some thoughts on the Zapatistas

Louis R Godena louisgodena at
Thu Jun 13 19:07:33 MDT 1996

Reading Comrade Zeynep's spirited and able defense of the EZLN reminded
me--as if I needed reminding--that there is indeed much to learn from the
Zapatista struggle in southern Mexico.

And if I have inadvertently been guilty of slandering what is clearly a
principled and heroic movement of genuine revolutionaries determined,
against the most fearsome odds, to win justice for their people,  I

Having said that, and not wishing to belabor my earlier points concerning
the lack of unity between the political leadership of the EZLN and the
toiling mass of Mexican workers, I would like to point to a country which
finds itself in a situation very similar to that of modern Mexico.   I am
speaking here of the Philippines, an archipelego of 62 million people,
which, like Mexico, has a long record of foreign domination and sparodic
revolution.   For the past 28 years, the Communist Party of the Philippines
has been waging, with considerable success,  a "people's war" against
successive US backed dictatorships, beginning with Ferdinand Marcos, and
currently against the corporativist fascist regime of Fidel Ramos.

It is a revolution whose origins bear a striking resemblance to those of the
EZLN--a small, poorly armed group of isolated peasants (their arsenal
consisted of, I believe, a dozen or so shotguns and WWII era bolt-action
rifles), led by a few charismatic, dedicated, university-educated
intellectuals with no real roots in the working class,  facing a powerfully
armed national bourgeoisie, backed by the full force of US imperialism.
While not sharing a border with the US, the Philippines nonetheless
served--via its urban centers--as a US "aircraft carrier" in the Pacific,
hosting the huge Clark Air Base (headquarters of the 7th Air Force) and the
deep water port at Subic Bay, home to the US Navy's Pacific Fleet.
Philippine national industry was, and is, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the
US and Japan.    Western culture predominated in all but the most remote
mountainous areas.    Trade unions, such as there were,  operated under the
sway of the national government.

Yet today, the Communist led National Democratic Front (NDF) and its
numerous allied organizations such as the militant Kilusang Magbubukid ng
Philipinas (KMP, Peasant Movement of the Philippines), the Kilusang Mayo Uno
(KMU, May 1st Movement--a powerful confederation of industrial trade
unions), together with huge organizations of students, women, day laborers,
--all told numbering in the millions and millions, have presented a clear
alternative to politics in the Philippines.    This has been done by a slow,
painstaking approach of sinking deep roots into all the oppressed strata in
the country.

There have been many setbacks and mistakes.   The New Peoples' Army nearly
took power in 1985--prompting the US to jettison the deeply unpopular Marcos
and install a more likeable puppet, Cory Acquino in early 1986--and has
recently recovered from a series of "rectification campaigns" within the
movement and within the Communist Party itself.    The movement against the
US Ramos regime is again going from strength to strength; most of central
Luzon, the "rice bowl" of the country, is controlled by the NDF.
Defections from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is at an all-time
high, including general officers.     As neo-liberalism tightens its grip on
the masses of poverty stricken peasants and workers, the NDF has grown
exponentially, nearly doubling its size since 1993.    There are exciting
prospects ahead, as the movement emerges from each crisis stronger, wiser,
and with broader public support.

Allowing for national peculiarities, this is what I would like to see become
of the nascent Zapatista movement--the creation on a mass scale of an
"alternative to politics"--backed by the force of arms--and embracing every
facet of the downtrodden and oppressed within Mexican society.    A good
public image abroad, as well as the issuing of ethereal pronouncements on
topics of interest to intellectuals and students, are to be welcomed as
important propaganda aids in the struggle.    They are, however, a pitiful
substitute for long for years of sinking deep and determined roots among all
classes of oppressed in any given country, backed by a competent army, and
informed by an ideology that truly seeks the emancipation of all.

Louis Godena

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