An address to the
and all the
people we have met in these months of travel,
those who love
us and those who despise us,
and sisters who are going to be in Genoa.
Our collective journey lasted twenty days and ventured into the bodies
and minds of multitudes. After that, we have come back home carrying
"hands full of hands". Marcos says so, and he's right. We
chose to join the Zapatista caravan and were lucky enough to hold
numberless hands, the hands of the brothers and sisters of the Comandancia
and the Indigenous National Congress, those of the fishermen, peasants,
laborers, teachers, unemployed, youth and elders, women, men and children,
the myriads of people who filled the 3,000 kilometers of our march.
We shook so many hands, and saw so many people holding each other's
hands, and we were some of those people ourselves, and there was so
much handshaking that even many days after our return those images
are still the backbones of our stories and accounts. To journey through
a multitude and become part of it, to feel under your skin a conflict
relying on consensus and a consensus expressing itself through the
conflict for dignity, democracy and justice... We got in touch with
a revolution, and we are not used to that. We realized how beautiful
that is, and how extraordinary and contradictory, based upon spontaneity
and organization at once. Our hands served to link with one another
and all together make a very big circle, the symbol of a community.
In those days we came to be a political community. Now the circle
has dissolved, one month has passed, each one of us has returned to
their territory, squat, university or party cell. However, we are
still marked by that experience underneath, and think it would be
good to form that circle again, and talk. No "central committee"
of the White Overalls, no "party line" either, rather, a
contribution to make the anti-G8 demonstrations in Genoa (July 2001)
the further step of our march.
We are no experts of the Mexican situation,
the history, the conflict or the maximum of democracy achievable.
We are not able - perhaps nobody else is, not even Marcos - to foresee
the end. Certainly that's not only up to president Fox and the Zapatistas.
All we can say is: things are no longer what they used to be. The
vicissitudes of the caravan, and the past years of Zapatismo as well,
can be useful to everybody to reflect upon politics and society. Such
reflection is not regardless of the specific contexts people live
in, indeed, the Zapatistas adopt peculiarities as the basics of their
action: "We don't represent the world revolution, we couldn't,
and wouldn't, do that. We don't even represent all the struggle and
conflicts going on in our country. We are just a part of it, we are
neither the only ones nor the best ones." Such a notion breaks
off the classic tradition (general representation, "key figures"
as leaders of the revolution) and bursts into the future. In the age
of globalization, a peculiar feature can talk to everyone, provided
that local action is regarded as action in network. As many "heretics"
did in 1970's Italy, Zapatismo gets rid of the concepts about taking
over the state, perhaps relying on collective memories of past experiences.
They say: "We do not advocate the seizure of power, for it is
not possible, and we are not interested in that either", which
sounds like: "The logic of the seizure of power caused too much
devastation and mayhem". They also update a few basic paradigms,
for example the one defined by an ugly word: "transition".
Nowadays we would call it "a society in the making". Mono-subjectivism
(the ideology that laid the stress upon abstract images of the Factory
Worker or the Peasant) no longer exists, not even as a form of mass
organization (the Party or the general movement towards revolution).
Never the less, the problems are still there: the concrete transformation
of everyday life, the way we go through the state of things and change
it. What better than a march to represent this "going through"?
The mass has turned to multitude, for there
are many and manifold differences between the people who acknowledge
and support each other. These differences are not addends in a sum.
They are combining forces. Anyhow, this is far from unraveling the
puzzle of "transition": "We want the army to withdraw
from our land, the law on indigenous respect to be approved and the
prisoners to be released. We want justice, freedom and democracy."
This reflection can help us getting rid of some garbage, and also
facing the tasks of today. In the age of globalization there's no
way we can fight the enemies of planet Earth if we don't fight them
in our "backwoods" day by day. We can't call into global
action and talk to multitudes if we don't enrich our peculiar experience
and experimentation. This goes beyond and implies more than the usual
slogan: "Think globally, act globally". Can global struggle
exist without the everyday struggle on a smaller scale, the struggle
for autonomy, for anyone's "dignity" (as they put it in
Chiapas), for the making of a new society? If we don't draw the lines
between what we want and what we reject, the richness of nomadism
and the global mobility of conflict could result in utter confusion,
and the world might turn to a mobile cage for powerless travelers.
Conflict and consensus
We had underestimated the relevance of the
new language devised by the Zapatistas. Yes, we had gone as far as
realizing how brilliant they were in making a political, revolutionary
use of symbols and words, how cleverly they pointed at new horizons
and shifted from the particular to the universal, but we hadnt
taken account of the strict relationship between that conflict and
the necessity of consensus, till we witnessed millions of people drawing
near to the commanders and making the EZLN a strong force all over
Mexico. The continual pursuit for language and the ways to turn language
into action are related to the kind of domination we are subjected
to, a domination that is cognitive as well as material, a command
on information, opinions and feelings. It is necessary to unveil in
order to spur the multitudes towards the practical anticipation of
a new society. Either we are able to create different information,
opinions and feelings, or the conflict is going to be toothless, vain
and ineffectual. Nobody is going to see it or hear about it. There
will be conflict all the same, but it will be directed and exploited
by those in power. In plain words, if after an action, a campaign,
an experience we are fewer than before, then it's time to think. Had
the Zapatistas remained the ones of the "Levantamiento"
[the "Awakening" of New Years Day , 94], they wouldnt
be here now. The improvement of forms of action, the pursuit for languages
that embody new views of the world, politics, society and the "revolution:
itself is not only an aesthetical issue.
Have civil disobedience, shields and mobile barricades been only cover-ups
for "moderatism"? Certainly not. On the other hand, the
experimentation (from Chiapas to Seattle and beyond) of new intelligent
ways to stage radical confrontation with the power was more than an
excuse for the legitimation of "violence" Since everybody
says the power is more and more despotic, antidemocratic, fascistic,
why should we deal with it by giving up confrontation and trusting
its willingness to "dialogue"? What a nice paradox.
Violence and non-violence
We read many of the texts put into circulation after the Zapatista
caravan and in preparation for the G8. It appears we have gone backwards,
as if nothing has happened in the past few years. Some people keep
raising such issues as Violence vs. Non-violence, as if we were entrapped
in the 1980’s. We even heard old soundbites like "Isolate
the troublemakers!", which reminds us of nightmarish times. Since
Zapatismo and the global movement are winners and nobody dares distance
themselves from whats going on, false distinctions are promptly
made and those two phenomena are exploited to foster the farewell-to-arms
attitude. However, Zapatistas never waved goodbye to their weapons,
and since the showdown in Seattle the global movement has developed
a strategy aimed at blockading the summits, a strategy which comes
to terms with riot squad charges and activists arrested. In both cases
there was a new approach: neither weapons were used as in classic
guerrilla warfare, nor street riots were considered only a "military"
thing. No need to summarize the history of the EZLN as an army that
was formed in order to breakup; or explain such notions as "Words
are weapons". It is a matter of fact that the armed uprising
of 1994 never provided for a military solution of the war. The Zapatistas
never chose to retaliate governmental massacres an eye for an eye,
exposing a million people to retaliation.
Thats one of the reasons why they still exist and are stronger
than ever. And yet they had to rise up, defend their communities and
get ready for war. Hadn t there been any Levantamiento, no indian
would have spoken at Congress wearing a balaclava. "Words are
weapons" does not mean that we are to pack only words, rather,
it means that we have to rise up in order to speak. Change does not
come only by the barrel of a gun, but guns are also necessary. Commander
Esthers speech at Congress featured no farewell to arms. She
simply said: "We order Marcos not to go into any armed action";.
"We" ;means the 23 commanders on behalf of the Zapatista
autonomous municipalities. Marcos does not belong to the Indigenous
congress, for he is a sub-commander. Weapons are means, not ends.
And yet the EZLN uses every tool available, only each tool is used
in a different way and for a different purpose. The 23 commanders
place themselves at disposal to build a new movement with other people".
The Sub is a military reader and stays out of the building, for he
symbolizes the road, not the destination. And yet the conflict goes
on and the weapons are still there, as well as the balaclava people
wear in order to be seen. The world is witnessing such a wonderful
and complex thing as the Zapatista effort to renew politics, and people
hang on to such absurd subject as Violence/Non-Violence. We all had
better reflect upon our uprising, upon what are weapons are, upon
conflict and consensus. What Levantamiento will achieve free speech,
from the lowest squat to the parliament?
Or do we want to enter the parliament the usual way? Again, do we
think that bombing a gate at dead of night is "an attack on the
system of corporate imperialism"? In the first case, our words
would be wasted on uselessness. In the second case, wed be exposed
From Mexico to Quebec City and the G8 in Genoa
The recent days of global action against the Summit of the Americas
in Quebec City were not a mere re-enactment of the "Battle of
Seattle", rather, it was a big step beyond. Tens of thousands
of brothers and sisters produced conflict and generated consent, and
were effective in achieving their goal: to ram a monkey-wrench in
the works of neo-liberal corporate propaganda on free trade. The multitudes
and organized groups did not give vent to their anger by trashing
the town. The town itself was hostile to the Summit, thereby all anger
was turned to the off-limits citadel. In the past years the global
summits have changed their "logistics"; in order to neutralize
all protests. To neutralize them not only from a technical point of
view (to make the blockade of delegates impossible by separating them
from the city life), but also in political terms: to describe any
action of civil disobedience as urban "devastation", and
protesters as dangerous for the residents, setting the latter against
In Quebec City a big fence was erected around the congress center,
4 kms. of fence protected by the robocops. The people who promoted
and organized global action against the summit were able to reverse
and delegitimate this situation. First there was a campaign against
the limitation of freedom of movement, even applying to the Canadian
constitutional court. Then there were two days of real siege, aimed
at tearing down the Wall of Shame (as it came to be known all around
the world) and entering the "red zone". It was an active
siege, all groups took part in it and acted their own way, some fly-posted
dazibaos, others built a catapult, nobody distanced themselves from
anybody elses action, and the message was clear: we are besieging
you, if you want your antidemocratic summits to take place youve
got to suspend all rights sanctioned by any constitution.
While in Seattle bodies were used as battering rams or living barriers,
in Quebec they were a besieging cordon. Instead of preventing the
delegates from reaching the summit, people invaded the forbidden area.
The body is back as a concrete symbol of civil disobedience and a
paradigm of the "bio-political" era, which is based upon
corporate control on life itself.
During the siege, the body can be protected by a communication process
and other bodies sheltering it from the storming platoons of cops.
There lies the new logic: since the cops aim at butchering the bodies,
throwing them into a jail, beheading direct action so it becomes both
unpopular and useless, we aim at keeping them off so that the siege
can go on till a breach is opened and the bodies can pass through.
It is important to have a general debate on this subject in preparation
for the G8 Summit in Genoa. If we can discuss all these concepts and
grasp their political and cultural relevance, then it will be easier
to agree on the forms and means of the action.
To cut it short: we propose an active siege, to which everyone can
take part following their own tactics, on condition that the purpose
is common (i.e. the invasion of the forbidden area) and the "limits"
of the action are commonly perceived, so that forms of collective
self-defense are legitimate and it is possible to keep the riot squads
off. We are not fond of militarism, we simply foster a civil disobedience
as safe and effective as possible, based upon legitimate and shared
means of self-defense. As we keep an eye on Mexico and our Zapatista
brothers and sisters, we make a proposal: a public consultation which
involves any meeting and street rally, party cells and associations,
squats and trade unions, newsgroups and the Web, by next July. It
should start start in Genoa at the end of May and last over a month.
The conclusions should be made public in the early days of July.
There could be three questions:
1- Provided that the forms and the tactics
of the "active siege"; are considered legitimate and right,
will you support disobedience to the ban on demonstrations and the
enclosure of forbidden areas?
2- Do you think that mass invasion of the forbidden area is a viable
3- Do you agree that people need collective self-defense in order
to keep the police off, avoid man-to-man fights, degeneration, beating-ups
and mass arrests?
They are nothing more than three questions, but it is "asking
while walking" that gives us the strength to dream.