The Fourth World War

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

1 January 2014


Precisely 20 years ago today, on 1 January 1994, indigenous peasants in Mexico’s Chiapas state staged the Zapatista revolt against economic and political oppression under the leadership of subcomandante Marcos, the nom de guerre of their masked leader.

It is no accident that 1 January 1994 was the very day on which the controversial Free Trade Agreement between the US, Canada and Mexico came into force. The treaty set in stone the subservience of the Mexican economy to North American business and political interests.

The Mexican government sent the army into Chiapas but this failed to stifle the revolt and an uneasy peace agreement was eventually signed by the government in 1996. However, the terms of the agreement were allegedly not adhered to and in 1997 anti-Zapatista paramilitaries murdered 47 non-combatants, including children and pregnant women, in Acteal, a Chiapas settlement whose inhabitants sympathized with the Zapatistas’ aims but rejected violence. The peace process has stagnated ever since. The government has resumed overall control of Chiapas but pockets of indigenous resistence survive in scattered autonomous communities.

A few days ago, on 28 December 2013, subcomandante Marcos released a communiqué to mark the 2oth anniversary of the uprising. The statement acknowledged that the revolt had not achieved its aims but expressed a commitment to continued resistence:

In December 2013 it is just as cold as 20 years ago and today, like back then, the same flag protects us: that of rebellion.”


In August 1997 the French leftwing newspaper, Le Monde diplomatique, published an essay by the subcomandante  entitled“The Fourth World War Has Begun”.

The following is a summary of Marcos’s ideas on this subject as set out in the current Wikipedia article on “Subcomandante Marcos”. In it Marcos claims that neoliberalism and globalisation constitute the “Fourth World War.”

He [Marcos] termed the Cold War the “Third World War.” In this piece, Marcos compares and contrasts the Third World War (the Cold War) with the Fourth World War, which he says is the new type of war that we find ourselves in now:


“If the Third World War saw the confrontation of capitalism and socialism on various terrains and with varying degrees of intensity, the fourth will be played out between large financial centres, on a global scale, and at a tremendous and constant intensity.”


He goes on to claim that economic globalisation has created devastation through financial policies:


“Toward the end of the Cold War, capitalism created a military horror: the neutron bomb, a weapon that destroys life while leaving buildings intact. During the Fourth World War, however, a new wonder has been discovered: the financial bomb. Unlike those dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, this new bomb not only destroys the polis (here, the nation), imposing death, terror, and misery on those who live there, but also transforms its target into just another piece in the puzzle of economic globalisation.”


Marcos explains the effect of the financial bombs as “destroying the material bases of [the nation state’s] sovereignty and, in producing [its] qualitative depopulation, excluding all those deemed unsuitable to the new economy (for example, indigenous peoples).”


Marcos also believes that neoliberalism and globalisation result in a loss of unique culture for societies as a result of [their] homogenising effect:


“All cultures forged by nations—the noble indigenous past of America, the brilliant civilization of Europe, the wise history of Asian nations, and the ancestral wealth of Africa and Oceania—are corroded by the American way of life. In this way, neoliberalism imposes the destruction of nations and groups of nations in order to reconstruct them according to a single model. This is a planetary war, of the worst and cruelest kind, waged against humanity.”





 You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)

2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)

3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)

4. Capitalism in practice  (4 July 2012) 

5.Ladder  (21 June 2012)

 6. A tale of two cities (1)  (6 June 2012)

 7. A tale of two cities (2)  (7 June 2012)

 8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.


This entry was posted in Africa, Canada, Economics, Globalisation, Mexico, Military, Politics, UN and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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