The history of debt resistance has many lessons for those involved in the making of a new debtors’ movement in the United States. This article attempts to articulate these lessons by concentrating on the experience of the most important debtors’ movement in Mexico of the 1990s, El Barzón. The first part of the article clarifies an important distinction between “profit debt” and “use-value debt.” These two kinds of debt do not dichotomously divide class societies. For example, both capitalists and proletarians incur both “profit debt” and “use-value debt.” The categorically mixed character of debt makes for the mixed-class composition of many debtors’ movements in history. The second part of the article examines the rise and decline of the El Barzón movement. It went from being an obscure farmers’ organization in 1993 to a nationwide political-economic force in Mexico in just three years. The strategy and tactics of the movement are examined, and its rapid decline is explained. The final section outlines a number of challenges faced by contemporary debtors’ organizations like Strike Debt that emerge from the history of debt resistance and are illuminated by the story of El Barzón. For example, can the internal contradictions generated by debt’s mixed-class character be overcome by debt resistance organizations in the United States like Strike Debt?
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George Caffentzis; Reflections on the History of Debt Resistance: The Case of El Barzón. South Atlantic Quarterly 1 October 2013; 112 (4): 824–830. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/00382876-2345315
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