Comandanta Grabiela: “We Are Here Because We Have Completed Our Work. Now We Get to Return, but You All Will Not Remain Alone”
By Amber Howard- December 3, 2006
Today, after a long journey into the forgotten corners of the country of Mexico, the Zapatista Other Campaign tour begun on January 1st finally came to an end… and a new beginning.
To celebrate, adherents of the Other Campaign met together Mexico City to compare notes and shed light onto some of the results of the tour. The theme, the Other Campaign and the Anti-Capitalist Struggle, brought together eight panelists who addressed these topics to a full house, not a single chair left empty. Four of the panelists were the first four delegates of the Sixth Commission of the Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN, in its Spanish initials): Delegado Zero, Subcomandante Insurgente Marcos; Delegada Una, Comandanta Grabiela; Delegado Dos, Comandante Zebedeo; and Delegada Tres, Comandanta Miriam. Other representatives as follows: Rosario Hernandez, of the Independent Francisco Villa Front, Luis Alfonso Vargas of the Party of Mexican Communists, Sergio Rodríguez of Rebeldia magazine y Lucas Alvarez of Socialist Worker Unity.
The panelists each identified capitalism as the overriding cause of the problems that the Mexican people and environment are suffering today; the grievances heard over the past year by Delegate Zero on his nationwide listening tour. Vargas mentioned how since the end of the Cold War, capitalism has been presented to the world as the only natural and inevitable option. Since this system, according to Vargas, is based in exploitation and the sale of merchandise, it causes the destruction of natural resources and an even greater class struggle. He proposed that the only way out of this situation will be the destruction of the capitalist system, and described how the protests are growing around the world. “Now not only poor people are standing up against it, but people of all classes and especially indigenous people, immigrants, human rights organizations and more.” The movement against capitalism, Vargas said, is beginning to take the offensive.
Next Rosario Hernandez remembered that in the year 1810 Mexico fought for its Independence from Spain, and one hundred years later in 1910, came the Mexican Revolution against another dictatorship. Now, as 2010 approaches, the Other Campaign is laying the groundwork to vindicate those victories. “We have hit the limit of the disappearance of people, of land, and of culture, and every day the riches of the country are held in fewer and fewer hands.”
She declared capitalism to be like a cancer that destroys all of the natural wealth that is Mexico. “Capitalism has converted everything into merchandise: education, politics, even man himself. It is a crucial element of this system to destroy anything that is different, especially anything rebellious, and within this, to erase the past itself. Ignorance, by way of historical amnesia, serves as one of the principal weapons that allows for the continuation of this system. Erasing the history of centuries of humiliation, of people forced to sell their land and of people killed in the struggle, makes the current destruction appear isolated and alone. Another weapon is the institucional violence that causes anyone who acts out against the system to be followed, jailed, disappeared, or assassinated.” But in spite of all of this systematic opression, Hernandez points out a search for the real past that is still exists, even if underground. “We are learning today from The Other Campagin how many silent struggles are going on across the country, that don´t appear in the official data. We are recognizing the honest struggles, and these people are not alone….Today we are constructing a new form of politics, of uniting our strengths, together.”
Alvarez followed this notion of the formation of a new politics, from the Zapatista uprising in 1994, and the subsequent struggles over international trade policies. “Free trade served to deepen the political struggle against capitalism.” He mentioned the fact that students, now upon graduating, have no place to go to find a job, no place to create a better condition of life for this country, and for the defense of the mother earth. “Now what we have to do is find the links, the connections between all of these different struggles we have seen in this tour around Mexico. The left has to unite within itself against capitalism, to join together all of the different positions within the leftist movement.”
Rodríguez of Rebeldia talked about the importance of defining what it means to be anti-capitalist, and in this way defining exactly what is capitalism and neo-liberalism. “Today we are living a global offense of exploitation, of being kicked off of our lands, and of a development of politics that will destroy us.” The politicians, he continues, are now the “worst” or the “not as bad”, and either way they continue taking everything from us, little by little. “The only way that we can confront this is by struggling for the imposible or in other words, the necessary.” Rodríguez also talked about how the only politics that exist now in Mexico are the politics that give everything over to the great capital, making this country subordinate to the United States. Every time the demands are more and more intense, now creating a cultural crisis. The tenents of the Other Campaign, to unite those from below and to the left, are the destination of those searching out an alternative. “The possibility does exist, when we are able to join together all of our efforts.”
Delegada Tres, Comandanta Miriam, spoke on behalf of the Zapatista Sixth Commission. She said the EZLN is on alert for all of the political prisoners of Atenco, and all of the women raped there. “We see how the government has not been able to find a solution to the demands. We are not going to leave them alone. We must continue to organize ourselves. We also are organizing against the capitalistic system, which for us means only pain, hunger, oblivion and inequality.” Comandanta Miriam also focused on how important it is to fight for the lands, and for fair salaries, even if it does provoke repression. “They are trying to finish off our culture and our collective way of working, through privatization of our natural resources, by giving us transgenetic seeds, all from those rich countries, the capitalists. Every time the prices rise for things we need, and our salaries are lower and lower. They are making our youth learn English and the ways of individualism, this is what they put in the minds through the educational system.”
She spoke to the need to understand the collective way of working, as a method within the struggle. “The politicians talk about democracy, freedom and truth, but we know this is nothing more than talk and a manipulation of information. They want to fool us once again. We have to show them our ways, which don´t depend on institutions or on individuals. Our future is up to us, it depends on how we want it to be.” Miriam ended her speech by saying- “Keep heart! Don’t ever stop struggling. Soon this capitalist system will fall.”
Subcomandante Marcos spoke next, introduced by Miriam as “the person we have put in charge of the work of the Other Campaign.” Marcos began by addressing the situation in Oaxaca, the hundreds of people who have been illegally tortured, beaten and jailed, young, old, children and grandparents. “Brothers and Sisters,” he called out to the crowd, “this attack against Oaxaca cannot be forgotten, EZLN calls on all people to initiate the following demands: One, the presentation of all of the disappeared peoples, alive. Two, freedom for all of the political prisoners. Three, the immediate exit of Ulises Ruiz Ortiz. And four, the recognition of all the wrong doing that has happened to the people of Oaxaca. Oaxaca is not alone.”
Next he referred to the entire journey of the Other Campaign, over 45,000 kilometers, in land that we now can call “from below”. Marcos talked about how this force is growing so much that it can´t even be contained by the country of Mexico, that to the North of the Rio Bravo there exists another Mexico, “one that we are not going to lose.”
He continued: “We cannot continue resisting separately, each person from their own place. We must unite ourselves.” He talked about how in each of the different eight corners of Mexico they saw people from below, criminalized for fishing, for taking care of the land, for struggling to maintain their territory. He talked about how the great machine of the north is making everything into merchandise, into property, into banks, malls- and all of the profits go to the foreigners. “We have returned to where we were in the 1900s, with the destruction of our land, our culture, our collective way of working, the destruction of our women, the lack of appreciation of our elders, and the merchandising of the youth. All of this, including the lack of maintaince of our educational system and the social security system, is for the benefit of the grand capital extranjero.”
Delegate Zero finished his speech by saying how it was more common in the North to find women as the bosses, but that this strong indigenous woman of the North, and her struggle for indigenous rights, was not created by the Zapatista Sixth Declaration of the Lacandon Jungle that began the Other Campaign, but, rather, that the Sexta serves simply as a call to get to know each other, to unite ourselves and to respond to the following questions. “Who are we?, Where are we?, How does it look? What do we want? How are we going to get it?” He called upon all to meet this Monday, December 4th to begin to discuss the answers to these questions. He also called upon the importance of creating a movement within the Other Campaign focused upon the following issues: 1) the high costs of electricity around the country. 2) the state and care of the environment, and, 3) the importance supporting small businesses instead of multinational corporations. “The hour has come,” announced Marcos. “It is time to wake up. It is difficult to distinguísh between day and night when everything appears to be a pre-dawn, but now is the time to recuperate our shadows. We have to awaken.”
Delegado Dos, Zebedeo, rose to invite everyone to the meeting with the Zapatista communities and with countries from around the world, in Oventic, the heart in the center of the Zapatista territory, December 30 to January 2. “So you all can get to know us directly, but it will not be just to get to know people, but also to see how we work: Our good health, our autonomous education, our basic alimentation, and our healthy justice. This is a new practice of government, a healthy government. It´s our new form of politics, our new way. Never will it be through the current political system, with big business. We are witnesses to the lies. We are sure that now is the time to plant the seeds, to create anew. We will make the rich people shake in their boots. Then we will see each other also in July of 2006, for the Intergalactic again in the Zapatista communities. We will be waiting for you all with open arms.”
Finally, the last Delegate stood to speak, with an obvious smile not well hidden behind her black mask. Delegada Una, Grabiela said “We are here because we have completed our work. El Compa, Marcos, has now finished his tour. Now we get to return, but you all will not remain alone. Other compañeros will come. Do not fear the government. We will continue advancing in our struggle. We must give our whole heart to this struggle. Now we can return happy to our communities.” She caused the entire audience to laugh by admitting that she was going to say other things, but she forgot it all. “It doesn´t matter”, she proclaims, “I am just so happy with you all and for this reason we can now go home. Redouble your efforts, friends, and stay optimistic.”
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