The Necessary Utopia

by Raúl Romero

We live in times of anguish and anxiety. Wherever one looks, uncertainty is a protagonist. The majority of humanity does not see the storm going through. Not all of humanity, there are exceptions, those for whom the pandemic is a ring on their finger: shareholders of pharmaceutical industries, telecommunications, and others that enrich themselves from the tragedy.

The virus SARS-CoV-2 has not only highlighted social inequalities, but has exacerbated them. Millions of people have had their incomes, their levels of education, their emotional and physical health affected. Nor are the effects equal for everyone; the colonized, looted, and impoverished communities, nations and regions bear the brunt of it. The pandemic and its many consequences, just as the measures that were adopted by the financial centers to confront it, continue developing the underdevelopment of our peoples. In capitalism the salvation and the development of some means the underdevelopment and damnation of the majority.

The scenario is made worse when the adversaries of freedom and democracy reappear, today calling for curfews, punitive measures and iron fists to make the people understand. Though it may seem adverse, this authoritarian spirit finds allies in denialist or anti vaccine beliefs, or in businessmen and politicians calling for disregarding [the preventive] measures in favor of the market.

In Mexico, the pandemic of Covid-19 became entangled with other problems: organized crime, femicides, forced disappearances, poverty, assassinations of journalists and defenders of territory. In addition, the continuation of the militarization, the extractivism, and the pacts of impunity that mark the current administration make the landscape more complicated.

The multidimensional crisis becomes more acute, and its ethical and moral dimension emerges more and more. The loss of meaning, of horizon, and of hope is fertile ground for the worst monsters. 

What do we do? Where do we go from here?

In The Crisis of the Utopias, Victor Flores Olea posed the need for utopia, of rebuilding the principle of hope. He identified in the  Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), in anti-capitalist political parties, and in the social movements following Porto Alegre ideas and practices that contributed to building a possible new world. 

In the movements, peoples and organizations in resistance there are prefigurative practices that put the world that we do want on the horizon. They are not improvisation, many of these experiences are the result of theory and practice, of imagination, of trial and error.

A quick reading of some of these real utopias, exposes a scaffolding of practices and concepts that we could well take up again. Namely, they are spoken and constructed, from or toward autonomy or the communal, where the common good is at the center of the organization of life and work. 

In the face of this emergency of Covid-19, practices and reflections about preventive, holistic community health, the work of care and the care of life, of the common home and the common goods, as well as personal and collective self-care are gaining great visibility. 

As alternatives to capitalist development, these movements place self-determination, food sovereignty, the recuperation of lands, agroecology, the milpa, bee-keeping, alternative currencies, subsistence, cooperatives, solidarity economies, fair trade, eco-technologies, open-source software, barter, exchange of knowledge, crafts and services, alternative markets, collective work, sharing of tequio1and labor.

Faced with the problems of violence that criminal capitalism has deployed in our territories, different movements placed at the center of debate concepts that define the problem: the struggles of women for the recognition of the crime of femicides, or the demands of family members of disappeared people to recognize the crime and enforce searches in life. Also, the movements of those aggrieved by the violence have gathered search brigades for people, or have built anti-monuments and shelters, or have carried out popular trials and commemorations, practices that materialize solidarity and memory.

To these movements others are added which in rural areas were organized to take charge of security and justice, and that even propose the replacement of the punitive by reeducation. 

At the center of this “another world is possible,” the assembly and democracy is found, fundamental pillars of another politics where the principles, the consensus or agreement, and the rotation and accountability can be a guarantee that ruling by obeying is real and not a slogan. 

Many practices escape here,  for example, liberatory pedagogy, or those pushing for gender diversity. To practice them and combine them with other experiences of the past and present, that help us to emerge from the barbarism and orient ourselves toward a world with democracy, liberty, dignity, social justice, sciences and arts, will help us to reconstruct the utopia, to build the world that we DO want. 

* Sociologist

This article was originally published in Spanish in La Jornada on January 17th, 2020. This English interpretation has been re-published by Schools for Chiapas.

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  1. A practice of mutual aid, common in the countryside, in which the community comes together to bear the burden of an individual or family.
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