The Tour as a Challenge to the Rebel Imaginary

by Raúl Zibechi

Critical thinking and rebellious and revolutionary practices were contaminated by military logic, to the point of molding them into the spirit of war, which was accelerated with the revolutions of the 20th century. The concepts of tactics and strategy, of offensive and defensive, among others began to occupy a central place in critical thinking.

The social struggles came to be considered a part of a military device, to the point that a simple strike was defined by the Red Trade Union International as strike combat, with the workers part of a strike army, while the leaders integrated the staff of the working class in struggle.

It is apparent that it had to do with a political culture that subordinated the masses to the hierarchies of the party and the union, who defined the tasks of a human group that, as their name indicates, did not have the ability to lead themselves, but only to follow in the path outlined by leaders, generally self- proclaimed. 

[These are}Reflections that come from the thread of the Zapatista tour in progress and from the awkwardness of naming it with the concepts of the old political culture. In principle, we would be facing the greatest political offensive of those from below in a very long time. However, the very idea of an offensive is neither sufficient nor does it begin to reach what is beginning to happen. 

The offensive is, always, against something that should be destroyed or neutralized. But the tour is another thing. While the resistance of the peoples is against capitalism and neoliberalism, the military metaphor confuses, for pointing in a direction that it is not.

It is true that in 2019 the EZLN broke the political, media, and military siege established against the Zapatista territories. But the siege wasn’t broken militarily, but rather politically, by way of the organization of new communities and support bases. Those who broke the siege were basically women and young people who used as their weapon words and listening to promote the campaign Samir Flores lives! In which they created new caracoles and centers of resistance. (https://bit.ly/3xkGbIp).

Military logic implies climbing toward state power, this is why wars are waged, while Zapatista logic implies growing to the sides through the organization of more and more communities, towns and neighborhoods. They are two opposite ways of walking: upwards and downwards, toward the State or toward the people.

At this point, a clarification. The use of weapons is not related to adopting a military logic that leads to militarism. The indigenous peoples, blacks and mestizos have always used weapons, to defend themselves and in order to continue being peoples, but they didn’t turn the use of weapons into an argument to impose themselves on and subjugate other peoples, individuals or collectives.

The Zapatista tour should be understood as a massive exercise of dialogue and listening, between hundreds of collectives and thousands of individuals, in circles of equals, to recognize one another, to learn what we have in common in order to continue walking, enriched by what we have lived and what we know. I don’t imagine anyone saying what others should do, like in the old political culture. 

It is a tour to make visible and strengthen the networks that have existed for nearly three decades. Networks that have mutated, especially due to the generational change after the crisis of 2008, when a handful of European movements took over territory and began a new path that, in a way, establishes new dialogues with the movements of Latin America.

The second issue that I find remarkable is that the tour creates its own agenda, it does not react to the agenda from above. In general, movements respond to the initiatives of capital to resist and stop them. In this case, the tour has to do with an initiative born in the Zapatista communities and in various movements throughout Mexico.

Building its own agenda, below and among those below, is synonymous with autonomy; while the agenda that reacts to power, as valuable as it is, does not manage to position itself in autonomous terrain. It is evident that building an agenda of this time requires time, patience, and a great deal of will, because building collectively is much more difficult than destroying (as the system does) or commanding others (as the old political culture does.)

The Zapatista tour is the most transcendent political event of recent times. An adventure that will allow us to know new worlds, some that we didn’t even suspect because they are born in the fissures that we have created, that are only visible to those that opened them, while the politicians and media from above ignore or disparage them, in the event that they manage to see thm.

The fruits will be seen someday. As has happened with the Indigenous Governing Council, in my view, this great creation from below has to be cooked over a slow fire, in hundreds of assemblies, meetings and exchanges. 

This piece was published in La Jornada on July 2, 2021. https://www.jornada.com.mx/2021/07/02/opinion/019a2pol This English interpretation has been republished by Schools for Chiapas.