Social movements in Mesoamerica in the face of the crisis of capitalism

Social movements in Mesoamerica in the face of the crisis of capitalism

By Gustavo Castro Soto

Suppose we were not fighting capitalism. With all the more reason it launches us to seek to finish it before it finishes us, before it leaves us with nothing on which to build another life that guarantees happiness for all humanity.

In the Mesoamerican region, resistance struggles have grown in all corners. There is almost no aspect or theme that does not have a resistance fight behind it. However, on many occasions we wonder about their articulation, about their possible dispersion, about the strategies that they should follow or share, or about the alternatives that they should implement, and other questions that arise in all forums and meetings. Far from taking stock for which this author is not qualified, we mention at least some significant struggles and networks with the caveat that they are not exhausted. We will also address a reflection on the challenges of social movements and even more so in the context of the military coup in Honduras.

Some of the struggles

In the case of Panama, we can highlight the fight for human rights and especially the demands of labor rights, as well as the fight against dams and mining.

Recently, against residential tourism that is growing rapidly on the Panamanian coasts and with more vigor the defense of the rights of indigenous peoples, their lands and territories. In Costa Rica, it is worth mentioning the fight against free trade and association agreements, the process of which has been an example of social mobilization in the region. But Costa Ricans are also fighting against the scandalous expansion of the pineapple monoculture, against foreign militarization and what was the attempt to install the ILEA's police and military school, against the construction of dams and mining projects, against the privatization of electric power as well as the defense of the rights of indigenous peoples, among others.

In Nicaragua we can highlight the fight for water as a human right, against the external and ecological debt; against agrochemicals, dams and the effects of energy privatization in the hands of transnational corporations, for the rights of women and indigenous peoples, against free trade and association agreements. In Honduras, the fight against dams, against mining and North American militarization, for trade union rights, against deforestation and the defense of forests, against foreign debt and shrimp farms, for the rights of the peoples has been strong. indigenous peoples, their lands and territories. And now all together against the military coup, its oligarchy and the interests of the United States and the drug traffickers based in our brother country. In El Salvador we rescue, among others, the fight that has been carried out against dams and mining, against external and ecological debt, the fight for women's rights, the defense of the right to public services, ecology and the environment. , for water as a human right and against free trade agreements and the effects of climate change, among others.

In Guatemala we can highlight the struggle for the defense of the rights of indigenous peoples, for their land and territory, as well as the struggles against dams and mining; the fight against militarization, violence, impunity and for human rights; against the effects of the privatization of electric power; against GMOs, free trade agreements and the effects of oil exploitation. In the south-southeast of Mexico we can rescue the fight against dams and the nascent fight against mining; against the effects of oil exploitation and privatization, militarization and for the rights of indigenous peoples, their lands and territories; for human rights and against wind farms in the hands of European transnationals, against biopiracy, transgenics and for the defense of women's rights. And at the end of the day, the entire region against the Puebla Panama Plan (today the Mesoamerica Plan) and against the FTAA. Now, everyone against the military coup in Honduras because the future of Honduras will be the future of Latin America and the Caribbean. For this reason, our axis of struggle, of articulation, must be Honduras.

However, there are also other important aspects on the agendas of social movements such as health and its networks, agrofuels, single-crop trees (African palm, eucalyptus, pine, etc.); the incidents in public policies and other issues that are emerging and joining the struggle. All of the above, to say the least.

Some of the networks

The struggles already mentioned are linked to an endless number of regional and continental social processes. Some are articulated with one or several actors, for example, around the Via Campesina or the Coordinadora Latinaomericana de Organizaciones dcel Campo (CLOC); others around the Convergence of Movements of the Peoples of the Americas (COMPA), the Cry of the Excluded, Friends of the Earth International or the Latin American Network against Dams (REDLAR). In the region there are also the efforts of the Continental Social Assembly (ASC), South Jubilee, the Mesoamerican Forum, the Hemispheric Encounter against Militarization, the World March of Women (WMW), the mining networks, the Indigenous Peoples, Abya Yala, the Movement of Victims and People Affected by Climate Change, the Latin American Pesticide Action Network (RAP-AL), the Life Network, the Network Against Tree Monocultures (RECOMA), OilWatch, the Network against Transgenics, the implementation of Permanent Peoples' Courts, among many other networks and collective actors.

These are to mention a few, and very few, of those that exist among the wide range of themes and articulating axes.

Despite the great variety and apparent dispersion of the social movement, it seems to us that rather they are articulated from their local struggles and specific, concrete problems. Whether for water, the mine, the dam, the African palm, the monoculture, the road, the land, privatization, biodiversity, human rights, and so on. Thus, the social movement is strengthened to the extent that it specifies its objective of struggle and integrates the global vision into it. In other words, working locally and thinking globally. Where, then, is the possibility of a true articulation? In the reverse process, in global work thinking about the local. For this reason, the social movement, each struggle, cannot fail to be present in these two scenarios, the local and the global, the conjunctural and the structural.

To the extent that many social networks and processes are incorporating a global, articulated and integral vision, they are being strengthened and creating points of connection and articulation. Water is seen from the perspective of dams, privatization, mining, public services, monocultures, and so on. Hence, the networks for the defense of water as a human right have the possibility of articulating with the fight against repressions. In the same way, other networks such as those of dams, to the extent that they integrate and globally dimension their problems, articulate the struggle with the issue of water, land, biodiversity, wind farms, agrofuel fields, change climate, the privatization of water and energy, the Ifis, etc. The issue of debt is linked to that of free trade agreements, militarization, water, mega-projects, ecological debt, human rights, among others. The fight against transgenics with food sovereignty, with health, transnational corporations, water, land and territory, etc. And in this way, all the themes, axes and sectors, to the extent that they integrate a global, systemic and articulating vision, sooner or later come together, they meet. Thus, by respecting the peculiarity of each movement, of the struggle and the problems that concern them and that they face, they are able to achieve unity with other actors. And this is happening in Mesoamerica. And all of them from the perspective and perspective of gender, human and women's rights, the militantization of all natural resources and megaprojects rather than neoliberal, corporate.

There are those who advocate eliminating what apparently are issues that sectorize, pulverize or divide, in order to shape broad processes around macro concepts and realities, such as the "struggle for land and territory", "struggle for sovereignty" , "Fight against capitalism", "fight for the unity of the peoples", "fight against neoliberalism", among others, that embrace all forms of resistance. And we agree on this, in broad processes that bring together social and political forces. However, eliminating the particularities of the struggles may lead us, minimally, to lose strength at the local level, that element that gives identity and social unity to a social group around the problems that are faced and that need to be resolved and faced. , from where people identify themselves to solve their immediate problems. Thus, communities and organizations have a platform to link to other processes. From the local to the global and the global to the local, necessarily. If you stay in one of the poles, there is a danger that the social movement, or one of its actors, will get lost in reality. For example, not long ago the axis that successfully articulated the continental social struggle was against what was called the Puebla Panama Plan (PPP) and the Free Trade Area of ​​the Americas (FTAA). The movements from their specificities simply understood that the perspective of their work should be read from the fight against the PPP and the FTAA. Regardless of the sector, topic, axis or the physical or political place in which it is located. And it was achieved. And they were successful. But today it is something else, big capital and the current crisis of capitalism is guiding new strategies and that is the challenge of the social movement now: to find the new perspective of common struggle. We do not have that in Mesoamerica, but also in the entire continent.

However, in the middle of this process an event arises that articulates the social movement: the military coup in Honduras. Because the future of Honduras will be the future of the Continent. An outcome in favor of the coup plotters could mark the path that would embolden the oligarchies, drug traffickers, military, transnational corporations and the United States in other countries that the advance of social processes and peaceful political struggles can be stopped through another wave of military coups, democratic crimes and violations of human rights. Even the new governments of the left for some and the supposed left for others, continue to be a threat to the accumulation of wealth.

Some points for debate

Although there is no space nor is the time, it will be for another occasion, we mention some points for the debate that seem important to us. First, we affirm that neoliberalism is already over, it is almost exhausted, that it was not an end in itself but rather the application of adjustment policies for an interest: the incorporation of big capital, of the big transnational companies in economic and political control. For this reason, we confirm that we are in a new model that we call the Corporation-Nation. We have already talked about this in other moments (1). The second is that neoliberal globalization was not such, that it was not so global. The least neoliberal countries are those of the North, the most protectionist, those that subsidize their economies the most, those that rescue the most companies and those that, among them, do not have Free Trade Agreements. The third is thornier and we consider that it is not fully explored, clarified or agreed upon. It is the systemic vision. This means what is the analysis of movements on the capitalist system? What is the diagnosis we make of the system and its current crisis? This will be the key to discerning the anti-systemic, anti-capitalist alternatives.

Last and most difficult to digest. Suppose we do not fight against capitalism, but rather support it, accompany it, defend it and promote it. Sooner or later the system would collapse either from an environmental, financial or social point of view. This is what we mean when we say that capitalism, with us or without us, will come to an end, that it is not eternal. This scares many and there are those who tear their clothes. It seems like an invitation to fold your arms and wait for your collapse. All the more reason it should keep us moving. But is it the movement of struggle? Of resistance? Or of alternatives?

We consider that the current crisis of capitalism is not a conjunctural or model crisis (the transition from one model to another, which by the way is not non-liberalism but the Corporation-Nation model), but rather a systemic crisis. When will this crisis end? What system are we transitioning to? That is not to be addressed now, but let's leave it on the table.

Some reflections on the struggles? Resistors? alternatives?

In general, we find two concepts in the movements that recurrently appear in the vocabulary, speeches, shouts, slogans and declarations: "fight" and "against". For everything we are first "anti" before "alter", of alternatives. But to know what we are fighting against, it is necessary to know what the Capitalist System is. Thus, when making its diagnosis, that is, at what point in its existence, what are its real possibilities of reproduction, we will be able to find the clues of what anti-capitalism implies, the anti-systemic, what is the best strategy, how generate an experience or an anti-systemic reality.

'Anti' is a Greek prefix meaning 'protection against', 'prevention against' or 'fighting against'. However, we prefer to use the connotation of 'opposite' or 'contrary'. Thus, when we speak of anti-systemic experiences we refer to those experiences and realities that are opposite or contrary to the Capitalist System; to the discourse and to the social and political practices united in the everyday in an individual or social group, with characteristics different from or diametrically opposed to those that feed this system. Experiences that to a greater or lesser degree reflect an alternative, that is, other very different ways of living life with their own system.

Anti-systemic expressions and experiences have always existed. Some with greater or lesser impact, with greater or less social presence, with greater or lesser historical duration. However, they did not manage to create a hegemonic system that globalizes the rules of life for all humanity, as the capitalist system has done, because its essence is not hegemony. Curiously, other non-capitalist subsisting worlds are found among various indigenous cultures of the world, and the emerging antisystemic alternatives are generally found in rural areas or among the population excluded from the supposed benefits of the current dominant system. But let's look further. Anti-systemic struggles can be of various forms. Let's mention a few:

1) Resistance: resist comes from the Latin resistere which means to tolerate, reject, endure or suffer; oppose the action or violence of someone or something. There are people or social movements that endure and tolerate the effects of Capitalism: I don't pay, I don't see, I don't buy, I don't go ... I resist.

2) Active Resistance: includes the Resistance but with an active way of opposing and rejecting a) some of its expressions such as preventing the construction of roads, bridges, dams, mines, monocultures of eucalyptus or African palm; o strategies to combat poverty, against low wages, against the use of agrochemicals, etcetera; b) or rejecting some of its actors (transnational companies and governments) through boycotts or other measures; c) or stop, lethargy or avoid some of the mechanisms of accumulation and reproduction of the Capitalist System such as the protests against the World Trade Organization (WTO), the G-8, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the World Bank (WB ), the IDB, the External Debt, the Puebla Panama Plan, the IIRSA, the Davós Forum, the negotiations of the Free Trade Agreements, and so on.

3) Propositive Resistance: this fight can include the previous two and necessarily that of emancipation. The emancipatory struggles imply liberation from the subordination or domination exercised by the Capitalist System. But there is no liberation if the transformation of reality does not take place to build alternatives in an integral way. Only in this way is he liberated from dependency. And it will be more alternate to the extent that it has more anti-capitalist elements. We have also talked about this at another time. (2)

But we can maintain, feed, potentiate capitalism without realizing it or naively thinking that we are implementing supposed alternatives. Those who receive some benefit from the system take care that this interest is maintained, perpetuated and improved, so their expressions are reformist or with arguments of "humanization" of capitalism, which intrinsically cannot.

Therefore, not every fight against capitalism in its expression or reproduction means that we are generating other expressions and realities different from capitalism. Thus, we see organizations or social movements with an antisystemic analysis and discourse but that their practices are not; or there are social movements that do not make explicit the anti-systemic but their practices are profoundly anti-capitalist, they simply live the "alter-natured". Either way, movements are precisely that, movements, processes that rise and fall, that have their life cycles, fulfill their purpose, wear out, new ones emerge, merge, multiply, transform. Everything in motion, what stops rots. Some are more structured, the broadest, with collective directorates, with secretariats, coordinators, executive secretaries, committees, or with messianic or caudillista directorates, among many other forms.

The military coup in Honduras puts us once again in a dilemma. Those who consider that history is ascending, from less to more, evolutionary, or that civilizations are cumulative, reproduce exclamations such as "how is it possible that this happens in the XXI century". That military dictatorships, genocides or armed groups are a thing of the past. If we pride ourselves on our libertarian struggles that gave us a homeland, we remember and celebrate the struggles for independence and the revolutionary processes, even though it was at the cost of millions of deaths throughout the Continent, there is the temptation to be alarmed at those same processes today. day. All the ways of the past, regardless of their value, are still present and will be in force for a lifetime as long as those who sustain power with repression do not want to give up their privileges. It is not regression, unfortunately that is how humanity is. It is not an apology for the armed revolutionary struggles, we simply say that it will be tentatively present in many peoples that do not see other ways to achieve justice as they did in the past and on whom we are proud and celebrate. And this can be latent in any region of Mesoamerica. Although basically almost all the Independences took place through armed processes in our hemisphere, we believe that political struggles will continue to be the privileged path to achieve another system where all worlds fit. (3) But it is worth not only resisting, but doing so actively and purposefully.

The alternate

We are currently speaking in social movements about the need to seek alternatives to this capitalism in structural crisis. The word "alternative" comes from the Latin alter, altera, alterum, a pronoun (pro-nomen, "instead of the name") that means the other, between two alternatives.

But when we talk about the alternative to the Capitalist System we are not referring to the only other 'alternative', as if we only had to choose between two things, between Capitalism or the other thing that we do not know but that in the end will be something else hegemonic . This means reducing the reality that is open and diverse to two. We do not opt ​​for a hegemony to embrace another that prevails and dominates the others. For this reason, the difference with another pronoun, "alius", which also comes from the Latin alius, alia, aliud, which means another, between three or more options or possibilities. However, for some scholars of the subject with the passage of time the difference was erased and the idea of ​​option between two or more possibilities was included as an alternative. And we discover that this is the Alter, the Others.

The words altered or unalterable, which means that it is not affected by external events; or altercation, and even exalted which means magnified or highlighted by others other than himself, suggests a movement from the outside in. That is why we insist on the perspective from the inside out, the ‘Natos’. It is about finding, achieving, empowering, discovering or creating 'what is born naturally', what is his, his own, which 'is born from suity', 'from selfhood'. That is typical of a people, of a culture. This is the "Natos". It is the other that is born from within. It is this worldly unity that is born from the unity of suities, of sameness. Only diversity generates unity. And there is only unity because there are diverse.

That is why the diversity of cultures makes it possible for the World to have Other Worlds of its own, its own, different from the Capitalist System. For this reason, Alter-Natos are Other Worlds, other diverse systems united. For this reason, the social movement is not one, but many, with a local anti-capitalist struggle and with a systemic global vision, but in search and in real experiences here and now of increasing human fulfillment. This is the anti-systemic struggle in Honduras where an Alter-Natos is brewing, a new hope. Our dream is not a dream: A World without Capitalism!

Gustavo Castro Soto placeholder image - Others Mundos, AC - San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico; July 2009

(1) See "The Nation Corporation Model",

(2) See “Other Worlds; The Anti-systemic Elements ”,

(3) We highly recommend Luis Suárez's book, “A Century of Terror in Latin America / Chronology of United States Crimes Against Humanity”.

Video: David Harvey- The Crises of Capitalism (May 2021).