Pablo González Casanova: “With the Poor of the Earth”

By Raúl Romero on February 15, 2021

With the poor of the earth, Photo: Bill Hackwell

A trainer of generations in the most advanced knowledge of critical science and the new sciences, Pablo González Casanova is known for being one of the first promoters of interdisciplinary knowledge in Mexico.

During his time as Dean of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), a dialogue between the sciences and between the sciences and the humanities, as well as the expansion of university enrollment so that the university could reach more and more people would be his hallmark. These ideas would materialize in the creation of the colleges of Sciences and Humanities.

A defender of university autonomy, Don Pablo embraced the values of the university reform movement that was born in 1918 in Cordoba, Argentina, and which spread throughout Latin America. Consistent with this way of thinking, in 1972 he resigned as Dean of the UNAM to prevent the “siege of the university and its autonomy, and the democratic and independent organization of the workers” from continuing. Later, in 1999, in the face of the takeover of university facilities by the Federal Preventive Police, González Casanova resigned again, this time as director of the Centre for Interdisciplinary Research in Science and the Humanities, which he himself had founded. “There are two reasons why I did this: one is of an existential nature, that is the position I have held all my life against the use of violence, even so-called legal violence to solve university problems, and the other is more objective and corresponds to the whole historical and social experience of Latin America”.

As a university professor, Don Pablo is appreciated as a magnificent teacher and researcher, committed to the dissemination of knowledge and a builder of institutions. It is worth noting that he is the only university professor to be recognized at the same time with the double distinction of professor and researcher emeritus at UNAM.

In sociology, González Casanova has contributed significantly to Latin American critical thought and to world social theory, whether with the categories of internal colonialism and global colonialism, or with his research on development, social research techniques, democracy, the sociology of exploitation, the new sciences and the sciences of complexity, or on the link between the system of domination and capitalist accumulation and ecocide.

The critical nature of Don Pablo’s work has also been the victim of censorship, like when in the 1960s the Fondo de Cultura Económica refused to publish La Democracia en México, or when the military dictatorship in Argentina (1976-83) banned his La Sociología de la Explotación.

From a young age, Pablo González Casanova made the struggle for democracy, liberation, and socialism his own, which has led him to accompany transformative social processes almost everywhere in the world. In Latin America, he is known as a man who, freed from all orthodoxy, accompanied the resistance against the coup d’état in Guatemala (1954), the Popular Unity with Salvador Allende in Chile, Sandinismo in Nicaragua, the Cuban revolution since 1959, the revolution led by Commander Hugo Chávez in Venezuela and, of course, the Zapatista rebellion.

The awards for his commitment to the struggles of the people are many and very important. In January 1983, the Cuban people, in the voice of Fidel Castro, distinguished Don Pablo with the Félix Varela Order of the First Degree, in recognition of his “extraordinary contributions in favor of the imperishable values of national and universal culture”. Thirty-five years later, in April 2018, the General Command of the EZLN, through the voice of Comandante Tacho, announced that they had decided to name Pablo González Casanova as Comandante Pablo Contreras, the first non-indigenous Zapatista commander. The name and recognition, the Zapatistas explained, is due, among other merits, to the fact that González Casanova is a man of critical and independent thought who has always been on the side of the peoples.

In 2007, Subcomandante Marcos said: “Don Pablo González Casanova is a wise man. He is the only intellectual to whom I have seen the compañeros and compañeras speak with confidence. I often say that, when I grow up, I want to be like Don Pablo González Casanova. I might add that he is one of those who provokes chauvinist relapses and makes us say that it is an honor to be Mexican”.

González Casanova is a great human being, with a young heart and current thinking. Like Marcos, there are many of us who, when we grow up, want to be like him: congruent, critical, independent, and always on the side of the poor of the earth. Long live Don Pablo

Source: La Jornada, translation Resumen Latinoamericano, North America bureau