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(en) Mexico: Cuban Libertarian Movement - Reflections on the 6th Declaration of the Lacandona Jungle and the new Latin American left [ca]

Date Sun, 28 Aug 2005 16:17:37 +0300

[*The CLM presents for collective debate its reflections on the declarations
made by the EZLN in July 2005 in the state of Chiapas, México]
On January 1st, 1994 the Free Trade Agreement between the United States, Canada
and Mexico came into effect, and along with the new year, spoiling the party
of the powerful, from deep within the forgotten Lacandona jungle also came on
scene "the fire and the word" of the Zapatista rebels. Back then the whole
world seemed to march without too much upheaval or energetic opposition towards
"the end of History" and was doing so via "globalization" and neo-liberalism;
that is - lest we forget and assume erroneously that those words explain
everything - via the present hegemonic model adopted by the state’s system of
control and transnational capitalism; that is, the currently prevalent models
of large scale domination and exploitation. In such a hopeless context, the
Zapatista outbreak meant a strong breeze of fresh air and a loud confirmation -
anticipated, naturally, in many but less resounding gestures of resistance all
over the world - that History continued its course and that nothing had put a
stop to people’s struggles. Thus it was lauded from the beginning by leftist
groups of diverse colors and thus it was also received by the Cuban Libertarian
Movement who then gave its initial support to community projects in the
Lacandona jungle such as the anti-authoritarian school May 1st or the direct
solidarity camp Chicago Martyrs. For us, then as now, the emergence and
development of the Zapatista National Liberation Army and its deeds make sense
and demand a new look as part of the emergence and development of a new Latin
American revolutionary left. The form, the profile and the orientations of that
constellation of left groups and practices are one of our basic issues;
therefore we must, within that frame of reference, take our position on the
road the EZLN is on and its recent 6th Declaration of the Lacandona jungle, as
well as on its treatment and derivations. We will do so, with the solidarity
and respect the Zapatista movement has earned on its merits whose proclamation
is not necessary, but also without omitting - this would be an inconceivable
demonstration of demagoguery and opportunism - the criticism we deem applicable
regarding contributions to the slow and laborious process of consolidating the
new Latin American revolutionary left.

What Left and where do we find it?

Let’s start at the beginning and answer the mother of all questions: what is
that new Latin American revolutionary left we speak of? For starters, there is
no doubt that left is the one that has not renounced utopia neither by word or
deed, and that, in spite of everything, finds its main encouragement in an
utopia that could be generally defined as a thick web of relationships among
free, equal and mutually supportive beings; an utopia capable of identifying
its distant and venerable beginnings and of reclaiming them for their much
needed actualization.

That left that feeds on not only its own full development but also on the
other’s emptiness and grows within the hopeless and widely open space created
by the resounding failures of the "actually existing socialism" and the
immediate defection of neo-liberal anti-utopia. This is the left that has
learned to recognize and look askance at the narrow and dry road left on the
wake of the guerrilla vanguards later become some exclusive and excluding
party, civil or military populism and social-democratic reformism; this is the
left that doesn’t feel represented by any authority and even questions the
meaning of "representation", that seeks itself among the cries of "let them all
go!" and the whispering promise to "change the world without taking power"; the
left that depends on the non-negotiable autonomy of grassroots social movements
as the template for a new world and that in self-management and direct action
finds its truest expression. A left that surely the EZLN wants to belong to and
that, in open reciprocity, finds in it one of its most visible manifestations.

Now then, neither that new left nor the EZLN are finished structures that
answer to a rigorous and extensive plan of construction but instead must be
thought of as work in progress, characterized here and there by inevitable
doubts and innovations founded on the needs of practices that are rabidly
antagonistic. For example, the EZLN makes sense if interpreted as a guerrilla
movement in transition. Its origins are more or less marked by the parameters
typical of Latin American guerrillas of the 60’s and 70’s: "national
liberation" as an informing concept, the pride of feeling and self-proclaiming
as an "army", the mystique of the "commandants", certain symbolic
reminiscences, etc., not really successful parameters and about which the EZLN
doesn’t seem to have yet performed an in-depth critique. Its own actions have
led it to adopt a profile that no longer responds to the old model. Not only
because the "war of liberation" in its classical sense lasted barely 12 days
but also because already by January 1st 1996 - the Fourth Declaration - the
EZLN gave us the happy surprise of calling for the formation of "a political
force that is not a political party" and indicating that it didn’t aspire to
take power. To put it in our own terms: neither the old guerrilla vanguard nor
social-democratic reformism. Neither - even less - the idols of populist
salvation that would hardly find themselves at home among the anonymous every
day events of the Lacandona jungle. That which, back then was beginning to
acquire its highest relevance is precisely what we’re most interested in
highlighting as a milestone of the new Latin American left: the autonomy of
grassroots social movements; an autonomy that, within the EZLN’s sphere of
action in Chiapas, is that of the communities of the first peoples.

Forwards and backwards of the Zapatista movement

Within the complex trajectory of the EZLN shadows and lights have, from the
beginning, coexisted. Looking to legitimately widen its breadth and project its
fight to the whole Mexican state, the EZLN rubbed elbows with, or glanced and
winked with certain familiarity at the dominant institutions while expanding
and consolidating its regional autonomy. The former only produced mediated
acknowledgements, broken pacts, delays and failures, the latter, in contrast,
cemented its hold on its immediate sphere of influence. And, just like the
former led to the episodic formation of large political superstructures that
voluntarily or not were delivered to the dynamics of the State or its implicit
environment of action and later were trapped in its steel claws (National
Democratic Convention, Movement of National Liberation, Committee of Concord
and Pacification, etc), the latter facilitated, from August 2003 on, the
emergence of a larger participation on the part of the Zapatista communities
and a possibly healthy redefinition of the EZLN; now aiming - although never
totally nor with convincing energy - to perform more as accompaniment than
unnecessary first violin. This alternative way of thinking about politics and
this latest course of action have allowed the formation of the five autonomous
regions in Chiapas and the (not very well) denominated councils of good
government; a reshuffling of roles far from being resolved and that has a lot
to do with the debates and problems of the new Latin American revolutionary
left. Lights and shadows through which the new EZLN has made manifest, either
the fusion, without a preconceived plan, of old and new elements combining -
very much like a movement in transition, as we have said - some of the
practices of a conventional guerrilla army with the indispensable dares claimed
by grassroots organizations as they build their autonomy. This play of lights
and shadows can’t help but have an effect on the Sixth Declaration and "the
other campaign" which we need to address immediately.

It is fitting to start by being fair and consequent: if there’s anything the
EZLN has made perfectly clear in its Sixth Declaration of the Lacandona jungle
is that it feels cheated and that the main agents of the fiasco are the
institutional political parties, with its leaders first of all. Their wording
in this respect leaves little room for exegesis too complex and needlessly
sinuous: "the politicians have clearly shown that they have no decency and are
just a bunch of scoundrels that only think of earning lots of money as the bad
governors they are. We must remember this because you will see that now they’re
going to say that they will recognize indigenous rights, but this is a lie they
tell us so we vote for them, but they already had their chance and didn’t come
through". Chances and defaults that - it all must be said with even clarity -
run through every country’s history of "representative" democracy and come
together each with its own characteristics in a hypothetical tale of universal
infamy. It being so, it is proper that the EZLN wants to leave outside its
expectations once and for all the institutional system of parties, wants to
trace a clear dividing line in that sense and wants to orient its message in
another direction: "a new step forward in the indigenous struggle is only
possible if the indigenous join the workers, peasants, students, teachers,
employees - that is, workers of town and country". In other words, going
further out and widening the spectrum of movements of resistance: "in this
globalization of rebellion appear not only the rural and urban workers, but
also others appear that are prosecuted and held in contempt precisely because
they don’t allow themselves to be dominated, such as women, young people,
indigenous people, homosexuals, lesbians, transsexuals, immigrants, and many
other groups that exist all over the world but that we don’t see nor hear until
they cry out enough already, and they rise up, and then we see them, and hear
them, and we learn from them". A web of oppression, exclusion and pain seems to
be at the bottom of the longings and desires of the EZLN; and perhaps the
Lacandona jungle can be felt pulsating behind and under these words, words that
not because they’re deliberately simple lack a deep and dear meaning.

It is possible to agree with the immediate horizon in practically everything:
the more or less stable articulation of these resistance movements behind a
leftist program of struggle and the collective start of a "national campaign to
build another way of doing politics". Another way of doing politics: this
should be understood as totally different from that developed in a shameless
contemptuous way by the electoral parties, always embarked in the rhythmic and
spasmodic succession of seductive promises, amnesias without description and
opportunistic justifications. Here we have, for instance, a new Zapatista
attack: "And those electoral parties not only don’t defend, but they are the
first to be at the service of foreigners, mainly the United States, and are the
ones who deceive us, making us look the other way while they sell off
everything and keep the money". Irrefutable judgments are these that the 6th
Declaration also extends with some nuances to the bureaucratic and defeatist
labor movement: "And if the workers were in their union to legally demand their
rights, then no, right now the union tells them they have to buck up and accept
a lower salary or less hours or less benefits, or else the company closes and
goes to another country". A different way of doing politics about which not
many things are specified but must surely be understood as an option for direct
democracy as opposed to hierarchical and crystallized "representations"; an
option for the people’s active participation with all its potential as opposed
to the systematic exclusion that has always benefited technocrats and
"know-it-alls"; an option for sincerity, dialog among equals and the shared
elaboration of those dreams that are common to all as opposed to the insensible
and absurd fair of the vanities where dissembling and lying run the house. The
Declaration doesn’t say it, but such things can be implicit inasmuch they seem
to be the authentic road to the formation and development of the indigenous
Zapatista communities, essential signs of their existence and their

Constitutional change: a road to nowhere

It’s a good thing there aren’t many definitions or a detailed and suffocating
program to subscribe to, since the presence of such things would be more an
invitation to adhesion than to dialogue; consideration of Mexican grassroots
social movements more as a passive audience or an empty container than as a
living and active fabric, capable of producing its own words and its own fire.
Nevertheless there is a unique programmatic element the EZLN seems to take as
axiomatic and tacitly agreed to, an element that can be a source of errors of
vision and multiple strategic mistakes: "a new Constitution". Will this be an
elliptical way of referring to the constituent basis of a new Mexican society,
and therefore including the conviction that this requires no more nor less a
radical subversion of its power relations? Or perhaps it attempts to embark the
autonomous social movements on a conventional constitutional reform whose
transactions and game rules have been previously defined along the norms in
force and as such, subjected beforehand to those very same power relations? On
its face, it would seem that the EZLN holds a nostalgic idea of the Mexican
Constitution that doesn’t hold up to an analysis in depth. Let’s see: "the
Constitution has been fondled and changed. It is no longer that which had the
rights and liberties of the working people, but now it has the rights and
liberties of the neo-liberals to obtain their huge profits. The judges are
there to serve those neo-liberals because they always rule in their favor, and
those who aren’t rich get only injustice, prison or the cemetery". But, did
Mexico ever have a constitution that really consecrated, without ifs and buts,
and in its widest expression "the liberties of the working people"? This type
of reasoning might perhaps lead to the belief that the EZLN has understood very
well the articulations of power that characterize the state’s political parties
but has not yet grasped those that characterize the state itself. However,
there’s no mystery in this and it can be stated, paraphrasing Marcos, in very
simple words: the parties are like they are because the state is like it is.

Something that should be beyond any discussion is that the state is a specific
structure of domination, a hierarchical and codified form of social power
relations and a system designed to self-perpetuate. This being so, the correct
description the EZLN makes of the state’s party system cannot be founded in the
malevolence, the perverse character or the venality of its leaders but must
find a substantial part of its reasoning in the fact that such parties
establish their basic orientation as an operation to capture the reins of the
State. And it is precisely because of this that such parties adopt a shape that
faithfully reproduces the State in their own actions: that is why they
constitute themselves as instances of control and disciplining of its
affiliates; that is why they assign deferential attributions to each of their
own organs in their pyramidal existence; and that is why they believe that
their survival, beyond any historical or social consideration, should be seen
by "the voters" - their own and the other’s - as a blessing from heaven. We
anarchists have been so convinced for over 130 years and the subsequent
historical experience has only confirmed those old intuitions, and has done so
without presenting, since then, a single exception to our anxious and expectant
eyes. Furthermore: if in the past it was said "power corrupts" today we can say
that even the mere aspiration to power also corrupts, beforehand and with
plenty of room.

In this we must be clear and coherent. How does one reconcile the EZLN saying
"we fight to be free, to not have to change master every six years" with the
EZLN who speaks of "a new Constitution"? Can perhaps a Magna Carta transacted
and compacted by necessity with the current state organization, according to
the traditional sense of the expression, be reconciled with the struggle for
freedom? It would seem not, and it would also seem that the correct orientation
is exactly the contrary: the struggle for freedom starts with the autonomic
formation of grassroots social movements and develops within it, while the
negotiated pursuit of a new Constitution is condemned to be mired in the
tortuous maze of the State and its endless machinations. Such conclusion
doesn’t need any erudite study in comparative politic, It’s more than enough
with the experience of the EZLN in similar matters. The fundamental and radical
rejection to the state’s party system is an important conceptual step that only
requires its necessary complement: the rejection of the narrow road of the
state that will allow unfettered transit without chains or distractions along
the fertile road of autonomy. This autonomy of the social movements, set
within the frame of territorial action they decide to give themselves, is the
libertarian condition par excellence: an autonomy that requires emancipation
from all-knowing power, external and superior, in order for each collective to
design, with the largest margin of liberty possible, its own living
relationships and its own recourses to action; without conditions or
extortions, thinking themselves and their becoming and trusting in their own
abilities rather than predestinations, messiahs, doctrines, conspiracies or
randomness that - as is well known - have never nor will ever lead anywhere.

We all could "walk by asking" and "command by obeying". There are many more
things that could be argued in solidarity with the EZLN regarding their Sixth
Declaration, or better yet, do so with all the Zapatista communities and, in
general, about the people’s lives and struggles.

For example, we would like to go deeper on globalization and neo-liberalism, so
that among us all we can trace a map of the world that is not reproducible
exclusively in black and white, to see that in this arena there are more than
two gladiators and it’s necessary to identify a whole gamut of local
relationships articulated for our own convenience and not out of pure
obsequiousness to the world’s great centers of power. In the end capitalism
also finds citizenship papers and its specific multinational facade in Mexico,
without the imperative of an external agent to give it life, impulse and
projection. This type of consideration will allow us to make common, with
almost complete certainty, the conviction that not only sold out politicians
and their corrupt followings are responsible for the situation but also there
are certain social levels that also try hard maintaining the status quo. This
might bring us to share definitions much more markedly anti-capitalist,
anti-state and anti-bureaucratic that perhaps the EZLN has already formulated
within itself but has not yet made completely manifest.

We’d like to reflect in a brotherly way on a sentence of the Sixth Declaration
to which we assign special importance and that illustrates one of the
distinctive features of the EZLN all this time: "that is, on top the democratic
political commanding and below the military obeying. Or perhaps even better
that there be no below but everything level, with no military, and that is why
the Zapatistas are soldiers so that there be no more soldiers". Really, if
everything were "level" nobody would command and nobody would obey but each act
out of their own convictions, their own possibilities and their own commitments
with the agreements freely adopted. And we would say that it’s dangerous and
paradoxical this having soldiers so as not to have soldiers because then - what
a mess of words! - we would always need some soldiers so there would be no more
soldiers. It seems much better, more direct and clearer to say that we are
anti-military, and then really get to work, fully and not half-hearted, for the
dissolution of all armies.

We would like to discuss in more detail with our comrades from the Lacandona
jungle the motives that cause our enthusiasm with the idea of bringing together
all the Mexican social movements in a wide net without exclusion. But even
then, we would like to maintain a respectful discrepancy with respect to a
proceeding that might not be the best. We think that this net should not have a
center and, precisely because of this, the EZLN should not have self-attributed
the role of initial coordinator assigning to itself the administration of a
dialogue where the participants have already been previously categorized and
meet according to the dispositions in regards to dates, place and agenda
prescribed by the CCRI. It surely would have been better that the dates would
have resulted from a broad previous consultation, that the place would be
equidistant and that the initial agenda would be nothing but the free flow of
the irrevocable popular voice. Perhaps there’s no cause for mistrusting the
intentions and believe that this gathering is nothing more than a foundational
necessity and that there will be plenty of future opportunities for things to
be different.

Cuba: so near Chiapas, so far from the EZLN

We’d like to expound these things and many others, but right now it only seems
right to place the questions. There is, however, an issue we can’t avoid at
this time and that, as the Cuban Libertarian Movement, especially and directly
interests us. We think it’s great that the EZLN manifest its solidarity with
the people struggling in Latin America and the world and we could issue our own
declarations to the effect. Inasmuch as people’s struggles happen everywhere,
we think it’s a good literary image to say that we can’t very well tell where
to deliver the EZLN’s testimonies of solidarity. What is not clear, then, is
the ideological and political mechanism whereby the peoples of the world are
"not locatable" whereas the Cuban people can find their seat, their natural
residence and their legitimate representation at their government’s embassy in
Mexico City. Seeing things this way, it’s as if the EZLN interrupted almost all
its concepts, praxis and learning at the very moment of landing in Cuba. What
natural and coherent link can there be between a platform that seeks to exalt
the fabric of Mexican society through its grassroots social movements and
another that assumes that its Cuban equivalent is totally absorbed by its
government. Furthermore, does the EZLN believe that the Cuban government
embodies the model of a new Latin American revolutionary left or is disposed to
participate in it, eve as a discreet fellow traveler? Does the EZLN believe
that they must do in Mexico what the Cuban "Communist" Party has done in Cuba?
Does the EZLN deem contradictory and inconsequent to solidly marry the autonomy
of the grassroots communities with a centralizing and excluding regime? Does
the EZLN think that the self-_expression of the Cuban people could be
autonomous popular organizations whose appearance the government carefully and
systematically tries to forestall by means of preventive repression? What
answers, finally, can the EZLN give to such grave questions?

In addition, the EZLN can’t ignore or forget that during four long decades the
Cuban and the Mexican government maintained fraternal relations; one of the
best moments can surely be found around the complicit silence on the part of
the Cuban government about the massacre of Tlatelolco in 1968 and the sending
of athletes to the Olympic games immediately following; in spite of calls for
the boycott of the games at the time by the Mexican left. There is a fraternal
inter-states relationship that is not hard to personify in the friendship
between Fidel Castro and Carlos Salinas de Gortari, part of whose fortune -
amassed thanks to the exploitation of the Mexican worker - today is invested in
Cuban territory. Given these antecedents, and many others of a similar
character, the EZLN should have no difficulty verifying that, for the Cuban
ruling elite, the axis of international relations does not consist of the
people’s struggles but instead these struggles are re-interpreted at will
according to the type of relationship the ruling monopoly party decides to have
with the rest of the governments, if and when they can breathe a little oxygen
to its capacity for survival. How can you explain, if not, that Cuban diplomacy
has supported the struggles against South Africa’s apartheid and has also shown
extreme solidarity with the Suharto regime in Indonesia, who maintained a
similar situation in East Timor? What coherence can there be between
subscribing to the rights of African peoples to define their own destiny while
at the same time sending troops of occupation to face Eritrean independence
fighters according to the needs of the Soviet’s chess game, or now in a
virtually ludicrous register, training Idi Amin’s military escort? What
justification does the Cuban government have to send a vice-president to take
part in the Davos forum and later send its president of the National Assembly
to protest in Porto Alegre against the same forum? How can it be that racism is
so strongly condemned at the UN World Conference on the subject that took place
in Durban and later refusing all invitations to analyze the reasons why there’s
an over-representation of Black people in Cuba’s jails. And so on, as far as
anybody’s critical curiosity might take them.

By the way: is it necessary to remind the EZLN of the living conditions of the
Cuban people and their absolute impossibility to self-organize autonomously or
even to express themselves to face the situation? We think any concrete
reference is unnecessary at this moment and we want to believe that the mention
of the embassy of the Cuban government in Mexico City is only a mistake; a
lapse that can be amended at the earliest opportunity. We want to believe it is
so because what’s at stake is a lot more important and we have so insinuated
from the beginning. Let’s repeat it and keep it present from now on: what
matters is the formation, the profile and the orientation of a constellation of
rebel groups and practices that today meet the conditions to nurture the new
Latin American revolutionary left. In this work of creation there can be no
carelessness nor levity nor polite phrases. In this work of creation the Cuban
government has nothing to contribute because the only genuine messages that
will permit us to advance along the road of freedom will not issue from the
bureaucrat’s offices in Havana but from the clashes and din that surge from
deep below and that below find their unmistakable echoes. It is there with the
Ecuadorian "outlaws", the Mapuche resistance, the Cochabamba peasants, the
occupied factories in Argentina, the land occupations in Brasil and, of course,
also in the experiences and trials that today are taking place in the Lacandona

Movimiento Libertario Cubano (MLC)
Cuban Libertarian Movement (CLM)


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