and entirely unnecessary consumption of non-human animals and their products for sustenance, as in the utilization of animals for medical ‘research’—whether it is a matter of “testing out” the latest pharmaceutical absurdity, or developing drugs that are actually needed for human welfare. Even if one were to be a strict vegan for whom no medication involving vivisection would be indicated, the vegetables, fruits, and legumes one consumes to maintain one’s constitution are almost invariably cultivated by migrant workers who labor and survive in neo-feudal conditions. Practically the same is true for any new article of clothing one may purchase at present. What is more, those who can regularly afford organic food in the U.S. are usually more economically privileged—while a mass-turn to popular urban agriculture as a progressive-collective movement may not be advisable in many U.S. cities, due to the very accumulated and ongoing pollution spewed by the workplaces, cars, and trucks that underpin the monopolist-capitalist everyday.[3] No individual or individualist solution is possible for such negative realities; clearly, it is capitalism and the domination of nature that are the primary problems. Yet amidst the negative context, one cannot reproach others for adopting positions of personal resistance: for non-cooperation embodies the “Great Refusal” that is radically opposed to consumerism and getting along, with all the vast suffering, exploitation, and destruction these imply. As negations of what exist, the ideas and practices of voluntary simplicity and anarchism, together with the militant minority that strives quixotically to be faithful to these ideals, prefigure the possibility of an entirely different and potentially reconciled world-order, one that humanity in concert is capable of bringing into being. Yet the observed conformist attachment to the dominant values and badly misnamed “goods” handed down by the capitalist system, for example, in mainstream U.S. society, presents a great challenge to this potentially hopeful prospect for transformation—does it not?

 

Historical Climates, Dialectical Light. Disconcerting is the experience of visiting familiar places—cities, states, and regions—and observing how their climates have changed so drastically over the course of just the past ten to fifteen years. Summers in southern California reach much higher temperatures now as compared to the average experienced during my adolescence, while the falls retain the vernal warmth too long in the Pacific Northwest and mid-Atlantic U.S. East Coast. Moreover, there is so little rain, such that wildfires have raged, burning up at least 11 million acres in 2015.[4]

Diagnostic impression: the planet is running a fever that may prove fatal. Featuring a strong El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), 2015 is the hottest year on record, with seven of the first nine months of this year having been the hottest recorded since 1880.[5] The Indonesian peat-bog fires of 2015 can be clearly observed from a satellite a million miles from Earth, and half the myriad tree species of the Amazon are threatened with immediate extinction.[6] The ongoing destruction of life on Earth thus illustrates the world “radiant with triumphant calamity” identified by Max Horkheimer and Adorno in Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944/1947)—together with the “allied […] melancholy hope” Adorno feels “for other stars,” as he expresses in reflections on Gustav Mahler’s Song of the Earth, for “the earth that has grown remote to itself is without the hope the stars once promised” (1971).[7] Since the time during which such words were written, monopoly capitalism’s “Great Acceleration” has expanded calamity and irrationality to unbounded dimensions, and the fate of human and non-human life is at stake. In this way, the negative hegemonic light which falsely illuminates the world constitutes the inversion of the “Luz” (“Light”) which guided the Mexican anarchist movement as part of the anti-authoritarian syndicalist wing of the International—together with the “Lucha” (“Struggle”) that its constituents recognized as the dialectical means by which to counterpose the emancipatory spectrum of colors: that is, through rationalist education and anarcho-syndicalist federations, inter alia.[8] It is negative-dialectical thought and spirit that seeks the total overturning of atrocity and authority, as both mobilize to ensure the inertial reproduction of the social-property relations impelling self-destruction.

 

Medical-Industrial Waste. Is it not a contradiction for one to work to promote health while acting to degrade human-environmental health—to affirm wanton wastefulness in the provision of healthcare? One thinks of mobile vans that open access to medical services within particularly oppressed communities, but that continuously emit noxious, nauseating, and cancerous gases during their hours of operation. In parallel, the present “best practice” in several U.S. cities seemingly is to run ambulances incessantly on diesel, a known carcinogen.[9] A not dissimilar dynamic governs the driving of personal cars to any work-site, though the contradiction seems most evident in terms of labor, for example, at community clinics—the pollution emitted by workers’ and providers’ commute rains down from the highways onto the very communities whose individuals, particularly children, present to such clinics for treatment of various ailments, many of them indeed related to the normalization of environmental racism and class apartheid within capitalist society. “[A]t no time have all powers been so horribly fettered as [the present], where children go hungry and the hands of the fathers are busy churning out bombs,” writes Horkheimer.[10] Just where do doctors and nurses think all the waste produced by mainstream medical practice goes? To be fair, this problem is in no way limited to the fields of medicine and nursing. Few of us wish to think of the ever-burgeoning landfills filled with plastic and the vast chemical pollution born through production and consumption patterns in the West, the medical-industrial complex, and global capitalism taken as a whole. “Out of sight, out of mind.” This is the dynamic of bourgeois society externalizing its problems to the detriment of the commons—reflected in turn in the frequent compulsion to “just focus on the details,” not the larger picture or world, and never to “get distracted.” According to their own maxims, practitioners of medicine and nursing must firstly do no harm, and it is for this reason that they should resist the “business-as-usual” imperatives of mass-wastefulness together with the rackets trading internationally in wastes, in effect dumping hazardous wastes—medical-industrial and nuclear—on impoverished societies like Haiti, Somalia, Angola, and Côte d’Ivoire.[11] Perhaps the increased adoption of the practice of sterilizing medical equipment, as in autoclaves, and the use of vegetable oil-powered mobile vans and ambulances could represent but two facets of elements of a rational transition toward a health-care model instituting a holistic, Hegelian-anarchist perspective, integrating concern for the means to the desired end of collective, social, and terrestrial well-being: an overcoming of the bad present that, in seeking to attend to the wounds and other ailments caused by prevailing power, as by historical circumstances, greatly avoids the generation of new ones in the overall healing process.

 

Locomotive Ride. Global class society, as Walter Benjamin knew, resembles a train headed to disaster.[12] On this ride the passengers are governed by necessity, coercion, distraction, and integration. Intuitively they sense the falsity and danger of the established course, and though they sympathize with the erotic cry of life—the beauty in the lands passed by, as well as nature’s marked recent deadening—their immediate concerns are with particulars, like family, work, and entertainment. By design, some of the cars lack windows with which to even regard the outside world, while in others—particularly the work-sites of the laboring classes—they are shuttered, and external reality ignored. The laborers exhaust, injure, sicken, and kill themselves to keep the engine running, while the members of the upper classes dine in the luxury sleepers. Ubiquitous police, surveillance, and security measures ensure that the system continues on lock. As the train accelerates, those on board increasingly sense the abyss toward which the conductors are driving them. Over the intercom system they are not informed of the train’s route, whether precisely or generally speaking, other than to be told that all is well, that they should soon expect some minor alleviation in their conditions in recognition of their hard work, and not to worry about matters that are the exclusive concern of the administration anyway.

Amidst the directional negativity of this train, dissident groups in the working-class cars regard the given course as increasingly alarming, and they seek to distribute their findings and organize alternatives among the multitude. Even among the privileged there is a minority that concurs with the analysis for general alarm, and these renegade aristocrats surreptitiously share the knowledge to which they are privy with the workers, emphasizing the need to coordinate rebellion. Yet the train evermore accelerates, and a palpable sense of powerlessness and atomization dominates the passengers as a whole. Numerically speaking, most people on board this train would not be expected to favor the course taken by the administration, in light of the terminal consequences that are becoming increasingly evident. But what is to be done practically? Rational-collective choices self-evidently will not assert themselves ex nihilo under the reign of the Iron Cage. In light of the strict established security measures on board the class-divided train, it may well be that the workers cannot at this time storm the engine room to pull the emergency brake directly, as necessary as such a move might be—yet they could refuse their labor and disrupt the train’s route that careens to oblivion. Clearly, such a radical syndicalist approach would not be entirely without its losses, considering the injuries and deaths that would be outrightly inflicted by the police in reprisal to strikes, as well as the question of how non-cooperation would affect the well-being of workers’ children, and the possibility indeed that the rebellion would be crushed altogether. If it did not come at the right time, when would hope for social revolution return?

In the first place, the trajectory of the current course is clear enough. Beyond this, and to the question of the success or failure of the revolution, human history repeatedly demonstrates the anti-systemic activation of Eros under conditions of mass-rebellion.[13] It follows that the sacrifices of the rebels and martyrs of today and tomorrow disrupting the normal functioning of the system in an attempt to avert the destruction of self and Other would pale in comparison to the alternatives—if Eros cannot assert itself.

 

Images of Protest. I will say that the strongest protest-action in which I have participated was the general strike called for by Occupy Oakland on 2 November 2011. Though the strike in fact proved to be far from general, hundreds of thousands took part in rebellion and refusal that day. The climax of the day—which for many protestors likely also represented something of a peak life-experience—came in the late afternoon, as the mass-multitude converged on Oakland’s ports from the east, where the day of action had been based: Oscar Grant Plaza, or Frank Ogawa Plaza. The police could not stop the multitude as it took over the ramps and highways normally dedicated to the movement of capital and goods, pouring into the shipping terminals like alluvial fans. Once the port was taken over, protestors climbed on top of trucks, danced, cheered. Anarchist flags were waved, and one comrade knowingly expressed with a banner that said, “The People are Strong.” The port shut-down was truly a prefiguration of the radical change that could and can be accomplished through the collective organization of those from below—the reordering of the productive apparatus, its occupation and disarticulation. In this sense it was an action that has to my knowledge not been surpassed in scope in the U.S. since—to the detriment of the struggle, clearly, as capital markedly intensifies its destructiveness. Another recent mass-protest effort was made with the People’s Climate March (PCM) of September 2014, but as the organizers of this action in no way wanted to replicate the experience of Occupy, let alone the riots against the World Trade Organization (WTO) in Seattle (1999), the march was channeled into a non-threatening route, had no practical target, and made no demands, much less substantive ones.[14] Still, to recognize problems with the PCM’s organization is not to discount the authentic concern evinced by the hundreds of thousands who took part in the actions that day, including a number of explicitly anti-capitalist and anti-systemic contingents. The PCM’s approach was one that bears little in common with radical actions like the Oakland port shut-down and eco-socialist concepts of “Climate Satyagraha.”[15] The “Flood Wall Street” protest that followed the day after the PCM was more clearly in the militant spirit of Oakland, as it aimed to shut down New York’s financial district—though realistically, all we flooders accomplished was to blockade road access to the trading floor, and not to interrupt the normal functioning of capital inside.

Alongside the Oakland port shut-down, two other rebel-experiences I will share include the 2 October 2010 protests in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, and the anti-COP protests in Cancún in December 2010. 2 October, of course, marks the day on which the Mexican military murdered and forcibly disappeared hundreds of students and protestors assembled in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas in the Tlatelolco district of Mexico City in 1968, ten days before the opening of the Olympics being hosted in the same city. For this reason this date is commemorated every year in Mexico—and indeed, it was to join the protest-action for the observance of the anniversary in Mexico City in 2014 that the 43 student-teachers from Ayotzinapa were forcibly disappeared in Iguala by the State. In the highland city of San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, university students and other youth led the protest in 2010, occupying the main streets, disrupting the existing order, and distributing flyers to inform the public of their actions, in addition to engaging in direct action against symbolic and actual centers of reified power, such as the local headquarters of the National Action Party (PAN) and the transnationally owned OXXO convenience stores. In Cancún three months later, La Via Campesina organized a counter-summit to the official UN summit, COP-16, at which the member-states were supposedly meeting to discuss how to address the problem of climate change—a meeting which Obama did not deign to grace with his presence—and from this alternative summit in downtown Cancún some of the largest counter-mobilizations were organized. The Anti-C@P, a grouping of autonomous youth who proclaimed their opposition both to the COP process and to capitalism, engaged in a number of unpermitted actions in the streets, and had even planned to disrupt official celebrations being held at the luxury hotels on the city’s eastern peninsula, including one featuring the Mexican president, the head of the World Bank, and the owner of Walmart. However, the ubiquitous police check-points erected near the tourist zone dissuaded anti-C@P from following through on these plans. As with the general strike in Oakland proclaimed nearly a year later, and following the mass-action against the Copenhagen COP the year prior, the culmination of rebellion against COP-16 came during a mass-march from downtown Cancún to the Moon Palace several kilometers to the south, where the negotiations were in fact being held. By the end of the several hours-long counter-mobilization, which had been monitored closely by several military helicopters, most protestors were really quite tired. As we finally approached the Moon Palace, the official organizers of the march stopped and organized a rally, while the bolder among us pressed on. Though we did approximate the Moon Palace, eventually we came face-to-face with a police cordon several lines deep. Then suddenly, scores of more riot police appeared from the inauspiciously small building in which they had been hidden, awaiting us. None of us was prepared to resist such a show of force directly, so we retreated back to the rally, hopeful that our spirit of rebellion temporarily beyond the limits of the accepted and given was meaningful.

I can recall a far more desperate spirit during the counter-inauguration demos in Washington, D.C., in January 2005, as those assembled expressed displeasure with the legal continuation of the Bush regime. Access to the parade route was entirely blocked off by fences; police presence was heavy; and snipers could be readily perceived, perched atop several buildings. The presidential limo sped quickly past the section containing the protest block—no doubt just another “focus group” to Bush—what a despotic fool, reminiscent of the tsars. A similarly absurd and negating atmosphere surrounded Israel’s massacres in Gaza during December 2008 and January 2009. I can never forget the expressions of rage and pain I encountered on the faces of the Palestinians in East Jerusalem during one of the first few days of the airstrikes and invasion of Gaza at the end of 2008. I had entered the Old City and the Occupied Palestinian Territories after having restfully visited Jordan’s Wadi Rum for Christmas. While being driven north from Jerusalem to Nablus, I saw that rocks were strewn on several roads, evidence of direct action taken by Palestinians against the reified, hated power of occupation and destruction. In Nablus itself, a protest camp was established in the dewar, or downtown circle, with the participation of several children (‘otfal), that involved art-making activities, speeches, denunciations, providence of news, publication of the faces of all those martyred. This solidarity arose despite the clear overall tensions between the Fateh-dominated West Bank and the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip. The Palestinian multitude participating in the commemorations and protests evinced a collectivist-humanist concern for the fate of their sisters and brothers suffering under the Israeli bombs in the other major Occupied Palestinian Territory, rather than any adherence to divisive political ideologies. The same however cannot be said of the Palestinian Authority forces, who repressed numerous public expressions of sympathy with the people of Gaza, particularly in Ramallah.[16] I recall that on the New Year’s Friday demonstrations in Bi’lin—where the local Palestinian population has been cut off from its agrarian lands due to the erection of the Apartheid Wall—the Israeli forces were especially brutal, opening fire straightaway on the adolescent and youth sections of the weekly communal mobilization to resist colonization, rather than beginning by launching tear-gas grenades first. Among the Palestinians a great rage and outrage could thus readily be gleaned. “How dare they try to take our lives away from us, how dare they treat us like that?”[17] As a negative mirror-image of human rebellion, the cruelty of the occupying force was obvious for all to see.

The seemingly eternal return of negative historical developments in Palestine would re-assert itself most acutely in summer 2014, when the Israeli military once again engaged in a massively murderous campaign in Gaza. In New York, Direct Action for Palestine (DA4P) organized several emergency protest mobilizations in midtown Manhattan directed against the Israeli consulate; a number of banks financing Zionist crimes, including expropriation of land and settlement of the West Bank; and the Diamond District, comprised of numerous jewelry shops owned by Zionist Jews. In this last locale, we protestors encountered the fury of a number of Zionist chauvinists, thoughtlessly and incessantly chanting “Israel!” as we defied them, all the while the State they championed extinguished hundreds and thousands of Palestinian lives. Had it not been for the police cordon accompanying the march, ironically, several of us Palestinian sympathizers would likely have been attacked and injured by this proto-fascist mob. In such a strongly pro-Israeli city, we represented the militant minority opposing itself to authority, authoritarianism, settler-colonialism, and militarism, revindicating the right to rebel against despotism, injustice, domination, and absurdity. Retrospectively, though, in parallel to the counter-protests against COP and Wall Street, one can question whether DA4P concretely helped to stay Israel’s iron fist in any way. As Subcomandate Marcos—now Galeano—movingly observed during the winter 2008-2009 assault: “Is it useful to say something? Do our cries stop even one bomb? Does our word save the life of even one Palestinian?”[18] Yet, as Marcos/Galeano remarks, and as the resistance of Palestinians and their comrades demonstrates, it becomes necessary forthrightly to express one’s repudiation of events once these come to surpass basic principles of humanity so brazenly. “Only a humanity to whom death has become as indifferent as its members, that has itself died, can inflict it administratively on innumerable people” (Adorno).[19]

 

Theses on Repressive Tolerance

1. I am in full agreement with Herbert Marcuse: there can be no right to advocate imperial war, exploitation, racism, sexism, fascism, or genocide.[20] The numerous victims of capital, colonialism, white supremacy, and hetero-patriarchy—prisoners; the institutionalized; racial minorities in the West; women and children; LGBTQ individuals; workers; anti-imperialist movements in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Latin America; the millions of non-human animal species; and the biosphere as a whole—demand the overthrow of these systems of domination. Rather than any sense of expediency or conformism, concern for the fate of nature and history brutalized by hegemony must become central to radical ethics and politics today.

2. The concept of tolerance must return to its original sense of being a “weapon for humanity,” moving into the future victorious against the counterparts of the clerical-absolutist regimes of yesteryear.[21] This implies an active counter-movement from below incorporating direct action and dual-power to take down capitalism, militarism, and all other forms of oppression. Marcuse is right to stress that the revolt of the oppressed against the system historically has served to pause the continuum of domination—if only momentarily. One thinks of numerous historical examples illuminating the path: the French Revolution; Gracchus Babeuf and the Conspiracy of Equals; the Paris Commune; the Mexican Liberal Party (PLM) and the Mexican Revolution; the February Revolution, deposing tsarism; the Spanish Revolution of 1936; Rubén Jaramillo, Genaro Vázquez, and Lucio Cabañas, Mexican guerrilleros; the global uprising of 1968; the Gwanju Commune; the Tahrir Commune; the Palestinian Intifada; the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN); and the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG/YPJ), among many others. As Marcuse observes rightly:

The tolerance which is the life element, the token of a free society, will never be the gift of the powers that be; it can, under the prevailing conditions […] only be won in the sustained effort of radical minorities […]—minorities intolerant, militantly intolerant and disobedient to the rules of behavior which tolerate destruction and suppression.[22]

[1]     Kolbert, E. (2014). The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History. New York: Henry Holt and Company.

[2]     Adorno, T. W. (1974). Minima Moralia: Reflections on a Damaged Life (p. 229, E. F. N. Jephcott, trans.) London: Verso, 1974.

[3]     Engel-Di Mauro, S. (2014). Ecology, Soils, and the Left: An Eco-Social Approach. New York: Palgrave-MacMillan..

[4]     Agence France-Press. (2015, 14 October). “2015 becomes worst US wildfire year on record,” Phys.org. Retrieved 22 October 2015 from http://phys.org/news/2015-10-worst-wildfire-year.html.

[5]     Associated Press. (2015, 21 October). “Warmest September ever points to 2015 being world’s hottest year on record,” Guardian.

[6]     Plait, P. (2015, 27 October). “Indonesia Fires Seen From a Million Miles Away,” Slate. Retrieved 22 November from http://www.slate.com/blogs/bad_astronomy/2015/10/27/earth_from_space_indonesian_peat_fires_show_up_in_satellite_photos.html; Carrington, D. (2015, 20 November).“Half of tree species in the Amazon at risk of extinction, say scientists,” Guardian.

[7]     Horkheimer, M. and Adorno, T. W. (2002/1947/1944). Dialectic of Enlightenment: Philosophical Fragments (p. 1E. Jephcott trans.). Stanford, California: Stanford University Press; Adorno, T. W. (1993). Mahler: A Musical Physiognomy (p. 154, E. Jephcott, trans.). Chicago and London: Chicago University Press.

[8]     Hart, J. M. (1978). Anarchism and the Mexican Working Class (pp. 111-120). Austin: University of Texas Press This affirmation of Luz/Lucha in no way seeks to overlook its metamorphosis into the House of the Global Worker (COM), which during the Mexican Revolution unfortunately played the reactionary role of serving in the counter-insurgent war waged by Venustiano Carranza and Álvaro Obregón against the Zapatistas (ibid, pp. 126-135).

[9]     Gani, A. and Nicholson, B. (2015, 28 October). “The 116 things that can give you cancer—the full list,” Guardian.

[10]   Horkheimer, M. (1993). Between Philosophy and Social Science: Selected Writings (p. 35, G. F. Hunter. trans.). Cambridge, Massachusetts: MIT Press.

[11]   Clapp, J. (2000). “Africa and the International Toxic Waste Trade” (pp. 103-124). In The Environment and Development in Africa (M. K. Tesi, ed). Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books.

[12]   Benjamin, W. (1977). Gesammelte Schriften I/3 (p. 1232). Frankfurt: Suhrkamp Verlag..

[13]   Katsiaficas, G. (2012-2013). Asia’s Unknown Uprisings: Volumes 1 and 2. Oakland, California: PM Press.

[14]   Gupta, A. (2014, 19 September). “How the People’s Climate March Became a Corporate PR Campaign,” Counterpunch Retrieved 22 November 2015 from “How the People’s Climate March Became a Corporate PR Campaign,”; Saul, Q (2014, 16 September). “Like a Dull Knife: The People’s Climate ‘Farce,’” Truthout. Retrieved 22 November 2015 from http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/26215-like-a-dull-knife-the-peoples-climate-farce.

[15]   Saul, Q. and Sethness Castro, J. (2015, 10 April). “On Climate Satyagraha,” Counterpunch. Retrieved 22 November 2015 from http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/04/10/on-climate-satyagraha/.

[16]   Juma’, J. (2012, 3 July). “PA repression feeds flames of Palestinian discontent,” Electronic Intifada. Retrieved 23 November 2015 from https://electronicintifada.net/content/pa-repression-feeds-flames-palestinian-discontent/11456.

[17]   Holloway, J. (2010). “Of Despair and Hope,” Interventionistische Linke. Retrieved 23 November 2015 from http://www.dazwischengehen.org/node/669.

[18]   Subcomandante Marcos (2009, 1 February). “Gaza Will Survive,” Counterpunch. Retrieved 23 November 2015 from http://www.counterpunch.org/2009/02/01/gaza-will-survive/.

[19]   Adorno, op. cit. (1974), p. 233.

[20]   Marcuse, H. (2014). Marxism, Revolution, Utopia: Collected Papers, Volume Six (pp. 293-297D. Kellner and C. Pierce, eds.). London: Routledge, 2014.

[21]   Ibid, pp. 218-221.

[22]   Marcuse, H. (1965). “Repressive Tolerance.” In A Critique of Pure Tolerance (p, 123, R. P. Wolff and B. Moore, Jr., eds.). Boston: Beacon Press.

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Support the Latin American Climate Caravan Action-Tour!

June 11, 2014

Also published on Counterpunch, 12 June 2014

If you are not yet familiar with the Latin American Climate Caravan Action-Tour, please allow me to introduce you to la Caravana Climática por América Latina. This itinerant grassroots initiative for climate justice, associated with Marea Creciente México (Rising Tide Mexico), is now in the third month of its activist tour which is dedicated to making-visible the destructive effects of climate change on people and nature in Latin America as well as highlighting the various resistance efforts taken by front-line communities in the region to confront the root causes of global warming. Beginning in March 2014, the Caravana’s flagship—a vegetable oil-powered schoolbus affectionately known as the Che Bus—inaugurated the action-tour in the northern Mexican state of Sonora, and it now finds itself in Honduras, having visited several climate hotspots in western, central, and southern Mexico as well as Guatemala and El Salvador en route. The Caravana is presently embarked on an epic journey that will soon see its collective members complete the first leg of their journey—Mesoamerica Resists—and pass to the second and third phases which are to take place in South America. After documenting the struggles and demands of countless peoples for socio-ecological justice in myriad parts of Latin America, the members of the Caravana ultimately hope to reach the Twentieth Conference of the Parties (COP20) of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), which is to be held in Lima, Peru, in November and December of this year. But they need our help to get there. They are currently crowdfunding to cover the costs of their time in South America.

LONA-GRANDE-CARAVANA-CLIMATIK-web

In their own words, the Caravana members describe their goals as two-fold: first, to “draw urgent public attention to the climate crisis and the need for grassroots civil societies of Latin America to take the lead role in articulating a regional emergency plan of action to seriously address it,” and second, to pressure the governments of the region to advance an unprecedented spirit of international cooperation at COP20 toward the end of dealing rationally with the climate crisis. In their journey, the caravaner@s seek to reflect the proposals made in Latin America from below and to the left for addressing the root causes of the environmental crisis: commodification of nature, destruction of indigenous societies, land-grabs, and inequality. Specifically, the Caravana promises to promote campaigns during its cross-continental action-tour calling for “moratoriums and divestment in fossil fuels and other extractive, polluting, and unjust industries” throughout the region. Its collective members propose to advance these goals—as they already have done in Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras—by hosting open climate forums involving film-screenings, art exhibitions, workshops, musical performances, and presentations as well as engaging in direct action and political mobilizations at the various spaces to which it has been invited on its route. A particular initiative in this sense is the Caravana’s campaign for Art, Culture, and Action for Life and the Peoples of Mother Earth (Madre Tierra), a call for artists living along the action-tour’s route to participate and contribute works dealing with socio-ecological problems.

In terms of presenting critical information on the climate and environmental crises, the Caravana has already achieved much. In a section on its website are collected various Spanish-language articles and essays on these crises: for example, a column by Ángel Guerra Cabrera in La Jornada on the disconcerting recent report on the collapsing West Antarctica ice sheet as well as a contemplative essay written by Mayeli Sánchez, who criticizes the twenty-year COP process for never having thought to call into question economic growth and capitalism but celebrates the multitude of social alternatives to the dominant system which are emanating from below. She dedicates her thoughts in part to our mutual friend and comrade Jyri Jaakkola, a Finnish human-rights observer and climate activist who was murdered in in the Triqui region of Oaxaca four years ago. (Indeed, Jyri’s name is one of several on a list that was read aloud by ex-Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos in a speech presented on 24 May as an homage toJosé Luis Solís, “Galeano,” a Zapatista who himself was murdered in a paramilitary attack on La Realidad that took place on 2 May.)

In keeping with the desire of the caravaner@s to help illuminate climate-change policies as processes too often considered mysterious and daunting, moreover, their website hosts a note by Javier Flores summarizing the findings of the recent Fifth Annual Report (AR5) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), particularly the report by the Panel’s Working Group 3, which is tasked with examining the possible mitigation of climate destruction.  In this vein, the Caravana has also shared a Spanish translation of “Hoodwinked in the Hothouse: False Solutions to Climate Change,” written as a collaboration between Carbon Trade Watch and Rising Tide North America, as well as an essay written by ETC investigator Silvia Ribeiro on a recent study which concludes that the world’scampesin@s produce a majority of the world’s food on less than a quarter of all available lands. Perhaps most critically, the collective has posted a stunning new report in La Jornada (4 June 2014) which details the “tragic” findings of environmental researchers from the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) regarding the very profound risks which climate change and the overall environmental situation represent for humanity and nature in general.

Beyond collecting and sharing perspectives on the climate and environmental crises, of course, the main work of the caravaner@s has been and continues to be its geographical visits to Mexican and Central American communities impacted by these crises. The Caravana’s very first stop occurred in Vicam, Sonora, where groups of indigenous Yaqui had blockaded the international Pan-American Highway leading north to Nogales and the U.S. border. The Yaquis have intermittently maintained this roadblock—a common form of social protest seen in Mexico and elsewhere Latin America—for more than a year in resistance to the planned construction of the El Novillo dam, which the state government of Sonora seeks to build on the Yaqui River toward the end of supplying the burgeoning city of Hermosillo (population 750,000). After Vicam, the caravaner@s saw it necessary to cancel their planned visits to Culiacán and Mazatlán in Sinaloa due to lack of security conditions following the State’s arrest of Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, head of the Sinaloa Cartel, on 22 February 2014. Nonetheless, the Caravana’s subsequent stop in the coastal state of Nayarit centered around the Federal Electricity Commission’s (CFE) intent to construct the Las Cruces dam, a project that would flood vast stretches of wetlands, destroy a great deal of biodiversity, threaten the agro-fishing means of subsistence engaged in by local Nayeris, and inundate several spaces considered sacred by Tepehuan and Wixárika peoples, as well as Nayeris. Continuing southeast towards the interior of Mexico, the Caravana then visited the highly polluted Great Santiago river that adjoins the metropolis of Guadalajara (4.5 million), having been subjected to the excesses of industrial waste created for capital and urbanization: indeed, among the corporations that have discharged the most heavy metals and cyanide into the river are Nestlé, IBM, and Modelo beer. Due to this industrial pollution, the caravaner@s report that the Santiago River is now largely bereft of the myriad fish and bird species it previously had supported, and that the toxic waste contributes to local cancers, respiratory illnesses, and other maladies. Also in the state of Jalisco—now in the highlands—the Caravana met with peoples in Temacapulín in resistance to the Zapotillo dam, a project that, in a parallel to El Novillo and Las Cruces, would inundate their locality along with others to provide water for the cities of Guadalajara and León.

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Yaqui Valley, Sonora, Mexico

Pressing on beyond Jalisco, the Caravana came to the cerro (mountain) of San Pedro in the state of San Luis Potosí, located just outside the capital city which bears the state’s name. San Pedro is the site of the notorious San Xavier mining operation, which since commencing in 2007 has involved the employment of an estimated 25 tons of explosives and 16 tons of cyanide to extract silver and gold—not to mention an estimated 32 million liters of water daily, this within a highly water-stressed, arid region, as the Subversiones collective explains. In an ironical-absurd reflection of the historical founding of San Luis Potosí—so named in 1592 by the Spanish colonizers after the silver mines of Potosí, Bolivia, which they hoped to outperform in terms of mineral extraction using indigenous slave labor—much of the mineral devastation seen today in the San Xavier open-pit mine has been performed in the service of Canadian capital, which is involved in a mind-boggling 1500 mining projects throughout Latin America. Next, in Morelos, the home state of Emiliano Zapata, the Caravana visited the city of Cuernavaca to meet activists from the Front for the Defense of Land and Water in Morelos, Puebla, and Tlaxcala (FPDTA), a collective which stands against an infrastructural megaproject called the “Comprehensive Morelos Plan.” Soon thereafter, in Tepoztlán, the caravaner@s met with groups in resistance to a very specific manifestation of this Plan: a governmental bid to expand a highway into a natural protected area belonging to theAjusco-Chichinautzin ecological corridor that contains important archaeological sites from pre-Columbian times.

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Cerro of San Pedro, San Luis Potosí, Mexico

Coming to arrive in the Mexican southeast, the Caravana visited Veracruz state, where it connected with communities living on the Antigua river who have taken positions of resistance against the Los Pescados dam that is planned for the river, and caravaner@s linked up with activists and housewives in Veracruz City as well as Jáltipan organizing to demand the closure of petroleum-coke processing centers for their pollution and negative health impacts. Heading south to the Isthmus of Tehuantepec in Oaxaca, the Caravana was next received by indigenous Binnizá and Ikojts residents of Barra San Teresa, a community that has served as a nucleus of popular opposition to the wind-energy megaprojects which have been “developed” on communal lands here, largely—once again—by international capital. The struggle against the imposition of “renewable energy from above” has been sustained for years now, and has involved serious repressive violence being exercised against critics of the corporate project. After taking leave of Oaxaca, the cavaner@s reached the neighboring state of Chiapas and participated with MOVIAC (the Mexican Movement for Alternatives to Environmental Impacts and Climate Change) in a public meeting and street-dance in San Cristóbal de Las Casas dedicated to raising the issues of government energy reforms and local resistance to climate and environmental destruction. In northern Chiapas, moreover, the Caravana visited the ejido of San Sebastian Bachajón, where indigenous Tseltal communities associated with the Zapatistas have resisted expropriation by State and touristic interests on the one hand and paramilitary attacks on the other. Before the Caravana finished with its stay in Chiapas to cross Mexico’s southern border into Guatemala, its collective members had the good fortune to observe the “blood moon” eclipse in San Cristóbal, seeing in the juxtaposition of red and black a symbolic representation of the anti-authoritarian political philosophy which has guided their odyssey.

Continuing on into the second Latin American country on the action-tour, the Caravana first visited Santa Cruz Barillas in Guatemala’s western department of Huehuetenango to meet with communities that have resisted the imposition of several Spanish-owned dam projects for the past decade. The people of Barillas have met with political imprisonment as well as declarations of states of emergency in response from the State. Continuing east to the Quiche department, home to Ixil indigenous Mayan peoples, members of the Caravana held interviews with survivors of the genocidal Guatemalan civil war (1960-1996) who were protesting the impunity which marks the one-year anniversary of the momentous decision by a Guatemalan court to find former U.S.-backed dictator Efraín Ríos Montt (1982-1983) guilty of genocide in the region. Nonetheless, in a typical counter-move to this ground-breaking decision from a lower court, the Guatemalan Constitutional Court formally nullified the genocide ruling within days of the decision, thus paving the way for the present impunity which Ríos Montt and the other perpetrators of the Civil War enjoy at present. The caravaner@s also interviewed survivors and protestors in Guatemala City who were similarly marking the anniversary in critical fashion. What is more, the Caravana came to visit the two-plus year blockade maintained largely by the La Puya women’s collective before the El Tambor open-pit gold-mine that had successfully halted all mining operations there for some time—at least, until just days after the visit by the Caravana, when police forces in turn violently dispersed the protestors and so opened the way for extractive machinery to be installed at the mining site, in accordance with the wishes of the U.S. capitalists who own the mine. Speaking to its time in Guatemala, the Caravana collective has produced a program specifically on the various forms of resistance it encountered in the country in “Guatemala Resiste!”

In El Salvador, the third country on the tour, caravaner@s interviewed Ricardo Navarro, founder of the Salvadoran Center for Appropriate Technology (CESTA) and avid proponent of the widespread use of the bicycle, and shared the highly critical drawings made by the Beehive Collective about capitalist globalization at a public gallery in San Salvador. As of this writing, the Caravana finds itself somewhere in eastern Honduras, where it has met with Garifuna peoples of mixed African and Carib descent.

In the near term, the Caravana will complete its Mesoamerica Resiste!tour after making what promise to be fascinating visits to Nicaragua, Costa Rica, and Panama. From Panama City, the Caravana collective hopes to take a ferry-ride around the Darién Gap to Colombia, and to begin the second phase of its tour—Tahuantinsuyo Late—in South America. This first leg of the South American tour will involve Venezuela and Colombia as well as the Andean countries of Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, while the third phase—Somos Sur hacia la COP20 (“Let’s Go South to the COP20”)—is slated to involve Brazil and the other countries of the Southern Cone: Uruguay, Paraguay, Argentina, and Chile. Finally, the Caravana seeks to be present at the COP20 itself, presenting radical alternatives to the official absurd processes.

As is evident, the Caravana represents an important intervention within the present multidimensional crisis (ecological, social, economic, political); its work, steeped in the struggle for climate justice and social transformation, advances these ends in significant and creative ways. Given the links the Caravana has made with communities resisting the imposition of mining and hydroelectric projects thus far during its action-tour, it will be intriguing to see how its collective members engage with the much-maligned extractivism that has been intensified by the “socialist” regimes in Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, and Uruguay; it is to be imagined that their perspective will be quite close to that of Manuela Picq, who writes in Upsidedown World about the parallels between indigenous resistance to extractivism and self-determination.

In addition, it is to be hoped that the spirit of defiance embodied by the caravaner@s will be echoed at the resistance to the UN’s preparatory meeting for Lima that is to be held in New York City in late September—and particularly by those resistance currents which, like the caravaner@s, take critical views of capital and the State. Whether the NYC experience will represent a continuation or even intensification of the anti-WTO mobilizations seen in Seattle in 1999 is an interesting question to ponder.

Assuming the Caravana reaches its destination of Lima toward the end of the year, it can be expected to form a strong countercurrent to the COP20—much as a similar grouping did to resist the COP16 in Cancún in 2010.

You can help the Caravana get to COP20 by supporting it here.

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