some thoughts on the Zapatistas

hariette spierings hariette at
Thu Jun 13 21:42:06 MDT 1996

>Louis G. is also very correct in his estimation of the revolutionary
>potential of the Zapatistas and the need to link with the working class.
>Throw in Jon and Zeynep and this thread had real distinction.  The only sour
>note for me was that Comrade Adolfo could not reatrain himself from dragging
>his Malecki fixation into the middle of it all. Alas this shows him at his
>worst.  This is a thread where his fine mind could make  a real contibution.
>It truly is a shame that Comrade Adolfo cannot see that there are some
>targets which he should not be scrambling down to get at.

Alright Gary, you got me in a facetious mood! I apologise.  My dig was not
aimed at malecki but at Doug's question about that particular text.

I was not intending to comment on the Zapatista movement at all, and I tend
to agree basically with what Louis Godena has said about it, in its positive
and negative aspects.  Mariategui himself, writing about the old Mexican
revolution had already pointed out that the people's cause was advanced
always when the workers movement and the peasant's movement marched
together.  He spoke of the alliance of "agraristas" (of whom Emiliano Zapata
himself was a representative) and "laboristas" (the working class) as the
motive force propelling the Mexican revolution's advance.

In any case, one can distinguish between the fact of the peasant
insurrection, and the political line that guides that mass armed action.
The main problem is of course one of leadership, the question of which class
is leading that movement.

At present all the strategy of the Zapatista rebellion is inscribed within
the bounds of the current Mexican state which it only challenges in "armed
pressure group" style in search of reforms, while making of negotiations the
main lever of their struggle.  That is why the hopes that were lit in Latin
America at the beginning of this armed struggle, have dimmed considerably as
it has become stuck in the swamp of bourgeois politics.  However, no one can
deny that this incident in Southern Mexico proves that revolution is a
necessity of the masses, that it is possible for them to conduct armed
actions, even in remote areas, and that to raise peasant armies in Mexico
today is not as the bourgeois ideologist, clutching the NAFTA straw were
precisely proclaiming on the very eve of this insurrection breaking out.  In
fact, the greatest value of the Zapatista uprising was how it managed in its
first dazzling days of a surprising offensive, to slap the bourgeoisie, and
particularlly the US imperialist bourgeoisie. quite rudely in their face!.

Comrade Godena is absolutely right in contrasting the leadership of the
Zapatista uprising with that of a Communist party such as the Phillipines,
or for that matter, the PCP itself.  There the aim of the struggle - since
is led by the Party of the proletariat - is the seizure of power, because
only then can the REAL revolution begin.

Also, a very negative aspect of the Zapatista struggle, is that in its
attempts to "win public opinion abroad" it promotes the type of vapid "all
things to all men" politics that had Doug so undecided and perplexed.  In
fact, if you think about it, this Zapatista bandwagon in some western
countries actually causes a lot of damage by spreading class concialiation
and populist politics within the anti-imperialist movement.  This is
because, divorced from the direct reivindication of landless peasants,
upholding the example of the Zapatistas as an anti-imperialist road to be
followed by others, loses any really progressive content it has in its own
concrete conditions, and only serves to butress the liberal outlook which
bedevils today the anti-imperialist movement, specially in the advanced
countries, where "Zapatismo" has a real influence.

Also, this "glamourising" of the Zapatista struggle, something promoted
precisely by Ngos and priestly outfits, serves also to obscure the the very
real revolutions which imperialism "really dissaproves of", and which,
unlike the Zapatista "good guy image", are precisely portrayed by these same
Ngos and religious "progressives" in a very different and sinister light as
"terrorist" "assassins", and in fact using the Zapatista struggle as a means
to contrast a good guy/bad guy image in detriment of the more radical
struggles led by the proletariat.  In fact, essentially, at the level of
peasants fighting for the land, there is of course a real solidarity of aims
between the masses and the rank and file combatants of both movements, but
that is hardly reflected at the level of their different kinds of
"international solidarity movements", where the Zapatista struggle is used
by revisionists and liberals precisely as a butress to divert solidarity
>from the over-all struggle of the oppressed peasant masses of the world.  In
other words, it is "cool" to support a Zapatista peasant (he is good, god
fearing and nice to the Bishop), while supporting a "senderista" one, it is
really not on!  Is that not the case in may circunstances?  Hopefully too,
that would change with the further development of revolutionary struggle
both in mexico and other parts of Latin America, but to to so, and to build
a real anti-imperialist unity in that regard, this change would have to
proceed over the heads - and against the will - of Ngos and priestly
outfits, who, on the contrary, are sure to do their darnest to prevent just
such a development.

Whether from the Zapatista example can a really revolutionary struggle
develop along proletarian lines, or better, if such an example can indeed
serve somehow for this development, is of course not yet decided.
Revolution and counter-revolution have a logic of their own which develops
in dialectical unity.  But one can say with a certain degree of certainty,
that if this direction towards revolution is to prevail, then the Zapatistas
too will end being dubbed terrorists, and the priests and politicians today
toying with the hopes of the exploited masses would be, like they are in
Peru, in the front rank of the enemies of that development in the Mexican

Also, whether from within the present political leadership of Zapatism can
that development occur is a very doubtful proposition to say the least.  But
that a proletarian led revolution is needed in Mexico, and that the logic of
history is pointing that way, and that within that logic the Zapatista
uprising represents a milestone, there can be no doubt either.

Hopefully, that will make my position clear, Gary.


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