Beyond Resistence: Everything

Introduction by Alison Banville (BSN)

ezln-womenlaws20 years ago, the day after the infamous NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) was signed, the EZLN, The Zapatista Army of National Liberation, emerged from the jungles of Chiapas, Mexico and inspired the world-wide anti-globalisation movement. This piece (below) includes an introduction: ‘Zapatismo: A Brief Manual on How to Change the World Today’, an interview with the Zapatista’s charismatic spokesperson, Subcommandante Marcos, and an appendix which contains ‘The Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle’, all of which help us to find an alternative to, in the words of the authors and interviewers, ‘a corporatised.. system complicit with corrupt political managers united in a shared goal of patent and profit control over the wealth of knowledge, labour and life we provide in common.’

An Interview with Subcomandante Insurgente Marcus

El Kilombo Intergalactico



This interview was created and conducted by El Kilombo Intergaláctico. We are a people of color collective made up of students, migrants, and other community members in Durham, North Carolina. Our project is to create a space to strengthen our collective political struggles while simultaneously connecting these struggles with the larger global anti-capitalist movement.

When we designed this interview in our community assembly, we wanted to bring out several thematic layers.

We wanted to talk about issues unique to the US: a particular set of race relations and our own perspective on the battle between capital and color; the historic and contemporary predominance of migrant, displaced, and “in-flight” populations and the kind of communities created by a nation of “nationless” people; and the reality of being simultaneously part of the global poor in a capital-rich country and part of the great richness and resistance which exists “below” in the global movement for a different world. We wanted to talk about issues that bridge the North American continent: the real danger and simulated reality of the border, the migrant labor that now supports two economies, and the communities all over the continent that have never recognized nation-state boundaries as legitimate. And finally we wanted to situate our discussion in issues now fully and undeniably global: how to build effective anti-capitalist movements, construct new social relations, and create real alternatives for the organization of society in the context of a globalized capitalist economy.

We want to provide a brief explanation of the perspective and experience that frames our conversation with the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN). El Kilombo came together after the historic anti-war movement which preceded the US invasion of Iraq, and in the midst of a floundering and disoriented US Left and a disenfranchised population. As students, migrants, and other members of the community we realized that we shared common problems—insecure working conditions, the expropriation of our land and resources, a paralyzing isolation in the maze of attending to bills, health, housing, education, debt, and documentation—as well as common enemies: a corporatized university system complicit with powerful agents of capital and corrupt politician-managers united in a shared goal of patent and profit control over the wealth of knowledge, labor, and life we provide in common.

We started by opening a social center, a space for encounter, where people could come together, not only to find things and services they need, but to meet each other and to talk about creating things they desire. We started English and Spanish language classes, Capoeira classes, computer classes, and homework help for kids. We designed a collectively-taught political seminar for ourselves and the community, and began mapping the problems and resources of our city. The participants in our programs, our neighbors, developed into a collective decision-making body, an assembly, which in turn decided what else was needed. Together we are all working on a health commission to set up free medical consultations, an organic garden to provide free food distribution, and a housing collective to lower costs and address security concerns in our neighborhood.

We were created, as a collective, in the “todo para todos” of the Zapatistas, in the “que se vayan todos” of the piqueteros in Argentina, in the dignity and self-respect of movements in the United States like the Black Panthers and the Young Lords, and in the courage and commitment of all of the quilombos—the indigenous, African, multi- and inter-racial peoples all over the world that built autonomous communities to break the relations of domination.

When the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle came out, we sent a representative from our group to accompany the first journey of the Other Campaign, the visit of the Zapatista Sixth Commission to every state of the Mexican Republic. We did this in support of the Other Campaign, but also to create a bridge between our movements and as a learning experience for ourselves. As a member of our assembly said of the Zapatista movement, “They have nothing and they have given us everything.” Solidarity is insufficient. The only thing worthy of our dignity and of theirs is a movement here as fierce and formidable and transformative as what the Zapatistas have created there.

The Introduction that follows here, “Zapatismo: A Brief Manual on How to Change the World Today,” is a synthesis of our experience of Zapatismo over the last decade and what we believe to be its lessons and insights for a world in the throes of destruction and on the edge of powerful possibilities.

Our interview with Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos was held shortly after his return to Chiapas following the first full journey of the Other Campaign through Mexico. Finally, with the hopes of increasing circulation of the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle, we have included it as an appendix, in its entirety.

From “El Hoyo,” Durham NC, our hole in the ground, below and to the left, —El Kilombo Intergaláctico November 2007




By El Kilombo Intergaláctico

The following lines are the product of intense collective discussions that took place within what is today El Kilombo Intergaláctico during much of 2003 and 2004. These discussions occurred during the advent of the Iraq War and our efforts (though ultimately ineffective) to stop it. During those months it became very clear to us that the Left in the United States was at a crossroads, and much of what we had participated in under the banner of “activism” no longer provided an adequate response to our current conditions.

In our efforts to forge a new path, we found that an old friend—the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional (Zapatista Army of National Liberation, EZLN)—was already taking enormous strides to move toward a politics adequate to our time, and that it was thus necessary to attempt an evaluation of Zapatismo that would in turn be adequate to the real ‘event’ of their appearance. That is, despite the fresh air that the Zapatista uprising had blown into the US political scene since 1994, we began to feel that even the inspiration of Zapatismo had been quickly contained through its insertion into a well-worn and untenable narrative: Zapatismo was another of many faceless and indifferent “third world” movements that demanded and deserved solidarity from leftists in the “global north.” From our position as an organization composed in large part by people of color in the United States, we viewed this focus on “solidarity” as the foreign policy equivalent of “white guilt,” quite distinct from any authentic impulse toward, or recognition of, the necessity for radical social change. The notion of “solidarity” that still pervades much of the Left in the U.S. has continually served an intensely conservative political agenda that dresses itself in the radical rhetoric of the latest rebellion in the “darker nations” while carefully maintaining political action at a distance from our own daily lives, thus producing a political subject (the solidarity provider) that more closely resembles a spectator or voyeur (to the suffering of others) than a participant or active agent, while simultaneously working to reduce the solidarity recipient to a mere object (of our pity and mismatched socks). At both ends of this relationship, the process of solidarity ensures that subjects and political action never meet; in this way it serves to make change an a priori impossibility. In other words, this practice of solidarity urges us to participate in its perverse logic by accepting the narrative that power tells us about itself: that those who could make change don’t need it and that those who need change can’t make it. To the extent that human solidarity has a future, this logic and practice do not!

For us, Zapatismo was (and continues to be) unique exactly because it has provided us with the elements to shatter this tired schema. It has inspired in us the ability, and impressed upon us the necessity, of always viewing ourselves as dignified political subjects with desires, needs, and projects worthy of struggle. With the publication of The Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle in June of 2005, the Zapatistas have made it even clearer that we must move beyond appeals to this stunted form of solidarity, and they present us with a far more difficult challenge: that wherever in the world we may be located, we must become “companer@s” (neither followers nor leaders) in a truly global struggle to change the world. As a direct response to this call, this analysis is our attempt to read Zapatismo as providing us with the rough draft of a manual for contemporary political action that eventually must be written by us all.

Why Fight

On January 1st of 1994, the very day that the North American Free Trade Agreement was to go into effect, the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), an army composed in its grand majority by members of Chiapas’ six largest indigenous groups, declared war on the Mexican army and its then commander-in-chief, Carlos Salinas de Gortari, who, according to the EZLN, was waging an undeclared genocidal war against the peoples of Mexico. In response, the EZLN proposed that fellow Mexicans join them in a struggle for land, housing, food, health, education, work, independence, democracy, justice and peace.1 During a twelve day military offensive, Zapatista soldiers, many of them armed only with old rifles and wooden sticks, occupied seven municipalities in the state of Chiapas (Altamirano, Las Margaritas, San Cristóbal, Ocosingo, Chanal, Huixtan, and Oxchuc). Since these first days, there have been hundreds of pages written claiming that the EZLN is a movement for the rights of indigenous Mexicans, for the recuperation of rural lands, for constitutional reform, and for the end of NAFTA. We would like to insist that despite the fact that all of these claims are absolutely true, none of them are sufficient to understand the appearance and resonance of the EZLN. According to Subcomandante Marcos (the delegated spokesperson of the EZLN), the Zapatistas wanted something far more naïve and straightforward than the innumerable goals that were attributed to them. In his own words, they wanted to “change the world.”3 We believe that this must be our first and primary premise if we are to understand Zapatismo: that the EZLN is a movement to change the world, and that those who have been attracted to them, including those who might read these pages, sympathize with the EZLN because they too believe, like the Zapatistas, that, “another world” is both possible and necessary.

Click here to read the entire interview.

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