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The View from Mexico

Faceless Enemies

by Adolfo Gilly

There were many thousands, the White House still does not dare say how many, who died in the terrorist attack against the twin towers. They were office workers: not the rich who live in their beautiful neighborhoods, but the employees and workers of the rich, everyday men and women. That is how they appeared in the desolate photos on the streets of the financial district after the attack. Americans or not, their pain is ours today, those of us who live, work and are like them, as it has been before for all civilian victims, the same as them, in all the cities bombarded by the armies of these times.

Killing those who work in Wall Street in cold blood is as stupid and atrocious as it would be to blow up a Ford factory with all its workers in order to punish the business, or to bombard Baghdad in order to punish Saddam Hussein. All terrorism is appalling, as is today’s nameless crime of the twin towers.

But, in order to understand it, it is not helpful to start by looking for the guilty. The first question is not: “Who was it?”, but rather: “Why did this happen?” In cases like this, conspiracy theories do not explain anything. It does not seem sensible, in the current state of things, to imagine a domestic conspiracy of dark forces in the United States. The dimension of the affront against national pride and the magnitude of the humiliation suffered by its government excludes this shaky hypothesis from the very start. The fact that President Bush goes and seeks out safety in a military base in Nebraska, instead of going to New York, where the people were expecting him and calling out for him, is another indication of his confusion (and, incidentally, of the stature of those leaders who were born into wealth and educated on golf courses).

The tragedy of the twin towers, and the suicide attack which knocked down a part of the Pentagon, did not come from a high level conspiracy. They are, on the contrary, a product and an image of the present state of the world. The world policies dictated by international financial power – whose symbol is Wall Street, supported by the Pentagon and administered by the men and women in the White House – have sown human and material disasters throughout the world . They have crushed rights, they have destroyed or dismantled peoples’ organizations, they have imposed the inhuman law of capital in the name of the “markets.” How many times have we heard that this measure is not possible, nor is that policy, because the “markets” will not allow them? And, when we ask who they are, where they are, how we could talk with the “markets”, we are presented with merely an invisible hand, a faceless ghost, nothing, no one: the governments don’t know, the businessmen can’t, the politicians don’t dare, because this is the state of things, and nothing can be done.

Many people, more and more throughout the world, have tried to have some influence on that state of things, to defend the rights of human beings, to have dialogue with those governments and those technicians through whose voices the dictatorship of the “markets” speaks. That dictatorship which provokes famine, wipes out jobs, smashes salaries and destroys social rights everywhere. The last mass attempt was in Genoa. More than 200,000 demonstrators gathered together in peace in order to have their voices heard by the big men of this world. A few hundred desperate people, the Black Block, who were quickly isolated by the demonstrators, resorted to violence. Berlusconi’s police beat, kicked, jailed and mistreated the demonstrators and broke them up, thus leaving the arena free to the violent and desperate, turning them into the symbol of the protest. The demonstrators had faces, and they belonged to organizations. The Black Block were anonymous, violent, faceless. They were not provocateurs (except for a few), they were desperate.

But the big men of the G-8 did not want to confront, nor to engage in dialogue with, organized social forces, which are, by nature, opposed to terrorism. In the same way as the anonymous “markets”, the policies of those big men prefer to confront the violent faceless enemies which the inhuman brutality of their policies engender. Those enemies, real and true, are useful for them for legitimizing their own atrocities against those forces and against those human beings throughout the world – those who are the same in their joys, in their work and in their travail – to those thousands and thousands which faceless terrorism assassinated in the twin towers.

It took a good part of the nineteenth century, and all of the twentieth, to win the rights, the regulations and the laws which protect work in all its forms in many countries. It took two world wars and many revolutions and rebellions to reach the balances expressed in the United Nations and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Those balances are a thing of the past, and the Pentagon had a lot to do with their destruction. They were demolished in almost one fell swoop, like the twin towers. In their place is left this world in ruins and the faceless dictatorship of the markets.

This dictatorship, which does not know or recognize interlocutors, has spawned a faceless enemy as its twin tower: terrorism at unprecedented levels. It, the same as the “markets”, does not recognize borders, nor can it be trapped. It is reborn every day amid the rubble of old pacts and past rights. Organizations destroyed by the “markets” are fighting for justice and right, which are their living environment and their raison d’etre. But, when justice is denied and right is exchanged for private pacts, there is only room for vengeance left. That is terrorism, child and mirror of the “markets”.

The United States government, humiliated, declares itself to be in a state of war. Against whom, why? Does the most powerful government in the world have the right to lose its peace of mind and to cry out for revenge? If those leaders are too blind and deaf to reflect on the state of the world, then it is our job to do so. But not about them and their madness, but about how to go about creating the forms of organization and defense of social and political rights and of freedom from the two faceless enemies: the markets and their spawn: terrorism.

Seven years ago, in the Mexican south, the Zapatista rebellion leveled a warning. They have not wanted to listen to it, they closed paths off to them, they mocked their ability to make politics and their will to preserve rights, peace, life. More than once Marcos told them that, after and beyond them, would come those from society’s cellar, the faceless and nameless storm of the humiliated, the affronted, those who have always been treated like dirt by governments and officials, by the rich and the masters. One more time the Fox government manipulated, lied and mocked agreements and commitments: “No way, if they don’t want to accept what we tell them, that’s their problem, life goes on,” say their officials.

It is this same government which wants, without the least notion of the state of the world, to tie Mexico – as partner and junior ally, confidante and subordinate – to the world power which created that state of things, and which seems willing to drag all of us along in a faceless violence that knows no borders. Good sense and history points to the opposite policy: take care of the country, and keep at a respectful and reasonable distance those who – whether from power or terror – want to replace reason with fury and justice with revenge. CP

Professor Adolfo Gilly is a scholar of Mexican politics at Universidad Nacional Aut?noma de M?xico (UNAM). He has written extensively about the Zapatistas. His recent publications include Chiapas: La Raz?n Ardiente, Ensayo sobre la Rebeli?n del Mundo Encantado (1997) and M?xico, el Poder, el Dinero, y la Sangre (1996). From 1997 to 1999 he served as adviser to Mexico City Mayor Cuauht?moc C?rdenas. He also wrote the introduction for Franz Fanon’s A Dying Colonialism.

This article originally appeared in La Jornada. Translation by Irlandesa.