Zapatistas

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888
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Jan 8 2004 22:27
Zapatistas

From the last issue of resistance:

Quote:
TIME BOMB

“Ya Basta” (Enough is Enough) declared the EZLN (Zapatista National Liberation Army), as they burst to international attention ten years ago, New Years day 1994.

The rebellion started in San Cristobal de las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico in the tradition of all peasant armies: ransacking town halls and burning land deeds! Destroying 10 government offices, freeing 179 prisoners, then attacking an army garrison, and in one town shooting down an army helicopter, and torching the town hall before quietly slipping back into the jungle. The timing for the international “audience” was crucial, coinciding with the controversial introduction of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

It didn’t take long for the state to respond, on January 4th ten towns near San Cristobal were bombed, 400 people died. On the 5th tanks arrived in the area along with more troops, yet more died. The government began to distribute black propaganda, and prevent human rights organizations enterin g Chiapas. The EZLN then withdrew to the jungle, and a tense ceasefire began on January 12th. Since then the Mexican army has been using a tactic of low intensity warfare (killing and displacing civilians), which continues to this day.

The Zapatistas have organised international “ecuentros” attracting thousands of people from around the world which have been influential on the global anti-capitalist movement.

The Zapatista uprising has allowed over 1100 communities in Chiapas of 300-400 people to organize federally into 32 autonomous municipalities where power lies at the base. Local decisions are taken at a local level and important decisions are made at a wider regional or municipal level, discussions continuing until something like consensus is reached. In these areas the people have much more control over their lives than before and women can play a much bigger role than traditional society allowed.

On the negative side the EZLN is hierarchically organized with officers of different ranks and high profile leaders. Their stated aim is a programme offering little more than liberal capitalism and it’s even backed up by appeals to the Mexican constitution.

Nevertheless, the struggle of the peasants in Chiapas has been inspirational to many people around the world. On this the tenth anniversary of the Zapatista uprising the people producig resistance send our solidarity to all those struggling for freedom and equality in Chiapas.

How should anarchists relate to movements such as the EZLN, who while having a reformist agenda, seem to have certain libertarian (if limited) aspects to their activity?

nastyned
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Jan 9 2004 18:19

I think you'd have to support the grass roots initatives as best you could whilst being very wary of the armed vanguard.

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Jan 9 2004 20:55
Quote:
Their stated aim is a programme offering little more than liberal capitalism and it’s even backed up by appeals to the Mexican constitution.

actually, i was listening to an interview with subcommandante marcos on french radio the other night, and he was saying that the zapatistas vision was a complete rejection of a market based society. and i personally think that despite being hierarchially organised, the ezln does not actually seem to be acting as an armed vanguard. they did to begin with, but very quickly the essentially surrendered their control to the communities, and somewhere i saw that they said that they didn't want to seize power on behalf of anyone, but to open up a space where people could discuss and decide for themselves exactly what sort of society they would like to live in without being coerced in anyway. so in the case of the ezln i think anarchists should provide as much support as possible and debate with them as much as possible, especially as the ezln seem to be quite open to anarchist ideas and have completely rejected authoritarian leftism.

unfortunately i don't know that much about other similar resistance movements. i know that there are various groups in the south pacific, generally fighting against the indonesian state. earth first! and related groups do a pretty good job of supporting these movements, there's probably stuff on eco-action.org. generally though, i think the zapatistas say the best way to support them is to intensify the struggle all over the world!

WeTheYouth
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Jan 10 2004 16:50

Zapatistas are making a new free society possible, there idea are not exactly anarchists but there struggle against statism,authority and market based societies are exactly what we are against, they have created an autonmous space where the civilians are able to participate in social/community affairs.

They are open to new ideas and political/cultural and social debates, so solidarity from us anarchists is needed and i expect welcomed.

We as a movement can learn alot from the Zapatistas.

And i agree with GT's words there taht we should supportthem by increasing our actions.

knightrose
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Jan 10 2004 18:34

I can't understand how the article appeared in Resistance in the first place. The following is from our Aims and Principles.

4. We are opposed to the ideology of national liberation movements which claims that there is some common interest between native bosses and the working class in face of foreign domination. We do support working class struggles against racism, genocide, ethnocide and political and economic colonialism. We oppose the creation of any new ruling class. We reject all forms of nationalism, as this only serves to redefine divisions in the international working class. The working class has no country and national boundaries must be eliminated. We seek to build an anarchist international to work with other libertarian revolutionaries throughout the world.

However, if that is not enough, then we should be considering the difference between form and content. It really is unimportant if a movement or an organisation is non-heirachical and libertarian if the content of what they are proposing is not communist.

If the proposal is not for economic structures that challenge exchange as a means of distribution, then the underlying capitalist nature of the economy remains.

Lots of groups claim to be against a market based economy - the SWP is an obvious example. We do, however, examine their opinions more closely.

Why is it that critical faculties become weaker the further away that the issue is? Rose tinted binoculars, perhaps?

butchersapron
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Jan 11 2004 22:39

I would ask to what extent are the zaps a traditional leftist 'national lib' group, with all the leftist crap that goes with it ? - and i do agree that they started out as that. But from what i can see they've been forced to reject that approach by the realities and limits of the situation and have, to my mind, ended up being a practical critique of the dead-end nationalism that the left espouses - they've in effect gone beyond that and shown that our position is infinetly better than the 'third-worldism' of the trots.

They've now run up against the barriers that we expected them to - but i think that this is useful as it does demonstrate that struggle is a *process* - and that things change during the that struggle - that something that dosn't look too promising can develop into something that goes far beyond the boundaries that were originally set for it.

I think knightrose comes quite close to the position that befell the old marxists preWW1 - that we have a program and a way to implement it and that this is the only way to make any progress. I don't think this is historically true and i can see no reason why it should be for the future - most uprisings/insurrections etc have involved a whole mess of confused and often contradictory elements - but they existed nonetheless. The crucial point is the direction they are moving in - not only where they have started from.

All that said, i do think some of the langauge used in the article could have been tightened up to bring out the class aspect of the zaps struggle.

In relation to the zaps, this means offering our support to the movement as it makes this progress whislt seeking to make contact with and influence those elements favourable to us (and by that i mean anarchist-communists, not the AF).

With all that said though, i do think the language in the original article could have been tightened up to emphasise the class struggle aspects of the zaps.

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Jan 14 2004 22:33

I have to side with Knightrose on this. Though the article made some criticisms, it was still much too uncritical for an AF publication, and I was surprised it got in without a bit more editing.

A rant now - not necessarily aimed at the glorious Resistance eds, who are allowed to occasionally slip up because they otherwise do a grand job(crawl crawl)...

This whole anarchist-zapatista love affair really gets on my nerves - mind you, I suspect balaclava chic plays some part in this all too often blind support and glorification of the zapatistas by people who should know better.

That's not to say that there aren't positive elements to the zapatistas, but we can say that about most leftist outfits too. There are positive sides to being in a trade union, but we don't glorify them as many anarchos do with the zapatistas. Then again, if trade union bureaucrats wore balaclavas and bandanas, they might get a bit more street cred with the anarchist swamp.

Or is this all a bit too cynical?

Having said all this, I have no problem with anarchists in Mexico being involved with the zapatista movement and the general struggles in Chiapas, just as I have no problem with anarchists here (and elsewhere) being trade union members. It's just all the mindless cheerleading and subcommandante-marcos-bumsucking from across the ocean that irks me.

WeTheYouth
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Jan 15 2004 08:45

Serge i think your being a bit too cynical, I dont like the Zapatistas because of there sexy clothes wink i like what they do in to organise society in there communities and all over the Chiapas, i think the Zapatistas pros far out way the cons compared to a trade union.

Name one place anywhere in the world where an operating system of social order exists where liberty and freedom are no suppressed, in the Chiapas they have coem along way to get Liberty and almost autonmy from the oppressive puppet state, i think they are doing a fine job and i for one applaud there struggle ( Not just because of teh clothes) because what they do for the people.

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Jan 15 2004 09:19

OK Wetheyouth, maybe I am being cynical, but what evidence is there to show that the zapatistas are not the usual leftist mob?

See, as happens all the time with the left, a significant number of anarchists also have an inglorious tradition of jumping on the bandwagon of any authoritarian/leftist/nationalist/liberal/etc movement, that starts firing off its guns.

Earlier information about the EZLN didn't give me the impression that their aims had much in common with those of revolutionary anarchists. But if this has since changed, how has it changed? What makes the zapatistas any different?

butchersapron
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Jan 15 2004 10:17

A pretty compreshensive outline of how the zaps were forced to drop much of their Maoism and leftism (not all of it mind) by the opposition of the chiapas inhabitants and the how they (the zaps) came to face up to the reality that they were operating on outdated models can be found in Aufhebens excellent A Commune in Chiapas? http://www.geocities.com/aufheben2/auf_9_zaps.html which also touches directly on the issues we've been discussing here, as well as the various anarchist/ultra-left responses to what's been going on.

WeTheYouth
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Jan 15 2004 10:30
butchersapron wrote:
A pretty compreshensive outline of how the zaps were forced to drop much of their Maoism and leftism (not all of it mind) by the opposition of the chiapas inhabitants and the how they (the zaps) came to face up to the reality that they were operating on outdated models can be found in Aufhebens excellent A Commune in Chiapas? http://www.geocities.com/aufheben2/auf_9_zaps.html which also touches directly on the issues we've been discussing here, as well as the various anarchist/ultra-left responses to what's been going on.

Nice one wink

nastyned
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Jan 19 2004 21:54

I think there are good and bad elements to the whole zapatista thing.

I’m not convinced when people dismiss them as just another bunch of leftists.

I don’t think the Zapatistas are a bog standard national liberation group. To me they don’t look similar to say, the IRA or the Tamil Tigers. And I don’t think they look much like other leftist guerrillas like say, FARC.

I find the hero worship of them even worse. There are things about them I have a lot of problems with. For starters I don’t trust ‘Subcomadante’ Marcos as far as I could throw him. He seems to me to act like a politician and say whatever he thinks his audience wants to hear. The article ‘Mexico is not only Chiapas nor is the rebellion in Chiapas merely a Mexican affair’ (http://www.geocities.com/CapitolHill/Lobby/2379/tptg1.htm) has a good critique of the formal politics of the zapatistas (and shows that they’re not a patch on the Magonists! wink) The EZLN flirted with the leftist PRD at one point. And they have unsuccessfully tried to come to terms with the Mexican state at times.

But it’s also important to look at their achievements. I’m not impressed by the fact they have guns and wear balaclavas. They’re not exactly very successful militarily anyway. No, for me it’s the thousands of people that have organised in autonomous communities since the zapatista uprising that I think looks positive. From what I’ve read about them these look like people running their own communities free from the state and I don’t think they would exist if the zapatista uprising hadn’t taken place. I don’t know how the economics between zapatista villages works but then they’re probably living at a subsistence level anyway.

Mind you, I’m still not sure what lesson we’re supposed to draw from them. I can’t see a jungle based peasant guerrilla army or autonomous villages catching on round my way.

knightrose
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Jan 20 2004 16:41
nastyned wrote:
I think there are good and bad elements to the whole zapatista thing. ...

But it?s also important to look at their achievements. ... for me it?s the thousands of people that have organised in autonomous communities since the zapatista uprising that I think looks positive. From what I?ve read about them these look like people running their own communities free from the state and I don?t think they would exist if the zapatista uprising hadn?t taken place. I don?t know how the economics between zapatista villages works but then they?re probably living at a subsistence level anyway.

Like others, I've only read much about the Zapatistas when they first came on to the scene. I would suggest, though, that the freedom of organising and running communities comes from the reality of a small area needing to operate when surrounded by an enemy. The Zaps have got a choice, either be dictators or allow self-organisation. It looks like they've adopted the latter course.

In any event, we can easily exercise caution by stating our support (for what it's worth - and in practice it amounts to very little) for the peasants of the Chiapas region, without at the same time committing ourselves to supporting a political organisation of which we know little. As I probably said earlier, we adopt a similar stance with other struggles!

To back up the butcher, however, I would agree that anarchists gave immediate support for the zapatistas largely because of their image and would the suggestion that thier name was reminiscent of someone who some believe was an anarchist or libertarian of some kind! But then, thinking before acting has never been something most anarchists could be accused of, is it?

ffaker
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Jan 25 2004 00:35

Marcos to ETA: "I shit on all the revolutionary vanguards of this planet"

http://struggle.ws/mexico/ezln/2003/marcos/etaJAN.html

There's LOADS more from an explicitly anrachist view here:

http://struggle.ws/mexico/anarchist.html

I haven't read much, but they seems to take the view that there is more to them than Maoism smile

WeTheYouth
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Jan 26 2004 11:47

I think Marcos is a good human being from what i have read, he seems to care more about the peopel than his own popularity even if he does have alot of charisma on the microphone.

They are not exactly anarchists but we can run parelels with there beleifs and ours on organisation and order.

Not to mention we should give support to the people that are oppressed by the state even if they are living in autonmy, im sure trade and resources aint too great.

knightrose
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Jan 26 2004 18:59

My view is that we should express solidarity with the people of the Chiapas region, my problem is with supporting the Zaps, of whom i remain unconvinced.

JoeBlack
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Jan 29 2004 16:48

Knightrose the problem with your position is that the EZLN has been in the publish sphere for 10 years now/ We are not in 1994 when some did complain of anarchists offering solidarity on a very superficial read of the movement. We are in 2004 when some pretty detailed studies of the EZLN have been produced by anarchists and others (see http://struggle.ws/mexico/comment/andrew_diff_feb01.html for instance).

It is not 'good enough' for you to repeat the slogans of '94 from those who then sought to pour cold water on such support. You need to address what we know now and you need to explain why 10 years has not been enough time for YOU to produce a substantial critique.

Of course its true that we can say 'we support the peasants but not the organistaion they have chosen to create'. But if we are saying this we should be able to explain why we are saying this. 10 years on it is not good enough to hide behind 'we don't know enough'.

That the Zapatistas are something other then anarchists is clear but so too is the fact that they share much with anarchists, not least a rejection of seizing power. Perhaps there are lessons for us and not just them in the areas of difference?

raw
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Feb 8 2004 17:12

There will be a "Zapatista Rebellion" Event at the Occupied Social Centre, 93 Fortess Road, Kentish Town and with an open discussion started by two italian autonomists about the zapatista struggle. It would be good to bring this discussion up as well.

Anyway:

8pm Saturday Feb 21st

Occupied Social Centre

93 Fortess Road

Kentish Town

Tube: Kentish Town or Tufnell Park

Bus: 134, 214, C2

Mexican Cafe - Cheap Bar - Zapatista Coffee point - Live Music - Infoshop

Free entry!

>>>This is not a plug - honest!

domina
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Jun 25 2004 02:06

So you dont agree with guns and banaclavas...what would you do if you were living in chiapas, colombia, venezuala, chile? practically any country in south america, where any sign of social dissent is silenced by either the army or the para's?.... the guns are a means of self defence when your country and people are being raped something more then just words are needed...dont get me wrong words can do alot i'm just trying to say unless you've spent time in such a hostile situation and seen it through the eyes of family and your own spirit ...pues yeah.. As an anarchist i dont agree with everything they're about but i give them respect...

David UK
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Sep 5 2004 09:55

I think anarchists should support the Zapatistas, they are attempting (quite successfully) to run Direct Democracy in the towns and farms in Chiapas, giving the people the power. :red:

Owen
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Jan 17 2005 04:26

I don't think that anarchists should discount the Zapatistas just because of the history of some those involved in the movement and because of the possibility that some of their policies conflict theoretically with anarchism. Instead we could better judge them by what has actually been accomplished under their revolution.

The Zapatistas have driven out the exploiters, freed the workers from the exploiters dominance, collectivized the land, set up autonomous communes and have a participatory form of democracy within the autonomous zones.

They also have been smart enough to have survived for over a decade wheres their predecessors under Emiliano Zapata where destroyed by the Mexican state within a year(Morelos Commune, 1915).

And though they have made overtures to the Mexican state they haven't compromised their position or become officially absorbed by the Mexican government.

Their limitations seem to stem from the fact that there is not a worthy parallel organization that they can link up with in other parts of Mexico, especially among the urban workers.

The Zapatistas are isolated physically though not ideologically, in that they have many supporters throughout the world.

Hopefully in the near future something will develop that will alleviate their physical isolation. But in the mean time the very least we could do as anarchist is continue to support them ideologically if we can't do so physically. red n black star