(en) FZLN: The New Political Force

Mark Connolly (mark_c@geocities.com)
Wed, 01 Oct 1997 13:04:03 +0000

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Background: In mid-September 1,111 Zapatistas marched to Mexico City where the FZLN were holding their founding conference, below are two reports on the conference and two communiques from the EZLN. The National Indigenous Congress was also on at the same time

Date: Fri, 12 Sep 1997 16:37:55 -0700 X-Sender: conpaz@laneta.apc.org (Unverified)

Bulletin 10-1997 September 5, 1997

FZLN: The New Political Force

In their effort to gain time while the time for peace talks that don't lead to anything is past, both the Zapatista Army for National Liberation (EZLN) and the Federal Government have brought to their end a series of actions based on differing logic. In fact, while the government has used the military to pressure the political climate- at times these activities have conincided with political actions by the EZLN- this organization has focused more on peaceful activities.

The inciative to create the Zapatista Front for National Liberation (FZLN) should be seen in this context. The foundation of this organization began in January 1996 when the EZLN sent out the Fouth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle. It's worth remembering that it was the product of the results of the National Consultation for Peace and Democracy from August 1995 in which some of the mandates given by the participating civil society was, exactly, to create a new political force, independant of those already existing.

It is also necessary to point out that it is the EZLN's third intention to organize the so called civil society- as they were asked by the National Democratic Convention (CND) and the Movement for National Liberation (MLN)- and it is, without a doubt the most important both because of its content, the manner of organizing, their purpose and furthermore the post-electoral period in which their founding congress in which 1,111 indigenous zapatistas from Chiapas are going to participate. For some of these reasons it is certainly very controversial; but if something, from the start, can globally define the most recent zapatista intention it is its national character and the search for a national dimesion for its struggle, which it already has in its actions, but according to its promoters, only 'within the local and regional'.

The construction of the Front was described as a 'peace iniciative', and as a proposition to 'prepare the transition of an armed and clandestine organization into a pacific, civil and democratic organization.'

1. After the call to construct the Front more than a year ago, the welcomes and the critiques have not waited to come forward. The first saluted the probable conversion of the EZLN into a political force, that possibly would be participating in elections like any other party. The second basically concentrated on two questions, namely the zapatista conception of Power and the relationship that political parties and the EZLN would have. 'Anti-parties', 'self- limiting', 'suicidal and lack of vision', 'uncertainty' and 'fraud' were used to describe the idea of the zapatistas not to try to win power and not to seek popular election; they called it 'contradictory' to maintain their desire to enter the political sphere at the same time as being an army.

More recently the National Organizing Committee of the FZLN proceded to define the existence of two national projects Mexico, namely, the immobility of the Power and the Movement. The first implicates 'the destruction of the nation... denies our histroy and roots, sells the sovereignty... imposes an economic program which solely increases the destabilization and the insecurity of all citizens.' The second, in exchange, seeks 'the reconstruction of the Mexican Nation in the only possible form, that is to say from the bottom up; recuperating the history and root of our people; defending the sovereignty, fighting for a transition, for a democracy that does not stimulate change if it doesn't have as a project the reconstruction of the country; fighting for a country that holds the truth and the political norm of ruling by obeying, fighting to make democracy, freedom and justice the national heritage, fighting because dialogue, tolerance and inclusion construct a new form of conducting politics.' (Statement on Motives and Declaration of Motives, p.1)

To pose the subject like this or to reduce it like this- the FZLN performs in the style of the old left, to which the world was devidable into two big social classes, the mission of one of them being to fight against and conquer the other. However, politically, when talking about the mentioned strategy it persues an implicit goal: to summon, to a new encounter, the most different social sectors, all those who have been hurt by the Power. Although the zapatistas conceptualization of Power has recieved a lot of criticism, we should not forget the possible resulting political effectivity, in considering the civil society as the most important part of the political process, integrating it in the process of discussion and decision making.

Likewise the FZLN insists that the vanguardism and the struggle to take Power or to maintain it has defined a way of conducting politics, and that this new way of action, not seeking to take over Power can create a new form of conducting politics. Like this, for example, the role of the Front would be not to fight to transform the social relations of production, but 'to create the necessary conditions for the majority to decide if it should change or not.' (Elorriaga, Este Sur, May 26, 1997, p.16) The echos of the old language persist, as it appears, but now intelligently tinted with a dose of direct democracy, which has lost a lot of terrain to the tendencies of liberal democracy.

It is this, we insist, that the FZLN hopes to recuperate and promote, the active participation of civil society in the formation of central themes and problems of the common life, as a basis for making decisions.

2. What's certain is that the EZLN has distanced itself and the Front as much from political parties as other armed organizations and of course from the Mexican State, churches and any other state in the world: their path is political, even though they maintain arms. Against all the criticisms of 'incoherence' that have been made, one must ask honestly, why would the EZLN put down their arms before the federal government fulfills their demands or when, actually, they're doing everthing possible not to fulfill them?

However, despite the worsening conditions of the dialogue, the EZLN insists on the political route, and the FZLN is its most recent expression. By the mandate of its own social bases, the EZLN has decided not to ally itself with other armed organizations, while it maintains the political path it has opted for since 1994.

Another preculularity of the Front is that it is formed in an individual manner. Unlike previous occassions, this time the organizers, apart from the EZLN as an organization, are concrete persons, i.e. Subcomandante Marcos and Javier Elorriaga. Remember that the Fourth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle emphasized the construction of the FZLN with its base in the EZLN. It appears that the zapatistas are trying to avoid the front sinking into the internal fights that divided and destroyed the CND. Also, maintaing complete autonomy from organizations and parties will allow the Front to participate politically with more advantages- better political definition, better ability to bring members together for conferences, better ability to negotiate, etc. In principal the people who leave an organization or party to construct something new and different do so autonomously, which doesn't mean they are closed to alliances or future coalitions.

The Clandestine Revolutionary Indigenous Committee- General Command (CCRI-CG) of the EZLN has strongly distanced itself from any connection to the Extensive Front for the Construction of a National Liberation Movement (FAC-MLN). Declarations of the FAC-MLN that they would meet with representatives of the FZLN were classified as 'opportunism', because they plan to do the opposite of the zapatista's proposal, capatalizing on the action of civil society, social and political organizations for their own benefit. The FAC-MLN responded immediately that the statements were made by a member of the Francisco Villa Popular Front (FPFV) who wasn't authorized to make them. They denied acting with 'opportunism' and lamented the declaration of the CCRI-EZLN calling on them to be 'prudent'. The cold letter sent by the CCRI-EZLN with respect to the FAC-MLN seemed to demonstrate clearly the lack of the unity of political forces. This time the zapatistas acted with a lack of political tact.

However it's certain that the EZLN has never closed the possibility of alliances, and examples show this: they have made them with political parties, social organizations, and individual personalities. In this sense, we propose, only as a hypothesis, that to say that they are not now seeking power or elected positions doesn't eliminate the possibility that they will in the future, especially when the national convention proposes substantive political changes. Imagine for example a scenario where the peace process doesn't advance and at the same time the presidential elections of 2000 approach. That might represent an opportunity to make an alliance with political forces of the left, possibly with the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD), specifically the line of Cuauhtemoc Cardenas with whom the EZLN (concretely Subcomandante Marcos) has had important closeness since 1994.

It's too early to talk about the role of the FZLN in national politics, but if we pay attention to the experience of almost all guerrilla and revolutionary movements in Latin America, the electoral participation of the FZLN can't be ruled out. The rejection of arms is necessary, but it has demonstrated it limits: survival and political effectivness of all these movements that have resorted to armed conflict has not been based in the abandonment of arms but in the unification with civil society. Additionally, electoral participation wouldn't conflict with the zapatista conception of 'rule by obeying': it's popularity was displayed in a democratic exercise taken by one of the zapatista sympathizers within the PRD, Porfirio Muoz Ledo, in his response to the thrid presidential address of Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de LeOn last September 1st.

3. So, let's greet the construction of the Zapatista Front for National Liberation as a new political force. It could not be more opportune, considering that we are at the eve of the Independence Day and that, in front of the new, more pluralistic, more combative Congress of the Union, the zapatistas are marching also to demand the fulfillment of the San Andrs accords. There are without a doubt, various messages to the Executive Power and the Legislative Power in this one single action. Will these powers be sensitive to those messages?

Area of Information and Analysis ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- COORDINACION DE ORGANISMOS NO GUBERNAMENTALES POR LA PAZ (CONPAZ, A.C.) Calle YAJALON No.47 Col. 14 de Septiembre C.P. 29210 Tel/Fax (967)86977 San CristObal Las Casas, Chiapas, Mxico

Correo Elctronico, E-Mail: conpaz@laneta.apc.org -----------------------------------------------------------------------

On FZLN Congress, results and March

Date: Mon, 29 Sep 1997 16:42:27 -0700 (PDT) From: fzapla@igc.apc.org

Three members of FZAP/LA were present for the EZLN march on Sept 12 and FZLN Congress held September 13-16 in Mexico City.

You had to see it to believe it and to some degree you had to experience it to tell about it.

Everyone we talked to from cab drivers to merchants to passersby knew about the anticipated arrival of the Zapatistas.The march of the 1,111 Zapatistas into Mexico city was truly incredible. Even with the massive media turnout, I've yet to see photographs or film that adequately capture the moment. By 8 PM when they reached thee Zocalo, it was completely filled with people awaiting their arrival.

There was much misunderstanding and deliberate disinformation on the part of the government that led to the misconception that the Zapatistas were laying down their arms in order to incorporate into the FZLN. Of course, the Zapatistas who participated in the march, did leave their arms behind for the duration of the march and return. However, the EZLN decided not to incorporate into the FZLN because of the implications of such a misunderstanding. They made it clear that conditions simply did not exist for such incorporation given the continued intransigence on the part of the government with regard to the non-compliance of the San Andres Accords and excessive militarization and violence in Chiapas.

There was some confusion, which because of events that unfolded during the course of the week, require some clarification. The organizing entity of the march was not the FZLN but rather the CNI (simultaneously holding their congress), other groups, and some members of the FZLN but was never directed by the FZLN. The FZLN organized the Congress only--for among other reasons, the FZLN did not have the wherewithal to organize both. Despite the ups and downs of the organizing of each, it was an organizational triumph for both, especially when contrasted to previous efforts by more established organizational structures with far greater monetary resources.

The meeting hall was filled to capacity for each session. There were 2,591 participants who sat in what was often a very stuffy room and painstakenly went through the ballot points, already reviewed in the 14 workshops. Several were given the floor on election day in an effort to incorporate their proposal or to amend the ballot. The determination to see this tedious process through was more than admirable.

Anyone who read the various proposals on the FZLN web page (http://spin.com.mx/~floresu/FZLN), submitted from April through July, can appreciate the enormous task of attempting to incorporate them all into a single ballot. The result was 137 plus point ballot, some of which was understandably confusing but most importantly inclusive.

As observers, we witnessed the voting process and even accompanied the members of the various committees back to the FZLN and witnessed, at least a portion of the vote counting task.

The voting results were released Wednesday, September 24 and the results indicated clear tendencies of choice. Because a 75% majority vote was needed to prevail, and because there were multiple choices to most ballot points, that percentage was not achieved in most cases but it can certainly be useful as a referendum although not officially designated as such.

Of the 2,591 present at the congress, 1,048 were women and 1,543 were men.

The Declaration of Principles received 84% of the vote.

72.9% voted to hold an annual national congress.

The vote was 67.1% against double militancy, upholding the Fourth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle. Members of the FZLN cannot also be a member of another political party. However, 88.6% voted that members of a social organization may be members of the FZLN. Supporters of the FZLN, without member voting privileges, may also participate as voted by 84.4%. A 55.6% majority voted in favor of participation of individuals who are not part of a committee of dialogue.

The specifics of organizational structure was more complex with no clear majority vote. There was a provisional structure with Javier Elorriaga voted in as the Coordinator of the National Network Commission consisting of one representative from each state and a team to work with the coordinator. In the next two months, this provisional structure will move ahead where the mandate was clear, and work to clarify and synthesize where the voting results were close.

On September 16, the preliminary voting results were announced; the mood was a very positive one. An acceptance that even if the vote did not go the way some may have wished, it was OK. Most we spoke with verbalized that they felt they had had a voice in a democratic process that was not only foreign to government but also, historically to Left organizing. That such a process had just been successfully realized was a significant milestone.

In our opinion, the FZLN has launched what will hopefully be an irreversible move toward a thoughtful process of principled inclusion. As solidarity, we believe we can look forward to concrete tasks of support for the FZLN as well as a model for organizing and unity through diversity as exemplified in the march and congress.


EZLN communique to National Indigenous Congress

Brothers and sisters of the National Indigenous Congress

In the name of all the men, women, children, young people and elderly and bases of support of all the villages and Zapatista regions.

In the name of all the insurgent combatants and militia members who with dignity, rebellion and humility continue to stand in struggle for democracy, liberty and justice.

The Revolutionary Indigenous Clandestine Committee- General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation with respect and simplicity directs itself to the National Indigenous Congress in order to salute and recognize its effort in the loyal and honest struggle of the indigenous peoples of Mexico.

Brothers and sisters of the assembly of the National Indigenous Congress.

The Zapatista Army of National Liberation expresses solidarity with the National Indigenous Congress and with all the indigenous communities of Mexico which struggle and defend the same cause of: liberty, rights, of dignity, of autonomy and of the self-determination of the Indian peoples.

Brothers and sisters, since we are unable to be with you in the great assembly of the National Indigenous Congress, we have then sent to you a delegation of 1,111 compaOeros and compaOeras from the bases of support of the different communities and regions who are our principal leaders of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation; they carry with them the testimony of the dirty war imposed by the state and federal government against our communities and villages, and which in these last months has seen the considerable growth of the militarization of all our indigenous zones, the formation of paramilitary groups and paid and armed white guards by the state and federal government, trained and assisted by elements of the Federal Army and of Public Security with the objective of destroying the unity, and organization and put an end to the EZLN.

Our delegation comes to meet with you and with all the other indigenous brothers from all the states of our country, because we believe the moment has arrived to break the chains of the political and military blockade of the bad government which each day tightens even more against our indigenous communities. That is why we decided to come out of the jungle and the mountains without permission from the bad government in order to find ourselves with our indigenous brothers, and demand the fulfillment of the San Andres agreements on indigenous rights and culture, which the bad government has refused to comply with its word and has given up as forgotten the voice of thousands of indigenous men and women and the non- indigenous of the Mexican nation, in order to join the demands of the indigenous peoples of Chiapas and of all Mexico.

Brothers and sisters, we are indigenous, our problems and necessities are not few nor are they simple, our pain and suffering are not new, we indigenous carry 505 years of oppression, of expulsion, of slavery and death; but also 505 years of resistance, of experience in the struggle and of rebellion.

In view of this situation of destruction and extermination to indigenous communities it is necessary to find other brothers of race and blood, unity is necessary, organization and the solidarity of all the Indian peoples of Mexico, of Latin America and of the world, it is necessary that we struggle together, that together we demand our rights to life, to land, to respect, to autonomy, to self- determination and to be taken into account as communities and members of a nation with all corresponding rights which we deserve.

Because we indigenous peoples have always been excluded, marginalized, and forgotten, outside of constitutional laws, outside of political, economic, and social plans of a nation; because we are indigenous we do not have the right to life, to land, to health, to education, we do not have the right to liberty, nor to decide and direct our own destiny.

Brothers of all ethnic groups and all languages who live in our nation; all these great injustices of discrimination, of humiliation and of being slaves in our own land so that we work harder than do animals because we are indigenous, and without being able to raise our voice before the bosses because we are considered inferior beings, were sufficient reason for our armed uprising on the first of January of 1994, because we had no other path.

Democracy, liberty and justice for all is our cause; to die so that others may live with justice and dignity is our thought. For everyone everything, nothing for us.

The EZLN rose up in arms to demand just solutions to all the demands of indigenous and non-indigenous peoples of Mexico.

The EZLN did not take up arms to conquer some political position or so that the supreme government can give us crumbs so we can conform.

The EZLN took up arms for: jobs, land, housing with dignity, nutrition, health, education, liberty, justice, independence, peace with justice and dignity, respect to the indigenous people and their culture and equality of rights between men and women.

The EZLN demands nation for all, one where those who live in her can live with rights and with dignity.

That is why we Zapatistas will always be with the struggles and with the national indigenous movement, which has an objective to defend rights, dignity, culture to conquer the place which belongs to us by right and by heritage, to rescue what has been snatched away from us such as our mother earth, our wealth which served the common good and not the enrichment of a few, our culture and our science which served to make great the communities and not to dominate them.

The Zapatistas will not stop struggling until our communities have what they do not have today, until our nation and its wealth can no longer be sold or handed over to foreign exploiters.

That is why the Zapatistas will never stop struggling! Will never surrender!

Will never sell ourselves, will never betray the blood of our heroes and martyrs!


First we will die rather than allow the Supreme One to snatch our banner of struggle!


EZLN communique on arrival in Mexico City

Date: Sat, 13 Sep 1997 22:22:49 -0700 (PDT) From: ncdm <moonlight@igc.apc.org>

September 12, 1997.

To the people of Mexico: To the people and governments of the world:

Today, September 12 of 1997, in the month of the nation, one thousand 111 indigenous Zapatistas and thousands of indigenous people from all over the country have arrived to the front of the great palace of the federal government to say our word.

We arrive all the way from the mountains of the Mexican Southeast to here. We are men, women and children. We represent the one thousand 111 indigenous communities which form the base of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation. We have come to the city of Mexico and the first thing we want to do is to salute its inhabitants. We salute the city of Mexico which belongs to the people. We salute the city which works and struggles to be better. We salute the city which could and knew how to rebel against the bad government. We salute the city which defeated the state-party and opened hope for a peaceful , profound and true change. We want to salute the people of the capitol.

Not those who are criminals and government. Not the powerful who humiliate and make this city into a hell.

We want to salute the rebels, the ones who do not conform, the ones who fight back, who demand, who do not keep quiet, who listen. We salute those who make this city a space for rebel dignity. Salute all the men and women who made it possible for us, who are barely a handful of indigenous people who live in a corner of the country, to come all the way here to say our word.

And this is our first word upon our arrival in the city of Mexico; Health to all of you brothers and sisters of the capitol! We have been able to come here thanks to many individual and collective efforts. Some of those who are responsible for these efforts are here with us today. Others could not be here in person.

But we are here in their place and thanks to them. Thousands and thousands of volunteers in all the country have extended their hand so that we could come all the way here. To all of them we want to say thank you.

All of you are those who allow this nation to still have hope and to have pride and honor in being called a Mexican. We have come all the way here and we did not arrive alone. With us, at our side, come thousands of indigenous people from many parts of Mexico.

Our voice and theirs is the same voice which claims justice, demands liberty and democracy.

The brothers and sisters of the National Indigenous Congress march together with the Zapatistas.

We have walked together with a single banner. The banner which demands that there no longer be a Mexico without us. Mexican men and women:

We have come here to demand that Mister Ernesto Zedillo Ponce de Leon keep his word.

We demand he fulfill what he signed at the negotiating table in February of 1996.

We demand he pull back his soldiers from the indigenous communities of all of Mexico. If he is not going to keep his promise, then we say he should speak clearly to the people of Mexico.

No more deception by speaking of peace.

We are not willing to be belittled. We are not willing to be deceived. We are not willing to return to the corner of abandonment and misery without hope.

If Zedillo is a man of his word, let him fulfill it and let the law recognize our rights as Indian peoples.

If Zedillo cannot keep his word, let him make war on us and fill with bullets what he cannot fill with reason.

If he is not going to make war, then he should take his soldiers out of our communities.

Those soldiers are far from their families, their mothers, their wives, their children.

Why does he keep them here if all they do is bring in prostitutes, alcohol and drugs to our communities.

While the federal soldiers persecute those of us who are Mexican, the great rulers our selling our nation to foreign capital.

National armies should defend the people and not help the sale of our national sovereignty.

If Zedillo wants peace, let him keep his word given to the Indian peoples and take his soldiers back into their barracks.

If he wants the war, we Zapatistas know how to fight with honor and bravery, because we have a very powerful weapon which the government DOES NOT have. That weapon is called dignity.

With this weapon no one and nothing can defeat us. They can kill us or jail us. But they will never defeat us.

They will never get our surrender.

Mexican men and women:

On our side is the Mexico of Miguel Hidalgo, of Jose Maria Morelos, of Francisco Javier Mina, of Leona Vicario, of icente Guerrero.

On our side are the heroes, the ones who gave birth to this nation, the ones who defended it against invaders and who today fight at our side to construct a Mexico with democracy, liberty and justice for everyone.

A Mexico for the workers and farmers. A Mexico for the indigenous people. A Mexico for the unemployed. A Mexico for the squatters. A Mexico for the housewives. A Mexico for the professionals. A Mexico for the teachers. A Mexico for the students. A Mexico for the youth. A Mexico for the women. A Mexico for the children. A Mexico for the elderly. A Mexico for all the Mexican men and women regardless of their sexual preference. A Mexico for all the poor of the country, because the poor is the majority of Mexicans due to the acts of the rulers and the powerful A Mexico for all the Mexicos.

That is why we ask all the people of Mexico to support us in this cry for justice.

Because our struggle belongs to everyone.

That is why we cry "For everyone everything. Nothing for us" That is why we shout there must be government by obedience. That is why we want a peace with justice and dignity for all Mexicans. That is why we come to demand that Mister Zedillo keep is word and take his soldiers back into the barracks. That is why we come to remind the nation that we are indigenous, that we are rebels, that we have dignity, that we will continue to struggle, that we will not surrender. That is why we shout always, even when we are silent, that we will win for everyone democray, liberty and justice which all Mexicans need and deserve.

Death to the Bad Government!

Long live the National Heroes! Long live Mexico! Long live the Zapatista Army of National Liberation!

Democracy! Liberty! Justice!

>From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast
for the Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee General Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos Mexico, September of 1997 Translated by: Cecilia Rodriguez, NCDLJ


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