The "Other Campaign": A Global Anti-Capitalist Campaign
by Mary Ann Tenuto-Sanchez
“This is really big, both nationally and internationally,” a compañero told me, referring to the Sixth Declaration of the Lacandón Jungle and the national and international campaigns it seeks to generate. In June, the Zapatista National Liberation Army (EZLN for their initials in Spanish) issued the Sixth Declaration, a manifesto of their history, experience, analysis and practice. A scathing critique of capitalism in its current stage of neo-liberal globalization (neoliberalism) is a noteworthy part of that analysis. The EZLN concludes that capitalism exploits absolutely everything. The critique of neoliberalism in Mexico is accompanied by a critique of Mexico's political class. The Sixth ended by saying what they were going to do about it: organize a national campaign of struggle from below and from the Left; in other words, an anti-capitalist movement to rescue Mexico from neoliberal globalization and to write a new Mexican constitution. They later named the campaign the “Other Campaign,” a not-so-subtle reference to the upcoming 2006 presidential electoral campaigns by Mexico's three major political parties.
The EZLN also stated clearly that there would be an international campaign, but the specifics were not announced. While they said that they were thinking about another Intercontinental Encuentro (Gathering) in either December or January, they did not say where it might be held. Despite my probing questions, I could not get the answer I wanted about the Sixth's international campaign. My curiosity was getting the best of me as to whether there would really be an international (called fondly Intergalactic” by the Zapatistas) gathering and whether it would be in the Lacandón jungle. No one would tell me anything more than “the international campaign will be made public after the plenary in La Garrucha.” This was always followed by a knowing smile.
I was relaxing in a hammock inside the civilian peace camp in Emiliano Zapata, avoiding the rain and chatting with one of the compañeros about the Other Campaign as I prepared to attend the fifth preparatory meeting in a nearby community. The Other Campaign began by asking those who supported the Sixth Declaration to subscribe, or adhere, to it via email through Revista Rebeldía ( Rebel Magazine , www.revistarebeldia.org). The Zapatistas then invited adherents to six separate preparatory meetings in several new communities within the jurisdiction of Resistance Towards a New Dawn caracol, located in La Garrucha. Attendees were invited to the meetings based on their affiliation with a social, political or non-governmental organization. Comités, intellectuals, groups, individuals, families and neighborhoods also had their place in the preparatory meetings. Members of international civil society, were also welcome to attend as observers.
Subcomandante Marcos, military leader of the EZLN, attended all the preparatory meetings in person. These were his first public appearances since the close of the March of the Color of the Earth in Spring 2001. Not surprisingly, Marcos was besieged by the media. He was guarded by armed insurgents and accompanied by comandantes and comandantas of the regional Sixth Commission. The preparatory meetings provided an opportunity for Mexican civil society of the Left to express and explain their struggles, why they adhered to the Sixth Declaration and to make proposals for the Other Campaign. Marcos and the commanders listened attentively as one Mexican citizen after another went to the microphone to speak.
Marcos addressed the EZLN's controversial position of criticizing Andrés Manuel López Obrador, apparent candidate of the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) in Mexico's 2006 presidential elections. This is a burning issue to many Mexicans who plan to vote in the 2006 elections and, therefore, worthy of a brief explanation. Many in Mexico who consider themselves “Left” or “progressive” also view the PRD that way. It is thought to be the Left-of-center party. The PRD controls the huge and sprawling Federal District (Mexico City and its environs). López Obrador has been a popular mayor of the Federal District. He is the leading pre-candidate (no one has yet been nominated) in public opinion polls. The federal government made him even more popular by attempting to take away his eligibility to run for president through a trumped-up allegation of wrongdoing. Masses of supporters filled cities across Mexico in protest and the feds had to back off.
However, let us not forget that the PRD voted (cut a deal) in favor of the counter reform (law) on Indigenous Rights and Culture which watered down the San Andrés Accords between the EZLN and the government to meaningless drivel. Marcos also reminded us that members of the ORCAO peasant organization, which sacked the Zapatista store at Cuxuljá and threatened the lives of EZLN members in various Ocosingo villages all belonged to the PRD. The gang of thugs who shot at Zapatistas in Zinacantán (Los Altos) belongs to the PRD and was allegedly put up to their paramilitary-like behavior by elected PRD municipal authorities. In Las Margaritas county, a Zapatista was kidnapped and tortured by PRD members belonging to the CIOAC peasant organization. Enough said about the “party of the Left.”
I could not resist the temptation to make a comparison between the critiques of Mexico's political parties and political parties here in the United States. The neoliberal project (corporate globalization and privatization of absolutely everything) certainly applies to us here, as we watch transnational corporations like Halliburton and its subsidiaries sucking up federal funds in Iraq and New Orleans to perform functions the armed forces used to perform themselves. When Marcos clarified that he was not telling people “don't vote!,” it was reminiscent of presidential elections in the United States as time after time we go to the voting booth holding our noses to vote for the lesser of two evils, each of whom will uphold the status quo, or an alternative candidate who has no chance of winning.
I attended the fifth preparatory meeting ( encuentro ) in Dolores Hidalgo as an observer. Hammocks and bedrolls adorned the inside of a large church, while tents dotted the field outside. Rebel Magazin had people working around the clock to make a transcript of all the presentations, and the U.S.-Mexican NGO Promedios had a camerawoman taping the speeches. She interviewed me for a live feed to Telesur, the Venezuelan government's new TV network.
We were in the autonomous county of San Manuel, where I had participated in the inauguration of the Compañero Manuel grocery warehouse just two days earlier (see story on page 3). I met people there from all over Mexico, young, old, middle-aged, families with their children, the famous, the poor, intellectuals, urban and rural folks, Indigenous and non-Indigenous. It really wasn't surprising to see the breadth of support in a country where close to 50 percent live below the poverty line. Some 700 anti-capitalists attended this meeting. The atmosphere was festive with live music and booths selling food and soft drinks to those in attendance, but it was also serious, as the speakers each addressed their issues. Some speakers expressed their joy at finally, after supporting the Zapatista movement for almost 12 years, being able to participate in that movement with the EZLN. I could definitely relate to that. Each of the meetings was held in a “new population center,” a community constructed on land which formerly belonged to finqueros (estate owners), who, in the past, systematically exploited the Indigenous population. The owners abandoned their fincas (estates) in 1994 when the Zapatistas rose up in arms. Later, the EZLN established new communities on the land. Marcos used this opportunity to give us some history of the fincas and to describe the extent of the exploitation.
Marcos also took the opportunity to talk about some of the behavior that keeps the Left divided and to give us some suggestions on alternative behavior which might be helpful in forming a united campaign against neoliberalism. For example, Marcos approached the myriad of differences between organizations on the Left, saying that it did not matter if those organizations that joined the Other Campaign held differing positions on Cuba, China, Bolivia or Ecuador. He invited them all to make proposals for the campaign. What matters in the Other Campaign, according to Marcos, is that they all agree with respect to Mexico. It seemed to me that perhaps there is a lesson in that logic, which we might think about here in the United States.
In a letter to NGOs, Marcos noted a tendency to seek, and “hear the mirror,” that is, listening to our counterparts: “artists to artists, feminists to feminists, anarchists to anarchists, alternative media to alternative media and so on. Histories that referred to different and even opposite realities aroused little interest. As if, even in the diversity that was convened, each one sought to shut themselves up in the place and way of their own struggle.
“The Sixth and the Other Campaign are also places for listening to what is different within the common - that which is opposed to the same system but with different ways and means. Because if an anti-capitalist movement does not aspire to transform everything, and not just the relationships between property and production, then there's no point, and it will only repeat ancient injustices, but now with a new alibi.
“If the transformation we are attempting does not include the radical transformation of gender relations between men and women, the generational ones between the "mature" and young people, those of coexistence between heterosexuals and 'everyone in their own way,' then that transformation will end up being just one more caricature among those which abound in the book of history. Someone once said that if we can't dance in this revolution, then it's not our revolution. I would have to add that if the relationships between the differences which abound in human beings do not change, then it is not our revolution.”
After the six preparatory meetings concluded, a large plenary session took place in La Garrucha over the weekend of September 16-18 to debate details and plans for launching the Other Campaign. More than 2,000 people attended. The Zapatistas showed up in La Garrucha with a star-studded cast of their best-known commanders. In addition to the “Sup,” comandantas Ramona, Susana and Esther attended and spoke. Comandantes Tacho, David and Zebedeo were also present, along with Lieutenant Coronel Moisés (aka Major Moisés). At the conclusion of the plenary, the dates and the route for launching the Other Campaign were made public, and the campaign was turned over to the participants, including the EZLN as one of the participants.
Subcomandante Marcos himself will open the campaign on January 1, 2006, in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas, and he will travel throughout Mexico for the next six months. Although the Other Campaign will last longer than six months, it was only the first six months that were revealed.
Now we know why the Zapatistas warned us during the Red Alert, which preceded the Sixth Declaration, that they were risking everything, even their lives, and had prepared a line of succession in case of assassination, incarceration, disappearance or kidnapping. The power struggle to succeed Vicente Fox as Mexico's next president is already in motion and may have a connection to the current violence among drug cartels. If the Zapatista delegates travel through Mexico criticizing the politicians vying for positions of power, it is reasonable to conclude that they may actually be risking their lives.
During the plenary, a few words were said about the international campaign. In response to a question, Marcos stated: “The Sixth has two parts, the national and the international. Just like in the national we called you and we are constructing together with you, in the international it is also going to be so.” He then provided another clue: “What we are going to do in October and November is to begin to join the ideas and proposals from all the collectives that want to participate.”
It is becoming increasingly apparent that the Sixth Declaration and the Other Campaign seek to construct a model for uniting an international anti-capitalist Left as an alternative to the neoliberal model of globalization.
The compañero in Emiliano Zapata was right. The Sixth Declaration and the Other Campaign are “really big.” If you as an individual or your organization would like to participate in the international part of the Other Campaign, please contact the Chiapas Support Committee by phone at (510) 654-9587 or by email at email@example.com
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