some thoughts on the Zapatistas
zeynept at turk.net
Thu Jun 13 13:46:28 MDT 1996
Let me jump in with a few thoughts of mine. (Well, a lot)
Clearly, the Zapatistas are transforming themselves from an armed rebellion
into a "civil and peaceful organization."
The best weapon they've got are AK-47s and Mac-10s. I salute their courage.
You've got to assess the tight situation they're in.
..And such an organization, grounded as it is in the oldest and most
venerable of social groups--the peasantry-- would naturally assume in some
form the traditions, culture, and, yes, religious appetites that have
suffused that strata of Spanish America for centuries.
Like it or not. It is the same everywhere. The revolution finds its language
in tradition, culture, local hopes and aspirations. That tradition may be
mystical or more secular as in Europe. The point is there is class struggle,
even if there were no Marxists. Think of the Russian revolution. Masses want
"Land, Peace and Bread". Not Marxist lingo. Maybe, the next wave of
revolution will have as its slogans, say, A world of: "Equality, Justice,
Freedom, Harmony with Nature", or say, "Jobs, Health Care & Education for
All". Most people will identify parts of these slogans with something from
their culture, religion, tradition. Maybe, I'm thinking too much about
Turkey. This is not diluting anything. Just saying it in vernacular.
Louis G: (another post)
Fine, Lou. I think the Zapatistas have done an admirable job of winning
international support. It would have been even better had they bothered
to win the support of the Mexican working class.
They tried like hell. Really. They explicitly say that without the support
of the Mexican working class, they're dead. They've tried everything. Look
into it more Lou. Also, there is now some movement inside Mexican
proletariat of including the EZLN cause in its militant actions.
The tendency among the Zapatista leadership is to dismiss these bread and
butter issues as "urban" problems not directly linked to the struggle in the
countryside. If someday we are to perform a post-mortem on the
Zapatistas, it may well be that its inability to mobilize and unite with the
Mexican working class will be listed as the primary cause of death.
You are misinformed. Zapatista leadership has no such tendency to dismiss
"urban" problems. It is just that they claim, they are an indigenious
peasent organisation, not the vanguard of the proletariat. They are what
they claim. And for a peasant indigenious organisation, their attempts to
reach out to the working class was wildly beyond my expectations. That's
what got me interested in them. Where do you learn this stuff. Louis. Aaargh!
I think, the reason the EZLN says it is not Marxist or Maoist just reflects
the failure of the communists. After the 1917 revolution, even every
petty-bourgeois humanist worth his/her salt would try to claim being a
Marxist. Now we've got armed uprisings by poor peasants saying, noo, they
are not Marxist. Admit it, communism has a bad name. Marxism conjures images
of millions of factions fighting each other, using un-understandable
language, over questions the relevance of which is not explained to anyone
outside in any sensible manner. In politics the point isn't whether one is
right. It pains me to see movements and/or working class militancy trying to
steer clear of communists, not because they're reformists, but because they
think we will hurt them.
I'm bringing up EZLN because I think, in that movement, I see a reflection
of what we did not do. We did not talk the local language, we did not reach
out to unite all the opressed people with the working class in a
revolutionary manner. (We did it when we wanted to dilute and soften the
message.) We did not concentrate really on concrete proposals, like the
Zapatista's 10 point demands. It basically says, jobs, land, freedom,
equality and dignity for all, in everyday language, adressing everyday
problems. That's politics.
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
I agree completely with the above. Btw, Fidel Castro was here today. Viva Cuba!
I know from years of very concrete experience Cubans are really engaging in
international solidarity very much. It's incredible. It's not highlighted
much, and maybe that's right. The extent of their solidarity is touching,
considering what they're facing.
Marxism has a tendency to try to categorize new phenomena in the terms of
"In like the manner a beginner who has learnt a new language always
translates it back into his mother tongue, but one has assimilated the
spirit of the new language one can freely express himself in it, only when
one finds one's way in it without recalling the old and forgets one's native
tongue in the use of the new."
"180 years, 85 years, 30 years later, we are and we are not the same.
We are the end, the continuation, the beginning.
We are rebellion.
We are stubborn history, which is repeated in order not to repeat itself,
the looking back in order to walk forward."
It is, far from a "new force", merely the well travelled "third road" that has
already led to a dead end in El Salvador and Nicaragua and elsewhere.
I again urge you to look into it more. There is very old and familiar
elements to it, but some of it is inspiring and we can learn from them.
(Go back to the whole post, this is getting long enough already)
I agree completely Adam. I'm trying to talk about how do we get the working
class to appreciate what we already know. I guess I'm sort of provoking
May I also say that I agree with Jon Flanders.
P.S. My posts are not arriving in the order I send them, if they ever
arrive. So, if you ever see something I refer to that you have not yet read,
wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. Wait. And wait for me to get my certificate from the
ESP class I signed up today as a last resort.
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