Philosophers at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) have drafted a petition repudiating the latest policies and threats of continued aggression against the people of Mexico coming from euro-america. Petitioning is a good way to educate people, engage a population on political terms, set the stage for continued political action, and rally and showcase moral sentiment to society at large, each along a political/social issue. In an imperialist country like the united states, petitioning can be an effective way to carry out these activities in favor of useful partial gains that can be won short of overthrowing the whole system -which is necessary to achieve broad democracy and global justice. This petition on the part of philosophers at UNAM can serve as a way for philosophers working in imperialist institutions in the united states to show internationalist solidarity with the people of Mexico, a useful partial goal in the struggle to overcome the first-world chauvinism that is typical of bourgeois philosophy. But there are some important things to clarify from the petition about the relationship of the united states to the people of Mexico and the Indigenous, Xicanx, and Mexican people living in occupied Aztlán (the southwestern united states) ―things that fail to feature in the text of the petition, which assumes a passive stance in relation to the political core of the issues surrounding this and historical euro-american aggression against Mexico. I’ll be going over these things below. And, because petitioning is an important political tool that can serve to advance the critique of bourgeois philosophy I’ll also make a few comments about balancing political appeal in a hostile context with staying true to the realities of imperialism.
What is the petition about?
The figurehead of the fascist wing of euro-american imperialism, Donald Trump, which euro-americans elected to lead the executive branch of government, has recently threatened a military incursion into Mexico under the pretext of fighting unspecified “bad hombres”. This aggression is also on top of the proposed fortification of the already existing border wall and militarized border region that has claimed the lives of thousands of Mexican and Latin American migrants in recent history, and the executive order that reclassifies people who are lawful, permanent residents of the united states as “removable aliens” that can be forcibly removed for minor infractions of law and bureaucratic SNAFUs. The petition is for philosophers working in euro-america’s bourgeois academic institutions who break with the intention and goals of these policies.
Who are the “Bad Hombres”?
The “bad hombres” are presumably drug traffickers ―which, as was recently re-iterated by a Mexican official in the northern state of Chihuahua ―the united states really has no interest in fighting, since it is a major driver of social instability and terror, ripe for euro-american imperialist intervention in Latin America under a “humanitarian” pretext.
But the so-called “bad hombres” are also ordinary Mexicans fleeing to the united states because of semi-feudal domestic conditions created by the ruling classes of Mexico through neoliberal economic and social policies serving the interest of foreign imperialists and rank-and-file people in the first world. It is these ordinary Mexicans that Donald Trump referred to as “bad hombres” during the final presidential debate prior to the November election, and which the euro-american government now threatens with deportation. Up to 8 million people in the euro-american nation state face forced relocation under euro-america’s latest attack on the people of Mexico and Latin America. This is an extension of Barack Obama’s policy towards recent immigrants, which resulted in the deportation of 2 million people, the greatest number of forcibly relocated people from Latin America in the history of the euro-american nation state.
What is the Relationship between the united states, Mexico, and Aztlán?
The authors of the petition are correct: these attacks on the people of Mexico and threatened military intervention are profoundly disrespectful and should be repudiated. But they are also nothing new. And it’s the imperialist, neo-colonial relationship between the united states and Mexico that provides the context for understanding this latest instance of euro-american aggression. The euro-american nation state, the “United States of America”, is a settler-colonial imperialist country, carrying on a legacy of genocide, slavery, and land theft under the leadership of the bourgeois classes of the euro-american nation.
The southwestern united states, Aztlán, formerly Mexican national territory, is a land stolen through military aggression, justified under false pretext, and currently occupied by euro-american imperialists where the Native people, the Xicanx people of Mexican descent, and recent immigrants from Mexico exist as semi-colonial peoples.
Mexico itself is a former colonial country composed of indigenous and mestizo people, currently led by the mestizo bourgeoisie and the landlord class who have an interest in brokering both domestic and foreign exploitation of the people of Mexico for profit. Like other countries of the Global South, Mexico is a country exploited for labor and resources by euro-american and other imperialist countries. The ruling classes in Mexico who go around in musical-chair-like fashion serving in positions of leadership in the manner of bourgeois democracy, are bottom tier players in a global economic system, described officially in the language of exploitation agreements like the NAFTA, the FTAA, and imperialist front organizations like the WTO, the World Bank and the IMF, that unfairly benefits the first world and the expense of the broad masses of Mexico. Foreign multinational corporations and banks conduct business in Mexico along capitalist lines and collude with a corrupt, subservient government to depress wages, hold back or liquidate domestic businesses and banks, increase the income disparity between the rich and the poor, and raise the price of food staples.
The most impoverished indigenous and mestizo people of Mexico flee these crises of imperialism and risk their lives navigating the militarized border to provide for themselves and their families in the occupied territory of Aztlán. Of course, there, on what is rightfully their native land, they are met by the hospitable boot of euro-american settler racism and vigilante violence. They live as second class human beings, victimized by employers and the ordinary settler population, relegated to the furtive, unstable way of being of those who at any moment can be brutalized by the most fascist elements of euro-american society ―the “justice” system, the police and other repressive agencies, euro-america’s prisons, and border protection.
A Non-Bourgeois Perspective
These realities are omitted in the body of the petition. Because most bourgeois philosophers and academics in the first world are pro-imperialist bourgeois liberals or social democrats, a conciliatory tone can win political appeal from them. Yet, it’s the purpose of the Bourgeois Philosophy project to speak plainly about these issues for those who want to support the people of Mexico without at the same time giving in to the tender mercies of the people in the first-world principally responsible for imperialist crises and aggression in Mexico and occupied Aztlán. In a first-world chauvinist environment hostile to internationalism, like the united states, where even the so-called “left” is for the imperialist exploitation of the global south, it’s important when advocating for a useful partial goal, like this petition does, to balance these two things: (1) Political appeal among the liberal and social-democratic wing of imperialism and (2) Unequivocal internationalist solidarity with the most oppressed people and combating first-world chauvinism as it manifests itself in the economic nationalism of the people of the first-world.
One way that political appeal among social democrats can be achieved is by addressing racism and xenophobia, nominal opposition to which is customary among social democrats. The petition does this, and it appeals to the liberal sensibilities of bourgeois philosophers working in the imperialist academy in the first world, which can occasionally be tactically correct in the struggle against the racist economic nationalism that is natural to settlers in the euro-american nation state. But at the same time it fails to identify the true relationship between euro-americans and the people of Mexico, which would have been a service to those most affected by euro-america’s racist policies. Similarly, the short piece showcasing the petition at the Daily Nous blog seems to oppose the latest protectionist stance coming from the fascist wing of euro-america in the white house, but like the petition itself, the piece fails to connect the racist anti-NAFTA nationalism of the fascist wing of euro-american imperialism to the racist pro-NAFTA globalism of euro-american imperialism’s neoliberal wing, represented by people like Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
In order to achieve balance in advocating for a useful partial goal it’s important to not merely appeal to the social democrats but to challenge them ―the people of Mexico and philosophers in the united states that are sympathetic to our plight must be able to speak truthfully about the relationship between euro-americans, their nation state, and their multinationals to Mexico while we militate against agreements like NAFTA and the FTAA from the standpoint of people from the Global South who have nothing to gain from them. This means not from the standpoint of people who take their ideas about the future and development of Mexico from publications in the service of imperialism like “The Economist”, “Foreign Affairs”, and “The Wall Street Journal”, but from the point of view of people who face inflation, depressed wages, state violence, widening economic inequality, environmental destruction and all the consequences of the stratagems promoted in those publications ―including migration into Aztlán― that keep Mexico at the heel of euro-american and european imperialism.
Simultaneously, we must combat the economic nationalism of the imperialist countries that goes hand in hand with imperialist nation “opposition” to the operations of imperialism through NAFTA, etc. This is because while all people in the imperialist countries benefit from imperialist exploitation agreements like NAFTA and the FTAA, which guarantee low prices on imports and artificially inflate first world wages, imperialist country campaigns against such agreements generally fail to identify the problems these agreements cause for the people of the global south, and instead incite the racist nationalism of settlers and colonists in the first world that advances imperialism’s protectionist preparation for the pursuit of war and other aggressions against the people of the world.
From the point of view of the critique of bourgeois philosophy, the casual absence of precision when it comes to internationalist solidarity only encourages the prejudices of bourgeois liberal people in the first world, and is the ideological equivalent of fanning the flames of racist settler economic protectionism. Bourgeois philosophers and academics in the first world are not only socially isolated from the struggles of the people most affected by the imperialist system that provides the material base for their privileged social being, but are also selfishly unwilling to seriously evaluate themselves and the world around them in non-idealist, non-individualist, non-first-world-chauvinist ways that are critical of the bourgeois liberal ideology of those who benefit from imperialism. In the end, dodging an accurate description of their relationship to the people of Mexico throws those most affected by euro-america’s racist policies under the bus and further nurses the uncritical chauvinism of the people who are principally responsible for imperialist crises and aggression in Mexico and occupied Aztlán. And, because both historically and in the here and now, liberalism colludes with fascism by disorganizing the resistance of the people who have nothing to gain from the fascist way of orchestrating bourgeois society, bolstering the complacency of those in the first world who most need an interruption from their “dogmatic slumber” in this regard is an investment in future capitulation. From the point of view of the critique of bourgeois philosophy, as important as petitioning is to rally and showcase moral sentiment against the latest euro-american attacks on the people of Mexico, this goal is best served by centering the reality of imperialism for those most affected by it, and challenging the bourgeois ideology of its perpetrators.