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On vanguard parties.

Subcommandante Marcos is the main spokesperson for the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN) in Chiapas, Mexico. EZLN launched its campaign in January 1994, taking over government offices in San Cristobal de las Casas--an action made in response to indigenous people's poverty and lack of public services in the region's near-feudal system. Some 60,000 soldiers restored control. A seven year stalemate followed. The EZLN retreated into the fringes of the Lacandon jungle. A tense situation between pro-and anti- Zapatistas sometimes exploded into violence. In December 1997, paramilitaries massacred 45 Zapatista sympathizers in the village of Acteal.

Editor's Note: The Zapatistas don't fit most categories of "revolutionaries." The following, taken from an article by Naomi Klein in The (British) Guardian, provides further background:

Though there is no confirmation of Marcos's real identity, the most repeated legend that surrounds him goes like this: an urban Marxist intellectual and activist, Marcos was wanted by the state and was no longer safe in the cities. He fled to the mountains of Chiapas in southeast Mexico filled with revolutionary rhetoric and certainty, there to convert the poor indigenous masses to the cause of armed proletarian revolution against the bourgeoisie. He said the workers of the world must unite, and the Mayans just stared at him. They said they weren't workers and, besides, land wasn't property but the heart of their community, Having failed as a Marxist missionary, Marcos immersed himself in Mayan culture.

The more he learned, the less he knew. Out of this process, a new kind of army emerged, the Zapatista National Liberation Army, which was not controlled by an elite of guerrilla commanders but by the communities themselves, through clandestine councils and open assemblies. 'Our army,' says Marcos, 'became scandalously Indian.' That meant that he wasn't a commander barking orders, but a subcommandante, a conduit for the will of the councils. His first words said in the new persona were: 'Through me speaks the will of the Zapatista National Liberation Army.' Further subjugating himself, Marcos says that he is not a leader to those who seek him out, but that his black mask is a mirror, reflecting each of their own struggles; that a Zapatista is anyone anywhere fighting injustice, that 'We are you'. He once said, 'Marcos is: gay in San Francisco, black in South Africa, Asian in Europe, Chicano in San Ysidro, Palestinian in Israel, Mayan Indian in the streets of San Cristobal, Jew in Germany, Gypsy in Poland, Mohawk in Quebec, pacifist in Bosnia, anarchist in Spain, single woman on the Metro at 10pm, peasant without land, gang member in the slums, unemployed worker, unhappy student and, of course, a Zapatista in the mountains' ...

Like so many others left behind by globalization, the Mayans of Chiapas had fallen off the economic map: "Below in the cities," the EZLN command stated, "we did not exist. Our lives were worth less than those of machines or animals. We were like stones, like weeds in the road. We were silenced. We were faceless."

The Punch Card and the Hourglass, Interview (excerpts) by Garcia Marquez & Roberto Pombo with Zapatista Subcommandante Marcos. Revista Cambio, Bogota, 26 March 2001, & New Left Review 9 (new series), May-June 2001.

... The EZLN has a military structure. Subcomandante Marcos is the military chief of an army. But our army is very different from others, because its proposal is to cease being an army. A soldier is an absurd person who has to resort to arms in order to convince others, and in that sense the movement has no future if its future is military. If the EZLN perpetuates itself as an armed military structure, it is headed for failure. Failure as an alternative set of ideas, an alternative attitude to the world. The worst that could happen to it, apart from that, would be to come to power and install itself there as a revolutionary army. For us it would be a failure.

What would be a success for the politico-military organizations of the sixties or seventies which emerged with the national liberation movements would be a fiasco for us. We have seen that such victories proved in the end to be failures, or defeats, hidden behind the mask of success. [W]hat always remained unresolved was the role of people, of civil society, in what ultimately became a dispute between two hegemonies. There is an oppressor power which decides on behalf of society from above, and a group of visionaries which decides to lead the country on the correct path and ousts the other group from power, seizes power and then also decides on behalf of society. For us that is a struggle between hegemonies, in which the winners are good and the losers bad, but for the rest of society things don't basically change ...

You cannot reconstruct the world or society, nor rebuild national states now in ruins, on the basis of a quarrel over who will impose their hegemony on society. The world in general, and Mexican society in particular, is composed of different kinds of people, and the relations between them have to be founded on respect and tolerance, things which appear in none of the discourses of the politico-military organizations of the sixties and seventies. Reality, as always, presented a bill to the armed national liberation movements of those days, and the cost of settling [the bill] has been very high.

Every vanguard imagines itself to be representative of the majority. We not only think that is false in our case, but that even in the best of cases it is little more than wishful thinking, and in the worst cases an outright usurpation. The moment social forces come into play, it becomes clear that the vanguard is not such a vanguard and that those it represents do not recognize themselves in it. The EZLN, in renouncing any claim to be a vanguard, is recognizing its real horizon. To believe that we can speak on behalf of those beyond ourselves is political masturbation ... We are trying to be honest with ourselves and some might say that this is a matter of human decency ... [O]ur discourse has reached the ears of many more people than those we represent. This is the point we have reached. That's all.

[Marcos comments on the armed conflict in Colombia, and the Colombian guerrillas.] From here I see very little. Just what the media filter through: the current process of dialogue and negotiation, and its difficulties. So far as I can tell, it's a very traditional kind of dialogue it's not innovative. Both sides are simultaneously sitting at the table and bringing their military forces into play to gain an advantage at the table. Or vice versa, because we don't know what each of them has in mind. Perhaps the table offers advantages for military confrontations. We don't pay much attention to the accusations of links to drug-trafficking because it wouldn't be the first time such charges are made and then they turn out not to be true. We give the Colombians the benefit of the doubt. We don't label them good or bad, but we do keep our distance from them, as we do with other armed groups in Mexico ... [We consider] kidnapping civilians [to be unethical].

The seizure of power does not justify a revolutionary organization in taking any action that it pleases. We do not believe that the end justifies the means. Ultimately, we believe that the means are the end. We define our goal by the way we choose the means of struggling for it. In that sense, the value we give to our word, to honesty and sincerity, is great, although we occasionally sin out of naivete. For example, on 1 January 1994, before attacking the Army, we announced that we were going to attack. They didn't believe us. Sometimes this yields results and sometimes it doesn't. But it satisfies us that, as an organization, we are creating an identity as we go along.

It's very easy, and very irresponsible, to offer opinions from here on what is happening [in Colombia]. A process of dialogue and negotiation is unlikely to be successful if each party remains intent on winning. If one side uses negotiations as a test of force to see if it can defeat the other, sooner or later the dialogue will fail. In that event, the field of military confrontation is simply being transferred to the negotiating table. For dialogue and negotiation to succeed, both parties have to proceed from the assumption that they cannot defeat their opponent. They need to find a way out that means a victory for both--or, in the worst of cases, a defeat for both. But that brings the confrontation as it is to an end. Of course, this is difficult--above all for movements which have been active for many years, like the Colombian guerrillas. Much harm has been done on both sides and many debts have yet to be settled, but I believe it is never too late to try.

Excerpts from Subcommandante Marcos' open letter to the Basque political-military organization Euskadi Ta Askatasuna (ETA) ... From La Jornada; translated by Laura Fecha. January 27, 2003.

... We know that the Zapatistas don't have a place in the (dis)agreements of the revolutionary and vanguard organizations of the world, or in the rearguard. This doesn't make us feel bad. To the contrary, it satisfies us. We don't grieve when we recognize that our ideas and proposals don't have an eternal horizon, and that there are ideas and proposals better suited than ours. So we have renounced the role of vanguards ... [We don't] obligate anyone to accept our thinking over another argument ...

Our weapons are not used to impose ideas or ways of life, rather to defend a way of thinking and a way of seeing the world and relating to it, something that, even though it can learn a lot from other thoughts and ways of life, also has a lot to teach. We are not those who you have to demand respect from. It's already been seen how we are a failure [as a "revolutionary vanguard"] so our respect wouldn't be useful for anything. Your people are those you have to win respect from. And "respect" is one thing; another very distinct thing is "fear". We know you are angry because we haven't taken you seriously, but it is not your fault. We don't take anyone seriously, not even ourselves. Because whoever takes themselves seriously has stopped with the thought that their truth should be the truth for everyone and forever. And, sooner or later, they dedicate their force not so that their truth will be born, grow, be fruitful and die (because no earthly truth is absolute and eternal) rather they use it to kill everything that doesn't agree with this truth.

We don't see why we would ask you what we should do or how we should do it. What are you going to teach us? To kill journalists who speak badly about the struggle? To justify the death of children for reason of the "cause"? We don't need or want your support or solidarity. We already have the support and solidarity of many people in Mexico and the world. Our struggle has a code of honor, inherited from our guerilla ancestors and it contains, among other things: respect of civilian lives (even though they may occupy government positions that oppress us); we don't use crime to get resources for ourselves (we don't rob, not even a snack store); we don't respond to words with fire (even though many hurt us or lie to us). One could think that to renounce these traditionally "revolutionary" methods is renouncing the advancement of our struggle. But, in the faint light of our history it seems that we have advanced more than those that resort to such arguments (more to demonstrate their radical nature and consequences than to effectively serve their cause). Our enemies (who are not just a few nor just in Mexico) want us to resort to these methods. Nothing would be better for them than the EZLN converting into a Mexican and indigenous version of ETA. In fact, ever since we have used The Word to refer to the struggle of the Basque people they have accused us of this. Unfortunately for them, it is not like this. And it never will be .. .we don't try to tell anyone what they should do, we only ask for an opportunity to The Word. If you don't want to give it, too bad.

p.s. ... We don't want to make ourselves independent from Mexico. We want to be a part of it, but without leaving who we are: indigenous ...

Another p.s. It should already be evident, but I want to remark: I shit on all the revolutionary vanguards of this planet.

Review of: Uprooted: Refugees of the Global Economy--30 minute video produced by the National Network for Immigrant and Refugee Rights with the Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights and Caminante Cultural Work. To order and for information, <>.

"We are victims. At the same time we are survivors." Luckner, an immigrant from Haiti simply and effectively sums up the immigrant experience in the U.S. Luckner left Haiti because his one-dollar per day job stitching baseballs moved to China where labor is cheaper.

Uprooted looks at immigration to the U.S. through the eyes of two individuals and one 'couple who left their homelands because of the economic pressures of globalization.

From the Philippines, Maricel works in New York as a domestic worker. Paying its foreign debt, the film's voice-over tells us, is the largest item in the Philippines' national budget. To earn dollars, the government encourages its people to work abroad; ten percent of them do--the highest percent in the world.

Jessy and Jaimie ran a successful, small, electrical business in their native Bolivia. They came to the U.S. for a eye operation for Jaimie. While gone, shattering inflation hit their country. At home their business was destroyed and their country in turmoil. Unable to use their engineering degrees, they work as janitors in Los Angeles.

Maricel, Jessy and Luckner work for the rights of immigrants in the U.S.. That is the optimistic message of this video: people are organizing. The insight captured by Luckner when he notes both the victim and survivor status of immigrants is well illustrated by these stories. It is for good reason that some of the most dynamic organizing, both workplace and community, takes place in immigrant communities. As these immigrants show, the individuals arriving on our shores are often vital people bringing important talents with them. Further, their communities here in the U.S.--unfortunately not sufficiently commented on in Uprooted--are vital places as well, not yet broken down by TV, rugged individualism and consumerism.

The video's voice over provides the background information: 150,000,000 people around the globe are immigrants, most leaving their homelands because of economic conditions resulting from globalization. "Free trade" is the major culprit, with multinational corporations, international financial institutions like the International Monetary Fund and US government policies all working hand-in-hand to foster it.

For those open to the video's point of view, this is a compact presentation of the major "push-pull" forces of immigration. The three stories put human faces on the issues. The voice over provides the context.

For the skeptic or critic, the video isn't sufficient. Accompanied by a panel discussion or presentation by people who could answer questions about the video's point of view, it would be effective for most church, union, neighborhood and interest organizations.
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Title Annotation:Special feature: the push-pull of immigration
Publication:Social Policy
Geographic Code:3COLO
Date:Jun 22, 2003
Previous Article:The FARC controversy.
Next Article:Participatory democracy.

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