Subcomandate Insurgente Marcos:
OXYMORON! - THE INTELLECTUAL RIGHT AND LIBERAL FASCISM
Warning, Introduction and Promise
I. Globalization: Pay Per View
II. A Memorable Forgetting
III. Intellectual Pragmatism
IV. The Blind Clairvoyants
V. The Past Future
VI. The Fascist Liberal
VII. Skeptical Hope
"In that figure which is referred to as 'oxymoron', a
word is used which seems to contradict itself, so the Gnostics spoke
of a dark light, the alchemists of a black sun."
- Jorge Luis Borges
Warning, Introduction and Promise
Be careful: If you have not read the epigraph, you had better do
so now because, if you do not, there are a few things you are not
going to understand.
An irrefutable fact: globalization is here. I am not characterizing
it (yet), I am simply pointing out a reality. But, given oxymoron,
it must be noted that it is a fragmented globalization.
Globalization has been made possible by, among other things, two
revolutions: technology and information. And it has been, and is
being, directed by financial powers. Technology and information
have, hand in hand, (along with financial capital) been doing away
with distances and breaking down borders. Today it is possible to
have information about any part of the world, at any moment and
concurrently. But money also has the power of ubiquity now. It comes
and goes dizzyingly, as if it were everywhere at the same time.
And, in addition, money gives the world a new form, the form of
a market, a supermarket.
Nonetheless, in spite of the "globalization" of the planet,
or, more accurately, because of it, homogeneity is very far from
being the characteristic of this change of century and millennium.
The world is an archipelago, a puzzle whose pieces turn into other
pieces, and the only thing which is truly globalized is the proliferation
If technology and information have united the world, then the financial
powers which use them have turned them around, using them as weapons,
as weapons in a war. We have stated before (in "7 Loose Pieces
of the World Puzzle", EZLN, 1997) that a world war, the fourth,
is being conducted, and that a process of destruction/depopulation
and reconstruction/reordering is developing (I am trying to give
a hurried summary, be indulgent) throughout the planet. For the
construction of the "new world order" (Planetary, Permanent,
Immediate and Immaterial, according to Ignacio Ramonet), financial
power is conquering lands and breaking down borders, and it is achieving
this by waging war, a new war. One of the casualties of this war
is the national market, a fundamental basis of the Nation-State.
The Nation-State is on the path to extinction, or, at least, the
traditional or classic Nation-State is. In its place are emerging
integrated markets, or, more accurately, department stores of the
great world "mall", the globalized market.
The political and social consequences of this globalization take
the form of countless and complex oxymorons: fewer people with more
wealth, produced through the exploitation of more people with less
wealth. "The poverty of our century cannot be compared with
that of any other. It is not, as it once was, the natural result
of scarcity, but of a conjunction of priorities imposed by the rich
on the rest of the world" (John Berger. Cada vez que decimos
adio's. Ediciones de la flor. Argentina, 1997, pp. 278-279). The
planet has been opened up wide for a handful of people. For millions
of people, however, there is no room in the world, and they drift
aimlessly from one end to theother. Organized crime forms the backbone
of legal systems and governments (the criminals make the laws and
"safeguard public order"). And world "integration"
And so, if we were to highlight some of the main characteristics
of the current epoch, we would say: supremacy of financial power,
technological and information revolution, war, destruction/depopulation
and reconstruction/reordering, attacks on Nation-States, the subsequent
redefinition of power and politics, the market as an hegemonic figure
which permeates all aspect of human life everywhere, a greater concentration
of wealth in the hands of a few, a greater distribution of poverty,
an increase in exploitation and unemployment, millions of people
in exile, criminals who are the government, disintegration of lands.
In sum: fragmented globalization.
Fine, then, according to this proposition, in the case of the intellectuals
(given that they have to do with society, power and the State) it
is worth asking oneself: have they experienced the same process
of destruction/depopulation and reconstruction/reordering? What
role do the financial powers assign them? How do they use (or are
used by) technological and information advances? What position do
they have in this war? What is their relationship with these battered
Nation-States? What are their ties to that power and within that
redefined politics? What is their position in the marketplace? And
what position do they take in response to the political and social
consequences of globalization? In short: what is their place in
that fragmented globalization?
The world had to be changed by, and change for, this war. The "classic"
intellectuals could no longer exist, nor their old functions. In
their place a new generation of "thinking heads" (to use
the term coined by zapatista Comandante Tacho) would emerge (or
will emerge) and they would have new functions in their intellectual
Although we are trying to limit ourselves here to intellectuals
of the right, some notes concerning intellectuals in general, and
their relationships with power, will be obvious. Since the purpose
of this text is to participate in and to encourage the polemic between
intellectuals of the right and the left, a deeper reflection (on
intellectuals and power, and on intellectuals and transformations)
remains for future and unlikely writings.
I. Globalization: Pay Per View
The year two thousand is balanced on the axis of the calendar between
the 20th and the 21st centuries and between the second and third
millennia. I do not know how important this accounting of time is,
but it seems to me that it is, also, an appropriate moment for OXYMORON
to emerge on all sides. It is not overstating the case to say that
this age is the beginning of the end or the end of the beginning
of "something." "Something", an irresponsible
method of alluding to a problem. But it is already known that our
specialty is not in solving problems, but in creating them. "Creating
them?" No, that is too presumptuous, rather in their proposing.
Yes, our specialty is proposing problems.
Up there, everything seems to have happened before, as if an old
film is being repeated, with other images, other cinematic resources,
even with different actors, but with the same argument. As if the
"modernism" (or "post-modernism", I leave the
clarification for whomever can be bothered with it) of globalization
were dressed in its OXYMORON and presenting itself to us as an arcane,
long established, ancient modernism.
If what I'm telling you seems like a mere subjective appraisal,
put it down to our being in the mountains, resisting and in rebellion,
but grant us the privilege of reading us and see if it is, in effect,
one more symptom of "mountain sickness," or if you share
this sensation of deja vu which runs through the hyper-cinema which
is the globalized world.
The world is not square, at least that's what they teach in school.
But, at the cutting edge of the union of two millennia, the world
is not round either. I do not know what the appropriate geometric
form would be to represent the current world, but, given that we
are in the age of digital audiovisual communication, we could attempt
to define it as a gigantic screen. You may add "a television
screen", even though I would choose "a movie screen."
Not just because I prefer cinematography, but also (and above all)
because it seems to me that there is a movie in front of us, an
old movie, modernly old (to continue with the oxymoron).
It is, in addition, one of those screens where one can program the
simultaneous display of several images ('picture in picture,' they
call it). In the case of the globalized world, of images which take
place in any corner of the planet. They are not all the images.
And it is not because they lack space on the screen, but because
"someone" has selected these images and not others. That
is, we are looking at a screen with several boxes which are presenting
simultaneous images of different parts of the world, that's true,
but not all the world is there.
Upon reaching this point one inevitably asks oneself: who has the
remote control for this audiovisual screen? And who is doing the
programming? Good questions, but you will not find the answers here.
And not just because we don't know them for certain, but also because
they are not the subjects of this text.
Given that we cannot change the channel or the film, let us look
at some of the different boxes the mega-screen of globalization
is offering us.
Let us go to the American continent. There, in that corner, you
have the image of the National Autonomous School of Mexico (UNAM)
being occupied by a paramilitary group of the government: the so-called
Federal Preventative Police. Those gray-uniformed men do not appear
to be studying. Further up, framed by the mountains of the Mexican
southeast, a column of gray armored tanks are crossing a chiapaneco
indigenous community. On the other side, the gray image presents
a North American police officer who is violently detaining a young
man in a place which could be Seattle or Washington.
In the European box the grays also proliferate. In Austria, it is
Joer Heider and his pro-nazi fervor. In Italy, with D'Alema's selfless
help, Silvio Berlusconi is adjusting his tie. In Spain, Felipe Gonza'lez
is making up Jose' Mari'a Aznar's face. Le Pen smiling at us in
Asia, Africa and Oceania are showing the same color, repeating themselves
in their respective corners.
Hmm,,, So many grays...Hmm...We can protest...After all, they promised
us an all-color program...At least let us turn down the volume and
try to understand what it is about...
II. A Memorable Forgetting
The intellectuals are there, as is the globalized fragmentation.
They are a reality of modern society. And their "being there"
is not limited to the current age, it goes back to the first steps
taken by human society. But the archeology of intellectuals is beyond
our knowledge and possibilities, so let us start from the fact that
they "are there." In any case, what we are trying to discover
is the form their "being there" takes now.
"Intellectuals as a category are something very vague, that
is already common knowledge. It is a different thing to define the
'intellectual function'. The intellectual function consists in critically
determining what is considered to be a satisfactory approximation
of the very concept of truth. And anyone can develop it, even a
derelict who reflects on his own condition and expresses it in some
way, while a writer who reacts to events dispassionately, without
subjecting them to the process of reflection, can betray it."
(Umberto Eco. Five Moral Tales. Ed. Lumen. Traduccio'n Helena Lozano
Miralles, pp. 14-15). If this is so, then the work of the intellectual
is, fundamentally, analytic and critical. Faced with a social fact
(to limit ourselves to one universe), the intellectual analyzes
the obvious, the affirmative and the negative, seeking the ambiguous,
that which is not one thing nor the other (even though it presents
as such), and he shows (communicates, reveals, denounces) that which
is not only not obvious, but which even contradicts the obvious.
Human societies presumably have persons who dedicate themselves
professionally to this critical analysis and to communicating their
results (in the words of Norberto Bobbio: "Intellectuals are
all those people whose habitual and conscious occupation is that
of transmitting messages [...] and saying them in a way which can
appear brutal; it also almost always represents their means of earning
a living.") Let us stay with this approximation of the intellectual,
of the professional of critical analysis and communication.
We have already been warned that the intellectual does not always
exercise the intellectual function. "The intellectual function
is always exercised prospectively (concerning what might take place)
or retrospectively (concerning what has taken place), only rarely
does it concern what is taking place, because of reasons of rhythm,
because events are always more rapid and urgent than the reflection
concerning the events" (Umberto Eco, op. cit., p. 29).
Due to his intellectual function, this professional of critical
analysis and his communication would be a kind of uncomfortable
or impertinent conscience of society (in this age, of globalized
society), in his totality and in his parts. A dissenter to everything,
to the political and social forces, to the State, to the government,
to the media, to the culture, to the arts, to religion, to whatever
etcetera the reader might add. If the social actor says "There
it is!", the intellectual murmurs skeptically: "It's missing
something, it's too much."
Thus we have the role of the intellectual is that of being a critic
of immobility, a promoter of change, a progressive. This communicator
of critical ideas is, however, inserted in a polarized society,
in conflict with itself in many ways and with various arguments,
but fundamentally divided between those who use power so that things
do not change, and those who are struggling for change. "The
intellectual should, out of a basic sense of the ridiculous, understand
that he has not been granted the role of witch of the spirit around
which the to-be-or-not-to-be of the universe is going to revolve,
but he obviously has knowledge [...] which can be aligned in one
meaning or another of the historical. They can align it in the search
for clarification of the injustices which are present in the current
world, or in complicity with immobility and installation in Limbo."
(Manuel Va'zquez Montalba'n. Panfleto desde el planeta de los simios.
Ed. Drakontos. Barcelona, 1995, p. 48).
And this is where the intellectual picks, chooses, selects between
his intellectual function and the function proposed to him by social
actors. Thus appears the division (and the struggle) between progressive
intellectuals and reactionaries. Both of them remain engaged in
the communication of critical analysis, but, while the progressives
continue in their criticism of immobility, permanence, hegemony
and the homogeneous, the reactionaries hoist criticism of change,
of movement, of rebellion and of diversity. The reactionary intellectual
"forgets" his intellectual function, he renounces critical
reflection, and his memory is reduced to such a degree that there
is no past nor future. The present and the immediate are the only
things accessible and, therefore, not open to question.
In saying "progressive and reactionary intellectuals",
we are referring to intellectuals "of the left and of the right".
It is appropriate to add here that the intellectual of the left
exercises his intellectual function, that is, his critical analysis,
also in front of the left (social, partisan, ideological), but in
the current era his criticism is basically of the hegemonic power:
that of the gentlemen of money and those who represent them in the
field of politics and ideas.
Let us now leave the progressive and leftist intellectuals and go
on to the reactionary intellectuals, the intellectual right.
III. Intellectual Pragmatism
In the beginning, the intellectual giants of the right were progressives.
And I am speaking of the great intellectuals of the right, the "think
tanks" of reaction, not of the dwarves who were entering their
"thinking" clubs. Octavio Paz, the excellent poet and
essayist, the greatest intellectual of the right of the last few
years in Mexico, stated: "I come from the way of thinking called
leftist. It was something very important in my training. Now I don't
knowthe only thing I know is that my dialogue - sometimes my discussion
- is with them (the intellectuals of the left). I don't have much
to talk about with the others." (Braulio Peralta. El poeta
en su tierra. Dia'logos con Octavio Paz. Ed. Grijalbo. Mexico, 1996,
p. 45). And cases like Paz are repeated on the global mega-screen.
The progressive intellectual, as a communicator of critical analysis,
becomes an object and an objective for the dominant power. An object
to buy and an objective to destroy. A multitude of resources are
put in play for one thing and another. The progressive intellectual
"is born" in the midst of this environment of persecutory
seduction. Some resist and defend themselves (almost always by themselves,
professional solidarity not seeming to be one of the characteristics
of the progressive intellectual). Others, however, exhausted perhaps,
look in their baggage of ideas and take out those which can simultaneously
be alibi and reason for legitimizing the power. The new demands
much, the old is there, and so it is enough to raise the argument
of "the inevitable" for the system to offer him a comfortable
seat (sometimes in the form of a grant, a position, a prize, a place)
by the side of the Prince whom he so criticized yesterday.
"The inevitable" has a name today: fragmented globalization,
single doctrine (that is, "the translation into ideological
terms, and with universal pretension, of the interests of a collection
of economic forces, in particular those of international capital."
Ignacio Ramonet. Un mundo sin rumbo. Crisis de fin de siglo. Editorial
Debate. Madrid), the end of history, the omnipresence and omnipotence
of money, the rationalization of social inequality, the justification
of over-exploitation of human beings and natural resources, racism,
In an age marked by two new paradigms, communication and market,
the intellectual of the right (and formerly of the left) understands
that being "modern" means upholding the slogan: adapt
or lose your privileged positions!
He does not even have to be original. The intellectual of the right
already has the quarry where he will have to chip away at the stones
which adorn fragmented globalization: the single doctrine. The sterility
does not matter much, the single doctrine has its primary "sources"
in the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, the Organization
for Trade and Economic Development, the World Trade Organization,
the European Commission, the Bundesbank, the Bank of France, "which,
through its financing, recruits throughout the world numerous research
centers, universities and foundations to the service of its ideas,
which, in their turn, shape and disseminate the glad tidings."
(Ignacio Ramonet, op. cit., p. 11).
With such an abundance of resources it is easy for elites to flourish
which "for years now, have been deeply engaged in singing the
praises of the 'single doctrine'; which exert serious blackmail
against all critical reflection in the name of 'modernization',
of 'realism,' of 'responsibility' and of 'reason'; which affirm
the 'inevitable nature' of the current evolution of things; which
preach intellectual capitulation and cast into the darkness of the
irrational all those who refuse to accept that 'the natural state
of society is the market'. " (ibid., p. 114)
Far removed from reflection, from critical thought, the intellectuals
of the right have become pragmatics par excellence. They have banished
the intellectual function, and they have transformed themselves
into echoes, more or less stylized, of the advertising spots which
inundate the mega-market of fragmented globalization.
Retrofitted in the fragmented globalization, the intellectuals of
the right have changed their nature and acquired new "virtues"
(oxymoron reappears among them): an audacious cowardice and a profound
banality. Both shine through in their "analyses" of the
globalized present and in their contradictions, their revisits to
the historic past, their clairvoyance. They can have the satisfaction
of audacious cowardice and of profound banality, given that the
almost absolute universal hegemony of money protects them with towers
of armored glass. That is why the intellectual right is particularly
sectarian and has, in addition, the backing of not a few media and
governments. Entrance into those high intellectual towers is not
easy. One must renounce critical and self-critical imagination,
intelligence, arguments, reflection, and opt for the new theology,
the neoliberal theology.
Given that globalization is being sold as the best of all possible
worlds - but it lacks concrete examples of its advantages for humanity
- it must resort to theology and replace its lack of arguments with
dogmas and faith. The role of the neoliberal theologians includes
that of pointing out and persecuting the "heretics", the
"messengers of bad", that is, the intellectuals of the
left. And what better way of fighting the critics than by accusing
them of being "messianic."
In response to the intellectual of the left, the one of the right
imposes the categorical label of "the outdated messianic".
Who can question a present which is full of freedoms, where anyone
can decide what to buy, whether it be basic goods, ideologies, political
proposals or behaviors for any occasion?
But paradox does not forgive. If the messianic is on any side, it
is on the side of the intellectual right. "The Great Circle
of Chemically Pure or Repentant Formerly Marxist Neoliberal Intellectuals,
or the Trilateral, can be messianic when they prefigure the destiny
of a universe based on the single truth, the single market and the
single gendarme army safeguarding the flash bulb which accompanies
the final photograph of History, pressed against the best landscapes
of the best open societies." (Manuel Va'zquez Montalba'n, op.
cit., p. 47).
The final photo. Or the climactic scene of the film of fragmented
IV. The Blind Clairvoyants
Paraphrasing Re'gis Debray (Croire, Voir, Faire. Ed. Odile Jacob.
Paris, 1999), the problem here is not why or how globalization is
inevitable, but rather why and how the entire world, or most of
it, agrees that it is inevitable. A possible answer: "The technology
of making-believing [...]. The power of informationInf-forming:
giving form, formatting. Con-form: giving conformity. Trans-forming:
changing a situation" (ibid., p. 193).
Along with the globalization of the economy, culture is also being
globalized. And information. That is why the great communications
companies "cast" their electronic nets over the entire
world, without anything or anyone preventing them. "Not Ted
Turner, of CNN; not Rupert Murdoch, of News Corporation Limited;
not Bill Gates, of Microsoft; not Jeffrey Vinik, of Fidelity Investments;
not Larry Rong, of China Trust and International Investment; not
Robert Allen, of AT&T, nor George Soros nor dozens of other
new masters of the world, have ever submitted their projects to
universal suffrage" (Ignacio Ramonet, op. cit., p. 109).
In fragmented globalization, societies are fundamentally media societies.
Media is the great mirror, not of what a society is, but of what
it should appear to be. Full of tautologies and obviousness, media
society is short on reason and arguments. Here, repeating is demonstrating.
And what is repeated are images, like those grays the globalized
screen is showing us now. Debray tells us: "The equation of
the visual era is something like: the visible the real the true.
This is idolatry revisited (and, indubitably, redefined)."
(Re'gis Debray, op. cit., p. 200). And the intellectuals of the
right have learned the lesson well. It is even one of the dogmas
of their theology.
Where was the leap made which equated the visible with the true?
Tricks of the globalized screen.
The entire world, or, more accurately, of all knowledge, is now
in the hands of anyone with a television or a portable computer.
Yes, but not just any world and not just any knowledge. Debray explains
that the center of gravity of information has been displaced from
the written to the visual, from the recorded to the direct, from
the sign to the image. The advantages for the intellectuals of the
right (and the disadvantages for the progressives) are obvious.
Analyzing the behavior of information in France during the Gulf
War, the power of the media is revealed: at the beginning of the
conflict, 70% of the French expressed hostility to the war. At the
end, the same percentage supported it. Under the battering of the
media, French public opinion "did an about-face" and the
government obtained their blessing for its participation in the
We are in the "visual era." Information is thus presented
to us in the obviousness of its immediacy, therefore what they show
us is real, therefore what we see is true. There is no place for
critical intellectual reflection. At best there is space for commentators
who "complete" the reading of the image. The visual is
not made, in this era, in or der to be seen, but rather to impart
"knowledge." The world has become a mere multimedia representation,
which suppresses the external world, able to be known to the same
degree that it is seen. Yes, the beginning of the third millennium,
the 21st century, and the resilient philosophy in our "modern"
world is absolute idealism.
Some conclusions can now be drawn: the new intellectual of the right
has to carry out his legitimizing function in the visual era; opt
for the direct and immediate; move from sign to image and from reflection
to television commentary. He does not even have to make an effort
to legitimize a totalitarian, brutal, genocidal, racist, intolerant
and exclusionary system. The world which is the object of his "intellectual
function" is the one offered by the media: a virtual representation.
If the Nation-State is redefined in the hyper-market of globalization
as one more business, and those who govern as sales managers, and
armies and police forces as security bodies, then the arena of Public
Relations belongs to the intellectual right.
In other words, in globalization, intellectuals are "multipurpose":
gravediggers for critical analysis and reflection, jugglers with
the millstones of neoliberal theology, prompters for governments
who forget the "script," commentators of the obvious,
cheerleaders for soldiers and police officers, Gnostic judges who
hand out labels of "true" or "false" at their
convenience, theoretical bodyguards for the Prince and announcers
of the "new history."
V. The Past Future
"Burning books and building fortifications are the common tasks
of princes," said Jorge Luis Borges. And he adds that every
Prince wants history to begin with him. In the era of fragmented
globalization, they are not burning books (although they are indeed
building fortifications), rather they are replacing them. Even so,
in addition to replacing history prior to globalization, the neoliberal
Prince is instructing his intellectuals to remake it so that the
present will be the culmination of times.
"The Make-up Artists of History," so Luis Herna'ndez Navarro
titled an article dedicated to the debate with the intellectuals
of the right of Mexico (Ojarasca in La Jornada, April 10, 2000).
In addition to leading to the present text (written out of a desire
to follow up on his ideas), Herna'ndez Navarro warned about a new
offensive: the new intellectual right is aiming its artillery at
representative figures of progressive Mexican intellectuals. "Latecomers
to the profit taking of the planetary bonanza of the 'single doctrine',
renouncing their identity, heirs to the writings about the fall
of the Berlin wall, pals and emulators of the US conservative cultural
circuit, this right is convinced that cultural criticism grants
them sufficient credentials to deliver, without argument, summary
judgments concerning their adversaries in the political terrain."
The non-ideological reasons for this attack can be found in the
fight for credibility. In Mexico, intellectuals of the left have
a great influence in the culture and the university. They are in
the way, that is their crime.
No, it is, more accurately, one of their crimes. Another is these
progressive intellectuals' support for the zapatista struggle for
a just and dignified peace, for the recognition of the rights of
the Indian peoples, and for an end to the war against the indigenous
of the country. This "sin" is not minor. "The zapatista
uprising inaugurated a new stage, that of the eruption of indigenous
movements as actors in the opposition to neoliberal globalization."
(Yvon Le Bot. "Los indi'genas contra el neoliberalismo",
in La Jornada, March 6, 2000). We are not the best, nor the only
ones: there are the indigenous of Ecuador and of Chile, the protests
in Seattle and Washington (and those which shall follow in time,
not in importance). But we are one of the images which distort the
mega-screen of fragmented globalization, and, as a social and historic
phenomenon, we demand reflection and critical analysis.
And reflection and critical analysis are not in the intellectual
right's "arsenal." How can they sing the glories of the
new world order (and its imposition in Mexico) if a group of "pre-modern"
indigenous are not only defying the powers, but gaining the sympathy
of an important group of intellectuals? Consequently, the Prince
dictates his orders: attack them, I'll put in the army and the media,
you put in the ideas. And so the new intellectual right devotes,
by turns, jokes and slander to the left. They dedicate to the zapatista
indigenous rebelsa new history.
But let us return to Mexico. "Throughout this century, intellectuals
in Mexico have played various roles: luxurious courtesans of the
acting powers, dissident voices (who are called, in order to institutionalize
them, "Critical Consciences"), privileged interpreters
of history and of society, entertainment in themselves." (Carlos
Monsiva'is. "Intelectuales mexicanos de fin de siglo",
Viento del Sur 8, 1996, p. 43).
The last great intellectual of the right in Mexico, Octavio Paz,
conscientiously carried out the work entrusted to him by the Prince.
He wasted no words in discrediting the zapatistas and those who
demonstrated sympathy with their cause (not for the form of their
struggle). One of the best examples of Paz in the service of the
Prince is in his writings and statements in early 1994. There Octavio
Paz defined, not the EZLN, but the arguments his intellectual "soldiers"
should expand upon: Maoism, the messianic, fundamentalism and some
other "isms" which I cannot remember at the moment. Paz
did not skimp on accusations about progressive intellectuals: they
were responsible for the "climate of violence" which marked
the year of 1994 (and all the years of modern Mexico, but the intellectual
right has never been known for its historic memory), specifically,
the assassination of the official candidate for the presidency of
the Republic, Colosio. Years later, before he died, Paz recanted
and noted that the system was in crisis and that those incidents
would have taken place in any event, even without the zapatista
uprising (see: Braulio Peralta, op. cit.).
None of Paz' current heirs has his stature, although many are ambitious
to occupy his place. Not as an intellectual, because they lack intelligence
and brilliance, but for the privileged position he occupied beside
the Prince. Nonetheless, they fight. And they continue in their
endeavor to concoct a history of zapatismo which is comfortable
for them, not just in order to attack it, but, above all, in order
to avoid serious and responsible critical analysis and reflection.
But the intellectuals of the right are not just rewriting the history
of zapatismo and of the Indian peoples. They are reworking the entire
history of Mexico in order to demonstrate that we are, now, in the
best of all possible Mexicos. And so the dwarves of the intellectual
right revisit the past and sell us a new image of Porfirio Di'az,
of Santa Anna, of Calleja, of Ca'rdenas.
And this eagerness to remodel history is not exclusive to Mexico.
On the screen of globalization they are already offering us a new
version in which the nazi Holocaust against the Jews is a kind of
selective Disneyland, Adolf Hitler is a kind of happy Mickey Mouse,
and, closer in time, the Persian Gulf and the Kosovo wars were "humanitarian."
In the past future which the intellectual right is preparing for
us, globalization is the deus ex machina which is operating above
the world in order to prepare its own advent.
But those gray images being presented to us now on the mega-screen
of globalization...what arrival are they announcing?
VI. The Fascist Liberal
I say that we have already seen this film before and, if we do not
remember it, it is because history is not an attractive article
in the globalized market. Those grays could mean something: the
reappearance of fascism.
Paranoia? Umberto Eco, in a text called "Eternal Fascism"
(op. cit.) presents some keys for understanding that fascism remains
latent in modern society, and, even though it is unlikely that the
nazi extermination camps will be repeated, what he calls "Ur
Fascism" is lying in wait from one end of the planet to the
other. After warning us that fascism was a "fuzzy" totalitarianism,
that is, dispersed, diffused, throughout all of society, he posits
some of its characteristics: rejection of the progress of knowledge;
irrationality; a culture suspicious of fomenting critical attitudes;
disagreement with the hegemonic is treason; fear of the different
and racism; a surge in individual or social frustration; xenophobia;
enemies are simultaneously too strong and too weak; life is a permanent
war; aristocratic elitism; individual sacrifice for the benefit
of the cause; machismo; qualitative populism disseminated by television;
"new language" (characterized by poor vocabulary and basic
All of these characteristics can be found in the values which the
media and the intellectuals of the right are defending and disseminating
in the visual era, in the era of fragmented globalization. "Are
they not perhaps today, almost like yesterday, utilizing democratic
exhaustion, the nausea in the face of the nothing, confusion in
the face of disorder, as a guarantor of a new historic situation
of exception which requires a new persuasive authoritarianism, unifier
of the citizenry in the form of clients and consumers of a system,
a market, a centralized repression?" (M. Va'zquez Montalba'n,
op. cit., p. 76).
Look at the mega-screen, all those grays are the response to disorder.
It is what is necessary in order to confront those who refuse to
enjoy the virtual world of globalization and who resist. And, nonetheless,
it would appear that the number of dissidents is increasing. One
of the dwarves who aspires to occupy Octavio Paz' vacant seat stated,
terrified, that, in a survey taken in Mexico by the Institute for
Social Research of the UNAM, in 1994, 29% of those interviewed responded
that laws should not be obeyed if they are unjust. In November of
1999, in the magazine Education 2001, 49% answered yes to the question:
"Can people disobey laws if they seem unjust to them?"
After recognizing that it is necessary to resolve problems of economic
growth, education, employment and health, it noted: "All these
things can only be achieved if society is situated on a more basic
level, that of public security and the carrying out of the law.
That level is full of holes in Mexico and it is tending to worsen."
(He'ctor Aguilar Cami'n. "Laws and Crimes", in "Esquina",
Proceso, 1225, April 23, 2000). The reasoning is revealing: for
a lack of legitimacy and consensus, the police.
The cry of the intellectual right demanding "order and legality"
is not exclusive to Mexico. In France, the fascist Le Pen is ready
to respond to the call. In Austria, the neo-nazi Heider is already
set, as is Francoist Aznar in Spain. In Italy, Berlusconi (alias
the "Multimedia Duce") and Gianfranco Fini are preparing
for the moment.
Europe looking over the balcony of Fascism once again? A bad dream...and
far-off. But there are the images on the mega-screen. Those "skin-heads"
who are displaying their clubs on that corner: are they in Germany,
in England, in Holland? "They are minority groups and they
are under control" the audio from the mega-screen reassures
us. But it would appear that the new fascism does not always come
with a bald head, nor is its body decorated with tattooed swastikas,
and even so it is still a rightist left.
When I say "rightist left" you might think I am playing
with words and just resorting to oxymorons once more, but I am trying
to call your attention to something. After the fall of the Berlin
Wall, the European political spectrum, for the most part, rushed
to the center. This is obvious in the traditional European left,
but it also took place in the rightist parties (see: Emiliano Fruta,
"The New European Right" and Herna'n R. Moheno, "Beyond
the Old Left and the New Right", in Urbi et Orbi. Itam, April
2000). Wearing a modern face, the fascist right is beginning to
conquer territories that now go way beyond the police news in the
media. It has been possible because they are taking great efforts
to build a new image, removed from the violent and authoritarian
Also because they have appropriated the neoliberal theology with
an astonishing facility (there must be some reason) and because
they have gone on at great lengths about the issues of public safety
and employment (warning against the "threat" of immigrants)
in their election campaigns. Is this any different from the proposals
of the social democrats or of the traditional left?
Fascism lies in wait behind the "third way," and also
behind the left which does not define itself (in theory and in practice)
against neoliberalism. The right can sometimes clothe itself in
the rags of the left. In Mexico, during the recent television debate
between the 6 presidential candidates, the candidate who received
the blessing of the intellectual right was Gilberto Rinco'n Gallardo,
of the apparently leftist Democratic Social Party. The television
did not show that some of the PDS' activists and candidates in Chiapas
are the leaders of various paramilitary groups, responsible, among
other things, for the Acteal massacre.
It is not surprising that the fascist right and the new intellectual
right are ready to demonstrate their "skills" to the gentlemen
of money. What is disconcerting is that, sometimes, it is the social
democrats or the institutional left which are preparing the path.
If Felipe Gonza'lez (that politician who is so applauded by the
intellectual right) in Spain worked for the victory of Jose' Mari'a
Aznar's rightist Popular Party, in Italy the highway by which the
right drove themselves to power was called Massimo D'Alema. Before
resigning, D'Alema did everything necessary to ensure the failure
of the left. "D'Alema and his cohorts financed religious education
with everyone's money, and they prepared the privatization of public
[education], they fully participated in NATO's adventure against
Yugoslavia and in the virtual occupation of Albania, they privatized
what they could, they attacked retired persons, they suppressed
immigrants, they submitted to Washington, they "refloated"
the corrupt and Bettino Craxi himself, lining up at his residence
in exile, where he is a fugitive from justice, in order to ask him
for help, they made a law concerning the carabineros dictated by
the coup command themselves..." (Guillermo Almeyra. "La
izquierda de la derecha" in La Jornada, April 23, 2000). The
results? A large part of the leftist electorate abstained from voting.
In the complicated European political geometry, the so-called "third
way" has not only been lethal for the left, it has also served
as the launching pad for neo-fascism.
Perhaps I am exaggerating, but "memory is a strange faculty.
The more sharp and isolated the stimulus the memory receives, the
more is remembered. When it takes in more, it remembers with less
intensity." (John Berger, op. cit., p. 234), and I suspect
that this avalanche of gray images on the screen is so that we remember
with less intensity, lazily, wanting to forget.
And, if the books do not lie, it was Italian fascism which was so
attractive to many liberal European leaders, because they believed
it was carrying out interesting social reforms and it could be an
alternative to the "Communist threat." (See: U. Eco, op.
In August of 1997, Fausto Bertinotti (secretary of the Italian Party
of Communist Rebuilding) wrote in a letter to the EZLN: "A
true crisis of civilization has erupted in Europe. Hundreds and
thousands of episodes of daily barbarism could, unfortunately, be
told, of gratuitous violence, of attacks on people, on the body,
of the trafficking in people, in bodies, in organs, senselessly.
And above everything, a thick layer of indifference, as if life
had lost meaning. I could tell you of things which happen in the
urban periphery, reality and metaphor of the human tragedy which
this new cycle of capitalist development has become."
In response to this life without meaning, the fascist liberal offers
his friendly and argumentative face, making special reference to
his good points, resorting to legalized institutional violence.
The horizon is auguring a storm, and the intellectual right is trying
to calm us down, presenting it as an unimportant shower. Everything
in order to ensure the bread, the salt...and the place next to the
Prince. Protect him! It does not matter that his shirt is gray and
that the serpent's egg is being cultivated in the warmth of his
"The serpent's egg." If I remember correctly, it is the
title of a film by Bergman which describes the environment in which
fascism developed. And what do we do? Do we continue sitting down
until the film ends? Yes? No? Just a minute! Look at the other spectators!
Many of them have gotten out of their seats and are forming small
groups! The murmurs are growing! Some of them are throwing objects
at the screen and booing! And look at those others! Instead of heading
towards the screen, they are going up! As if they are looking for
the film projector! It looks as if they have found it, because they
are insistently pointing at a corner up there! Who are those people,
and what right do they have to interrupt the film? One of them is
holding up a placard which says: "Let us, common citizens,
then take up the word and the initiative. With the same vehemence
and the same force with which we claim our rights, let us also claim
the right to our rights." (Jose' Saramago, Speeches From Stockholm.
Ed. Alfaguara). The right of our rights? Someone needs to explain
because we don't understand anything! Silence! Someone is speaking
VII. Skeptical Hope
Progressive intellectuals. Those of skeptical hope. The French sociologist
Alain Touraine proposes a classification for them (Comment sortir
du libe'ralisme? Ed. Fayard. Paris, 1999): the most classic is that
of the intellectual who denounces, where all attention is concentrated
on criticizing the dominant system. The second type of intellectuals
are identified with a particular struggle or a particular opposition
force, and they become their organic intellectuals. The third believes
in the existence, the conscience and the efficacy of the actors,
while at the same time knowing their limits. The fourth are utopians,
they identify with new cultural tendencies, of society or of personal
existence. All of them (men and women, because being intellectual
is not a masculine privilege) engage their efforts in understanding,
critically, society, its history and its present, and they try to
unravel the unknown of its future.
Progressive thinkers do not have it at all easy. They have realized
that anything goes in their intellectual function and, noblesse
oblige, they must reveal it, exhibit it, denounce it, communicate
it. But in order to do that they must confront the neoliberal theology
of the intellectual right, and behind them are the media, the banks,
the large corporations, the States (or what is left of them), the
governments. The army, the police.
And they must do so, in addition, in the visual era. Here they are
at an outright disadvantage, because they have to take into account
the great difficulties involved in confronting the power of the
image with the sole resource of the word. But their skepticism in
the face of the obvious has allowed them to already discover the
trap. And, with the same skepticism, they arm their critical analyses
in order to dismantle, conceptually, the machinery of the virtual
beauties and the real miseries. Is there hope?
Making the word a scalpel and megaphone is already an enormous challenge.
And not just because image is king in this age. Also because the
despotism of the visual era confines the word to the brothels and
the tricks and joke stores. "Even so, we can only confess our
confusion and impotence, our anger and our opinions, with words.
With words we name our losses and our resistance because we have
no other recourse, because men are invariably open to the word,
and because, little by little, it is they which mold our judgment.
Our judgment, often feared by those who hold power, is molded slowly,
like the source of a river, through the current of words. But words
only produce currents when they are profoundly credible." (John
Berger, op. cit., p. 255)
Credibility. Something which the intellectual right is lacking in
and which, fortunately, abounds among progressive intellectuals.
Their words have produced, and are producing, in many people, first
a smile, and then unease. In order for this unease not to be crushed
by the conformity prescribed by the visual era, many things are
necessary which are outside the scope of intellectual work.
But, even when the word has been made torrent, the intellectual
function does not end. The movements of social resistance or protest
against the power (in this case against globalization and neoliberalism)
must still travel a long path, not, we would say, in order to achieve
their ends, but in order to consolidate themselves as an organizing
alternative for others. "Finally, the particular responsibility
of intellectuals must be recognized. It is dependent on them, more
than on any other category, whether protest is exhausted in denouncing
without perspective, or, on the other hand, it leads to the creation
of new social actors and, indirectly, to new economic and social
policies." (Alain Touraine, op. cit., p. 15)
The progressive intellectual is constantly torn between Narcissus
and Prometheus. Sometimes the image in the mirror traps him, and
the inexorable path of transmutation into one more employee of the
neoliberal mega-market begins. But sometimes the mirror breaks,
and he discovers not only the reality behind the reflection, but
also others who are not like him but who have, like him, broken
their respective mirrors.
The transformation of a reality is not the task of one single actor,
no matter how strong, intelligent, creative and visionary he might
be. Not just the political and social actors, not just the intellectuals,
can bring this transformation to a good end. It is a collective
work. And not just in action, but also in the analysis of that reality,
and in the decisions concerning the directions and emphasis of the
They say that Miguel A'ngel Buonarroti made his "David"
with serious material limitations. "The piece of marble on
which Miguel Angel worked was one which someone else had already
begun work on, and it already had holes. The sculptor's talent consisted
in making a figure which was adapted to those insuperable and so
restrictive limits, and, from thence, the posture, the inclination,
of the final piece." (Pablo Ferna'ndez Christlieb, La afectividad
colectiva. Ed. Taurus, 2000, pp. 164-165).
In the same way, the world we wish to transform has already been
worked before by history, and it has many holes. We must find the
talent necessary in order, within those limits, to transform it
and to make a simple and straightforward figure: a new world.
Vale de nuez. Salud and don't forget that ideas are also chisels.
From the Mountains of the Mexican Southeast
Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos
- May 2000. -
Reden und Texte von Subcomandante Marcos
Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional
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