THEM AND US VI.
GAZES Part 6: WE ARE HE
ZAPATISTA NATIONAL LIBERATION ARMY
February 14, 2013.
From: Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés.
The time has come, and its moment too. There are times that all human beings experience, good or bad; one is born, comes into the world, dies, and is gone. Those are times. But there is another time, in which one can decide in what direction to walk, a time when the time arrives to look at time. That is, when one can understand life, how life should be, here in this world, and that no one can be the owner of that which makes up the world.
We were born indigenous and we are indigenous. We know that we came into the world and that we will leave this world, that is the law. We began to walk through life and we realized that we as indigenous people were not doing so well, we saw what happened to our great great great grandfathers and grandmothers, that is, in 1521, in 1810, and in 1910, that we were always used, that we gave our lives so that others could take power, that once in power they forgot about us again and went back to disrespecting, robbing, repressing, and exploiting us.
And we encountered a third time. The third time is where we are now, for a while now we’ve been walking, running, learning, working, falling, and getting back up. This is important because one has to record, to fill a tape that can be reproduced later with more lives from other times. Yes, we have been left a full bag of tapes, even though some of us aren’t here anymore. So others continue on and the process moves forward like that, and what is yet to come is yet to come, until we get to the end and we begin that other work of construction, where another world begins to be born, where they cannot screw us over again and where we are not forgotten as original peoples, we will not allow that again. Now we have learned. We want to live well, in equality, in the city and the countryside, where the people of the city and the people of the countryside rule and the government obeys, and if it doesn’t, it gets kicked out, and another is instituted.
Yes, we are indigenous, we work mother earth, we know how to use tools to harvest the fruits that she provides. We are various peoples with distinct languages. My mother tongue is Tzeltal, though I also understand Tzotzil and Chol, and I learned Spanish in the organization, with my compañeras and compañeros. And now I am what we are, together with my compañeros I have learned what it is that we want in order to live in a new world.
I write this in the name of all of the Zapatistas, since the Sup’s computer is broken. I saw that he went to get it fixed, and when I asked him what happened to his computer he said the zuich [switch] is fucked up. Ah, I said. He was carrying a chisel and a 5-kilo sledgehammer. That thing is done, I said, it can’t be fixed. So he told me that I should write to you so that you can start to get to know who is responsible for our door, and also so that we start getting to know you through what you write and say to us from everywhere, and what you tell us and have told us as compañeras and compañeros of the Sixth.
I know a little about typing on the computer and somebody gave me one to practice on a while back. Now it’s time for me to write as well, but I’m a little worried that the same thing that happened to the Sup’s computer will happen to me. I have a solution though, a swing of the axe and done, on to pen and paper. Problem solved.
In any case, I have to tell you that the task of peering out the window, which falls to Supmarcos, isn’t finished. That is, what is to come is yet to come, but it will remain pending until the Sup’s computer gets fixed.
Yes, the Sup’s job will be peering out the window at those who watch us, those who say they are “good” and who fight for the people and who have led the people but haven’t gotten anywhere, and who say it’s because the people don’t understand anything and that they understand everything, but that no one will follow them. Why? That is what they don’t understand, and won’t understand, because they only think about above, look toward above, and try to climb up above.
Well, that, and much more, is the Sup’s work, because he’s in charge of the window, he is like the frame of the window.
It is also his job to see what’s going on with the people who don’t follow those who only look above, to understand why those people are the way they are, what they think, and how they think. We think that maybe those people think like we Zapatistas do, that maybe they too think that it should be law that the people rule and the government obeys.
It is also his job to be the target of the critiques, the insults, and the go-to-hells [mentadas], as he says, and the mockery from those on the outside. But he doesn’t worry about those insults and lies, he just laughs, because, of course, we prepared him for that, we made him into steel. So now those insults and such don’t hurt him, well, yes actually sometimes his stomach hurts from laughing so hard at the things they say.
He tells me that they might start mocking me, or anybody else who speaks, also. But oh well, that’s how it goes, it could be that they make fun of me or insult me, or mock me because I am indigenous, just as they mock him for what he is. But we only care about the people that want to fight to end injustice, so as long as they don’t throw bullets or bombs at us, there’s no problem. And if they do throw those things at us, it also won’t be a problem, because there are already other compañeros and compañeras ready for the work that is and will always be the struggle. That is, we’re ready for anything they throw at us and we’re not scared.
These years, the Sup tells me, many people were blocked from the view of our window, but that one can still tell rather quickly who is like us. He wanted to count how many people like that were out there, but he lost count and just did it our way, the indigenous way, and said, there are a shitload. How much is that? I asked him. Many (masculine), many (feminine), he told me. Ah, I said. So that confirms that there will be many like us and that one day we will say along with them, “this is what we are,” without it mattering who is indigenous or not.
And that’s how we organize ourselves, some do some things and others do other things. For example, now Supmarcos’ job is the window, and my job is the door, and others have other jobs.
And it is during these times that we remember an unforgettable compañero for all of us Zapatistas, SubPedro, who in the last days of December 1993, told us: learn compas, because one day it will be your turn. We are going to struggle together, workers, campesin@s, young people, children, women, men, and older people, in Mexico and around the world. It was the truth then, and it is the truth now, even without him. The truth of the truth began when we began to struggle for the people.
Okay compas, now you know that I am in charge of the door, what we haven’t discussed yet is the new way of working with the compañeros who will come to learn what it has taken my Zapatista compañeros years to build, that which we are now.
Because we believe and trust the people, now is the time to do something about the damages that we have seen and endured for so many years, now is the time to join together in our thinking and learning and then to work, to organize. After so much experience we are ready to do this, and that experience will guide us so as not to repeat the mistakes that have gotten this world to this point.
If we don’t follow the thinking of the people, the people don’t follow us. And we only need to look at those who came before us in order not to fall into the same mistakes. To build something truly new will take word, thought, decision, and analysis, proposed by the people, studied by the people, and finally decided upon by the people.
It is like the 10 years that we worked clandestinely, when no one knew about us. “One day they will know us,” we told ourselves and that’s how we kept working all those years. And then one day we decided that it was time to be known. Now that you have known us for 19 years, you can say if what we are doing is good or bad. My compañeros say that they live better now with their autonomous governments. They realize that real democracy happens with the people, and not just every 3 or 6 years [with elections]. Democracy is carried out in each village, in autonomous municipal assemblies and in the zone-wide assemblies that make up the Juntas de Buen Gobierno (Good Government Councils), when each zone that makes up a Junta de Buen Gobierno gets together in assembly. That is, democracy is carried out every day and in every entity of the autonomous governments, alongside the people, men and women. Democracy addresses every aspect of their lives, they know democracy belongs to them, because they discuss, study, propose, analyze, and make the final decision on each issue.
They [the people] ask us, “how would this country and this world be if we organized with other indigenous brothers and sisters, and also with those brothers and sisters who aren’t indigenous?” Afterwards, they give a big smile, as if to answer this question: happiness. They already know the answer, because they hold the results, the work that they are doing, in their hands.
Yes, that’s how it is, it only requires that we organize ourselves as the poor of the city and the countryside without anyone leading us but ourselves and those that we name, and without those who only want to get into a position of power and once in power forget about us. And again and again, another just like them comes and says now this time it’s for real, this time it will be different, and then, the same tricks. They are not going to honor their word, we know that, it’s really not even worth writing about this, but that’s how it is in this country. It is desperate, exhausting, horrible.
We, the poor, know what the best way of life is for us, we know what we want, but they will not leave us be, because they know that we will get rid of exploitation and the exploiters and that we will build a new life without exploitation. This isn’t hard for us to understand, because we know how things need to change, because everything we have lived needs to change. The injustices, pains, sorrows, mistreatments, inequalities, manipulations, bad laws, persecutions, tortures, prisons, and many other bad things that we have endured, we know very well that we will not repeat the ways that have subjected us to these things. As we Zapatistas say, if we make mistakes, then we had better be up to the task of correcting them ourselves, instead of how it is now, where some people make all the mistakes and everyone else pays for it. That is, those who make the mistakes now are the representatives, senators, and bad governments of the world, and it is the people who pay the price.
One doesn’t have to have a lot of education, or speak good Spanish, or know how to read much. We’re not saying those things aren’t useful, but that we can learn enough to do our work, enough to help us organize our work. These things are like tools for the work of communicating. What we are saying is that we know how to make change, we don’t need someone to come with their campaign telling us that he or she is the change, as if we, the exploited, don’t know what change we want. Do you understand what I’m saying, indigenous brothers and sisters and people of Mexico, indigenous brother and sisters of the world, non-indigenous brothers and sisters of the world?
So, indigenous and non-indigenous brothers and sisters who are poor, join the struggle, organize yourselves, lead yourselves, do not let yourselves be led, or keep careful watch over those you choose to lead you, make sure they do the things that you have decided and you will see that things begin taking shape like they have for us the Zapatistas.
Don’t stop fighting, as the exploiters will not stop exploiting us, fight until the end, the end that is, of exploitation. No one will do this for us, no one other than ourselves. We have to take the reigns, take the wheel and take our destiny where we want it to go. In that destiny, the people are the source of democracy, the people correct themselves and keep going. Not like now, where 500 representatives and 228 senators fuck everything up and millions suffer the deadly pestilence and toxicity that result; that is, the poor, the people of Mexico, are those who suffer.
Brothers and sister laborers, we have you in mind and all others who work, we all carry the same smell of sweat from working for the exploiters. Now that my Zapatista compañer@s are opening the door, if you understand what we mean, join the Sixth and learn about the autonomous government of the EZLN. And you also, indigenous and non-indigenous brothers and sisters of the world, we want you to understand us.
We are the principal producers of the wealth of those who are wealthy. Enough! We know that that there are others who are exploited and we want to organize with them, to fight for the people of Mexico and of the world, which belongs to us, not to the neoliberals.
Indigenous and non-indigenous brothers and sisters of the world, exploited peoples, peoples of America, peoples of Europe, peoples of Africa, peoples of Oceania, peoples of Asia.
The neoliberals are those who want to be the owners of the world, that’s what we say, they want to make all capitalist countries into their own ranches, and their overseers are the capitalist governments of underdeveloped countries. And that’s how they’ll keep it, if all of us, as workers, do not organize.
We know that there is exploitation in the world. We should not let the distance between each of us on our side of the world distance us from each other. We should get closer, uniting our thought, our ideas, and our struggle for ourselves.
Where you are, there is exploitation, just as there is for us.
You suffer repression, just like us.
You are being stolen from, just like us, here they have been stealing from us for more than 500 years.
They look down on you, just as they continue to look down on us.
And that’s where we are, that’s where they have us, and that’s how things will continue if we don’t join each other’s hands.
There are many reasons to unite ourselves and give birth to our rebellion and defend ourselves against this beast that does not want to get off of us and that never will if we don’t throw it off ourselves.
Here in our Zapatista communities, our autonomous governments in rebellion and their organized compañer@s are confronting neoliberal capitalism day and night, and we are ready for anything that comes and in whatever form it may come.
These are now facts, this is how the Zapatista compañer@s are organized. It only takes decision, organization, work, thought, and putting things into practice, and then we must correct and improve without tiring, and if we rest, it is in order to gather strength and go forward. The people rule and the government obeys.
It can be done, brothers and sisters, the poor of the world, here is the example of your indigenous Zapatista brothers and sisters in Chiapas, Mexico.
It is time for us to make the world that we want, the world that we imagine, the world that we desire. We know how. It is difficult, because there are those who don’t want this, and they are precisely those who exploit us. But if we don’t do it now, our future will be even harder and there will never be freedom.
That’s how we understand things, and that’s why we are searching, wanting to find each other, know each other, learn from each other and ourselves.
We hope you will be able to come, and if not, we will look for other ways to see and get to know each other.
We will be waiting for you here at this door that it is my job to take care of, here where you can enter the humble school where my compañer@s want to share the little that we have learned, to see if it is of use to you there where you live and work. We are sure that those who are part of the Sixth will come, or not, but in any case they will enter the little school where we will explain what the Zapatistas mean by freedom, they will see our advances and our failures, which we will not hide, but they will do all of this with the best teachers there are, that is, the Zapatista peoples.
The little school is very humble, it has humble beginnings, but for the Zapatista compañer@s it means the freedom to do what we want for what we think is a better life.
We are making this little school better every day, because it is necessary to do so and because it is in practice that we learn and demonstrate how to move forward. That is, practice is the best form through which to learn how to make things better. Theory gives us ideas, but what gives us form is practice, the practice of how to govern autonomously.
It’s like they say: “When the poor believe in the poor, then we will be able to sing freedom.” Only we haven’t just heard this, but we are doing it in practice. That is the fruit that our compañer@s want to share with you. And yes it is true, just think how many bad things the bad governments have done to us and they haven’t been able to destroy us, nor will they be able to, because what is built is of the people, for the people, and by the people. The people will defend it.
There is much I could tell you, but it’s not the same thing for me to tell you as it is for you to see it for yourselves and have your questions answered in person by my compañeros and compañeras who are bases of support. They may answer with difficulty because it will be in Spanish, but the best answer is the practice of the compañer@s, which will be visible and which they are living out.
What we are doing is very small, but it will be very big for the poor of Mexico and the world. Just like we, the poor of Mexico and of the world, are very big, that is, very many, and we need to construct the world in which we will live for ourselves. We know what it is like when the opposite happens, when it is a ruling group that comes to an agreement, and not the people. We have come to understand what it really means to represent, we now know how to do this in practice, by carrying out the 7 principles of rule-by-obeying.
We can now see the horizon, which according to us is a new world, and which you will be able to see and learn from, so as to give birth to a different world, the world that you imagine wherever it is that you might live. We can share our wisdom with each other and create our worlds differently from the way that things are now.
We want to see each other, listen to each other; this is a great experience for us, it will help us to know other worlds and to choose the best of the world that we want.
We need organization, decision, agreement, struggle, resistance, self-defense, work, practice. If there is something missing here, add it compañeros and compañeras.
So, for now, we are deciding how the little school we are making for you will be, we’ll see if there will be enough space. The point is that we are getting ready. And that any compañero or compañera who we invite and who wants can come and see and feel, and even if they can’t come, we’ll find a way to share it.
We are waiting for you compañeras and compañeros of the Sixth.
We are preparing to receive you, take care of you, and attend to you like the compañer@s that we are, like our compañer@s that you are. And we are also preparing for our word to reach the ear of those who cannot come to our home, we will do this with your help.
And of course, we should tell you that this might take awhile, but that, as our brother and sisters of the Mapuche people says: one, ten, one hundred, one thousand times we will win, we will always be victorious.
So, to finish, next time it will be compañero Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos’ turn to talk to you, we’re going to keep taking turns back and forth, he and I, to explain everything to you. Now it is time for you to hear me too, for while I have been doing this work for many years, this is the first time that it is up to me to sign the following lines publicly…
From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.
For the Indigenous Revolutionary Clandestine Committee
General Command of the Zapatista Army for National Liberation
Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés.
Mexico, February 2013.
P.S.- I want to take this opportunity also to tell you that the password for the next parts, which will come from the window that Supmarcos is in charge of is “nosotr@s.” And that’s all, because in the school of struggle you can’t copy off a compa, but rather everyone has to generate their own struggle respecting each other, like the compas that we are.
Translation: El Kilombo Intergalactico
Watch and listen to the videos that accompany this text at:
Vídeo taken in CIDECI, San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico, in 2009, when today’s Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés was a Lieutenant Colonel. This is just a fragment of various talks that he gave, but I’ll put it here so that you remember that you already know him, and so that those who didn’t see him can meet him. The video is from Agencia Prensa India, from the series “Generando Contrapoderes” (Generating Counterpowers).
A story called “Los de después, sí entendimos” (We who came later understand) dedicated to those compañeros and compañeras who have fallen over the course of our long path. Read by one of our dear “Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo” (Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo), Alba Lanzilloto.
Panteón Rococó with the track “La Carencia,” in a concert in Germany in 2008. Dedicated to all those in all parts of the world who work their asses off and even so, they sing, dance, and dream. To the trampoline with the Panteones!