Zapatistas speak out on Pacifica crisis

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Fri Mar 16 12:58:22 MST 2001

KPFK LAB Chairperson and Free Pacifica activist Dave Adelson was in Mexico
City for the arrival of the the Zapatista Caravan. He conducted a taped
interview in Spanish (which will soon be available on-line) with Zapatista
spokesperson Javier Elorriaga.

The translation below was provided by former KPFK staff member Fernando



FRONT (FSLN), the political wing of the EZLN, speaks about the US-based
Pacifica Radio Network. Interview conducted by: David Adelson.

DA What is your understanding of Pacifica Radio's crisis and its implications?

JE What are today's problems and in what directions are the world's
struggles going, right? Basically, its to build new ways to do politics,
and not only has to do with doing politics in the ordinary way, as its
usually done, it has something to do with a cultural question. The way of
thinking and doing things must change.

The struggle for power has to be removed from the left's thinking. Then,
that should be reflected not only in practical aspects of politics, but
above all, in the political relations between human beings. You must
erradicate the idea that from above, from a certain position, one can
construct and decide and do, because that idea leads people to think that
the goal of the struggle is to reach that position.

You must understand that politics must change, from relations of power, to
solidarity relations. Capitalism is all about relations of power, that's
how it expresses itself at the cultural, political, ideological, economic
and social levels. We must go around that.

That's whats happening with Pacifica Radio and other media outlets that at
one time, they had some degree of independence from the state institutions
and large corporations, and today they're seen as a prize, as an economic
or political body.

Why? because what they need is to destroy all collective spaces, every
place that has a collective-making process, they must go in and break it.
They must place the individual all alone against the state, against trade,
against the bank, against the church.

Why? because an individual alone has no means to defend him(her)self.

What ten years ago was of no interest for them, like independent radio
stations. Pacifica is quite large, but there are some smaller ones, and you
may ask yourself, what does a large network care about these little radio
station? They care because they must get to the very core of society, and
break everything that is collective. To individualize 'till they can go no

What can we do to avoid that? to strengthen the collective spaces, the
collective decision-making processes, all forms of collective
participation. And to understand that we must create a new culture that is
not based on isolating the individual from the world, nor on the premise
that we stay equal. We must understand that we are equal because we are
different, that is based in another way to concieve democracy, social and
economic relations.

DA:What can anyone do when power is centralized, like pacifica's radio
transmitters, how can they be placed to the service of the community?

JE:You must try to give the control of the radio station, the programming
and decion-making to the community. There can be a Board of Directors for
the conduction of administrative matters, but that Board cannot make
decisions about the community. The community is the one who must decide and
have the power to appoint and remove the members of the Board at anytime
They don't have to wait for elections as it is done every four years with
the politicians.

Why change the Directors every four years if their performance on the job
is poor after the first month? Why wait four years? Yes, you need somebody
to manage the finances, to pay the electric bill, to buy CD's, right? There
are people who can do that kind of work but they must be accountable to the

What zapatismo says about "giving orders by receiving orders" its not just
a formula for politics, its a formula that works in a school in a
neighborhood, in a factory, in a radio station.

Who does call the shots in a radio station? The radio listeners, they are
the ones that must have an option.

Why? Capitalism says you can change the channel, if you don't like this
one, dial another one, that's democratic. That's stupid! Democracy can be
something like the people asking: why are you broadcasting that crap? why
don't you air something in which we, the audience, are included? There are
a few places like that around the world but their number is growing. The
fight to break the monopoly in the world of communications, grows and grows
and grows, and that makes them very angry.

DA:What is the relation of the spaces were power is distributed within

JE: Well, it is a struggle, there are two models, not only political
models, but two models of culture and humanity charging against one
another. Capitalism does not tolerate collectives and it does not tolerate
the community. These spaces that are being opened, these spaces fighting
against capitalist enterprises and the governments at their service, are
growing in number.

Why? Because they are a necessity for people. If people see that they
(alternative networks) can play a role within the media, they will be

Why? Because they don't believe in the system anymore, they don't believe
in the government, the press, and television. What will they believe in? In
whatever they think is theirs, where they can have participation, where
someone is speaking about what they consider, its important.

And that must be built from below, we must forget about the giant struggles
and try to build that new relation from below, at the local level.

DA: Is there something that you would like to say for pacifica's listeners?

JE: Back in early 1994, we used to have a joke that said that, the land is
for whoever works in it, and later we used to say, the news belong to those
who work on the news. But not in the sense that, because we are here, we're
going to sell it, but because it is us, as people, the ones who are making
history. Therefore, it is up to us to teach, to broadcast, to tell, what
we're doing to others.

Today is not the time to be taking the winter's palace and the great
moments of history. Today is for understanding that we're so different from
one another that we must listen to each other, to understand that the
strenght of our struggle is infinite. It is represented in a thousand
forms, each individual can do something to fight against capital and
against the system, but we don't know it. why? Because we have no control,
we have no medium to broadcast it. So, anything that we can use, to tell
others about our experience in the struggle its very important. We may not
be able to realize it today or in five years, but its becoming evident that
it is very important.

why? Because we're re-capturing the past, and we're building a collective
future.. Is not a future for someone to give us, its not just like dialing
another radio station, because no matter which one you listen to is the
same shit....(he laughs)....

We must build from below, we must tell the local stories over and over,
those things that seem meaningless. You might say that your struggle is not
important at the global level because it failed to drop two points in the
stock exchange, but without your little struggles at the local level,
there'll never be a global struggle.

So, we must put a lot of effort into it, this is one of the areas where
we're gaining more ground, in the alternative media, I think.

And you know, its very interesting, when the zapatismo came out, the
internet came out and all of this. And less than a year later, some
specialists from the pentagon came out with a study called the war of
zapatistas network, or something like that.

They developed a whole idea, a theory on how zapatismo used the internet
and social networks, and came out with plans on how to counter this
offensive, and ZAP! it jumped in Seattle, right at the heart of the empire
who had made a study about how zapatismo caught them by surprise. They got
caught right in the middle of their streets, with a horizontal
communication through the internet.

Then, all of those who had theorized all that stupidity, had no idea where
all the demonstrators in Seattle came from, and later in Prague, did not
know where the protestors came from. And it will continue the same way, we
don't theorize much, we just do it.

So, we must disseminate all those experiences as much as we can, so other
people can do it, so they don't wait for someone else to do it, so they
don't wait and say: today its an easy day. But only if you have the
community on your side, otherwise, you're like the corporations, even if
you're small and marginal, 'cause then you'll be a small and marginal
corporation without the people on you side.

If people don't understand that there's something they want to communicate,
if they don't understand that through that communication its going to learn
something from others, its worthless.

That's what's changing. In the 60's and 70's we used to do radio, and radio
speaks to people. But today is not about speaking to people, but speaking
together with the people. To make a collective space for dialogue, of
reflexion, of experience.

That's what we intend to do in the days to come. A place where people will
come from all over the country and from other parts of the world, where
there's struggle. For what? So they can have the opportunity to tell each
other's experiences in struggle.

DA: Why do you think it takes so long and so much effort for people to
understand that a radio station should be part of their community. Why are
they willing to see it as something separate, outside of them?

JE: Because that's all they ever had. What is what we know? What it has
been fed into our heads since we were children. The other stuff is much
more difficult. Why? Because there's the idea that you cannot participate
in that. It takes a lot of money to have a radio or television station,
many millions of dollars, connections with people in power, and it becomes
something far away from your reality. When you begin to produce radio
programs, to make them, to broadcast them, to watch them, you discover that
is not an unreachable goal.

But people don't know, they think it is very difficult, that it is for
someone else, that it is part of the big corporations. We must destroy that

Louis Proyect
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