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  • The Fourth World War Has Begun
  • Subcomandante Marcos (bio)
    Translated by Nathalie de Broglio (bio)

War is a business of vital importance to the state, it is the province of life and death, the path that leads to survival or to annihilation. To study it in depth is indispensable.

—Sun Tzu, The Art of War

Neoliberalism, as a global system, is a new war to conquer territories. The end of the Third World War (or “Cold War”) does not in any way mean that the world has overcome bipolarity and regained stability under the hegemony of the winner. Because, if there has been a vanquished (the socialist camp), it is difficult to name the victor. The United States? The European Union? Japan? All three?

The defeat of the “Evil Empire” has opened up new markets whose conquest is provoking a new world war, the fourth. Like all conflicts, this one forces nation-states to redefine their identity. The world order has returned to the old era of the conquests of America, Africa, and Oceania. It is a strange modernity that advances by going backward. The twilight of the twentieth century resembles earlier barbarous periods more than it does the rational futures described by so many works of science fiction.

Vast territories, wealth, and, above all, an immense available workforce await their new master. And although there are numerous candidates, there is only one position of world ruler. Hence the new war among those claiming to belong to the “Empire of the Good.”

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 centers, on a global scale, and at a tremendous and constant intensity.

The misnamed “Cold War” reached very high temperatures: from the catacombs of international espionage to the sidereal space of Ronald [End Page 559] Reagan’s famous “Star Wars”; from the sands of the Bay of Pigs in Cuba to the Mekong Delta in Vietnam; from the unbridled nuclear arms race to the savage coups in Latin America; from the reprehensible maneuvers of NATO armies to the intrigues of CIA agents in Bolivia, where Che Guevara was assassinated. All these events culminated in the collapse of the socialist camp as a world system and in its dissolution as a social alternative.

For the victor, capitalism, the Third World War revealed the advantages to be derived from “total war.” The postwar period allows a glimpse of a new planetary dispensation in which the main sources of conflict lie in the considerable growth of no-man’s-lands (product of the debacle in the East), the development of a reduced number of powers (the United States, the European Union, Japan), the global economic crisis, and a new information revolution.

Thanks to computers, financial markets impose their laws and precepts upon the planet according to the whims of the trading floor. “Globalization” is no more than the totalitarian extension of their logic into all aspects of life. Formerly master of the economy, the United States is now directed, or teledirected, by the very dynamic of financial power: free trade. This logic has profited from the porosity brought about by the development of telecommunications so as to appropriate for itself all aspects of social activity. At last a totally total world war!

One of the first victims of this war is the national market. Like a bullet fired inside a steel-walled room, the war unleashed by neoliberalism ricochets and ends up wounding whoever pulled the trigger. One of the basic structures of the modern capitalist state, the national market, is liquidated by the artillery of the global financial economy. The new international capitalism renders national capitalisms obsolete and starves public powers until they are exhausted. The blow has been so brutal that nation-states do not have the strength to defend citizens’ interests. The beautiful shop window of the New World Order, inherited from the Cold War, has been broken into a thousand pieces by the neoliberal explosion. A few minutes is all it takes for businesses and states to collapse, due not to the winds of proletarian revolution...


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pp. 559-572
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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Ceased Publication
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