A Commune in Chiapas?: Mexico and the Zapatista rebellion

By Aufheben

Revolt Library Anarchism A Commune in Chiapas?

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(1992 - )

The journal Aufheben was first produced in the UK in Autumn 1992. Those involved had participated in a number of struggles together - the anti-poll tax movement, the campaign against the Gulf War - and wanted to develop theory in order to participate more effectively: to understand capital and ourselves as part of the proletariat so we could attack capital more effectively. We began this task with a reading group dedicated to Marx's Capital and Grundrisse. Our influences included the Italian autonomia movement of 1969-77, the situationists, and others who took Marx's work as a basic starting point and used it to develop the communist project beyond the anti-proletarian dogmatisms of Leninism (in all its varieties) and to reflect the current state of the class struggle. We also recognized the moment of truth in versions of class struggle anarchism, the German and Italian lefts and other tendencies. In developing proletarian theory we needed to go beyond all these past movements at t... (From: LibCom.org/aufheben.)


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Since the occupation of January 1994, many have projected their hopes onto this ‘exotic’ struggle against ‘neo-liberalism’. We examine the nature of the Zapatista uprising by moving beyond the bluster of the EZLN communiqués, on which so many base their analysis. Not proletarian, yet not entirely peasant, the Zapatistas’ political ideas are riven with contradictions. We reject the academics’ argument of Zapatismo’s centrality as the new revolutionary subject, just as we reject the assertions of the ‘ultra-left’ that because the Zapatistas do not have a communist program they are simply complicit with capital. We see the Zapatistas as a moment in the struggle to replace the reified community of capital with the real human community. Their battle for land against the rancheros and latifundistas reminds us of capital’s (permanent) transitions rather than its apparent permanence. W... (From : TheAnarchistLibrary.org.)

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Part 1: The Roots of the Modern State The Revolution is the touchstone of Mexican politics. The period saw the Mexican state begin its transformation from an oligarchical-landowners’ government to the one-party corporatist model which survived for so long. The Revolution is also crucial to understanding the peculiar social base from which the Mexican state is constructed, with its formal recuperation of worker and peasant organizations, and its need to regularly embark upon sprees of revolutionary rhetoric. The revolution was driven forward by the peasants’ attack on the latifundias, or large estates, the dominant mode of accumulation in Mexico at the time. Despite subsequent industrialization, the latifundias have persisted — even grown — and have remained a locus of class struggle ever since, most recently in Chiapas. To grasp the importance of land struggles in Mexico we need to understand how the latifundias operate, and how they plug int... (From : TheAnarchistLibrary.org.)

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Part 2: The Changing Face of the Institutional Revolution Radical social democracy to the rescue It was not until 1931 that labor’s representatives were fully incorporated into the state. This acceptance of the working class as the working class, as a potentially antagonistic class who must be brought into the fold to neutralize their revolutionary impulses, is the basis of the social democracy the Mexican bourgeoisie utilized for decades. (As late as 1988, President Salinas could still trumpet the ‘indestructible pact between the Revolutionary government and the working class.’) With its proximity to, and integration with, US capital, Mexico was profoundly affected by the Wall Street Crash. By 1934 the bourgeoisie had comprehensively failed to restore stable class relations for the accumulation of capital. Exacerbated by the Depression and the militant recomposition of both the peasantry and the proletariat, revolutionary... (From : TheAnarchistLibrary.org.)

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Part 3: A Commune in Chiapas? Traditional accumulation and social structure With its mountainous highlands and jungles, Chiapas can feel more a part of Central America than Mexico. The Distrito Federal of Mexico City, even San Cristobal, can seem a million miles away: unconnected and unimportant. Until the 1970s capital accumulation followed a stable and relatively backward model, necessitated by the geographical inaccessibility and remoteness of this state, and made viable by the rich lands. The Revolution barely reached Chiapas, and the latifundias were never broken up, although an echo can be heard in the contemporaneous slave revolts in the logging camps of the Lacandon. Similarly the Cardenas reforms had little effect in the 1930s. Some land was redistributed, but it was all of poor quality, ‘so steep the campesinos had to tie themselves to trees to plow, while the rancheros continued to hold great swathes in the rolling valleys.&rs... (From : TheAnarchistLibrary.org.)

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Conclusion The EZLN has at its heart the confrontation between Indian traditions of rebellion and self-organization, the influence of the militant Church, and the Guevarist-inspired model of guerrilla war against the state. This model, in its most successful phase of the early 1990s, fuzed with, but was not overcome by, the Indian tradition. The failure of the January 1994 uprising forced the EZLN to change its ideas and to an extent challenged its very organizational forms. Out of the crisis came both a commitment to a gradualist democratic change for Mexico and a deep confusion as to the future for the autonomous municipalities. The uprising had however expelled the influence of the PRI and hacendados from many areas of Los Altos, and the Zapatista villages set about reclaiming land and reorganizing their communities with enthusiasm. It is likely that a cadre still exists in the highlands, though they are not separate from, but rather a part of, the communities in... (From : TheAnarchistLibrary.org.)

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Postscript: September 2000: Mexico and the Fall of the PRI After seventy-one years the PRI has lost the Presidency and with it national power in Mexico. Despite getting up to all their old tricks in the run-up to the July 2nd poll — the Michoacan governor was caught plotting to divert state funds into election bribes, and in the state of Quintana Roo the PRI were even giving away free washing-machines — and despite the fact that the much heralded independent Federal Electoral Institute was controlled by the party-state, Vicente Fox, the leader of the PAN received 43% of the vote. The shock came in the PRI conceding defeat so swiftly. This time around, they lacked the political stomach for arranging the vast fraud needed to switch defeat to victory. Why did the PRI lose? The simple answer is corruption. After so many years of institutionalized venality the electorate finally found a sturdy enough opposition bandwagon upon wh...

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Here we use the term as a convenient if problematic label for a political area,an area with which we have an affinity.As we sais in Aufheben 6 Fnt.2 .36 those who leftists dismiss as ‘ultra-left’ would argue that it is simply they are communist and their opponents are not.However as communism is not a particular interpretation of the world held by some people,but a real social movement, we will not go down the path of attaching the approval-label ‘communist’ or ‘revolutionary’ to the small set of individuals and groups with whom one considers oneself in close enough theoretical agreement. For an interesting discussion of the difference between autonomist and (left-)communist or situationist approaches,see the Introductions to Technoskeptic and the Bordiga Archive at Antagonism Opponents of ‘neo-liberalism’ or ‘globalization’ all too often identify capitalism with ram... (From : TheAnarchistLibrary.org.)


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