EZLN: 300, Part II: A Continent as a Backyard, a Country as a Cemetery, Unique Thought as a Government Program, and a Small, Very Small, Ever So Small Rebellion Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés, Sup Galeano
From our analysis of the world we move to the continental level.
If we look above…
We see the examples of Ecuador, Brazil and Argentina, where supposedly progressive governments have not only been removed from power but prosecuted, and the governments that have taken their place are ones that have been trained as good overseers—obedient to capital, that is—ready to take on a realignment of the world plantation (though, to be fair, even in their cynicism they’re still pretty clumsy). Take Temer in Brazil, Macri in Argentina, and that guy in Ecuador who was supposed to be good because he was chosen by the now-persecuted Correa (a man of the “citizen’s revolution,” “a leftist” according to the progressive intelligentsia who backed him) but who, it turns out, is actually on the right: Lenin Moreno (yeah, paradoxically his name is Lenin).
Under the watchful eye of the State that has become the policeman of the region—Colombia—threats are issued, destabilization efforts are undertaken and plans are made for provocations that would justify “peace force” invasions. In all of South America, we see a return to the brutal times of the Colonies, now characterized by a “new” extractivism—really just the same ancestral plunder of natural resources, categorized as “raw materials”—but endorsed and promoted among the progressive governments of the region as “Left extractivism”. This is supposed to be something like a Leftist capitalism or a capitalist Left, or who knows what it’s supposed to be because it destroys and dispossesses just the same, only it’s for a “good cause” (??). Any criticism or movement that opposes the destruction of the original peoples’ territories is written off as having been “promoted by Empire” or “backed by the right-wing”, among other equivalents to being “a conspiracy by the mafia of Power.” In sum, the “backyard” of Capital extends across the continent all the way to Cape Horn.
But if we look below…
We see resistances and rebellions, first and foremost among the original (Native) peoples. It would be unfair to try to name them all since there’s always a risk of leaving some out, but their identities are clear in their struggles. There where the machine encounters resistance to its predatory advance, rebellion dresses in colors so old they’re new again and speaks “strange” languages. Displacement, also disguised as the leasing of lands, tries to impose its commodity logic on those who refer to the Earth as “Mother.” Groups, collectives, and organizations that, while perhaps not themselves composed of original peoples, share the same effort and the same destiny, that is to say, the same heart accompany these resistances. That is why they suffer insults, persecution, imprisonment and, not infrequently, death.
As far as the machine is concerned, the original peoples are things—incapable of thinking, feeling, and deciding—so it’s no great leap in its automated logic to think that it is these other groups who “lead,” “manipulate” and “misguide” those “things” (the original peoples) who refuse to embrace the idea that everything is a commodity—everything, including their history, language and culture. For the system, the destiny of the original peoples is in museums, in specialized studies in the field of anthropology, in craft markets and in the image of a hand extended to beg. It must be quite exasperating for the machine’s lawyers and theoreticians to encounter a kind of illiteracy that doesn’t understand the words “consumption,” “profit”, “progress,” “order,” “modernity,” “conformity,” “commercialization,” “giving up” and “giving in.” To bring these illiterate, backward people up to speed with civilization, the system employs prison bars, bullets, disappearances, and aid programs that sow division and conflict. Sure there are those who sell out and turn their own people over to the executioner, but there are communities that remain firm in their rebellion because they know that they were born to live and that the promises of “progress” obscure the worst kind of death: that of oblivion.
Let’s continue on to Central America (where, in Nicaragua, Shakespeare’s texts are being rewritten and the Macbeth couple, Daniel and Rosario, is asking themselves, “Who would have thought that the old man (Sandino) had so much blood in him?” as they try in vain to wipe their hands on a black and red flag). Central America is beginning to be transformed from a forgotten territory (after being ruthlessly plundered) into a big problem for big capital because it is a significant source of and a “trampoline” for migrants. This means that Mexico, and in particular the Mexican Southeast, is going to be assigned the role of providing a wall. We decided to include Mexico in Central America because its history calls it to Latin America and, even on standard world maps, Central America is the arm outstretched between those united in pain and rage. But the various governments and the political class that this country has suffered under and will continue to endure are so captivated by other nations abroad that they admire, imitate, serve and seek to procure “the annexation of our American peoples to the turbulent and brutal North which despises them” (José Martí, “Letter to Manuel Mercado”, May 18, 1895).
When Donald Trump says he wants to build the wall, everyone thinks of the Río Bravo, but capital is thinking about the Suchiate, the Usumacinta and the Hondo. In reality, the wall will be in Mexico in order to stop migrants coming from Central America, and this, perhaps, can help us understand why Donald Trump came out on July 1st to greet Juanito Trump, who had just won the elections in Mexico.
A wall only makes sense as opposition to something. All walls are erected against that “something”—whether that be zombies, extraterrestrials, criminals, the undocumented, migrants, “sans papiers,” illegals, stowaways, aliens. Walls are like a simile for the closed doors and windows of a house, designed to protect the inhabitants from the outsider, the foreigner, the Alien whose difference carries the promise of a final apocalypse. One of the roots of the term “ethnic group” refers to “foreigners.” In capital’s grand plan, the wall against Latin America will take the shape of the impossible cornucopia and will go by the name of “Mexico”.
As we’ve already said, the first stage of Trump’s wall will be built in the Southeastern region of Mexico. The “National” Migration Institute will continue acting as a subordinate officer to the US Border Patrol. Guatemala and Belize are the last stop before entering US customs, and this makes the Mexican Southeast one of the top priorities for conquest and administration. This is why the new “geopolitical” plans call for the creation of a “cushion” or a “shock absorber,” a filter to drastically reduce migration. This offer is a placebo to alleviate capital’s nightmare: a horde of zombies (that is, migrants) at the foot of its walls, threatening its ways of life and scrawling on the indifferent surface of iron and concrete “graffiti” that reads: “Your wellbeing is built on my misfortune.”
In this country also known as the “Mexican Republic,” the recent national elections managed to hide reality… for a moment: economic crisis, social decomposition (with its long train of femicides), and the consolidation (despite supposed “mortal blows” to narco-trafficking) of parallel States (or those interwoven with the Nation-State) of so-called “organized crime.” The murders, kidnappings and disappearances of women of all ages moved into the background, although only briefly. And, the same is true of poverty and unemployment. But as enthusiasm over the election results wanes, reality rears its head once again, saying, “Here I am, you forgot my vote… and my scythe.”
We won’t say much about the horror that has turned Mexico into a cemetery and a limbo, the “nowhere” of forced disappearances. Even minimal attention to the media would give you a good enough idea, but a deeper description, analysis and evaluation can be found in the presentations by Jacobo Dayán, Mónica Meltis, Irene Tello Arista, Daniela Rea, Marcela Turati, Ximena Antillón, Mariana Mora, Edith Escareño, Mauricio González González, and John Gibler at the roundtable in April of this year at CIDECI-San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas: “To Watch, To Listen, To Speak: No Thinking Allowed?” as well as in their writings, chronicles, columns and reporting. Even so, reading or hearing about these daily horrors is quite different than living them every day.
Big capital doesn’t care about disappearances, kidnappings, and femicides. What it cares about is its OWN security and that of its OWN programs. The only corruption that bothers it is corruption that affects its profit margins. That’s why what is proposed to big capital is: “I’m going to be a good overseer. I’ll keep the peons calm and happy, and you’ll be able to once again enjoy the security that past governments were too stingy to provide. You’ll be able to get your hands on whatever you want and I’ll skim nothing off the top.”
The Nation-State is getting in the way of the system, and increasingly the system is going to assign it the only function for which any State is created: the violent enforcement of the relationship between dominators and dominated. The development plans of new governments all over the world are none other than declarations of private wars in the territories where those development plans are to be executed. If those plans were described plainly, without so much hot air, it would be said that they are proposals to create wastelands and deserts and, at the same time, alibis that evade responsibility for that destruction: “We annihilated you, but it was for the good of all.”
I was wrong. We had predicted that there would be electoral fraud (and there was, but in another sense). We predicted that López Obrador was going to win but that the system was going to cheat him out of his victory, and we were thinking about what options the system would have following that fraud. According to our analysis, those above weren’t worried about a scandal because they’ve already survived the ones over the Casa Blanca, Ayotzinapa, the Estafa Maestra, and the many state government corruption scandals, so if people had made a fuss about fraud, Peña Nieto wouldn’t have batted an eye. We thought the dilemma the system faced was a choice between Meade and Anaya, a choice between which of them was farther to the right, which was more suited to their plans, which would be a better overseer.
The chances were slim that the then-candidate who was to be defrauded would wage a radical and sustained resistance, so there was no danger to the system,. But protests did seem inevitable. This is our apology to you all—thinking that was what was going to happen, we delayed the convocation for the Gathering of Support Networks. We thought there would be protests and blockades and all that and that if we had put out the invitation you may have gotten stuck somewhere along the way. That’s why the convocation was delayed, our apologies. We Zapatistas [nosotras, nosotros, nosotroas] always prepare for the worst. If it happens, we’re ready. If it doesn’t, well, we were ready anyway.
What we think and see now is that we weren’t wrong, that among the four candidates, they system chose the one who promised to be most effective: López Obrador. The signs of love that López Obrador is showing big capital (the plantation owner) are, among other things, promises to hand over indigenous peoples’ territories. The projects for the Mexican Southeast—in the Isthmus, in Chiapas, Tabasco, Yucatán, and Campeche, just to name a few—are in reality projects of dispossession.
The main thing concerning an outgoing administration is not its popularity, but rather its impunity. Thus the governmental “vote” is directed towards that person that guarantees that impunity. The new overseer should promise (and prove) that it won’t criminalize the last overseer; they must give their pledge that exile or prison for the outgoing government is not necessary to prove the legitimacy of the incoming one.
But don’t think that for that reason the new government will be like any other previous overseer; this one brings with him a “new” unique thought.
There is a kind of new religion in the works. It’s as if the religion of the market were no longer sufficient. This new religion has appeared everywhere that rightwing governments have come to power; it’s like a new set of morals imposed with recourse to a numerical argument [the number of votes received] that attacks science, art, and social struggle.
Within this framework, struggles are not understood to be about particular demands, but rather are thought to be either good struggles or bad struggles. To put it into more familiar terms: there are good struggles and then there are struggles that are just tools of the “mafia of power;” there’s good art and then there’s art that serves the “mafia of power”; there is “correct” science and then there is science that functions as a tool for the “mafia of power.” Everything that is not guided by the new and newly normalized unique thought is a tool of the enemy. And faith, at least this new faith that is being cultivated, needs an exceptional individual on one hand and on the other, a mass of followers.
This has happened elsewhere in other moments of world history, and now it’s going to happen here. That’s why when any of us express critiques or alternative points of view, the responses to these are not actual arguments, but rather accusations that we are either rude or envious.
We don’t doubt that there are people who honestly think that the change promised, in addition to coming at little expense (one only had to mark a ballot), would be a real change. It should be disturbing to them then that all the same names of the same criminals as before are popping up across the scene taking shape above, even if now they have take on different party initials.
The rightwing vocation of the new government is undeniable. Their “intellectual” and social surroundings shamelessly reveal their authoritarian tendencies. The same script that we pointed to 13 years ago, in 2005, is being followed to the letter of the law. He who was sleazy when defeated is sleazy when victorious. To say that the incoming government is leftist or progressive is just a lie. Back in 2005 we used the simile of the serpent’s egg. There is a film by that name, directed by Ingmar Bergman, and there’s a part in that film where a doctor (played by the way by the Kung Fu actor, David Carradine) explains that what was happening in Germany at the time—in the initial stages of fascism—could be seen as one would see a serpent’s egg: if you hold it up against the light, you can see what’s inside. We were seeing then—by holding the situation up to the light—what is happening now.
You all know that the efforts of the Movement for National Regeneration (MORENA) and of López Obrador and his team since July 1st have been attempts to ingratiate themselves with the dominant class and big capital. There are no indications that this is a progressive government—none. And nobody can claim that MORENA or López Obrador have lied about their intentions. The principal projects of this government (the million hectares of the Lacandón Jungle, the “Maya Train,” and the Isthmus Corridor that they want to build, among others) will destroy the territories of the original peoples. In addition, this administration’s sincere empathy with Donald Trump’s government has now been confessed publicly. And finally, the future administration’s honeymoon with corporate executives and financial capital is perfectly apparent when one analyzes who received key cabinet posts as well as what they consider to be their plans for a “Fourth Transformation.”
We think that it is clear that the consent and blessing López Obrador received from Power and Money upon his “triumph” goes far beyond mere recognition. Big capital is truly enthused by the opportunities for conquest presented by López Obrador’s government.
We have some hard data and a lot of gossip (which can’t be proved) about what happened in the recent electoral process. We aren’t going to reveal any of that information because it could lead to conclusions that there was fraud and the last thing we want to do is sour the euphoria of the “30 million.”
What nobody wants to acknowledge is that the media “jumped the gun”, exactly as happened in previous elections, specifically the elections of Calderón and Peña Nieto. It was not the officially assigned institutions that declared the winner, but rather it was the media. When the Preliminary Electoral Results Program (PREP) was barely beginning to make calculations, Televisa and TvAzteca were already declaring the winner. Just minutes after, with less than 1% of the votes counted, Meade, Anaya, and La Calderona all ceded victory to AMLO. Just a few hours later, the Trump team sent congratulations and by the dawn of July 2nd, the apparently now mentionable Carlos Salinas de Gortari himself added his congratulations. Without even knowing the official results, the customary bowing before the king that the PRI turned into a national rite had once again begun. And what, might you ask, was the National Electoral Institute [INE] up to? Doing the very job for which it was created of course: being the henchman of “electoral democracy.” The institutions responsible for the entire process took on the role of playing follow-the-leader to the media’s avalanche.
If all this hadn’t been in favor of their leader, the progressive intelligentsia who would have denounced the whole thing as a “media coup d’état.” Now they proclaim, with no shame whatsoever, that “however it happened, it happened,” and “we won, it doesn’t matter how.” Yet everything seems to point to a negotiated victory, agreed upon far from the ballot box and the electoral calendar. But nobody cares about that now—the much-heralded voter has decreed: “Habemus (We have) an Overseer, on with business!”
This new unique thought will replace reason with quantitative arguments: “30 million people can’t be wrong.” That was the line used by that priest, (what’s-his-name, Solalinde? sorry, I never pronounce it right and SubMoy is always correcting me), and which is now repeated frequently: “How can you oppose 30 million voters? You barely have 300 people and on top of that you’re dirty, ugly, evil and rude.” But he must be talking about you guys (the support networks), because me, I’m just rude.
It is through this new faith (in which we insist that no one has counted the only vote that matters, that of reality) that a new collective imaginary will be imposed in which quantitative arguments are prioritized over analysis and the arguments of reason.
Thus history is rewritten and transformed into a new official history, where all social and political movements of the past culminate in the presidential victory of López Obrador. We’ve already seen this same argument when it was said that the movement of ’68 was merely the beginning of “the end of history,” 50 years later. We’ve read that Manual Bartlett and other criminals of the same ilk have been purified by their proximity to this election’s victor. We’ve read that Alfonso Romo is an “honest” businessman whose only interest is to love his neighbor.
We’ve read that those who yesterday were part of the PRI, PAN, PRD, Verde Ecologista (Green Ecologist Party), or who made their name in show business, are now the illustrious leaders of the Fourth Transformation. We even read that the Zapatista uprising of 1994 was the prelude to the “citizen” uprising of 2018! Meanwhile, the new leader has already called for the development of theoretical frameworks explaining his rise to Power. We’re not far from the point where historians sympathetic to the new leader will start rewriting the history books.
We should warn you of the coming avalanche, the tsunami on the horizon, of frivolous and shoddy analyses, new secular religions, and minor (very minor) prophets, because all of that now has a platform. There will be all sorts of Kool-Aid to drink, and since we’re talking about a neo-religion, there will be an unbelievable belief for every taste, so that everyone can take communion.
A whole range of new boy scouts will appear, those little explorer boys ready to do good. Though you should always be careful to ask, good for whom?
The “citizen representatives” will promote citizenship: they will claim that what the “autochthonous” (yes, that’s what they call us) want is to be like is the very people who dispossess us: to be “equal” to them, even if only with regard to the fleeting temporality of the ballot box; or to be “free,” free to sign our rights away to the mine/hotel/railroad, free to sign the “employment” contract, free to sign the installment plan, free to sign the petition of “unwavering support for our president,” and free to sign the request form seeking “government aid.”
There will be a predictable boom in administrative activity, but instead of receiving resources you will get a sympathetic ear. And that will feel important even if you never see any money as a result. See, the “over-the-counter” model of administration will be decentralized: now you won’t have to go to a building, get in line, and then realize, after a long wait, that you’re missing that one slip. Now the counter will come to you: “just ask and we’ll be there; your voucher will come in the form of a promise.”
If there are some people out there who don’t have anything, it’s likely they still have hope. The new swindlers in power will take up hope-management, administrating its dosage and converting it into a fantasy that offers comfort but no solutions.
They will recycle the arguments of a certain sector of the movement that says it isn’t possible to change the system, that what one must do is administrate it properly or file down its sharp edges so that it isn’t so rough on people. They will argue that we can make our rulers into good overseers, we can even create a kindler, gentler capitalism, and that we can change the system from within.
Okay, so we can already make out what’s inside the shell: we know that it demands the surrender of reason and critical thought; it exalts nationalism built on a “benevolent” authoritarianism; it persecutes the different; its legitimacy is based on the noise of its own cheerleaders; it can be characterized by a secular neo-religion, it imposes unanimity, it shuts down criticism, and as a new national slogan, it imposes “No Thinking Allowed.” In sum: behind the shell lies the hegemony and homogeneity that undergird all fascisms that refuse to recognize themselves as such.
Are the concepts they present ones that allow us to understand (and act): Terms such as “citizenship,” “young people,” “women,” “progress,” “development,” “modernity,” “electoral democracy” (as a synonym for democracy)?
The term “citizen” is of no use in order to understand what is happening now: a “citizen” can be Carlos Slim or the peasant kicked off their land by the new Mexico City airport; it is Ricardo Salinas Pliego and the person living in the street after the September 2017 earthquake. It can be Alfonso Romo, as well as the members of the Tzeltal community that will be evicted from their lands so that a train with tourists taking “selfies” can pass through.
Another useless concept: “young people.” “Young people” includes Peña Nieto’s daughters as well as the students and workers who have been murdered.
And another: “women.” “Women” includes Aramburuzavala, Gonda, Sánchez Cordero, González Blanco, Ortiz Mena, Merkel and May, as well as the women slain in Ciudad Juarez, those raped in whatever corner of the world, those who are beaten, exploited, persecuted, imprisoned, and disappeared.
Any concept that eliminates or doesn’t help us to understand the class division between dominator and dominated is a sham and serves only to allow that division to live on within and between us. This transversality as they call it between capital and labor is of no use to us whatsoever, it explains nothing and only leads us to a perverse cohabitation between exploiter and exploited that, at least for a moment, makes it look as if they are the same, though that is clearly not the case.
Then there is also the attempt to return to the system from before, an impossible leap backwards into the “Welfare State,” including Keynes’ “Welfare State,” to the old PRI (which is why, as someone joked, the first transformation was the PNR; the second was the PRM; the third was the PRI, and now the fourth is PRIMOR)
And then comes the old discussion about reform and revolution: the “debates” between the “radicals” who struggle for revolution and the “liberals” who were in favor of gradual change, reforms that gradually evolve until they bring us into the reign of happiness. These discussions used to happen in cafés. The “public plazas” of today are social media and you can follow this autoerotic exercise via the “trendsetters” or whatever they’re called. We think that it’s not even necessary to discuss this topic because reform is no longer possible—what capitalism has destroyed is not salvageable; there can’t be a good capitalism (we think that possibility has never existed), and it must be destroyed entirely. Paraphrasing the Zapatista women in the Gathering of Women in Struggle: it isn’t enough to light the system on fire; you have make sure it burns until only ashes are left.
We’ll talk more about all that on another occasion. For now we just want to point out that social counter-revolution is possible. Not only is it possible, but it will constantly haunt us because those above will try to annihilate any struggle external to their planned process of domestication. They will try to raze everything outside their plan, and violently so. Note that by raze we don’t just mean marginalization or slander, but also military, paramilitary, and police attacks. For anyone who challenges these new rules, which are really the old rules, there will be no amnesty, no pardon, no absolution, no embraces, and no photo opps; there will only be death and destruction.
The struggle against corruption (which is nothing other than the struggle for a well-administered domination) not only does not include the struggle for freedom and justice but is in fact against it. The alibi of the struggle against corruption is the fight for a state apparatus able to act more efficiently in what is basically the only function retained by the Nation-Sate: repression. And soon not even that.
The government will cease to be the thieving overseer who keeps a few heifers and young bulls for himself. The new overseer won’t steal: he’ll deliver the profits to the boss in full. See, they want to return the Nation-State—in this case Mexico—to its true function. So when they talk about the need for security, they are talking about security for capital, the imposition and perfection of a new police state: “I’m going to do things well because I’m going to keep watch over everything.” The security demanded by “citizenization” is in fact the restructuring of a police system, a modernized and professionalized wall that knows how to distinguish between “the good guys” and “the bad guys.”
In Mexico City they will professionalize the police. Crime rates will fall and there will be “lovely” police officers who help old people cross the street, search for lost pets and make sure that traffic circulates in a friendly manner for the most important actors on the street: vehicles. On the periphery, the complicity between those who should prevent crime and those who commit it will continue. But, to make up for this situation, they will promote “extreme tourism”: Mexico City will host “tours” and “safaris” so that tourists can get a glimpse of those rare creatures that lurk in the shadows, so they can take a “selfie” with the young person who has been detained/beaten/killed, his blood mixing with the colors of his tattoos, dulling the shine of his piercings and studs and staining the green-purple-blue-red-orange of his hair. Who was he? Who cares? Anything in a “selfie” that isn’t “me” is just background anyway, an anecdote, an intense emotion that serves to boost one’s presence on Facebook, Instagram, in chats, or in autobiographies. Over the loudspeaker of the bullet-proof vehicle, the friendly tourist guide warns: “we remind you that the consumption of tacos, sandwiches, and other street food is on your own dime and at your own risk; the company is not responsible for indigestion, gastritis, or stomach infections. For anyone who stepped off the bus, here’s some antibacterial gel for you.”
The new government promises to recuperate its monopoly on the use of force (which had been wrested from it by “organized crime). But now this use of force will be available not only to the traditional police and military, but also to the new vigilantes: to the “brown shirts,” or the purple ones; to those who become the parishioners of this new secular religion; to the masses that will attack the social movements who refuse to be domesticated. The recycled “red battalions” (except now they’re purple, because of the Fourth Transformation) will have to undertake the “cleanup” of all those who are dirty, ugly, evil, and rude, as well as anyone else who resists order, progress, and development.
Let’s go down another level then, to see how our communities (alongside other organizations, groups, and collectives) are resisting. Here with us today is part of the EZLN’s collective authority, 90 comandantas and comandantes. There are more but these are the ones who are accompanying us today in order to honor your visit (that of the support networks).
We continue to walk with two feet: rebellion and resistance, the “no” and the “yes”, the “no” to the system and the “yes” to our autonomy, which means that we have to construct our own path toward life. Our path is based in some of the roots of the original (or indigenous) communities: the collective, mutual support and solidarity, care for the earth, the cultivation of the arts and sciences, and constant vigilance against the accumulation of wealth. These roots, along with the arts and sciences, guide us. This is our way, but we think that for other histories and identities, it may be different. That is why we say that Zapatismo can’t be exported, not even throughout the state of Chiapas. Rather, each calendar and geography must follow its own logic.
The results of the path we have walked are visible to anyone who wants to see, analyze, and critique them. Although, of course, our rebellion is small, so very small, that you might need a microscope, or better yet, an inverted periscope in order to see it.
And it isn’t a very encouraging exercise: our possibilities of triumph are absolutely minimal.
We don’t have anywhere close to 30 million people.
Maybe there are only 300 of us.
(To be continued…)
En español: http://enlacezapatista.ezln.org.mx/2018/08/21/300-segunda-parte-un-continente-como-patio-trasero-un-pais-como-cementerio-un-pensamiento-unico-como-programa-de-gobierno-y-una-pequena-muy-pequena-pequenisima-rebeldia-subcomandante-insurgent/