April 12, 2017, Seminar “The walls of capital, the cracks on the left”
A few months ago, el Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés gave me a synthesis of what he has now told you with more extension and support.
Perhaps without proposing to do it, he had detected a line of tension between the past and the storm that is now.
That morning after listening to the stories that, in the voice of SupMoy, told about the most elderly of our compañeros, I returned to my hut. Of all things an out-of- season rain started to lash the sheetmetal roof and it was now impossible to listen to anything except the storm.
I rummaged again in the trunk that SupMarcos entrusted to me because I seemed to have seen a text that might refer to what I just heard.
Believe me! Reviewing those writings is not easy; the majority of the texts that are piled up in disarray inside the trunk range from 1983 to January 1, 1994, and, at least until 1992, it seems that the Sup not only had no computer, he didn’t have a mechanical typewriter either. So, the texts are handwritten on sheets of paper of all sizes. The deceased’s writing was far from legible, so just add to that the gap of time in the mountains, the humidity and the stains and burns from tobacco.
Everything is there. For example, I found the original manuscript of the operational orders for the different Zapatista military units on the eve of the uprising. Not only are there templates for the units, but also every detailed operation with a thoroughness that reveals years of preparation.
Those are not the notes of a poet wandering in the mountains of the Mexican Southeast, or of a teller of stories. They are the writings of a soldier. No, they are rather the writings of a military commander.
But yes, tales and stories abound and overflow; there are very few poems and political and economic analyses are rare.
Well, other than analysis, it deals with schemes and themes like dots, as if they were to be developed later, or completed, o corrected I have identified several of them with some that were later made public, although already polished.
But that’s not what I’m looking for. The stories that I obtained from SupMoy reminded me that there was something in this disorderly pile of papers and ideas, about the genealogy of the anticapitalist struggle.
Here it is. This is definitely after the start of the war because it is printed and the typography is that of a word processor.
He says that it must have been written some 20 years ago, when the Zapatistas made public some most profound analysis about what was happening what they foresaw would follow afterwards. Good, at least the first lines, because something seems like it’s froma later period.
The text has a disconcerting title, but is reconciled consistent with how the reading progresses. It’s called “April is also tomorrow.” And what seem like points to develop follow, although incomplete at that time.
The majority of the points outlined already appeared developed in texts that were made public around 1996-1997, so I won’t bore you again by repeating them. The principal ones have now been grouped into a book called “Writings about war and political economy,” elaborated by the la “Pensamiento Crítico Ediciones” publishing house. If anyone is interested in knowing more about that, this book could be useful. Or you can also consult the Enlace Zapatista website.
The part that I most want to show you doesn’t appear in any of those public writings and, although moderately developed in the writing, it manages to glimpse a series of reflections on social science, in other words, political economy, as well as on the longstanding and current challenge of theory and practice. Here they are:
– Possible stages of capitalism. More than in a scientific definition, the statement that imperialism was a higher phase of capitalism became a plan of action for struggles in the whole world. From being “a higher phase,” it concluded that imperialism was “the last phase” of capitalism.
– On that basis a sort of international division was established, not of work, but rather of anticapitalist struggle. In the so-called Third World countries, which don’t have industrial development and, therefore lack a solid working class, the struggle for socialism had to pass through a nationalist, anti-imperialist, and anti-colonial struggle, and only that way would they be able to aspire to being “anticapitalists.” It established that the struggle against capitalism and for socialism necessarily passes through the struggle for national liberation, at least in the so-called Third World countries. To be able to transition to socialism, nations first had to free themselves from the neocolonial yoke, in that case imposed by North American imperialism. The construction of socialism was not possible in a single country, much less if the country was underdeveloped. Socialist revolution was either worldwide or it wasn’t. Scientific analysis then became a sort of central command of the worldwide revolution and was installed in the USSR. The strategies and tactics for anticapitalist struggles in the whole world started there. One who complied with the orders, received approval from the global “vanguard.” For anyone who didn’t comply, for anyone who sought to construct his own path, in other words, his own struggle, there was condemnation, ostracism and the disqualifying label of the day.
The science of history, political economy, stopped being science and abandoned scientific analysis, substituting slogan for science. If reality didn’t coincide with the Central Committee’s vision, reality was catalogued as reactionary, petty bourgeois, divisionist, revisionist, and many similar “ists.” Critical thought went from analysis to justification, and the mishaps and errors were covered up with the excuse of the confrontation with North American imperialism. The simplicity of a bipolar world invaded social science and, just like the political forces and the governments, it took part through one of the two great and only contenders. Intelligence was defeated and mediocrity was comfortably installed.
– In the middle of the XX Century, all were content and tranquil. The so-called evil “socialist bloc” was engrossed in what we Zapatistas call the third world war. In Asia, Africa and particularly in Latin America, struggles occurred without major relevance to that war, which was important, and party organizations on the left then were under threat of punishment to direct their principal efforts to the support of the Socialist Block. Todo attempt at struggle had to have the approval of the tanks, thinking and non-thinking, which, in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, edited manuals that, more than simplifying, muzzled the development of social science. As if it were in the Olympics, social science was competing not for a better understanding of what occurred and what would come, but rather to raise its own flag higher and more often, be it that of the starts and stripes or that of the hammer and sickle.
In the global scenario everything seemed foreseeable and simple… but Fidel arrived in that. And “la problem,” as the compas say, is that he didn’t come alone, but rather that he brought with him one such Camilo that carried the definition in his last name; and, with that tremendous pair, also came an Argentine doctor, photographer, asthmatic, without a relevant name on the genealogical tree of global revolution and without any position in any structure. Just a few months later the entire planet knew him with only three letters: Che.
Afterwards what happened happened, and the light that illuminated the Caribbean in those first years of the 1960´s unintentionally became a virus that contaminated the continent. After a long calendar of defeats in that pain called Latin America, an entire people organized and changed the its destiny and extended its name.
Since the failed mercenary invasion with North American sponsorship, Cuba has been called Fidel and Fidel Castro had “Cuba” as a surname of resistance and rebellion, of struggle.
The smallest country país, the most despised country, the most humiliated country, rose up and, with its organized action, changed the global geography.
The statesman that the Cuban people put in front, in a few years practically erased the rest of the “world leaders” and, as it should be, the extremes were called around his figure: a few to flatter, most to attack.
Only a few watched and understood that something new had emerged and that the Cuban revolution not only had broken the domination that the empire of the stars and stripes, the “turbulent and brutal North,” imposed on all of America.
It had also smashed to pieces the then gutted social theory that was shepherded by managers that, on the entire political spectrum, are the constant and never the exception.
Still, almost 60 years later, we’re not lacking some old manager that, “heroically” entrenched in academia and not with the social networks as a weapon, seeks to dictate to the Cuban people what they should or should not do and undo.
Foreign to the theoretical masturbations of lukewarm academia, the Cuban people started their long path of resistance, and were advancing in unprecedented adverse conditions.
Still today they continue suffering the most extensive and intense economic blockade in the world’s history. And not only that, they have also resisted terrorist attacks, have been invaded militarily, have administered his first defeat on the continent to the arrogant Uncle Sam, and, with everything against them, have constructed their own destiny.
But they have not just received attacks from the global right, the well behaved left has also attacked the Cuban people, aided by cliches and commonplaces that obviate not only the Cuban reality, but also and above all their heroic effort to lift themselves up from their errors and failures.
With the sole objective of being agreeable to the right, the institutional left around the world has attacked the Cuban revolution repeating the words of the right and following the current style.
The Cuban people’s resistance is so consistent that the intelectual hysteria that abounds and redounds in this broken country called “Mexico,” would surely say that it has been maintained because it’s a Salinas creation, which the “mafia in power” supports.
Days after that lightning strike of military ability and conviction that gave new meaning to a small territory and placed the name of “Playa Girón”  on the almost empty shelf of global left victories, on that May 1, 1961 the people of Cuba said, through the voice made hoarse by an old man with a thick beard stuffed into his olive green combat suit, the following words:
“If Mr. Kennedy doesn’t like socialism, fine, we don’t like imperialism and we don’t like capitalism. We have as much right to protest the existence of an imperialist and capitalist regime 90 miles from our coast, as he is able to consider the right to protest the existence of a socialist regime 90 miles from his coast.
Now then, it would not occur to us to protest about that, because that’s a question that is incumbent on them, a question for the people of the United States. It would be absurd for us to pretend to tell the people of the United States what government regime they should have, because in that case we would be considering that the United States is not a sovereign people and that we have the right over the interior life of the United States.
Size doesn’t give it the right, the fact that one people is larger than another doesn’t give it the right, that’s not important! We only have a small territory, a small people, but our right is a right as respetable as that of any other country, whatever their size may be. It doesn’t occur to us to tell the people of the United States what kind of government they should have. So it’s absurd that it occurs to Mr. Kennedy to say what kind of government he wants us to have here, because it’s an absurd thing; eso nada más se le ocurre al señor Kennedy, because he has no clear concept of what international law and the sovereignty of peoples are.
The text continues with an extensive reflection on social science and critical thinking. But I stop now to point out that you can very well exchange the name of “Kennedy” for that of “Trump” and you will see that in those words there was not a conjunctural statement, but rather a statement of principles.
I stopped reading and then I looked at the hourglass.
It occurred to me that perhaps it’s not just any kind of sand that it contains. And perhaps it’s not just any kind of sand because this sand perhaps came from a beach repeated in the history of the struggle and resistance of humanity against capitalism.
Maybe the sand that flows from one side to the other of this clock comes from a place on the American continent and its geography anchors it on an island that stretches into the Caribbean, like a rebel alligator that refuses to be subjected and therefore hardens its skin and its gaze.
Perhaps, it occurs to me now, the sand arena in this hourglass is sand from Playa Girón that is thus called that crack in the wall of Capital and that, with its persistence, taught us all that the great and powerful can be defeated by the small and weak when there is organized resistance, impertinent determination and horizon.
Let me tell you that the late SupMarcos, and not only him, felt a great admiration for the people of Cuba and a profound respect for Fidel Castro Ruz.
In that informal chat that we had hours before his death, the word turned recaló en the military theme. He told me that he considered that the military history of the peoples’ struggle was little known. He then referred to the Battle of Zacatecas and the Taking of Ciudad Juárez, both conducted by Francisco Villa. He told me that he borrowed the concept that General Villa implemented for taking Ciudad Juárez and with it he designed the start of the Uprising. “For the Battle of Zacatecas I didn’t lack cavalry,” he said jokingly, “but rather level ground.”
In the internacional, against the commune of the left, his reference was not the Battle of Leningrad, but rather the Battle of Santa Clara, headed by Che, that of Cuito Cuanabale that Fidel Castro led, and that of Playa Girón, also commanded by Fidel Castro.
I took the opportunity to ask him why he said the name Fidel Castro, and he didn’t say “Comandante” if all the Latin American left did it. Here’s how he answered me:
“That everyone would call him that could be enough, but that’s not why. We are an army and when we say “comandante” we say command. And no one commands us, except our own peoples. But Fidel Castro doesn’t need us to talk about him that way. His people have given him that rank and he doesn’t need more.”
He continued telling me about Playa Girón and, with admiration, narrated the occasion on which Fidel Castro discussed and moved his hands with his officials because they didn’t let him advance towards Playa Girón to fight against the mercenaries. “Imagine,” he told me laughing with good humor, “Fidel against his whole Military Staff (Estado Mayor). Obstinate, in that he wants to be on the battlefront and the others don’t want him to be there, that he has to take care of himself. And, you know, Fidel Castro didn’t argue that it was his duty, he told them it was his right.” The deceased lit his pipe and, after the first pull lifted it as if he were toasting and said: “Of course Fidel won the discussion.”
Then, finishing the theme, he added: “Fidel Castro is the Maradona of international politics. And they are never going to forgive him for the goals he scored against those who dared to confront him.”
I remembered the words of the late SupMarcos when I read about what the famélico political spectrum of Latin American opined about the death of Fidel Castro. The reiteration on the right, and on the well-behaved left, of reproaches and supposed criticisms. The right that will never forgive him for the defeats he gave them, and the institutional left that won’t absolve him for having been everything that it, in its mediocrity, will never be.
They are also mediocre, the ones that now dictate judgments and sentences and simply cannot explain why, if he was a dictador, the world’s largest power wasn’t able to organize a popular rebellion, and opted for terrorist attacks to frustrate him.
Far from fiction films and television series, where the North American secret services finish off the bad guys armed with only a mechanical pencil, they failed in Cuba simply because “Comandante Fidel” was the name, the image and the voice that that people took to reaffirm what all the time and against everything it constructed: their freedom.
And money sought and seeks and always finds psychopaths willing to sell their thirst for blood and destruction. You will always find the Mas Canosa, the Posada Carriles, although, in another geography and calendar, they are called Felipe Calderón Hinojosa around here or like his former wife and now a beloved [presidential] seeker Margarita Zavala; or like Mauricio Macri in Argentina; or like Temer in Brazil, or Leopoldo López in Venezuela. All of them are politicians, psychopaths and corrupt, always willing to let others die and they collect.
I tell you this not only because the theme touches the small one that rebels and rises up breaking imposed molds, for that reason I also tell you now: it fell to me to report to Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés at one of our positions, precisely a few days after Fidel Castro’s death.
When I arrived, Insurgenta Erika told me without being able to contain her tears: “Fidel Cuba” died. That’s how she said it. The Cuban Revolution has 58 years resisting everything, Insurgenta Erika must be around twenty something, has never left these lands, learned Spanish in a mountain camp español, battles with mathematics and “hard” words, and, despite that, or precisely because of that, has synthecized in two words an entire history of struggle, of resistance and rebellion.
And I come to talk to you about Cuba, in other words, about Fidel Castro, and about Fidel Castro, in other words, about Cuba, for the simple reason that they no longer talk about him. Perhaps because they think that he has died and, with him, rebel Cuba. In what refers to Fidel Castro Ruz, we only tell you: “if they couldn’t kill him when he was alive, they will be less able now that he has died.”
All this comes to the point, accordingly, because it’s certain, the late SupMarcos was right: Abril is also tomorrow.
Returning to that occasion, as time dragged on, I continued chatting with the late SupMarcos when he wasn’t yet dead. Time in Zapatista La Realidad had entered into that rhythm in which it seems that the day is in a hurry to leave and the night follows lazily. It seems to me that Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés was solving the whole operation on May 24, 2014, because no one approached SupMarcos with reports or questions. It was as if SubMoy would be doing everything posible so that SupMarcos would spend his last minutes peacefully.
As we continued there, waiting, I asked him why he said that he was the personage and not Durito, old Antonio and the other beings that populated his stories sus. Of course, not I, or anyone, knew the text yet that he would read the following early morning that is titled “Between light and shadow.”
Before answering me, the Sup looked at both watches.
He had never done that before. He always consulted one or checked the other, always depending on the situation.
After facing both watches, he sighed deeply and asked me:
“What is it that you don’t understand?”
“That,” I answered, “because then who are you? Or better, who have you been?”
Then he squared himself and bowed his head, paradoxically trying to imitate the tone of voice of the serious and formal Samurais of Akira Kurosawa, he said:
And I say that paradoxically because Sup Marcos joked about everything and made fun of everything, especially of himself.
I put on the same face that you are putting on now.
“What the hell is that Kagemusha stuff?”
“A decoy,” he answered, “a distraction, a shadow, the shadow of a warrior.”
Then I understood why, in his last texts, a new character had suddenly appeared: “Sombra, el guerrero” (Shadow, the Warrior).
“And then,” I asked.
“Then nothing, someone had to do it and it fell to me.”
“So what are you going to do,” I insisted.
“I’m going to die,” he answered while arranging his ski mask. He then adjusted his cap, lit his pipe and, talking to the guard that was guarding the door, ordered for the last time: “Tell SubMoy that I’m ready.”
The storm is coming.
Time after time, money will try to break the history that matters. And time after time, it (money) will be defeated. Like in the month of April 56 years ago, in Playa Girón, entire generations will begin the games at once and will rise up challenging the destiny that is imposed on them.
That day will be heard again, although with another voice, the words that the people of Cuba directed to those who sought to bend them:
“Nor will they escape history’s veredict, which will not be a simple verdict de palabra, but rather the verdict that inexorably marks the fate of exploiters around the world, like a clock that tells you: “your days are numbered, the end of your exploitive system approaches.“
Cuba will survive. The original peoples will survive. Humanity will survive.
And when one says “Patria,” one will say “world,” one will say “home,” one will say “life”
Sure, there will be no fiercer lightning bolts, no bigger storm, but in the end, this land will rise up and with its women, its men and those who are what they are without being either one.
Memory will not forget, but there won’t be celebrations.
Not because it isn’t worth it, but rather because one’s entire life will then be what it should always be, in other words, a celebration.
And when that tomorrow comes, I, the new nomadic Kagemusha, will only lament not being present to look at them scoffing and say to them:
“I hate to say I told you so, but I told you so.”
Thanks, not many, but always enough.
Abril del 2017
Playa Girón is a beach on the Bay of Pigs, Cuba, where, on April 17, 1961, 1400 Cuban exiles launched a failed invasion of Cuba.
Originally Published in Spanish by Enlace Zapatista