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(en) Workers Solidarity #84 - Zapatistas: An Inspirational Decade On

From Worker <a-infos-en@ainfos.ca>
Date Sat, 5 Mar 2005 08:29:52 +0100 (CET)

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January 1st marked the 11th anniversary of the Zapatista uprising in
Chiapas, a state in southern Mexico. On New Years Day 1994, the
EZLN seized a number of towns in Chiapas before retreating into the
mountains and jungles in the face of a massive army counter attack.
The military phase of the struggle lasted only a few days as millions of Mexicans
demonstrated to demand that the army stop their offensive against the rebels.
The importance of their rebellion is not in the brief military struggle that
took place 11 years ago but in the society they have built in the years since.
Although the Zapatistas are not anarchists the way they wish to organise society
and the way they organise themselves shares many features with anarchism.

When you explain the anarchist vision to people a very common
response is that it is a nice idea but it could never work. People see all
the difficulties of their day-to-day lives and doubt that these could be
overcome to create a free society. But the Zapatista movement, despite
the fact that it is divided into five different languages and almost
exclusively consists of very poor farmers, has managed not only to
create an alternative but to keep that alternative alive for over a decade.

These rebel communities do not elect leaders to make decisions for
them. Instead, decisions are made, whether on a local level or across
the region, through a system of mandated and recallable delegates.
Last year they set up five 'good government councils'. Delegates on
these are rotated every eight to fifteen days to prevent anyone getting
too attached to the position and as part of "a process where entire
villages are learning to govern." In a letter released over the summer
the Zapatista spokesperson explained why they choose such a system

"The advantages? Fine, one of them is that it's more difficult for an
authority to go too far and, by arguing how 'complicated' the task of
governing is, to not keep the communities informed about the use of
resources or decision making. The more people know what it's all
about, the more difficult it will be to deceive and to lie. And the
governed will exercise more vigilance over those who govern."

"It also makes corruption more difficult. If you manage to corrupt
one member of the good government council, you will have to corrupt
all the autonomous authorities, or all the rotations, because doing a
'deal' with just one of them won't guarantee anything (corruption also
requires continuity). Just when you have corrupted all the councils,
you'll have to start over again, because by then there will have been a
change in the authorities, and the one you 'arranged' won't work any
longer. And so you'll have to corrupt virtually all the adult residents of
the Zapatista communities.".

A very different way of running things than what you find in Ireland
where, both in politics and in the economy, many important decisions
that affect our society are made by professional politicians and the
business elite.

Of course surviving for 11 years has meant the Zapatistas have had to
make many compromises. Their initial rising was premised on the idea
that either their action would spark a general uprising in Mexico or
that they would be crushed. And despite much effort in the years after
that rising they failed to spark off a revolutionary movement across
Mexico. This means they have shifted focus to building an
autonomous area in Chiapas, still part of the Mexican nation but
without any involvement of the Mexican government.

Today in Chiapas they have had to move away from confrontation with
the state and eliminate problems which might invite state involvement.
So, although the Zapatista communities still occupy the land seized
from the ranchers in the years after the rising and maintain
autonomous communities they still have to deal with the reality of
Mexican state power and abide by some of their regulations - like
holding a valid Mexican driving license. A further example of this sort
of pragmatic compromise is that the Zapatistas have decided they will
allow the national elections to take place in their communities even if
they will not be voting in them.

It is hard to see how much longer the Zapatista experiment in
self-managed communities will survive. They reckon they have some
space for now because the government expects them to fail and is
happy, for now, to wait for them to do so. But their existence does
demonstrate that a couple of hundred thousand people can organise
their lives in a genuinely democratic fashion, in the harshest of
conditions, for over a decade.
Rebel Footballers

Inter Milan has shocked the footballing world by giving thousands of
euro to the Zapatista guerrillas in Mexico.

Freedom, the British anarchist fortnightly, reports that team captain
Javier Zanetti persuaded the club to donate the cash raised by fining
players for late arrival or use of mobile phones in changing rooms.

After the rebel village of Zincantan in Chiapas was attacked by
government forces, the club sent off its first donation of an ambulance
and E5,000.

Zanetti included a message "We believe in a better world, in an
unglobalised world, enriched by cultural differences and customs of all
the people. This is why we want to support you in this struggle to
maintain your roots and fight for your ideals."

The rebels have used the cash to rebuild houses and water pipelines.

This page is from the print version of the Irish Anarchist paper
'Workers Solidarity'. http://www.struggle.ws/wsm/paper.html
We also provide PDF files of all our publications
for you to print out and distribute locally
This edition is No84 published in Jan 2005

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