You are on page 1of 5

Photo credlt: \NwWlecr.cremona..


o ::l

$ gJ 5'

:::i o

I.g: ~.

5l "~ 3


Sul::iJoommandante Marcos

Like so many others left behind by globalization, the Mayans of Chiapas had fallen off the eeonomic map:

IIBelow in the

cities, II the EZlN command stated, "we did not exist. Our lives

were worth less than those of machines or animals. We were like stones, like weeds in the road. We were silenced. We were faceless. II

On Vanguard Parties

by Zapatista Suocornrnandante Marcos

Subcommandante Marcos is the main spokesperson for the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) in Chlapas, Mexico, EZLN launched its campargn in January 1994, ;taking over govemment offices in San Cristobal de las Ceses=en action made in r:espo(Jse to Indigenous people's poverty and lack of public services in the region's neer-ieude! system. Some 60,000 soldfers restored control. A seven year stalema't!e followed. The EZLN retr:ea,ted into the fringes afthe Lacand6n jungle. A tense situatfen between proand anti~ Zapati~tas sometime» exp10qed into Violence. lnOecember 1997; parammtaries massacred 45 Zapatista'izers in the village at Acteal.

Editor's Note: The Zapatistas don't fit most categol1iEls of "revclutlcnarles.' The following, taken from an article by Naomi Klein in The (BriUsh) Guardian,. provides further background:

Though there is no confirmation of MarGos's real identity, the most repeated legend that surrounds him goes iike this: an urban Marxist intellectual and activist, Marcos was wanted by the state and was no longer safe in the cities .. He fled to the mountains ot Chiapas ln soutneest Mexico fitled with revolutionary rhetoric and certainty, there to convert the poor indigenous masses ta the ceuse of armed proletarian revolution against the bourgeoisie. He said the workers of the world must unite, and the' Mayans just stared at him. They said they weren't workers and, besides, land wasn't property but the heart of their community: Having failed as a Marxlst missionary, Marcos immersed himself In. Mayan culture.

The more he teemed, the less he knew. Out of this process, a new kind of army emergedi the Zapatista National Liberation Army, which was nat controlled by en

efJ't.e of guerrilla commanders but by the communities tbemseivee; through clandestine counclls and open assemblies. 'Our army,' S€iYs Marcos, 'f;Jecame soandalously Indian.' That meant that he wa'sn't a commander barking orders, but a subcommendente, a conduit for the will of the councils. His first words said in the new person'a were.: 'Through me speaks the will of the Zapatista National .Libera~ tion Army.' Further subjugating himselt Marcos' says that he is not a leader to those who s:sek him out, but that his blaok mask is a mirror, reflecting each of their own struggles; that a Zapeitista is anyone anywhere fighting injustice, that 'We are you ' .. He once said; {Marcos is: gay in San Francisco,. black in South Africa, Asian in Europe. Chicano in San Ysidro, Palestinian in Israel, Mayan indian In the streets of San Cristobal, Jew in Germany, Gypsy in Pol'and, Mohawk in Quebec, pacifist fn Bosnia, anarchist in Spain, single woman on the Metro at 10pm. peasanf lMithout land, gang memeer in the slums, unemployed worker, unhappy student and, of course, a Zapa1tista in ;the mountains' ...

Like so many others left .behind by globa/estton, the Mayans of Chiapas had fallen off the economic map: DBe/ow in the cities," the EZLN command stated, "we did not exist. Our lives were wotti: less than those of macbines or animals. We were like stones, like weeds in the road. We were silenced. We wer€;!' faceless. "

The Punch Card and the Hourglass, Interview (excerpts) by GarcIa Marque.z &. lRoberto Pombo with Zapatista Subcommandante Maroos. Revista Cambia, Bogota, 26 March 2001,

& New Left Review 9 (new series), MaywJune 2.001.

.... The EZLN has a milirtary structure, Subcomanc;tante Marcos is the military

43 Special Feature: The Pusn-Put: of Immigration

chief ot an army. But our army is very different from others, because its proposal Is to case being an army. A soldier is an absurd person who has to resort to arms in order to convince others, and in that sense he movement has no future if its future is military. If the EZLN perpetuates itself as an armed military structure, it is headed for failure. Failure as an alternative se of ideas, an alternative attitude to the wo ld .. The worst that could happen to it, apa from that, would be to come to power nd install itself there as a revolutionary army. For us it would be a failure ..

What auld be a success for the politicomillta organizations of the sixties or seventies . hich emerged with the national

li.berat~i n. .... en ... t .. s WO.U.ld. b ... e .afiasco for us. We have seen that such victories

proved in the end to be failures, or defeat, hidden behind the mask of success. .. hat always remained unresolved was th role of people, of civi.1 society, in what Itimately became a dispute betwee two hegemonies. There is an oppres or power whic.h decides on behalf of socl ty from above, and a group of vislonaties which decides to lead the countr>1 on the correct path an.d ousts the other ~roup from power, seizes power and th n also .. decides on. b~.half of 80Ci-. ety. Fa us that is a struggle between hegem~nies, in which the winners are good apd the losers bad, but for the rest of sociEity things don't basically change ...

You catot reconstruct the world or society, not rebuild national states now in ruins, or the basis of a quarrel over who will im!i'0se their hegemony on SOCiety. The world in general, and Mexican society in PFrticular, is compo .. sed of different kinds pf people, and the relations betwee them have to be founded on respec and tolerance, things which appear in none of the discourses of the politicoTmilitary?rganizati~ns of the sixties antH seventies. Reality, as always, presented a bill to the armed national liberation movements of those days, and the cos of settling [the bill] has been very high.

Every v I nguard imagines itself to be rep-

I Social Policy 'iiilllijBipt'f)

resentatlve of tile majority. We not only think that is false in our case, but that even in the best of cases it is little more than wishful thinking, and in the worst cases an outright usurpation. The moment social forces come into play, it becomes clear that the vanguard is not such a vanguard and that those it representsdo not recognize themselves in it. The EZLN, in renouncing any claim to be a vanguard, is recognizing its real horizon, To believe that we can speak on behalf of those beyond ourselves is political masturbation ... We are trying to be honest with ourselves and some might say that this is a matter of human decency ..... [O]ur discourse has reached the ears of many more people than those we represent. This is the point we have reached. That's all.

[Marcos comments on the armed conflict in Colombia, and the Colombian querrillas.] From here I see very little. dustwhat the media filter through: the current process of dialogue and negotiation, and its difficulties. So far as I can tell. it's a very traditional kind of dialogue-it's not innovative. Both sides are simultaneously sitting at the table and bringing their military forces into play to gain an advantage at the table. Or vice versa, because we don't know what each of them has in mind. Perhaps the table offers advantages for military confrontations. We don't pay much attention to the accusations of links to drug-trafficking. because it wouldn't be the first time such charges are made and then they turn out not to be true. We give the Colombians the benefit of the doubt. We don't label them good' or bad, but we do keep our distance from them, as we do with other armed gmups in Mexico ... [We consider] kidnapping civilians [to be unethical].

The seizure of power does not j'ustify a revolutionary organization in taking any action that it pleases. We do not believe that the end justifies the means. Ultimately, we bekeve that the means are the end. We define our goal by the way we choose the means of struggllng for it. In that sense, the value we give to our word, to honesty and Sincerity, is great,

Special Feature: The Push-Pull of Immigration


The E.ZLN, in renouncing any claim to be a vanguard, is recognizing its real horizon. To believe that we can speak on behalf of those beyond ourselves is political masturbation ...

We don't need or want your support or solidarity. We already have the support and solidarity of many people in Mexico and the

world.OUf struggle has a code of honor, inherited from

our guerilla ancestors ...

although we occasionally sin out of na'lv,ete, For example" on 1 January 1 994, before attackin.g the Army, we announced that we wer-e going to, attack, They didn't believe us. 'Sometimes this yields results and sometimes it doesn't, But it satisfies us that. as an of@anization, we are creating an identity as we g.o ,along.

It's very easy, and very irresponsible, to offer oplnlons from here on what is happening [iin Celombia]. A process of dialogue and neg.otiation is unlikely to be successful if each party remains intent on w]nnjing. If one side uses negotiations as a test of force to see if it can defeat the other, sooner or later the dialogl:Je will fail. lin that event, the field of milftary confrontation is simply being transferred to the negotiating table. For dialogue and negotiation to succeed, both parties have to proceed from the assumptton that they cannot defeat their opponent. They need 'to f~nd a way 0Ut that means a victoryfor both-or, in the' worst of cases, a defeat for both. But that brings the confrontation as it is to an end. Of course. this is difficult-above all for movements whioh have been active for many years, like· the Cotornbian guerrillas. Much harm has been done on both sides and many debts have yet to be settled, but I believe it is never too late to try.

Excerpts from Srubcommandante Marcos' open letter to the Basque political-military organiz.ation Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) .•. From La Jornada; translated by Laura Fecha, January 27,2003 ..

... We know that the Zapatlstas don't have a place fn the (dis)agreemen~s of the revolutionary and vanguard organilations of the world. or in the rearg,uard. This doesn't make us feel bad .. To the contrary. it satisfies us. We don'tgnieve when we 'recognize that our ideas. arid proposals don't have an eternal horizon, and that there are ideas and proposals better suited than ours. So we have renounced the role of vanquards .. ,.[We don't] obligate anyone to accept our thinking over another argument.. ,

Our weapons are not used to lmpose ideas or ways of Ilfe, rather to defend a way of thinking and a way of seeing the world and relating to it, something that, even though it can Jearn a lot 'from other thoughts and ways of Ufe. a'150 has a lot to teach. We are not those who you have to demand respectIrern. lt's already been seen how we are a failure [as a "rsvolutionary vanguard"] so our respect wouldn't be useful for anything. Your people are those you have to win respect from .. And "respect" is one thing; another very distinct thing is "fear", We know you are angry because we haven'ttaken you serlously,. but it is not ymurfau'lt.. We don't take anyone seriously, not even ourselves. Because whoever takes themselves seriously has stepped with the thought that their truth should be the truth for everyone and forever. And, sooner or later, they dedicate theft force not so that their truth wlll be born, grow, be frUitful and die (because no earthly truth is absolute and eternal} rather theY' use it to kill everything that doesn't agree with this truth ..

We derr't see why we would ask you what we should do or- how we should do it What are you .going to teach us? To kill journalists who speak badly about the st1ruggle? To justify the death of children for reason of the "cause"? We don't need or want your support or solidarity.,. We already have the support and solidarity of many people in Mexico and the worlc, Our struggle .has a cede of honor, inherited from our ,guerilla ancestors and ,it CGntalns, among other thin@"s: respect of civilian lives {even though they may occupy government positions that oppress us); we don't use crime to get resources for ourselves (we don't rob, neteven a snack store); we don't respond to words with fire (even though many hurt us or lie to us), One Gould think that to renounce these traditionally "revolutionary" methods is renouncinq the advancementof our struggle. But, in the faint right of our history it seems that we have advanced more than those that resort to such arguments (more to demonstrate their radical nature and consequences than to effectively serve their cause), Our enemies

45 Special Feeture: (he Push-Pull oflmmigration

I Social Polic, 'ill Ii IlUg 'HU

to The Word. If you don't want to give it, too bad.

(who a not just a few nor just in Mexico) want s to resort to these methods. Nothin _ would be better for them than the EZLN . onverting into a Mexican and indigen us version of ETA. In fact, ever since e have used The. Word to refer to the str ggle of the Basque people they have a cused us of this. Unfortunately for them, i is not like this. And it never will be ... w I don't try to tell anyone what they should 0, we only ask for an opportunity

p.s .... We don't want to make ourselves independent from Mexico. We want to be a part of it, but without leaving who we are: indigenous ...

Another p.s. It should already be evident, but I want to remark: I shit on all the revolutionary vanguards of this planet. +

REVI, . W OF: Uprooted:Fi~efugees of the Global Economy -- 30 minute video produ ed by the National Network for Immigrant and .Refugee Rights Wiith the Interf i,th GoalifionfQr Immigrant Rights and Carnin<=lnte Gulitural Work. To order and for information, <!www.nnirr;org>

victirns, At the same time we are survivors." lLuckner, an immigrant from Haiti simply nd effectively sums up the immigrant experience in the U.S. Luckner left Haiti becau e his one-dollar per day job stitching baseballs moved to China where labor is


Uproot d looks at i,mrnigration to the U.S. through the eyes of two i,ndividuals ahd one couple who left their homelands because ef the. esonomic pressures of g'IQbalization.

Frem t e PhIlippines, Maricel works in New Yo'rk as a domestic worker. Pa~ing its forelgn d bt, the fUm's voice-ever tells l;IS, I!:; the largest ITem in the Phllippines' national budge To earn dollars, the government encourages its people to work abroad; ten percen of them do--the highest percent in the w0rld.

Jessy nd Jaimfe ran a successful, small, electrical business in their native Bolivia. They c me to the U.S. for a eye operation for .Jairnle. While gone, shattering inftation hit thei country. At home their business was destroyed and their country in turmoil. Unable to use their enqineerinq degrees, they work as janitors in L0S AngeJes.

Mark:el Jess)' and Luckner work for the rights ot immigrants in the U.S .. That is the optlrnl lo message of this video: people are organizing,. The insight c-aptured by Luckne when he notes both the victim and survivor status of immigrants is well illustrated y these stories. It is for good reason that some of the most dynamic organizing, bo h workplace and community, takes place in immigrant communities. As these immlgr nts show, the individuals arriving on our shores are often vital people bcringing import nt talents with them. Further, their communities here in the U.S,--unfortunate!y not s fficiently commented on in Uprooted--are vital places as well, not yet broken

down TV, rugged individualism and consumerism. .

The. vi o's voice over provides the background information: 150,000,000 people around he globe are i~miflrants, most leavihg their homelands because of economic cone tlons f'esu!tlng from "Free trade" is the major ctilprit,.with multinatrona corporations, international financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund a d US government policies all working hand-in-hand to foster it.

For thoe open to the video's point of view, this is a compact presentation of the major "push- . ull" forces of immigration. The three stories put human faces on the issues. The voi e over provides the context.

For the keptic or critic, the video isn't sufficient. Accompanied by a panel discussion or pres ntation by people who could answer questions about the video's point of view, it waul be effectiVe fO'r most church, union', neigihbOrhood and interest organizations.

... we don It try to tell anyone what they should do, we only ask for an opportunity to the word. If you don't want to give it, too bad.

150,000,000 people around the globe are immigrants, most leaving their homelands because of economic conditions resulting from globalization. "Free trade" is the major culprit ...

Special Feature: The Push-Pull of Immigration 46

Copyright © 2003 E BSCO Publishing