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(en) Mexico, The Zapatistas and the Other: The Pedestrians of History Part II: The Paths of the Other

Date Sun, 24 Sep 2006 17:00:49 +0300

In August of 2003 the caracoles Zapatistas are born, and with them, the
Councils of Good Government, advancing the emerging separation between the
political-military apparatus of the EZLN and the civil structures of the
Zapatista communities. Parallel to this we worked on the structure of the
chain of command and refined the details for defense and resistance in the
case of eventual military attack. The first steps for the Sixth Declaration
and what would later be the Other Campaign were already being taken...
1. Alone? During the second half of 2004, the EZLN publishes, in a series
of writings, the fundamentals of its critical position with regards to the
political class and “sends” signals as to where this is all going. By
the beginning of 2005, the premises on which the Sixth Declaration would
be constructed were ready.

The electoral battle had already been moving forward for awhile already. At
that moment three possible paths presented themselves to the EZ: to
incorporate itself into the lopezobradorista “wave,” effectively
omitting the signals and facts that we had about its true tendencies (that is,
we would have to be inconsistent with ourselves); maintain silence and wait
to see what happened with the electoral process; or launch the project that
we were preparing.

The decision to be made did not belong to the Zapatista leadership, but to
the communities. Thus we began to prepare what would later be the red
alert, the internal consulta, and depending on its result, the Sixth

The immediate precedent to the Sixth was the text called “The
Impossible Geometry of Power.” It came after the red alert, which some
interpreted as an announcement of a Zapatista offensive or a
“response” to the constant military patrols. It wasn’t either one,
but rather an act of prevention in the face of possible enemy military
action...which would be encouraged through media attacks by progressive
intellectuals whom, disenchanted with us for not accompanying them in
their praise of AMLO—and our refusal to be quiet about it—attacked
us without a second thought.

The Sixth is consulted with the Zapatista communities and they decide and
state: “we are willing, even if we are alone.” That is, to alone tour
the country, listen to the people from below, build with these people a
National Program of Struggle to transform the country and create a new
agreement, a new Constitution. For this eventuality, we had prepared for 3
years: to be left alone abandoned.

But it didn’t happen that way.

Soon the Sixth Declaration began to receive adherents. From all over the
country communications arrived demonstrating that the Sixth was not only
understood and accepted, but that many had made it their own. Day by day,
the Sixth grew and became national.

2. The First Steps...and faces. As we explained before, we had foreseen a
long process. Our idea was to convoke a series of initial encounters in order
for each to start getting to know the others who embraced the cause and the
path. These encounters should already mark a difference with those that
had taken place on other occasions. This time the Zapatista ear would have
a central role—to listen.

We began the meetings with the political organizations, to show them the
place that we recognized for them. After that with indigenous communities
and organizations, to reemphasize that we had not abandoned our struggle,
but rather were conjoining it to a bigger one. Next with social organizations,
recognizing a terrain where “the other” had constructed its own
history. After that, with diverse NGO’s, groups, and collectives that
had remained close to our struggle. Next with families and individuals, in
order to say that, for us, everybody counts, regardless of their size or their
number. And finally, with “the others,” that is, recognizing that our
vision of the outside may be limited (as of course it is).

In July, August, and September of 2005 we held what were known as the
“preparatory meetings.” In these we honored our word, we listened
with attention and respect to EVERYTHING that was said, including
reproaches, critiques, threats...and lies (although at the time we didn’t
know they were lies).

One year ago, September 16, 2005, with the presence of the now deceased
Comandanta Ramona, the EZLN leadership formally handed over the
self-named “Other Campaign” to the group of adherents; the EZLN
stated that it would participate in the movement with, in addition to its role
with the Zapatista communities, a delegation (called the “Sixth
Commission”) of its leadership. The EZLN announced the “going
out” of the first explorer, the delegate number zero (to indicate that
other delegates would follow), who would have the mission of meeting and
listening to those all over the country who were now compañer@s but
hadn’t been able to attend the preparatory meetings, and to explore the
conditions in which the constant work of the Sixth Commission would be
carried out.

In this first plenary, the EZLN proposed that in order to be consistent with
the proposal of the Sixth in constructing another form of doing politics, that
the words of everyone must be taken into account, no matter if they had
attended the meetings or not. The leadership of these few organizations
were not honest. As it would become evident later, their gamble was to join
the movement in order to lead it, to lead it breakdown...or in order to
negotiate a better position in the “marketplace” that the movement
around AMLO was turning into. They were so sure that he would be
president.....well, official president, that they felt that the train (the budget)
was passing them by and they didn’t even have a ticket. And the Other
Campaign was the merchandize they could exchange for cushy jobs,
candidacies, and positions.

3. The first problems. We also saw in this plenary that there was an
imbalance: the groups and collectives (that find in the assembly form their
natural way of discussing and deciding things) had a significant advantage
over the political and social organizations, above all families and
individuals...as well as over the indigenous peoples.

We should say on this point that the majority of adherents of the Sixth
Declaration are indigenous (and this is without counting the Zapatistas). If
that isn’t reflected in the acts and meetings, it is because indigenous
peoples have other spaces of participation, of struggle, which are less
“visible.” For now it is sufficient to say that if all of the adherents
were to meet, on one occasion and in one place there would be (in a very
conservative calculation), a proportion of 10 indigenous people for each
person from another political or social organization, NGO, group,
collective, family, or individual. One wishes this could happen, the
indigenous peoples could teach everyone, then, that we don’t use
“I” but rather “we” to name ourselves and to be ourselves.

We saw all this and a few more things (for example, that there wasn’t a
mechanism for making decisions, nor a space for debate; that the groups
and collectives wanted to impose their ways on the political and social
organizations and vice versa), but we weren’t worried. We thought that
the first thing to be done was for everyone to get to know each other and,
then later, define between all of us the profile, then still incomplete, of the

4. The stages. According to our idea, starting the Other Campaign and
“going out” on the first journey during electoral times would have
various advantages. One was that, given our anti- political class position,
we would not be “attractive” on the stages and meetings to those
who were, and are, on the electoral track. Going against the grain of those
of “common sense thinkers” would reveal those who had neared
the EZLN before only to take a photo, and lead them to avoid us and
distance themselves from neozapatismo (with books, declarations...and

Another reason, no less important, was that, as we were going out to listen
to those from below, the word of these other struggles would become
visible and thus their histories and trajectories would become palpable. So
“showing oneself” in the Other would also be “showing
oneself” to the repression of the caciques, the government, business
owners, and political parties. According to us, the fact that it was an
electoral period would elevate the “cost” of a repressive action and
diminish the vulnerability of the smaller organizations and struggles. One
more advantage was that, absorbed as they were up there above in all things
electoral, they would leave us alone to do our project and neozapatismo
would cease to be in fashion.

So then we thought of the following stages:

—6 months of a exploratory tour and getting to know each other
throughout the country (from January to June of 2006). Finishing that, a
report to the whole Other Campaign: “this is who we are, we are here,
this is our story”; let the electoral period pass and prepare the following

—After that, the following stage would deepen the “knowing”
each other and create modes of communication and support (the network)
between the adherents in order to support and defend ourselves and each
other (now with the participation of more delegates from the Sixth
Commission—September 2006 to the end of 2007—with intermediate
breaks in order to report back and relieve the delegates).

—Later on, the elaboration, debate, and definition of the profile of the
Other according to its adherents, not just the EZLN (all of 2008).

—For 2009, according to our analysis, the “lopezobradorista
dream” would have ended. Our homeland would not have
disillusionment, discouragement, and desperation as its only future; there
would be “something else” (an “other” thing)...

5. The steps toward Atenco: to be compañer@s? The tour began, and
what happened happened. The pain that we had intuited did not come
anywhere near to what we actually encountered, heard, and came to know
along the way. Governments of all the political parties (including those of
the supposed “left”—PRD, PT, and Convergencia) allied with
caciques, landowners, and business people to plunder, exploit, scorn, and
repress the ejidatarios, the indigenous communities, the small business
people and street vendors, the sex-workers, laborers, employees, teachers,
students, young people, women, children, elderly; in order to destroy
nature, to sell history and culture; to strengthen a way of thinking and
acting that is intolerant, exclusive, machista, homophobic, and racist. And
none of this appeared in the mass media.

But if the Mexico of below that we were finding exuded an indignant pain,
the organized rebellions that kept appearing, and uniting, revealed (and
“kept awake in each other”) an “other” country, a country at
its boiling point, in struggle, in the construction of its own alternatives.

If in its first steps the journey of the Sixth Commission was seen, with the
clumsiness of those who only look above, as a “mobile mailbox of
complaints,” soon it transformed itself and the word of the other el otro,
la otra began to take on the size of the silence that those above had hidden
until then. Astonishing stories of heroism, dedication, and sacrifice
resisting the destruction that came from above were heard and echoed in
other honest adherents.

We arrived to the State of Mexico and the Federal District with cargo that
included perhaps all the colors that struggle below. The calendar marked
May 3 and 4 of 2006, and pain and blood painted the town of Atenco and
the compas of the Other Campaign.

Providing a true lesson of what it is to be compañer@s in the Other
Campaign, the People’s Front in Defense of the Land (FPDT) of
Atenco mobilized to support compas in Texcoco. The municipal
government (PRD) faked a dialogue and negotiation while they called the
state (PRI) and federal (PAN) police to repress this movement. The parties
most representative of the political class, PRD-PRI-PAN, joined forces to
strike at the Other Campaign. Approximately 200 compas were attacked,
beaten, tortured, raped, and incarcerated. One underage boy, Javier Cortes
Santiago, was assassinated by the police. Our young compañero Alexis
Benhumea Hernandez, adherent of the Other Campaign and student at the
UNAM, after a long agony, died, also assassinated.

The majority of the Other Campaign reacted and carried out actions of
solidarity and support, as well as acts of denunciations and pressure. With
the minimum of decency and compañerismo, we detained the tour of the
Sixth Commission of the EZLN and dedicated ourselves, first of all, to
contesting the smear campaign and lies that were made against the Peoples
Front in Defense of the Land in the mass media (which offended some
compas of the alternative media); and later, to activities to collect funds for
the prisoners and expose the truth about what happened.

In contrast to the majority of the Other Campaign, some organizations only
worried and mobilized as long as their own militants were held prisoner, or
while the acts gained them attention. When their companer@s were
released and Atenco “went out of fashion,” they dropped the
demand for liberty and justice for the remaining prisoners. Awhile later they
would be the first to run to install themselves in the sit-in for AMLO in the
Zocalo and on Reforma. What they didn’t do for Atenco they did for
Lopez Obrador...because with him were “the masses!”...well, and
also the stagelights.

Other organizations dedicated themselves to taking advantage of the
conjuncture in order to, maliciously, try to impose on the Other Campaign
a policy of alliances with who were, and are, looking above. With the
pretext of “we have to unite ourselves in the struggle for the
prisoners,” they attempted (by manipulating plenary assemblies) to
impose agreements that tied the Other to the electoral calculations of
openly or shamefully yellow colors of the PRD organizations. And not only
that, they dedicated themselves to sowing discord and division, saying that
the EZLN wanted to impose on the people of Atenco a politics of sectarian
alliances. But they failed.

Another organization, where there are some compañer@s, dedicated itself
to saying that the prisoners would not be released soon, that there was no
reason to dedicate so much effort to this, that “someone” (that
wouldn’t be them, of course) would take charge of the situation, that
the Other Campaign should continue, and that the Sixth Commission of
the EZLN had committed an error in delaying its trip—that this had been
a unilateral decision and that it should continue its journey...so that it could
get to those places where they this organization had political work or
interest in doing it.

But the attitude of these “companer@s” was surpassed by the
solidarity activity of the majority of the Other Campaign. In all of Mexico,
and in more than 50 countries around the world, the demand for liberty and
justice for the prisoners of Atenco resonated with people of many colors.

6. Indians versus mestizos and provinces versus Mexico City (DF). If the
EZLN had foreseen for the Other Campaign a gradual, drawn-out pace
(with one or two plenaries per year), in the months of May and June of
2006 there were up to 4 plenaries, all in D.F., given that that was where a
good part of the activities for Atenco were concentrated.

In these meetings, the “assembly professionals” attempted to
convert them into decision making bodies, without caring that this left aside
one of the essential propositions of the Sixth: to take everyone into account.
Some organizations, groups, and collectives, primarily from D.F., tried to
manipulate the assemblies, which had been convoked because of Atenco,
into making decisions and definitions...that suited them. And this logic
became generalized. Some discussions and decisions were, to say the least,
ridiculous. For example, in one of the plenaries, someone who does cultural
work in the Nahuatl language proposed that Nahuatl be the official
language of the country and that the document be delivered to the EZLN
(which is made up by 99.99% indigenous peoples that speak languages of
Mayan roots). The assembly voted unanimously in favor. In this way, the
plenary of the Other decided to try to impose what had not been achieved by
the Aztecs, the Spanish, the Gringos, the French, the etceteras, and all of
the governments since the colonial era: to strip the Zapatista communities
of their original languages...which is not Nahuatl. In a previous assembly,
the facilitation team attempted to put into discussion whether the
indigenous peoples were a sector or not...without the indigenous
compañer@s having said anything. After 500 years of resistance and
struggle, and 12 years since the Zapatista armed uprising, the assembly was
going to discuss what the indigenous peoples are...without giving them a
chance to speak.

If the repression in Atenco obligated us to respond organizationally as a
movement, the void created by the lack of basic definitions (like the
function of debate and the form and manner for making decisions) runs the
risk of being filled by the proposals and “ways” of those who, in
contrast to the rest of the adherents, could not only be present in the
assemblies, but could also endure hours and hours waiting for the
opportune moment (that is, when they could win) to vote on their
proposal...or to filibuster the vote with “motions” (when they were
going to lose).

In an assembly, it is one who speaks who is valued, not one who works.
And one who speaks Spanish. Because when someone only spoke in
indigenous language, the “españolistas” took advantage of the
moment to go the bathroom, eat, or nap. The Zapatistas have reviewed the
Sixth and nowhere does it say that, in order to be an adherent, you have to
speak Spanish...or be an orator. But, in the assemblies, the logic of these
organizations, groups, and collectives has imposed just that.

And there’s more. In these assemblies votes were carried out by raising
hands. And it so happens that, as the assemblies take place in one
geographic point (that is, DF), the Other Campaign in the states and
regions send delegates with the decisions agreed upon by the adherents in
those places. But at the moment of the vote, this wasn’t taken into
account. In the assemblies, the vote of a state or regional delegate was
worth the same as the vote of someone who was part of a group or
collective. There were compañer@s that had to travel days in order to get
to the assembly, but it was established that they had to submit themselves
to the same 3 minutes per intervention as the person who had arrived to the
meeting by subway. And, if the state or regional delegate had to leave
because they had days of journey in front of them to get home and
couldn’t stay until the end of the assembly (when the
facilitators—like in the July 1 plenary—were voting resolutions with
only adherents from D.F.—with one foot out the door because they were
turning out the building lights already), oh well. And if the resolution was to
agree that there would be another assembly in 15 days, to be held there in
DF, well then the companer@ delegate from an indigenous community
would have to hurry to get home and impose city time on an indigenous
community that had entered the Other Campaign precisely because they
thought that this was the place where their ways...their times, would be

The actions and attitudes of these groups and collectives (that are a
minority in the national and DF Other Campaign, but they make noise as if
they were the majority) provoked the appearance of two identifiable
tendencies in the Other:

—that some compas from the province identify the DF’ers with this
authoritarian and dishonest style (disguised as “democratic,”
“anti-authoritarian,” and “horizontal”) of participating,
discussing, and making agreements. While they don’t take part in this
form of breaking up the meetings, the majority of DF is included as object
of this accusation.

—that compas from the National Indigenous Congress identify the scorn
and clumsiness of these groups as the “way” of all the mestizos.
Because if anybody knows how to be, discuss, and agree in assembly, it is
the indigenous peoples (and rarely do they resort to a vote to see who wins).
This is another injustice, because the immense majority of those who are
not indigenous in the Other Campaign respect the indigenous.

Both tendencies are unfair and false. But the problem is, we the Zapatistas
think, that in the assemblies this trap is permitted; that is, that some
groups, collectives, and organizations present their dirty and dishonest ways
of debating and agreeing as if they were the ways of everyone, or of the

No. The zapatistas think that the assemblies are in order to inform, or at
most, to discuss and agree upon operative questions, not to discuss, agree,
and define.

We think that it was our error, as the EZLN, to not have outlined from the
beginning of the Other Campaign the definition of the spaces and
mechanisms for information, debate, and the making of decisions. But
pointing out our deficiencies as an organization and as a movement does
not resolve the problem. We still lack these basic definitions. With regard to
this, regarding what are referred to as the “6 points,” we will make a
proposal in the final chapter of these reflections.

7. Another “problem.” Some collectives and persons have been
critical of the “protagonism” and “authoritarianism” of the
Sup. We understand that some feel offended by the presence of a soldier
(even though he is “other”) in the Other Campaign, given that this
is the image of verticality, centralism, and authoritarianism. Setting to one
side that these people “skip over” what the EZLN and its struggle
represent for millions of Mexicans and people around the world, we
maintain that we have not “used,” for our own benefit, the moral
authority that our communities have gained in over 12 years of war. In our
participations in the Other Campaign, we have loyally defended those that
have joined....even though we are not in agreement with their symbols and
positions. With our own voice we have defended the hammer and sickle of
the communists, the “A” on a black background of anarchists and
libertarians, the skinheads, the punks, the darket@s, the banda, the raza,
the autogestionari@s self-organizational types, the sex workers, those who
promote electoral abstention or the annulling of the vote or who don’t
care if one votes or not, the work of the alternative media, of those who use
and abuse the word, of the intellectuals that are in the Other, of the silent
but effective political work of the National Indigenous Congress, of the
compañerismo of the political and social organizations that, without
making noise, have put everything they have into the Other Campaign and
into the struggle for the liberty and justice of the prisoners of Atenco, to the
free exercise of criticism, sometimes crude and obnoxious (like the claim
that because the political and social organizations of DF have provided the
space, the chairs, and the sound equipment for acts and meetings of the
Other, they are being protagonists!) and other times friendly and fraternal.

And also we have received, directed against us, true stupidities, disguised
as “criticisms.” We haven’t responded to those...yet. But we
have differentiated between these and those that are made honestly to point
out our errors and make us better.

8. Tendencies regarding the AMLO postelectoral mobilization. The
electoral fraud perpetrated against Lopez Obrador produced, among other
things, the rise of a mobilization. Our position with regards to this we will
state later. For now we just point to some of the positions that we have seen
present themselves in the Other Campaign.

—There is the dishonest and opportunist position of some, a few, leftist
political organizations. They maintain that we are now faced with a historic
and pre-insurrectional moment (“un parte aguas, mano, y con esta
lluvia lo que se necesita es un paraguas”), but that AMLO is not a
leader who knows how to conduct the masses to attack the winter
palace...well, the national palace. But this is what the conscious vanguards
are for, what the masses, now convoked by the PRD, hope and long for.

So they join the sit-in and the lopesobradista mobilizations “in order to
create conscience among the masses,” “to steal away” the
movement from this “reformist” and “self-defeating”
leadership, and take the mobilization to “a higher stage of struggle.”
As soon as they gather their little monies, declare “dead and
defunct” the Other Campaign (and Marcos? bah! a political cadaver),
they buy their tent and they install themselves in the sit-in on Reforma.
Then they call for collections of supplies. No, not for the compas that, in
heroic conditions, maintain the sit-in at Santiaguito in support of the
prisoners of Atenco, but for the lopezobradorista sit-in.

There they organize conferences and round tables, they distribute fliers and
“revolutionary” newspapers with “profound” analyses on
the contemporary conjuncture, the correlation of forces, and the rising up of
the masses, popular coalitions...and more promotoras and national
dialogues. Hurray! Yesssss!

And well, there they wait patiently for the masses to realize their error (the
error of the masses course) and recognize the clarity and determination (of
these organizations, of course), or for Lopez Obrador, or Manuel Camacho,
or Ricardo Monreal, or Arturo Nuñez to come to them looking for advice,
orientation, support, l-e-a-d-e-r-s-h-i-p...but nothing. Later they attend,
impatiently, the National Democratic Convention to pronounce and
proclaim AMLO as the legitimate president.

No joke, then and there they accept the leadership and the political control
of, among other “distinguished” “revolutionaries”: Dante
Delgado, Federico Arreola, Ignacio Marvan, Arturo Nuñez, Layda
Sansores, Ricardo Monreal, and Socorro Diaz (if you can find one that
hasn’t been a priista, you win a prize); that is, the fundamental pillars of
the “new” republic, the “new” generation of the future, the
“new” political party (damn! am I getting ahead of myself?)

The masses went home, went back to work, went to their struggles, but
these organizations know how to wait for the opportune moment...and they
steal away from Lopez Obrador the leadership of the movement! (ha!)

Whatever for whomever. aren’t they endearing?

There is also, within the Other Campaign, an honest tendency that is
sincerely preoccupied about the “isolation” that could come about if
they don’t join AMLO’s mobilization. They assume that is possible
to support the mobilization, without this implying support for the PRD.
They analyze that there there are people from below, and that one has to get
close to them because our movement is with and for those from below, and
because if we don’t, we will pay a high political cost.

9. The Actually Existing Other. And this is the tendency that, according to
what we’ve seen and heard, is the majority within the Other Campaign.
This position (which is also ours as Zapatistas), maintains that the
lopeobradorista mobilization is not our track and that we have to keep
looking below, growing as the “Other Campaign,” without looking
for who to direct and command, nor longing for who will direct and
command us.

And this position clearly maintains that the considerations that give
strength to the Sixth Declaration have not changed, that is, to birth and
grow a movement from below, anticapitalist and from the left.

Because, outside of these problems that we detect and point out here, and
that locate and focus on some compas dispersed in various parts of the
country (not just in DF) and in these few organizations (that, now we know
and understand, were never and will never be except where there are
masses....waiting for a vanguard), the Other all over the country will
continue its walk and will abandon neither its path nor its destiny.

It is the Other of the political prisoners of Atenco, of Ignacio Del Valle,
Magdalena Garcia, Mariana Selva and all of the names and faces of this

It is the Other of all the political prisoners of Guanajuato, Tabasco,
Chiapas, Oaxaca, Puebla, Hidalgo, Jalisco, Guerrero, State of Mexico, and
in all of the country; The Other of Gloria Arenas and Jacobo Silva Nogales.

It is the Other of the National Indigenous Congress (Central-Pacific
Region) that extends its contacts to the peninsula of the Yucatan Peninsula
and Baja California and to the Northeast, and it grows.

It is the Other that in Chiapas blooms without losing identity or roots,
manages to organize and articulate zones and struggles that have been
separate, and advances in the explanation and definition of the other
struggle of gender.

It is the Other that in cultural and informational groups and collectives
continue demanding liberty and justice for Atenco, which strengthens its
networks, which plays music for other ears and dances with other feet.

It is the Other that in the sit-in at Santiaguito maintains and converts itself
into a light and a message for our compañer@s prisoners: “we will not
forget you, we will get you out.”

It is the Other that in the states in the north of Mexico, and on the other
side of the Rio Bravo, did not stop to wait for the Sixth Commission but
continued working.

It is the Other that in Morelos, Tlaxcala, Queretaro, Puebla, la Huasteca
Potosina, Nayarit, State of Mexico, Michoacan, Tabasco, Yucatan,
Quintano Roo, Veracruz, Campeche, Aguascalientes, Hidalgo, Guerrero,
Colima, Jalisco, the Federal District, learn to struggle saying “we.”

It is the Other that in Oaxaca makes grow, below and without
protagonisms, the movement that now amazes Mexico.

It is the Other of young people, women, children, elderly, homosexuals,

It is the Other of the people of Atenco.

It is the Other, one of the best things that these Mexican lands have given.

(to be continued...)

For the Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee-General
Command of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation.
Sixth Commission of the EZLN.

Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos
September 2006
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