Saturday, December 30, 2006


Tomorrow the Intergalactic will begin. This presents us with a question. Or rather two related questions:

What the fuck is an Intergalactic? I mean, what the fucking fuck?

To answer these questions it is necessary to start more or less at the beginning. On New Year’s Day 1994 armed guerilla fighters came out of the mountains and jungles of Chiapas, Mexico and captured several cities, blockaded roads, freed prisoners and took others, and after a few days issued a communique that told the world why they had decided to do this.

They called themselves the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN in the Spanish initials) after Emiliano Zapata, an indigenous revolutionary famous for his military exploits and populist principles during the Mexican Revolution. They had formed roughly ten years earlier when a small cadre of non-indigenous Maoist revolutionaries had moved to Chiapas to organize the locals into a guerrilla force. Their Maoism didn’t survive contact with the indigenous population and after ten years of working with them the EZLN had morphed into something altogether different. Indeed, they had changed into something politically, ideologically, militarily and socially unique.

Chiapas is one of the poorest states, in terms of personal income, in the Mexican union and has one of the largest indigenous populations. It is also one of the richest in terms of natural resources. To make a 500 year long story very very short, suffice it to say that the natives were getting royally screwed. NAFTA passed through the Mexican and US systems in ’93. The indigenous realized that not only would this further continue their screwing, but that it was worse than that. If NAFTA was implemented unopposed it would have amounted to a death sentence. NAFTA went into effect on Jan. 1st, 1994, and it was on this day that the EZLN decided to start fighting back.

The war lasted twelve days until a ceasefire was agreed upon by the EZLN and the Mexican government. I don't really have space to get into the details, but there is an excellent short summary of the next stages of the conflict here. Basically when the dust cleared a bit the Zapatistas had managed to create some autonomous space in Chiapas for their communties, innovated new strategies and tactics of social struggle and social organization, and launched what came to be known in corporate press as the "anti-globalization" movement.

Twelve years later they launched an initiative that they called The Other Campaign. Designed as a non-electoral counterpart to the presidential campaigns, The Other Campaign´s purpose was to extend the Zapatista movement and tactics to the national level. They sent their spokesman, Subcommandante Marcos, to tour the country and gather information from people engaged in social struggle about what they would like to see Mexican society look like. Following the Zapatista principle of "command by obeying" Marcos would hold meeting in each town on the tour and listen and take notes as people told him about the particular problems of their situation and what they were doing about it. When he returns to Chiapas the Zapatistas will collate the information and then send two Zapatista Commandantes (Generals) to each designated region of Mexico in order to help organize the groups there.

The Other Campaign has already had some significant effects. Some of its proponents credit it with unifying the factionalized activist groups in Oaxaca that eventually led to the Oaxaca uprising. The Zapatistas are very popular throughout Mexico and have been very uncompromising throughout their existence. Because of this they hold a great deal of moral authority and groups that otherwise wouldn't be able to work together feel comfortable uniting under the Zapatista rubric. Many people here believe that Mexico will be in a national revolutionary situation within the next five or so years, and The Zapatistas and The Other Campaign are obviously key elements in this phenomenon.

The international counterpart of The Other Campaign is called the Intergalactic. So called as a result of the peculiar Zapatista sense of humor, The Intergalactic is an open invitation to everyone in the Galaxy to come to the Zapatista community in Oventik for four days of workshops and talking and training, etc. Its basically an international conference of radical leftie groups.

So this is what is happening tomorrow. Sorry this post is a bit slight, but internet access is spotty here. More later.


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