Padkos No 93: John Holloway on Dignity: Padkos Palaver: 10 October, 10am

POSTED ON September 25, 2019 BY admin


Next up in our series focused on key themes in the work of John Holloway, we consider the place of dignity. Your (essential!) reading is a piece called “Dignity’s Revolt”, originally published around 1998 and that has recently been included in the extraordinary collection of Holloway material, We Are The Crisis of Capital: A John Holloway Reader (Kairos Press, 2019). In “Dignity’s Revolt”, John relates and reflects on the the profound significance of the Zapatista rebellion. He says: “Dignity, the refusal to accept humiliation and dehumanisation, the refusal to conform: dignity is the core of the Zapatista revolution of revolution. The idea of dignity was not invented by the Zapatistas, but they have given it a prominence that it has never before possessed in revolutionary thought”.

In early sections of the chapter, Holloway recounts key developments and themes from the historical emergence, thinking, and organisation, of the Zapatista rebels. He takes care to recount the profound transformation of the urban “revolutionaries who went into the jungle” and there encountered “a people steeped in the dignity of struggle”. Moving forward on the basis of a mutual recognition of dignity, required “learning to listen” – which, in turn, became the basis for a radical process of unlearning a lot of leftist orthodoxy; of learning new concepts and practices; and of opening a new path “rethinking … the whole revolutionary project”.

These new explorations continue to resonate with contemporary struggles around the world where “[t]he revolution advances by asking not by telling; or perhaps even revolution is asking instead of telling, the dissolution of power relations”.

Holloway also explores the fundamentally important insight that “[t]he assertion of dignity implies the present negation of dignity. Dignity, then, is … the struggle for the realisation of dignity”.

Going forward with dignity at the centre of struggle also requires collapsing the separation of politics from morality. “Probably nothing has done more to undermine the ‘Left’ in this century than this separation of the political and the personal, of the public and the private, and the dehumanisation that it entails”.

In the remaining half of the chapter, John explores how we might think a properly revolutionary way forward on this basis – no longer entertaining fantasies of The Revolution through the Party, the State, the Programme but instead, open, uncertain, and creative. Here “[r]evolution is simply the constant, uncompromising struggle for what cannot be achieved under capitalism: dignity and control over our own lives.”.

In addition to discussing the Holloway material, we will also be showing a very short video documenting moments from a silent protest staged by the Zapatista movement of Chiapas, Mexico.

The palaver session takes place at CLP on * October kicking off at ***. Please let us know whether you can join us by calling calling Cindy on (033) 2644 380 or emailing

As with the previous series, you need to have read the relevant material beforehand.

Keep in mind that the next and final session in the series will take place during November when we’ll be looking at the importance of hope & creativity.

Holloway Dignitys Revolt