A Series of Articles on
by Nancy Davies
[This is a slightly edited version of the author’s
Note: This is the
first of several accompanying articles and news reports, below, about the
Major social upheavals have been occurring for most of this year in Mexico, a country of nearly 110 million people, a “Third World” country, a country of extreme poverty alongside extreme wealth, the Latin American country that borders the imperial heartland of the United States at a moment in history when much of Latin America is in revolt against more than a century of U.S. corporate domination; a country from which in the nineteenth century the U.S. rulers stole vast territories—which are now the states of Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, California, and most of Utah, Nevada, and Colorado, even part of Wyoming—with the result that Mexican Americans are the second largest minority in the U.S. (many of whom say, “We didn’t cross the border, the border crossed us”); a country from which millions of people have been forced to migrate to the U.S., with or without official documents, for the sake of economic survival, especially as a result of the disaster caused to the Mexican economy by the so-called North American “Free Trade” Agreement (NAFTA), which by favoring U.S. corporations, especially U.S. corporate agribusiness, with its huge exports of cheap, subsidized corn and beans to Mexico, has destroyed the livelihoods and disrupted the lives of hundreds of thousands of Mexican workers and small farmers; a country whose sons and daughters now have built, together with other Latinos and with migrants from many other countries, an unprecedented mass movement of immigrant workers, which has emerged with great force in the U.S. in 2006.
In addition, ever since January 2006 the Zapatistas of the EZLN, based among the Mayan peoples of the state of Chiapas (which borders Oaxaca—the two states are the southernmost states of Mexico) have been waging their “Other Campaign,” a campaign reaching out to every state of Mexico, from south to north, to organize “from below and from the left” for fundamental change rather than just to engage in electoral politics. See the accompanying article from the web site www.zmag.com for a detailed and valuable account of the course of the Other Campaign, whose supporters were subjected to massive police attack in May in and near the town of Atenco, on the outskirts of Mexico City.
Of course the main political struggle
It has been rightly noted that the Mexican revolution of 1910 began at a time of protests against fraudulent elections, in the midst of labor battles and peasant revolts. Today, in 2006, nearly a century after the beginning of the uncompleted Mexican revolution, the current combination of social and political struggles, as many have already observed, could unfold into a fundamental revolutionary challenge to the system, going beyond mere electoral politics.
developments are of vital importance to working class people in the
Andrés Manuel López
Obrador (AMLO) announced the forthcoming Mexican
revolution, on the front page of La Jornada of
August 24, 2006. He said that as of September 12 there will be two presidents
…Unless the Electoral Commission unexpectedly decides to somehow avert the chaos sure to result if Felipe Calderón is crowned. How about if the court annuls 4,000 precincts and declares AMLO the winner?
I never wanted to be a war correspondent when I grew up.
Here in Oaxaca, dirty war already cruises the streets, and it is due only to the non-violent posture of the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO in its Spanish initials) that the death toll remains relatively low.
But the list of dead, wounded,
abducted, and disappeared grows daily, aided by a website called
The latest death is APPO adherent Lorenzo San Pablo Cervantes, a 52-year-old public works employee, murdered August 22 in another pre-dawn incursion by government thugs against the radio stations captured by the movement. A means to broadcast authentic information is essential, and both sides know it.
Today in central
The MO of the government is to use plainclothes, heavily-armed men who roam in vans and shoot their way into radio facilities; they kill the machinery as well as whomever stands in the way. The MO of the movement has evolved to include bus-blockades at every important intersection, to protect both the remaining radio stations and the lives of important APPO figures, both men and women. Neighborhoods organize to defend their sections, with heaps of stones stockpiled behind the thrown-up barriers of bedsprings, wood, rocks, wheels, etc.
By day, one could almost believe that nothing, as the “ex-governor” Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (“URO”) says, is going on — until you see the buses crossways on the streets, the uncollected garbage heaped on the corners, the shutters on certain shops and restaurants, and an eerie lack of traffic.
Our newest source of information
would like to have a nom de guerre so I’ll call him Pedro. He’s a Zapotec, from the community of San Miguel Alvaredez in the Sierra Norte, and he belongs to a student
“The most serious problem is
misinformation,” Pedro said, referring to the multiple problems faced by the
social movement. The youngsters have established certain ways to share
information, but Pedro knows that a large part of the state’s population doesn’t
listen to the radio — haven’t got one, or have no interest in remote events, or
are passive. But since the situation is serious, APPO is disseminating
information every which way it can, including to Europe and the
In Pedro’s opinion, the only solution possible is for URO to resign.
According to Pedro and many others,
URO doesn’t live in
“Is it better, “ asks Pedro, “for the tourists to see reality, or is it better for them to not come? Tourists believe what they see on TV.”
The governor, Pedro continues,
imposes his will and defends the interests of capitalism and socialism, both of
which may have their theoretical good points, but neither of which has a role
Hey, you mean Hugo Chávez of
The PRI government has promoted a
lot of internecine killing; territorial boundaries for decades have been
manipulated to set off one group against another, and land ownership, which
should have remained communal, was undercut by Carlos Salinas de Gortari’s neoliberal amendment to
the Mexican Constitution, allowing privatization.
“But this social and teachers’ movement is pacific,” says Pedro. “The theory that the people are sovereign — he (URO) doesn’t understand that. There’s no reciprocity. The government knows only violence. He aids his capitalist friends.”
A sore issue is Plan
Designating the local community as
the decision-maker for future development will be written into a new
And I haven’t heard anybody connect
the dots on this one: if the
inauguration he pledged development, progress, and peace with no more protest
marches. What a campaign pledge. “He believed that indigenous ignorance would
protect him. He made a ‘Social Pact’ with many municipalities that he would
give them what they need (cement, roads, food) as long as they let him (URO) go
ahead. Then the repression began, because some would not agree. Political
prisoners — three in the Sierra Norte who would not sign on — now forty-five in
number, nine dead, thirty disappeared. Did you see the
URO practices selective repression. That leads to redoubled organization, to an extent which appears almost miraculous, like a tree full grown overnight.
But there is another side. “Unfortunately,
many people speak in favor of the government, without knowing what it means for
indigenous people,” Pedro stated.
That’s the truth.
The second big truth is that plans are going forward to support the national “revolution” — whatever form that may take. With “two presidents,” AMLO may find his firmest base in the south. I was chatting with my pediatrician yesterday (he also does gerontology) and asked him flat out if he thought a civil war might come to pass. This guy is moderate in his views, a doctor with youngsters attending private universities. And he answered yes.
In my personal poll of “unimportant”
persons, that view was repeated by several people, including members of APPO.
There’s a lot of nervous anxiety, especially because of repeated reports of
troops and further attacks. APPO’s official take on
it, reported on the radio, is that everything now depends on how the feds
respond to the contradictions in Oaxaca, not least of which is APPO
simultaneously asking for and rejecting federal intervention — to take out URO,
to take out the federal military, to agree to the removal of URO before any
negotiation can take place, and anyway, who can negotiate? Not URO, he’s the “ex.”
That leaves the Secretary of Government (or Secretary of the Interior, if you
APPO has reiterated dozens of times that until URO is out, there’s nothing to discuss. The social/teachers’ movement glues itself together on that bottom line, putting authoritarianism on the chopping block, and recognizing the will of the people as sovereign.
What will it take on the national
stage, to make clear
What scale of civil disobedience will that bring?
This article has a remarkable subtitle, which goes like this:
Following the CIA’s “Psychological Operations” Manual
for the Nicaraguan Contras, the
To read the full text and see the paramilitary thugs of this “counterinsurgency” caught in the lights from camera flash bulbs, go to:
by the Socialist Unity League (August 2006 issue of the
Massive protests have been continuing in
Electoral fraud has been a conspicuous feature of Mexican bourgeois politics since the decline in the support of the long-ruling PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) became manifest. In 1988, the PRI obviously stole the election from Cuauhtemoc Cardenas, who ran in the name of the party’s populist traditions, opposing its turn to neoliberalism. In the recent presidential election, the PRI candidate ran a distant third, revealing how discredited the traditional ruling party has become.
[To read the full article, follow the link: http://www.socialistaction.org/lus1.htm
[For the Spanish text of the same article go to:
by Phil Hearse
The author, a veteran revolutionary socialist in
On August 26, Mexican President
Vicente Fox sent 800 federal riot police with armored cars to guard the
parliament building in
This summer has witnessed a series of harsh struggles and street battles as the outgoing government of Vicente Fox sought to stem the rising tide of social protest—using the traditional methods of the Mexican elite—repression and electoral fraud on a grand scale.
While the protests are currently centered on the electoral fraud, over the summer there have been several other key battles—a mass movement in the state of Oaxaca to bring down the corrupt right-wing government (including a 44-day strike by Oaxaca schoolteachers leading that mass movement), a prolonged strike by miners and steelworkers, and a huge conflict with federal and state riot police in the militant community of San Salvador Atenco in Mexico state.
There is more to come. Already López Obrador’s center-left Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) has set a series of dates for mass mobilization going into the autumn, mobilization which could easily escape its control.
Why has this huge social conflict built up over the summer? Two factors underlie much of the tension: (1) the build-up to the presidential election, which the Mexican oligarchy, in close collaboration with the ruling circles of the United States, was desperate not to lose to even the moderate left, and (2) the progress of the “Other Campaign,” the project of uniting and building Mexico’s social movements from below, launched by Subcomandante Marcos and the EZLN a year ago.
But behind these factors are more
fundamental issues. Since the election as president of right-wing Svengali and narcho-politician in
chief Carlos Salinas de Gotari in 1988,
The net result is an avalanche of
migrants to the cities, particularly
Social tensions have been high
since the emergence of the Zapatista indigenous movement in 1994. With no
independent mass party representing the interests of the workers and the poor, Subcomandante Marcos and the EZLN have acted as a sort of
substitute leadership, giving consistent support to every militant struggle.
But paradoxically the Zapatistas themselves have been largely confined to their
How has this spring and summer of battle unfolded?
More than a quarter of a million miners and steelworkers walked off the job March 1-3 in wildcat strikes at 70 companies in at least eight states from central to northern Mexico, virtually paralyzing the mining industry.
The strike resulted from an attempt
by the government to remove the Mexican Miners Union’s top officer, General
Secretary Napleón Gómez Urrutia, and replace him with Elías
Morales Hernández, a union dissident who is
reportedly backed by the Grupo Mexico mining company.
“The strike by members of the National Union
of Mining and Metallurgical Workers of Mexico (SNTMMRM) resulted from both
labor union and political causes. The explosion and cave in at the Pasta de Conchos mine in San Juan de Las Sabinas,
Coahuila, in northern Mexico on Febuary
19 killed 65 miners. The Miners Union leader Gómez Urrutia blamed the employer, Grupo
“While miners throughout the country mourned the death of their brothers and complained of health and safety conditions in their own mines, there was no official or wildcat strike in the immediate aftermath of the accident.
“Then, on February 28 the Mexican Secretary of Labor announced that Gómez Urrutia was not actually the head of the union, but that the real general secretary was Elías Morales Hernández. The government’s action was based on part of Mexican labor law known as “taking note” (toma de nota), under which the government recognizes the legally elected officers of labor unions.” 
The government turned to violent
repression of the striking miners and steelworkers supporting them. On April 20
eight hundred state and federal police launched an assault on 500 striking
workers who had been occupying a steel mill in the small city of
Now that Felipe Calderón
has declared himself winner of the presidential elections Grupo
This militant community invited Subcommandante Marcos to speak in the town on May Day. Two days later police attempted to arrest flower sellers from Atenco who set up their stalls on some land owned by the American multinational Wal-Mart in the nearby community of Texcoco. The flower sellers called for help on their mobile phones and hundreds arrived to beat back the police attack. A day of bloody battles followed, in which two people were killed by paramilitary riot police.
Next morning the federal riot
police carried out a brutal attack on the town, which involved—as is the style
attack caused outrage in
In a statement on May 4, the
Revolutionary Workers Party who support the Fourth International, declared the
events at Atenco to be “a deliberate provocation
against the Other Campaign” saying that “without a shadow of doubt” the police
attacks has been designed to coincide with Marcos’s visit, and to impede the
progress of his campaign. After finishing the
Over the summer there has been a prolonged struggle against the ultra-corrupt state government of right-wing Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, a member of the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party, until recently the main party of the Mexican elite). It started with a strike by militant teachers for better wages and more financial support for poor students, but soon mushroomed into a general campaign to force Ulises Ruiz to quit.
The teachers and their allies
occupied the main square (zócalo ) in the city of
Since then there have been repeated mass marches, assassinations of popular leaders by “unknown” gunmen who have opened fire on several demonstrations, the takeover of several radio and television stations to put the mass media at the service of the people, police attacks on those stations, and at the time of writing (late August) a threat by Oaxaca business people to stage a state-wide strike against…the inability of the state government to stop all the strikes!
[A photo by Netherlands Indymedia shows riot police waiting in front of a
On August 21, the Channel 9 television station headquarters, used as a headquarters by the dissident movement, was attacked and burned by right-wing thugs, making it unusable.
On August 22, city and state police agents, dressed in black and wearing masks, traveled throughout the city in a caravan of motorcycles and pick-up trucks. The convoy of 34 vehicles joined up at about twenty minutes after midnight and opened fire on TV and radio security watchposts from their moving vehicles. As the caravan passed radio station La Ley 710, teacher Lorenzo San Pablo Cervantes received bullet wounds to the back. He was taken to the hospital and later died.
The situation is now extremely
dangerous for the mass movement, especially as tactical divisions have emerged,
with the teachers abandoning their 44-day strike without having achieved their
objectives. The fate of the
In the run-up to the July 2 presidential election the two leading candidates, Felipe Calderón of the PAN and Manuel López Obrador of the PRD, appeared to be neck and neck, but with some polls putting López Obrador slightly ahead. In the event, when the final result was posted, the official result gave a slight advantage to Calderón, leading to widespread suspicions of electoral fraud.
“Given the close vote and AMLO’s (López Obrador’s) charges of electoral fraud, a partial recount of 9% of the country’s 131,000 polling stations was ordered by the Federal Electoral Tribunal. AMLO and his supporters, however, have been demanding a 100% recount. The recount, which began on August 9, has not resolved the dispute. The AMLO forces charge serious discrepancies, even on the basis of the small 9% sample, among them: in 43% of the sample, Calderón had been accredited with more votes than he actually received, lowering his total number of votes by 13,500. This was 5000% more votes than AMLO lost in the recount.
“In 65% of the recounted polling
stations, there were either more ballots deposited than there were voters or
more voters than there were corresponding ballots. In
“More than 30% of the supposedly sealed ballot boxes had been opened after the elections, raising the specter that their contents were altered.” 
Since July 30 the center of
“Many far left and social organizations that didn’t participate in AMLO’s campaign are involved in the anti-fraud protests. Along the 8-kilometer stretch of encampments, a wide array of neighborhood associations, unions, student groups, and political organizations can be found.
“Unfortunately, the Other Campaign, an initiative launched by the Zapatista National Liberation Army and headed by the charismatic Subcommandante Marcos, while condemning the fraud, has abstained from the mass demonstrations. During the election campaign, the Other Campaign centered most of its fire on AMLO and the obvious deficiencies in the PRD’s program and methods. Some organizations that participated in the Other Campaign are, however, involved in the anti-fraud protests.”
The huge political crisis in
Regrettably what the poor and oppressed of Mexico lack is a nationally structured anti-capitalist political party which can represent them, coordinate the struggles, and intervene on the national political terrain.
As we noted above, the Zapatistas
and the Other Campaign can to a certain extent play the role of a substitute
leadership, but only partially, occasionally, and inadequately. While the far
Other recent articles on
by Roger Stoll
[The author has studied Spanish at the language school at Oventic, in the Zapatista zone, and is working on a music transcription and translation project involving recordings made with Radio Insurgente (about which see notes at end of article).
[This article has been edited slightly for Labor Standard. It was first posted on the web site of Z magazine on August 25, 2006. For that posting, follow the link to: http://www.zmag.org/content/showarticle.cfm?SectionID=59&ItemID=10833 ]
On the morning of January 1, 1994, with the seizure of
governmental offices in
Their style, poetic language, and
unquestioned heroism in battle made the Zapatistas immediately irresistible
even to many who barely understood their politics, origins, or purpose. But for
those who looked closely, there was so much there. The Zapatistas addressed
themselves to that persistent enemy of the peoples of the world, the capitalist
global empire. They denounced the capitalist juggernaut precisely in its neoliberal form that had greatly increased the rate at
Now, after years of victories and defeats, political engagement and autonomy, comes the latest initiative by the Zapatistas. Dubbed “The Other Campaign” (La Otra Campaña, or simply La Otra), its characteristically sly appellation manages to be self-deprecating while at the same time mocking the presumed political centrality of this year’s Mexican presidential campaign. La Otra is the Zapatistas’ attempt to reach beyond their geographic and political borders to forge a national left from all manner of resistance, organized and not, throughout Mexico—a true left, that makes no concession to the reigning macroeconomics of neoliberalism (an economics which has been embraced by the center-left presidential candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador of the Partido de la Revolución Democrática, or PRD).
consists chiefly of a Zapatista tour of indefinite duration to each of
If you didn’t know anything of
Meanwhile in the southern state of
Further south, [next to Oaxaca] in the state of Chiapas, another dispute over elections is taking shape between the PRD incumbent governor Juan Sabines and the candidate of the Partido Revolución Institucional (or PRI), Jose Antonio Aguilar Bodegas (who is also backed by the ruling PAN).
In light of these events, the non-participatory stand of the Zapatistas and La Otra toward elections, controversial at first, may begin to seem to the populace reasonable after all, and Zapatista followers might justly tell AMLO’s hopeful supporters, “We are not at all happy to say this, but we told you so.”
The first draft of La Otra’s itinerary appeared more or less within the pages of The Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle (La Sexta Declaración de la Selva Lacandona, aka La Sexta), released in July of last year. Previously [widely posted] on the Internet, La Sexta is now available in a handy, bilingual print edition, along with an excellent essay by Luis Hernández Navarro, as well as an interview with Subcomandante Marcos by Pacifica Free Speech Radio News’s Aura Bogado. (The book, part of the Open Media Series edited by Greg Ruggiero, is published by City Lights Books and is beautifully produced, with photographs and ample explanatory notes. All the material quoted or cited in this article is from this edition.)
When La Sexta first appeared in the summer of 2005 it was met with intense interest and enthusiasm by the Mexican left. Its call for a united global movement against capitalism, neoliberal economics, and all oppressions of class, race, gender, language, and ethnicity was taken up by left labor, activists, and intellectuals. La Jornada, the eminent left independent daily newspaper, ran news articles, essays, debates, letters—sometimes as many as a dozen in a single issue—celebrating, analyzing, interpreting, and criticizing the document. Even Vicente Fox, the conservative Mexican president, publicly welcomed the Zapatistas into Mexico’s national political process (as if they weren’t already in the thick of it), and blithely interpreted La Sexta as meaning that the Zapatistas had laid down their arms and forsworn their version of armed struggle and self-defense. (This was a mistaken interpretation, by the way, made by a few left commentators as well).
Incidentally, this writer happened
to be in
The Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle (La Sexta)
In its spare, self-consciously biblical language, La Sexta is a plea—a shout of ¡Ya basta! (“Enough is enough!”) on behalf of the peoples of the world. It is an eloquent piece of political literature filled with compassion, political yearning, and resolve. While interpretations, summaries, and commentaries on La Sexta abound, La Sexta itself is so lucid and beautiful a document that it ought to be read before turning to any commentary. From La Sexta’s opening: “This is our simple word which seeks to touch the hearts of humble and simple people like ourselves, but people who, like ourselves, are also dignified and rebel. This is our simple word for recounting what our path has been and where we are now, in order to explain how we see the world and our country, in order to say what we are thinking of doing and how we are thinking of doing it, and in order to invite other people to walk with us[.]” (60/61)
In such language La Sexta proceeds to encapsulate the history of the Zapatista
struggle, Mexican politics, and Zapatismo’s critique
of modern capitalism in
“In the beginning there were not many of us, just a few, going this way and that, talking with and listening to other people like ourselves. We did that for many years, and we did it in secret, without making a stir…We remained like that for about ten years, and when we had grown, we were many thousands. We trained ourselves quite well in politics and weapons, and, suddenly, when the rich were throwing their New Year’s Eve parties, we fell upon their cities and just took them over…Then the rich sent their great armies to do away with us, just like they always do when the exploited rebel. We were running and fighting, fighting and running, just like our ancestors had done…
“Then the people from the cities went out into the streets and began shouting for an end to the war. And then we stopped our war, and we listened to those brothers and sisters from the city who were telling us to try to reach an arrangement or an accord with the bad governments, so that the problem could be resolved without a massacre...So we set aside the fire and took up the word.” (62/63, 66/67)
The Zapatistas then entered into lengthy negotiations with the government, leading to the San Andrés Accords—to which the govern famously agreed and which it infamously later rejected. Here is La Sexta on the betrayal of the Zapatistas with the 2001 rejection of the San Andrés Accords by all the major political parties in the government: “But it happened that the politicians from the PRI, the PAN, and the PRD reached an agreement among themselves, and they simply did not recognize indigenous rights and culture…We can no longer believe that agreements will be respected. Take that into account so you can learn from what happened to us.” (74/75) But, La Sexta reports, the Zapatistas decided to implement the Accords on their own, without government permission, establishing a measure of regional autonomy, with their own civil government structures. (76/77, 78/79)
La Sexta also serves as a simply written primer on the nature of capitalism:
“In capitalism, some people have money, or capital, and factories, stores, fields, and many other things, and there are others who have nothing to work with but their strength and knowledge. In capitalism, those who have money and things give the orders, and those who only have the ability to work obey.
“Capitalism means only a few have great wealth...So capitalism is based on the exploitation of the workers, which means the few exploit the workers and take out all the profits they can…[T]he workers receive a wage that barely allows them to eat a little and rest for a bit...Capitalism is a system where the robbers go free, and are actually admired and held up as examples.” (92/93, 94/95)
La Sexta even introduces the concept of commoditization, noting that according to capitalism, “everything must be able to be bought and sold,” concealing the exploited labor within it. “[F]or example, we see coffee in its little package...but we do not see the coyote who paid [the coffee-growing peasant] so cheaply for his work, nor do we see the workers in the large company working their hearts out to package the coffee.” (94/95, 96/97)
Neoliberal capitalism, according to La Sexta, means war on the world literally and economically, through wars of conquest and occupation, as well as the machinations of the international financial institutions: “Sometimes that conquest is by armies who invade a country and conquer it by force. But sometimes it is by way of the economy, in other words, the big capitalists put their money into another country or they lend it money, but on the condition that what they tell them to do is obeyed.” (98/99)
concludes with a sketch for La Otra Campaña, in which the Zapatistas would set out for every
“What we think is that, with these
people and organizations of the Left, we can make a plan for going to all those
“And we are not going to tell them what they should do or give them orders.
“Nor are we going to ask them to vote for a candidate, since we already know that the ones who exist are neoliberals.
“Nor are we going to tell them to be like us, nor to rise up in arms.
“What we are going to do is to ask them what their lives and struggles are like…what their thoughts about our country are, and what we should do so capitalism does not defeat us.” (126/127)
And thus began La Otra Campaña.
Luis Hernández Navarro is a columnist with La Jornada and was a key adviser to the EZLN during the San Andrés negotiations. He has written an excellent and frequently eloquent essay entitled “The Breaking Wave” discussing La Sexta and La Otra. This essay is invaluable to non-Mexican readers for its interpretation of La Sexta in the context of contemporary Mexican electoral politics and left politics generally. (The essay appears along with La Sexta in the book The Other Campaign/ La Otra Campaña, mentioned above.)
The essay briefly traces the course of the Zapatistas’ relations with the PRD—from “friendly” in 1996 to the 2001 betrayal by the PRD, in collaboration with PRI and PAN legislators, in the rejections of the San Andrés Accords. As noted in La Sexta, this rejection was the turning point for the Zapatistas, driving them away from any hope of achieving their goals through negotiations with the government. “The moment of breakdown between the political class and society was consummated in April 2001, when the parties voted unanimously in the Senate for the constitutional reform on rights and indigenous culture that betrayed the San Andrés accords.” (36/37)
But rather than surrender the political, legal, and cultural rights they thought they had won in negotiations, the Zapatistas responded by constructing their own autonomy as a practical implementation of the Accords: “the Zapatistas concentrated on building five autonomous regional governments which were baptized ‘Councils of Good Government,’ or ‘Caracoles.’ They named their own authorities and took charge of organizing education, health, and the administration of justice themselves. In different regions of the country, the indigenous people decided to drop the fruitless struggle for autonomy through legal reforms and moved forward to achieve autonomy on their own, without asking permission.” (10/11)
Hernández puts La Sexta’s analysis of the Mexican electoral left this way: “Regarding the Mexican Left, La Sexta asserts that the [PRD]—which stands a good possibility of winning the presidential election of 2006—is not a party of the Mexican Left. La Sexta determines what is and is not on the Mexican Left according to the criterion of whether it struggles against or resists neoliberal capitalism. And the PRD does not.” (18/19) (As if to emphasize the point, since the issuance of La Sexta and the launch of La Otra, the PRD’s presidential candidate, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has explicitly embraced neoliberal macroeconomics, and failed to denounce the massive, orchestrated police riot against the autonomous Zapatista-identified community of San Salvador Atenco.)
La Sexta seeks more than just to revive the Mexican left, explains the essay.
“La Sexta’s goal, in
part, is to rearrange the Mexico from below into a new political
force—explicitly Leftist, anti-neoliberal, and
anti-capitalist—that is, clearly distinct from the legally recognized political
parties that now exist ...As a social and political initiative, it renounces
the illusion that one can find shortcuts and miraculous solutions in the
struggle for the transformation of a country. It rejects the notion that
history is made by messiahs and charismatic leaders, and the history it is
calling on the people of
As to how the Zapatistas will enact these goals, Hernández explains, “The organizing tool for making La Sexta a reality is The Other Campaign. The Zapatista initiative to tour the entire country to listen to the communities articulate their resistance parallels the traditional campaigns of the registered parties, but is actually a non-electoral campaign that seeks to explore the possibility of doing politics another way during the federal elections period.” (22/23) Pursuant to La Sexta’s call, “In 2005, hundreds of organizations, political leaders, and citizens responded to a Zapatista invitation from the Lacandon Jungle to participate in a diverse range of meetings called in order to debate and organize what would turn out to be the Other Campaign.” (26/27) And everyone came: “The diversity of their ranks was surprising: unionists, indigenous organizers, intellectuals, cultural workers, artists, religious people, neighborhood activists, feminists, gays, lesbians, human rights advocates, environmentalists, and students.” (26/27, 28/29)
The actual participants in La Otra Campaña’s cross-country trek include “a mixed bag of old and new social insubordinates: fishermen, small merchants, rural settlers affected by the construction of public infrastructure projects, electricity consumers paying high rates, assembly-line factory workers, victims of natural disasters who have not been supported by the government, indigenous, poor peasants, defenders of the native corn (and enemies of genetically modified corn), democratic teachers, prostitutes, homosexuals, workers, and youth.” (52/53, 54/55) In the meetings taking place on the tour, the essayist sees “a common language” being created, “a language that many educated people despise and do not understand well.” (56/57)
This language, taking guidance from La Sexta’s political and economic analyses, is a familiar one, naturally, since, in Hernández’s trenchant formulation, “The old electoral system asks, what can we do with the poor? The Other Campaign asks, what can we do with the rich? And it responds, struggle against them.…[La Otra] recuperates the language of Class in an epoch when the institutional Left is trying to get rid of it. Its speech—as has been the tradition of the statements of the EZLN—is increasingly more related to the proclamations and manifestoes of the indigenous and peasant rebellions of the nineteenth century and with the programs of popular and workers struggles of the twentieth century.” (56/57) In other words, it is the language of the revolutionary tradition.
Regarding the Zapatista stance toward elections, the essay makes a point the Mexican and international press repeatedly (perhaps willfully) miss: that La Otra is “a non-electoral political offensive during election time. It does not call for a vote for or against any candidate. Nor does it promote abstention.” (44/45) No matter how many times the Zapatistas repeat that they are not calling for an electoral boycott, the press says they are. Indeed, since the publication of this book we’ve seen the Zapatistas be among the first to denounce the fraud that may yet rob the PRD of its electoral victory—a principled stand that they took in defense of those who support the PRD and the electoral process, echoing the Zapatistas’ principled stand in defense of López Obrador, the PRD presidential candidate, when he was threatened with prison in 2005.
The essay’s title, “The Breaking
Wave,” is Hernández’s poetic premonition of
The Other Campaign/La Otra Campaña
All quoted or cited material in this article is from the
book the other campaign/ la otra campaña
by Subcomandante Marcos and the Zapatistas,
introductory essay by Luis Hernández Navarro,
interview with Marcos by Aura Bogado, photos by Tim
Russo, edited by Greg Ruggiero, Open Media Series; published by City Lights
Books, 2006, bilingual Spanish-English facing pages. All royalties from the
book support independent media projects in
The Zapatistas maintain an excellent, ever-evolving presence on the web. To find out the latest news from this source, go here.
To hear the voice of the indigenous rebel communities in
To get a deeper sense of the indigenous struggle in
To join an email list that sends out news and translations relating to the Zapatistas, see: http://www.eco.utexas.edu/facstaff/Cleaver/chiapas95.html
This Mexico-based, Spanish-language on-line publication runs a broad range of Zapatista-related articles, and their web page is excellent.
by George Salzman
[This article, edited somewhat
for Labor Stndard, was posted on the CounterPunch web site on August 30, 2006. Writing from
Which of the 31
states holds top place for corruption would probably be impossible to measure
in this intensely contested Mexican arena, as highlighted in the fraudulent
July 2, 2006, presidential election, but for sure
The 70,000 or so teachers in the
state educational institutions, state employees, are, by
Why was this year so different?
It will come as no surprise to los Americanos that in
Among Mexican teachers there is
another formation, the National Educational Workers Coordinating Committee (Comité Coordinador Nacional de Trabajadores Educativo CNTE). In
On May 15, National Teachers’ Day
Their other demands involved improved
school facilities and meeting students’ needs. Much of the money supposedly
budgeted for education is siphoned off by corrupt officials. There is no
accountability, a process not even legally required in
Negotiations from May 15 to 22 between the union and the state, instead of moving towards a compromise agreement, became even more acrimonious. Beginning May 22, a large group of teachers, other education workers, family members, allied individuals, and members of allied organizations, numbering perhaps between 35,000 and 60,000 (hard numbers are impossible to know) occupied the center of Oaxaca City—the large central park (the zócalo) and some 56 blocks surrounding it—with their encampment. Local business, hotel, and restaurant owners were, by and large, critical because of financial losses caused by the disruption.
Quite normal. The ritual of an annual teachers’ strike was by now about a quarter century old. But never before had it been so large, so prolonged.
Even now, no end is in sight.
During a period of barely three and a half weeks, May 22 to June 14, the strength of the teachers’ opposition to Governor Ulises Ruíz Ortíz continued to grow, with additional adherents nursing their own grievances against the dictatorial regime allying with the formidable SNTE contingent. Frequent marches, and two mega-marches, the first on Friday June 2 with between 50,000 and 100,000 (the police and SNTE estimates, respectively), and the second on Wednesday, June 7, with 120,000 brought to the city demonstrations of size and vehemence never before seen here. I watched the June 7 march from the parapet on the north side of the Plaza de Danza as endless mockery of Ulises Ruíz paraded past, demanding boisterously that he leave the governorship. Undoubtedly there were state spies in civilian clothes with cameras, cell phones, video cameras, and tape recorders, but no one seemed in the least intimidated or cautious.
The entire event was permeated with a sense of people’s power.
On June 14, when Ulises unexpectedly ordered state police to carry out a surprise early pre-dawn attack on the sleeping teachers (many of them women with their children), destroying their tents and other camping gear and firing tear gas and bullets, even using a police helicopter that sprayed tear gas on the campers, to drive them out of the city center, he ignited a mass uprising throughout the state and beyond. The teachers fought back and drove out the police after about four hours, recapturing the city center and gaining admiration throughout the state for their gritty determination not to be terrorized into submission.
In his year and a half in office since December 1, 2005, Ulises had succeeded in generating a powder keg of hatred across the state toward him because of his tyrannical rule. This included his overt attempt to destroy the state’s largest-circulation daily newspaper, Noticias de Oaxaca , his destruction of much-loved parts of the capital city’s world-famous cultural patrimony, numerous killings by armed thugs tied to the ruling party, in communities struggling against corrupt and oppressive state-appointed municipal administrations. In sum, it was his attempt to rule by “excessively overt” terror, including kidnappings, jailings on baseless charges, torture, and death, and always impunity for the state thugs terrorizing the people, that turned the population en masse against him.
Moreover, history was against him.
Fresh in people’s memory was the sadistic early May attack in San Salvador Atenco in Mexico State by federal, state, and municipal
police, and the outrage against the authorities then—incarceration and worse
for the victims, impunity for the perpetrators. There was a pervasive sense
that in such a society, everyone is a “political prisoner unto death.” A
multitude of civic organizations in, and outside of,
The show of strength quickly led to
formation of a statewide assembly that termed itself the Popular Assembly of
the People of Oaxaca, Asemblea Popular del Pueblo de
APPO is established, sets revolutionary goals
In addition to the immediate third mega-march on June 16 (two days after the assault), the popular movement of teachers and other members of civil society held the first statewide popular assembly the following day, just three days after the attack of June 14. In this precedent-breaking assembly meeting, the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO, by its initials in Spanish) adopted a truly revolutionary program by declaring itself the supreme authority in Oaxaca, and asserting the illegitimacy of the entire political structure, which had ruthlessly run Oaxaca as a PRI-terrorist-controlled state for nearly 80 years.
APPO’s deliberately broad representation evidently excluded any explicitly political groups, i.e. it was to be a “non-political” formation, truly a people’s government. As Nancy Davies wrote in her report [on the Narco News web site], “Popular Assembly to Oppose the State Government,” its initial meeting on June 17 “was attended by 170 people representing 85 organizations.” Included, or at least invited, “were all the SNTE delegates, union members, social and political organizations, non-governmental organizations, collectives, human rights organizations, parents, tenant farmers, municipalities, and citizens of the entire state of Oaxaca.” Its intention was to be open to all the citizens of the state. There was no attempt, so far as I know, to exclude wealthy people from the assembly. Naturally, most very rich people who saw their interests served by the URO regime would not want to be involved in an effort to remove him and the rest of the governing apparatus, but wealthy “mavericks” who rejected social injustice were evidently welcome. The only “absolute requirement” for participation was agreement that Ulises must go.
Flimsy barriers such as those that had not prevented the police assault of June 14 were clearly inadequate. APPO adherents went about establishing stronger barricades against future invasions. They began commandeering buses, some commercial, as well as police and other government vehicles, using some of them to block access roads to the zócalo and other APPO encampments. Other of the commandeered vehicles they used for transportation.
major strategy for bringing pressure to bear on the government, in order to
force either URO’s resignation or his legal removal,
has been to literally prevent the institutional government from carrying out
its functions: legislative, judicial and executive (i.e. administrative). The
tactic deserves to be called aggressive civil disobedience, meaning that APPO
adherents carry out their forceful “illegal” actions as civilians (unarmed,
i.e. no firearms). Some of them have poles, iron rods, and even machetes, but
these are for self-defense. The culture here is not one of “turning the other
cheek.” They don’t sit down and pray if police attempt to beat them. They have
blocked highways, occupied government buildings, and made a good many tourists
and potential tourists reconsider
As for “winning the hearts and minds” of Oaxaqueños, the hearts part of the task has been in large part already accomplished, thanks to the arrogance and aggressiveness of URO—the hatred he managed to sow since taking office as governor on December 1, 2004 and which he’s now reaping.
Even people who are not thrilled with APPO are so disgusted with URO that they are more likely to be passive rather than actively opposing APPO by supporting the governor.
Winning minds, as APPO well knows, is essential. They have made that a major part of their work. The government and its corporate allies fully realize the importance of what people think. The media of communication are therefore a prime arena in the contest to influence people’s consciousness.
The fight for the communication media
The very first action of the state forces in their pre-dawn attack on June 14 was to destroy the teachers’ radio station, Radio Plantón. It had been serving not only as a source of pro-teacher propaganda since the start of the strike, but as a vital communication link broadcasting (within its limited range) 24 hours a day. Soon after the Radio Plantón equipment was smashed, students at the Benito Juarez Autonomous University of Oaxaca (UABJO in its Spanish initials) seized the university’s station, a licensed station with a much more powerful transmitter, and kept it going non-stop in support of the then rapidly-growing rebellion. The student-operated UABJO station was attacked several times, first on June 22, and eventually put out of commission after a diversionary tactic the night of August 8 enabled three people who had earlier infiltrated the movement to enter and throw sulphuric acid on the equipment, ending, at least for a time, those broadcasts.
Revolutions are not, by their nature, tidy affairs. There is no simple chronology according to which, at certain key dates, one important group of actors halts its activity and a different group takes the stage.
Rather, a multitude of groups fills the stage at any given time, and the flow of activity is continuous--no separation of the actions marked by curtain calls. Thus it may be a questionable effort to try to divide the flow into phases. While the attack of June 14 did clearly mark a separation of events into two different phases, the ensuing struggle has been, and will likely be a continuous flow. Nevertheless, the action of the women who seized the state television and radio stations on August 1 so powerfully upped the ante in the struggle to control the communications media that I will say that act initiated a third phase of the struggle.
On July 1, the day before participants in La marcha de las caserolas (the march of women beating their pots and pans with wooden spoons) went on to seize the state TV and radio stations, only Radio Universidad was broadcasting for the popular movement. By then it had been on the air daily for almost of seven weeks. It was to continue for another 8 days until the sulphuric acid attack shut it down. But by then Channel 9, TV Caserolas as some folks dubbed it, had been broadcasting 8 days.
The move to seize, or as a graffiti on the wall of the control room at the transmission tower phrased it, to re-appropriate facilities paid for with the people’s money, was a bold escalation in the struggle for the media.
Channel 9 and FM 96.9 covered the entire state. For 3 weeks, from August 1 until the early morning assault on August 21, the “voices and images of the people” dominated these normally state-controlled airwaves in the struggle aimed at “winning the minds” of the people, although of course the powerful national corporate channels, TV Azteca and Televisa, continued their pro-state broadcasts. But what a vision of hope sprang from the screen those three weeks! Ordinary people in everyday clothes spoke of the reality of their lives as they understood them, of what neo-liberalism meant to them, of the Plan Pueblo Panama, of their loss of land to developers and international paper companies, of ramshackle rural mountain schools without toilets, of communities without safe water or sanitary drainage, and so on, all the needs that could be met if wealth were not being stolen by rich capitalists and corrupt government agents.
And not all was about
This flood of uncontrolled,
unmediated, spontaneous communication among the population must have terrorized
the former economic and political rulers of
Rather than risk another open
failure the state authorities pursued a strategy of clandestine warfare, as
described vividly by Diego Enrique Osorno in his 28
August special report from
The onslaught by these clandestine heavily-armed police officials and state thugs on the transmission facilities of TV Caserola and Radio APPO up on Fortin Hill above the city revealed the government’s panic. This assault, in the very early hours on Monday 21 August, totally destroyed the control equipment housed in a building at the base of the transmission tower. The racks of electronics were smashed and sprayed with automatic weapons fire, bullet holes only inches apart in some of the panels, which I photographed that Monday evening. There are, as explained to me by a student friend involved with one of the movement radio stations, several components that made up the state’s TV and radio stations: 1) the studios where interviews, news reporters, panel members, etc. met, 2) a repeater station whose antenna received the signals from the studio building and “bounced” them to the transmission station, and 3) the transmission facility atop Fortin Hill, which broadcast the programs to the entire state.
By knocking out the transmission tower facility the government-directed thugs insured that APPO could not operate the occupied state TV and radio stations. The damage wrought at the transmission control room was a shocking double admission: 1) the URO government knew it was unable to retake and hold each of the three components of its broadcasting stations, and 2) the impact of the APPO broadcasts was an intolerable threat.
Therefore they destroyed a key component of what they surely regarded as their own governing infrastructure.
The battle for the air waves continues. Later that day, August 21, having lost the use of Channel 9 and FM 96.9, APPO groups seized twelve commercial radio stations belonging to nine different companies. The number of seized stations broadcasting for APPO varies from time to time. This morning (29 August) we were able to pick up three, one AM and two FM at our location below the base of Fortin Hill. Apart from radio, the movement produces and distributes a great deal of printed material, videos, and CDs, and seeks to spread its point of view by all means of communication. Radio of course remains particularly important.
On August 16 and 17 a national
forum was held in
In the meantime, the situation in