On the morning of January 1st 1994 a previously unheard of armed group in the state of Chiapas, South East Mexico, seized control of seven town and cities, freeing prisoners from jails and setting fire to police stations. This was the EZLN or Zapatista Army of National Liberation (Ejército Zapatista de Liberación Nacional), the military wing of what came to be referred to as the Zapatista’s. By the standards of South and Central America the rebellion was a minor, short lived and small scale conflict, the fighting was over within 12 days. But what marked the Zapatista’s out was not their use of arms but the politics behind the rising, the large scale and long lived experiment in direct democracy that followed and perhaps most importantly the huge influence they were to have on the emerging summit protest left over the decade that followed.
These are two audio interviews with US anarchist Ashanti Alston who the WSM have brought to Ireland to speak at the Anarchist bookfair. Ashanti describes himself as a former member of the Black Panther Party and a former soldier in the Black Liberation Army, in connection with which he served 14 years in prison in the US. Today he is an active US anarchist who speaks at events all over North America, giving him a valuable persepective on the state of the movement today.
A PDF pamphlet which contains two articles looking at the struture of the Zapatistas and their strategy. The first from 1997 was based around interviews done in a Zapatista community and with international peace observers as well as an exhaustive study of material in English on the Zapatistas including all their communiques. The second written in 2005 updates the critique developed in the first in the light of the new direction announced in 2005.
The EZLN (Zapatista National Liberation Army) came briefly to the worlds attention when they seized several towns in Chiapas on New Years day in 1994. This image of a new armed rebel movement in the period when such movements were meant to have recognised their own redundancy was startling and demonstrated that history was not yet over.
Since then most of the continued support the Zapatistas have received is strongly based on the idea that the Zapatistas are different. Different not just from the neoliberal world order they oppose but, more fundamentally, different from the armed revolutionary groups that exist and have existed elsewhere in the world. [This text as a PDF pamphlet]
This was a talk I gave to the WSM during the spring of 1997 as part of a set of re-orientation talks and debates we were having in that period and which set us up for the Seattle wave. This is perhaps foreshadowed where I wrote "the fact that the Zapatistas have emphasised the need for a global response has resulted in the creation of a global network against neoliberalism ... This network is fragile, .. But the central importance of the gathering is that it is creating a new tradition of international solidarity."
Over the summer of 2005 the Zapatistas surprised their supporters by suddenly declaring a Red Alert out of the blue. After a couple of days of near panic it emerged that this was just because they were undergoing a consulta (a discussion and referendum) which would decide on a new path for the movement. This new path is to once more turn outwards and to aim to build a new alliance across Mexico and beyond.
The Zapatista rebellion of 1994 has become the 90's equivalent of the Cuban and Nicaraguan revolutions. It has excited the imagination of a layer of active young. The balaclava and pipe toting Marcos is becoming the same sort of visual icon that the bearded and beret wearing Ché was 30 years earlier. And perhaps it is this similarity that has scared the organised anarchist movement into comparative silence on the on-going rebellion in Chiapas?
At the end of October (2006), Denis Vranich, a millionaire night club owner and property speculator was convicted of a sexual assault on a 22 year old his employee working at his club. The Hamilton Spectator reported that "Vranich grabbed the woman, pulled down her bodice, groped her breasts and penetrated her with his finger", in her Victim Impact Statement the employee reported "The thought of him makes me absolutely nauseous and brings on panic attacks".
Normally the settlement of claims to property are something the court system takes very seriously. The very foundation of capitalism after all is that some person can claim ownership of a piece of land, and through that ownership charge others rent to use it.
On January 1st 1994, a rebel army called the Emiliano Zapata Liberation Front (EZLN) rose against the Mexican government in Chiapas, Mexico. Workers Solidarity contributor Andrew Flood has been researching the life of ordinary people in the Zapatista area. Below he writes about some of his findings