Struggles for Human Dignity, By Marcos Roitman Rosenmann

What has been achieved by the exploited classes is preceded by the conscious sacrifice of thousands of lives. It doesn’t matter if it has been under bullets, in concentration camps, prisons or torture. Dignity has been the benchmark. Courage, integrity, and defense of the common good and effort. Peter Bieri, in his essay “Human Dignity”, stresses; He is not without dignity who fails in autonomy because he/she lacks the overview of thought and stumbles. One can go astray and get lost; one can be too demanding. This does not bury dignity. It is lost only when one loses sight of autonomy as a criterion or lacks it from the start. It is not the failed effort that is unworthy, but the absence of effort.

There have been many battles for dignity. Few remember that the right to strike and improve working conditions has been preceded by repression, massacres, dismissals, and deaths. Its practice has not been a concession of the employers, who use violence to criminalize its exercise. An example is a strike in Pharaonic Egypt during the reign of Ramses III in 1152 BC. The craftsmen employed in the Valley of the Kings denounced corruption, punishment, and non-payment of wages. They were sculptors, painters, scribes, and masons. They said: we are hungry, 18 days of this month have passed, we have come here driven by hunger and thirst; we have no clothes, no fish, no vegetables. They occupied temples, held sit-ins, built a platform of demands, and triumphed.

Likewise, the struggle of slaves for their freedom is full of heroism and dignity. One, in particular, has gone down in history, that of Spartacus, who vowed never to serve Rome again. He fled with less than 200 comrades and forged an army of 60,000 fighters. He won battles like Vesuvius; then came defeat. However, the fear put in the plutocracy forced an improvement in the living conditions of the slaves. His body was never found. The story was told by Howard Fast, who in 1951 published his novel with his own funds.

In Haiti, the slave rebellion was the beginning of the emancipation movement in Latin America (LA). Toussaint Louverture or Jean Jaques Dessalines were its leaders. The struggles for the civil rights of the African-American population or against apartheid in South Africa are associated with Martin Luther King and Mandela. In Nicaragua, the free men’s general Augusto César Sandino stood up to the US invasion. Not forgetting the feminist struggles in Latin America that recall Micaela Bastidas in Peru, strategist of the Tupac Amaru rebellion; Juana Azurduy, today recognized as a general of the liberating armies; the Mexican Elena Arizmendi, president of the First International League of Latin American Women in 1920, and the Ecuadorian Matilde Hidalgo, who fought for women’s right to vote. In the 20th century, Chile’s Gabriela Mistral, Cuba’s Haydée Santamaría, the mothers of the Plaza de Mayo, Comandante Ramona of the EZLN, and the Chilean writer Mónica Echeverría, whose struggle against the dictatorship is worthy of note.

In this century the struggles for dignity persist. The just ones, the inevitable ones that have human rights, social justice, equality, denouncing machismo and patriarchy on the horizon. All of them, without exception, drink from those who have watered the path of dignity, to paraphrase Violeta Parra’s poem dedicated to the Spanish communist militant Julián Grimau, shot by Franco’s regime in 1963.

Dignity understood as a decision to act. Dignity as a way of understanding life. Is this not the message of the EZLN? “We spoke to ourselves, we looked inwards and we looked at our history […] we saw that not everything had been taken from us, that we had what was most valuable, what makes us live, what made our steps rise above plants and animals…, and we saw, brothers and sisters, that all we had was dignity and we saw that the shame of having forgotten it was great, and we saw that dignity was good so that men could be men again”. The little and nothing that has been gained, which in perspective is a lot, is sown with dignity, which the plutocracies, unworthy and cowardly, lack. They kill and murder.

We are witnessing battles against megaprojects, against neoliberalism. These are struggles for dignity. Today the lives of trade union leaders are being claimed, such as Berta Cáceres in Honduras, the Zapatista militant José Luis Solís López, Galeano in Chiapas, Camilo Catrilanca or Matías Catrileo Quezada, members of the Mapuche people. Journalists who uncover corruption are riddled with bullets, teachers, peasants, students, young people of our America, sow with their effort, courage, and blood, the path of dignity. Meanwhile, the transnationals and the governments create and finance the activities of paramilitary groups, militarize and send the armed forces, which, unquestioning, assassinate in the name of power and money. However, they have not achieved their goal: to humiliate, denigrate and destroy the struggle for dignity and full life.

Source: Red in Defense of Humanity,

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