The second level of the Escuelita Zapatista

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Zapatista youth and women form much of the current EZLN support base. This photo is from La Realidad during the homage to fallen Compañero Galeano – killed in a paramilitary attack in La Realidad on May 2, 2014.

Zapatista youth and women form much of the current EZLN support base. This photo is from La Realidad during the homage to fallen Compañero Galeano – killed in a paramilitary attack in La Realidad on May 2, 2014.

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By: Gilberto López y Rivas/I

On October 3 the time period ended for sending in the six questions that each second level student of the Escuelita Zapatista (Little School) must send in order to be evaluated on their performance and, in the case of being approved, pass to the next level until eventually completing six. For that, the students must study Chapter 1 of the book Critical thought versus the capitalist hydra, as well as watching a video of a little more than three hours long, in which the genealogy and current characteristics of the EZLN’s resistance and rebellion are shown, in the voice of around 30 of its local “responsables,” [1] men and women, coming from different autonomous municipalities within the fiveCaracoles where the Good Government Juntas are located: La Realidad, Oventic, La Garrucha, Morelia and Roberto Barrios.

From the study of Chapter 1 what stands out are the participations of the current EZLN spokesperson, Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés, who in the theme of Political Economy is recapitulating how the communities lived 30 years ago, how those who are not organized as Zapatistas live and how the same Zapatistas live now. Before the arrival of the EZLN in 1983, the indigenous of Chiapas did not exist for the capitalist system; they were those forgotten by the governments who survived from the Mother Earth. They resisted domination by the landowners, who unlawfully were retaining the best lands, protected by their armed forces, who were called guardias blancas. [2] There were no roads, clinics or hospitals, programmes or grants then. With time, it wasn’t enough for them (the landowners) to have the best lands, now they wanted the mountains, nature’s riches and, as a consequence, they organized dispossessions and evictions, because of which they reformed constitutional Article 27, whose intent is to privatize the ejidos, selling or renting Mother Earth. When the uprising happens in 1994, a counterinsurgency policy begins in order to avoid the expansion of Zapatismo. Those communities that let their ejidos be privatized by selling their land are in the streets, because they no longer have anywhere to grow their corn and beans, also remaining at the mercy of this policy. The use of the term partidistas (party members) characterizes this social sector that has fallen into the government’s trap, distinguishing clearly the non-antagonistic contradiction of Zapatismo with those who are even considered brothers and sisters; about the paramilitaries: “those are some sons of bitches!”

The Zapatistas recuperated Mother Earth beginning by organizing collectively, combining different forms of agrarian work at the town, region and municipal level, and by recognizing failed attempts and errors. He warns that we must not idealize the Zapatistas, thinking that when they say clean, everything is clean. The trick is to be organized and to distinguish that it’s one thing to say it and another to do it. They discovered resistance in the various forms of doing collective work reacting to those who had been sent from the government to watch over them, like the teachers, who were expelled from the zone, or coming to the conclusion that they wouldn’t receive anything from the bad government, which, in turn, conditioned the start of a large quantity of tasks in different ambits of the land’s exploitation, production, trade, health and education that were giving sustainability to the autonomous Zapatista process as opposed to the dependency, loss of identity, drug addiction and submission of the party members. In this way Sub Moisés synthesizes the resistance that must be nourished from generation to generation, if one doesn’t want the exploiters to come back: “One of the bases of what constitutes our Zapatista economic resistance, is Mother Earth. We don’t have those houses, cement blocks and all that stuff the bad government gives, but we do have education; and our practice is that the peoples are the ones that command and the governments obey… we don’t pay for electricity, water, land ownership, nothing. But we also receive nothing from the system… And that is our way of being and that’s how we are going to continue working, struggling, and we will die that way if it’s necessary, defending what we are now.”

The Zapatista economy responds to the needs of the resistance and to the counterinsurgency strategy. They handle money only occasionally, like when they have to pay for gasoline. Everything is done starting with political and ideological work, and with much explanation. Sub Moisés gives the example of education, where the teacher with collective work is working his milpa, his bean field, his pasture and that way he can have his little payment. The thing is that no one remains without working collectively for the struggle, for autonomy, and for that the towns, the regions, the autonomous municipalities and the zones are in agreement as to how they want to work. The Zapatista economy has its banks, whose profits also are going to the autonomy movement. Loans are made for emergencies and the funds are made up of contributions from the support bases. He clarified how there were non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that cloaked themselves in the Zapatista struggle and obtained funds to pay for their bureaucracy, in the words of Sub Moisés: “Then from the shoulders of those who are struggling because of injustice and inequality, and misery and everything else, they still hang others from there. How smart we are, right?”

Operations in the rebel clinics are paid for from the rebel economy, even for the partisans, at prices much lower than those of the hospital market. All that is watched over thoroughly, given that it is the work and sweat of the people; therefore, they demand that their authorities render accounts. Collective work is not idealized and with a great sense of humour the EZLN’s spokesperson comments about those who are smoking their cigarette or filing their machete a lot, in order to pass time, in other words, to play tricks. But to these problems, the funny thing is that: “We didn’t stop. We are very stubborn; we are very foolish. We didn’t abandon it. We looked for a solution, counselling, giving clarifications, explanations, well, and that’s how we are going to continue.”

Translator’s Notes:

[1] “responsable” translates into “the one responsible” for something. One of the questions a Chiapas Support Committee member sent in before the October deadline was: for who/what are they responsible?

[2] “guardias blancas” translates as “white guards.” They were the landowners’ private security forces, often local police moonlighting.

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Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada

Translation: Chiapas Support Committee

Friday, October 9, 2015

En español: http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2015/10/09/opinion/022a1pol

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