The EZLN, the CNI and the elections

Amado Avendaño with Marcos back in the day.

Amado Avendaño (holding pen and paper) with Marcos back in the day.

By: Luis Hernández Navarro

The EZLN and the CNI agreed to consult, with peoples and communities, about the postulation of an indigenous woman as a candidate to the Presidency of the Republic in the 2018 elections. The decision has raised an enormous polemic. Some see in the decision a 180-degree turn in their line of action; others see their entry into politics. Some others see a maneuver in the formation of an anti-Andrés Manuel López Obrador coalition.

These three opinions are, besides being wrong, bigoted. They are based on disinformation and on an analytical scheme that has as its point of departure: whoever is not with me, is against me. These points of view are ignorant of the history and the political trajectory, of the EZLN as well as the indigenous organizations that make up part of the CNI.

Ever since the EZLN emerged in public life it has not been a force for abstention. It has not called for abstention or electoral boycott, but rather for organizing and struggling. And, at least in one occasion, promoted the vote for a candidate.

In the presidential elections of August 21, 1994, it called to vote against the PRI, as part of its struggle contra the State party system and presidentialism. Moreover, on May 15 of that year, in Guadalupe Tepeyac, the Zapatista bases and Subcomandante Marcos received the PRD’s candidate, Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas, and his retinue. The rebels greeted them and recognized that the then candidate had listened to them with attention and respect. In passing, they criticized the sol Azteca (the PRD’s symbol).

A few days later, through the Second Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle, they convoked “a Democratic National Convention from which emanates a provisional or transition government, be it by means of the federal Executive’s resignation or through the electoral path.” This process –they pointed out then– would have to flow into the writing of a new Magna Carta and in the realization of new elections.

A little while later, the EZLN added themselves to the postulation of the journalist Amado Avendaño as the candidate of civil society to the governorship of Chiapas. And, following the electoral fraud that aborted his triumph, it recognized him as “governor in rebellion” and treated him as such.

At the end of 2005 the Zapatistas called for organizing a big national movement to transform social relations, to elaborate a national program of struggle and to create a new political constitution. Within this framework, they impelled the other campaign, an initiative of popular politics from below and to the left, independent of the political parties with registry, of an anticapitalist cut.

Although The Other Campaign never called to abstain or boycott the elections, it harshly criticized the candidates of the three principal political parties, including Andrés Manuel López Obrador. Close now to the elections of July 2, 2006, the repression happened in San Salvador Atenco (May 3 and 4 of that year) that changed the dynamic of this political initiative, in an event at the Revolution Cinema of Mexico City, Subcomandante Marcos personally opposed questioning those who were thinking about voting. “He that wants to vote, then vote,” he said there.

They want to blame the Zapatistas for the final result of the 2006 elections and even for the fraud that snatched victory at the ballot box from Andrés Manuel López Obrador. A few days ago, the leader of Morena denounced that in those days, the EZLN and the progressive Church were oriented to not voting for him (a thing that never happened), indirectly helping to steal the elections. Since then, the debate has been bitter and intense. It has not stopped being so despite more than 10 years having passed.

For years, the Zapatistas’ did not vary, as Subcomandante Moisés said in the comunicado titled “About elections: organize,” dated April 2015. He warns: “In these days, as each time that there is that thing they call the ‘electoral process,’ we hear and see that they come out saying that the EZLN calls for abstention, in other words that the EZLN says not to vote. They say that and other stupidities.”

Further ahead he clarifies the rebel posture on that year’s electoral conjuncture: “As the Zapatistas that we are we don’t call to vote or not vote. As the Zapatistas that we are what we do, each one that can, is to tell the people to organize themselves to resist, to fight, in order to have what one needs.”

The recent joint document of the EZLN and the CNI, “May the earth tremble violently at its core,” represents a change of position for the rebels, but not a 180-degree change, because they have never been abstentionists.

There (in the joint comunicado) they call for entering into a new form of action, which has as its central axis direct participation in the electoral conjuncture as a form of resistance, organization and struggle. It’s about placing the Indigenous and their problems at the center of the national political agenda, about making the aggressions against the original peoples visible.

On constructing the power of those below. The decision doesn’t mean the EZLN’s entry into the political fight. The Zapatistas have always been there. They have never stopped making politics since they irrupted into public life rising up in arms in 1994. One may or may not be in agreement with the politics they have made, but reducing political participation to electoral action in a conjuncture is foolishness.

The same can be said of the organizations that make up the CNI. The mobilization of the Purépechas of Cherán (a key experience in the new course of the indigenous struggle) for the recognition of their self-government and autonomy is essentially political; as is the experience of the Nahua self-defense of Ostula, or the Otomí Xochicuautla community’s defense of its territory and natural resources.

Nobody has the monopoly on political representation of the Mexican left. That representation is earned in day-by-day struggle. Accusing the Zapatistas and the CNI of pandering to the government because they seek to participate electorally in 2018, on the margin of the political parties, is an example of dominance and intolerance. At the end of the day, it will be Mexican society in general and the Indian peoples in particular, that will decide if this path is useful for transforming the country or not.


Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

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