EZLN: 40 years since its founding and 30 years since its rebellion

30th Anniversary poster Art by Gran Om & Co.

In Mexico, a democratic transition never took place with the collapse of the State party regime, with the arrival of Vicente Fox to the Presidency of the Republic. It was an alternation of State parties, in which there was a systemic continuity, a mere change of political elites, within the framework of what we have called tutelary democracy.

In this context of failed democratic transition, the rebellion of the Mayan Zapatistas on January 1, 1994, burst into the world arena at a time when the capitalist system was celebrating its triumph over real socialism, and even when one of its spokespeople was referring to the “end of history1.”

This movement represented an important oxygenation of the movements of rebellion and emancipation, of construction and strengthening of concrete utopias, which can be felt 30 years after the historic armed uprising.

The rebellion of the indigenous peoples imposed on the national question the urgent debate on their rights to self-determination and autonomy, systematically denied by the Europeanizing and pro-American oligarchic elites, and by a mestizocracy, all rooted in deeply racist neocolonialist mentalities, and also made evident the need to assume the multilingual, multicultural and pluriethnic character of the majority of the nations of our America, among them, Mexico.

This rebellion opens the way to a transformation of the autonomous subjects themselves, that is, the indigenous peoples, making room for the governments of commanding by obeying, revolutionary women’s laws, and youth participation in all instances of community power. All this imbued with a remarkable ethical congruence that is consolidated with the application, in daily life and in political life, of Zapatista principles, which contrast with the pragmatism, deterioration and amnesia of anti-capitalist strategies of the institutionalized left.

On the path of a failed negotiation with the Mexican State, which continues to this day, the Mayan Zapatistas established an alliance, strengthened during these decades, with the indigenous resistance movement at the national level, with the founding of the National Indigenous Congress in 1996, which renewed itself during Marichuy’s campaign to achieve the candidacy for the Presidency of the Republic in 2018, and, above all, in the current movement in defense of the territories in the face of the recolonization, militarization and use of organized crime as another armed actor of the counterinsurgency and as a hired assassin for corporate interests.

For the anti-capitalist left, the EZLN-CNI-CIG is a reference of political action that integrates a pole of resistance not only in Mexico, but also in the international arena, which has allowed it to consolidate and maintain a certain unity in diversity, which cultivates critical thinking, commitment and dedication that distinguished the revolutionary left in crucial moments of the history of emancipation of humanity, of its struggle against class exploitation, patriarchy, racism and forms of oppression of humans.

In sum, the rebellion of the Mayan Zapatistas in 1994 and the subsequent development of this movement as a builder of autonomous powers in permanent change pose an emancipatory alternative that, although surrounded by the counterinsurgency, in its criminal variant, represents a source of anti-capitalist, anti-racist and anti-patriarchal struggle, together with the National Indigenous Congress-Indigenous Council of Government, and the accompaniment of numerous solidarity groups of the national and international civil society.

This movement raises the need to reformulate the reconstitution of the nation, but, from below, as the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle makes explicit, starting from being closely linked to the problems, demands, struggles and resistances of the popular majorities, that is, to be rooted and nourished in the space and time of the People’s Nation.

Despite a counterinsurgency strategy, active since 1994 and currently intensified by extreme provocative actions of criminal paramilitarism, militarization and militarism deployed in the extension and depth of the national territory by the government of the fourth transformation, the EZLN celebrates 40 years of its founding, with a bold political initiative for life, against capitalism, racism and patriarchy, which has taken its dialogue with peoples and movements in struggle to the ends of the world, beginning in the unsubmissive territory of Europe.

Maintaining the flame of the concrete and possible utopia, the ethical congruence of “everything for everyone, nothing for us”, is an extraordinary political merit of the EZLN in these 40 years of struggle and 30 years of its rebellion, without surrendering, without selling out and without giving up.

Original text by Gilberto López y Rivas in La Jornada on June 21st, 2024.
Translation by Schools for Chiapas.

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  1. A reference referring to a certain political or economic system being the end point of human sociocultural development, and the final form of human government.
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