Zapatista: Vanguard of the Anti-Globalization Revolution

Zapatistas | EZLN | Chiapas | Emiliano Zapata

‘January 1st [1994]: Uprising! The Zapatistas declare war on the Mexican government on behalf of the country’s indigenous people. They launch their uprising on this day because it is the date the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) goes into effect. From their base in Mexico’s southernmost state of Chiapas, the Zapatistas seize government offices and occupy thousands of acres of private land. The insurgents demand democracy, liberty, and justice for all Mexicans. The EZLN’s General Command issues the First Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle, and the municipalities of San Cristóbal de las Casas, Ocosingo, Las Margaritas, Altamirano, Chanal, Oxchuc, and Huixtan are all taken by the rebels.’

Zapatista Timeline

‘Two of the most influential sociologists-thinkers of the last half-century, Pablo González Casanova and Boaventura de Sousa Santos, referred with animation to the emergence of alternative social movements all over the world, and both found the Zapatista Rebellion at the origin of this process. “We are conscious,” González Casanova said, “that we are more all the time and that there will be more all the time who struggle in the entire world for what in 1994 just seemed like a ‘post-modern indigenous rebellion’ and that in reality is the beginning of a human mobilization considerably better prepared for achieving liberty, justice and democracy.”’

Compañero Manuel

‘The Zapatistas hence practise at every step the local autonomy, democracy and justice they preach. This lack of hypocrisy undeniably helped win over the active support of the people of Chiapas. As well Marcos and other Zapatistas have used the “language of storytelling and poetry rather than political dogma” to communicate their dreams and ideas to the local population and later the world. Thirty percent of people in Chiapas are illiterate and another thirty two percent speak only their native Indian language. Storytelling was thus crucial in ensuring the guerrillas earned the support of the most deprived people in Mexico. Active and widespread participation was crucial as armed resistance has historically led to harsh elite led repression. Military and state backed terror was indeed the PRI’s and the Chiapas landed elite’s response. Hired guards and other paramilitary groups were entrusted by the state to terrorise the local population into subjugation and submission. The peasants responded by sending their men into the jungle in support of the guerrillas while the women folk did their best to continue their way of life in the face of military occupation. The guerrilla leadership foreseeing this response sought to create national and international support networks with any organisation that shared in part or all of the movement’s vision. These networks and the support they produced created an effective shield that prevented the Mexican state following a path of complete repression against the Zapatistas.’

The Zapatista Mexican Rebellion, its Revolutionary Objectives and Tactics

‘What has happened and what is currently happening is a purposeful destruction. The plan doesn’t emerge from the very limited intellectual quotient of those who say they govern (or aspire to do so), from their unlimited ambition for stealing or their ancestral corruption. It comes from further above. Those who govern are mere administrators that get to take a piece of the loot for administering the destruction, and then the reconstruction. The large real estate companies and the usurers, where the names of the local political class also appear, wait for the urban construction projects—purposefully slow and without any rational logic—to drive the fragile local economy into despair and obligate the local “decent people” to sell. Then they wait for the construction projects to conclude at their leisure. And boom: what they bought for ten is now worth a thousand. Of course, they have to give a little something to the authority, the one who holds office and the one who aspires to it. Where else will the advertising and vote-buying money come from? What has been carried out here is a true conquest, and the resulting impoverishment no longer only corresponds to indigenous people, but also to workers and people in the neighborhood. Now a slimmed down middle class has to choose between governmental or political party bureaucracy, badly paid work, or exile.’

Chiapas, Mexico, the World. (passage from the text “A World War,” May-June 2015, by SupGaleano [Subcomandante Insurgente Galeano], in “Our View of the Hydra,” part II of volume I of “Critical Thought Versus the Capitalist Hydra”)

‘There is also much new about the neo-Zapatistas. We will mention just one aspect, of great importance: their struggle is not to seize state power and then establish a socialist or communist regime, as happened in most of the countries of Latin America and the world where there were armed rebellions. On the contrary, their first demands were merely demands for the minimum necessary for the development of a decent life: “work, land, shelter, food, health, education, independence, freedom, democracy, justice and peace…” Seen in this way, we can say that the EZLN is a synthesis, a social process which manages to bring together a wide range of social demands, traditions of struggle, and currents of critical thought present throughout the history of Mexico and the world. At the same time it recovers new approaches relevant to their times. For these reasons, today, 30 years after its formation and almost 20 since its first public appearance, after intense and varied processes, of rebuilding and building history; there are many of us [throughout the world] still shouting “Long Live the EZLN!”‘

A brief history of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation

‘The EZLN and its larger populist body the FZLN are NOT Anarchist. Nor do we intend to be, nor should we be. In order for us to make concrete change in our social and political struggles, we cannot limit ourselves by adhering to a singular ideology. Our political and military body encompasses a wide range of belief systems from a wide range of cultures that cannot be defined under a narrow ideological microscope. There are anarchists in our midst, just as there are Catholics and Communists and followers of Santeria. We are Indians in the countryside and workers in the city. We are politicians in office and homeless children on the street. We are gay and straight, male and female, wealthy and poor. What we all have in common is a love for our families and our homelands. What we all have in common is a desire to make things better for ourselves and our country. None of this can be accomplished if we are to build walls of words and abstract ideas around ourselves.’

A Zapatista Response to “The EZLN Is NOT Anarchist”

‘As we continue to struggle to find issues of broad- ranging concern with the power to ignite people to political action, we need to use the opportunity presented to us by the revolutionaries in Mexico. The likelihood of the rebellion in Chiapas having begun a long term class war in Mexico, combined with NAFTA, explain the US intervention. Our failure to recognize the importance of the fight in southern Mexico would mean losing out on an opportunity to finally demonstrate that revolutions do not need to assume control of the state apparatus to be successful; that revolutions can be based on an idea as simple, and as profound, as poor peasants taking control of the land, and their lives.’

An Anarchist Assessment of the EZLN

‘Zapatismo does not pretend to be a model for anyone, but it has been an inspiration for millions of people around the world. While the concrete implementation of autonomy, collective organizing, self-government, and mandar obedeciendo are grounded in local cultures unique to Chiapas, the Zapatista movement offers inspiration for millions of people around the world who are building their own local alternatives to neoliberalism.’


‘The Chiapas Support Committee is a grass roots all-volunteer organization in Oakland, California. We support indigenous and campesino organizations in Mexico. We have an hermanamiento (partnership) with San Manuel autonomous Zapatista municipality… In the Bay Area we provide public information about Chiapas through public events, radio programs, our newsletter, Chiapas Update, our listserv and several web sites. We organize delegations to Chiapas and also recruit and certify human rights observers and volunteers.’

Chiapas Support Committee




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