Time and Zapatismo

Tiempo y Zapatismo

By: Sergio Rodríguez Lazcano

Photo: Francisco Lion

How much time did the Zapatistas take to decide something as important and transcendental as it is to tour the world to dialogue, to listen, to see, to feel, to probe, to know, to be known, to discover, to be discovered? Normally, deciding this shouldn’t take much time. We’re talking about simple things that should be as natural as bread and salt.

But the times we’re living in (since many years ago) are not normal. We live in harsh times, where from the power of money and the paralyzed thought of what was known as the left, what they seek is the imposition of single thought, full of atavisms and prejudices.

In a Juan Villoro article titled “Ulises, Zapatista” we are reminded of Subcomandante Galeano’s phrase, which I think synthesizes what’s happening in the world today, not just in Mexico:

We don’t know you, but if we Zapatistas had laziness of thought, we would be in an institutional political party (“The Method, the bibliography and a drone in the depths of the mountains of the Mexican Southeast.” SupGaleano, May 4, 2015).

But, what is it that has permitted the geometric development of that lazy thought? In a great Brazilian novel by João Guimarães Rosa, Grande Sertão: Veredas, the devil, who is a central character in the book, tells the troubled Riobaldo that thinking gave him vertigo. I think that a lot of people got tired of living with vertigo and preferred the comfort of laziness.

Laziness always generates certainties, few, but set. At the same time, it teaches a safe path, outside of the risks of the unprecedented. In the state of laziness there is no wonder or surprise. In the end, only the “successes” that have been repeated since the 19th century are endorsed.

I think that one of the abilities of the Zapatista compañeros has been to break with the schematic and laziness, which has a double characteristic: it impoverishes the theories on which it claims to rely because it reduces them to clichés and, at the same time, invalidates the creation of a self-generated thinking.

The idea of touring the world starting with the old Europe (I believe that it was not gratuitous deciding to start on that continent), I think, was created and recreated for a long time. In some way, it crowns a whole series of initiatives that started with the Intergalactic and that, in the moment of greatest hopelessness and abandonment, they permitted designing a viable horizon of struggle, viable for the simple reason of its placement to the left of what’s possible.

Upon analyzing the makeup of Squadron 421 and of the entire Initiative for Life, the gigantic will and decision of the participants is clear, but I think that that’s just the tip of the iceberg. What generates a particular interest in me is trying to comprehend how they reached this decision. How did this discussion take place within the bosom of the Zapatista peoples? How did they reach the conclusion that there is indeed the possibility of building a bridge or a safe haven faced with the dimension of the catastrophe that looms over humanity?

From the end of 1994 to the construction of the Caracols in 2003 and their multiplication in 2019, they could have generated a feeling of security and refuge. The bunkers that the Zapatistas have constructed with great effort could lead to the idea of comfort. Not because there is great wealth, but rather for the simple reason that in the Zapatista territories everyone has their food and health assured, their minimal conditions for survival.

I imagine the seriousness of their discussions because I see the dimension of their decision, but also by seeing the form, which also is background, I can distinguish the joy with which an action of that size is undertaken.

What we mean by all this is that the ownership of the great initiative of going to tour the world to be able to generate possible defense mechanisms against the destruction that capitalism is bringing to a head is not the product of a brilliant brain, but rather of all the Zapatista peoples as a whole.

This is how powerful thinking is generated. Politics suddenly regains its foundational character. It’s not the work of specialists but of the common people, the manna of power disappears and all its myths and fallacies are exposed.

For those of us who came from an old left, who participate in congresses, meetings, international meetings, we look with confusion at hundreds and thousands (because it seems that those who go are a selection of all those who were willing to do so and, of course, of all those who participated in the discussion and decision) of members of the Zapatista peoples to propose such a comprehensive work agenda and at the same time say that they want to dance and play soccer, all this should lead us to reflect on what we did and how we did it.

The Zapatistas have told us that the January 1 insurrection was discussed and decided by the peoples and there are some minutes that support it. That way of making decisions will be maintained and extended until reaching a formation of a democracy that not only is direct but also constituent.

Deciding to carry out the struggle for life throughout the world must have been process in which the peoples discussed-reached consensus on-agreed, based on a profound update about what they had already been raising about the risks that hover not only over a social class or a political party but also over humanity as a whole.

And, then, from the depths of world society, from the deep below, the descendants of the Maya peoples seek to generate a great bridge that allows, based on very concrete points, which almost summarizes the common minimums for survival, a coming and going of struggles, experiences, feelings, desires, pains, stories, cultures, fiestas and soccer that will sway to the sweet rhythm of those who do no impose but share.

And, in the end, but not in last place, in the advance team that is Squadron 421, an otroa (non-binary person), Marijose, from what they have shared with us, will be the first to set foot on land. Not the secretary general of a party, not the intellectual who hopes to leave those who listen to him passively and raptly speechless, not the one who today is what he hated so much (paraphrasing José Emilio Pacheco), not the old leftist today converted to the theory that everything is negotiable in a kind of bazaar of opportunities.

A non-binary person will set foot on Europe as a member of the advance team and with that act will send a profound message to the world about the reason why the era of hegemonies and homogeneities ought to be part of pre-history and should not leave a trace.

So, how long did it take the Zapatista peoples to discuss-decide that marvelous initiative: 529 years, 500 years, 200 years, 111 years, 27 years? Let others have fun and make balls with the dates. They took… what was necessary. The right time, which is the basis of the perpetual present of Zapatismo. Well, that’s what I think.

The Author:

Sergio Rodríguez Lazcano has been a militant of the left since 1967. He is the author of the book “La crisis del poder y nosotr@s.” Besides many other works of social reflection, he is the author of the prologue and compiler of the book: “Escritos sobre la guerra y la economía política del Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.”


Originally Published in Spanish by Camino al andar

Tuesday, June 8, 2021


English interpretation by Schools for Chiapas

Re-Published by the Chiapas Support Committee

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