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.
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.
In the late summer of 1996 I was one of the two Irish delegates to the 3,000 strong international meeting held in the rebel areas of Chiapas Mexico. The experience of getting to the meeting through miles of jungle and military checkpoints was an experience in itself but the meetings themselves were an extraordinary thing to find oneself at. For me it was a transformative experience both personally and politically, one of those points at which 'two roads diverge in a wood'.
This report of the second Zapatista encounter in Spain is something of a break with my normal writing style as I got swept up in the romance (and as it happens a romance) of the second encounter in Spain. Don't panic, the center section is a fairly detailed description of some of the actual discussions at the encounter. I spent the last day by the river and hence missed the decision by some to stay an extra couple of days and set up what became 'Peoples Global Action'! Bad revolutionary!
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?
REGULARS READERS of Workers Soldarity will have read of the Gathering in Chiapas, Mexico last year hosted by the EZLN (Zapatistas) attended by 3,000 rebels from all over the planet. A second gathering 'for Humanity and Against Neoliberalism was held this August in the Spanish state. Here we interview Irish Mexico Group activist and WSM member Andrew Flood, who helped organise and attended this gathering.
In August of 1996 3,000 people from all over the world gathered in jungle camps as guests of the EZLN to discuss building a global fight against neo-liberal capitalism. The EZLN is an army that has been in rebellion against the Mexican state since January 1 1994. Workers Solidarity Movement member Andrew Flood who attended as a delegate from the Irish Mexico Group reports on this conference.