Pablo González Casanova
Happy 100th birthday, Comandante Pablo Contreras! We commemorate 100 years since the birth of Pablo González Casanova.
Pablo González Casanova
We commemorate 100 years since the birth of Pablo González Casanova, also known as “Comandante Pablo Contreras” of the Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee of the Zapatista National Liberation Army (CCRI-EZLN, for its initials in Castilian).
Subcomandante Galeano pointed out that Pablo Contreras is the only member of the General Command that is not of indigenous origin: a distinction awarded not only by his commitment as a militant in the resistance but by his theoretical contributions to the understanding of what Marxist theory defines as “the national and colonial question.”
For students classified by the hydra’s taxonomy as non-white, Casanova’s materialist analysis of internal colonialism casts a beam of light into the tunnel of orthodox Marxism.
Internal colonialism brought into question a constellation of elements. It inspected the material intercourse of individuals within a definite stage of the productive forces’ development. In this case, pertinent to the past and present population in the colonies.
To commemorate his struggle and oeuvre, taller ahuehuete translated into English –and for the first time, it seems– chapter one (“Possibilities”) of his fundamental 1969 text, “The Sociology of Exploitation”. It will be published shortly.
In this work, Pablo González Casanova seeks to contribute to the understanding of capitalist society’s inherent exploitative relationship by re-examining Marx's foundational analyses.
The Mexican sociologist disputed the dogmatic and deterministic branches of Marxism, for which the capitalist system is heading towards its immediate destruction. Simultaneously, he challenged Abya Yala’s prevalent dependency theory discourse, stating it underestimates the enormous importance of the law of value as an instrument of analysis in the link between capital’s periphery and its core imperial powers.
Most dependency theorists regard global capitalism as the motive force behind dependency relationships. But what is the relationship between dependency theory and Marxism?
The idea of imperialist dependency is suggested in Capital Vol. I (chapters 24 and 25). There, Marx describes the correlation between wealthy and impoverished countries. Nevertheless, several approaches by dependency theorists focus on the needs of competitive capital, and thus, appear to be indirectly supportive of the ruling class. Dependency theory, while overlooking the impact of imperialist penetration, minimized the importance of pre-capitalist social formations, their lessons, and their potential source for answers. Class analysis is often absent as well, due to emphasis on exchange rather than on the mode of production.
The Sociology of Exploitation was published at a time when critical thinkers tended to hypertrophy the category of power as the origin of all maladies, at the expense of exploitation and class struggle. Incidentally, both concepts were highly exaggerated by the rising trend of neoconservative thought as well. Dogmatic Marxism could not respond to this strange coincidence: critical and ideological thinkers agreed while functioning within reactionary and revolutionary fields of study, allegedly seeking opposite paths.
In The Sociology of Exploitation appeared a deployment of mathematical weapons to go beyond dependentismo, towards the law of value, crisis and beyond dialectical epistemology’s demand to maintain the textual purity of class struggle. Yet, the concept provoked an understandable misunderstanding. The reader might anticipate it already.
Curiously, the case of "internal colonialism" as a category was employed in various parts of the world for field research on the subject of decolonization; but it suffered from serious distortions by those who, while embracing it, promoted abstract categories that perpetuated identity politics, all extrapolated from class analysis. Bourgeois intellectual thought found, once again, arguments for the triumph of the individual over the collective.
Only years later would "internal colonialism" be indirectly practiced in the fight for the autonomy of originary nations and cultures, a characteristic that González Casanova often highlighted does not negate class conflict nor the battle against imperialism, but brings both into the same path, since the opposition to capital is multidimensional for the colonized entity in resistance.
The course of history, however, reinstated in theory as much as in practice the urgency to observe, once again, the underlying mechanisms of capitalist exploitation from a materialist standpoint. The critical state of the world begged thinkers to disregard neo-Hegelian and idealist outlooks, and their tendency to place civil society –and the will of a disjointed individual– as the true cast in the theatre of history. A better evaluation was needed: to look away from this absurd conception of history, which neglects the real relationships, and confines itself to high-sounding dramas of princes, priests, and states.
For Casanova, it is a question of revolutionizing the existing world, of attacking and changing the present status quo. His contributions and praxis, critical in nature, are guided by the awareness that the ideas of the ruling class are in every era the ruling ideology. As we recognize, the class ruling society’s modes of production is, at the same time, the dominant intellectual force of such society.
Comandante Pablo Contreras’ voice and struggle contest the notion that things have always been and will always be this way. He defies the bourgeois myth that history follows immutable laws of nature. Pablo González Casanova’s work illustrates the importance of critical thinking –and dignified rage– in the face of the hydra’s rhetoric.