Sunday, December 29, 2013

A brief history of the EZLN

With the first of the year, and the 20th anniversary of the Zapatista-led rebellion in Chiapas approaching, I thought it would be useful to understand the origins of the EZLN. There are undoubtedly some lessons to be learned with regard to how to adapt revolutionary rhetoric and practice to local conditions, given that the Zapatistas did manage some tangible successes over the last few decades. The organization did not begin overnight, but rather evolved in the aftermath of the events of 1968, and began their buildup in Lacandon Jungle in 1983. When I tell younger activists to organize with the long-term in mind, and to expect many setbacks in addition to occasional successes, I mean it. I also mean it when I say that you have to expect that many of those you consider potential recruits may be difficult to win over, especially given the sheer level of institutional violence they have typically endured - until you prove yourselves, your just another one of "them". Trust must be earned, and it will take a great deal of painstaking effort to materialize. The Zapatistas made it by relating to and integrating with their potential base of support, and in the aftermath of January 1, 1994, by utilizing any and all mass media available to them to communicate their message in a way that was understandable to practically anyone. Their struggle also offered a beacon of hope at a time when apologists for the 1% were smugly declaring the "end of history" in which neoliberal capitalism was inevitable as the natural order of things.

Parts 2 and 3 in the series are also worth reading for additional context.

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