(Eng) Mexico (Fr)

neil birrell (neil@lds.co.uk)
Sun, 4 Feb 1996 19:50:09 +0100

1/7 FEBRUARY 1996
145, Rue Amelot,


The third round of negotiations between the EZLN and the government
began on the 8th January. On the 1st January the EZLN announced the
formation of a Front (FZLN), a Front far broader bothgeographically
and politically. From the 5th to the 10th January, in San Cristobal de Las
Casas, a forum of indigenous people was convened, bringing together
several indigenous organisations from Chiapas, Oaxaca, Morelos,
Guerrero... in order to lay down the principles of the FZLN. The first
aim of this new Front is to demonstrate to the government that the
Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN) is not alone and the
problems involved have implications well beyond Chiapas. The main
themes that were tackled at the Forum relate to strategy: create either a
class Front or a political Front, whose struggle would be based on
political freedoms... Secondly, the very nature of the revolution and the
eternal debate between 'reform and revolution'. Anarchists, particularly
from Oaxaca, were present and we hope that their libertarian and self
management ideas will make some ground.

At the beginning of January, four 'Aguas calientes' (indigenous cultural
forums, centre for training and information) were set up, despite a strong
military presense in the region. The EZLN also called for an inter-
continental anti-liberal meeting at Easter in the Lacondan forest. Clearly
this meeting will take place if army pressure and migration controllers
allow it.

Here is an examination of the situation in Mexico in particular the
libertarian movement. Next week we will bring you an examination of
the situation in Chiapas.


Capitalism is international. This is well understood by everyone but was
noticably so when in December 1995, in France, thousands came out
onto the streets and also, on the streets of Mexico, thousands of people
protested against privatisation plans for their own social security system
(IMSS). Capitalism has but one policy. It's restrictive measures and
social pressure vary from region to region around the world due to
historical circummstances and the state of the forces of resistance. In the
60s and 70s Mexico was the Latin American country which saw the
biggest economic boom, thanks to its oil. The IMF financed this policy
to a large extent and the growing governmental debt in Mexico simply
accelerated the progressive integration of Mexico into the American
economy. This growth of capitalism produced aggravated social
inequalities. In 1992, 40% of the poorest people owned only 9.3% of
the countries wealth; in Chiapas, 2% of landowners held 70% of the
land. In 1993 there were in Mexico 24 millionnaires (putting it into
fourth place in world ranking) whilst 500,000 died from malnutrition.

This situation is made worse by the economic crisis. Despite restrictions
on income and the budget, the public deficit continued to grow due to
attempts to pay off the debts of the private banks (subsidising in the short
term foreign investors who would then profit in the long term. On 20th
December 1994, 12 months after joining the NAFTA (North Atlantic
Free Trade Association comprising the US, Canada and Mexico) the
peso was devalued by 35%. The political response of the PRI (linked to
landowners, the bourgeoisie and to a large degree the clergy) has always
been dictatorial in so far as it manipulated elections having claimed for
itself the revolutionary themes of 1910 in order to safeguard its
privileges. The Democratic Revolutionary Party (social democrat) is the
most representative opposition party but it has less and less credibility as
it plays the institutional card thus pawning itself to a deligitimised


After the failure or the 1910 revolution we had to wait until the 1960s
to see a renaissance in the real social movement. In October 1968 when
the student movement was at its peak and with the approach of the
Olympic Games the government massacred 300 demonstrators on the
Three Cultures Square in Mexico City. At the same time there was a
wave of repression directed at all political organisations and in particular
those on the far left. Some organisations - mainly Maoist - resisted by
going underground. There followed a long and difficult period. Now
over the last few months we can see the development of a dual
indigenous movement and of civil society with the emergence of the
National Democratic Convention and the development of a social
protest movement. Independant unions are appearing in several towns
and are beginning to draw hundreds (or thousands?) of members, who
have carried out sporadic actions at Ford, in telecommunications, in the
oil industry... Some unions give libertarian ideas a warm welcome. Thus
we saw a meeting in December 1995 between militants of the Anarchist
Federation and a dozen other Mexican anarchist groups which took place
on the premises of the Independant Textile Workers Union and which
also welcomed a travelling group of artists which had been set up by the
EZLN and which had begun its wanderings on the 1st January.

We can point out a number of major events which have characterised
this rebirth of struggle and collective political consciousness throughout
1995. Thus on May 1st when for tactical and technical reasons the
official unions did nothing, Mexico saw its biggest protest march since
1968, with 1.5 million people (already at the end of March 1994,
350,000 people demonstated in favour of the EZLN). We should note,
the better to understand these statistics, that to demmonstrate in France
is far easier given that repression in Mexico takes on incomparable
dimensions. The claims of the demonstrators were, on the 1st of May,
the following: no to the NAFTA, a rise in salaries, the reintegration of
workers sacked during the last strikes, political freedom and support for
the EZLN. The 1st May 1996 promises to maintain the temperature.
Since last year there have been many demonstrations against the IMSS.


Despite the fact that in recent months anarchist groups have appeared the
Mexican anarchist movement remains marginal - having failed to solve
the 'endemic illness' of the anarchist movement worldwide that is to say
disorganisation and a totally relative presense in social struggles. This
movement has however a rich history. It was born in the XIX century
under the influence of Rodakonoty and Chauvin. Around 1900 there was
also of course Ricardo Flores-Magon, who is still a popular figure, and
the Mexican Liberal Party. Unfortunately, the movement burnt out at the
same time as the revolution of 1910. After a long vacuum, in 1968, as
part of the Mexican autonomous University movement anarchist groups
reemerged. One can also note the presense of libertarian thought in the
syndicalist movement of the 1970s (workers autonomy, workers
information...) In 1980 the anarcho-punk movement came into being.

At the heart of the movement today, the Anti-Authoritarian
Revolutionary Youth - 80% punk - constitutes the most important group
bringing together about 100 members and a few 100 on demonstrations.
This group too often lacks cohesion. Other groups exist. The Motin
group, more recently, has some 20 members in Mexico and is separate
from the JAR, accusing it of only having cultural aims - counter-culture
and anarcho-punk. The Motin group seeks to create the conditions for a
social anarchism. Thereis also the social Library, which has a bookshop
open 6 days a week. Throughout the whole of Mexico there are about 30
groups spread out amongst about a dozen towns. These independant
groups number some 4 to 500 militants. They evidently lack links,
cohesion even if things are evolving in this area. Thus in 1994 the Self-
management Libertarian Union was born (ULA) brining together
individuals from JAR, Motin and the social Library numbering some
300 members. This organisation stems from the 1994 movement in
Chiapas. It seeks to co-ordinate the involvement of libertarians in the 'aid
caravans' and other peace convoys and also within the CND.
Unfortunately, ULA tends only to intervene on issues relating directly to
the EZLN or the CND, interventions which are becomming rarer as the
CND loses some people's interest because of its internal problems and
marginalisation by the PRD. One should however note that in spite of
everything a common libertarian front was set up during the
demonstration of 1st May, bringing together some 3,000 people. On this
occasion there were confrontations with the forces of law and order
resulting in 19 arrests (including 4 anarchists) who were given prison
sentences. Also there are plans for a national journal put together by
about a dozen groups spread out over five towns. The first edition
should be out in March 1996. Plans are to publish 1,000 copies.

REGIS MALRY (Milly Witkop Group FAF - Nantes)