A Message for the Intellectuals and their “Magnificent Alibi to Avoid Struggle and Confrontation”
An Exclusive Interview with Zapatista Subcomandante Marcos: Part II
By Sergio Rodríguez Lascano
May 31, 2006
Rebeldía: There has been a very strong criticism from some intellectuals of the left (at least that’s how they define them selves) and from currents of the left – that act along the margins between the institutionalism of the PRD (Democratic Revolution Party) and charros (corrupt union leaders) and the social-autonomous movement – against the EZLN (Zapatista Army of National Liberation) with this phrase (spoken recently by Marcos): “I shit on the correlation of forces.” We’ve always known that there is a species of culture in which the analysis of correlation of forces is a magnificent alibi to avoid struggle and confrontation. We also know that many times the cult of correlation of forces helps to throw principles and ethics out of political action. We know that the tireless repetition of the concept of correlation of forces is nothing less than hypocritical resignation in front of the thinking and practice of the right. What evaluation do you make of this criticism?
Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos: The problem goes higher than that. We say that there is a problem in the intellectual sector, not in just the part you talk about but among the entire intellectual sector – including on the radical left – which is the separation or detachment of intellectual action and political action. At the hour that you are producing theory or theoretical reflection, not linked to a movement, in this species of outsider that the intellectual poses himself to be, he is spontaneously taking a concept from reality and that concept is what permits him to edit reality and choose: “this is what is most important.” It is the idea that, well, if spontaneously – not as a product of a social movement but spontaneously – of what I see in reality – that what you see in reality is what other intellectuals say, what the media says, what is said in the cultural circles: which is imperialism, or the Empire, or the new correlation of forces – that is what allows them to say: “this is what is important” and it allows them to construct theories like those of the currents and different tendencies that say, “this is reality.” And yes, if you begin with this concept, yes, you are able to obtain elements of reality that confirm your thesis and also the contrary. But they never get to that part.
We say that theory, in this sense, over there, above, is always going to stumble with that. Because the saying – I don’t remember who said it – that the problem of theory is that praxis, fundamentally praxis, is not taken into consideration. And praxis is not teaching a class. It is not writing an article. It is connecting yourself directly with a social or political movement. Now, inside of that sector, this is what is called comfort in the cultural code. Anything that alters my position as an intellectual; that which puts it in crisis or which questions it, is something that the intellectual spontaneously rejects. If there are elements of reality or of movements that in reality are proposing a radicalization of society, that means that the intellectual loses his space of safety from which to produce theory.
The elements precipitate and don’t rise to produce theoretical reflection. What is the fundamental complaint by the intellectuals of the left and of the right with respect to the interruption by the Sixth Commission beginning in Atenco? It messes up the scenario. We already have here two elements: the political parties and the IFE (Federal Elections Institute)… And soon – from where? Through what window? – there appears and enters this band of plebes that not only do I not control them but I don’t know what they are about, I don’t want to understand them, and they mess up the entire panorama for me. And that is the desperation that turns into hatred and anger.
That is what we say in general. In this part, concretely, it means: “We can’t – we can’t as intellectuals – place value on a correlation of forces that doesn’t come from above. If not, it brings us to the question ‘what are you going to do?’ When my work as an intellectual is to respond that there is nothing to be done.” And yes, you go confronting the proposals of the intellectuals of the left and of the right and it becomes: this doesn’t have to be done, this doesn’t have to be done, this doesn’t have to be done. And it doesn’t have to be. When someone says, “this has to be done,” well, someone is going to say to him, “man, come here, you have a place here, you have to enter it.”
Then, on that level, the correlation of forces becomes an alibi to do nothing, not even anything for a slow change. Because if one sees the argument that they make it is not that the correlation of forces says that it can’t be done via insurrectional or violent routes; or that a slow change is necessary – which is something worth debating – no, what they say is that change cannot be made, period. What can be done is inside of this endless structure but what is fundamental is making a few fixes. And fixes that benefit me as an intellectual.
Evidently, if everything will be solved in academic space and with this level of debate that is “I tell you and you tell me,” there, above, it is not passionate. I remember that some years ago the debate between intellectuals was passionate and didn’t mean sinking to a lower level. Now it turns out that if there is passion it is not on the theoretical level.
Thus, I can stay in this channel and continue being the comfortable conscience of the right, not of the left, but of the right. Saying: “no, excesses can’t be committed…. Yes, it’s okay, there has to be exploitation, there has to be looting, there has to be disrespect and there has to be repression, but within the parameters of civility.” In this sense, the analysis of the correlation of forces never arrives at its fundamental point, which in an analysis of correlation of forces is: Is it the system or is it not the system? Because more likely the correlation of forces is “you can’t change the system; changing the party in government, that you can do.” This is the leap that is made from one side to the other.
What we think is that this analysis of “what is the correlation of forces” that is being made is selecting the elements that allow them to make the argument of “I am not going to do it… there is nothing to be done… don’t move… don’t make waves.” But if we really analyze the correlation of forces, the enemy probably does continue as the more powerful force, but there is another element of which they are not conscious: the force from below. And its rebellion is in organization.
This is not about what the EZLN is saying. It speaks of a feeling or a rebel subjectivity. The EZLN, at the moment that this is happening in the states, is detecting that this subjectivity is organized and has a history. This is not about spontaneous movements, nor about finding only the people who are ready. It turns out that the people already have their organizations and their history. Thus, if this is seen and what is above is seen, the correlation of forces then changes.
When the EZLN says: “I shit on the correlation of forces,” it’s that I shit on the vision that the academic sector has regarding the correlation of forces. Globally, nationally, as well as regionally and locally, according to how they go about seeing it. And what it means – at least in the very pedestrian terms that we use – is that they are looking toward above and they don’t look below. If only somebody looking below would say to us, “listen, I just saw… this.” No, instead they look upon us with disrespect, as if we didn’t even exist. That is the fundamental thing that bothers them (the intellectuals) about the Other Campaign in Atenco: if it (the Other Campaign) didn’t exist, it would fall by any wayside, it wouldn’t have anything to do with it. Now that it (the Other Campaign) is involved in this (Atenco) they (the intellectuals) are obligated to look below and they don’t like what they are seeing. Because what is being seen is a plebian, rebel, rude, movement with bad grammar, that puts its feet up on the table, that eats with its elbows also on the table… That doesn’t follow the established criteria.
We say that there’s nothing wrong with this analysis. Because, in every case, what the right offers gives more alibis. And that is what the institutional left moves toward. That is to say, the PRD could care less about what the analysts of La Jornada say. What matters to them is what is said in Letras Libres; what matters to them is what is said in Vuelta – well, okay, Vuelta doesn’t exist anymore – in Nexos and all that, because they have constructed an interlocution with power and with the mass media. And the most marginalized sectors think that no, because the intellectuals invite (PRD politician) Jesus Ortega to lunch and that they pay attention to something, but in reality it doesn’t matter to them. Not their radical nature, nor their prudence. The intellectuals of the left above pray to power that it look at them, and they are happy with very little. If, instead of that, they can say: my correlation of forces that I am offering for the revolutionary movement of the world – because they are even prudent and modest at that – doesn’t have any effect, not below, not above, not even in academia – I don’t believe that they provoke any enthusiasm in the students.
But for them it works. Because each day they can look in the mirror and say that, “yes, you are doing your work of orienting the proletariat, but they don’t understand you, they don’t obey you.” But in reality, almost never do they say anything directed toward below, it is always toward above. “Don’t look at them, don’t pay attention to them because they are ultras, they’re plebes, they don’t take into account the correlation of forces.”
Rebeldía: In the same way the same intellectuals have said that the statements that “we’re going after the wealthy of this country,” or “we are going to topple the government that comes and it doesn’t matter which party is in power,” represent an unrealizable propagandistic idea, that what it reflects is a kind of infantile will. This, in a way, reveals the limited view of these people who can’t imagine a horizon of revolutionary, radical or rebel – however they want to say it – rupture. To what do you think this limited view is owed?
SCI Marcos: This point about will has its counter-weight. It is a dishonest statement on the part of those intellectuals because all of them are led toward another kind of will that is perfectly defined. Because they say: It’s true that the PRD doesn’t have troops on the left; that it is true that the governing group is made up of troops from the PRI (Institutional Revolutionary Party) or the PAN (National Action Party)… but there is López Obrador, and with his will, his honesty, that is what will allow a change in things, in spite of the fact that the environment – and they recognize it, but they don’t mention it – is lined up against it, is from the right.
Thus, they say: here are all the elements that show that our will, which is endorsed by us as intellectuals, does work and the plebian will from below doesn’t work. The EZLN is not asking for permission to be noticed or that they classify us up above. It is fundamentally a challenge to this intellectual sector. How are the costs calculated and decided? It is part of our history. But the EZLN has been very clear about that: it doesn’t matter to us if they wink at us or if they don’t shake our hands, or that they don’t orient us, or that they don’t pay attention to us.
To the contrary: Our proposal also confronts that, is also rebellious when facing that. And what the EZLN is doing is what it has done for its entire lifetime, ever since it was born 22 years ago, that is, touching what is below and to read what it is touching. And to say it clearly, we can’t pretend that the problems that we are detecting are going to be solved unless the fundamental things in this country are changed: that would be a lie. We’re not going to do it. If we did it, we wouldn’t be anything, not even reformists.
The social project of this nation can’t be maintained with the lie that evolution happens above and that it happens below. We’ve come to the point where the bill has already been paid. It means, then, that for one to survive the other has to die; the other in terms of its national project. Thus, why are we going to say that this movement will end with national democracy when we see that what is leaping forward is a direct democracy? What is going to happen to electoral democracy, or the democracy of the political class – which is what it is today – when direct democracy or other kinds of democracy that are emerging arrive? Well, it will have to disappear. And it is not going to resign itself to disappearance. It will then be necessary to destroy it, not as people, but as a political class.
And at what moment will it be possible to take away the wealth that is being accumulated and distribute it equally? We say: that is already impossible. It is necessary to destroy what this wealth has in its possession and pass it to its true owner, those who were looted of that wealth: the worker, the Indian people, all the people that are below.
So, what should we do? Lie or tell a half-truth? Say that yes, the situation is very bad in this country, say that there is going to be a rebellion, and what is going to happen after that? No, well, I think that the rich, the government, are going to say yes, it is true, we are going to give them some concessions. Our experience as indigenous Zapatistas is the opposite: what we have achieved doesn’t have anything to do with what they have offered from above. Not the right to live, nor the right to live better. If the EZLN survived it was because of its ability to connect with others and the nobility of people in other lands supporting it. But not because the government solved anything: It has said, yeah, the situation is very difficult, we’ll give them something.
And if you think that what happens in the communities governed by the PRI - that have accepted government aid – where it is supposed that the aid was a product of understanding on the part of the government: yes, it’s true that the indigenous live under grave conditions. And in the indigenous communities you can see – without having to look too hard – that they are going to disappear, the ones that receive this aid. They will physically disappear: it is from those communities that the immigration to the cities and to the United States comes from. Thus, why are we going to lie or sit on the fence with all that it means for our survival? Survival as a nation, as the Mexico from below, requires the destruction of the Mexico from above; for its expulsion, to grind it into pieces, as we say here.
So, what is the political class’ problem? There are two things: we are coming after the rich of this country, we are going to kick them out, and if they have committed crimes, well, we will put them in prison… because this is the time that has come. We say that coexisting with them is not possible, because their existence means our disappearance. And, apart from that, is the question of the government. That is, how is it possible that you pass – which is what (Carlos) Loret de Mola (of Televisa) asked us – “how is it possible that you pass over the 40 million Mexicans that went and voted and chose their government?” And I asked him, “And the other 70 million?” Because its not even 40 million who vote, it is going to me more like 30 million, or 20 million, or nsuch. And what of the other 70 million?
That government, above, and that political class doesn’t have an ideological identity: It is not of the left, nor of the right, nor of the center. It is a class that is looking for work and where it can be found it shows its face. Paradoxically, it would wear a ski mask if convenient. And this can be clearly seen in its speeches. When it is convenient to be of the left, – and I’m not just referring to López Obrador, but also to (candidates Felipe) Calderón and (Roberto) Madrazo – and when it is convenient to be tough, and when it is convenient they act like asses. There is no place where it can be said, here are the candidates who are of the left everywhere they go. No, it depends on the audience, on the issue.
So, if no government above is going to question the economic direction – or the macro-economy, to say it better – then this government has to be toppled. As we understand it, unless (social democrat candidate) Patricia Mercado or (other candidate) Campa Cifrián or Doctor Simi (the drugstore magnate and perennial politician) has an ace up her or his sleeve, no administration to come is going to come proposing that. They think that it is possible to continue, as a nation, with the macroeconomic variants. We say no. Today, whether it has to do with will or not, it is going to be seen here whether we as the Other Campaign will be able to organize all the people and confront the reality that things can’t continue as they are, since I don’t see how we have to maintain a government that is going to destroy us as a nation.
So, what will we do to that government? Well, we will topple it, or take it away – because they say that to topple it has to do with weapons but our will has to do with movements – whatever you call it. With a civilian and peaceful movement we will take the government away from us, which is our Constitutional right. And we will make another one. Today, that is what we are saying, and that’s why we speak of the rich. It is necessary to change the system and take from them – those who now control the means of production – what they took from us. In other words, take back the land and work it our selves. Take back the banks, the businesses, and work them our selves. Somebody once said that already, no? And back then, yes, there were a lot of people who fought…
Click here for Part I
Click here for Part IV
Coming Next in Part III: Marcos Speaks of a Country Called América, and names names: Lula, Kirchner, Tabaré, López Obrador, Evo and Chávez and asks, “So, What is the Path?”
This is a translation of the second part of an interview that appears in the current issue (#42) of Rebeldía magazine, a special edition about Atenco that is available throughout Mexico and will soon be available online at its website.
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