The Second Level of the Zapatista Escuelita
By: Gilberto López y Rivas / III
Video for Level 2 of the Escuelitas
EZLN members brought down this statue of Diego de Mazariegos on October 12, 1992, more than a year before the 1994 Uprising.
Students of the Zapatista Escuelita (Little School) who hope to pass the second level had access to a video more than three hours long, a significant part of which demonstrates the less known history of the EZLN: the history of the years prior to the 1994 Uprising. This memorable film document, which offers an extraordinary lesson of how to organize in the most adverse conditions, begins with an introduction from Subcomandante Insurgente Moisés, the current spokesperson of that political-military organization. Around 30 local responsables coming from the five Zapatista Caracols give talks.
In these testimonies they announce, live and in the various languages of the peoples, the difficulties of clandestine work from the crucial years of 1983 and 1984; the slow and tortuous process of taking consciousness, explaining the 13 demands, the exploitation, capitalism, imperialism, the bourgeois State, criticism and self-criticism. They talk about the first recruitment of members, about the forms of secret communication and discretion, meeting with each other in the milpa or in the coffee field, in the mountains, avoiding the travelled roads, walking along the dirt paths, at night, many times in the rain, enduring hunger, mud, cold and heat, all for the struggle.
They detail the security rules for not disclosing the presence of the organization in its infancy, including sharing it with family members, neighbours and friends, “burning the notes so that the enemy would not know about us.” They remember the sacrifices and zeal of the first militants, of the initial desertions and treasons of the splits, as well as the compas that continue firm in the struggle. They describe the tasks of the local and regional responsables throughout the years, as well as the sacrifices and the conditions in which the military preparation of the insurgents and milicianos took place. They looked for secure places for the trainings and, at the same time, the militants bought their weapons, machetes, boots, hammocks, uniforms and batteries; they had “reserves,” because they didn’t know how long the war would last. There was a bakery, a tailor shop, and later a radio. They cooperated among the support bases for that and they worked collectively; the rebellion was assumed as a great task for everyone, while the insurgents gave training to the milicianos and, in the midst of all this hustle and bustle, which finally led to the 1994 Uprising, there was time to “raise spirits,” above all by realizing that more were convinced every day, that there were concentrations of thousands, with those who joined the platoons, battalions and regiments of what would be the Zapatista National Liberation Army. The Indigenous Revolutionary Committee was composed of the zonal and regional spokespersons. Compañerismo and unity, information and formation, the economy of resources destined to mobilization were followed in all these organizing efforts. When the armed and uniformed insurgents arrived in a village, they would make welcoming fiestas with marimba music and dancing.
In the expositions they identified values and qualities for eventual members of the organization; that is, they chose those who “were well-spoken,” demonstrated punctuality, discipline and completion of work, were without addictions, with irreproachable conduct and, above all, who had no contact with the government and the finqueros.  The best of these were selected to be local and regional responsables. In these years they were forging the organization’s basic principles: don’t surrender, don’t sell out, don’t give up and don’t deceive the (support) bases.
The reference to the work of the women in the guerrilla organization was very instructive: their first incorporation into peripheral tasks in the beginning, and their passage towards positions and duties with greater responsibility, including those directly related to the war that was being prepared; that is, as milicianas and insurgentas. In the 1993 consultation to decide the start of the war, they also signed the agreement, prepared the food for the milicianos and milicianas who marched at the front. They even made known a military action at an airplane landing strip, in which the women brought down the antenna and expropriated a radio transmitter. Now, they proudly affirm that they have learned a lot: that they are agents, commissioners, midwives and health promoters, education responsables, members of the autonomous governments, commanders and, above all, self-sufficient human beings with rights backed up by the Women’s Revolutionary Law. They maintain that the war is never going to end because “the fucking bad government is always going to betray us.”
It’s also interesting listen to the stories of how the EZLN combined the forms of struggle before the Uprising, with open organizations that answered to their commanders, one of which brought down the statue of Mazariegos  on October 12, 1992, in which the indigenous peoples aired their protest against the “celebration” of the invasion of our continent and, at the same time, a general rehearsal for the taking of San Cristóbal de las Casas in 1994.
What shows through is the pride and affection for the “organization,” for the history that its supporters are unravelling, each one in their fashion, from their particular experience and in their own forms of oral expression. They declare that they will never give themselves up as conquered, that the Zapatistas, 20 years after the declaration of war, have their autonomous governments, without depending on the bad government, and that this future they are constructing is forever.
They conclude by pointing out that they prepared the Second Level course for the Escuelita Zapatista with a lot of love, and starting with a commitment to the people of Mexico, to the millions of Mexicans, to whom they deliver this seed of organization and resistance.
 Finqueros – Ranch owners
 Diego de Mazariegos was a Spanish colonizer who invaded Chiapas.
Originally Published in Spanish by La Jornada
Translation: Chiapas Support Committee
Friday, November 6, 2015