some thoughts on the Zapatistas
Louis N Proyect
lnp3 at columbia.edu
Thu Jun 13 06:47:20 MDT 1996
On Wed, 12 Jun 1996, Louis R Godena wrote:
> Clearly, the Zapatistas are transforming themselves from an armed rebellion
> into a "civil and peaceful organization." And such an organization,
> If we are to search successfully for the causes of the Zapatista "retreat"
> further and further into a nationalist petty-bourgeois program of reformism
> and accomodation, evoking the musty icons and symbols of Mexico's
> historico-religious past, we must be aware, as well, of forces far beyond
> the EZLN itself.
Louis: The Zapatistas might appear to some extent as a Roscharch inkblot
onto which left activists and intellectuals can project their own notions
of what this armed indigenous movement should have become.
After having gone through a chastening experience of seeing the much more
powerful FSLN and FMLN stymied by US imperialism, I had much lower
expectations of what a localized guerrilla group in Chiapas armed with
hunting-rifles and machetes could accomplish. I never imagined a
"liberated" Chiapas or the EZLN marching into Mexico City. My expectations
were merely one of some sweeping reforms wrested from the Mexican
bourgeoisie. Perhaps, given the relationship of class forces we are
operating under today, this was too much to expect as well.
What excited me the most was their internationalism and their readiness to
adopt high-technology to further the goals of their insurrection.
Subcommandante Marcos's said that he identified with the oppressed
everywhere, from gays to undocumented workers. Furthermore, he understood
the need to establish cross-border solidarity, including the need to use
this very medium itself we communicate to each other with on a daily
The revolutionary movement of the 21st century will have to be more deeply
internationalist than ever before. Some sectors of the left put forward a
notion of "globalization" that says that the old national state has been
superceded by the power of transnational corporations operating through
structures such as GATT and NAFTA. This is wrong.
However, what is correct is that the working-class of today faces problems
that can not be solved on a national basis. Cuba's difficulties today
show how much of a need there is to have international solidarity. Her
invitation to have a world conference of trade unionists next year in
Havana shows the acute sensitivity of the Cuban leadership to forge such
The Zapatistas have much to teach us in this direction. Marxism has a
tendency to try to categorize new phenomena in the terms of the past.
Thus the Zapatistas become either just another Latin American guerrilla
group or a Havelite exercise in the politics of "civil society". Wouldn't
it be better to see them on their own terms and absorb the positive
lessons of internationalism and militancy that they can offer?
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