Return to Sun Tzu

Dora Logo Bahia, Revoluções (calendar design), 2016 Acrylic, water-based pen and watercolor on paper (12 pieces) 23 x 30.5 cm each


Focusing on taking over or occupying the State is the road to failure because it legitimizes the order that one intends to combat.

In periods of systemic storm it is necessary to have a clear and defined strategy. Otherwise, shipwreck is almost inevitable. Perhaps that is why many of us return to knowledge such as that embodied by Sun Tzu, a military man, strategist and philosopher from ancient China, who summarizes his teachings in the book The art of war, who inspired several generations of revolutionaries.

Returning to Sun Tzu in these times is doubly important for those of us who want to defeat capitalism without becoming involved in the horrors of war that characterized the rise of empires and the current world system. And that may be the hallmark of your downfall.

One of his most notable concepts says, “a victorious army wins first and fights later; a defeated army fights first and tries for victory later.”

From the point of view of the communities on the move, and of the indigenous Maya and Nasa peoples in particular, this means, I believe: we won because here we are, we survived the attempts to disappear as peoples. Was this not the aim of the ruling classes since the Conquest? Isn't that the objective of the war against drugs and of enterprises like Trem Maia(1)?

For oppressed peoples, the concept of victory is not military, it is not related to death, but to life. To continue being peoples, to continue building new worlds because, as the statement "A mountain on the high seas" by the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) points out, it is not a question of returning to a supposedly wonderful past, such as the Aztec empire, built at at the expense of the blood of their fellow men.

To continue to be is to continue to resist, it is not going back, but building the new. This is the victory of the Zapatistas, Nasa/Misak, Mapuche, Wampis and many other peoples.

Everything needs to be said: I thought that what the PeñaNietos and Pinochets could not achieve the hard way could be achieved through the development and social policies of the Mujica and Correa (add the names you consider appropriate, in each geography). Error. The peoples are managing to overcome the various forms of management of the current neoliberal extractive model or the fourth world war, as the EZLN calls it.

Sun Tzu's remarkable phrase comes to the fore when we see that some peoples managed to pass, despite the pain and blood, both by the conservative administration and that of the progressive model. Which tells us that the battles they are fighting now are the fruits of their strategic victory.

About the relationship between strategy and tactics, Sun Tzu is attributed a sentence that, according to specialists not in his book, says: “strategy without tactics is the slowest path to victory. Tactics without strategy are noise before defeat.”

In my view, major infrastructure works, such as the brutal Belo Monte dam in Brazil, which destroys the livelihoods of entire peoples; mega-mining across the continent; the Mayan Train itself or the Transistmian Corridor, to name a few examples, are just fireworks to cover up the strategic emptiness of a model that has nothing to offer people but death and destruction.

Peoples on the move who didn't let go co-opt by one or the other, who maintain their autonomy (which is not to say they never make mistakes), who do not bow to bad empire or good, or any government, are those who are in a position to continue their long-term journey. .

They are the ones who can embark on projects of a new type, daring and even dangerous, because they have already won by continuing to exist. Which doesn't mean they can't be attacked and even be the target of genocide. News of this arrives every day from the Colombian Cauca, from Wallmapu, from Chiapas and from all other geographies that resist.

In the midst of this tremendous storm, the strategies of the left and the old movements showed their limitations and limitations. focus on taken or state occupation is, as Immanuel Wallerstein pointed out decades ago, the path to failure because it legitimizes the order that one intends to combat.

We need strategies that are not inverted copies of the above agendas and modes, whether from the right or the left. Resist without reproducing the same political culture. When the Cauca Regional Indigenous Council proclaims that it counts on us for peace, never for war, it points to a new type of policy. They resist by building other worlds.

When the EZLN builds autonomous health, education, justice and power, it is teaching the way of life that people with Mayan roots and sustaining bases traverse, which little by little many others begin to traverse, on all continents, particularly in Latin America .

*Raul Zibechi is a journalist, writer and political theorist.

Translation: Ricardo Kobayaski

Originally published in the newspaper The Journey.


Translator's note

(1) It is a railroad whose project foresees crossing four states, negatively impacting indigenous communities, forest reserves and endangered species in Mexico.

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