By: Rodrigo Soberanes
Tecún Umán, Guatemala
And when she opened her eyes, she thought she was in Mexico. When the young Honduran woman, who had fainted, opened her eyes, Mexico was now within her reach because the Migrant Caravan was breaking the fence at the International Bridge placed by the Guatemalan Police and the stampede of thousands of people was forming. She recovered and joined the group that had just forced open the bridge’s bars and disappeared among the crow
It was the end of the so-called Migrant Caravan that, after leaving San Pedro Sula, Honduras, last Saturday, arrived to join more than 3,000 people at the northern border of Guatemala with the firm intention of reaching the United States and now were subjected to the immigration processes of the Mexican government.
For three days small contingents of the Caravan that had been dispersed at the entrance to Guatemala when they confronted the large police encirclement were arriving in Tecún Umán without stopping. In this way, the large contingent was taking shape again, but it turned out that there were no longer 2,000, but rather many hundreds more.
They held an early meeting, as was their custom, and as now the caravan had finally reunified, they decided to take their backpacks and march to the bridge although they knew that the police had closed it and guarded it with arms and small Army artillery tanks.
A first group of about 50 people had formed in an orderly manner because, a migrant named Joel Carrillo said, Mexican authorities had crossed the bridge to tell them that they would enter in groups of 50 people, which wasn’t true.
Representatives of the United Nations were dialoguing with Guatemalan police commanders to assure that they would not repress the migrant contingent while the caravan advanced with firm intention of crossing over the bridge.
The presence of babies and children withstanding temperature higher than 36 degrees centigrade was very visible.
This time, the cries in unison were to thank the citizens of Guatemala for the help that permitted to travel, eat, sleep and clean up win major problems in their transit through the country. Then came the harangues to demand free passage to Mexico after they arrived.
“We don’t move from here until they open it up to us,” shouted a leader of the caravan that climbed onto the bridge’s grating in order to be heard, and the people answered him with shouts and euphoria. But the minutes were made long because of the intense tropical heat of Tecún Umán and the people started to resent it.
The most vulnerable were babies and small children trapped in the heat that tempted inside of the group and decided to start going forward with their mothers. There were only seconds in which families had to decide if they would separate to reunite later, or not.
Frightened girls and boys that didn’t know what was happening immediately formed the first line of the Caravan. Their sweaty faces were level with the anti-riot shield of the police. Their words and moans were not heard because of the intense noise of the crowd.
One of the leaders ordered: “Let’s go over the river!” But, that was rejected. “We cross over the bridge,” dozens of migrants answered.
The heat was stifling. A little girl suffered a fainting spell in her stroller, and she was attended to by a police officer that got water to take care of her. There were no medical services nearby. A minute later another woman fainted and then another one.
The euphoria was now unleashed and the caravan forced the bars to start the stampede, with all the children in the front row. They passed to one side of and over the small artillery tanks. The little girl in the stroller and the women that fainted disappeared right away. The police and soldiers did not put up resistance.
Both the little girl that fainted and recently opened her eyes, like thousands of others, thought that they were entering Mexico. Many shouted happily, but the joy didn’t last very long because the road ahead was closed.
The Mexicana police had placed some barriers to control the caravan; the migrants forced a bar and then faced a first ring of anti-riot Federal Police and then a tear gas bomb exploded that made the contingent draw back. Those most affected were minors and women. (Some versions indicated that the police reacted to stones the migrants threw that were already in Mexican territory).
After the convulsed arrival, the entry of underage minors and women that were left under the protection of more immigration authorities began. As Mexican immigration authorities had announced, the reception of all the people began under strict migratory control, prioritizing the minors, with which a good part of the Caravan stayed stranded on the Suchiate River. In addition, it was established that the la caravan would enter only under the supervision of the National Migration Institute (INM) and in this case, of the police.
This Saturday, the migrants will be moved in buses to different shelters in the city of Tapachula, Chiapas.
But the path to the United States is still a long one. And the caravan is not even in Mexico.
Originally Published in Spanish by Chiapas Paralelo
Saturday, October 20, 2018
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee
DECLARATION FROM THE SECOND NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF THE NATIONAL INDIGENOUS CONGRESS AND THE INDIGENOUS GOVERNING COUNCIL
To the Support Networks of the Indigenous Governing Council:
To the National and International Sixth:
To the peoples of Mexico and the world:
From the Second Plenary Assembly of the National Indigenous Congress (CNI) and the Indigenous Governing Council (CIG), held October 11-14 at the CIDECI-UNITIERRA, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, we respectfully address the compañer@s of the CIG Support Networks as well as the peoples of this country and the world in order to discuss and together take new steps toward the construction of the new world that we all need.
We bring you this urgent message because as original peoples our struggle against the profound sickness caused by capitalism means that we must weave life—this is the task given to us by our ancestors. With hope based in memory and in times to come, we sow and grow life everywhere we can, weaving ourselves collectively as a people and thereby weaving ourselves also as persons.
We form a network through each of our locations where we seek to create a collective voice that serves as a mirror for the life and heartbeat of our mother earth. We form a network of networks through the collectives of collectives that are our communities and regions where we seek to create another collective voice, which we listen to attentively. This voice continues to represent what we have freely decided to be; it represents our permanent struggle and the collective agreement that emerges from our differences. Thus we respect and honor this voice, making it our government not just for today but for always. It is from our differences that we become one as the peoples that we are; that is why we honor our differences.
When we agreed during the Fifth National Indigenous Congress to form the Indigenous Governing Council, we did so decisively, without any pretense, without any intent to homogenize, and without any desire to tell anyone what to do, but rather to tell the world that it is not true that government is by nature a destructive force; it should be a constructive force. It isn’t true that government must be a self-serving entity; rather, it must serve its people. Government does not have to be a lie that erases our voice and claims to act in our name as it creates death out of everything it touches; rather, it must be a mirror of what we are when together we dream and decide our destiny.
What we are weaving is organization: the territory we defend, the language we speak and refuse to lose, the identity we do not forget and which we grow through our struggle. But all of these things are also what the owners of money need—things they will destroy in the process of converting them into more money, things they will commodify through exploitation, poverty, sickness, and the death of many millions of people, not just our peoples but also others who live in the cities and countryside. In other words, it is also not true that repression, displacement, disrespect, and death are only happening to us as original peoples.
This is why the exercise of autonomy, using our ancestral ways of walking by asking questions, is the only way to continue to construct life—our unwavering and inalienable path—because outside of that, everything has been put into place to guarantee profits for the powerful and terror for everyone else. Even if their corrupt laws recognized our collective self-determination, it’s impossible to stop or even slow the process of destruction and capitalist accumulation based on our extermination. Putting a stop to that destruction and extermination will only be possible when we dismantle the plantation, the factory, the concentration camp or cemetery that this country and this world have become.
The Indigenous Governing Council is a way to honor our differences, to seek a voice that reflects what we are, and this makes it a true government. The other option, what from above they call the Mexican State, is just a lie created to impose, repress, and hide the death that now overwhelms us and exposes their deceit. That State is nothing but a band of thieves pretending to be an institution, whether from the right or the left. In any case, they bring war with them however they might try to disguise it, and it is also now out of their hands too because after all, the boss is the boss.
But here below we must defend life, regardless of the lies told by the outgoing or incoming government. Because lies abound with regard to the threats to the Binniza, Chontal, Ikoots, Mixe, Zoque, Nahua and Popoluca peoples of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec brought by the trans-isthmus projects and the expansion of the Special Economic Zones, the threats to the Mayan peoples brought by the capitalist train project that will displace and destroy everything on its path, and the threats to all those who will be affected by the announced plan to plant a million hectares in the south of the country with trees for fruit and lumber production. Lies abound in the illegal and rigged referendum on the construction of the New Mexico City Airport and in the invitation to mining companies to continue to invest in the massive expanses of indigenous territories already conferred them. Lies abound in the incoming administration’s creation—without any consultation with our peoples and via old-fashioned indigenismo—of a National Institute of Indigenous Peoples, led precisely by the deserters of our long struggle of resistance.
Lies abound when the peoples of Mexico are cynically subordinated to the interests of the United States via the Free Trade Agreement that López Obrador has already pledged to ratify. López Obrador stated in one of his first declarations that he would not stray from the current monetary and fiscal policy—neoliberal policy, that is—backing that with a pledge to keep the army in the streets and plans to recruit 50,000 young people into the armed forces, which have functioned only to repress, displace, and sow terror across the nation.
When we tried to stop this war and gain recognition of the rights of the indigenous peoples in the Mexican Constitution via the San Andrés Accords, we were betrayed. The real boss, the one we don’t see and who actually rules over those who claim to govern, ordered the imposition of a series of laws that legalized the violent theft of our lands, established programs to divide us and pit us against each other, and sowed discrimination and racism across the country. Thus there is also no end to the lies in their shameless claims that they will recognize the San Andrés Accords or our self-determination within their rotten laws, without ever touching the murderous capitalist farce that is the Mexican State.
To approve the San Andrés Accords in the current context—that is, without reversing the successive reforms to Constitutional Article 27 (reforms that transformed our lands into commodities and put the natural wealth of the earth in the hands of large corporations); without terminating the extensive regime of mining concessions as well as those applying to water, oil and gas, and natural resources; without limiting imperialist power by repealing the current [North American] Free Trade Agreement and severely limiting the power of transnational corporations; without wresting control over our territories from organized crime cartels supported by the armed forces—in this context such an approval would be, in the very best of cases, a crude illusion that would mask money’s assault on our peoples.
As the National Indigenous Congress-Indigenous Governing Council, we have no illusions and will have no part in any exponential capitalist transformation that has its sights set on and its foul tactics aimed at our territories. We will not take part in a lie that is thirsty for our blood and our extermination.
For all of the above reasons we agree to continue to build the kind of organization that becomes self-government, autonomous and in rebellion. We will do this with compañeras and compañeros from other geographies in order to collectively break through the inertia imposed upon us and understand together where the storm comes from. In this midst of that storm we will not cease to weave something else, continuing until our something else is woven into that of others and emerges in every corner of Mexico and the world, forming councils in every location so that we become, together with the CIG support networks, a governing council. For this task, compañer@s, double down in your efforts to organize, according to your own ways and identities, across the cities and the countryside with no regard for borders.
We have agreed to consult our communities, peoples, nations, tribes, and barrios on the ways and methods by which we can, together with the networks of networks, both large and small, build our coordination in a way that enriches us in solidarity and support and makes our differences our strength, as networks of resistance and rebellion with a voice that makes us one, in a respectful and horizontal manner.
As is our way, each step we take will depend on what we decide below, and therefore we will take these resolutions to each of our regions to be agreed upon and to let the collective voice that makes us what we are set the rhythm, the way, and the path.
Our steps will also depend on what is collectively decided below by others—teachers, students, women, workers of the countryside and city, all those who in the midst of this capitalist war have also decided to weave organization that brings down the death and destruction in which the capitalists see profits. If that is your decision, autonomous and from below, then we call upon you to hold serious and committed discussions within your organizations and collectives as to whether it is necessary or not for you to form your Governing Council.
If that is what you decide, with respect to our call to make the earth tremble with organization from below and to the left, you will always be able to count on our selfless accompaniment, word, and solidarity. Compañer@s, the path will be neither easy nor fast, but we are convinced that it will give birth to deep cracks in the structure of power from above.
At the appropriate time and in accordance with the consultation that we will hold in our communities, the CNI-CIG will discuss incorporation into something larger that is capable of bringing together our struggles, thoughts, and identities—something larger that is stronger because of each of our visions, ways, times and methods.
Sisters and brothers, this is our collective word, which continues to call for organization from below to defend life and to heal ourselves together with our mother earth.
From CIDECI-UNITIERRA, San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas
October 14, 2018
For the Full Reconstitution of Our Peoples
Never Again a Mexico Without Us
National Indigenous Congress
Indigenous Governing Council
Zapatista National Liberation Army
By: Isaín Mandujano
SAN CRISTÓBAL DE LAS CASAS (apro)
The Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN), the National Indigenous Congress (CNI) and the Indigenous Government Council (CIG) agreed this weekend to realize a consultation with each and every one of the support base communities where they have a presence, to discuss “the incorporation in something larger, which will be capable of incorporating all struggles, thoughts and identities,” in order to confront the continuity of neoliberal policy in which, they accused, the government of Andrés Manuel López Obrador outlines.
They pointed out that the continuity not only is reflected in his intention to ratify the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and not only that he won’t remove the armed forces from the streets and return them to their barracks, but that he also has “the intention of recruiting 50,000 young people to the armed ranks that have been used to repress, dispossess and sow terror in the entire nation.”
The original peoples represented in the Second National Assembly of the Indigenous Government Council and the peoples that make up the National Indigenous Congress celebrated in San Cristóbal de las Casas from October 11 to 14, marked their distance from the government of López Obrador upon warning that from today they have no doubt and that they will not be part “of any capitalist exponential transformation,” which with its corrupt practices, has set its sights on their territories.
“We will not be part of your thirsty lie for our blood and our extermination,” they specified.
In the joint pronouncement signed by the EZLN, the CNI and the CIG, after a four-day meeting at CIDECI-Unitierra, they announced that they met to see each other, consult and undertake new steps for the construction of the new world that they need.
“We say it with urgency, because we who are original peoples, in our struggle against the profound disease caused by capitalism, we weave life, because it is the charge we received from our ancestors.
“That, for us is to construct life and make it grow in every corner, with a hope that bets on memory and for the times to come. We weave collectively as people and in that work we also weave as persons,” they say in the letter published on Sunday.
They remembered that by agreement of the Fifth National Indigenous Congress they decided to form an Indigenous Government Congress (CIG), to tell the world that it is not true that government should be for destroying, but rather for constructing.
“It isn’t true that government should be to serve itself, but rather to serve [those it represents]. It ought to be a mirror of what we are when we dream about deciding our destiny, and not the lie that supplants us to say in our name that it wants to see everything around it dead.”
They pointed out that what they weave, what they call organization and the territory that they defend, is the language that they speak and refuse to lose, it’s the identity that they don’t forget and that they magnify with struggle.
“Therefore, exercising autonomy with our ancestral ways of walking asking ourselves, is the only door to being able to continue making life our irrevocable path, because outside everything was accommodated to guaranty the terror and profit of the powerful,” they said in the statement.
They indicated that the Indigenous Government Council is the way to honor all their differences, to find there the word on which we reflect, and that is a true government.
“The other [government], that which those above call the Mexican State, is only a lie made to impose, repress and hide the death that is now overflowing, making the deception evident. In other words, they are nothing more than a gang of thieves that pretend to be an institution of the right or of the left. In any case, they bring war with them and although the makeup is also overflowing on them, well the boss is the boss,” they mention.
Against the Maya Train (Tren Maya)
They indicated that they will now have to defend life from the threats that hover over the Binniza, Chontal, Ikoots, Mixe, Zoque, Nahua and Popoluca peoples of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec with the trans-Isthmus projects and the expansion of the Special Economic Zones, and over the Mayas with the capitalist train project that dispossesses and destroys the land on its pass.
“Lies abound in the face of the announced sowing of a million hectares with fruit and timber trees in the country’s south, the illegal and rigged consultation for the construction of Mexico City’s New Airport, or the offer to continue investing in the mining companies that have been granted concessions on large extensions of indigenous territory.
“Lies abound when without consulting our peoples the future government imposes the creation, in the style of the old indigenism, of the National Institute of Indigenous Peoples, commanded by deserters of our long resistance struggle,” the indigenous people represented in this Second Assembly specify.
“Lies abound when we see the cynicism with which the peoples of Mexico are delivered to US interests through the Free Trade Agreement, the same one that the future government of López Obrador promises to ratify, the one who in one of his first political speeches didn’t doubt in ratifying continuity in current monetary and fiscal policy.
“In other words, continuity in neoliberal policy, which will be guaranteed with the announcement that the military corporations will continue in the streets and with the intention of recruiting 50,000 young people into the ranks of the armed forces that have been used to repress, dispossess and sow terror in the whole nation,” they say.
In the communiqué they pointed out that when their call was to stop this war and that the rights of the indigenous peoples are recognized in the Mexican Constitution, translated into the San Andrés Accords, were betrayed “because the boss who they don’t see and who is the one those that govern serve, ordered extend over them many laws that make it legal to steal land from them with violence, programs to divide them and to make them fight among themselves, sowing the contempt and the racism in all directions.”
They indicated that approving the San Andrés Accords in the current context, “the successive reforms to constitutional Article 27 being in effect, which have transformed land into merchandise and have put the subsoil’s riches in the hands of the big companies, without ending the concessions for water, mining, national wealth and hydrocarbons, without imposing limits on the imperial power repealing the current Free Trade Agreement and severely limiting the big transnational corporations, without destroying the control that the big crime cartels exercise, supported by military corporations, over their territories, will be living, in the best of cases, a vulgar illusion, which hides from them the onslaught of money against the original peoples.
“We, in the National Indigenous Congress-Indigenous Governing Council, have no doubt and we will not be part of any exponential capitalist transformation, which with its corrupt practices, has its sights set on our territories,” the organizations asserted. “We will not be part of their lie that thirsts for our blood and our extermination.”
And it’s because of that they agreed to continue constructing the organization that becomes self-government, autonomous and rebellious, with compañeras and compañeros from other geographies, to break the collective inertia imposed on them.
“We agree to consult in our communities, peoples, nations, tribes and barrios the ways and means of constructing together with networks of networks, small and large, a coordination that enriches us in support and solidarity, that makes our differences our strength, in networks of resistance and rebellion with the word that makes us be only one, in a respectful and horizontal way,” the letter says.
“If it’s your decision, from below and autonomous, we call on you to consult in a serious and committed way within your organizations and collectives if it is necessary or not for you to form your Government Council,” the communiqué says.
And they conclude that, at their moment and in accordance with the consultation that they will hold in all their communities, the CNI and CIG will discuss incorporation into something bigger, which is capable of incorporating all their struggles, thoughts and identities.
“Something bigger that becomes stronger with the visions, modes, forms and times of each one.”
Originally Published in Spanish by Proceso.com.mx
Monday, October 15, 2018
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee
ZAPATISTA NATIONAL LIBERATION ARMY
Sixth Commission of the EZLN
To the persons, groups, collectives and organizations of the national and international Sixth:
To the support networks for the Indigenous Governing Council:
To those for whom cinema is a hobby, vice, or obsession:
Part I and only:
THE IMPOSSIBLE MOVIE THEATER
(Opening scene: The Serpent Offers the Apple)
You’re walking without a destination. You don’t know where you’re going, much less why. Behind you is the busy street that runs along the wall whose crumbling facade mocks the also deteriorating poster of the Happy Family. The monumental stadium and its impertinent question lay in the distance: “Who rules?” Anyway, right now you have no idea where you are and you’re starting to wonder if you should turn back…but you don’t know where or why you’d go in that direction either. So you stop, but only for a moment because a little girl grabs your hand and hurries you along: “Hurry up or we’ll be late to the movie.” You don’t have a chance to respond because you’re immediately faced with a colorful sign declaring: “All adults must be accompanied by a child [niño].” But someone has crossed out “un niño” and written “a girl [una niña].” Another anonymous hand has scratched that out to write “unoa niñoa.” Someone else crossed that out and wrote instead, “None of that matters here.”
Someone wearing a ski mask stops you, but the little girl says to the masked face, “he’s with me.” The masked person allows you to pass. You walk down a slope partially covered in cement, through puddles, rocks, and mud. Off to the side there are multiple wood structures with tin roofs. The fog is heavy, so the humble structures appear and disappear with every step you take, like “fade in” and “fade out” scenes. You keep going without knowing where you’re headed. The atmosphere reminds you of an old mystery movie…or a horror film.
The signs marking the various shacks are…how can I put it…disturbing. Straining to see through a fog that could easily be confused with that of London, you read on one of them, “The Lodger”, and, below that, “Room service provided personally by Norman Bates.” Below that there’s a photo of a serious young man who could easily be Anthony Perkins, if it weren’t for the fact that that’s impossible.
At this point you have no idea whether you’re in the Mexican Southeast or in the town of Whitechapel. That’s when you ask yourself whether instead of showing you the way to the movie theater, the little girl might not be taking you to the kitchen of the gastronomist and doctor, Hannibal Lecter…
Calm down, you tell yourself. But this is made even more difficult by the fact that the sign on another shack reads, “Silence of the Lambs Taco Stand. Tacos with buche [pig stomach], nana [pig uterus], tongue, or BRAINS”, written just like that, with the last ingredient in all caps. You start to feel afraid, not of having your skull opened, but of Sir Anthony Hopkins—wearing an apron that says “Let’s go piece by piece, Jack the Ripper style”—rejecting your brain, commenting dismissively, “lacking in consistency.” You don’t really like the idea of your guts in a garbage can, either. And what if, together with your brains, they also remove your dreams? I mean, the thing about the guts is whatever—any old horror movie has tons of guts (that ‘gore’ genre that is so trendy these days, you think to yourself). But what would be able to remove your dreams? “Reality,” you read on a sign of uncertain age on another wood structure, followed by: “Electroshocks, slaps across the face and knocks upside the head free! We poke holes in dreams, balloons, electoral promises and government programs.”
Another sign, a few feet down and on the opposite side of the slope, reads: “The Tercios Compas. We’re not autonomous, independent, alternative, or whatever-you-call-it media, but we are compas.” Below that someone has used a marker to scrawl, “we haven’t finished the documentary, come back for the next uprising and we’ll tell you when it might be ready.”
Then there’s the sign over there: “‘The Joker’s Dental Salon. Why so serious? Get a smile to last your whole life!” accompanied by a photograph of Heath Ledger in that famous role. Below there’s another sign with a drawing of a samurai with his katana and the words “Heihachi – Minuro Chiaki. Lightning course in Hara-Kiri. Fundamentals, basic concepts, specialization, final exam and graduation, all in less than one minute. 100% practical!”
A shudder runs through your body. The little girl stops, turns to you and, to calm you down, explains:
“Don’t pay any mind to those signs, that’s just Sup Galeano at it again. He’s being mischievous as usual, putting stuff like that in his stories, but he’s just being annoying because we beat him out for the last honeybun. Oh, and also because they don’t show the movies he likes—he only wants to watch movies with naked ladies. As if they’re going to show those! Pul-eeaase. He’s asking for a slap upside the head and a political talking-to from the women we are. We’ve already given him several but he doesn’t get it. That’s just how those damn men are. Besides, that taco stand serves turkey, not pork or beef, and they’re not tacos, they’re tamales.”
The two of you continue walking, you still without any idea where you are, not even in what country or what world. The date? No idea. Is it raining or is that the fog that moistens your skin?
“We’re here,” says the girl as you enter a large structure that you imagine must be the movie theater. You pause in the doorway to look around. For a movie theater, it’s pretty strange. The screen, for instance, isn’t at one end but rather smack-dab in the middle, and the audience is sitting on either side of the screen where (one would assume) the movie will be projected.
On the one side are the people who make films: those who act, direct, produce, edit, create soundtracks, teach, analyze, critique, screen, and circulate films, as well as all the other jobs needed to make a movie.
On the other side is the public, the spectators, although these people have their faces covered such that you can only make out their eyes. In many cases you can’t make out their age or gender, as if on that side of the screen those things don’t matter and who they really are is a gaze that looks and listens. It’s not clear whether they’re smiling or blushing, angry or festive. What’s more they comment among themselves in incomprehensible languages.
In addition to the screen being placed in such an absurd position, it seems to be transparent because those who make films are looking and listening attentively to the reactions of the audience, as if in this movie theater they are able to observe what they never could otherwise: the effect the movie has on the public. They can observe this effect from what is perhaps the best possible perspective for filmmakers: from the screen itself. From there they can see people’s expressions and hear their reactions, something that can tell you more than their actual words and certainly more than you learn from the sales at the box office, the ratings on streaming services, those little gold statues, or niche media reviews.
For their part, the audience watches and makes comments, but it seems that they’re not paying attention to the screen so much as to those who are watching them. In some inexplicable way, it seems like the public isn’t interested so much in the movie being shown as in the gaze of those who did the work so that these stories called “cinema” could be shown—that is, told. There are even some masked people with cameras trained on those who they call “filmmakers.” It’s as if the theater scene in “The Carabineers” (Jean Luc Godard, 1963) were inverted, and instead of seeing the soldier scared stiff by the arriving train or trying to peek to see a woman undressing and bathing in a tub (all shown on a screen that’s been torn to shreds, revealing a shameless, arrogant wall behind), we wanted to see not the gaze of the projection operator, nor that of the woman being watched, but the gaze of the Lumiére brothers.
“Looks like here the tables are turned,” you are thinking to yourself when the little girl, who tells you that her name is “Defensa Zapatista,” tells you to sit down because the movie has started.
A little boy who you are told is “Pedrito” appears behind you and murmurs: “Look, Defensa Zapatista is a hopeless romantic. She thinks movies get lonely if they don’t have anyone to watch them or to applaud, laugh, cry, boo, get scared, be moved, celebrate or lament them. What do you think movies do if no one sees them? You think they cry? That they get sad? That they give up? We don’t know and Defensa doesn’t want to find out. That’s why she always comes to the film showings, no matter what movie it is. I already explained to her that this is an impossible and irresolvable mystery because in order to know if a film cries if no one watches it we’d have to watch it. We might see it cry but then it wouldn’t be because nobody saw it, because now somebody watched it to see if it would cry if nobody watched it. So even if we see it cry, it might be because the plot line or the editing or the acting or the soundtrack or the set design or the production is bad, or because a critic gave it a negative review, or all of the above. You see the paradox? The only way to prove the hypothesis is to interfere in the hypothesis itself, thus annulling the possibility of demonstrating the hypothesis. I call this, ‘The paradox of the sad film.’ I explained this all to Sup Galeano too but the Sup said he doesn’t know anything about movies, but that if there’s no popcorn it isn’t cinema and thus all speculation is useless.”
You’re trying to follow the kid’s logic and you think that this guy they call “Sup Galeano” might be what the great teacher Jorge Ayala Blanco[i] would have deemed “a popcorn mentality,” but upon sitting down you hear the little girl whisper clearly, as if it were a prayer:
“Don’t worry little friend, I’m here. I’m going to watch you and applaud you even if I don’t like you, even if you show me scary snakes and spiders that frighten me and give me nightmares—I’ll just close my eyes during those parts. If your story is sad, I’ll cry but not too much…well, likely actually a good bit but it all depends. If you tell jokes I’ll laugh a lot because they have to be better than the dumb ones Pedrito here tells. And if you explain the fuckery of that damned capitalism I’m going to take notes. And if you talk about a struggle I’m going to rally the crowd with ‘I say people, you say power, People! Power! People! Power!’ If you dance I’ll dance. If you sing I’ll sing. If you say dream, I’ll dream. If you say wake up I’ll wake you up. So here I am: look at me looking at you and let your heart be happy.”
Pedrito looks at you with a “told you so” face and grins mockingly. The little girl catches him and gives him a knock on the head.
“But I didn’t say anything!” he protests.
“Well, you thought it,” she responds.
“I’m not thinking anything at all!” he replies, giving you a complicit wink.
By this point there’s a whole crowd of boys and girls huddled up with you on the same bench, all with red handkerchiefs around their necks or ski-masks covering their faces. Without anyone apparently guiding the process, they introduce themselves one by one: “I’m Esperanza,” “I’m Pablito,” “I’m Amado.” Then with a kind of meow-bark, a strange little animal a little like a cat and a little like a dog jumps onto Defensa Zapatista’s lap.
One of the kids, Amado, asks, “Did it start already?”
“Yeah, it’s been playing for a while,” Esperanza answers.
“And the popcorn?” Pablito asks.
“Sup Galeano kept it all,” Pedrito responds, “He says that the gods created popcorn strictly for subcomandantes and that anyone who tries to take it away from him is asking for a machete to the neck, with a blunt blade so it takes awhile and rusted so it gets infected and requires injections.” The whole gang of kids shudders with the word “injections.”
“Save a spot for Calamidad [Calamity] in case she comes,” Defensa Zapatista instructs. “And the Sup too,” she adds.
“I could see in his eyes that he was pissed,” you hear Pedrito say, narrating what happened when he told the Sup that he had to share his popcorn.
“So here they look at your gaze,” you think to yourself, “and they make you look at the gaze that looks at you. What a problem.”
Someone calls for silence and kid-gang goes quiet. Now you have time to look around more carefully at this incomprehensible cinema. Other than the absurd location of the screen and the strange disposition of the audience, everything seems to be progressing normally. But this is merely surface-level. You don’t remember anymore what movie was shown; in fact, you don’t even remember if a movie was shown at all.
But you do remember that, all of a sudden, a little girl with a masked teddy bear (“My name is Esperanza and my last name is Zapatista,” you remember she said) stands up and, heading toward the screen, crosses over to the other side and sits beside those who made the film. She gestures to the rest of the kid-gang to join her. All the other spectators follow, and since there aren’t enough seats over there, those who made the film have to get up and look for a seat on the side where the spectators originally were.
At that point you realize that not only is the screen transparent, not only can vision pass from one side to the other, but also bodies, as if it were a window, or better yet, a door. But that’s impossible—there are no movie screens that work like that.
You continue to watch what happens, and it seems the roles are reversed: the spectators watch from the side usually inhabited by those who make films; and those who make films watch from the side of the spectators. They stay that way a good while, and then trade places again. This exchange happens over and over again. You are off to one side where you can appreciate this anachronistic dance.
Those who don’t cross over, changing up their seats and perspectives, dedicate themselves to that ancient sport of throwing popcorn at the screen. Here though the projectiles don’t bounce off the screen, but pass through to the other side. Thus a popcorn battle is established: the public against the filmmakers. The filmmakers win, not because they have better aim or there are more of them—there were fewer of them, actually, and they couldn’t hit the broad side of a barn—but the public, despite having more people and better aim, ran out of ammunition because, naturally, they ate it.
“Brutal,” you hear one of the filmmakers say, “here you don’t watch people watch your movie; you watch them watching your heart. They take it out, take it apart, rearrange it, and put it back in like nothing happened. I’m definitely not coming back here. Actually maybe I am. I just don’t know. They do all of this without uttering a word. It’s enough to make me yearn for the niche media that destroyed my directorial debut.” The guy beside him doesn’t respond, as he’s busy adjusting his jacket so that you can’t see the wound in his chest.
While the popcorn commotion dies down, the movement doesn’t. It is clearly chaotic, but also has a kind of involuntary choreography, like that of very first cartoon drawings.
There were two sides: those who showed themselves from behind ski-masks, and those who showed themselves from behind films. Outside of that, they had nothing in common, but the screen brought them together. It was the screen that defined their respective places, movements, and the ongoing exchange.
The screen was like…what could we call it? Yes, like a bridge.
But that’s not possible.
Or is it?
Given the above, the Sixth Commission of the EZLN invites all of the men, women, others, children, and elders of the Sixth, the CNI, and the CIG Support Networks all over the world, as well as, of course, all the cinephiles who can and want to come, to a FILM FESTIVAL:
“PUY TA CUXLEJALTIC” (“Caracol of our life”)
The first edition (we imagine it will be annual) will be held in the Zapatista Caracol of Oventik, in the mountains of the Mexican Southeast (with alternative showings at CIDECI in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas), November 1-5, 2018.
The films to be shown and activities held during this festival (which apparently include, among other absurdities: a non-roundtable discussion—a “rectangular-table” perhaps—on…soccer? But isn’t this a film festival? There’s a film that will be read and directed by a schizophrenic beetle?) and will be announced in the coming days (we hope).
(to be continued)
From the movie theater “Comandanta Ramona”
For the Sixth Commission of the EZLN
Sup Galeano, smoking irresponsibly in the projection booth.
(Look, I’m not irresponsible. Well, maybe, but that’s not the point here. What I’m doing is helping out with special effects—what about those days when there’s no fog? Ah, I’m right, am I not? By the way, they didn’t win the honeybun away from me; I was dispossessed of it, which is not the same thing. And, I don’t watch movies with naked ladies; what they’re referring to are my distance-learning anatomy classes. The thing is Defensa Zapatista is always self-criticizing me for being macho, but it isn’t that simple, it depends…what? This is over? Oh, fine.)
Mexico, October 2018.
[i] Film critic and historian, as well as professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
By: Armando G. Tejeda
With that lucidity that all his scholars and readers admire, but also with his unwavering vocation as a revolutionary to transform the world and make it more just and livable, the Mexican thinker Pablo González Casanova made an urgent call to transform debate and thought into a strategy of direct action that converts dreams into tangible realities. The 96-year old intellectual and sociologist, with his firm voice and even stronger conviction to fight against the inequality and voracity of capitalism, closed with some willful and evocative words the International Congress Thinking with Marx today, organized by the University Complutense of Madrid (UCM) for the 200th anniversary of the birth of the author of Capital.
The congress brought together more than 100 teachers from 36 universities in Europe, Latin America, Africa and the United States to analyze the work of Marx from a current viewpoint and in topics like applied economics, politics, sociology, journalism and freedom of expression, feminism, psychology, philosophy, education, science, culture, history, ecology, human rights, geo-politics and imperialism, among others. “One of the great living intellectuals of today,” the Mexican sociologist González Casanova, author of more than 10 important books of analysis, the former rector of the Autonomous National University of Mexico and a founder and opinion writer of La Jornada gave the opening and closing words of the teachers conference.
Ideological funnel overcome
During the seminar they attempted to analyze las problems of the current time from the theoretical work and framework of thought inherited from Karl Marx. A thinker that has become one of the intellectuals that have most influenced the future of the world and who, as one speaker recalled during these days, there is no country in the world of the four continents that doesn’t have a political organization, a union or a center of analysis if Marxist vocation. And that once the intellectual and ideological tunnel that Stalinism meant has been overcome, the analysis and free dissemination of Marxism has acquired a new verve, a freshness that allows it to analyze more effectively the world’s current problems, like migration, the struggle for women’s equality, the uprising of the world’s marginalized peoples, like the indigenous people of Mexico, and the urgency of converting the transformative anxieties of the centers of analysis and thought into direct actions to make that change into reality.
The Mexican sociologist has always been more proud of his status as a “comandante of the Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional” (Zapatista National Liberation Army) than of his numerous academic works that are studied in various universities of the world or of his crucial contributions to the study of the theory of the State or of los models of production and their eternal contradictions.
In this sense, González Casanova insisted that, in today’s world, the “dispossessed” of the planet –those who were left without land, who were expelled due to the ferocity of the capitalist system– are dying by the thousands every day. It is a tragedy that: “is already worse than the one Adolf Hitler perpetrated in his Nazi extermination.” But thanks to those “control mechanisms” of the capitalist system it is experienced in the majority of citizens and of society as a foreign drama, when “it affects us all equally.”
“You have to think about acting to win. We have already overcome the gag of Stalinism and fortunately that has now disappeared, especially in young people. The 1968 movement was a rebellion of the youth, which entered as a new protagonist in a society in which life expectancy is very high. And they brought new values to the revolution, like joy, song, fiesta, poetry, love, the defense of women, the defense of homosexuals and whole series of new values and from a freedom that the old communists lacked. We are also heirs of that revolution and that’s why I join those young people that are making revolution today in peoples like the Zapatistas. It is a very important revolution for those peoples, but also for humanity as a whole,” he pointed out.
The Mexican thinker insisted that: “we must work” to organize “networks” or “nodes” that are linked and that will act in all types of countries –developed and not so developed– “to be able to act and change the world.”
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Sunday, October 7, 2018
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee
By: Luis Hernández Navarro
There is a divorce between the Army and an enormous portion of Mexican society. The role that the armed forces played in the repression of the student movement and in the massacre on October 2, 1968 earned them citizen repudiation. It’s participation in the dirty war of the decade after Tlatelolco deepened the animosity against it.
The rupture wasn’t new. The discontent towards the Army was fed because of its responsibility in the systematic repression of popular movements. Although they carried out orders civilians gave them, they were line soldiers that murdered the campesino leader Rubén Jaramillo, his wife and his children at Xochicalco. It was the Army that broke the 1959 railroad strikes and arrested 800 workers and their leaders. It was the Army that, in 1960, violently crushed the popular protest against the governor of Guerrero, Raúl Caballero Aburto.
Far from healing with the passage of years, the wound opened in ‘68 has become worse. The active intervention of the armed forces in counterinsurgency tasks in Chiapas and Guerrero yielded a long list of grave human rights violations and the promotion of paramilitary groups. Participation of the armed forces in police functions in the war against drug trafficking escalated citizen animosity. Their behavior during the night of September 26 and 27, 2014 in Iguala, when 43 young Ayotzinapa teachers college students were disappeared, and in the extrajudicial executions in Tlatlaya made popular distrust towards the military institution even greater.
It is not a subjective matter. The complaints presented to the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH, its initials in Spanish) over alleged violations of basic civil rights by the armed forces have increased in the recent decade. Between 2007 and 2017, 10,764 denunciations were presented against soldiers and 2,790 against sailors. The same thing has happened with the number of recommendations the CNDH issued due to violations of basic rights: out of 166, there were 126 against the Army and 40 against the Navy.
These numbers are just a small sample of the degree of discontent against the troops. In many cities, towns and communities throughout the country there are many stories of abuses of military personnel against the civilian population that are not denounced because of fear or because people think it is useless to do it. The memory of the atrocities committed against the civilian population during the dirty war is alive in family members and neighbors.
The violations of basic rights that soldiers and sailors have incurred, which have been accredited in all these CNDH recommendations, are enforced disappearance, extrajudicial execution (a violation of the right to life), arbitrary detentions, torture and other cruel treatment, against personal integrity and security, against liberty, sexual assaults and not immediately presenting detainees to the Public Ministry.
The victory of Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) in the last elections was nourished, in part, from the memorial of grievances towards the armed forces and the hope of clarifying them, doing justice, repairing the damages and guarantying that they don’t happen again. It was also nourished by hi offer to withdraw the Army from the streets and returning them to their barracks.
That’s why it’s relevant that he used the Plaza de las Tres Culturas (Three Cultures Plaza)  and a date close to October 2 (just three days before), as the scenario for fixing his position on the future of the armed forces. And for trying to impel reconciliation between that institution and those who distrust it. “You don’t have to see soldiers and marines as enemies. They are uniformed people, children of campesinos, workers and merchants,” he said.
The discourse, accompanied by the offering of “not using the Army, ever again, to repress the people” seems to be a call to make a “a clean slate” of the human rights violations committed by military personnel. It’s a species of non-explicit call to pardon in exchange for the promise that those damages to individual rights don’t happen again, guaranteed by the fact that, the now president-elect, will be commander-in chief of the armed forces.
López Obrador’s speech on Friday differs from what he said in the same place on May 21, 2012, as a candidate for first magistrate. There is a taking of distance with respect to what he said then. Six years ago he went much deeper into the role of the movement of ‘68 in the struggle against governmental authoritarianism.
It will be said that in 2012 he spoke in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas as a candidate and in 2018 he spoke as president-elect. True. However, the distrust of broad sectors of the population towards the Army is not resolved by decree. The class origin of the soldiers and marines to which he appeals as a guaranty of reconciliation does not exempt either the institution or its members of the grave human rights violations committed. And his personal promise (undoubtedly genuine) does not guaranty that it won’t happen again.
The president-elect announced a reform of the Army in Tlatelolco. “Everyone is able to do national defense. The soldiers and marines have to aid us in guarantying internal security and public security,” he said. Although we need to specify the modalities of this aid and to detail the similarities and differences of this proposal with the controversial Law of Internal Security, it is very delicate to involve the armed forces in police functions. A good part of the human rights violations that the armed forces have committed are largely the result of their action in public security tasks. And although the initiative was made in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas, it doesn’t seem to be in tune with the spirit of ‘68.
 La Plaza de las Tres Culturas is the main square in the Tlatelolco District of Mexico City. On October 2, 1968, the armed forces opened fire on a group of students and other protestors that were peacefully demonstrating against the government, which resulted in a large number of dead and injured. The government says less than 100 were killed, but eyewitnesses say between 300 and 400 died. The exact number of dead is unknown. More than one thousand were arrested. This massacre occurred less than 2 weeks before the Summer Olympics in Mexico City and was part of the Mexican government’s dirty war against political opponents.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Tuesday, October 2, 2018
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee
By: Armando G. Tejeda
Pablo González Casanova, an intellectual and former rector of the Autonomous National University of Mexico (UNAM), pointed out that: “50 years after the student movement of 1968 and after the Tlatelolco massacre, we see that the new revolution that was born in the midst of drama stayed and never left our society, or our social movements.”
The Mexican thinker inaugurated the International Congress Thinking with Marx today, at the University Complutense of Madrid (UCM) for the 200 anniversary of the birth of the author of Capital, an event in which homage was rendered to the students murdered in the Plaza of the Three Cultures of Mexico City, which “changed forever the forms of struggle of the Left in Latin America.”
The selection of the date for the start of the Congress around the figure of the critical and theoretical legacy of the thinker Karl Marx was intended to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Tlatelolco massacre and also became a homage to the 1968 student movement in Mexico, Professor Eduardo Sánchez Iglesias, one of the organizers of the gathering, recognized. “It is part of the history of our peoples and that’s why it’s important to remember that October 1968, which changed the history of the social movements in Latin America,” he explained.
The congress brought together more than 100 educators from 36 universities of Europe, Latin America, Africa and the United States to analyze the work of Marx from a current point of view and in themes like applied economy, politics, sociology, journalism and freedom of expression, feminism, psychology, philosophy, education, science, culture, history, ecology, human rights, geopolitics and imperialism, among others.
The person responsible for opening the congress was also the founder and writer for La Jornada, Pablo González Casanova, who the rector of the UCM, Carlos Andradas, presented as “one of, if not the most important thinker of today,” upon defining him as an intellectual that has been implacable in developing critical thinking throughout his 96 years of existence. Marcos Roitman Rosenmann, also a professor of sociology and a disciple of his, introduced González Casanova “as a young promise that has never stopped thinking,” and that: “is now going to provoke us to think about our time and also to do it from the critical perspective of Marx.”
When the brutal repression took place in the Plaza de las Tres Culturas, González Casanova was the director of the Instituto de Investigaciones Sociales (Social Research Institute) at the UNAM and heard news of the massacre when he went out to see a play. In his conference lecture, the Mexican sociologist pointed out: “Now that we are celebrating the 50- year anniversary of the 1968 movement, one of the contributions was the presence of youth as a whole. With the young people appeared love, joy, celebration, dancing and another revolution appeared. That stayed and did not leave our social movements. It was when they assumed the class struggle like we elders had done and said that they would also fight for liberty, justice and democracy. They also assumed the idea that democracy should be rooted in the people and that we think of democracy as a power of the people, not as a mediation of the State and the groups that control it. 1968 was a new example of struggle and the joy in struggle, but with the objective of creating a network of networks like the one the Zapatistas have now constructed.”
During his talk, in which he was speaking with a view to planting a seed for critical reflection, González Casanova warned that: “at this moment, the number of dispossessed or displaced in exodus is much greater than the number of those that have died in the deserts, the jungles or in the lakes, than those that Hitler killed in the concentration camps. And we can not ignore that.”
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Wednesday, October 3, 2018
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee
By: Gilberto López y Rivas
It has become commonplace in the discourse of the political class, when talking about the original peoples, to repeat like a magic spell: “Fulfill the San Andrés Accords!” If this were truly one of the objectives of the next government, what would such a step mean, beyond the rhetoric that omits historical contexts and structural realities, or is it limited to inconsequential legal formalisms?
Specifically, on the legislative plain, the constitutional reforms that have permitted the re-colonization of the original peoples’ territories would have to be annulled, conceived as the geographic-symbolic spaces of their reproduction as collective socio-ethnic entities, obviously starting with the Salinas reform to Constitutional Article 27, which was one of the causes of the rebellion of the Zapatista Mayas in 1994, and which authorized the privatization of ejido lands.
That would also oblige overthrowing various laws derived from “structural reforms;” in particular, the devastating mining law, which, in its Article 6, grants a preferential character to mining exploration and exploitation, “over any other land use,” without mentioning those that have permitted the privatization of water and environmental deregulation, among others.
Similarly, the second constitutional article, the bad workmanship of the betrayal of all the political parties and the three powers of the Union, would have to be totally re-elaborated, given that the constitutional reform enacted in April 2001 contains legal impediments that go against the spirit and letter of the San Andrés Accords: to every right recognized or conceded is placed a note of caution that sets boundaries, limits and precludes the full application of the laws and the effective exercise of those rights, by unjustifiably referring them to other articles of the same Constitution, or to secondary laws that have been the legal instruments of neoliberal looting.
At the same time, in Section B of the current second article, they institute welfare and client programs that express a contradiction with the essence of the autonomies formally recognized in Section A of that Article, since they condemn the original people to a passive role in State decision making; deny the communities the status of entities of public right and, to the contrary, define them as entities of “public interest,” or protected entities of state policy; they fail to recognize the scope of the autonomies in the municipal and regional spheres in which the indigenous peoples assert them, established in San Andrés and, with that, the possibility of their reconstitution. This reform leaves the recognition of the indigenous peoples and the characteristics of autonomy to local laws, which is not favorable, given the correlation of forces in those spheres and the existence of powerful chiefdoms in ethnic regions, and, now, the brutal impact of organized crime as a clandestine armed wing of the transnational State.
Specifically, the 2001 reform violated the San Andrés Accords and became a virtual counter-reform upon establishing the following: a) substituting the notion of “places” for land and territories, which de-territorializes the indigenous peoples, subtracts them from their material base of reproduction, and even constitutes a setback with respect to Convention 169 of the International Labor Organization; b) changing the concept of “peoples” to “communities,” thus altering the subject of the law recognized in San Andrés and in the very same Convention 169, and limiting local and regional jurisdiction of these legal-political entities; c) introducing outside of the agreement between the parties in the armed conflict, the EZLN and the federal government, the neoliberal counter-reform to constitutional article 27; d) limiting the possibility that the indigenous peoples develop and strengthen their own communications media, which has suffered constant attack from the State in recent years; and e) not specifying the right to prior, free, informed and, above all, binding consultation.
In sum, the 2001 constitutional reform in matters of indigenous rights was not satisfactory to the State’s independent organizations of original peoples, so the peoples set out on the path of constructing autonomy by means of deeds, de facto autonomy, the paradigmatic case being that of the Zapatista Mayas in Chiapas, grouped together in the EZLN, immersed in an autonomous process of historical reaches in the planetary sphere.
The new development plans AMLO announced are another matter; they would be profoundly antithetical to the “fulfillment of the San Andrés Accords.” These Accords continue to constitute the programmatic platform for autonomic processes and a necessary referent for the resistance struggle against capitalism.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Friday, September 7, 2018
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee
By: Raúl Zibechi
One must put oneself on the side of the oppressed in any circumstance, even when they are wrong, without losing sight, however, that they are made of the same clay as their oppressors. Emil Cioran
Frantz Fanon was an extraordinary being. He lived his short life between four countries: in his native Martinique, in France and in Algeria-Tunisia, where he committed himself to the struggle for independence, joining the National Liberation Front (FLN) as a militant. The coherence between his life and his work is a beacon that should guide us in these moments of uncertainty, when notable risks appear that put in danger the very existence of the humanity of those below.
He intervened in one of modern history’s cruelest wars. The FLN estimated that one million five hundred thousand (1,500,000) Algerians were murdered between the start of the war in 1954 and the proclamation of independence in 1962, which represents fifteen percent of a population that is less than 10 million. French historians reduce that number to a third, which is still a startling. A similar number of Algerians were tortured.
As the chief doctor at the Blida psychiatric hospital (named in 1953), Fanon had a phenomenal experience: he received and cared for the French torturers as well as the Algerians they tortured, which gave him access to the most hidden recesses of colonial oppression and humiliation. One of the lesser-known aspects of his marvelous life was having converted the hospice-prison into “a new community that introduced sports, music, work, and where he even threw in a newspaper written by the infirm.”
His profession as a psychiatrist allowed him to comprehend the attitudes of human beings that were never adequately explained by critical thinking. In those years the turn towards economism and vulgar materialism had been consolidated, which gambled everything on the development of productive forces, a path in which emancipatory ideas tended to imitate capitalist ideas.
The internalization of oppression
The militant generation of the 1960s and 1970s know Fanon through The Wretched of the Earth, his posthumous work published in 1961. It is the book/manifesto of a combatant that affirms the necessity of violence to confront and overcome colonization, because he knows that: “colonialism does not cede except with the knife to the neck.”
Wretched… is a luminous text, full of ideas that go against the grain of the revolutionary common sense of the time, like his defense ofthe peasantry and the lumpen-proletariat as political subjects, since he observes that in the colonies the proletarians (wage earners) are the sector most “pampered by the colonial regime.” He also criticizes the political culture of the lefts, which is dedicated to attracting the most “advanced” people –“the elites most conscious of the proletariat in the cities,” Fanon establishes- without comprehending that in the world of the colonized the central and liberating place that community and family play, not the party or the union.
His passionate defense of the violence of the oppressed must be sifted. It’s always necessary to remember, as Immanuel Wallerstein emphasizes, that: “we can’t achieve anything without violence.” It’s not a minor theme, because the bulk of the antisystemic parties and movements seem to have forgotten it in their wager to imbed themselves in state institutions.
But it’s also true, as the sociologist recognizes, that violence alone doesn’t resolve anything. Fanon goes further when he asserts that: “violence detoxifies,” because “it freed the colonized from his inferiority complex.” In that line of argument, in “The wretched of the earth” he concludes: “Violence elevates the people to the height of the leader.” We know that things are more complex, as a half-century of armed struggle in Latin America teaches.
Despite the importance that Fanon’s last book had on our generation, I consider that the first, Black skin, white mask, in 1952, is the one that gives us better clues about a century of failures of triumphant revolutions. He contributes a view from the subjectivity of the oppressed, something that the Marxists had never managed to unravel in such a crystalline way. He tells us that the inferiority complex of the colonized has two roots: the economic and the internalization or “epidermization” of inferiority. The black man wishes to whiten his skin and have a white girlfriend. The black woman irons her hair and dreams about a white man. Both aspects must be addressed or liberation will be incomplete.
Fanon sticks his finger in the wound when he says that: “the colonized is a persecuted man that wants who permanently dreams about becoming the persecutor” (The wretched of the earth). Consequently, the colonized not only wants to recuperate the settler’s estate, but who also desires his place, because that world arouses envy. He looks directly the hard core of problems that the revolutions have bequeathed and that we cannot continue avoiding, in view of dramas like the ones that Nicaragua is going through. Why do revolutionaries put themselves in the place, material and symbolic, of the oppressors and capitalists, and on occasions of the tyrants against whom they struggle? It leaves us with the question, offering hardly any clues about the possible paths for getting out of this terrible vicious circle that reproduces oppression and internal colonialism in the name of revolution. Fanon goes through the twists and turns of the psyches of the oppressed, with the same rigor and valor with which he questions the revolutionaries who, blinded by rage, commit abuses on the bodies of the colonizers.
The similarities between oppressed and oppressors can only flow from logic distinct from that of power, and can only be disarmed if we are capable of recognizing them. The Sandinista leaders began occupying Somoza’s residences and using their cars for “security” reasons, until the ruling clan ended up acting like the dictator.
The zone of non-being
Fanon understood firsthand that there is a zone of our societies where humanity is systematically wounded by the oppressor’s violence. It’s a structural place, which does not depend on people’s qualities. He believes that it is precisely in that zone, which he calls “the zone of non-being,” where the revolution for which he is giving his life can be born, and warns that the colonial world has compartments whose borders are marked by barracks and police stations. Those two worlds have their own life, particular rules and are related hierarchically. I maintain that the current period of accumulation by dispossession / fourth world war implies the updating of colonial relations. It’s likely that Fanon’s powerful currency comes from the hand of the growing polarization between the richest one percent and the poorest and most humiliated half of humanity, characteristic of the colonial period.
In all his work, the author insisted on showing that what’s valuable for one zone, cannot necessarily be transferred to the other, that the modes of doing politics in the metropolis cannot be the same as in the colony, that the forms of legal and open organization of the zones where the human rights of citizens reign, cannot be copied by those who live in devastated territories like the favelas, palenques, communities of the original peoples and the barrios on the urban peripheries.
For Fanon, the oppressed peoples should not walk behind the left-wing European parties, a question that in the same period his teacher Aimé Césaire denounced in the Letter to Maurice Thorez, wherein he enunciates the “colonialist paternalism” of the French Communist Party, which considered the struggle of the peoples against racism as “one part of a more important group,” whose “everything” is the workers struggle against capitalism.
In Latin America various movements exist that show how the oppressed are resolving in their way the two issues that I have addressed. The texts “Political Economy I and Political Economy II” of Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés of the EZLN, the memories of the Nasa-Misak leader from the Colombian Cauca, Lorenzo Muelas, as well as the reflections and analysis of Mapuche authorities, among many others that I cannot mention, are good examples of critical thought in the zone of non-being.
In the same sense, the voices of women from below populate the thick volume compiled by Francesca Gargallo, “Feminisms from Abya Yala. Ideas and proposals of women from 607 towns in our America.” To that multiplicity of voices should be added other non-Western forms of expressing world views (cosmovisiones), from weaving and dance to the care of animals, plants and health.
In second place, they discover that to be dispossessed of the image of the oppressor doesn’t achieve recovering the means of production. It’s a necessary step on which something new must be created, but above all different from the old world, woven from non-hierarchical non-oppressive social relations. The history of revolutions teaches us that this is the most complex aspect and the stone on which we have stumbled again and again.
Fanon warned of the risks that rebel action ends up reproducing the colonial logic, in a luminous and premonitory reference to Nietzsche: at the end of Black skin, white mask he warns that there is always resentment in reaction. Only the creation of the new allows us to overcome oppression, since reactive inertia tends to invert it.
A half-century later we are able to celebrate that many movements are committed, here and now, to living with dignity in the zone of non-being, shunning state-centered and patriarchal hierarchies. We imagine that in those creations beats Fanon’s generous heart, overflowing with commitment and creativity.
Originally Published in Spanish by Semanal, a La Jornada Supplement
August 12, 2018
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee
By: Isaín Mandujano
TUXTLA GUTIÉRREZ, Chiapas (apro)
One year after the 8.2-magnitude earthquake in Chiapas, there are only deception and protests, serious violations of the right to dignified housing, threats to block roads and international border bridges.
Friday, September 7, was the one-year anniversary of the earthquake that leveled part of Chiapas. Fernando Ríos of the All Rights For Everyone Network (RedTDT, as it is known in Spanish) announced that the state and federal governments have failed the earthquake victims.
According to that organization, the victims fear that faced with the change of government they will be left helpless, because thousands still wait for the promised aid.
He detailed that they toured four Chiapas communities: Paredón, Huizachal, Gustavo López and Nuevo Urbina, in the state’s coastal region, where they established the anguish that the families experience everyday.
Ríos explained that, in many cases, families were waiting for resources that never arrived, and in the best of cases they only gave them 85 thousand pesos and not the 120 thousand that they promised them.
The earthquake victims explained that the federal government blames the state for not contributing its share of resources; however, to those affected the one responsible is the Mexican State, because the government issued the orders to everyone who assumed the commitment to support them.
And it’s not only housing, in the border region of the Suchiate River, several municipalities continue hoping that the state and federal governments will intervene and reconstruct or rehabilitate at least 40 mainly basic level schools that were damaged by the September 7, 2017 earthquake.
Javier Ovilla Estrada, one of the leaders of the parents’ committees, said that they have marched, blocked highways and taken over international border bridges in order to make themselves heard; nevertheless, they have brought “pure minutes.”
“They promise, promise and never fulfill,” says Ovilla Estrada, who stated this week that, if the government does not fulfill, they would again take over the border bridges that connect Mexico with Central America.
Meanwhile, he exposed, thousands of children go to classes in very poor conditions in schools at the point of collapsing or under trees or improvised wagons.
He threatened a highway blockage this Friday on the stretch between Tuxtla and Chiapa de Corzo. Teachers, parents and students came out to place rocks, sticks and tires on the asphalt strip.
They denounced that Aurelio Nuño, as Secretary of Public Education and Governor Manuel Velasco Coello, came to this Multiple Attention Center as soon as the earthquake occurred. They promised aid for reconstructing the damaged school, but they continue waiting.
Children with different abilities come to this educational center. Even they, some in wheel chairs, had to sit themselves down on the highway.
“May the government turn around and see us! They are going to go away and they are going to leave us like this,” said Josefa López Flores, a mother of a child at that school.
After the September 7, 2017 earthquake, state authorities verified damages to 46, 773 homes. Of these, 14, 073 were found with total damage that required demolition and new construction and there were 32, 700 with partial damage.
They reported that up to now a total of 45, 216 BANSEFI debit cards have been delivered, of which: 13, 550 are for total damage and 31, 666 are for partial damage. It’s appropriate to point out that there are still 1, 557 cards pending of which, 41 cards are in plastic production on the part of BANSEFI for name changes and 1, 516 are in branch banks to be delivered.
The group of people that already received their card has deposited a total of 1,564,892 billion pesos, of which they have already withdrawn 1,525, 357 billion pesos. Of the 14, 073 houses with total damage that already received a card, 9, 889 had already initiated reconstruction, according to an April report.
According to Luis Manuel García Moreno, head of the Civilian Protection Ministry, with the delivery of resources through the prepaid debit cards, the government’s commitment to support the population that lost their home or saw their home affected by the earthquake is fulfilled.
The president of the National Human Rights Commissions, Luis Raúl González Pérez, was in Chiapas yesterday and he was questioned about this lack of fulfilling promises to the earthquake victims. He said that complaints have reached his agency from Mexico City about the September 19 earthquake as well as from victims in Chiapas and Oaxaca.
A year after the earthquake, he said that he ordered his agency to issue a detailed report and that he will urge state and federal authorities to fulfill their commitments, because grave human rights violations have been documented.
Originally Published in Spanish by Proceso
Friday, September 7, 2018
Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee