It’s hard to miss the similarities between the march of Central Americans toward the United States and the workers in Pelizza da Volpedo’s painting The Fourth Estate; and it’s hard not to see in the spectacle of unarmed and hungry masses huddled at the border a manifestation of their belief that the Earth belongs to everyone. It was not just despair that pushed them to leave their own country, but also the demand for the redistribution of the spoils that the lords of globalization had stolen from it.
At the same time, it is difficult not to recognize that the deployment of the army to prevent their entry into the United States is simply the latest version of the cannons that General Bava-Beccaris used in 1898 to disperse and exterminate protesters demanding bread.
This is the American version of the war waged against migrants in the Mediterranean, aimed at either making them drown or forcing them into Libyan camps; of the barriers and rejections they face at land borders; and of their expulsion from reception centers, with every form of protection denied to them. In short, a social conflict—or, if you will, a “class struggle”—has flared up on a planetary scale between those seeking to enter the citadels of prosperity (one which is largely behind us) and the powers-that-be that are trying to reject them—a conflict destined to dominate the course of this century.
This very clear situation is made more confusing by the fact that, in defense of their privileges and powers, the lords of globalization have fielded not only weapons of war, but have also made use of the sovereignist, nationalist mobilization—sometimes fascist, always implicitly racist—of a growing number of their direct subjects: i.e. us, the natives of the countries that the migrants trying to “take the Kingdom of Heaven by force” are aiming to reach.
But the interests of the migrants and the natives are not at all opposed: in different forms and to different extents, both are subjected to the yoke and exploitation by the financial powers that dominate the world. However, just like in the days of colonialism and imperialism (which Lenin called “the highest stage of capitalism”—but was he right?), it is only we, “the natives,” who are the exclusive focus of so many supposedly left-wing forces that claim to be fighting the powers-that-be of the world. For such politicians, migrants are just a hitch, a marginal problem—and, as a result, they become hostages to the same capital that they claim to be fighting.
Today, the social conflict between the powers that rule the Earth and the people on the move who want to take it back is a struggle for hegemony over the “grey area” that is us, the natives. This explains why sovereignisms, nationalisms and fascisms have mobilized stronger than ever on the side of the powers that dominate the globalized world—as the former are not at all the enemies of the latter, but rather their surest support, the only things able to hold back the tide of the people’s demands—and, most importantly, their bodies and their lives—as they come to ask us to share the goods that were stolen from them.
As for us natives, we have handed this hegemony over to the enemy. All the more so when we think that the only thing one has to do to seize it is to put forward proclamations and measures that ignore the general context of the conflict and only take into account immediate pros and cons: the poisoned chalice of trying to protect “the nation” from both big capital and migrants.
Today, there are plenty of supporters of the powers-that-be that dominate the world, in the form of their myriad representatives in almost all the fields of politics, the professions, academia, and among the forces of repression. At the same time, the only ones offering support for the claims and the bodies of the people who are putting pressure on the borders of the citadels of (now vanishing) prosperity are a Pope who is preaching more and more into the wind, entangled in the thickets of self-interest, vice and corruption of the organization of which he is the head, and the thousands of organizations fighting for solidarity—those working on the borders to save lives, both at sea and on land, welcoming people without violence, and assisting the processes of social inclusion—which are being criminalized by a never-ending campaign of persecution.
It is an unequal struggle—just like in the early days of the labor movement, when a scattered and disorganized “mob” would clash with a military apparatus repurposed from fighting wars against an external enemy to waging war on the enemy within. And this is where each person has to decide where they stand and what they must do, both now and in the future. We must give a voice to those who did not have one before, in order to help them gain cultural and political hegemony over the gray area that is our society—both in the name of, and more and more alongside, the migrants who now represent the antithesis of the current state of affairs.
We must demonstrate by practical initiatives that the profound interests of both natives and migrants coincide: that both have everything to gain by undermining the power of those who now rule. And we must not forget that all this is happening against the backdrop of climate change, environmental disasters, wars and social upheavals, which are the cause for both the flight of millions of people from lands they had inhabited for centuries and for the power of a handful of strongmen who are willfully blind to the risk of the destruction of the planet. After all, the biggest victims of this collapse of global proportions are the Earth’s poor.