Wednesday, January 1, 2014

With the right-wingers, some things never change

As Lenin's Tomb reminds us, when it comes to right-wing ravings about immigrants, it is literally same shit, different year.

55th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution

Today also marked the 55th anniversary of the successful Battle of Santa Clara which effectively ended the Batista regime. Castro's forces would take over the capital, Havana, a week later. ¡Hasta la revolución!

Don Durito's Origins

With the 20th anniversary of the Zapatistas' rebellion in Chiapas upon us, I thought it would be interesting to take a look back at the origins of one of the major characters to appear in Zapatista lore: Durito, later known as Don Durito de la Lacandona. In his book, A Poetics of Resistance: The Revolutionary Public Relations of the Zapatista Insurgency, Jeff Conant offers a brief synopsis of this beloved character that is well-worth reading.

Durito originated as a character in a letter Subcomandante Marcos wrote for a child. Durito translates into English as "little tough guy." He is not a "tough guy" in the sense of picking fights and taking on all comers, but rather he is tough in the sense of persevering under adverse conditions. As the character developed, he became self-identified as a knight-errant in the tradition of the classic novel, Don Quixote, and serves to offer both comic relief and serious theoretical exposition. Much of what Don Durito discusses has to do with an approach to neoliberalism, that while arguably not unique to the Zapatistas, has certainly been easily identifiable with them, and is certainly compatible with a variety of leftist analyses of neoliberal capitalism. In a few words, neoliberalism is not in crisis, it is the crisis.

Ultimately, what the character of Don Durito served to do was to allow Marcos to tell a story about not only the situation in Chiapas, but globally, and to do so in a way that was both theoretically sound and entertaining. Regardless of whether we choose to agree or disagree with portions (and perhaps significant portions) of Marcos' theoretical analysis, we would all do well to learn a lesson from Marcos as to how to present our ideas to our specific target audiences.

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the initial Zapatista rebellion. Later this year, we will mark the 20th anniversary of a seemingly insignificant beetle who turned out to possess enormous wisdom.

Happy New Year

Tuesday, December 31, 2013

This year's greatest hits

In the liberal/progressive blogosphere, there is something of a tradition of bloggers choosing their own "best post" for the year. It's a bit of a kick to read what others thought was their best work. I'm never really sure what gauge to use to determine what my best was for the year. Probably one of my best-read posts was a repost of a portion of William Blum's writing (where he reports some observations by one of his Russian readers), thanks to my linking the post to my Tumblr (Dancing With Imperialism). In terms of readership, it was surpassed only by And you people are surprised why? I personally liked that one, as I think it captured the frustration at getting to feel the brunt of the effects of the Congress-imposed Sequester while those relatively privileged few were spared the hell the rest of us feel on a daily basis. Although Slayage For The People? was largely ignored by most who drop by here, it did get picked up by one of the message boards devoted to Buffy the Vampire Slayer, which pleased me quite a bit. I layed out something of an outline to something that I have actually worked on occasionally since, and shall work on more in a few weeks. There are facets of pop culture that can be interpreted from a revolutionary standpoint.

So it goes. I do appreciate those of you who still stop by occasionally. I wish I could say that I would return to the sort of blogging I could manage up through the first half of 2009, but regrettably those days have long gone. Occasionally some of you comment, and although I often don't remember to reply, I do thank you for adding to the conversation. I think that too many url changes and the loss of the bloggers who now make up my emeriti effectively ended whatever community once existed here. So it goes. I do seem to prefer Tumblr and Twitter these days, and would suggest following me there, if you are in need of a daily dose (more or less) of my particular brand of leftist blogging. I do hope that the upcoming year is a better one than this last year was. I found much for which to be hopeful, but also many reminders of how much is yet to be done. Onward.

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.