From edition

Shadows of Tender Fury

Shadows of Tender Fury, Frank Bardacke (ed.), MOnthly Review Press, 1995.

A Brief Critique of EZLN Ends
These are the questions that come to mind when I consider the laudatory reception the EZLN has received from the American Left: Does anybody on The Left want to be victorious anymore? Does anybody on The Left find valor in obedience to a vision of a humanizing project and a directed totality anymore? Ought not truly revolutionary movements seek to engage in a full political and historical dialectic in which both the materialism and morality of global capital are fully transformed (not reduced) into something transparent, something through which humans rule, and, something through which humans are not produced as things?

Certainly, the EZLN has a much more substantive human liberation as end in mind than is currently the case. But, do they have human transformation as an end? Or, do they believe that endless liberation is transformation?

Unfortunately, like all postmodern proponents of a fluid, deliberative and accessible democratic space, they fail to recognize that this kind of democratic space bears an uncanny resemblance to not only free market ideologies and obligations in general, but also to an early and pre-political stage of Capitalism in specific.

The EZLN demands the right to local indigenous self-determination, and, a true democratization of public space in order that the people will have a right to determine the dominant social project for Mexico. These two requests contain a political contradiction that can only be resolved by 1) the determination to transform Capitalism into Socialism, 2) desiring that humans rule over technology, production and other humans, and 3) that these ruling humans (all humans) are Socialists with collective consciousness. The political contradiction to be resolved by these three points is the following: Power in the localized margins cannot be transformed into a dominant project that has anything but local interests and the continuation of local determinations in mind without Becoming (always and in the true sense of Becoming) the dominant social project. (That is, Becoming the dominant social project as such, not becoming what is already the case, the margins being the dominant social concern of a politically oppressive dominant project). At this historical moment all local associations are Capitalist because Capitalism is the ruling power both in the first and last instant. What is needed is a dominant social and political project to replace Capitalism in and through which we transform human society.

This is how the EZLN’s impossible political demand correlates to the early stages of Capitalism: Capitalists first sought to protect their local and global interests from the dominant and collusive social project of The Church and The Crown by appealing to The Church and The Crown. The EZLN does much the same thing when they make no claim to rule in Mexico or anywhere else but locally. In order for Capitalism to triumph it had to effectively unseat both The Church and The Crown; it had to engage in political and collective revolution; it had to transform the world into its own image. The EZLN engages in a horizontal social revolution of margin collection and collage which by its very nature can never fully determine the limits of its freedom, its existence or the excellence of its humanizing project.

In fact, the EZLN is merely seeking concessions: concessions that are so promising and moving that the ruling government can neither dismiss them nor grant them. In the EZLN, a liberal American Left and a liberal-democratic government like Mexico recognize their own moral and emancipatory past in a sophisticated and material plea for full recognition of the margins. Mexico cannot dismiss the EZLN. However, the EZLN cannot win unless they intend to do so. In a global capitalist epoch the margins can play but they can’t rule (Nor does it seem in this “hypercapitalist” stage of history that they want to rule).

In fact, at this historical juncture no one can truly rule (collectively or individually). Only artificial and robotic managers of technique can exercise real determining power over themselves or others. And that is so because the totality of human relations and interactions are still predicated on, and, determined by, the principles of the free market and moral liberalism. The oppressive existentialities of the indigenous in Chiapas are a direct result of the material and spiritual imperatives of global capitalism not of the broken and as yet unfulfilled promises of an enlightened global liberalism.

If Capitalism gives us any truth that is to be transformed to and for our good, it is this: Liberation is nothing if it is not accompanied by the will to rule. If Capitalism forgets this, we will not.

What Capitalism does not give us is the will to be ruled by institutions of totality that by their very nature have truly and excellent human ends always in mind. We must ceaselessly promote, fight for, and supply the vision and reality of these creative institutions.

–John Beacham (John Beacham is a member of the Santa Cruz Editorial Collective)

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