NEWS AND ANALYSIS / JULY 28 – AUGUST 9, 2008

JULY 28 – AUGUST 9, 2008

1. Marcos speaks to Solidarity Caravan in Chiapas

Subcomandante Marcos delivered a welcoming speech to the National and International Caravan for Observation and Solidarity, composed of 200 mainly European internationalists and 100 nationals mainly from Mexico City. The August 2nd speech in La Garrucha marked his first public appearance since returning to Chiapas at the end of last year after postponing the second phase of the Other Campaign due to increasing paramilitary activity against Zapatista communities. The talk was directed to solidarity activists and offers a clear explanation of the Zapatistsa’s call to organize from below and from the Left. The full speech is available at http://enlacezapatista.ezln.org.mx/.

Early in the talk, Marcos directed criticism at the International Civil Commission for Observation of Human Rights, composed mainly of Europeans claiming a politically “neutral” stance in Mexico. Marcos accused the Commission of “washing the hands of Chiapas’ PRD governor by claiming that the aggressions that our communities suffer are not related to the state government but rather the federal government.” The Commission, which visited Chiapas, Oaxaca and Atenco in February and issued a report on human rights abuses, is composed mainly of non-governmental organizations that have increasingly aligned themselves with Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s wing of the PRD in recent years.

Marcos offered a brief historical overview of the Zapatista movement, beginning with the arrival in Chiapas 25 years ago of mestizo activists with a distinctive guerilla foco orientation popular among the Latin American Left at the time. The political vision of these urban guerillas quickly changed “from caudillistas, classic revolutionaries, where one man or a group of men become the salvation of humanity or of the country,” to an indigenous army “with an attachment to a life that had much to do with culture. The language, the forms of speech, the forms of relationships with nature offered an alternative not only for life but also for struggle… Those of us who came to save the indigenous communities were ourselves saved by the communities.”

Previous to the initial uprising in 1994, “it was the women who began to push for something to happen: we have to do something, we’ve had enough. It was the women who watched as their sons and daughters died” of curable diseases. And “what happened, happened. I’m not going to tell the story of January 1 … which opened a stage of resistance where we passed from armed struggle to civil and peaceful resistance… We discovered that solutions, as everything else in this world, are constructed from below. Our previous proposal, and the proposal of the orthodox Left – from above we will solve the problems for those below – was reversed. This change of orientation to organizing from below meant for us that we would not organize people to vote or to participate in a march or to shout slogans, but rather to survive and to convert their resistance into a school… And this is what we know now in general terms as the construction of autonomy.”

Marcos offered pointed criticism of the international Left that acts like “coyotes of solidarity. These people said, and still say, that they have the inside line with zapatismo, they have access to the hotline, they know where things stand, and this provides them with a certain political capital. They come to make small donations, in other words buy cheap, and then they present themselves as emissaries of the EZLN, in other words charge dear... These intermediaries organized and did things when we were popular…” but over the years many groups and individuals have abandoned the Zapatistas, with some joining the PRD and/or thinking “that it is possible that if the Left we know achieves power … they will govern without leaving their roots… Practically all of the countries of the world can attest to the opposite. When the Left, not necessarily radical, achieves power, they cease to be the Left. This is what we call the ‘stomach affect’ of power – or you are digested or you become shit… Our proposal continues to be the same. We do not want to take power. We think that things are constructed from below. And what has happened is the intermediaries of solidarity, the international coyotes, have moved to the right.” When the Zapatistas distributed the Sixth Declaration of the Selva Lacondona and launched the Other Campaign, it marked “the definitive rupture with the coyotes of solidarity.”

The Zapatistas “renounce the homogenization of society. We don’t envision a Zapatista Mexico, or a Zapatista world. We don’t want everyone to be indigenous. We want a space that is ours, where we are left in peace and where no one rules. This is liberty – when we decide what we want to do. We think this is only possible if other like ourselves struggle for the same and establish a relationship of compañeros. This is what we want to construct with the Other Campaign and the Sixth Declaration – an encounter of rebellions, an exchange of ideas and a direct relationship, not via the media, but rather real, of mutual assistance among organizations.”

Marcos finished his speech with a hope that some day those who are still active in the Left can say, in the name of those who died before them: “we never surrendered, we never sold out, we never gave up.”