The Zapatista Tour, a Meeting of Rebels

By Raúl Zibechi

What we are lacking are new forms of resistance capable of putting the  brakes on the new world war, since the old ways of doing politics have shown their limitations, if not their failure. Hundreds of collectives across Europe are agreeing to organize the tour of the members of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation, the National Indigenous Congress – Indigenous Governing Council (CNI-CIG) and the Peoples’ Front in Defense of Water and Land of Morelos, Puebla, Tlaxcala in the second half of this year.

There are thousands of militants and activists from the most diverse sectors and identities that are converging in support of the initiative launched months ago by Mexican neo-Zapatismo. In the firs of six communiques, in October 2020, they underscore that despite the repression and crimes of the system, “it is again time for hearts to dance, and not to the music nor the steps of lament and resignation.”

This step, from withdrawal to the rupture of the media and military-police siege that all of the movements of the world are suffering is a decisive moment for the immediate future. All of the data we have suggests that the 1% of the richest on the planet intend to take advantage of the pandemic to impose a proportional defeat on those below.  

As the italian philosopher Giorgio Agamben has pointed out, the epidemic offers the pretext to impose the suspension of constitutional guarantees through states of exception, now that  the argument of terrorism seems worn out and is no longer credible. Social distancing fulfills the measures for which it is intended, to drown all resistance of those affected by the model, those that are “left over” in Zapatista language. 

In their analysis about what they consider the Fourth World War of capital against the peoples, the EZLN commits to “not confuse resistance with political opposition,” which only opposes a government but not the system (7 loose piece of the global jigsaw puzzle, June 1997).

In this work, the late subcomandante Marcos, underscores that neoliberalism proposes to “dispose of all those who have no place in its new apportionment of the world.” We are not facing a war between States, but rather the conquest of territories to depopulate and destroy them, in order tor rebuild them according to the needs of capital accumulation. 

In his analysis, he concludes that “the wars of the 21st century will be against those who want to be different. (“What are the characteristics of the Fourth World War?” November 20th, 1999). This includes all the differences: of skin color, of gender and of and sexual preference, of country and nationality, and of all those that simply want to continue being different or need to be so in order to not disappear as peoples. 

Some, simply for living above water, oil or uranium reserves, are enemies of the capital that needs to displace them  to continue converting natural assets into merchandise. We are facing a world war of plunder. The conflict zones coincide, in Latin America but also in Europe, with the zones where there is an abundance of common goods to extract, which provides us with an exact map of this ongoing war.

We have a more-than-adequate analysis about what is happening before our eyes. What is lacking are new forms of resistance capable of stopping the new world war, now that the old models of doing politics have shown their limitations, if not their failure. 

After the government of Syriza in Greece and the progressive governments in Latin America, it seems imperative to seek new ways to continue holding up the banner of the transformation of the world, and the objectives of social revolutions. To continue going down the institutional path does not seem the most appropriate in this decisive hour for humanity.

The Zapatista tour proceeds in a different direction, looking for an encounter between those from below and those on the left. A meeting place to get to know one another, accept our diverse ways and forms of walking and of changing the world. To strengthen and multiply the resistances in each place. 

They don’t believe it is necessary to form hierarchical apparatuses with permanent leaders and large structures that end up reproducing the same world that they are trying to combat and transform. I understand that this is a point of disagreement in our ranks between those who reject capitalism, patriarchy and colonialism. It may, therefore, be a good moment to reflect, take stock, and illuminate new steps.

The great challenge for those who bet on this non-institutional course consists of stabilizing and making permanent these meeting spaces, something that we have rarely achieved. Keeping ourselves organized and active over time, relating in a horizontal way between organizations and individuals, is a great challenge that requires listening and mutual respect. 

Maybe the 7 principles of the EZLN and the CNI can serve as a reference in this process of collective construction: to serve others, not serve oneself, to build and not destroy, to represent and not replace, convince and not defeat, obey and not command, to work from below, not seek to rise, to propose and not impose. 

This is not a simple recipe for collective work, but rather possible ways to respect the differences and even with them, to continue sharing spaces and walking shoulder to shoulder. It will not be easy. A new political culture is not born through magic, overnight, nor by the commitment of a few people. It requires a lot of time, working with individual and collective egos so that they are not obstacles, that is, to go against the current of the individualist culture proposed by the capitalist one.

This text is a call to involve ourselves in the Zapatista tour, but more than that, to dare to share space- time with people that we don’t agree with, or don’t like for the most different reasons. To learn to live with those that are different is not a walk in the country on a spring day. It is an arduous task, but indispensable in order to survive a system that threw all of us that were left over in a bag – of resistance. 

This article was originally published in Spanish in Naiz on January 10, 2020. This English interpretation has been re-published by Schools for Chiapas.

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