Tour for Life and Hope

By Raúl Zibechi

In all the corners of the world those above are perpetrating a silent genocide against the indigenous and black peoples, peasants and poor, the city and the countryside. 

The Turkish army invades the north of Syria, razing Kurdish villages and cities. The government of Israel doesn’t vaccinate the Palestine population. In Manaus (in the Amazon of Brazil) thousands die in collapsing hospitals. In just these three weeks of 2021, there  have already been six massacres in Colombia with a death toll of more than 15.  (https://bbc.in/36fznA2).

The femicides have multiplied during the pandemic as an inseparable part of the genocide against those  (women and men) from below.

In Chiapas, the paramilitary gangs attack the communities of Moisés Gandhi with firearms. The script is alway the same: the paramilitaries like that of ORCAO, with advice from the armed forces, attack Zapatista bases of support;  the state and federal governments remain silent, or that is, they consent. The media and the parties remain silent, or that is, they consent.

In the Latinamerican urban peripheries and remote rural areas, not only are vaccinations not talked about, but neither do we have adequate hospital infrastructures or enough doctors and nurses.

One characteristic of the storm against those from below is that no one cares about them. No one reacts, no one is moved. Indifference is the policy of the states and of a good part of public opinion. Ayontzinapa1 happens every day, and not only in Mexico.

This is the policy consolidated from above, and accepted with enthusiasm by the political system. It is a military and media siege against the peoples, to immobilize them, while capital (freed from all controls) deepens its extensive and intense process of concentration and centralization in fewer and fewer hands. 

The Zapatista tour of European lands is an opportunity to break the siege, to once again gather in common spaces, to make ourselves heard and to weave ourselves together as peoples in resistance. The Zapatista proposal announced in October and restated on the 1st of January in the Declaration for Life is an enormous effort on the part of the communities to break the siege of death. 

The response from Europe came from the hand of more than a thousand collectives in more than 20 countries declaring  their willingness to join and organize the tour that will carry more than 100 Zapatistas, mostly women, to many corners of the continent. 

It will not be easy to organize a tour so extensive in a moment in which the pandemic knows no bounds, offering an occasion for the governments and the police to limit collective action. In Europe, rights to gather and demonstrate were limited, which is now casting doubt on how the celebration of March 8th will go.

Also it will be very challenging for thousands of activists to manage to come to agreement, being that they come from different histories, ideologies and ways of being. These diverse political cultures will find difficulties in overcoming both individual and collective egocentrism, the inevitable search for media spotlights for some, always few, but with great power for disintegration.

To the difficulties inherent to the situation, you have to add those stemming from so many years of fragmentation, and above all, the continuity of a political culture centered on the states, on male leaders, and on discourses that are not accompanied by coherent practices. 

The Zapatista expedition offers the opportunity to address two necessary tasks, besides that of the aforementioned breaking of the siege. 

The first is that it will allow the linking and coordination of collectives that are usually distant or that don’t even know one another. This isn’t about creating new apparatuses or structures, but rather of opening a wide spectrum of horizontal and egalitarian links, something much more difficult even than establishing a coordination that often repeats the defects of the current apparatus.

The second is that a deeper understanding of Zapatista ways of doing things can allow many people and collectives to enter into political cultures that until now only a few feminist and youth groups have put into practice.

One of the most depressing observations in militant environments is seeing how decade after decade they tend to repeat the same defects that, naively, we believe we have overcome. There is no way of overcoming those without doing, failing, and doing again, until you find ways of working that don’t hurt, or exclude, or humiliate. 

The Zapatista tour will be an enormous source of learning for the most diverse anti-capitalist collectives. First, to confirm that it IS possible, that those from above are not as powerful as they seem. Second, that we can add more and more people without reproducing the system, looking for confluences among those who suffer similar oppressions. Challenge and hope at the same time. 

If all goes well, in the south of the continent we will reproduce the expedition. These days we are taking the first steps, timid for now, to deploy the energies that will allow us to continue breaking sieges. 

This piece was originally published in Spanish by La Jornada on January 29th, 2021. https://www.jornada.com.mx/2021/01/29/opinion/013a2pol This English interpretation has been re-published by Schools for Chiapas.

Footnotes

  1. On September 26, 2014, 43 male students from the Ayotzinapa Rural Teachers’ College were forcibly abducted and then disappeared in Iguala, Guerrero, Mexico.