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Al Giordano

Opening Statement, April 18, 2000
¡Bienvenidos en Español!
Bem Vindos em Português!

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Marcos to Launch Six Month Tour of All of Mexico Beginning January 1

The Zapatista Subcomandante Is Not Coming to Speak, but to Listen, “to the Simple and Humble People who Struggle”

By Al Giordano
Special to The Narco News Bulletin

September 19, 2005

“…it is our duty to explore the terrain where we will bring our compañeros and compañeras of our people, as well as our soldiers. There is always someone who goes as a vanguard. We call whoever goes forward and views the terrain that we still don’t know the vanguard. And the task of he who goes forward as the vanguard is to detect what is there: if the terrain is swampy, stony, or spiny, and of other situations the vanguard observes, and this informs us so we can know what to do and how to do it.

“We know that you understand a vanguard to be someone who leads, or those who know how the fight should be waged, or who give orders, and who are the only ones who are right, those who know more and better… But we don’t understand it that way. The vanguard for us… is he who goes to understand the terrain, for us unknown terrain, and it is necessary to go to that terrain to advance the struggle. This is soldier’s work, the exploration of the terrain…

“The vanguard’s work of exploration of the terrain for the Other Campaign has been given to compañero Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos. He will be the first to go out and we will come behind him in turn to do the work…”

– Lieutenant Colonel Moisés
Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN)
September 16, 2005

CARACOL LA GARRUCHA, CHIAPAS, MEXICO, SEPTEMBER 2005: After 22 years living clandestinely in Mexico’s southernmost and poorest state of Chiapas, Zapatista Subcomandante Marcos is coming out to the rest of the country: Unarmed and alone, he will visit all 31 Mexican states and the Federal District of Mexico City. His six-month investigative mission – “to listen to the simple and humble people who struggle” – begins on January 1, 2006.

Subcomandante Marcos
Photo: D.R. 2005 tiros@indymedia.org, Chiapas Indymedia
Marcos came out just once before – during the 2001 Zapatista Caravan, together with 23 masked guerrilla commanders – but anyone who is expecting the kind of media circus and parade behind him that characterized that pilgrimage (“NASCAR with buses,” wrote our correspondent Reber Boult at the time) is probably mistaken. According to Marcos’ recent statements, there will not be speeches from stages or grand demonstration podiums, as there were in 2001 or in the 1997 caravan by 1,111 of his comrades. He is not coming out to speak. He is, rather, coming out to chart the terrain for other rebel organizers to follow, to discover who and what awaits them throughout the Mexican Republic, in a painstakingly careful and slow process of collecting information, of scouting the terrain for a long-term radical transformation of a nation.

Anyone seeking an historical parallel to what comes next may wish to look at Mohandas K. Gandhi’s return to India on January 9, 1915. After 21 years of exile in South Africa, where he had led a victorious struggle against some of the apartheid system’s most repressive laws, Gandhi arrived by boat to the port of Bombay and received “a hero’s welcome,” according to biographer Shri B.R. Nanda. The revolutionary organizations and currents throughout India looked to Gandhi to lead, immediately, the revolution for independence from British rule. His convocatory power had, during his absence, surpassed that of any other leader or sector. But Gandhi, already a kind of legend at age 45, a popular writer, journalist and social fighter, noted aloud that after two decades away he did not know his own country. He imposed a year of public silence – of not making statements to the media – upon him self and embarked upon a lonely tour of the forgotten provinces of his India.

“Gandhi was in no hurry to plunge into politics,” wrote the biographer Nanda. “During 1915… Gandhi eschewed politics severely. In his speeches and writings he confined himself to the reform of the individual and the society and avoided the issues which dominated Indian politics. His restraint was partly due to self-imposed silence and partly to the fact that he was still studying conditions in India and making up his mind.” Gandhi’s abstention from politics lasted three years (indeed, it would be 15 years of plodding organizing work before the Great Salt March and strike of 1930 caused the world to take the Indian Independence movement seriously; and 31 years before India won its independence). Confronted with movements and leaders impatient to spark an immediate revolt, Gandhi found their own methods to be very far from his own, and decided, instead of plunging into the existing political organizational structures, to interact with his country’s people and places on a local, rather than national, level.

Gandhi’s silence on the national stage did not constitute an eschewing of struggle. Where he found simple and humble people fighting for a better life, he joined forcefully in their causes. According to Nanda:

“In the summer of 1917, he went to the indigo-growing district of Champaran and took up the cause of the tenants against the European planters. The same year he led the textile workers of Ahmedabad in a strike against the mill-owners. The following year, he agitated for reduction of land tax in Kaira district where crops had suffered from the failure of rains. The local officers were perturbed by Gandhi’s activities but the Government was anxious not to precipitate a showdown. Gandhi himself took care to localize these conflicts and sought solutions which secured a modicum of justice to the workers and peasants without creating a national crisis.”

And if we listen, kind reader, truly listen to what Marcos and the Zapatistas have been telling us during seven public meetings and umpteen communiqués this summer in the jungle canyons of the Mexican Southeast, the indigenous guerrilla plan reveals itself to be closer to the strategies of the Indian pacifist in 1915 than of any historic example from this hemisphere. Like Gandhi in his loin cloth, Marcos and the Zapatistas who in September 2006 will follow him and fan out across the land have already pronounced that they will refuse gifts (even symbolic ones) of any kind during this upcoming marathon tour, they will not open any bank accounts, they will not be riding first-class… their vanguard, or scout, the masked Marcos, will, in a sense, live off the land… that is to say, strictly and only on the support of the simple and humble people who struggle.

The Schedule

Twelve years from the 1994 New Year’s morning when the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN, in its Spanish initials) appeared on the balcony of the City Hall in San Cristóbal de Las Casas and other Chiapas municipalities, having taken those seats by force from drunken cops the night before, Marcos announced on Friday night that he will begin his six-month exploratory mission to the rest of Mexico, once more, in San Cristóbal on January 1, 2006.

From there he will begin the national voyage in the places where, “the historians tell us, if we are to believe them… critical anticapitalist thought and the desire to create a new society with new social relations first arrived in Mexico… the coast of Chiapas and the Yucatan Peninsula; among workers on coffee and henequen (the agave plant that produces sisal fiber) cactus plantations. That is where the Other Campaign will begin.”

Kind reader: If you haven’t already read or heard Marcos’ comments from September 16, do so. Meanwhile, here is the itinerary of where Marcos is going, and when he will go there:

The week of January 2 to January 8: Chiapas

From January 9 to 15: Yucatán and Quintana Roo

From January 16 to 22: Campeche and Tabasco

From January 23 to 29: Veracruz

From January 30 to February 5: Oaxaca

From February 6 to 12: Puebla

From February 13 to 19: Tlaxcala

From February 20 to 26: Hidalgo

From February 27 to March 5: Querétaro

From March 6 to 12: Jalisco

From March 20 to 26: Nayarit and Colima

From March 27 to April 2: Michoacán

From April 3 to 9: Guerrero

From April 10 to 16: Morelos

From April 17 to 23: State of Mexico and Federal District (Mexico City)

From April 25 top 30: Federal District and State of Mexico

From May 1 to May 7: San Luis Potosí

From May 8 to 14: Zacatecas

From May 15 to 21: Nuevo León and Tamaulipas

From May 22 to May 28: Coahuila and Durango

From May 29 to June 4: Chihuahua and the fist meeting with Chicano compañeros on the other side

From June 5 to 11: Sinaloa and Sonora

From June 12 to 18: Baja Californa Norte, Baja Califonia Sur, and the second meeting with the Mexicans from the other side

From June 19 to June 25: It is proposed that on Saturday, June 25, on the night of the festival of San Juan, a plenary-debriefing meeting be held in Mexico City and the state of Mexico.

On June 25, we return to Chiapas and wait for whatever will happen to happen.

A week later, on July 2, 2006, Mexicans will vote for a new president, who will take the oath of office on December 1 of that year.

While the winner of that election prepares to take power, a second wave of Zapatistas will fan out across the land. According to Marcos:

The second trip out will be in September 2006, going until March, 2007. Another delegation will appear, the national delegation and regional or state delegations. That is, the EZLN’s Sixth Committee will have a group that travels around the entire country and others that plant themselves in states or regions to carry out the Other Campaign.

The national delegation will hold meetings throughout the country, state-by-state. According to how we advance in this, regional delegations will be installed and will begin to visit the struggles, resistances, and rebellions.

In April 2007, a new team will replace the national and regional delegation.

And so it will be until we finish, if we finish.

In other words, indigenous Maya – primarily of the Tzotzil, Tzeltal, Tojolabal and Chol ethnic groups – with 22 years of experience as Zapatistas and a heritage of 514 years of experience resisting impositions from above and outside will go to the places and people throughout Mexico that their vanguard, or scout, Marcos recommends. Some of them will be going to live, work and organize for six month tours of duty, implanting themselves in communities, in the homes of real people, near workplaces, factories, farms, organizations and collectives, where thousands upon thousands of other Mexicans will be able to observe and collaborate, up close, with Zapatista organizing techniques and other ways of being.

“Let teams be organized to take social x-rays of the situation in each state, and to join with the demands that are detected, as well as the struggles, to advance the Other Campaign by States, regions, and sectors,” noted Marcos. The scenario suggests a kind of military service without guns by the indigenous rebel bases from the Lacandon jungle and the highlands of Chiapas. By the time that the next Mexican president takes office on December 1 of that year, the towns and cities throughout the land will be already three months ahead of him on the process of reorganizing a nation “from below and to the left.” There is a potential, in other words, for the Zapatistas (and their allies in “The Other Campaign”) to set the agenda and tone for the land and people that the next Mexican government will attempt to govern.

The Communications War

Last Friday night, on Mexico’s Independence Day, in the community of La Garrucha that is the regional capital of Zapatista autonomous municipalities (that is to say, town governments that accept no money or interference from the state or federal governments), there appeared, before dusk, a double rainbow in the sky… followed by a rainforest torrent dumping water over all and turning the earth to mud. The storm caused a power outage and suddenly the carefully tested microphones and speakers erected for 2,079 delegates (not including hundreds from the press) to hear the proceedings went silent.

In a small cinder-block building near the tin-roof assembly hall, a handful of techies from Chiapas Indymedia, Radio Insurgente, the Centro de Medios Libres, and a score of other alternative media projects raced to rebuild a weapon from scratch: they had planned an historic live Internet broadcast – via satellite transmission – of the weekend’s planned assembly to decide and launch “the Other Campaign.”

The circumstances in the wet and mud, with the clock ticking toward the 8 p.m. showtime, could not have been more adverse. Wires had to be rerouted. A portable gasoline-powered electric generator was fired up. Tiny screwdrivers and tweezers were wielded to recalibrate the technological gizmos and appliances that were woven together, seeming more like a Rube Goldberg machine built with borrowed parts than a sleek international radio studio control room. Further complicating matters, operatives from the Frente Zapatista came in pleading help from the alternative media operatives to fix the sound system inside and outside the assembly hall. Pirate radio workers from Radios Sabotaje, Zapote, Pacheco, and others rushed to the hall to fix the direct access to the microphone’s soundboard. A journalist from Rebeldía magazine, meanwhile, had to restring the lights in the assembly hall: onlookers gaped in awe as, standing on a wobbly bench, he twisted live electric wires in the rain with his bare hands. (Narco News acting publisher Luis Gómez’ adage, ”the job of an authentic journalist is to solve problems,” came to your correspondent’s mind more than once while taking notes on the battle underway.)

Lt. Colonel Moisés with Comandantes Davíd and Tacho
Photo: D.R. 2005 Juana Machetes
Moisés, a coordinator from here in La Garrucha of Internet and radio communications, with the Chiapas Indymedia worker known as Timor and a web designer named Adolfo, were at their posts in this little building where the future of rebel communications was about to make a great leap forward: Timor and Adolfo at their laptop computer screens, with a chat window opened to all the other media-makers – Radio Livre Brasil, Ké-Huelga in Mexico City, and others – and techies in other lands and regions were preparing the Internet mirror sites and live pirate radio broadcasts of the meeting. An activist with earphones and a wireless microphone came in get his signal adjusted. Chiapas Indymedia worker Xun, fresh from his work in Bolivarian Venezuela, couriered word and supplies back and forth, running through the mud and rain and two thousand participants standing around waiting for the event to begin, between the studio and the assembly hall stage. Phrases that your correspondent barely understood, like, “connect it directly to the console,” and “with what cable?” were shouted aloud.

Miraculously, it seemed to your correspondent, by the time the masked avengers Marcos, the fifteen members of the Zapatista Sixth Commission, Comandantes Ramona, Susana, Esther, Tacho Davíd, and Lieutenant Colonal Moisés arrived at the meeting hall, the signal was up and running again, and the proceedings were being broadcast, live, via Internet and the many radio stations receiving it, to the world. (The speaker system, however, in the back of the assembly hall was not yet working, though: Your correspondent and another journalist-of-the-pen, Mariana of Chiapas Indymedia, struggled inside the Internet-radio studio with ears pinned to a tiny speaker to hear the words being spoken by the rebels over the din of the tech workers here who were making the broadcast happen: this, while trying not to block our notebooks from the sole flickering light of one little candle that illuminated the room.)

Although similar live Internet broadcasts have been accomplished in the past (for example, from the World Trade Organization protests in Cancún in September 2003), this one, under adverse jungle rainforest circumstances, constituted the first achievement of its kind broadcasting an historic act of this magnitude. The cooperation between independent media projects – long plagued by protagonisms and turf wars, and still with miles to go before it sleeps – bode well for the kind of cooperation that will be required by different organizations and tendencies as the Other Campaign takes form.

Journalist Envy

“The aim of journalism should be service,” the aforementioned Gandhi once said. As communicators in service of the people and convoked by the Other Campaign draw closer together, the gap between career journalists (those affixed on power from above) and service journalists (from below) continues to become more polarized. Indeed, the Spaniard news agency EFE griped:

“Fifty non-traditional media organizations, united in the alternative Indymedia movement, made it possible for the voice of Subcomandante Marcos to be heard by whomever had an internet connection, simultaneous as the meeting attendees in the faraway town of La Garrucha in the state of Chiapas… Meanwhile, the majority of the journalists that attended this meeting, deprived of electricity for most of the time and with the impossibility of Internet access, had to drive hours by car over earthen roads to find a place from which to transmit their reports.”

Right. Here’s another Kleenex, donated free of charge from authentic journalists to those self-pitying Commercial Media workers that had their own cars – gas, expenses and time paid for by their bosses – to go file their “reports,” and, gasp, had to spend time working and using those resources. A key difference, of course, between two opposite forms of media that collide in the Other Campaign is that the individuals and organizations that worked so hard to bring everyone that broadcast are vocal adherents to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, known as the Sexta, and therefore part of it. There is no law that prevents other journalists, media workers or communicators from doing the same. As Marcos defined a week ago, after another of these mountain meetings:

“We would also like to thank the media workers for their patience and work (although they were crafty about it, only appearing at the beginning and at the end and not staying for the entire meeting). Like others, they continue to need their own preparatory meeting to tell us of their story and their struggle. I imagine that it has to happen. When you finally decide to subscribe yourselves to the Sexta, you will have, in us, an attentive and respectful ear.”

It may be that while no law prohibits Commercial Media journalists from adhering to the Sexta, their employers would retaliate against them or fire them for doing so. If that is the case, though, Commercial Media journalists as a class have even more necessity to fight for their freedom and join together in struggle. If they don’t fight for themselves, who, really, will fight for them? In other words, those journalists that have not yet fought to establish a space for their own press freedom are precisely the ones that need most to fight for it. So get to work, colleagues, and don’t complain when those who have fought and do fight for our freedom make advances as a result of our struggles.

Unarmed Zapatista insurgents
Photo: D.R. 2005 Juana Machetes
To be fair, a couple of international Commercial Media workers, this week, distinguished themselves as more thoughtful and better listeners than so many others that have circled, at times like vultures, over this Other Campaign. Mark Stevenson of Associated Press termed this meeting part of an “historic transformation… the likes of which have rarely been seen in the Americas.” And Jo Tuckman of the Guardian of London (report pending) distinguished herself as the first international Commercial Media journalist in seven jungle meetings this summer to remain carefully listening and reporting throughout the entire 20-plus hours of proceedings.

(Contrast those examples with New York Timesman James W. McKinley’s statement this month to a Narco News source that he doesn’t consider the Zapatista Other Campaign as news: “It would only be news,” he said, according to the source, “if they started shooting again or laid down their arms.” Of course, McKinley’s arrogant presumption caused him to miss exactly that story, part of what Stevenson called an historic transformation: the Zapatista soldiers at this meeting, for the first time in a public gathering with their commanders in their own territory, appeared without guns, and, as previously mentioned, Marcos will come out to the rest of the country unarmed. Here’s a famous Mexican saying to help the struggling linguist McKinley learn to better understand Spanish: Camarones que se duermen se llevan al coktel, or “shrimp that sleep wake up in the cocktail.” Mmmmm. Coktel de camarón…)

The First Revolution

The presence of Comandanta Susana at Friday night’s opening session invoked memories of what Subcomandante Marcos years ago called “the first uprising of the EZLN,” when, in March of 1993, prior to the New Year’s uncloaking by the EZLN to the public, Susana organized the Zapatista women into proposing the Zapatista Women’s Law, bringing unprecedented rights for indigenous women in Chiapas. “It was headed by Zapatista women,” recalled Marcos of the uprising. “There were no casualties and they won… things of this land.”

In this fine tradition, on Saturday morning, when the marathon session to decide the terms of the Other Campaign began, came two new uprisings.

The first came right at the start of the assembly meeting. As has become habit in these weeks of preparatory meetings, videographers and photographers – from Commercial and Alternative Media alike – set up their tripods in the front row hours before the session began. And as the meeting was called to order, the participants on the benches behind them began shouting “Sit down! Sit down!” to limited degrees of success. This time, though, the masked commandantes on stage joined in the call. “Yesterday you took photos,” Marcos commented to the camerapersons. “Today we are here to work.” Some photographers moved to the sides, but others remained standing, blocking the view of other participants.

The shouts of “qué se sienten” (“sit down!”) became a resounding chant from the bleachers, repeated each round with increased volume. Marcos approached the microphone anew, saying: “We are not going to begin until you go to the back.” He sat down on his own bench and silently waited. Incredibly, one cameraman in a key position refused to budge. This went on for various interminable minutes. Another Zapatista comandante approached the mic, asking the photographer to please “move to the back, or to the sides.” Still, he did not move. Finally the audience could take it no more, screaming and chanting at the guy, “Move it! Sit down!” Whistles, catcalls and insults ensued as the meeting remained delayed from starting. Finally, sufficiently shamed, the cameraman moved to the side, to the applause of all. It was the First Revolution of the Other Campaign. And significantly, it was part of the repositioning underway of how a movement relates to the Media. Gone are the days when social movements geared themselves to getting mere scraps of attention from the press by sucking up obsequiously to its representatives. What is happening here will happen with or without the Fourth Estate. And after all, that is the only way to earn the respect of anybody – including the press: to stand up for one’s own dignity first.

Wanted: A New Political Literacy

The Second Revolution of the Other Campaign came about an hour later. The first hour of debate – topic one was “the characteristics of the Other Campaign” – was dreadful. Political group after political group marched up to the microphone (this time with an agreed-upon time limit of five minutes per comment), and many engaged in Old Left-style orations about national issue platforms and other matters that seemed to have little to do with the immediate and pressing stages of the Other Campaign as it had been outlined. There was nary a reference to the upcoming six-month listening tour or the other aspects that had been announced the night before. Much moaning and groaning and shifting in seats could be heard from the gathered public. The first plenary session of the Other Campaign – in which political, social, non-governmental, artistic, collective, indigenous and other organizations, as well as individuals are now taking part in the decisions – seemed adrift toward an iceberg of irrelevancy.

“These political types have no idea of what it means to practice a new kind of politics,” one man from San Cristóbal complained to your correspondent. “It’s like a form of political illiteracy,” said his companion. “We need an ABCs of how to practice the new form of making politics.”

To wit: One speaker took the stage, droned on for five minutes about vague matters of anti-capitalism, and the need for a large national front to lead the fight, followed by another from the same organization that said essentially the same thing. Since the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle already defines the Other Campaign as against capitalism, the calls for it to be such seemed at minimum redundant, and, worse, to be coming from those who must not have read it (although to be at the podium meant that they had signed their names to it). This was evidently frustrating for all those – the so far silent majority of this plenary meeting – who had read what they signed. Then followed a third man from the same organization repeating the same (the blabber did not, at the time, awaken enough interest in your correspondent to write down the name of the organization; something its members are probably grateful for today). By the time the next speaker came to consume five minutes of everyone else’s time, and identified him self as from the same organization, the people in the audience had had enough. They began whistling and hurling insults at the speaker about his group’s gamesmanship and disrespect for the process at hand. They would not let him finish, and at some point he limped off stage. The next speaker – now the fifth – was also from the same organization. He began by begging pardon, saying, “it was not our intent” to dominate the microphone. “Then what are you doing there?” shouted someone from the crowd. People whistled loudly and made it impossible for him to even offer an apology, and off he went.

And thus, the Old Left practice of stacking a speaker’s list and trying to dominate a meeting’s agenda on the part of one small group, so common to political meetings and assemblies in Mexico and elsewhere, hit a brick wall on Saturday. That marked the Second Revolution of the Other Campaign: a victory for “a new way of making politics” over the old. After that, the quality of the meeting improved substantially (and some of the national groups famous for that kind of tactic remained, for the rest of the sessions, uncharacteristically quiet as church mice). Rare displays of candor and self-doubt on the political left began to find voice. “We don’t have enough cohesion yet to construct autonomous regions as the Zapatistas have done,” confessed Manuel Fernández of Mexico City. “First we need to demonstrate that we are capable enough to conduct our own proceedings with civility,” said a man from a group calling itself La Neta Amorfa. Old Left veteran Edgar Sánchez, who had proposed in a previous preparatory meeting that the Other Campaign mount “a candidate without a registered political party” (in other words, one that does not appear on the ballot) spoke to withdraw his original proposal. “Now that we know it will be Subcomandante Marcos on the road for the Other Campaign,” said Sánchez, “our proposal is no longer necessary. There is no one better than Marcos to embody the campaign for the public.”

National University professor Julio Muñoz Rubio spoke in counterpoint to many of the more traditional left groups that restricted their words to a political or economic analysis of the capitalist system. “The character of the Other Campaign should be otherwise. We run the risk of falling into a campaign strictly based on political and economic positions. It is simply false to say that capitalism is only an economic-political matter. It is also scientific, genomic, and robotic. It involves technologies that affect our health and our environment. Capitalism also affects the artistic and the cultural realms of society. We need a campaign that is also against any form of ideological domination, one that is counter-hegemony in all forms.”

“How do we deal with the plurality of the attendees of this meeting here?” asked Alejandro Cruz López, the recently released political prisoner from Oaxaca’s Emerald Coast. “We, as indigenous people, have been thinking hard about what we bring to this effort. We wonder how to do this without getting too ideologically deep. We need to stand each other, all of us, to make a huge effort to make alliances. Many of us talk about a new form of politics, but we don’t practice it. But as indigenous organizations, we want to say that we are available to meet with everyone who wants to meet with us.”

The difference in speech patterns, choice of words, emphasis, etcetera between many indigenous participants and the “educated left” (that is to say, those who attended universities) continues to strike your correspondent. Cruz, for example, addressed his comments in plain language directly to the others there. He was not making an oration or addressing the applause-meter, the media, or some invisible power from above. He was, in a word, conscious of who he shared this hall with, and eager to get to know new people and forces with the goal of making alliances (in private, he remained the same: interested in other people’s struggles, seeking common ground and action). His intervention was not one of “talking at” people, but rather seeking a conversation with them. As the proceedings continued well into the night and into the next day, the stark contrast between the leftspeak of some organizational activists and the human touch of some indigenous and other speakers revealed itself as an ongoing challenge for the Other Campaign.

A Shotgun Wedding

Any reader familiar with similar problems of the Old Left will note from the quotes above that a huge predominance of those who flocked to the microphone in the early hours of this plenary meeting were men. For the first part of the day, the women held back. This did not reflect the demography of the attendees, but it sure did skew the discussion into some rigid ideological cul-de-sacs that tend to be the domain of the minority gender that is male. During a break in the meeting, Nanny Alves, born in the northeastern Brazil state of Recife, now six years living in Cuba as a dancer with the National Ballet of Havana, who came, she said, “because I want to see how my América struggles,” offered that ideological rigidity is part and parcel of the problems that many of us have gathered here to fight.

“So much of what I’ve heard so far,” Alves told Narco News, “reminds me of the man described by Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer in the Dialectica de Esclarecimento.” (That’s Portuguese for Dialectic of Enlightenment, originally published as part of a 300-page mimeographed pamphlet in 1944 by those two philosophers of the Frankfurt School.)

In that text, Adorno and Horkheimer set out, they said, “to explain why humanity, instead of entering a truly human state, is sinking into a new kind of barbarism,” writing about how humankind’s “fear of the unknown” (or of The Other) leads to a society based on domination: of human over nature, and of human over human. Adorno and Horkheimer ruthlessly dissected the entire concept of “ideology” as itself a form of domination:

“All are free to dance and enjoy themselves, just as they have been free, since the historical neutralisation of religion, to join any of the innumerable sects. But freedom to choose an ideology – since ideology always reflects economic coercion – everywhere proves to be freedom to choose what is always the same.”

Again and again, the meeting seemed to clash along this fault line. A member of the Coordinadora Anarquista Feminista (the “Anarchist Feminist Coordinator” organization) came back to the Zapatista definition of the Other Campaign as being “of the left.” She said, “‘Of the left’ should explicitly mean anti-hierarchical and anti-authoritarian.”

Indeed, the longest debate of the day was over whether the Other Campaign should be organized “vertically” or “horizontally” with the dividing line, more less, coming from older left organizations in favor of verticality and a generally younger post-Zapatista wave of collectives and individuals insisting that only horizontality – in which each organization and individual maintains its absolute autonomy, with no person or group having authority over another – would allow their participation.

Your correspondent’s educated guess is that a simple show of hands would have revealed an overwhelming majority in favor of organizing horizontally and non-hierarchically. But votes were not taken. The comments and various opinions on the organizational structure and other aspects of the Other Campaign are now being emailed to all the adherents to the Sixth Declaration for further debate, so that all can participate. As Marcos at the end of the plenary noted, “91 social organizations out of 162 came, meaning that 71 social organizations didn’t make it. 36 political organizations came, missing 19 still to come. 129 NGOs, groups and collectives came, 324 are still needed. 26 indigenous organizations came, leaving 29 more to come. 196 individuals arrived, missing 1,428. In no way do we constitute a majority and we have to construct something so that any of these compañeros that couldn’t come for whatever reason know that their place is reserved when something happens.” The summaries of the debates at the plenary session; about the character of the campaign, who is included and not, the organizational structure, the concerns of women, indigenous, “other loves,” etcetera, are posted at the Rebeldía magazine site for further comment. So there’s another victory for “horizontality” in organization: one doesn’t have to attend the meeting to have a say.

And here’s another paradox, revealed in Marcos’ written notes that responded to a second intervention by the Anarchist Feminist Coordinator, when, during a discussion of “who is convoked, and who is not” to participate in the Other Campaign, the anarcho-feminists proposed that “political parties and organizations that seek power, or that are authoritarian, or hierarchical, or that have exercised any kind of violence against women” should be excluded from the Other Campaign.

In his notes, Marcos replied, “That would leave us (the Zapatista army) outside, because we are hierarchical.”

And so it is, as the Other Campaign takes its baby steps, as organizations and individuals with very different views of them selves, of each other, and of the world, strive to work together, many for the first time: the old-style left is having to learn to live with the new-style left, to accept the difference in the other; the different ways of self-managing, and the different demographic characteristics and styles. Conversely, the new-style left, if it insists that everyone else at the table self-organize exactly as it does (non-hierarchical, etcetera) quickly comes to mirror the very old left that it breaks from through the old style ideology that insists on imposing a sameness upon all: Acceptance of differences in The Other is a two-way street. And in this shotgun wedding between those of all stripes that must fight together because they (we) are under attack by the same impositions from above, we’ve barely reached the courting stage.

In any case, there is time, plenty of time, believe it or not. It will be nine more months before Marcos completes his fact-finding mission across the country. And only then will we have a better x-ray of where the struggle is located, and with whom to go into battle. Like Gandhi returning to India, it’s been 22 years since he has known his own country. Welcome back, Subcomandante. Have a good voyage. We – and many, many others – have got your back.

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