Time and Zapatismo

“Our voice is not only the voice of the indigenous of Mexico. it is at once that of all the women of the world.” Photo: Francisco Lion

By Sergio Rodríguez Lazcano

How long did it take the Zapatistas to decide something so important and transcendent as travelling the world to dialogue, listen, see, feel taste, know, be known, discover, and be discovered? Normally deciding this shouldn’t take much time. We are talking about simple things that should be as natural as bread and salt.

But the times that we are living in (for many years already) are not normal. We live in harsh times, where from the power of money and the stagnant thinking of what was the left, what they look for is the imposition of a single thinking, full of atavisms and prejudices.

In an article by Juan Villoro entitled “Ulysses, Zapatista” he reminds us of this saying by Subcomandante Galeano, that I believe synthesizes what is happening today in the world, not just in Mexico:

“We don’t know about you, but if we Zaptatistas were lazy in our thinking, we would be in an institutional political party.

(The Method, the Bibliography and a Drone Deep in the Mountains of the Mexican Southeast.” SupGaleano, May 4th 2015.)

But, what is it that has allowed the geometric development of this laziness of thinking? In the great Brazilian novel of João Guimarães Rosa, Grande Sertão: Veredas (Great Wilderness: Trails), the devil who is the central character in it, tells the troubled Riobaldo that thinking causes vertigo. I believe that many people grew tired of living with vertigo and preferred the comfort of laziness. 

Laziness always generates certainties, few, but fixed. At the same time, it teaches a secure path, outside of the risks of the unprecedented. In the state of laziness, there is no amazement or surprise. In  the end, only the “successes” that have been repeated since the 19th century are approved.

I believe that one of the proficiencies of the Zapatista compañeros has been to break with the schematic and the lazy, which has a double feature: it impoverishes the theories on which it claims to rely, because it reduces them to clichés and, at the same time, it invalidates the creation of self-generated thought. 

The idea of going around the world starting with old Europe (I believe it was not for nothing to decide to start with that continent), I believe, was created and recreated for a long time. Somehow, it crowns a whole series of initiatives that began with the intergalactic and that, at the moment of greatest despair and abandonment, made it possible to design a viable horizon of struggle. Viable for the simple reason of its place to the left of the possible.

Upon analyzing the make-up of Squadron 421 and of the entire Initiative for Life, what stands out is the enormous will and decision of the participants, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. What to me is of particular interest is trying to understand how they arrived at that decision. How, in the heart of the Zapatista communities, this discussion was carried out. How they arrived at the conclusion that yes, there is a possibility of building a bridge or a safe haven in the face of the scale of the catastrophe that looms over humanity.

Since the final days of 1994 through the construction of the caracoles in 2003, and their multiplication in 2019, they could have created a feeling of security and refuge. The bunkers that the Zapatistas have built could have carried a feeling of comfort. Not because there is great wealth, but for the simple reason that in the Zapatista territories, everyone has their food, their health (of course the pandemic that we are living in also affects them, but the speed with which the closing of the Caracoles was decided, as the Mexican health system was sliding down the slide of the vanity fair was striking), and their basic conditions of survival.

I imagine the seriousness of their discussions because I see the scale of their decision, but also in seeing the form, which is also the substance, I can make out the joy with which an action like this is undertaken.

What we want to say with all of this, is that the ownership of the great initiative of going to tour the world to be able to generate the possible defense mechanisms against the destruction that capitalism brings to bear is not a product of one genius mind, but of all of the Zapatista communities as a whole.

This is how thinking that has power is generated. Suddenly, politics recoups its foundational character. It is not a work of specialists, but of the common people, the manna of power disappears and all of its myths and fallacies are laid bare. 

For those of us that come from the old left, that have participated in congresses, encounters, and international meetings, we watch with confusion as hundreds and thousands (because it seems that those who are going are a selection of all that were inclined to do so, and from there, of all those that took part in the discussion and decision) of member of the Zapatista communities propose such a comprehensive work plan and at the same time say that they want to dance and play football. All of this should cause us to reflect on what we did and how we did it. 

The Zapatistas have told us that the insurrection of the 1st of January was discussed and decided by the communities and there are minutes to attest to it. This way of making decisions will be  maintained and extended to the formation of a democracy that is not only direct but also constituent.

Deciding to carry out the struggle for life throughout the world had to be a process in which the communities discussed, consented and agreed upon, based on a profound updating on what had already been raised about the risks that loom not only over a social class, or a political party, but over humanity as a whole.

And then, from the deepest part of global society, from the deep below, the descendants of the Mayan peoples seek to create a great bridge that allows, with a foundation in very concrete points, that almost summarizes the minimum of common survival, a coming and going of struggles, experiences, feelings, desires, pains, histories, cultures, parties and soccer, that sways to the sweet rhythm of those who don’t impose, but share. 

And, last but not least, in the outpost that is Squadron 421, a non-binary person, Marijose, from what they have shared with us, will be the first to set foot on land. Not the general secretary of a party, not the intellectual who expects to leave speechless those who, passive and spellbound, listen to him, not the one who today is what he so-much hated (paraphrasing José Emilio Pacheco), not the old leftist today converted to the theory that all is negotiable in kind of bazaar of opportunities.

A non-binary person will set foot on Europe as the leading edge and with this deed, they will send a profound message to the world about the reason why the era of hegemonies and homogeneities should revert to prehistory and leave no trace. 

So, how much time did the Zapatista communities take in discussing-deciding this wondrous initiative? 529 years? 500 years? 200 years? 111 years? 27 years? We will let others amuse themselves and twist themselves into balls with the dates. They took time…whatever was necessary. Just the right amount of time, which is the foundation of the perpetual present of Zapatismo. Well, that’s what I believe anyway.

Sergio Rodríguez Lazcano is a leftist militant since 1967. Author of the book: The Crisis of Power and Us. In addition to many other works of social reflection, he is the author of the prologue and compiler of the book: Writings About the War and the Political Economy of Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos.

This piece was published in Camino al Andar, on June 8th 2021. English interpretation by Schools for Chiapas.