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Instead of focusing on the destruction of capitalism, we concentrate on building something else.


Cracks break with the logic of capitalist society. To that logic, we oppose a different way of doing things … We want to break the system, the social cohesion that holds us in place and obliges us to act in certain ways.

Dignity is a cutting edge shearing through the tight, tough, compact weave of capitalist domination. Dignity is an icebreaker, its sharp bows cutting into an enormous mass of compacted ice, the apparently unbreakable horror that we call capitalism. Dignity is a pickax wielded against the encroaching walls that threaten to crush the whole of humanity. Dignity is a blade hacking at the strands of the spider’s web that holds us entrapped.

The weapon of dignity is otherness, other-living, other-doing. The otherness of dignity is a weapon, an otherness-against, a misfitting directed (explicitly or not) against what we do not fit into: a world of exploitation and destruction.

The spaces and moments we have called cracks are often described as autonomous spaces, or spaces of exodus or escape. We have tended to avoid these terms here simply because they draw attention away from the crucial issue: the conflict between these space-moments and the world that surrounds them. It is important to sing the glories of the worlds that are being created, the new social relations and the new ways of doing things. But we cannot go very far without talking of the clash with the world these dignities are opposed to. There is a constant antagonism, a constant pressure to make the otherness yield to the enormous cohesive force of the society that surrounds us. The spaces are not autonomous, though they aspire to be. They are rather cracks, the sharp ends of a social conflict.

Dignity is an attack on capitalism, but not necessarily a confrontation. To confront capital is to allow it to set the agenda. Dignity consists in setting our own agenda: This is what we shall do, irrespective of capital. If capital chooses to repress us, to co-opt us, to imitate us, so be it, but let it be clear that we lead the dance. This certainly does not mean, cannot mean, that we cease to struggle against capitalism, but that as far as possible we take the initiative, we set the agenda, we make it clear that it is capitalism struggling against us, against our lives, our projects, our humanity.

Dignity is to refuse-and-create: to refuse to serve capitalism; and to create a new world. In an article on the movement in Oaxaca, Gustavo Esteva comments, “Thousands, millions of people assume now that the time has come to walk our own path. As the Zapatistas say, to change the world is very difficult, if not impossible. A more pragmatic attitude demands the construction of a new world. That’s what we are now trying to do, as if we had already won.” Building a new world does of course mean changing the existing one, but the shift in emphasis is crucial: Instead of focusing our attention on the destruction of capitalism, we concentrate on building something else. This is an inversion of the traditional revolutionary perspective that puts the destruction of capitalism first and the construction of the new society second.

To make a new world means to cut the web that binds us into the cohering force of capitalist society, so that we can create something different.

Should we continue challenging the status quo or simply abandon it and start fresh? How do we go about create a new way of being? Leave your comments for what we (and everyone) could do during this November’s Carnivalesque Rebellion November 22–28.

John Holloway is the author of Change the World Without Taking Power, a book about the Zapatista movement. His most recent book is Crack Capitalism, Pluto Press.

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