A World Without A Hegemonic Power

by Raúl Zibechi

Instead of lamenting or rejoicing over the course of the war in Ukraine, in favor or against one side or the other, I believe we should understand how the changes in the world order are affecting the peoples and popular movements. Geopolitics should be of use to us in defining the modes of action of those at the bottom in the face of the ongoing storms.

A recent article by José Luis Fiori, Brazilian researcher at the Institute for Strategic Studies on Oil, Gas and Biofuels, highlights in an article in IHU Unisinos that the world is moving from an almost absolute unilateralism towards an aggressive oligarchic multilateralism, in a period in which the world will live for some time without a hegemonic power (https://bit.ly/3PwEctf).

This statement seems to me to be as accurate as it is important. For a few decades we will live in a world where no power will be able to unilaterally define the rules and, therefore, we will enter a period of chaos and decomposition of the world-system. The rules will very often be imposed by armed gangs or herds of para-state assassins.

A relatively brief period, in historical terms, of profound convulsions and gigantic storms, as the Zapatista movement has already analyzed. Something similar has happened during the wars of independence, the transition between the Spanish and British hegemonies, or in the first half of the 20th century, with two world wars and multiple revolutions in the Third World, which marked the rise of the United States.

Although things will not be identical now (due to the sum of the climate crisis, nuclear weapons, the rise of non-Western powers and the crisis of capitalism, among others), history can serve as a mirror and inspiration, because the popular sectors of the world were brutally attacked and were unable to make their own projects prevail, when they had them.

Based on the fact that we are entering a world without a hegemonic power, I would like to put forward some ideas on the role that we at the bottom can play in this tumultuous period..

The first point is that we must reject both the old decadent power and those aspiring to replace it. These are wars between empires and ruling classes in which our interests are absent. In the Latin American wars of independence, the native peoples, blacks and mestizos risked their lives so that the Creoles could take power.

Nothing changed for them. Worse still, in many cases the new republics were more brutal than the viceroyalties, as shown by the case of the Mapuche people who suffered dispossession and genocide in the misnamed Pacification of Araucania.

The second is that it is essential to open up the peoples’ own spaces, to implement long-term projects that do not benefit either the old elites or the new emerging ones. If we can not launch our own projects, we will be absorbed by the dominant classes who will use the media propaganda to enlist us in one of their domination projects, as it is happening right now in the face of the invasion of Ukraine.

The third is that no one will defend us, and many are killing us or trying to domesticate us. The existence of multiple violences exercised by all kinds of armed gangs -from drug trafficking to paramilitary and state forces- are the product of a decomposing system, just as the femicides show a wounded and decadent patriarchy, all the more brutal as a result.

For the time being, we must create ways of self-defense for the peoples and social sectors that decide to defend themselves, using the forms that each one considers appropriate. Although we can choose non-violent and peaceful resistance, when it comes to defending life we should be flexible in choosing the ways.

Lastly, in a chaotic world crossed by multiple violences, where famines, wars and catastrophes of all kinds (the fires of this boreal summer are a small sample of what is to come), we can survive if we create collective autonomous coffers capable of navigating in the storms.

Quite a few peoples are already walking this path. From the native peoples and neighborhoods grouped in the Indigenous Council of Government in Mexico, to dozens of Amazonian peoples, Mapuche in Chile and Argentina, Nasa and Misak in Colombia, among others. As has always happened in history, it is in the peripheries where the new is born, where they teach us ways that we can replicate without imitating.

In order to walk the path of the autonomies from below, we must stop looking upwards, stop getting excited about electoral circuses, with the candidates of the system and even with the constituent assemblies, because they deprive us of energy for the most important task, which can pave our collective survival: the construction of multiple and diverse comprehensive autonomies.

This article was published in La Jornada on July 27th, 2022. https://www.jornada.com.mx/notas/2022/07/29/politica/un-mundo-sin-potencia-hegemonica/ English interpretation shared by Chiapas Support Committee Oakland.

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