Communist Participation in the Zapatista Rainbow
“The Other Campaign Will Not End Until Capitalism Ends”
By Blanco Cabrera and Rafael Castañeda Pineda
The Party of Mexican Communists
February 13, 2006
Struggle by struggle, visiting different groups in resistance, listening to the stories of confrontation with the system, “Delegate Zero’s” tour marches on, followed by a caravan made up of alternative media and leftwing social and political organizations who have adhered to this movement that is now shaking the entire country.
Chiapas, Quintana Roo, Campeche, Tabasco, Veracruz, Oaxaca… and the struggle continues. But the basis of a transformative process that begins by breaking with the capitalist system now has such an important foundation that it is possible to announce that the people will be victorious. The Indian peoples, the peasant farmers, the agricultural workers, the fishermen, the women, the multicultural youth movement, the working class, the revolutionary left, the environmentalists, all together, little by little, are forming the sociopolitical force that will cause Mexico to be reborn.
In Bekal a Question, In Candelaria the Answer
We had just arrived in Campeche, and the combativeness of the local artisans was showing itself. A demonstration was held under the harsh sun, in the community’s main plaza, which features two giant cement sombreros symbolizing the townspeople’s main product. They weave the hats by hand, spending as long as two days on each but receiving a miserable price from middlemen or “coyotes” who resell them marked up by 150 to 200 percent in the cities. The assembly is participative. Those interested obtain publications from the improvised information booths, be they Revista Rebeldía magazine, the newspaper Machetearte, Marxists books, protest music, communist, socialist or anarchist pamphlets. The people want information; students from a nearby public school ask for books by both Lenin and Che.
One compañero asks why there are parties there, if the Sixth Declaration says it wants nothing to do with them. It is an interesting discussion, which allows us to point out that the Zapatista’s call excludes registered parties. We further clarify that although these are called “parties,” they are really electoral instruments of the ruling class; that the PRI, PAN and PRD are like slot machines that reproduce bourgeois democracy; that all these parties have one single program, the “Chapultepec Pact.” We also explain that the organizations present at the event are revolutionary parties, similar to the Flores Magón brothers’ Mexican Liberal Party as instruments of struggle for the workers, maintained by the voluntary donations of party members and those who buy our newspapers, magazines or books; that we do not accept government campaign funds because that would be like selling our souls to the devil.
Another compañero says that he is a socialist, but that he does not agree with the communists and their foriegn ideas. He says he belonged to the Socialist Workers’ Party in the 1980s. This same compañero asks for the floor during the assembly and speaks out against the presence of red flags with the hammer and sickle. He asks Subcomandante Marcos if he is a communist, because these ideas have nothing to do with the people of Campeche. The EZLN delegate explains that every struggle is associated with a symbol, and that the red star on the Zapatistas’ black flag is deeply associated with the Mayan people – the image of the star that comes to announce the dawn. Marcos gives a powerful description of January 1, 1994, telling of how after the military operations that day had ended, he was called over to deal with someone thought to be a foreign journalist but who turned out to be simply a frightened tourist. As he answered the tourist’s questions about how to get out of Chiapas, members of the actual press began to approach and listen. And that is how he became the spokesman for the EZLN, and how his black ski mask became the most famous symbol of the rebellion. Marcos explained that in the struggle he is only a subcomandante, and that the leaders are the comandantes and comandantas, simple and humble men and women like the late Comandanta Ramona.
In another town, the question asked in Bekal receives an answer. This is in Candelaria, a place where the agrarian struggle is organized by communists. When Marcos arrives he is surrounded by communists waving red flags. These are not the proletarians, factory workers or teachers; they are agricultural workers, fishermen, elderly communal farmers, people who live off the land. For several decades a communist who came from Nayarit had been organizing them and building up a social movement and party. This comrade, Ignacio Magdaleno, died last August. Elderly compañeros explain with pride that they belong to the Communist Party, and that their struggle has been under that banner for years. Workers and indigenous people say the same. A teacher named Gladis presents a number of proposals to move the process forward.
And so, before Marcos left Campeche, the question had been answered: the red flag is indeed close to the people of this state.
The Penguins of Córdoba, or, How to Wash the National Flag
The assembly of adherents in Córdoba, Veracruz is in a hall the compañeros have rented, which has the shape of a castle; a comrade jokes that finally we’ve taken a castle, a fortress. Another compañero tells him, we don’t just have to take, but to destroy and build something new. Two things stand out: that the auditorium is filled primarily with youth, and an imaginative mural by Adriana Viñas, a 19-year-old member of the Mexican Communist Youth who has won national painting awards. It depicts a group of penguins. El Pingüino exists. It is a curious rooster, trying to walk like a human to avoid ending up in the frying pan, but ending up walking more like those arctic creatures. The metaphor explains much. Existing struggles should make themselves known and learn to walk the way others do. What’s more, it’s nearly certain that Pingüino, surly given his nickname by Durito, has read Karl Marx’s inseparable companion Engels, who wrote that humanity must stand up and overcome its prehistory, even if its first steps are awkward. The penguins of Córdoba express quite a lot: they have dreadlocks, they’re skaters, anarchists, gays, workers, wear Zapatista ski masks, piercings, headphones; they are Guevarists, Trotskyists, libertarians, communists, peasants, immigrants, unemployed, people of all ages, prostitutes, punks, rockers, housewives, mechanics, indigenous; a wide multicultural spectrum, just like the Other Campaign.
As always, there are provocateurs. Sometimes they are PRD militants, sometimes turncoats. This time, a character shows up who exalts “Mexicanidad,” a kind of nationalism that borders on fascism. He says that the hammer and sickle are anachronistic, demands that the Mexican flag be displayed and finishes by singing the national anthem. Marcos’ response is harsh: The flag is missing because we’re washing off all the shit that Zedillo and Fox left on it. Marcos proudly recognizes the communists as his compañeros. The communist youth militants proudly wave their flags.
A lone knight and a multitude against the windmills of capitalism: two tactics that are splitting up to confront the same enemy.
In Oaxaca the people struggle openly. The transnational corporations hope to gobble up the Isthmus of Tehuantepec. Taking advantage of the strong gusts of wind of more than 75 mph common there, power monopolies from Spain and the U.S. have installed windmills to generate electricity. The community of La Venta denounces this. They don’t want to lose their country, explain the chicken farmers who say they are affected by the project, as capital devastates nature.
The Exterior Secretary of the militant Mexican Electrical Workers’ Union, which led important protests against energy privatization, takes the floor. He says that the electoral process is the last chance to hold back the neoliberal assault, and that participation in it is necessary. Marcos responds: there is no more to the elections than a truce offered by the hangmen; in the end, privatization will come. He evokes a passage from the classic Don Quixote by Miguel Cervantes de Saavedra: the moment in which the traveling knight tilts with the windmills thinking that they are monsters. In 2006, says Marcos, we have the answer: they are indeed monsters, they are the visible face of capitalist exploitation, but now we are going to defeat them. The clever nobleman on horseback is manifested today in the people, armed with the spirit of rebellion and alternatives to the present reality.
A Cortamortajas Anouncing the Death of the System:
The Sound of Masks, Red and Black Flags and Machetes that Confront Airplanes
Jalapa del Marques is our exit from the Isthmus. The meeting is the most representative of what we would like the Other Campaign to be. The EZLN arrives in the region that will provide the first confrontation against Plan Puebla-Panama, the region that held on to its ideology and toppled the myth of modernity that masks neoliberalism. Their machetes ringing, a delegation arrives from San Salvador Atenco, the town that blocked the construction of the country’s major neoliberal projects: a new international airport.
A core of activists from the General Strike Committee of the National Autonomous University of Mexico is also present. Their strike held back the privatization of higher education for nine months. Professor Leticia Contreras reminds that another anniversary of the army’s entrance into the university, violating UNAM’s autonomy, has passed. Contreras explains that the school’s current director, Juan Ramón de la Fuente, was in charge of that repression, and that López Obrador, the PRD’s presidential candidate, has already cynically promised Ramón the job of Interior Minister if he is elected president.
These three struggles have shaken the system, have scored victories against it, have announced an offensive of popular forces against that system. This extraordinary meeting was organized by three hearts and six hands from the Cortamortajas Collective. A Cortamortajas, explains compañero César, is a bird of the region that heralds a death: “You hear its song, and you know that soon there will be a corpse.” This bird announces the death of the capitalist system, coming just as certainly.
Oaxaca Will Not Be A New “Valle Nacional”
Whether it bears the name Madrazo or López Obrador, PRI, PAN or PRD; the capitalist system’s project of recolonization is guarantees with the “Chapultepec Pact” signed under pressure from Carlos Slim, Mexico’s leading businessman. For the Mexican southeast, this promises a postmodern version of what journalist John Kenneth Turner denounced in his 1910 work Barbarous Mexico. An extended maquiladora zone with slave labor just as in the times of the dictator Porfirio Diaz. Instead of the workforce being comprised of rebel Yaqui people of Sonora, it will use the Indian peoples of Mesoamerica; instead of the state-run “raya” monopoly stores that sold agricultural products to the peasants at inflated prices, they will build Wal-Marts; instead of the landowners’ white guards will be the army and paramilitary groups. But two things will surly stay the same: exploitation and death. What we can see here is that this is not going to happen, because the this rebellion, initiated by an axis of class-based and radical forces, will overcome, and the national flag will continue to fly, supported by the flags of all the different anticapitalists.
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